Interview with Colin Ferguson & Salli Richardson-Whitfield from Eureka Part 1

In preparation for this week’s mid-season premiere of Eureka, Colin Ferguson & Salli Richardson-Whitfield spoke to the press about their characters and the show. Colin plays Sheriff Jack Carter of the little, crazy, wacky, secret town of Eureka. Salli plays Dr. Allison Blake, who (up until this season) used to be the head of Global Dynamics, but is now mother of 2 and a doctor within the organization. They were great to talk to and made me even more excited about the new episodes coming up!

In the season 4.5 return of Eureka, as the timeline changes from their trip to 1947 continue to surprise Sheriff Jack Carter, Allison Blake, Henry Deacon (Joe Morton), Jo Lupo (Erica Cerra), and Douglas Fargo (Neil Grayston), an accident of astronomical proportions is the impetus for Global Dynamic’s most ambitious project yet. With the entire town rallying to go where no man has gone before and pitting scientist against scientist, our heroes’ new relationships are tested when secrets begin to surface, the competition grows fierce, and darker forces threaten to bring everyone down should they fail.

Check out the first group of great answers Colin & Salli had for you below!

On what ways they are most like and least like their characters

Salli Richardson-Whitfield: Well, it’s funny. I think that I’ve actually – our characters have become even more alike as the seasons have gone one. She’s – I think that I’m not quite as, Colin may disagree, as hard and as tough as I seem.

In this, the last season or so, you get to see a much softer side of Allison and of – with her being a mom, but still having to juggle work. So, I think that we’ve – our characters actually have come much closer and she’s very much like me now.

Colin Ferguson: Well, I’m a Sheriff in real life, so (that sums that up). No, I think – how would I say I’m like him? Personality-wise we’re pretty similar at this point. They’ve done an amazing job of taking the best of me and making it palatable for other people, so yeah, the personality is the same.

I guess the biggest difference would probably be relationships, I guess. He has a steadfast (and that’s how he makes things work), with Allison and he pushes through the problem, and that’s something that I’m working on in my own life.

A hard thing working out of town and trying to get something going back in Los Angeles, but that would probably be the biggest difference. But you know what, I’m working on it and…

Salli: And you’re also…

Colin: …I’ll figure it out.

Salli: …much smarter than they try to portray you.

Colin: That’s true. Yes. I mean, yes, I can say that.

Salli: You can’t say that. I can say that.

Colin: All right, I’m a little – I’m slightly brighter than my character at times.
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On how the dynamic with the cast has changed in its 4.5 seasons

Colin: It’s sort of been an amazing thing to watch actually, to – because we all obviously have actors of all different ages in the cast, and so we’ve watch sort of the younger members of the cast sort of grow up and become artists in their own right, and that’s been an amazing journey to follow.

But I would say, as far as all the adults go, it’s stunning that we haven’t had more problems. You hear about casts and sort of insiding and whatnot, and everyone really gets along. I think we get along better now than we ever have, and that’s a really odd thing to be, for our calendar of six years, into a process like this and to find everybody sort of really, you know, doing – going above and beyond to respect each other’s process and respect, the foibles and the complications of working together.

So as far as the people go, we’ve never gotten along better.

On being an actor and a director, which of those he finds more challenging & which he prefers

Colin: Well, actually, ask Sal. Sal’s also been an actor and a director at this point two times over, as has – Joe Morton is also our – one of our actor/directors.

What do I like more? At this point, I don’t know. It really – about a year ago I would have answered the question saying, “Hands down, directing.” It was new, it was fresh, it was so exciting, and now the three episodes and a movie at this point and I sort of get it, and I really embrace both in the same way now. It’s – it really is project by project, scene by scene in, what you can really do.

I think I’m tired at this point, to give you honest answers – an honest answer to the question is I’m really tired, so I need – I’m looking forward to a break so I can sort of replug in and get more energy to do anything at all. But what I like about directing more is that you get the questions – you get the story earlier, you can affect change in a more profound way, and stay with the story longer, and that’s a really rewarding process to go through.

As an actor, you really are a professional athlete or a hired gun, you sort of show up on the day and you do your little magic and that’s what goes on tape. And you’re like it’s a gun slinger-type job. The problem is you show up so late that sometimes you can’t affect the change that you’d like to.

So, it’s good and bad for both, but I think we’d all sort of have the same answer; we really, really enjoy doing both.

On riding a horse in the summer premiere and their history with horses

Salli: Well, I’ll start with that. I had ridden before, literally, I mean pretty much my first big film moving to L.A. I had to ride a horse and I’ve done maybe another job, but I think for all of us we had some time before to get on some horses and get it back together.

Luckily for me I was supposed to look ridiculous on the horse, so I didn’t have to be an expert. And Colin, I don’t think he’ll answer this, had ridden a lot of horses, but he’s very athletic, so he always gets everything together.

Colin: I had ridden a couple of times, but not anything profound and not something where I’d say I was comfortable. And as much as we get a bunch of work, it was mostly the stunt doubles. When you see the final show…

Salli: I know, we were very angry about that.

Colin: Yeah, it was like, “What the hell.” but it was fun. Anytime you get to do something like that where you’re sort of outside of your zone it’s fantastic. And it’s more, for me anyway, it was less about the actual skill of riding the horse and more about getting to know your horse.

So after a couple days it was significantly easier because you just knew the horse’s idiosyncrasy.

Salli: And of course, Colin has the mean horse.

Colin: I did have the mean horse. He kept biting on me and I was like, “Is it me?” And then the trainer was like, “No, that’s what he does. That’s just how he [is.”]

On what it’s like to open up the script and be surprised with the odd storylines

Colin: Okay. Well, it depends on the surprise. I mean sometimes you open up the script and you go, “Oh, that’s going to be amazing,” and then you open up a script and you go, “Really? Like, really?”, and we’re going to – okay? “All right. All right.”

Because it could be the middle of winter and they’re like, “Okay, so you’re stuck in t-shirts on the top of a blizzard,” you know and then you cuss them – and what were you going to say, Sal?

Salli: Well, I was going to say that’s what is so fun about doing the show too, is that we get to do – you’re not stuck in a goofy comedy all the time, you’re not stuck just doing straight drama or straight little get ups.

You really get to do different things all the time and I think that that’s what keeps it fresh for us, and why we continue to get better because you keep – you get to stretch and you get to do different things and I think that’s why the fans like the show. It’s – you’re not bored by the same thing every time.

On issues that Allison has with Jack now, in relation to where things left off

Salli: Oh, gosh, I hope I know what – where – he thinks this is funny because I never know we – by the time we get to this season I don’t know what’s going on. I think that…

Colin: We’re shooting right now – we’re in the middle of shooting the season that’ll air in 2012, so we sort of have all that downloaded into our head, and so it’s now sort of going, “Right.” So, about a year ago…

Salli: I think that that the issues that we have now, now that we’re trying this new relationship on, or seeing if this is going to happen, that puts a different dynamic into working together. So, it’s like working with your husband or wife, how do you now balance both of the two things? And I think that that’s where we start getting into trouble with each other.

Of course nothing can ever be perfect because that would be boring with us if we were just all lovey dovey and everything was great. So, I think that that’s where we start getting into trouble, how can we work together and do both, and where is that line?

On Carter’s knowledge of both his and Allison’s feelings

Colin: No, I don’t think he’s oblivious, but it’s a funny thing asking me about relationships; not my forte. I’m not terribly good at it. But no, he’s not oblivious, but at the same time it’s difficult when you’re working with someone and having a relationship with them, as these two characters do. So, you have to give each other more space and you have to give each other sort of the latitude to be – to have more off days than, you know, normally you would.

And also she’s – Allison is a character that has two kids, so there’s – you really got to move slowly and be really patient with that, you know, if you’re going to try to partner with that. So, I think he’s patient, I think he’s aware of it, and I think he’s – but we’re dealing with something in the next episodes we shoot, which is that he’s not aware of, so there are still bumps and problems to come.

On the chemistry between Colin and Salli

Salli: Well, let me stress – let me figure this out. No…

Colin: How do you lie? How do you come up with a good lie, Sal.

Salli: I think from the very beginning when Colin and I first did our first scene together, you know, you never know if you’re going to have chemistry with someone, and ours just – it s just naturally there. And I feel really corny when I say this, but there’s something that clicks, because obviously off camera we’re very brother/sister, jokey-jokey, “Oh, God, we’ve got to kiss.”

But, as soon as that camera rolls and I look into Colin’s eyes, there’s something that clicks and I always find an instant connection that makes all of my feelings just sort of come right up to the forefront, and I feel everything I’m saying with him. And it’s very lucky for us and for me, I just naturally have a wonderful connection with him when we’re working.

So, I love it and we know how to work with each other on and off camera. I know what he needs to do to get what he needs, and he knows what I need, and we make allowances for each other and we try not to step on each other’s toes.

Colin: And I made – and that definitely attributes to Sal. I mean, we haven’t had a fight in six years of working together, and that’s not because I’m easy to work with, that’s because Salli’s amazing to work with. She’s just top notch and, Sal, I’m actually really flattered and floored by your last answer to that question, so that was really sweet. Thanks.

Salli: Well, it’s true.

On what they are excited about fans seeing in the upcoming episodes

Colin: Well, we pick up sort of right where we left off at the end of, I don’t even know what numbers that – it’s Syfy, right, so it’s like 4.3, it’s 5.2, I don’t know what season we’re on.

So, we pick up right where left off with sort of the big sort of arc of the season, is the Astraeus, it’s the Astraeus Project, basically Eureka going into space. And I was concerned when we started it that it was going to be just sort of a path like, “Oh, this is the mission de jour that we’re going to on for 13,” but actually balloons and blossoms into this fantastically complex plot.

And then, at the end of the season you’re about see it kicks into the whole next year in a way that you completely don’t expect. So, it’s this – what I’m really looking forward to seeing is sort of everyone even next summer going, “Oh, my God. Really? We’re – that’s happening now?” Because it’s sort of Eureka going into space and do they go into space, and it’s really interesting.

So, I’m looking…

Salli: I think…

Colin: …forward to – yeah?

Salli: Oh, I was saying, I think that’s what so hard for us is that, I mean really all these episodes that we’ve shot that you may not see for a little while, that – everything is just getting so much better and in – and it’s like you just want everyone to know and you want them to see all this great stuff that’s coming. They’ve really put everything together well, so it’s sort of hard to hold back and not tell you everything that’s going on because it’s so exciting.

Colin: Yeah.

On the Carter/Allison relationship being romantic now and waiting for the other shoe to drop

Salli: Right, I think they’ve found a way to put us together, but not make it boring.

Colin: Yeah, it’s never straightforward. I mean, that’s what I really liked about it, and that’s what actually Sal and I fought against really hard for a long time, because the temptation is like, “Oh, they’re together. Now you guys kiss in every scene,” and we’re sort of going, “No, no, no, no, no, it’s not realistic and it’s not interesting.”

And they’ve done a really good job of having very real problems that you deal with in relationships that keep it both I guess affectionate and clear that there’s love there, but at the same time very clear that it’s not easy, and (life) is not easy and relationships aren’t easy, and I appreciate the realism of that.

On how things changed with the reboot from the time travel/new timeline storyline

Salli: I think you’re always surprised when your show gets picked up the first time. But now I think the show is so good, like I said, especially the ones we’re shooting now in these last few seasons, that I would be more surprised when we’re not picked up because it’s such a good show now and it’s just gotten so much better.

And then, Colin, you talk because I’m forgetting the other part of your question again.

Colin: Yeah, the other part was sort of the timeline reboot and how it energized…

Salli: Right.

Colin: I would agree with that. I think the show is as good as it’s ever been. That had to do with sort of a big shift down here in the writers room and, sort of finally finding our footing and getting our way back after the writer’s strike and all of the big Hollywood problems that happened. It made it really difficult even to know if you were going to have a job.

So, we have a really solid group of writers and a really sort of core group of people that hasn’t changed, so that’s why it sort of feels really energized and is really firing on all cylinders.

As far as the reboot and the energy that happens with that, I think that’s symptomatic of the changes that happened. We really found our footing and the reboot was sort of this symbolic gesture on behalf of the network that we were allowed to do what we wanted to do. I mean, they went in to the network and said, “We want to go back in time, and then come back and change everything and never address it.”

And normally when you got into a network and say that they go, “No.” One of the biggest characters on the show is the Town, so to change the Town is a really tall order and it was a big sign off on behalf of the network as a gesture to say that the writers knew what they were doing. And I think the writers sort of, when they got that gesture, they filled confidence and it just redoubled on itself until we sort of had the energy that we have now.

Plus, the casting that’s gone on has been…

Salli: Yeah.

Colin: …unbelievably helpful. I mean we’ve got Felicia Day, we’ve got Wil Wheaton, we have Wallace Shawn coming in, we have Dave Foley coming in, and it’s just – I mean, God Bless recession, right? Like, those names – that’s great to get all those people in to the show. You know, so and…

Salli: And they fit perfectly and we love them. I mean, these are people…

Colin: Yeah.

Salli: …who they don’t come on and you’re like, “Oh, my God, can we get rid of these people as soon as possible.” Their just wonderful people to be around and you – and they just fit in our show so perfectly.

Colin: Yeah, and also what’s happened is they’ve – there was a decision made to write me lighter because I was just getting too tired and really bored at the sound of my own voice, unlike this (unintelligible), which clearly I’m not for the sound of my own voice.

But, the – like – and so what happened was all of a sudden these characters who were so developed and so worthy of having this big long plots are getting way more screen time, and very deservedly and I think it makes the show a lot more interesting.

On what burgeoning relationships they have enjoyed seeing play out within the show

Colin: Fargo and Holly.

Salli: Fargo and – I vote for Fargo and Holly too.

Colin: Fargo and Holly.

Salli: Because they’re both so darned cute that – I’ll say that because he can’t say that. Go ahead, Colin.

Colin: Yeah. No, they’re just great. It’s one thing when a relationship started, going through its paces, and that’s where – we’re into ours and no one finds their own (lives) too interesting.

But, that’d be funny, wouldn’t it. Like, “No ours is the most interesting,” by far.

Salli: Yeah, ours is really by far the best story line.

Colin: …some of the best work on the show. And to be honest, you didn’t mention it, but I would say my second one is actually Henry and Grace.

Salli: Yep.

Colin: I really like that relationship too. There’s something really warm and there’s something really warm and genuine of both of those relationships and I respond to them in a way. It’s also really nice to – that they have these relationships going, so I think I respond to that. But, that’s why I like them.

On how it felt to “lord over” her castmates when she directed

Salli: Oh, I love it, lord over. That’s exactly what it – well, I did one last season, I guess you guys will be seeing that coming up this season. I don’t know. But, I – and I just finished the one that I’m shooting this season. Actually, just finished editing it yesterday, and I just love it.

I had to – it’s such a different thing from acting and it’s so – you really have to be a – my micromanaging in real life has – it works very well for directing, and it’s something that I would like to be the next step in my career. I have a great – luckily I have wonderful actors, you don’t really have to direct that much more than say, “Can you tweak this one line?”

And I just found that I think that it’s something that comes naturally to me and you don’t know it until you get in there and do it. And I’m hoping to do more and more of it. And really, directing on Eureka has to be one of the best training grounds that any director could have because you get to do these wonderful dramatic story lines, but at the same time you get to learn about visual effects and green screen and you have stunts, you have comedy.

I’m learning these great skills to go to any other show that, and particularly not very many women know how to do, let alone Black women in this industry. So action is a man’s – action and visual effect stuff is usually the job that they hire men to do, so I feel very blessed to learn these skills that I can take on and do – hopefully do a lot more things.
See more in Part 2 of our Eureka interview: HERE. Eureka resumes with all new episodes on Monday, July 11, at 8/7c on Syfy.

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