Interview with Dark Matter’s Jeff Teravainen

The last few years, Syfy has really raised the bar for science fiction television fare in my opinion. Aside from Black Mirror, four out of five of my top five sci-fi shows are on Syfy. I’d actually rank The Expanse & Dark Matter higher in that hierarchy than Black Mirror, despite its extraordinary writing. I guess maybe I am more interested in episodic shows. Or maybe I am captivated more by teams of outlaws fighting impossible odds and usually coming out on top.

Whatever the explanation may subconsciously be, I love a bunch of the shows they run these days, including two that feature Canadian rocker turned voice actor Jeff Teravainen: 12 Monkeys and Dark Matter. My constant use of hashtags and Twitter have led me to a bunch of my favorite TV stars the past year, and sometimes you luck out and they #FollowBack, which leads to chances to ask them to do interviews, bringing us right here to the phone interview I recently conducted with Jeff.

If you’ve never watched either show, now is your chance to binge watch it all. Then come right back and read this fun interview I did just in time to mark the season three finale of Dark Matter, tonight on Syfy!!

PlanetPhoebe: On Dark Matter, you play as Lieutenant John Anders, who has a history as an undercover agent alongside Six, back when he was working for the Galactic Authority. Season three opened with you holding Three in custody while he saved your ass a few times from the attack drone, which was after both of you. It was a chance to see you working closely with Anthony Lemke for a change instead of when we usually see Anders deal mostly with Six played by Roger Cross. What was it like working with Anthony this time around?

Jeff Teravainen: It was amazing. I knew him from before as well. He’s just a great guy. That’s the thing about Dark Matter. For me I always said that they are like the core family and I was like the very close cousin. And I got treated that way: “Come over for dinner. Let’s hang out and all have a great time.” So we have a real relaxed atmosphere with the actors/producers, everybody. We just bounced stuff off each other. It was a real pleasure to work with him just in a professional manner. It’s fun to watch how other people work and see what they do. Yeah like you experiment and stuff. I learned a fair bit on that episode too. Vaughn Murphy, who directed… I’ve known him forever as well, so I was excited to work with him. I learn things like I am told how consistent I am on takes. And I like that, but at the same point, both of them were pushing me to do different things here and there. Since then I don’t think I’ve done the same take twice, and I think that’s basically on their advice. So yeah, we had a ball. We had a scene where he was gonna be on top of me and I remember I was concerned about my breath, ’cause he was gonna be over me for so long. And then on the first take, he went into the snack truck and went for something heavy on the hummus, and I decided, oh then I’ll go grab something there too. For a minute, it was biological warfare there.

Jump with me to read more.

Phoebe: All these bonding moments between Lieutenant Anders and the crew of the Raza lead me to speculate that maybe someday possibly he could wind up aboard the ship as an ally; they have changed the lineup so much, all the while maintaining a certain core team. I don’t know if you guys are picked up for season four yet, but if you do get the call to do it again, what direction would you like to see Lt. Anders take in relation to the most dangerous, but lovable, rogues in the galaxy?

Jeff: Well I would love to see him as part of the team. I like Anders more as a good guy than as a bad guy. I like the fact that there was a bit of mystery on who he was. Not when you first seem him in episode 8 in the first season. But in the closing on episode 13, he’s just this bad-ass guy walking with Roger Cross there, with the crew of the Raza all in custody. He believes in law & order and that sort of thing. He cared deeply about Six, you could tell that. In fact there were even scenes that we shot that didn’t make it in some of those episodes that would have showed more about those two, but I guess they decided they didn’t want to reveal too much. It’s more fun in that role to be one of the good guys that has the inside scoop on the bad guys, when they can use him that way, if that makes sense…

Phoebe: Okay, I am all up to date on Dark Matter season 3 so far, but I didn’t get to go back and rewatch the last appearance you made on 12 Monkeys as Agent Stack. But that was the tent revival origins of the cult episode, entitled “Nature.” I know that at the end, Cole warned Agent Gale, Stack’s partner, about a future incident in which he would die. So what he decides to do with that info could change the timelines once again. I recalled also that some of the people on the “good guys” side of things had been shot in the confusion at the end. Did Agent Stack make it out of that one unscathed?

Jeff: I don’t think Stack was with him at that point. The last time we saw Stack was at the bar. After the guys had splintered back into the Emerson Hotel. And I think he had got a tip that there was something going on at the same moment these guys kept splintering. His career was going down the tube, his marriage was over. Cause he couldn’t let go of this event that had happened. He’s got such a sympathetic sad character – Agent Gale. In the past I was kind of taking it out of him at the time. But again I was happy to show there was more to Agent Stack. He’s not just a one-dimensional character. So yeah Stack was still alive.

Phoebe: So whoever got shot at the end, it was not Agent Stack. It was kind of confusing and dark. It was hard to see who was getting shot at. So are you signed on for season 4 yet?

Jeff: Not yet.

Phoebe: Well, that’s the nature of that show. People can be killed or brought back through alterations in the timelines. I have always been a fan of the Terry Gilliam film version of 12 Monkeys and was excited to see how it would play on TV in an episodic fashion. I’d say that they took it wayyyyyy beyond film, which itself had gone way beyond the original 1962 French short film La Jetée that it was inspired by. That one must be a lot of fun to be involved in.

Jeff: I’m excited that I got to play on that. I get to work with some very cool people. The show runners are so approachable. They’re really nice guys. And I lucked out on 12 Monkeys when I met Jay Karnes, the guy who plays Agent Gale. I didn’t really know who he was. And we met in the green room, and we clicked. We hit it off. And he turned out to be like a professor of history, and I love history.

Phoebe: From TV to music… When you were active as a bassist and lead singer, did you write your own songs and musical parts?

Jeff: I was the song writer for the bands for most of the parts. Some things would be almost all me, and other songs I’d hope the guys would bring something of themselves to it. That’s all I did back then. I was consumed by music. Every car ride or shower I was working on songs…or the business end of it. I rode that out for a good chunk of my life. It never panned out how we’d hoped, but it was a good ride.

Phoebe: Well you’re doing pretty good as an actor now. Is there anything from that creative process which carries over into your acting now?

Jeff: One of the good things about being a singer was that I learned mic technique, which is really important for voice work. I’m very fortunate to work in voice the way I do, which is like my other career. It’s very hard to break into, so I am very grateful that I am in it. And having the voice is one thing, but you have to be able to use it in the studio. And they teach full-on courses in mic technique, so it’s good that I already had that.

Phoebe: What kind of music do you listen you to these days?

Jeff: If someone…saw my playlist, they might think I had multiple personalities. I love good music. I’d say my favorite music is probably soundtrack music. Say like Bernard Herman, the guy who scored all the Hitchcock movies. Some of the video game soundtracks that are out… Love that stuff. But also I love the Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, White Zombie, and U2. There’s just so much. Acid Jazz, you name it. I just love good music.

[Note from Phoebe: I managed to find Jeff’s YouTube channel, where he has some samples of his music posted. Here are a few: Video 1, Video 2.]

By the way, shameless self-promotion time! 😉 I sent Jeff my own short sci-fi story, and in case you’re interested, here’s a link to it: Phoebe’s short sci-fi story!

I’m very much looking forward to a 4th season of both 12 Monkeys & Dark Matter hopefully. I think the network would be insane to not shoot for 6 seasons of Dark Matter. It’s the closest thing to Firefly this world has seen in a while. And with recent revelations from Four (né Ryo), we are either going to find out tonight who in the G.A. betrayed Six – or they’ll hang us on a cliff wondering if Ryo was implying it was Lt. Anders?!?! We’ll be glued to our tubes tonight to find out! The season finale airs tonight on Syfy at 9/8c.

Thanks again to Jeff for speaking with me. It was a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him on my TV!

– Phoebe

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