Written by Judy Sloane Saturday, 26 September 2009 08:22
We visit the set of latest TV sensation FlashForward to talk to star Joseph Fiennes
Television is fast becoming a comfortable second home for those who have made it big on the big screen. With the success of programmes like The Wire, The Sopranos, Lost and Heroes, it's been proved that TV can offer so much more for those prepared to look past the endless talent and reality shows. Indeed, stars have been queuing up to spearhead their own small-screen series; everyone from Glenn Close (Damages) to Anna Paquin (TrueBlood), Donald Sutherland (Dirty Sexy Money) and the late, great Patrick Swayze (The Beast) getting in on the action over the last couple of years. And you can now add to that impressive list English actor Joseph Fiennes, who's swapping movies like Elizabeth, The Merchant of Venice and The Escapist to take a starring role in latest TV sensation FlashForward.
Created and directed by David S Goyer, writer of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and the upcoming X-Men Origins: Magneto, FlashForward has already been dubbed as a 'companion piece' to Lost. Based on Robert J Sawyer's sci-fi novel, the story sees a mysterious event make everyone on Earth lose consciousness; when they wake up, they all know their future and the world begins to change. To find out more, we sent our LA reporter Judy Sloane to the FlashForward set where she caught up with star Joseph Fiennes who, she discovered, has never thought about acting for television before...
"I was in LA, at the time, for a film meeting. I can’t even remember what the film was! And my agent said, 'You’ve gotta read this pilot. It’s great. And, David Goyer wants to meet you, straight away.' I said, 'Well, I’m flying out in a couple of hours, but I’ll read it before I do the meeting.' I read it and I was totally hooked. So I took the meeting and was completely inspired by [David S Goyer's] take, the whole architecture behind the piece, and the sense of where, a few episodes in, we could begin to make these characters more intriguing. From an acting point of view, that was really exciting.
I hadn’t really thought about television, but I’d seen Nip/Tuck, The Wire, The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. There has been a whole host of stuff, over the last several years, that I’ve really been blown away by, with the writing and production value. So, it wasn’t a big leap for me. For actors, it’s all about holding hands with great writing and, through that, the development of characters"
If you had to explain your character of FBI agent Mark Benford to new audiences, and set up his journey in the show, what would you say?
"He’s a man who is intent on not having to live in the hell that he sees. He’s a recovering alcoholic, which is a painful backstory for him. His life is now back on track. He’s got a wonderful family. He lives for his child and his wife, and to see that taken away is going to devastate him. So, we’re going to see a man taken to the brink and taken to the extreme. In that opening shot, everything is beautiful, and then, suddenly, the world comes crashing down. For me, as an actor, that’s a great character. We’re going to see him being ripped apart and tested. And, it’s really about the moral boundaries that you’re prepared to cross or that you have to confront, in order to change the future and change the outcome of what you see.
He’s got his personal quest and his professional quest. The professional quest is that great roller coaster ride of all this information and how it locks into place. He’s put himself right at the front of this investigation. He’s seen it in his flash forward, so he gets the whole FBI office behind him on this. Yet, we know that, in his flash forward, he’s been drinking, so suddenly it’s a whole investigation on a guy who’s got very splintered, fractured visions because he’s under the influence. And, while that’s all coming together, and he’s hoping that the clues come together and the future does relate as it does in his vision, he’s also got a problem if it does come true in his personal life because that will begin the disintegration of a very beautiful and blissful message. There are great conflicts. It’s just great character drama, and I can’t wait to keep finding out all the facets of this character. Unlike with a film, where you can chart it indefinitely, work backwards from the end to the beginning, and really get inside it, with a television show, you get a script every couple of weeks and I’m not told and don’t particularly want to know anything because that lends excitement."
So, why exactly did everyone on Earth suffer a flashforward and see their own future?
"I have no idea!"
Do you try to guess?
"Constantly. I’m knocking on the door of the writer’s room. My journalistic antennae is very subversive in trying to get information, but the door is very firm. It’s difficult to get it.
Don't you think it's better for you not to know, as your character is also in the dark?
I think so. There’s a certain level of energy that all the actors have, which I hope will infect the filming and playing, and ultimately the audience, who are collaborators. Like with anything creative, the audience is the final equation in the collaboration. We do it only for them. It’s such a big equation in this show because there are so many clues, and we have to have them participate. But, the level of energy between us, because of not knowing, lends to the characters and their conflicts. You’ll get all that chemistry and electricity going on, which will hopefully come through, in the filming.
Shows like FlashForward, with a supernatural, fantasy or sci-fi element, are really popular at the moment. Why do you think this is?
I think this is pure character drama. Who knows what the sci-fi element will be, how that will be and where it will go. But, at the moment, it is just the vision. We’ll go into what caused it or what entity is behind it. Fundamentally, what lies there is the colossal conflicts that people get by being presented with their future. So, what I’m totally connected to is all the character drama, whether it’s seeing a recovering alcoholic, a love story or the disintegration of a marriage, there are just as many beautiful stories that will unfold as there are hellish stories. I think that’s what the audience will really lock into."
The show has been getting huge amounts of buzz, both in the USA and the UK. Are you feeling the pressure?
"You feel that people are really believing in it, and that’s great. When you feel, “Wow, somebody is really happy with it,” it’s great. Most of my life, and anyone in our business, has been full of disappointment. 90 percent of the creative life is full of disappointment. That’s part of the deal. So, it’s great when you get something and you feel, “There’s a flicker of good energy here.” It’s really nice when it’s believed in. It’s a huge amount of work on David’s part. What he’s done with the team of writers and producers is colossal. We’re giving our best, so it’s great that it’s being matched."
Would you want to know your future?
"Great question. I fluctuate on that. Some days I do, some days I don’t. If it was going to be good news, I’d love to know. Ultimately, I don’t think so. This is the journey we’re on, and you make your decisions and choices, and the experience of life is living by them, for good or for bad, and therein lies the lesson. To not have that lesson is to not tackle life."