Natasha Henstridge, promoting her upcoming sci-fi mini-series Impact, chatted with us about her fanbase, cloning, her upcoming collaboration with Stan Lee, and aging gracefully out of the space-hottie pigeonhole.
To some, Henstridge will always be the half-alien/half-human/all-hottie Sil, but her debut in Species was 14 years ago. Now 34, she's done a lot since then, much of it in the genre arena.
Like her forthcoming Impact, a four-hour ABC miniseries that debuts June 21. In Impact, a spectacular meteor shower hits the moon and throws it out of orbit; it's up to a team of scientists led by astrophysicist Maddie Rhodes (Henstridge) to save the earth from a lunar collision. (Watch the trailer here.) Henstridge called us this morning from Los Angeles to talk about the project.
What appeals to you about science fiction that keeps you coming back to the genre again and again?
Well, I think the science fiction community just supports me, so why the heck not? No, there is an attraction to some of the stories. In this particular case, I just thought it was a really cool story: interesting, educational — and not even fiction at the end of the day, as I found out. I think that kind of curiosity – there are stories that keep you turning the page, stories that make you think "What if?" And that kind of natural curiosity we all have as humans. Whatever it is — in my case, an alien-human hybrid thing, or many other things that I've done — they're just action-packed, they're exciting, they keep you on the edge of your seat, and they're page-turners. So I always find it interesting to see how they'll turn out. And there are great fanbases as well.
What did you find out was accurate about the science behind Impact?
Up in Canada, I was working at an observatory, and I met an astrophysicist, and we went through the script, just so that I could really sink my teeth in, understand more, and know what the hell I was talking about when I was giving these big speeches. Basically, we're just not quite as protected as we like to think we are, and technology is advanced, but it's not quite as advanced as we think it is. We don't have an eye in the sky everywhere, we don't know what's coming, and things like meteors can be very erratic. So we're not as safe as we think we are, and that was very eye-opening. [Laughs nervously]. And that's what makes this movie even slightly possible.
And how plausible was the solution the scientists reach about how to save the earth?
That might be a little more far-fetched. That one I'm not 100 percent sure on.
Are you trying to extend your range now beyond the sexy roles that have largely defined your career? In Impact, you're a scientist in a heavy sweater.
Most people who work at observatories wear warm clothes because it's very, very cold, so that was just based in reality. But I get what you're saying. I feel very, very fortunate to have been able to step away from the sex symbols, the young it-girl kind of place, and to realize — and for people to realize — that I can do other things. That has been a real gift for me, because you get pigeonholed, and then where do you go when you're not 19 and hot, and you're aging? It's inevitable. So to be able to do other roles that challenge me more – I got to play a lawyer on Eli Stone, which was fantastic, and getting to play an astrophysicist, which I admit is a bit of a stretch. But what an amazing thing to be able to play. To get to play these really smart female characters is fantastic, and I just feel really fortunate. I do, of course, try to stretch, because it would be silly for me to compete with 20-year-olds for roles. It's not going to happen. I'm in a different place in my life. It's just great that the business has supported me enough to be able to do that as well.
Are there any sorts of science fiction stories you'd like to tell?
I wouldn't say so specifically in science fiction, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that [I'm fascinated with] cloning. People always ask me if I'm a science fiction fan, and I'm not a huge science fiction fan, but there is something kind of interesting about cloning and what it will do to society. I've read about it, and whenever there's a film or an article in the paper about the latest thing that's been cloned, it makes me think about God vs. science and all of those kind of questions. It's interesting because the planet gets more and more full, and yet we try to find more and more ways to keep people alive. It's all so fascinating. And yet, if it was my child or my mother, I'd want to do the same thing. So there are all sorts of interesting questions that cloning brings up. Can you imagine, "Oh, I'm going to get myself a new heart from my cloned counterpart"?
Can you think of recent films or books that have handled the subject well?
Not really. I'd like to see some things that are really well done.
What else do you have in the pipeline?
I am doing a really interesting series of really small, five-minute episodes of a Stan Lee cartoon, in which Stan Lee and myself will be voicing the two characters. My character is called Charity Vyle. And it's a super cool character. It's a show called Time Jumper. We're going to do about 10 episodes. I'm not exactly sure of the format; I think it's coming out through the phone. I'm with an absolute legend, and I'm really excited about that. My character is actually brilliant as well, as these cartoon characters – I mean, as these comic book characters often are. She knows how to jump through time, and she does that for some very selfish reasons.
Would you say the message of Impact is that international cooperation is necessary to solve global crises?
I think that is the exact message of the film, all the countries in the world working together for one common goal. That's the political, moral message of the film, and I think that's a really interesting part of the film.