Eureka co-executive producer Amy Berg reveals some details on how James Callis and Wil Wheaton came to join the cast, what she looks for in a guest star, and which Firefly alum is her "white whale."
Since joining the writing staff of Syfy's Eureka for this upcoming season, co-executive producer Amy Berg has played a big part in recruiting some genre MVPs for guest shots: MVPs like Battlestar Galactica's James Callis and Just a Geek author Wil Wheaton. Here, she reveals some of the methods to her madness.
When looking for a science fiction icon to cast, what are the qualities that you look for?
Honestly? Talent. That's really the bottom line. We're not going to cast anyone solely because they have geek cred. The other question we ask ourselves is, "Does this person fit in?" Eureka has a very specific tone — it's science fiction, sure, but it also has a lot of heart. And it's funny. To find an actor who can tell a joke in one scene and get their heart broken in the next is not an easy task, regardless of genre.
Had either James Callis or Wil Wheaton seen Eureka before you enlisted them?
James is a fan of the show. He jumped at the chance join Eureka and was especially excited when we told him what we had in mind for his character. Casting him was serendipitous, really. In Vancouver, the soundstages for Battlestar Galactica were next door to Eureka, so James was already friends with some of our regulars. And then when his name appeared on a casting list for Dr. Grant, our eyes lit up. He is a genuine talent.
As for Wil, he'll be the first to tell you that he doesn't watch a whole lot of television. He'd seen Eureka, but wasn't all that familiar with it. I had cast him on my last show, Leverage, so there's a certain amount of trust between us. He knows I'd only come to him with a role he could really have fun with. We got together last week to talk shop, and I gave him a bunch of DVDs of the show. Apparently he marathoned his way through all of them and is now a huge fan.
What brand of tomfoolery will you have them doing for you?
I can't really talk about Dr. Grant. It's a bit on the spoiler-y side. Let's just say that Grant is unlike any character Callis has played, and unlike any character we've had on the show. He's an outsider trying to find his way. James is having a blast with the part. And he gets to mix it up with Colin Ferguson's Carter, which is fun for both of them.
Wil plays Dr. Isaac Parrish, the head of the Non-Lethal Weapons Division at Global Dynamics. You find out pretty quickly why he works with NON-lethal weapons. He's brilliant, but not exactly someone who takes direction well. I spent some time talking to Wil about the character — the backstory he's created for the guy is totally on point. Should be a fantastic episode. [Which is shooting now, according to Wil Wheaton's blog.]
I know Callis is around for more than one episode. What about Wil?
Callis is around for the season. Wil's character, Dr. Parrish, is potentially recurring. We'd love to have him back.
Who else is on your hist list? Who's the dream get that you know you can't?
There are a bunch of folks we'd love to have and who are interested in playing with us, but it's just a matter of finding the right part. There are very few meaty guest roles in season four, which I think is great. It means we're telling stories about our people.
We'd love to find something for Felicia Day, who just wrapped a Syfy movie called Red. Felicia's a fan of the show and I really think she's a perfect fit for Eureka. It's the intelligence and wit she brings to her characters that I love — whether it's The Guild, Dollhouse, or whatever. She's so accessible. She's someone you watch on screen and say, "I bet we could be friends." But, you know, not in a creepy way.
I also have something in mind for Grant Imahara, who is the robotics tech on Mythbusters. Grant and I got to know one another on Twitter — he was randomly quoting lines from an episode of something I'd written and so I dropped a note to say hi. I'm hoping Discovery lets us borrow him for a little while. There are always scheduling and budget considerations, especially when we're looking to cast people who live and work outside of Vancouver.
Mark Sheppard is also a friend, someone I always keep in mind when casting anything. He's just so damn good. One of those actors who shows up in a scene and makes everyone around him better. Speaking of BSG folks, we also have our eye on Edward James Olmos. We already know what role he'd play. Hopefully it's a story that comes together in the back half of the season.
As far as dreaming the impossible dream...Jaime Paglia, our co-creator, would love to have George Lucas pop up somewhere. He's a guy who has really inspired Jaime over the years. Personally, my impossible get is Nathan Fillion. Because, well, he's Nathan Fillion and I'm a geek girl. It's how we roll. But he's a little busy with Castle, which just got picked up for another season, and I'm guessing ABC has an exclusivity clause on him. You can't see it, but right now I'm making my sad face.
Eureka is back with new episodes on July 9.