Nerd icon Wil Wheaton has returned to sci-fi television as Eureka's slimy Dr. Isaac Parrish. We spoke with him at Comic-Con about just what makes good (and bad) technobabble, the secret to playing a scientist, and what's ahead on Eureka!
What's it like stepping back into the world of technobabble?
The technobabble is terrific because the technobabble on Eureka comes from science advisers, and even with the made-up science our science adviser comes up with a way to take that fake science and give it at least a toehold in reality. And things follow a logical flow. Unlike Star Trek where they just made up words that sounded technical.
It's almost like it's a language unto itself, and you're either fluent in technobabble or it's like you're speaking broken English...
I wrote a post on my blog about this, about the delivery of technobabble. You know, when a scientist talks about science, they have a point of view about the science, they're excited about it, they feel passionately about it. So when they're describing thermodynamics, they're excited in a way that that excitement comes through and also their expert knowledge comes through. What you don't see is a scientist going, "God, what happens!?" As an actor, it's very important that I have the same passion and the same point of view about these made-up facts that the character does so that when the audience watches that scene, they don't see an actor going, "Oh god, what happens?" They see a scientist who is excited about something bringing that across and communicating it to the other characters. It's really challenging to do technobabble well, and I gained an additional level of respect for the people who do that all the time and do it really well.
So what can you tease about your role in this season of Eureka?
Dr. Marten's coming to Eureka, and she's beautiful and charming and intelligent, and Fargo likes her, so Dr. Parrish immediately needs to win Dr. Marten's affection, not only because she's smart and beautiful and clever, but because if Dr. Parrish wins, Fargo loses. And that is their relationship.
When you made your first appearance in season 4.0, was it just a one-off or did you know you'd be coming back?
[Co-executive producer] Amy [Berg] said if the character works, then we would really like to fit you in for 4.5. And it kinda felt like an extended audition for me, and I had to forget that and leave it out and just do my best job. I think before we were even done with production, [executive producer] Jaime [Paglia] said, "We're loving Dr. Parrish, we want to have you in for more. Will you come back for the back half o the season?" And I said, "Yeah, how many?" And he said, "I don't know, how many can you be in?" And it was great, it was a terrific, terrific season for me.
When Dr. Parrish became a regular, did you want to tone down him down a bit to make him more palatable, or did you amp up his jerkish qualities?
Characters always evolve over the course of a season, unless something is explicitly plotted out and it's like "you are the killer," things are constantly open to evolution and to changing. Things happen on the set that can never be predicted in the writers' room and character relationships develop between actors and just because of certain things in scripts and that really affects how a character evolves and changes. I don't think Dr. Parrish changes too much. I mean, his function in the show is to be sort of a guy you love to hate. And he's not heroic and he's not selfless and he's kind of a dick and that's just sort of who he is. And I think he remains true to that. And even guys that are giant dicks have moments of kindness, but that is sort of who he is and I worked real hard to stay true to that.
On Dr. Parrish's relationships with the other characters...
I love the relationship that develops between Parrish and Carter because Parrish...you know, everybody in Eureka is just sort-of like "Oh Carter, you're an everyman and you're cute, and kind-of don't know things," but Parrish is like, "You are so stupid." And Colin [Ferguson] and I are such good friends that we have developed this really wonderful relationship where we were, he's being patient and Parrish is being a jerk, and Parrish mistakes his patience for weakness and it makes for some of my favorite scenes to shoot. And I would love to see more of the relationship continue.
Were there any relationships that surprised you, that you didn't anticipate Dr. Parrish having?
There was a moment that happened during rehearsal where I had a scene with Joe Morton [who plays Henry] and with Colin. We're trying to do something, and it's kind of time-sensitive, and I don't remember exactly what it is, but it's sort of like, "Really, if we could stop the world from flipping itself inside-out and imploding, and putting the lava beast back in the hold and preventing the Balrog from climbing out, that'd be great guys. Fix the thing!" [Eds. note: In case it isn't clear, Wil was not describing the actual plot of an episode. Awesome as that all would be.] We have this thing where we're analytically talking about a thing, and in rehearsal, Joe and I realized that we're both scientists, so we could get excited about the science behind something and we start geeking out about the science of this thing until Colin says, "Guys, world is melting! Geek out later!" And it changed the relationship between Parrish and Henry because Parrish now respects him and likes him.
What should fans be on the lookout for this season? What's the big thing they should be keeping in mind?
The Astreus mission is going to fundamentally change everything. And none of us are prepared for it.
Eureka airs Mondays at 8:00 PM EST on Syfy.