It’s an old story: a bunch of rogues on a spaceship trying to fight their way across the universe with a hundred enemies all after their hides. Dark Matter, now in its second season on SyFy, continues in that fine tradition featuring a group of mercenaries with no memory of who they are, trying to scratch out a living, and stay one step ahead of the law, while trying to deal with their pasts and possibly overcome them. Amongst the crew of the Raza is Three played by Anthony Lemke.
Three is the smart alec bad ass with a heart of gold on Dark Matter; always the first to suggest self-preservation over intervention, always full of snark and sarcasm especially for his fellow crew members, and always ready to go with his sidearm, Bubba. Lemke is no stranger to being the bad guy, his breakout role was as the antagonist Captain Grisham in Queen of Swords, but he’s remained a busy, working actor with stints on Lost Girl, The Listener, and in the Roland Emmerich movie White House Down. As Dark Matter’s second season was about to take off (space pun intended), Nerd Bastards got the chance to sit down with Lemke to talk about sci-fi, acting like you have amnesia, and whether or not he’s optimistic about the future….
Nerd Bastards: There’s a lot of excitement for season 2, the show seems to have created an ecstatic fan based pretty quickly…
Anthony Lemke: I hope so! I hope people are ecstatic when they watch these things. (Laughs) No, we’re very fortunate that we’ve had a great audience response to the show. You never know. They’re the last piece of the puzzle, and they came onboard in force, and I’m very privileged and honoured that that’s the case, and just damn happy because I get to play this character for another year. I love to play this character, and I hope that shows through. For sure there’s an element that [Three]’s revealing in himself, he’s aware of his affect on people.
NB: He knows he’s the bad guy.
Lemke: He know’s he’s the bad guy, and incendiar,y and all the rest of that stuff, and half of it’s for effect. I have so much fun playing that character. There’s some really cool stuff that Joe [Mallozzi] and Paul [Mullie] have got in their minds, and they’re doing the writers room for season three right now so knock wood. But it’s so cool. And the world will just get bigger, and bigger….
NB: They have a five year plan do they not?
Lemke: They do, and I know that Joe and Paul would like to tell the rest of the story, and I would as well. So stick with us, and I think you guys will be happy for sure.
NB: Well let’s talk a little about season two because things were left off in a bit of a cliffhanger, it looked like there was betrayal.
NB: We’ve seen that in the new season that things start off in prison for you guys, so going from there what can people expect?
Lemke: Well you can probably expect that we’re going to bust out, because we’re bad ass that way and I don’t think that is much of a spoiler, because we didn’t turn this into a prison show. We’ll end up on the Raza at some point in time. I don’t think that’s much of a spoiler, so the question is how and when, and who we’re bring with us if anybody? How will we react to the betrayal because we don’t know at the beginning of the second season there was a betrayal; the audience does, we don’t. What you can expect is the show to shift into second gear. You can expect the show to be a bigger, brasher show than it was in season one.
NB: I take it things will also be a bit bigger in terms of action, plotlines, that type of thing. Once you’ve established everything, you can play with the tools, and the things you’ve established in season one.
Lemke: That’s correct. I see it a lot like a family drama with these people waking up and learning that they are a team, and how they can be a team, and learning how to like each and trust each, and on top of that they have to learn about who they are. We learned a bit about the world in season one, but not a whole ton. We learned a bit about the types of technology that exist in this universe, and you learn a lot more about that in season two. You even get to see the first alien species; you won’t learn a lot about it, but it’s introduced for sure, and it has a rather grave effects on a certain character. And it’s fun! It feels more like a sci-fi show, for better or for worse. I know the first season it was a sci-fi show, but a lot of the people who watch it would say, “I don’t normally watch sci-fi, but I love your show,” and there’s a reason for that. It happened to be in space but it didn’t really dwell on the whole notion of futuristic technology and the political ramifications.
NB: It’s so weird to hear that though because watching Dark Matter you see shades of Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, Alien it seems like it takes a little bit from all those things…
Lemke: Yeah, it really does. I think that’s why it’s got the audience it does because it’s not really a show that’s just for dedicated fans of sci-fi. That first season was something different, and something kind of special, and this season we don’t lose that. The DNA is still in the show but because we’re ramping up the world and exploring a vaster section of that universe, it has a lot more sci-fi touch stones in it. I’m excited about that because I’m a big sci-fi fan, I think that’s cool!
NB: Joe Mallozzi teased online that Three and Five were teaming up this year, and I think he posted a picture on social media that a scene featuring Three and Five was his favourite scene of the new season. So perhaps teasing without giving too much away, what can people expect seeing those two together?
Lemke: I love playing with Jodelle Ferland, she is so much fun to play with. Part of it is her, but part of is the characters that we each are playing, and Three and Five, I think, are a wonderful team. They make me smile when I watch the scenes that we’ve done together, it warms my heart as much as an audience member I can be watching my own scenes. But you can be [an audience member] because it is fundamentally a story you’re telling and you can separate that out and watch it as a story as well. I would say that it’s probably my favourite relationship of season two, and that’s because of the way it was written, and I had a decent opportunity to do some scenes with [Jodelle] and I want more.
NB: I saw a picture of her with Bubba.
Lemke: Haha! Yeah! She got my gun!
NB: I wasn’t sure if that was official, or…
Lemke: You’re going to have to watch and find out. (Laughs) Yeah, Bubba’s always hanging out on set so she could have just grabbed it and taken a picture.
NB: The show is interesting because it starts with everyone waking up, and having no memory where they came from. Now I’m not a professional actor by any stretch of the imagination, but I bet that’s a lot like coming on to the set of a new TV show as an actor, where you’re vaguely aware of the characteristics of the character you’re playing, but you’re all learning as the script goes on, and in this case, you’re learning about Three as Three’s learning about Three. Is that weird for you or is that helpful in how you develop the role?
Lemke: It is weird. First off, people are very, very good at understanding humans and knowing when an actor is being truthful and when he isn’t. All of us watch people all our lives, it’s what we do, and we’re very good at picking up on subtle cues on what actors call “back story.” So when you walk in here, you had a whole life outside that you’re bringing in with you, whether you have a wife or kids, who knows, and you’re walking in with that story, and there’s this energy that’s underneath you as we’re having this conversation. I say that because imagine a scenario where an actor walks in and there is no backstory. So there is no wife, or kids, or anything, and you walk in and you’re just a blank slate. The audience can sense that. And I think what’s interesting is that a lot of shows take a few episodes to find their vibe, and I think the reason for that is what you said, the actors are learning, their playing together, they’re creating that backstory, and so consequently people are like. “It’s a little chunky in the beginning, but then it found its vibe.” I think largely its because the actors found a backstory with each other and became complete characters. The first five episodes [of Dark Matter] we don’t have a backstory. It’s very challenging as an actor to have nothing underneath.
NB: Are there any challenges playing Three? I mean I imagine there’s a certain liberation as you’re not the leader, you aren’t aware of your secrets, but Three is a character that has a very fine sense of who he is, so is there a challenge for you in playing someone who’s reactionary and shoots first and asks questions later?
Lemke: Of course. The challenges with Three are about tone, and finding that right tone, and finding the line between comedy, and staying alive long enough to find the funny moments in a scene when you’re tired or just having an off day; you still have to find those funny moments or create them. In season two, Three was asked to play some pretty hard stuff, plain and simply hard acting stuff, which is an amazing and fun challenge, and when you see that you’re like “This is going to be great!” because that’s what we love as actors, the ability to play a wide range of emotions. I’m excited to see how those beats and those scenes cut together.
NB: Three reminds me a bit of Jane on Firefly, and fans of that series know that there’s a moment where Jayne’s sort of “I’m a fighter and I just fight” world view is shattered, are you implying that Three faces a similar moment in season two?
Lemke: Um. [beat] It’s not the same storyline. I think in season one he had a bit of that moment when he realized “Oh my God, inside me is an empathetic human being.” Where as he didn’t believe that was the case and that continues forward in season two where there is a real revelatory moment where he learns about his past and the audience does as well. It doesn’t change who he is, but it informs how he got those two sides: the harsh self-centred criminal and the empathetic person that is pretty capable of caring and being loyal. They’re two kind of bizarre parts that don’t kind of fit together, but they’re fun to play.
NB: At this point having completed two seasons would you like to know more about Three or his background right now, or are you content to discover it as he does?
Lemke: I’m an inherently curious guy and I would love to learn more about his background, but I think the fun part about not knowing is that it doesn’t colour the way I play the scenes if I don’t know it. If all I know about Three is that he’s a total asshole, then I play it that way, and then when you learn that he’s empathetic that changes things, and now you’re looking for moments when he’s empathetic. Yeah there’s the stuff that’s written, but there’s other things that make a full character; looks, hand gestures that kind of thing. Yeah, I think it’s best that I don’t know.
NB: I’ll make my last question about the tone of the show, because you see the future in Dark Matter where there are corporations with their own armies and spaceships and soldiers willing to kill whole colonies to get mining rights etc., and it seems to suggest that this future is a little on the pessimistic side; things aren’t going to be better in the future, just more of the same. Do you feel that the future’s going to be worse, or are you a more optimistic guy, because even through the series the six people on the ship are trying to overcome their criminal past and the world they were brought up in?
Lemke: I’m a fundamentally optimistic person. I don’t believe that the world will get only better in the future, that’s not the way a fluid society works, but I do believe that if you look at the overall track that we’ve been on till now, I think there has been a rise in the ability to empathize with a wider group of people, and empathy is what creates a better future. Fundamentally, there are some challenges in the foreground, we’re starting to see significant evidence that the effect of technology on kids is creating an empathy gap; we don’t talk about that much, but we should. I don’t think there’s anything more important you can have in this world than the ability to look at someone else’s challenges in life and understand how that might be difficult, but I think on the whole we’re moving in the right direction. There’s a lot of things we’re getting wrong, but we have the capacity to get things right, and that’s worth concentrating on.
Dark Matter airs Fridays on SyFy and Space.