The Sarah Connor Chronicles – the TV spin-off of the Terminator films – has been a huge hit in the US and the UK, and a second series is being produced right now. But if you can’t wait for that, then the DVD of season one is now out on DVD from Warner Home Video, for £29.99. And here we have an exclusive interview with Summer Glau, who plays cyborg Cameron in the series.
What attracted you to the role of Cameron Phillips, a robot?
Summer Glau: Josh Friedman, the creator of the show. I never thought I would be able to play this role until I talked to him about it and got his point of view on a different kind of terminator. But I’d wanted to work with him for a long time, he’s a great director too and he directed some of the episodes.
It must be a challenge as an actor to play a robot. How did you find that?
Summer Glau: Well, I was lost in the beginning because in my work so far I’ve played really vulnerable characters. Really raw and emotional, that’s what comes naturally to me. So I was worried about making a robot relatable and I wanted people to care about her and be able to put themselves in her place because that’s what we all do when we watch TV.
But Josh’s idea for a Terminator was different – in the movies, Terminator’s evolve and become more advanced and sophisticated, you have the ones that liquefy, others that shape-shift. That’s cool, but for TV and for a character with longevity, Josh had the idea of making her more advanced because of her human characteristics. Instead of shape-shifting and knives coming out of her fingers, it was much more interesting that she could appear so human.
You bring that human aspect to the role convincingly. Did your background playing more emotional characters help?
Summer Glau: I wanted to bring that out but in a very subtle way because I wanted people to accept it and believe it. I didn’t want people to say ‘Well she’s completely letting herself out the hook by behaving human when she’s supposed to be a robot.’ So I wanted there to be moments when she appears so cold and disconnected but then moments you see behind her eyes a little spark of something, something human and I really want people to wish that she was human.
In early episodes, we see a hint that something – possibly romantic – could develop between Cameron and John. Does this develop?
Summer Glau: I hope so. I don’t know. At this point, we’re moulding and moulding. The story is so complicated and I know people think ‘Well, how are you gonna keep this up?’ There are endless possibilities from our writers, they’re bringing in really rich sub-plots and guest stars. It’s all evolving but I think Cameron feels as close to love for John as a robot could.
And she (Cameron) is programmed to protect him and only him which is quite a lovely concept isn’t it?
Summer Glau: I like it a lot.
Even to the extent that she will shun John’s mother – Sarah Connor (Lena Heady). How does that relationship develop through the show?
Summer Glau: I love that relationship. In my work I’ve always tried to choose roles that make me feel good about being a girl and sometimes that’s hard – in this industry. To play girls that are interesting, that are truly relatable to real women. Sarah Connor is a brilliant character and I love the dynamic of two women, two strong women – in very different ways – protecting a man. And I love working with Lena, I love our working dynamic and it can be very funny at times.
Thomas Dekker (John) says you all have a great time?
Summer Glau: (Laughs) The three of us all have a great time and thank goodness for that. He is amazing and very talented. And really, it’s our whole life right now, we’re there all day long every day. We have to like each other and enjoy what we do.
You have a background as a ballet dancer. This must have helped with the very physical aspects of this role – all that kicking, running and fighting?
Summer Glau: Absolutely. TV is very fast, so it’s very hard to do action in TV. In a film you rehearse fight scenes, you set up the rigging to make sure it works properly, you make sure that all the fight scenes are choreographed, but we have to move faster than that. So when I learn a fight scene, I have to do it fast and it really helps that I’m a dancer. Dancers are very good mimics so if someone shows me a move then I can pick it up quickly.
Do you have a stunt double?
Summer Glau: I do, she does the more dangerous things like jumping out of buildings and moving cars but I do all the hand-to-hand fighting myself.
The material is very dark, quite frightening. Does it scare you?
Summer Glau: It’s a question we have to ask ourselves about computers and how much we rely on computers in our world and keep making them better and better, what if they become so good that they harm us? I find that very scary.
What else do you find challenging about this role?
Summer Glau: I’ve never worked with such a small cast before and this makes the workload very challenging – we’re there all day, every day. Ninety five per cent of the time, we’re there all day long together. It’s also a very physical role so I need to be in the gym and working out, I want to be in the best shape of my life. But the reality of it is we work sixteen hour days.
So what do you like to do when you’re not working those days? How do you relax?
Summer Glau: I love to go to dance class, I love to work out. But I also want to make time for my friends and for my boyfriend. I love to cook. I love French cooking, that’s what I’m trying to learn right now. And I grew up in San Antonio (Southern California) so I love Mexican food. That’s my comfort food. Growing up as a ballet dancer, food is the enemy so when I wasn’t dancing full time, it really opened up and I could relax about food.
What about long term goals?
I’d love to do a movie about dance. With the (writer’s) strike, it’s put everyone’s schedules out, so I don’t when that will happen. I’d love to work with Baz Lurhman too. I love his films.
How did you feel about being involved with something as legendary as the Terminator movies?
Summer Glau: Everybody knows those movies, how can you not know those movies?
But I was a baby or not even born when the first one came out and my dad was really embarrassed that I was cast in the role and didn’t really know the movies well (laughs) so we sat down and watched them all together. You know, they are really good movies. They were really breaking the rules and making new ones at that time. But what made the biggest impression on me was how much I cared about the characters – Linda Hamilton, she was such an action hero but she was a woman and I cared about what she was fighting for and I didn’t want her to die, and that’s the most important thing.
And as an extra treat, here’s a clip from the episode "Dungeons and Dragons”.