Rachel Nichols – who stars as future-cop-out-of-time in Continuum (brand new and exclusive to Syfy , Thursdays at 10pm from 27 September ) – is no stranger to science fiction and fantasy . She first came to SFX ’s attention as Rachel Gibson in the fifth season of Alias , and since then has appeared in GI Joe , Conan The Barbarian and most recently (and very memorably) as Gaila , Uhura’s green-skinned Orion room mate in Star Trek .(opens in new tab)
For an instant introductory guide the Continuum , click here , and for an interview with executive producer Tom Rowe click here , but stick around on this page for an exclusive interview with Nichols…
SFX : Were you prepared for how popular Continuum has become so quickly?
Rachel Nichols: “I read the first script, and I loved it and thought it was great. And then we started shooting and I met the cast and the creators and everybody on it and I just kept thinking, ‘God, we’re making something so cool!’ And you just hope people will like it. But then what happened with Continuum was really amazing. But no, I don’t think in my wildest dreams I was prepared, but I'm really excited at how it’s gone down.”
What was it that appealed about that original script?
“First of all, the incredibly strong female character who is the lynch-pin – the connector – of every element of the story. I love to see strong female leads in TV shows – like Alias . I adore Jennifer Garner and she did that show so well.
“But there were a lot of elements in Continuum that made it really different and interesting, and they all involved Kiera . The time travel and the emotion of her leaving her son and husband behind. And the physicality of the role. She is a very complex character and very fun to play.”(opens in new tab)
It’s difficult to believe watching the show now that originally it was going to have a male lead.
“I know. Originally the character was called Kyle. I, of course, wasn’t given a script until after they had made to decision to turn him into Kiera – I’m not even sure of all the iterations that it went through, or the reasons for the change – but I think it was a great move. Obviously for me it was a great move otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here now doing this interview.
“But I like to see female leading characters. And it’s not like there aren’t lots of strong male roles in the show too. It’s not a total chick show. There are plenty of shower shots of Victor Webster. But I was fascinated when they told me Kiera was originally Kyle. It would have been a completely different show.
“I thank Simon Barry, the show’s creator, a lot for that. He writes very well for women. The two of us are thick as thieves. It’s very important to have a show creator that you get on well with; that you spend time with; who you can talk and discuss and negotiate with; who is very open to suggestions. Simon is all of those things. He’s just so smart which makes me extremely lucky.”
The show isn’t a typical goodies versus baddies scenario. How much did you know right at the beginning about how the arc would develop?
“It was kinda of like a 50/50 process. I was on a need to know basis because I didn’t want to know too much about what was coming if I didn’t need to know it for acting purposes. But I read the first three scripts before I talked to the writers, and I could feel the sort of ambiguity of right and wrong straight away. There’s no clear-cut black and white, good versus evil. And it’s very much apparent that Kiera has come from 2077 knowing exactly where she stands – that she’s one of the good guys fighting the good cause – and then suddenly in 2012 a lot of the things that she was so sure of in the future come under fire.
“So she has to assess what she’s doing in the present day and how she can make it better for her family in the future. And a lot it has to do with asking some very serious questions about what is right and wrong. Liber8 in 2077 seems to be the worst terrorist organisation in the world, but in 2012 maybe what they’re aiming for isn’t so bad even if they’re going about it in the wrong way.”
Your special Swiss army-style future suit is very striking.
“It looks so sexy on, but it takes two people to get me into it. It’s not very comfortable. We’re going to make some changes. We made some changes at the end of season one, which will stick for season two. It’s like the costume I wore for GI Joe . They look sexy when they’re on, but if you watched someone trying to put them on or take them off, they cease to be sexy.”(opens in new tab)
Is there a lot of green screen acting for the 2077 section?
“Not much. The nice thing about Vancouver is that a lot of it does look futuristic, so we’re never just in a green cube. With the CG they change the look of the buildings, but we still use the actual buildings. That’s one of the perks of shooting in Vancouver
I love Vancouver. I live in LA and I didn’t mind going somewhere when it can be rainy for a while. The city is stunning. And we’ve had a fantastic response from the Canadian fans, going, ‘Finally there’s a show where Vancouver is not pretending to be New York or Seattle.’ Vancouver through and through.”
Do you enjoy the physical side of the role?
“Yeah. Alias was my first action role, and I loved it. I loved being the action girl. I loved fight training for them. Alias was when I first started going to the gym and having a trainer because I wanted to be in shape. Then over the years, whether it was GI Joe or Conan The Barbarian , I was still doing physical stuff.
“I really kinda sticks. Learning a fight sequence is like learning a dance, and once you know the steps you can put together a routine. You have a sort of muscle memory. I just think it looks so cool when the actors do their own stunts. I work very hard to make it look as authentic as possible.”
We have to ask – will Gaila be back in Star Trek 2 ?
“I wish I could say yes, or that I could say no and it was secretly yes. But they shot it while I was in Vancouver, so I don’t think Gaila will be back. I was hoping. Maybe JJ will call me today. Although putting on all that make-up was extensive, so I’d like to be wearing turtle necks, gloves and long pants this time.”
Continuum – Brand New & Exclusive to Syfy, Thursdays at 10pm from 27 September