Interview Date: 01/07/2011
Run Date: 03/11/2011
When we walked into the panel for the new season of “Torchwood” during the 2011 Winter TCA Press Tour, we literally only knew two things about the series’ return: it will now be broadcast on Starz, and Mekhi Phifer and Bill Pullman are going to be part of the cast. We thought we knew a third thing – that the subtitle of the series would be “The New World” – but when series mastermind Russell T. Davies took the stage a few moments later to make his brief introductory remarks, we found out that we had been wrong.
“The first announcement is we have no footage to show you,” said Davies. “We have a title. This has been working under the working title of ‘The New World,’ but that was a secret title to hide the real title, which is now beknown as ‘Torchwood: Miracle Day.’ That’s what this show is about, and the premise is a miracle that happens to the world. It’s as simple as this: one day on Earth, no one dies. Not a single person on Earth dies. The next day, no one dies. The next day, no one dies, and on and on and on. Now, the sixth day, the old stay old and keep getting older, the dying keep dying, but…no one quite dies. The possibility of death ceases to exist. Great news for some people, but globally — and that’s what the whole show is about, actually — it’s an instant overnight population boom where, suddenly, the Earth relies on people dying. That’s how the whole system works: the food, the room, the temperature. So, suddenly, you’ve got a crisis affecting everyone on the planet…and that’s where the Torchwood team and our brand-new characters come in.”
After the panel, Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with Eve Myles, who plays Gwen Cooper on the series. We knew that she wasn’t going to be able to offer us much in the way of specifics on “Miracle Day,” but we still managed to glean a bit of insight about what we might be seeing when “Torchwood” finally makes its grand return this summer, and she also reflected on the effect “Children of Earth” had on her, what a baby will do to the relationship between Gwen and Rhys, and how much she enjoys playing an ass-kicking broad.
Those were my choice of words, by the way, and not hers…but I think I chose wisely, because now she wants to put them on a t-shirt.
Eve Myles: Hello, Will. Very nice to meet you!
Bullz-Eye: Same here…although, actually, we met very, very briefly once before. But you’re allowed to not remember me, as it was in the middle of Comic-Con.
EM: In New York?
BE: Yep. I even have a picture to prove it.
EM: Oh, that’s nice!
BE: It was a great time. Well, I feel as though I should begin by letting you know that my wife is still very sad about the way “Torchwood: Children of Earth” ended.
EM: I bet she is.
BE: I don’t think she blames you personally. It’s more Russell, really.
EM: Yeah, people are very, very sad.
BE: I would guess it was probably emotional for you guys as well.
EM: Oh, it was terrible. I mean, it was the same with the Owen and Tosh characters. You work with people so closely, you learn to love these characters ,and then they go. You don’t just lose the character; you lose a really good friend. You know, you lose your work buddy. It’s something you’ve got to get used to with “Torchwood”; it’s the nature of the beast. Anyone can walk out the door and get popped, you know?
EM: That’s the kind of danger element of it. But, yes, it’s not nice. It’s not nice and especially with these kinds of characters. People get so connected to them and become so passionate and possessive over them that when something happens for drama’s sake, it’s uncomfortable.
BE: Yeah, I was actually going to ask Russell outright, “How many more characters must die at your hand, before you’re happy with this series?”
EM: “Or before you’re hanged.” (Laughs)
BE: Well, Gwen, by the time “Children” begins, is somewhat more militant. I mean, not dramatically so, but, I mean, she’s kind of having to fill new shoes, so she evolves as a character. How was that for you to play? It certainly made sense for the character, but was it challenging for you?
EM: Every day playing Gwen is challenging. I mean, seriously, because she’s so complex. And she has two very different worlds, and they are the antitheses of each other. She’s got the world where she’s at home with her husband and her baby, and then she’s got the world where she goes and she plays basketball with pterodactyls and shoots shape shifters, and then gets pregnant with an alien baby, and all of these crazy things. But that world won’t work without that one, and that one won’t work without that one. She’s the best character I have ever had the pleasure of playing, because some days I walk onto the set and think, “I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if I can make sense of this.” But then you just do, because the writing is so good and the character is so complex, but so clear at the same time. For an actor, to have something to work out is brilliant. I think there’s no clear answer with Gwen Cooper. It’s a very difficult, complex character. And physically exhausting. By the end of “Children of Earth,” I think I had been in the hospital twice. And, literally, you could join the bruises.
BE: So you had a nice down time, then, prior to “Miracle Day”?
EM: Yes, yes, yes. (Pauses) You mean Gwen?
BE: Yes, well, Gwen as well, but I meant that you had some down time to recover!
EM: I mean, yeah, after “Children of Earth,” I went on to film another project, and then I got pregnant with my daughter.
EM: Thank you very much.
BE: I have a five year old, so…
EM: Oh, it’s fabulous, isn’t it?
EM: It’s marvelous. And then I did another project whilst I was pregnant, and then they came out to America, the guys, and it’s been amazing. But for Gwen, you find her in such a weird way. I mean, you find her in almost a form of limbo, I like to say. You see her doing the norm, and it being Gwen Cooper, she looks insane doing the norm. She sticks out like a sore thumb, because she’s constantly on alert. Because her nurture now is Torchwood. You know, she is Torchwood, and she understands the evilness of the world and the threat that is always there. She knows there’s a threat, a constant threat. So you find her in a very, very different place to where you would imagine you would find her.
BE: The delay between series is more circumstance than intent, but it actually makes it more emotionally effective for fans because it really does feel like Captain Jack has been gone for an extended period of time.
EM: Yes. Yes, it does. It’s very clever.
BE: It is.
EM: And it does. And you see the journey between “Children of Earth” to “Miracle Day.” Well, I mean, you won’t visually see it, but you know what’s been going on in those months that they have been apart.
BE: So it does offer some revelations as far as that goes, then.
BE: Obviously, you can’t speak too much to what’s going on, mostly because you haven’t started filming yet, but are you looking forward to the new cast additions?
EM: Absolutely. I mean, absolutely. Perfectly cast. And the characters are extraordinary characters. They are written so well, and everybody brings their own flavor to it. It’s just adding all the time, it’s just fantastic.
BE: Can you speak a little bit to what they add to it, and the capacity? I was there for the panel, so I kind of know who they are…
EM: Yes. I mean, they all have different areas. They all have expertise in different areas, some of them welcomed and some of them not. But there’s not two people the same. They’ve all got something to offer this particular phenomenon that’s going on. (Hesitates) Yeah, I think that’s what I can say about them. (Laughs)
BE: (Laughs) Better to check first. I don’t want you to get in trouble.
EM: Yeah, it’s all good.
BE: Of the first two seasons of the show, do you have any particular episodes that stand out for you as favorites? I mean, there’s obviously fan favorites, but sometimes the star’s favorites aren’t always the same.
EM: My favorite episode of all time was “Country Side,” because we got to run about at the Brecon Beacons and pretend there’s cannibals running after us. And it was gory. I’m such a horror film fan. I’m such a gore feast myself. So anything with blood, guts and skeletons and fighting, I’m running about in my element. So, yeah, definitely that. And then the entirety of “Children of Earth,” of course. I adored “Children of Earth.” I mean, reading those scripts was just…it was a gift, it was a present.
BE: And speaking of that, I’m sure this was a stunner to you as it was to me, the established fan, just how many people started “Torchwood” with “Children of Earth” and just became totally enamored with it.
EM: I mean, seriously now, this was the third series. When has that ever happened with another show?
BE: “NCIS,” I think, is the only recent example where it was a small hit, and then all of a sudden, like, six seasons in, it was something major.
EM: Yes. Because there’s an event, you know, and it’s a re-launch. But, yes, the wonderful thing with the third series was that people thought they were going to get “Monster of the Week” again, and people go, “We know the form, we know this is ‘Torchwood.’” But you don’t know, because the cast doesn’t know, because it’s up to Russell T. Davies what he does. And what he does is reinvent it every year, but still staying faithful to what “Torchwood” is. Which is what the fans love. This fourth series…well, to me, this isn’t the fourth series, this is a new…I don’t want to give it a number. It’s just the next chapter of “Torchwood”.
BE: When you got the “Children of Earth” scripts, did Russell warn you, “Oh, this is going to be good, you’re going to love this”?
EM: Oh, yes.
BE: I’m sure he played it teasingly.
EM: Yes, he’s taught to be a tease. (Laughs) I mean, I was getting texts and stuff going, “Ohhhh, whoopee! I’m so excited! I’m so excited!” And I’m, like, “Oh, tell me, tell me, tell me!” (Laughs) But, yeah, they come through and, literally, I had the first three, and we didn’t get the last two until the read through.
BE: That was probably a cruel joke on his part.
EM: Well, I think it was the whole Ianto situation and how they were going to deal with that. I mean, I’m not sure. We had the read through for the final two in a different place, months after that. So getting those scripts and reading the scripts and just knowing you’re going to be a part of this; and knowing that I’m playing such an awesome character is just wonderful. I can’t be thankful enough.
BE: Do you enjoy the opportunity to then be an ass-kicking broad if it were?
EM: Well, can I just say that I love that? (Laughs) I’m going to get a t-shirt with that printed on. You know, it’s crazy, especially with “Children of Earth,” she’s always got two guns, and she’s always got knives up her jeans, and she’s got something in her sock. She’s crazily armed. But it’s great to play a strong female which isn’t about tits and ass. And it’s nice to be playing somebody who is equal to anything that comes her way and can handle herself. You know, and has flaws and is real. It’s good to have that representation, I think.
BE: And you were very cute at Comic-Con when you were talking about how you were going to get to carry guns in both hands. You were pretty much giggling, really.
EM: (Laughs) Oh, I know. It was hysterical! I mean, guns were coming out of everywhere, right? It was, like, everywhere. But, yeah, same this year, so they’ve got more to look forward to with lots more of that kind of action, I can tell you.
BE: So I don’t know if you can speak much to this, either, but how’s the relationship between Gwen and Rhys when the show kicks off again?
EM: I mean, Gwen and Rhys…this is the lovely thing about that particular part of the story: Gwen and Rhys are the best of friends, and there is a real romance and a real love there. Of course, it gets challenged, and that poor character, but he knew what he was letting himself in for. And he loves her so much that, you know, he hopes when she does leave in the morning that that’s not the last kiss, but he understands that this is who she is and this is what she does. You know, this is kind of, like, where Gwen is. And there’s ups and downs, rounds and abouts, and tears and joy, and everything that Rhys and Gwen give out in abundance.
BE: Also, I would think that adding a baby to the mix…well, even in the real world, that changes a relationship somewhat.
EM: Oh, holy moley, absolutely. (Laughs)
BE: So I was thinking in the world of “Torchwood,” given the situation at hand, it would wreak some havoc.
EM: There’s no some havoc about it. It’s horrifically havocness. (Laughs) It’s…you know, it’s not about Gwen doing her thing anymore and having to consult Rhys about it. It’s about Gwen doing her thing, and also being a mum. This is the number one job for this woman. She’s a mum. So once again, they make this character struggle, really struggle. There’s always a bloody dilemma.
BE: And now you get to bring your own personal experiences to the role of mothering on the show.
EM: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I’ve got a 14 month old daughter who’s real hard work, but it’s the best job in the world. And there’s no way…I just wouldn’t be able to put myself in that situation. There’s no way, there’s no way. But, then again, you see that gives Gwen what color that character is. I understand what strength that character has because she is able to do something like that. That’s a huge kind of characterism, do you know what I mean? She is able to do that. So yeah, it’s a wonderful thing that they have given me to play, as you say, a kick-ass broad… (Laughs) …now she’s a mum. How do I mix that together? And how do I make it really, really real and work?
BE: So since “Torchwood” would definitely not qualify for this question any longer, what’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on that didn’t get the love that you thought it deserved? It can be a one-off, a pilot, whatever.
EM: I’m beginning to think they all did really quite well. (Laughs) I don’t know! But do you know what? Even with what you said, I still might have to say maybe the first season of “Torchwood.” I think people were too quick to judge and too quick to jump on not accepting the kind of broadness of the story, and how extreme we were with it. I just thought sometimes that was a little unfair. But you’ve got to take criticism along with praise, because otherwise you’re living in a world of your own. And criticism is good. So I’m sure if it wasn’t accepted, it was probably a pile of shit. But if it was accepted, hooray, I’m glad it worked out. (Laughs)
BE: I’ll use that answer to tie this up with a nice little bow: given the benefit of hindsight, how do you think Series One of “Torchwood” stands up when compared to “Children of Earth”? I mean, when you look back on it, can you say, “Yeah, I can see where it was still looking for a vision,” or whatever?
EM: Oh, I think definitely. The wonderful thing that we’ve been able to come and do a fourth series is that we’ve always got to look back and say, “This worked and this didn’t work.” I can’t say from production side, but I can say from performer side that there are certain things that I did in series One, Two, and even Three that I look back on and go, “Well, maybe if I had another chance to do it, I would take a different option.” But that’s the healthy part of it. It’s good to do that, because you never want to be making the same boring old rubbish. You want to keep improving and giving something to people that they’re really going to want to watch. You know, you don’t want to be disappointing them. And that’s the last thing we want to do, is disappoint anybody with anything. We want our fans and the new fans that we get to be really proud of this project and to keep supporting us.
BE: Lastly, is there any truth to the rumor that this new season is set to be the darkest to date?
EM: (Shrugs and smiles mischeviously) It’s “Torchwood.” Expect the unexpected.