Continuum was one of the surprise sci-fi hits on American TV this year, smashing channel Showcase’s ratings records on the way to getting a second series green lit.
Rachel Nichols was no doubt a part of that, with the G.I Joe and Conan star excelling as Kiera, a cop unwillingly sent back in time from 2077 to stop a terrorist group.
Before the show launches tonight here on the SYFY Channel, we talked to the star about why she thinks the show’s done so well, the rise of female action stars and the delights of non-judgemental restaurants.
So, for us Brits yet to see the show, what can you tell us about Continuum?
It's such a complex show that to put it in as few a words as possible and still create a good synopsis is pretty difficult. I've figured out though that the best way to set it up is that I'm a cop from the future, fighting criminals from the future in the present day.
The reason that this all happens is that the show opens up in the year 2077 and I'm a law enforcement office there and we're about to execute this entire terrorist group who threaten all of humanity. But, while they've been imprisoned they've assembled a time travel device that creates a wormhole and we all accidentally get sucked back in time 65 years instead of the five years they originally wanted.
So, we land in 2012 Vancouver all at the same time and I'm immediately a fish out of water. It's a land I don't recognise and I don't understand. Cars, people in strange outfits and running water and all these things I've never seen before. I'm still fighting the same criminals though, but with a completely different skill set that I have to learn while I'm there.
It's extremely complex, very action packed, there are sci-fi elements, there are cop drama elements to it and it has real heart to it too, which is nice.
Kiera must be a great part to play.
When I read the script I thought how lucky would I be to play this role because there is everything in it. There's the kick-ass side, there's the law enforcement side, the relationships, whether it's between her and Carlos or her and Alec, there's even a sort of spy side to it.
Then there's an emotional side to her as well. She loves her son and her husband in the future and she's desperately trying to get back to them all while trying to do this job that she knows she has to do.
Also, congratulations on the show getting renewed for a second year.
Thank you, I'm really, really excited. We found out about 10 minutes before we were doing a panel in Toronto so we had the nice time of announcing that there.
You’ve become known for your action roles, what is it about the genre that entices you?
You know, action is just so cool. It was when I first started doing Alias was when I started doing fight sequences. I would then see it on the TV and then later on the movie screen and it's just me. It looks cool, I've always been one of the guys and I love playing these strong female roles because it shows that girls can do this cool stuff too.
The weapons and the shooting, to me it's all very sexy and it keeps me in such good shape. So, it's ridiculously cool and keeps you fit. Two birds with one stone.
We’ve had this real resurgence in female action roles of late with people like Gina Carano and yourself, how do you feel about that?
I love it, I think it's great. Especially with women in action, you want it to be believable. You want to believe that I can do this stuff and I'm this physical. Luckily my experience lends itself really well to these things, but it's great when people thing 'Yeah, she can totally do this'. And that's the best thing ever because once they believe you can do it, you can do pretty much anything, even though Keira's given a lot of help with her multitool and her suit that she's brought back from the future.
I just think that just as much as the cool muscley lead man is cool to the dudes and the chicks love him, I think that an actiony female is cool for the girls and the guys love her. It works both ways and I'm glad it's being recognised.
I have to say, I love the suit in the show!
I always joke with people when they ask about the suit that when it's on, it's great. First all it does anything I need it to, I can go invisible and there's just so many things I can do with that suit and the multitool. However, getting me in and out of that suit...slightly less sexy.
Continuum broke all the rating records for its channel Showcase across the Atlantic, how does that feel for you as a part of the show?
It's an amazing feeling. When I work on a show or a movie and I act, then I leave and then I try and separate myself from it because especially in TV, we shot ten episodes back to back, and you put so much time and love into it and you think you've got a really good product. But you never know if something's going to work or not, no matter how good you think it is.
So tried really hard to keep myself away from the numbers and the ratings then there was this influx of e-mails from everyone on the show, and even my mom got a Google alert and they let me know. And it really is the nicest feeling.
Everybody on Twitter was so supportive and that makes you even more excited to go back and do a season two because you know that people are eagerly anticipating it and that's just the best feeling.
Continuum melds the sci-fi and police sides of the show so well, do you think that’s why it’s been so successful?
Absolutely, I think it's a very complex show and a very smart show. I think the sci-fi genre allows us to get away with carrying a bit of a social commentary without getting in trouble for it and it really is a show where's there's something for everyone. It's a cop drama with the procedural aspect has that sci-fi slant to it and just the idea of the fish out of water makes you want to know what happens next.
That's what I think is so brilliant about it straddling that those two genres, as it meant that even I didn't know what was going to happen next and I'm the lead in the show! I'm desperate to know what happens next and it's just one of those shows where people just want more.
This show’s so intense, how do you unwind during filming.
I love to go and eat. I eat alone a lot, and although that may sound a bit sad, every city I'm in I like to find a restaurant where I can go and eat by myself, the food is good and I can wear the sweatpants I wore to work at 5am that morning and nobody judges me. Then a glass of red wine, maybe a little scotch then go home, read my lines for the next day.
Then I'm getting ready for the early hours and trying to stop thinking about all the things I'm going to do for the rest of the week. It's hard but it's enjoyable at the same time. I have my one place in Vancouver that I go all the time, so they're always very excited when I'm coming back.
So, you’ve been in both blockbuster movies and TV shows, how does the filming compare?
In a lot of ways it's the same. You know your lines, you go and get your hair and makeup done, you shoot your day, sometimes you don't get it all done, and sometimes you have enough time to do some extra scenes. The big difference really is that I've been on movies where we shoot one page of script a day or maybe even half a page and in TV that sort of schedule just doesn't exist.
We're shooting 42 minutes of TV in seven or eight days. So that's half of a full length feature. G.I. Joe took us about five months to shoot. We're shooting half that length in a week, so to say the pace is quicker on TV is a drastic understatement.
There's also the instant gratification of TV. You shoot it and then it comes out on the air, it's almost readily available to you. With movies, you have to wait about a year. I shot Alex Cross about a year ago and that's coming out in October. Conan I shot the year before it came out too. There is a waiting process with movies which can be frustrating.
I like the fast pace of TV, there's never a dull moment, that I can assure you.
Is it true that when you were younger you wanted to be Paula Abdul?
Yeah, it's a very funny story. Well, my mom thinks it's hysterical. So, Paula Abdul was a very hip and cool pop star when I was young and she had this album that I really loved and I told my mom I wanted to be her because she got to sing and she was just so cool and everybody loved her. But then in my rational part of being a child I thought 'Well, I bet a lot of girls that want to be Paula Abdul, as then I have a much better chance of being them'.
So, finishing up, what’s next for Rachel Nichols?
Alex Cross is coming out in October, then we're back up in Vancouver, probably in December, to shoot the second season of Continuum. I've also just shot a film in Philadelphia called Mechanic, and we're also in the process of editing a movie I did with Zoe Bell called Raze.
Continuum starts tonight, Thursday 27th September, at 10pm on SYFY.