After three installments based in the U.K., the popular sci-fi action series "Torchwood" makes a stop in the U.S. for its latest series, "Miracle Day." The title is filled with irony because what initially seems like a miracle - people unexpectedly stop dying all over the world - quickly becomes a not so wonderful thing as the population swells, food rations suffer, disease spreads and those who are sick or should be dead, simply don't die. Enter Captain Jack Harkness (played by John Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), the surviving members of the alien-hunter group Torchwood, who must come out of hiding to do what they do best - save the world.
With series creator Russell T Davies at the helm, the first thing Myles told our Jim Halterman during his visit to set on the last day of shooting was that even though "Torchwood" is now a co-production between Starz, BBC Cymru Wales and BBC Worldwide, the series is still the same old "Torchwood" that diehard fans have loved for years. The Welsh actress explained it best when she simply said, "There is no difference. The difference is when I walk outside I hear American accents all the time or when I walk outside [the set] I see the Warner Bros. sign."
Barrowman added that he's confident that "Torchwood: Miracle Day" will click with old and new fans alike. "Those who have been with us from the beginning," he explained, "will be able to come along and know the history and will have a great, rip-roaring time. New audiences will be able to pick up like it's a brand new show and they'll get the explanation and the stories in a very subtle way that will not bore our core audience. It's the brilliant way that it has been written."
Perhaps sensing the frustration with past series that raise compelling questions in their storytelling but then take their time answering them, Barrowman promised that viewers have no need to be concerned with that happening on this show. "The questions that are asked in episode one you will get a definitive answer in episode 10," he said, proudly. "It's not like other series where you're led for six seasons and you don't know the answers but within these 10 episodes, other questions are answered, other history is given and you find out more about Captain Jack's past and some of his relationships."
Speaking of relationships, Captain Jack and Gwen have one of the most compelling ones on the television landscape. Myles explained, "It's a relationship that John and I can't actually get through to our heads and give a heading. Jack and Gwen love each other dearly and they tell each other they love each other but it's not the kind of love that she has for Rhys [Gwen's husband, played by Kai Owens] and it's not the kind of love she has for Anwen [her child with Rhys] or that she has for her family members. It's a deep seeded friendship and they're a complete partnership. They love each other, they hate each other and then they love each other and then they hate each other. One spectrum to another. Do they kill each other or do they make love?"
Barrowman went on to explain that while he sees the Jack/Gwen relationship as "even bigger than a sexual relationship," he gives credit to Davies for continuing to bring new layers to the characters and their unique bond. "Obviously you still have to create tension and do things within that but you find out more about Jack and Gwen's relationship that you haven't known before. There's a wonderful episode that Russell wrote for Eve and I and he said, 'This is a gift.'" Unfortunately, beyond that, Barrowman was mum about the details of the episode.
Besides returning Torchwood actors Barrowman, Myles and Owens, "Miracle Day" also features some familiar American actors including Mekhi Phifer ("Lie To Me") as CIA operative Rex Matheson, Bill Pullman ("Independence Day") as convicted murderer/pedophile Oswald Danes and Lauren Ambrose ("Six Feet Under") as PR guru Jill Kitzinger. For Ambrose, who isn't normally associated with science fiction, she seemed a little surprised to find herself there amidst green screen and sci-fi special effects. "Every week I've been amazed and shocked and psyched. The scripts are so well conceived and interesting and well thought-out and every word and every bonkers idea has a meaning and is considered yet nothing goes unconsidered in the writing. It just makes it really fun to play."
Her character, she explained, is also a departure from what fans are used to seeing her play since Kitzinger has a "sort of a vicious and unbridled ambition in terms of the 'Miracle' and this unnatural phenomena that takes place. I'm there to sell it and promote it, which is such a big part of our culture and an interesting dynamic to have in this show." Asked if she thought Davies was trying to make a statement with her character about our society and the media's hunger for the tawdry, Ambrose laughed and said, "I would say that Russell is always make a statement."
Pullman shared his excitement at playing a character that starts out as a villain and is literally being put to death by lethal injection for crimes of murder and pedophilia when "Miracle Day" occurs. Speaking carefully so as not to give too much away, he said, "I'm a bit of a pivot of sorts. Is it coincidence? Is it a divine thing? Am I a player in some large scenario? Of course, I'm the one that nobody in the world wants to live! They're really done with me." Working with green screen for the special effects in "Torchwood: Miracle Day" also took the actor back to a project he worked on nearly 25 years ago - Mel Brooks' comedy "Spaceballs." In terms of technology, times have definitely changed, as Pullman discussed. "In between the takes, we'd put on sunglasses because they thought the green screen reflection would hurt our eyes. I'd be in the Winnebago with John Candy and Rick Moranis and Mel Brooks. They'd say 'Cut' and then we'd put on our sunglasses."
With so many new characters populating this new series, Barrowman is well aware of the core fans' love for many of the characters that are no longer with the show, including the deceased love interest of Captain Jack, fan favorite Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd), who died in the fourth episode of the "Children of Earth" miniseries. Since characters do sometimes come back to life on "Torchwood," is Ianto present at all in this new series, even by name? "Jack will always feel the pain from the past and Ianto is mentioned in the series," the actor said. "And this is a quote from Russell so don't jump down my throat but he says Ianto is not coming back but he is mentioned. We're a drama and we have to change and we have to create the drama and unfortunately that means some people losing their lives. We always said in 'Torchwood' that people die young and it's always sad when team members are gone but they'll love his new relationships."
One thing that hasn't gotten old for Barrowman and Myles in their return to these roles is their own enthusiasm and knowing that these are roles that continue to evolve and develop. "Every year," explained Myles, smiling, "this character challenges me physically, mentally, everything and that's why I love coming back to it all the time. I think her biggest challenge this year is being Gwen Cooper in the world of Torchwood but also being a mum. It is very, very difficult because every day she has a sacrifice and she has options and she has decisions that she doesn't want to make but that's the world that she's in now."
Barrowman, in talking about the newness in what viewers will see in Jack this year, was giddy as he said, "There are things we're exploring with Jack this season that we have never explored before and when these secrets pop out people's jaws are literally going to drop. So many things happen in this series that you're going to need a forklift to lift your jaw off the ground. For the Jack fans, you're in for a great rollercoaster ride with the character and with the storyline and things that are going to happen."
"Torchwood: Miracle Day" premieres tonight at 10:00/9:00c on Starz.