Rachel Nichols ‘Continuum’ Interview, Season 3 on Showcase Canada
The science fiction detective thriller Continuum takes the concepts of time travel, terrorism and technology as stepping stones to a surprisingly intimate human story. Rachel Nichols skillfully weaves these elements into her personal story of separation, isolation and workaholism. She is “Keira” a police detective from the future. In 2077, she has a husband and a son and work as a detective. When a terrorist organisation travels back to 2012 to escape justice Keira is swept away with them and stuck 64 years away from life as she knew it. Keira makes the most out of the situation as a police detective but always with her eye on the prize, being reunited with her son Sam. We spoke with Nichols in Toronto.
Science fiction can be a challenge to an actor to make the unthinkable seem natural.
Rachel Nichols: That’s the beauty of sci-fi. Sci fi fans are the most amazing, incredible fans. They ask me questions I never thought of. If they are fans they love you, they show their kids and share discs with their friends. If you do a crappy job you don’t have a chance. They want your head on a stick. Rightfully so. Thankfully we are on the positive side of that and weaver done things right. We set up a set of rules for time travel and you stick to them for the whole series; to diverge from that they will call you out. You come up with these rules and stay with them. The whole sci fi genre is suspension of disbelief but it’s also the kind of thing that I want to exist one day. So I don’t mind. It’s almost wishful thinking. You buy into it because it’s so cool you want it to happen. It has to exist. If we can dream it we can do it. Sure time travel, let’s get on it.
RN: I’ve always loved children. I had Cabbage Doll after Cabbage Patch doll and I would make friends based on if they had babies as younger siblings. “Yes! Can I come over for a playdate and play with your baby brother?” That was always me. I don’t have children, not to my knowledge anyway and I think I would know! Michael my fiancé, who is sitting over there, has nieces and nephews and he’s great with great with kids, we take them for the night. Its thinking about the worst loss ever, Sean who plays my son Sam, is a great actor and so adorable and sweet. The scenes where I get to be with him, like when my on-board shrink comes and I have to put Sean in front of me (through sci fi magic) and I have to say goodbye is the hardest thing I’ve ever shot.
To have the human depth in the science fiction genre might have seemed odd to me but that’s the show. It’s naturalistic and realistic.
RN: I’m glad you say that. Preparing for that I use music a lot, music is important to me. and I’m very chummy with everyone onset and we laugh and play jokes but on days like these, I keep in a quiet corner for most of it and when it’s over I go home and have a long shower and gigantic glass of scotch and I try to prevent what I call mole face. That’s when I cry and wake up looking like a little mole. So mole faces prevention because inevitably I’m working the next day.
There’s something else about her. There’s a great deal riding on her shoulders and she is dealing with so many things we couldn’t imagine and she’s very guarded. It takes a while for us to connect.
RN: Simon Barry the creator and I discussed that in the first two episodes of the show, people are more human in 2014 than they are in 2077 so she’s come back, and she’s a little bit robotic you notice that. A real fish out of water, Carlos says when she hasn’t told him she’s from the future; Carlos says “You just look like you’re looking through people. You have to look like you’re actually talking to them”. Meanwhile, I am looking through people because I’m scanning them. We really wanted to humanise her, so we did sometimes with intention and sometimes it happened naturally. She’d never seen a horse before or driven a car, so the learning curve was very steep. But now there’s a joke from last season, I make a social commentary and Alec thinks it’s hilarious that I finally made my first pop culture joke! And they went “Really? Did Keira just make a 2014 joke?”
Ten or fifteen years ago in Hollywood, tech innovative reached a higher level. Hollywood innovation in science and technology was reportedly a decade ahead. It must be true in Continuum.
RN: You don’t see technological innovation much on TV because it’s so expensive, but in recent years there has been innovation in green screen and CGI and things that were expensive are no longer as expensive, which means they can make it to the small screen without a huge budget. We don’t have a huge budget but it looks like a bazillion bucks.
You started in an unusual way for an actor, as a math and economics graduate. What?
RN: Yup. When I went to Columbia in New York to do my graduate work, I loved and told my parents I was going to graduate school business school. And they said I’d be paying for it. After you do undergrad, we won’t have any money left. I said “That sounds fair”. I started modelling to make money and started to do commercials and had a bank account set aside specifically to pay for business school at Columbia. And then my agency asked if I was interested din acting. My first audition was for Sex and the City which I ended up booking and loved it. Had a great day onset and was nervous as all get out and I survived. I as I went to school I got more and more work and I graduated and expensive piece of paper and I ahd enough money to go to business school and my parents said “Now is the time to tray this acting thing. The money will be there, the school will be there, and this is the time to do it. You don’t have any responsibilities.’ My parents are incredible. If my parents said I couldn’t go to Columbia, I would have gone to Dartmouth. If my parents said I couldn’t go to Paris to model, I would have said “Okay I understand that”. Or if they said I should take that job at Merrill Lynch I would have done it. And I knew if I lived in LA for one year and didn’t work a single day I would be okay, and I would go back to the east coast and take that job.
And modest, what are you, Canadian?
RN: I’m from Maine so basically a Canadian. We shoot in Vancouver so I’m Canadian now.