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OUTER LIMITS' sister series moves to the Sci-Fi Channel
Writer: Frank Garcia
Magazine: Cinefantastique Volume 30 Number 5/6
Publish Date: September 1998
Pages: 104-106, 109
Copyright: © 1998 by Frederick S. Clarke
Ordering Info: $11.99 FAQ/Ordering Info


Demons, devil-helpers, lupines, ghosts, and disturbed spirits are just some of the dark forces that have breached into the physical universe and wreaked havoc upon this earth. Fortunately, their vengeance is squelched by Earth's elite defenders – an organization known as The Legacy – which has existed throughout the centuries, constantly vigilant of any supernatural disturbances throughout the world. After three successful seasons of battling the universe's darkness on Showtime cable, members of The Legacy will continue their adventures next year on the Sci-Fi Channel.

POLTERGEIST: THE LEGACY Trilogy Entertainment's sister series to THE OUTER LIMITS opened its third year on Showtime with a major confrontation of an ancient, immortal evil that walks through the centuries. In the two-hour season opener "Darkness Falls," we witnessed The Legacy's confrontation with those black, bloodsucking creatures of the night – vampires! Written by former FOREVER KNIGHT writer and editor Michael Sadowski, "Darkness Falls" was POLTERGEIST'S second en counter with vampires, after a skirmish with one of their brood in the first season's finale, "A Traitor Among Us."

Noted series co-producer and "Darkness Falls" director Michael Robison, "When you ask 'What is the show is about?' Different people have different takes on it. Some say 'We're making ghost stories!' Others say 'No, we're doing stories about demons!' and yet others say, 'No, we're just doing stories about the dark side and tortured souls ' The show is so many things to different people. We can do all of them. Vampires was just one of those things that was getting pitched lots."

Since 1995, faithful television audiences who tuned in Showtime cable on Friday nights after THE OUTER LIMITS (and in syndication from various independent TV stations across the country), have come to intimately know the lives of the stalwart Dr. Derek Rayne (Derek de Lint) and his dedicated companions, Alex Moreau (Robbi Chong), Nick Boyle (Martin Cummins) and Dr. Rachel Corrigan (Helen Shaver). Two seasons worth of fantastic, supernatural battles often cost its members deep physical and emotional scars. The Legacy mansion off the coast of San Francisco, at times, almost seemed to be a lightning rod for evil in the universe.

Co-executive producer Garner Simmons explained that the first season was a difficult startup for all of the creative technicians on the show. It was a time when they were literally trying to find and build characters. "What we discovered was that in having five characters, one of which was a Catholic priest, we realized that if we kept the pnest, then in order to make the stories work, we have to develop Catholic stories or Catholic elements to each story because his function doesn't play into a lot of what the series tries to do," said Simmons "It was easier, basically, to pull the character out. It doesn't mean he isn't needed; just use him on an irregular basis. "

For these reasons, young actor Patrick Fitzgerald only appeared occasionally as Father Philip Callahan throughout the first two seasons. "It was purely a matter of practical considerations. What it comes down to is you have 45 minutes to tell a story," said Simmons.

Although Michael Robison is currently POLTERGEIST'S co-producer and occasional director, he made his name as a film editor. He was responsible for editing the OUTER LIMITS series premiere "Sandkings" which also stars Helen Shaver. In fact, Robison built his ties with POLTERGEIST when director Stuart Gillard, with whom he worked with on "Sandkings," also directed POLTERGEIST'S two-hour premiere episode. Grabbing a chance to work with Gillard again, Robison entered the Legacy's world with editing of POLTERGEIST'S pilot.

With extensive credits in editing features, series, mini-series, and movies for television, Robison has slowly climbed the ladder to directing features (DEADLY SINS with Alyssa Milano), pilots (TRUE STORIES for Spelling Entertainment) and TV series (REBOOT, SWEATING BULLETS, 21 JUMP STREET and THE HITCHHIKER).

To prepare to direct "Darkness Falls," POLTERGEIST'S third season two-parter, Robison sat down for a vampiric movie marathon. Over the last 75 years an estimated 189 vampire films have been filmed beginning with NOSFERATU in 1922, the first adaptation of Bram Stoker's DRACULA. Robison found his greatest inspiration in two contemporary treatments Joel Shumacher's THE LOST BOYS (1987) and Kathryn Bigelow's NEAR DARK (1987).

Noted Robison, "After watching 15 vampire movies [I thought], 'Gee, this [POLTERGEIST] story is better than most of them'' NEAR DARK had so many great elements in it, even though a lot of the show didn't work. We borrowed especially from NEAR DARK in terms of how we kill off our vampires."

Robison praised series regular Robbi Chong for her performance in the two episodes. "Robbi Chong was right up for it. She did an extraordinary job. We'd hoped to work together last year on a show that featured her sister [Rae Dawn], ["Spirit Thief] but they switched directors, so when this one came... we came to be in synch with what we wanted to do and I was surprised how enthusiastic all the actors and the crew were about jumping into a vampire show.

"The crew wanted to volunteer to be extras in it instead of do their job. You know, turn down the $20/hour props job and be the $6/hour stand-in. I realized, 'Geez, I would never be that big of a vampire fan... ' but I started to see what everyone was enthusiastic about. And we were just coming up on Halloween so everyone was in the mood. A lot of sexuality comes out of it. It's an interesting area that has a lot of melodramatic situations. [Other filmmakers] over the years have learned to button down and keep really simple. Because if everyone is flying around, turning into bats, it's going to look really silly. But it seems to really bring out a lot of dark parts in people's characters."

Most memorable for Robison in filming these two episodes, were the seductive moments when the vampires bite. In one crucial scene, Alex, who's already been bitten by a vampire, attempts to seduce and recruit her friend Nick Boyle. Robison explained that the scenes were initially rehearsed without and later with the false fanged teeth as well as blood. "That state of transformation, of change, threat and danger, whenever we were doing those kinds of scenes, it keeps everyone on edge and they seemed to have most fun with." Hilariously, in one moment during the shoot, Chong's fake fangs popped off, fell and cracked in two. Fortunately, a spare set was standing by.

Other fun moments in the filming of "Darkness Falls" were late night location shooting. "We were simulating some flying sequences of the Justine character swooping down," noted Robison. "The crane swoops down in her point of view flying down on Derek. That was a fun night. We went down to Stanley Park and Derek's out there with his spear gun with a wooden stake, looking to shoot a vampire out in the woods. When he looks up, boom, we're flying down the crane. And we shoot a reverse of her and it looks like she's smashing down onto him. A 20-year old actress dressed in black lands on Derek deLint! It's dramatic, it's campy and melodramatic, at the same time it seems to be highly entertaining! Over the top! It's a genre like HALLOWEEN where you can afford to dress up. You can afford to be a little melodramatic and still do a great show."

According to co-executive producer Garner Simmons, "I think this is a story that will surprise a lot of people. It's really an extraordinary story." He went on to say that the producers' goals in the currently airing third season are to focus with greater depth into the lives of our intrepid characters.

"Basically, we've done a show that's unlike most shows on television," said Simmons. "It's highly romantic, fairly gothic. It's an attempt to do television in a way that normally isn't done. This has a 19th century quality to it. The characters exist in a level which is intellectually interesting and challenging at the same time we want to get inside those characters and what makes them tick. It allows the audience to plug into the stories on an emotional level. As we drive into the third season, our attempt will be to do more and more character- driven stories. If you look at the problems for the people who do this kind of thing, it's part of their daily life. It's a kind of loyal commitment they made and [we see] how it interfaces and interferes with the lives they're trying to lead."

Third season shows involved a teacher and a student, Green Beret soldiers and Rachel Corrigan fell spell to an evil spirit. Noted Robison of the new direction, "It seems to be in response to the audience and the studio creatives down at L.A., 'Let's get some more character- driven stories!' We're killing ourselves with all this money on these [special effects] gag shows. And sometimes you know what? The audience sits there and they go, 'HUH?' Everyone in the production spends a lot of time and money for all those fantastic [special effects] shots, but yet all the audience yearns for is those really compelling stories that puts our characters right at the center of [the spectacle] rather than just watch and be carried along by guest stars."

The third season saw two cast-members directing episodes. Actor Martin Cummins made his directing debut with "Irish Jug" while actress Helen Shaver stood behind the cameras and contributed skills honed from an OUTER LIMITS episode she directed during that series' third season, "Last Supper."

A new face appeared on the doorsteps of the Legacy mansion. A young Canadian actress, Kristin Lehman, joined the show as Kristin Adams in a recurring role. Lehman filled a void left by Emmy- winning actor Daniel J. Travanti, who played Legacy leader William Sloan, who paid the ultimate price in his battle against evil in last years' episode "Trapped." "She comes to this House from the Boston House," remarked Simmons. "She's a bit mysterious. She's going to be an interesting character and we'll see what develops over the course of the year. We think this is a way to grow. As she interfaces with each of the [cast] characters, we'll get a chance to see other sides of them as well."

Lehman is a Canadian dramatic actress who has frequent television appearances. She's had guest roles in THE OUTER LIMITS, PSI FACTOR, FOREVER KNIGHT, and a recent EARTH: FINAL CONFLICT. She's also had leads in the films DINNER AT FRED'S and HEMOGLOBIN.

Revealing his perspective of the series' growth, co- producer Robison remarked, "I think there was a lot of great episodes and what we find is we're always trying to balance what we think is a great episode and what the audience thinks is a great episode. We're always very surprised.

"The stories used to be a lot more incomplete than they are right now. A lot more sizzle and dazzle and they sort of started off and they just didn't make sense when you got to the end. A lot of the shows in the first season there were a lot of ghosts and, 'Gee whiz, we ought to check it out!"'

But in the currently airing third season, Robison noted that examination of the consequences will be addressed, "There's a lot of more soul-searching about what some of these things mean.

"Sometimes in POLTERGEIST, with the special effects, you can't even see the characters. They're sort of toning it down. Sometimes the genre gets a little too melodramatic. One writer was often fond of saying, 'We're making drama around here, not melodrama!' That's continually the line.

"And it's very difficult for actors and that comes into what I do. They get into these hysterical situations and sometimes is it laughable or is it, 'Oh my god! This is unbelievable! It's a torture situation, I'm faced with an evil spear and a dark presence. '

"But now, there's a core following because the writers have gotten the characters they're writing for and what the relationships are. I think there's an audience that follows the show because the characters do make sense. To them, our strongest shows are where our male leads are doing something heroic. Our female guest stars [also] do really well. Helen Shaver, when she's featured, those shows do really well."

Robison noted that cast and crew returned to the show third season with renewed enthusiasm. As anyone who's been in the business knows, participating in the production of a one-hour dramatic television series requires the highest personal commitment.

"The cast is in good shape. When you start a season, usually everyone acts like they've come back from summer break," grinned Robison. "In show business it's great to come back to a job, you know? You finish a job, you ask, 'Oh, what am I doing the rest of my life? I really don't know!' You come back with a lot of renewed enthusiasm and goals.

"I think Helen Shaver, for instance, is expanding her directing career. That's why it seems she's not in the episodes as much. I think it's fair to say that Martin Cummins and Robbi Chong have grown incredibly. Robbi, especially, is the most improved actor and Martin just finished a show that's extraordinary work.

"They're the junior players as the episodes usually go. While they contribute emotionally, Helen Shaver's character, Derek deLint's character seems to carry the ball there. They're the most experienced actors. They've been doing it not for five years but 20-30 years.

"Derek's excited about it. They're all passionate about it. They know their characters a lot more, are more professional. "