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AS Precept of the San Francisco House in Poltergeist: The Legacy, Derek Rayne's fight against the forces of evil is never ending. However, as Dutch actor Derek de Lint explained to Starburst, even ghostbusters get a holiday once a year. "We've got one more week left of shooting," he explains from his Vancouver hotel room while preparing for one of the many night location shoots that have become synonymous with the show. "After that, I'm going back to Holland for a break."
At the time of the interview, Season Three is to wrap within days and Derek has been polishing-up his lines for the season finale, The Covenant, one of two 'clip shows' produced this year. It involves a young nun throwing herself off a bell tower, and coming back to haunt its inhabitants. The show required the props department to construct a 21-metre high complete tower fašade on the top of a real Augustinian monastery, and then ship it back to the Bridge Studios where it was filmed in front of a green screen back-drop. The climax is a cliff-hanger (literally!) but Derek is giving nothing away. "This will be a fun show, and at the end of the Summer I will find our how it gets resolved," he laughs.
In the face of ever growing competition, Poltergeist: The Legacy has managed to survive three years, although it is only this season that Derek believes the show has finally hit its stride. "On the face of it, you could say that this last year was just another standard season of The Legacy fighting evil, but that would be ignoring the fact that we have introduced a lovely new member, Kristin Lehman, who plays Kristen Adams. She's very young and lovely and has fitted into the group perfectly," he adds. "For Season Three we did some very interesting and thematically different stories, and I'd like to think that it was due to my asking the producers to bring some sexuality and humour into the show. My favourite shows of the season are the comedic ones, Irish Jug and Dream Lover."
The former tells the tall tale of an ancient Jug of Irish ale, possessed by two 'Oirish' hooligans, who get the chance to escape when Derek and friend (played by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Odo Rene Auberjonois) indulge themselves with this potent brew. "Rene is a great actor and we had lots of fun with him. It was directed by Martin [Cummins regular character Nick Boyle], and I would love to have more directors on the show that have come out of acting.
"My other favourite show, Dream Lover, is all about an old friend of mine sending a broken urn to The Legacy. In the meantime, his fiancée turns up and she has this incredible influence over me whenever I see her. Crystal Chappelle plays the woman, and she was such fun to act with. I start to fantasize about her and having these passionate dreams, but naturally she's too good to be true. She is actually some sort of snake woman succubus, who wants to screw the life force out of me!"
Unlucky in love
This is yet another example of Derek Rayne being unlucky in love, a predicament that de Lint's character has got used to. "Right from the very beginning I requested an ongoing relationship with someone, but here he is alone at the end of Season Three, so I guess that Derek Rayne is going to be a bachelor for life. In truth, I don't think that the viewing public would be that interested in seeing Derek happy at home with a loved one, but it would certainly make him more vulnerable if he had to protect someone that he loved. My vulnerability would be a perfect vehicle for evil to exploit.
"I think that the writers and producers finally got the message this year that the show is about characters, not just special effects. For two years we spent far too much time reacting to ghosts and demons, but only a small portion of the audience watch the show purely for its effects and creepy images. Most of the audience watch it for the character interaction, and that is very evident this season. I would also like to have some more spooky episodes in the next set of stories. We have done some visually rich shows that rely more on suspense than gore. I also really enjoy it when I am possessed because it's a wonderful opportunity to play something different it gets a little boring after a while to be good all the time. Those are my own preferences, and I feel that [the producers] do actually take note of what I say."
Derek's character has been well-defined from the outset, with the two-hour pilot show detailing how he watched his father get killed by a demon. Such an extensive back-story has been of great use to de Lint, helping him to flesh out the character. As he explains, the original script was somewhat different to the story that premiered on Showtime in April 1996. "When the producers first contacted me in Europe, they sent a script that was totally different from the show that we finally shot. It was still the pilot show for the series, but was called The Womb, and was all about giving birth to the devil. By the time we were shooting the show, they were still re-writing that pilot script and putting together the premise for the entire series."
The show is set on Angel Island in San Francisco, although in previous shows the group has had associations with 'Houses' in other cities. Does Derek think that the show would ever shift its focus away from the Bay City? "I don't think that will happen, although I hope that next season we will continue to explore the limitless possibilities of being temporarily away from The Legacy House. The whole Gothic look of the show is based on it being centred around the house, and it would be a shame to lose such a fantastic set."
The Luna Foundation set is not merely a series of disconnected rooms, but a complete two-storey property that is only missing a roof. "The first time that Richard B Lewis showed us the set in 1995 I was entranced by the stained glass, the ancient books, the woodwork, and just the smell of it! It makes your life so much easier as an actor when you have a realistic setting to perform in."
Without wishing to shatter the illusion created on TV, de Lint explains the complex process in getting the house on screen. "The interiors are here in Vancouver, the exterior shots of the house were filmed two years ago in Victoria [British Columbia] and the establishing shots of San Francisco were shot in California. We went back there last Season for some shots of the bridge and locality, but it would be nice to go back to Victoria again to get some fresh footage."
Rayne clearly appreciates the responsibilities inherent in overseeing The San Francisco House, and de Lint does not believe that his character will ever willingly hand over the reins (pardon the pun) to someone else.
"On the contrary, it would be very interesting if during next season Derek's colleagues found out that he was more in control of them than they actually realized. For example, perhaps he has hidden cameras and is aware of everything that they do. They could get sick of him and try to get away from this scary control freak," he laughs. "I've come to the conclusion that Derek is never going to be well-adjusted," de Lint sighs. "He's like a big magnet on the island, and the evil just keeps pouring in."
The director's chair
De Lint's co-star Helen Shaver directed an episode of the show in Season One (The Bones of St Anthony), while Martin Cummins cut his teeth this year on the aforementioned Irish Jug Derek reveals his thoughts on sitting in the director's chair. "I would love to direct an episode of Poltergeist, but I don't want to do give back shows as a result of it. Helen is only doing 12 shows next season, and Martin is only doing 17 shows because they need time off to 'prep' the episodes that they are directing. I don't want to do that yet because at this point in time I am really enjoying just being an actor. Directing episodic television is very tough.
"I realize that this show won't last forever," de Lint admits. "I hope to move from here into the feature film market
again. Before Poltergeist I was in a number of films [including The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Paul Verhoeven's Soldier of Orange], and hopefully by building up an audience through this show I can carry it over to
movies. This show has given me exposure for many years, and hopefully it will pay off in the end." Ironically, one of
the places where he is not in the spotlight is his native Holland. "This show has been a world-wide success, from
South America to Israel, to Australia. In fact, I believe that only three countries in the world have turned down the
show Spain, Ireland and... Holland. Everybody thinks that I have died back home, but at least it will give me some
privacy when I'm on my vacation. It would be fun for The Legacy to go for a trip to Holland in one episode, but can
you see that happening?" Not a ghost of a chance.
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