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IT CAN'T have escaped your notice that Poltergeist: The Legacy's resident shrink, Rachel Corrigan, as played by Helen Shaver, appeared in fewer episodes last year, and is less prolific in the new season currently premiering on the Sci-Fi Channel. However, this doesn't signify more free time for the Canadian actress, it just means that she is directing another episode of The Outer Limits or a Showtime Movie-of-the-Week.
"When I look back at my life I realize how things started to change after my performance in The Outer Limits pilot [The Sandkings]," she recalls. "It all came about because Beau Bridges and I had played husband and wife in NBC's TV series United States. The producers of The Outer Limits had already decided to use Beau's real-life son and father in the show and I guess it made sense to use his screen wife, and that's when they called me up. The episode was nominated for some awards, and that's when Richard Lewis [Trilogy producer] offered me the role of Rachel in Poltergeist. I agreed, but with the stipulation that he'd let me direct a show."
Lewis was true to his word and offered Helen the first season story The Bones of St. Anthony. "Poltergeist was still a young show at the time, and this was the first thing that I'd directed. Until you're actually there behind the camera you have no idea what it really entails. I had problems with the logistics of the story, which is not a problem you have as an actor, where you just read the lines and go home. The director has to present the whole story within some sort of logical framework, and it wasn't easy."
Regardless of the teething problems, Helen moved on to other shows, including two episodes in the last season of The Outer Limits. "In Lithia I got to direct Julie Harris and David Keith, which was set in 2065, after the world had suffered a terrible World War. A mutant virus was killing men, and the world was surviving with sperm banks, and essentially populated solely by females. That's when they find a guy in the freezer... I am very, very proud of it. I also directed an episode called Phoebus Rising, and that's set on Mars in 2035. I suppose it's a bit like Crimson Tide in outer space, with two factions squaring up against each other. Joan Chen and Adam Baldwin are in it, and it really rocks."
When considering that Helen also found time to direct episodes of Dead Man's Gun, The Net, Fame L.A. and TV movie The Sweetest Gift, weren't the producers of Poltergeist incensed by her lack of availability? "Not at all, I see it as a two-way thing. By switching between directing and acting, I can keep the character of Rachel very fresh, and it's true that a change is as good as a rest. I love working on Poltergeist, where it's like coming home to tea with friendly faces, but I also equally love the surprise and new discoveries offered by new projects."
Prior to her stint in Poltergeist, Helen had appeared in a number of occult and genre-related films. "It's true that I've been in The Amityville Horror, The Believers and The Craft, but I put this down to coincidence more than anything else. For example, I don't see my role in The Craft as being a supernatural piece, I just played a white trash park drunk. In fact, the only reason I did Tremors 2 was to play with Fred Ward."
Understandably, the Poltergeist producers are tight-lipped about what we can expect later this year, but Helen shares her thoughts on last year's shows. "I like all of them to differing degrees, but two or three stick in the mind. In Metamorphosis I got injected with a metaphysical virus which slowly took over my body, and made me sarcastic and dark about the whole world. It was very well shot, as was Seduction, which has a 'story by' credit for me. Robbi [Chong], Kristin [Lehman] and I were in the make-up trailer one day, laughing and having fun. I looked up at our reflections and there we were witty, funny, female and fabulous, and I said that we would have to do a show just about us girls. So, the boys got sent away and the devil came knocking at our door."
It's been confirmed that the current season of Poltergeist will be the last, and Helen is already looking to the future. "My agents have been sending my showreel to feature film people and they have been impressed by what they've seen. Working on Poltergeist and The Outer Limits has allowed me to work with CGI, play with exciting camera angles and show a wide range of expressions. It has been a great experience on many different levels."
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LegacyWeb V.3 - March 2002