Gale Harold Talks Politics in the Post Apocalypse, New Movie ‘Thirst’ & More with ScreenSpy
“For me it was Kevin Murphy,” says Gale Harold when asked what lured him to Syfy’s ambitious new scifi drama (and world-wide phenomenon) Defiance.
Speaking to ScreenSpy in an exclusive new interview, Gale speaks about his upcoming story-arc in the post-apocalyptic Scifi drama, as well as several other new projects in the works. (And because he’s kind of awesome, he also answered as many fan questions sent in to our Twitter account over the weekend as was humanly possible. Check them out following the interview below.)
“I worked with him [Defiance Executive Producer Kevin Murphy] before and we have a good relationship,” says Gale. “I became good friends with him through work, and his interest in music as kind of a side note. He’s really well versed in the history of Doo-Wop and Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll and music theories. He’s a Sondheim genius. So there was that. Plus I love his take on things. He’s got a dark undercurrent going on which he counterbalances with some wicked humor. It’s not often that I get to work with someone that I have such like-minded interests with.”
Gale’s Defiance story arc kicks off in the May 20th episode “Brothers in Arms” and is set to continue in episodes eight and nine.
“His name is Connor Lang. It’s a good Irish name,” notes Gale playfully when asked to describe his character. “We’ve got O’Bannon, We’ve got Murphy, we’ve got Flannigan. We’ve got them all,” he laughs. “Connor seems to have some Irish blood in him somewhere. He speaks like an American but he seems to have some people back over on the Isle somewhere. And like any good son of Ireland, he’s got a bit of affinity for the bottle, and he gets to play with that a bit which is nice. Hopefully that’s as funny as it seems when I was doing it because I felt kind of ridiculous. But he’s got a big heart and he’s not afraid to put it out there.
“He’s a government agent who works for the Earth alliance. He’s climbing the ranks. He’s very ambitious. He sort of walks the line between diplomacy and some of the more hard-knuckled aspects of the world that they’re all in – this post-apocalyptic tribal war zone. I think, like any good politician, he’s taking his chances when they present themselves. But he’s got some past history with Amanda [Julie Benz] and I think he’s sort of trying to get reunited with her on some level. He’s really interested in having her come on board with his vision of how the Government should be run.
“There’s such a live-wire aspect to trying to contain the different interests of the various races. He knows she’s very talented and very ambitious herself and he’s got it in the back of his mind that he can bring her into the fold of what it is he’s trying to do. He needs Defiance. It’s such a powder-keg there and he needs to get in and do some work. He’s juggling being a politician with also being a sort of unofficial law-enforcer – even though that’s not his official description at all.”
Fans of the show are aware that the town of Defiance’s ex-mayor Nicky (Fionnula Flannigan) has been working a secret, dangerous and illicit anti-alien agenda in an attempt to bring the delicate peace between the various races to an end. Can fans expect Gale’s character Connor to be involved in her schemes?
“Well,” he says. “I think more than anything he’s trying to position himself in a way that makes the most sense diplomatically and politically. Everything’s been so fractured and everyone is looking over their shoulder. He’s got to accommodate so many aspects. It’s like any other political wartime scene. So while he doesn’t have a direct connection to her, he’s very well aware of her history. Just by being a committed politician he knows what she represents and who her connections are. As far as her character on the show is concerned, it’s more of an x-factor as to what’s going on there but he’s got his own agenda, personally. He’s got to try how to figure out how to be himself and handle all of his own feelings without causing any unnecessary conflict because there’s enough going on already. It’s pretty delicate.”
When actors take on scifi roles, particularly in high profile shows such as Defiance, they are inevitably asked if they are fans of the genre. Gale admits his own take on the medium is layered.
“My scifi interest is kind of more on the William Gibson side of things,” he explains. “I became a massive fan after my brain was blown by Blade Runner, but I’m really interested in scifi as a way to tell the stories that we think we know in a different context – turning that mirror around, you know? When I was a kid, I grew up as a great Christian, and people used to tell me that the Book of Revelation actually referenced helicopters,” he laughs. “Somehow that stuck in my brain. That for me is a real scifi trip! The idea that these flying beings during the apocalypse were actually somehow predicted or forecast in some way. But,” he shrugs, “As far as scifi goes I really wouldn’t call myself a serious scifi freak. I do appreciate when it’s done well though.”
He offers an example from a particular Defiance episode. “There was a scene from the second episode I think, where they’re in the mines and they’re trying to get their hands on this guy Ben who has some pretty dangerous explosives, and they realize there are some nuclear reactors down there and that’s probably his end game. but before it happens there’s a moment where Graham Greene and Grant Bowler’s characters are sitting in a park in downtown St. Louis, or what’s left of it, and they have this really human, by-the-numbers exchange – and this whole thing about dog food.”
“The dog food song!”
“Yes,” he laughs. “There was this wonderful little bit with the dog food song. And my character Connor has a bit of that too. Actually, I think all of these characters do. He develops a little relationship with Nolan. At first it’s a bit of a pins and needles thing but then we begin to see some common ground. They have some good scenes.”
Defiance continues its seasonal run, Mondays at 9/8c on Syfy.
Gale also took the time to answer some questions sent in from fans around the world through our Twitter account @ScreenSpy. Among those topics discussed were several new projects – some secret but all intriguing, including Thirst, an “unapologetic morality tale about the choices we make and the circumstances resulting from those choices” according to the film’s bio.
Question: What can you divulge about Thirst?
Gale Harold: It’s being put together right now. Christopher Denham is going to play the lead. I come in and go toe to toe with him for a bit. I won’t divulge why or what the circumstances are. It’s not that I can’t tell you, it’s just that it’s a little early to even say anything. We’re just trying to get it all set up. I’ve seen a short trailer for what it will be and it’s the kind of stuff I really dig. It’s bleak. It’s harsh and it’s very emotional – but for all the right reasons. It’s life and how you find your way through it. I’m not sure where that will lead but hopefully it will open the door to something bigger. That’s all I can really say. I hope that’s ok? I’m very excited about it. It’s something that I’m looking forward to very much.
ScreenSpy: It sounds like it’s a million miles from Defiance.
Gale Harold: It is, absolutely! It’s the defiance in your mind as opposed to the one on the ground, right? [laughing]
Question: What is the one thing you can’t live without?
Gale Harold: The one thing I can’t live without? Um …. oxygen! It’s scandalous but it’s true.
ScreenSpy: So you’re not going to say your cell phone or anything like that?
Gale Harold: No, I’m definitely not going to say my cell phone.
ScreenSpy: You’re not overly-attached to your phone then.
Gale Harold: No, no. I like using it as a flashlight though.
ScreenSpy: Is it an iphone?
Gale Harold: Yes.
ScreenSpy: Those are great.
Gale Harold: They have a great flashlight feature.
ScreenSpy: They’re so handy when you lose something on the floor in a movie theater.
Gale Harold: I know! Exactly! [laughing]
Question: What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Gale Harold: The best book I’ve ever read … the best book I’ve ever read. Hmm. I think that’s an impossible question to answer. That’s a seriously impossible question. It changes. It evolves. Sometimes you’ll be walking down the street and you’ll see something that will prompt a memory of a reference from a book you’ve read and you’ll suddenly realize how powerful it was and you have to go back and read it again. And for that week, that’s your favorite book.
Question: Have you ever been to Russia?
Gale Harold: I haven’t and I’m dying to go. I’m actually working on a project right now. I’m trying to develop a story that’s based in Russia and is very much a part of the history of that country, but I’ve never been there.
Question: Do you have a favorite band?
Gale Harold: I love so many. Oh God.
ScreenSpy: You’re big into music, aren’t you?
Gale Harold: I am. I’m one of those people who when I claim a favorite feels he’s doing a disservice to all the others. It’s like I have a different favorite band every day. Um. let’s see what’s on my turntable right now … The Black Angels. I love that band.
Question: If you weren’t an actor, what profession would you pursue?
Gale Harold: If I am actually an actor, if I can claim that? I’m not sure if I actually can? [laughing]
ScreenSpy: Of course you can!
Gale Harold: I would love to have been a talented writer. Also at one point I tried to develop my skills as an artist doing etching and screen printing but I’m an amateur at best. I would like to have been what any of my heroes have been but … I don’t know. I don’t know.
ScreenSpy: Do you think you’ll write something someday?
Gale Harold: Well I am, and I have been trying to, and I will continue to try and hack through that and get to a place where I feel at least comfortable enough to show someone else, but the confidence is the main obstacle right now. I’m just trying to push myself in that direction. I don’t have one main way to go. I find myself trying to write three different styles at the same time. [laughing] I’ve got to learn how to focus.
ScreenSpy: Do you have time for Hobbies?
Gale Harold: Do I have time for Hobbits?
ScreenSpy: No, Hobbies!
Gale Harold: Oh God, I thought you said do I have time for Hobbits! [laughing] I was going to say ‘No I have no time for Hobbits at all. It’s too hot today to have any Hobbits around with their sweaty feet.’ Hm, do I have time for Hobbits?
ScreenSpy: No, hobbies! [laughing]
Gale Harold: I have a Hobbit shoved up the chimney right now, trying to get out. [laughing] But yes I do. Besides listening to music and watching football matches and riding my bicycle it’s kind of simple things you know? I don’t knit. I don’t practice voodoo or card reading or anything like that. Or Hobbits – but don’t tell them I said that.
Question: If you could live in Europe, what country would you choose?
Gale Harold: Apart from Ireland, of course? It’s funny, when I was a kid I had this dream of going to Ireland to study in Trinity College, but it fell through. I don’t know. There are so many things about Italy that are attractive to me. The history, the design, the attitudes – some of which can be quite dangerous and some of which are quite attractive – the passion, you know? I’d also really like to spend some time in Spain and I really would like to spend some time in Russia – particularly St. Petersburg. I’m ready for a European existence. I haven’t spent nearly enough of my life there.
ScreenSpy: There’s still plenty of time, Gale.
Gale Harold: That’s why I go do silly things like make a film that takes you to Russia. That way you’re guaranteed to travel, right?
Question: We read Gale’s name in connection with Jennifer Elster’s project “In My Mirror.” What can Gale tell us about it?
Gale Harold: Jennifer is an incredibly fascinating person, and she’s got multiple things in development. Her mind is so vast and her interests are so complicated. At the moment, I am not privy to the finer details but I can say that whatever it is it will be quite fascinating. I’m sure of that. I’ve done some work with her already. Several projects are evolving, and people will just have to stay tuned for those.
Question: Do you have any other projects in the works that you can talk about?
Gale Harold: Realistically, I have three things that I’m actively engaged in trying to bring forward and one more that is sort of floating around. I’m trying to figure out how to bring that one down to the ground. One of the three is a completely different avenue for me. It’s something completely new. It involves speed, wheels, freedom, excellent tailoring and durability.
ScreenSpy: Wow, and that’s all one project?
Gale Harold: That’s all one project. It’s geared towards solving an existing problem. I have the opportunity to put my two cents towards solving a problem using something completely new and original and extremely exciting … and I will be as vague as I am being right now for the rest of this development process or until it breaks through the wall, ok?
ScreenSpy: Ok! I’m really intrigued.
Gale Harold: It’s going to be a good one.
Gale also wanted to pass on a message to all those who contacted @ScreenSpy over Twitter with questions, comments and messages of love this weekend. “Jennifer, if you don’t mind, can you please pass on that it’s really incredibly exciting and flattering to have that kind of feedback from all over the world. Please tell them all thanks so much. I love them all,” he said.