HUNTERS’ Cast, Boss, Talk Syfy’s Timely & Gritty New Show
BY Jennifer Griffin
Published 6 years ago
Looking for something dark and bloody to fill the gaping void The Walking Dead season finale left in your soul? You could do worse than check out Hunters on Syfy tonight.
The gritty new series from Walking Dead’s Gale Anne Hurd and Natalie Chaidez (12 Monkeys, Heroes), is one part scifi-thriller and one part weekly crime drama, and focuses on Flynn (Nathan Phillips, Wolf Creek), a headstrong Baltimore FBI agent with a dark past trying to piece together the disappearance of his wife.
Flynn’s search leads him to a secret government organization — the Exo Terrorism Unit (ETU) — assembled with one purpose in mind — to hunt a group of ruthless terrorists, shadowy figures that may or may not be from this world.
Britne Oldford (American Horror Story) plays Regan, who is one of the government’s most valuable operatives and may be keeping secrets of her own.
Julian McMahon portrays McCarthy, a sadistic junkie and Hunter cell leader.
Inspired by best-selling author Whitley Streiber’s novel, Alien Hunter, Hunters premieres tonight April 11 at 10 pm ET/PT on Syfy.
Last week we sat down with EP and showrunner Natalie Chaidez, along with series stars Britne Olford and Julian McMahon to discuss the show’s dark and gritty appeal, the choice of Australia as a shooting location and the show’s strong terrorism allegory.
Full highlights from our call follow below.
On developing the show’s unique ‘sound-oriented’ aliens
Natalie Chaidez: This was the big joy of this project. The books were really the jumping off point. I began a relationship with the scientist named Seth Borowitz. He’s a former Brown University neurologist, and he was really fundamental in the development of the creature.
We started from the ground up. We started by talking about their planet, what kind of gravity it would have, how that would affect their anatomy, how that anatomy moves through space, and so on.
We came up leaning into the world of sound because I wanted to do an alien world that was different from other alien worlds that we’ve seen. We all think of lights in the sky when we think of an alien show. And I wanted to do something really, really different.
I thought about conspiracy movies of the ‘70s and how important sound was. And that led to creatures that were sound based and lived in a very auditory world. That led to the development of our sonic weaponry, and the idea that the aliens, the hunters themselves, are communicating their language like dolphin’s or a bat’s.
And that their click language which we spent literally months from the development of, with our sound designer, is embedded inside music, and that they’re using social media much like the bad guys and terrorists of our time.
So, really, it was a two-year process, the development of the world, all the way from anatomical pictures, all the way through, like Julian and Britne said, hiring a movement coach to work with our actors on how a creature from a sound based world would move.
On getting the show’s creepy visceral effects just right
Britne Oldford: We were so fortunate to be working with Justin Dix — the most amazing special effects guy. So we were really working with a lot of practical effects props. A lot of the guns, a lot of the props, and certain other pieces were all there for us and ready to be used in the green screen.
As an actor that was definitely such a treat because a lot of the time with aliens and other supernatural creatures you have to work a little bit harder to pretend and imagine what’s going on, but we had everything in front of us. It definitely added to the show. I’d say it’s a very important part of our show; it’s kind of the heart of it, and it was a total treat.
Natalie Chaidez: And also, just to follow up that, you know, Gale Ann Hurd has a long tradition of working with practical effects coming up in the Roger Corman camp.
Early discussions between Gale and I centered around grounding this really firmly in practical effects, not only to creatively help the show but to give it a tactile and a visceral feel that sometimes is lost in VFX. I hope we provided that. We really leaned into the body horror of the season.
And like Britne said, we had a terrific prosthetics producer named Justin Dix who really is the Greg Nicotero of Australia. We have him in-house in our Melbourne studio and he was building all the Hunter effects from the ground up. We had full-on prosthetics lab in addition to creepy creatures, and just a bunch of other cool toys I wish you guys could have all seen.
Julian McMahon: You know, we kind of lucked out! I don’t know how do these things happen sometimes but we kind of lucked out with the studio and the location. It was this place just outside of the city of Melbourne, and Natalie nicknamed it Bloodywood. Well, this couldn’t be anything further from Hollywood than you could imagine. It was the building we actually had our offices in and which Natalie had her offices in, particularly.
We used it as a location for a lot of stuff. It was really a rundown building that which was really applicable to all of the stuff that we were trying to express through our character and script.
And, you know, a lot of the time you search for these kinds of things and you maybe don’t find them quite as applicable as what you may have desired. But here, we just got this fantastic gift of shooting in the location which suited the show.
And also, as Natalie said, that kind of grounded quality of what we were doing because it was real and it was dirty, and it was dark, and it was pretty disgusting. So, that all comes across because that’s what it was. I really appreciate that attribute.
On the show’s allegory of terrorsim
Natalie Chaidez: Hunters had been in development for three years and the whole allegory of terrorism and terrorists has been, creatively, around a lot longer. Sadly, it has just become more relevant in the last couple of weeks, and our hearts go out to the victims in those recent events. It’s tragic. These terrorists are the monsters of our time. You know, science fiction has always been a way to explore relevant social issues in a way that is palatable and to deal with our fears.
We’re living in a time when we’re scared of going out in public. We’re scared of who is beside us. We’re scared of what we might be coming at us. And the show is really about that fear and how it’s something of a monster, and also wrestling with some of the larger issues that that those fears create in our culture.
Britne Oldford: I think — yes. That definitely hits it on the nose, really.
Julian McMahon: Yes. Look, I agree with what Natalie said. This is a difficult time that we’re in, and terrorism is the new “monster.” The launch of the show coincides with something that has happened that is horrific. So your concern immediately goes to people that have been affected by this and your heart goes out for them, and your prayers go to them.
As a television show, I think I’d echo what Natalie has already said, and that is an opportunity to be able to express our fears. To be able to do that through an alien world is an interesting take.
Hunters premieres Monday April 11 at 10 pm ET/PT on Syfy.