Q: How did you hear about the role of Tony Strauss in Torchwood and what drew you to the character?
Jonathan: Torchwood's Casting Directors, John Frank Levey and Melanie Burgess, had recently hired me on the American remake of Shameless starring William H. Macy. They're a very loyal office. Tony Strauss was actually the 3rd role that I had auditioned for in Miracle Day. 3rd time's the charm!
Q: Were you familiar with Torchwood prior to be in the show? If yes: As someone who was familiar with the series as well as the Welsh location, how well do you think the co-production went?
Liz: I had friends who either hadn't heard of it or were obsessed with it. Unfortunately I was in the clueless group. Now I follow the show and am hooked. I see what all the fuss was about.
Jonathan: Yes, I was familiar with the show. My Dad is a huge Dr. Who fan. I remember watching the reruns of the original series on American Public Television when I was a child in the 70s. My parents lived in London for 3 years, but I've never been to Wales. That opening sequence of Miracle Day, where Gwen and the baby are dodging the helicopter, makes me very much want to take a helicopter ride around the coast of Wales. Beautiful!
Q: You were in The Middle Men. From what we've seen, there seems to be multiple stories within stories in each episode - a lot of parallels. Even your character of Tony was a middle man in the office. Have you experienced that sort of storytelling before in other series you've worked on? How was working on Torchwood different (if at all?)
Jonathan: Yes indeed. I love to work on projects that have a mindset for rolodex thinking or tree branches that grow into never-ending story leaves, where one seed folds into a leaf into another. That is 100% the writers work grown from the concept and mind of the showrunner (RTD). I've felt similarities in Mad Men (for the unique style with words), Flash Forward (for the limitless story opportunities of modern sci-fi) and Shameless (for its fearless courage to "go there!")
Q: Your scenes were with Alexa Havins. How was it working with her? How difficult was it to film and maintain a certain level of seriousness in scenes that were surrounded by a great deal of tension?
Liz: I had am amazingly focused and great co-star who was just so aware of her character and that allowed me to just be serious in the world right with her. Alexa is amazing! She taught me everything I know (sort of), she was so supportive as a person and as an actress. It was my first recurring and she welcomed me into the Torchwood family like I was a series regular. She really is just great. I also met Arlene Tur she is beautiful and equally as kind.
Jonathan: Alexa was a joy to work with. Many series regular actors just want to get the work day done faster. That is often their first priority and you can feel it eat away at the scenes. Not Alexa. She was fully ready to riff and to play. We were laughing between takes and sparring / egging each other on. I was encouraging her to get under my nerves with her smarty-pants ways and she was encouraging me to be a misoyginist jerk. After the scene take would cut, we'd talk about babies, our families and our favorite places to eat on Ventura Blvd. It's refreshing to work with such a talented, generous actor who also happens to be a completely normal, well-adjusted person.
Q: Do you have any funny stories from the set?
Liz: Funny stories...We were doing a walking and talking scene (I don't know how those Entourage guys do it ALL THE TIME) and my mic fell off. I thought I was doing such a great job of being professional and not stopping the flow of production but I just said in between my lines "My Mic fell off" Like I was just announcing it. It was funny and tragic.
Jonathan: Brittnee Garza plays the blonde Worker whom Esther cleverly replaces on the night shift in our episode. This was her very first professional on-camera television acting job. Her energy and enthusiasm was infectious. Every cast and crew member who talked to her left smiling. She's been a costumed character actor at Disney Land for a few years, but the TV world was absolute magic for her. She wanted to know about every light, every monitor, who did what and how did they make that happen. It is so very difficult to get that first TV job. It was a blessing to be around someone who is just experiencing that joy for the first time. You can't help but to be reminded why you first got into this biz ... the magic and the joy.
Q: What do you think of shows that have such a devoted fandom? Are they unusual, or do you think all shows have fans that are the same? (and who often known your own character better than you do!)
Liz: I think those shows know how to treat their fans and thus a "devoted fandom" is born. Nothing unusual about that what so ever. It is like when you really LIKE a show just that next level is absorbing yourself in it. It's good fun!
Q: You've worked on Desperate Housewives. How would you compare that experience to working on Torchwood?
Jonathan: Completely different. Housewives is less stylized and moves at a different pace. This is mostly a function of the Dramadey/Comedy hybrid and the different voices of Marc Cherry (showrunner for DH) and RTD. Miracle Day pays much more attention to set decoration and lighting. Desperate Housewives is about a language of rhythm and timing. Both were equally fun to work-on though.
Q: You've worked on cult fan series like Mad Man before. What do you think of shows that have such a devoted fandom? Are they unusual, or do you think all shows have fans that are the same? (and who often known your own character better than you do!)
Jonathan: Great question. I couldn't help but to think about Mad Men while shooting Miracle Day. As I said before , the attention to detail is what they share: the costumes, the lighting, the props. A pen on the desk is not for writing down another actors email address, it's a prop. Somebody thought about which kind of pen to put in that jar. They probably tried-out a few different options, took some digital pics and emailed them to the showrunner. Sometimes it is THAT precise. The fans notice these things. If the shows care, the fans care.
A sidebar funny: At my first wardrobe fitting for Mad Men, the costume designer asked me, "which side do you dress on?" I had never heard that phrase. The first time I ever wore dress pants was in the early 80s. By that time pants were not worn so high that you had to worry about the placement of the middle seam, a-hem, err, "which side to dress on." When I realized the meaning, I was incredulous. Now I look for every opportunity to use that phrase that I can. LOL!
Q: What other projects are on the horizon for you?
Liz: I just did a romantic comedy with Jamie-Lynn Sigler that was a lot of fun, she is very talented.
Jonathan: I've got two features coming out in early 2012, a smaller cerebral comedy called Let Go starring David Denman, Gillian Jacobs and Ed Asner and a big, loud, gross-out, sketch movie called Underground Comedy starring Adrian Brody, Lindsay Lohan, Rob Schneider and Michelle Rodriguez. It was especially fun to film because I got to play 4 different roles in 4 different sketches. It's written and directed by the Shamwow guy, Vince Offer. Yes, you heard me right!
Q: What would your dream role or dream series/movie be?
Liz: I would love to work on a wacky improv comedy or a Quentin Tarantino movie, better yet a combo of the two!?!?
Jonathan: I learned a long time ago to never wish to trade places with someone because you never know what's really going on in their lives. However, I can't think of a single role that Phillip Seymour Hoffman has done that I wouldn't jump-on in a second. He's about ten years older than me, but we're shaped similarly and he can do it all: broad comedy, cerebral comedy, historical period pieces, heavy drama, child molester, gas huffer or priest. He's a terrific actor. So anything that he passes on, I would happily take!
Thanks so much for all the terrific questions Bettina!
You can check out
Jonathan's IMDB page
Photos: Jonathan Spencer & BBC Worldwide