ENTERTAINMENT Volume 5 Number 9
1999 Sovereign Media. All Rights Reserved.
the ghosthunters of POLTERGEIST: THE LEGACY haunt the Sci-Fi
Those of us with
a nervous disposition should get ready to hide behind the cushions or
the couch. POLTERGEIST: THE LEGACY, one of the spookiest shows on television,
is due to creep onto screens across the length and breadth of the globe
when it begins a regular Friday visitation to the Sci-Fi Channel this
March 19 at 7:00 and 11:00 PM EST. A combination of horror, sci-fi,
and almost Dickensian morality tales, POLTERGEIST: THE LEGACY follows
the adventures of a mysterious group of individuals who strive against
all the odds to fight the dark powers that manifest themselves in this
world and the next. Headed by Derek Rayne (Derek de Lint) and backed
by Dr. Rachel Corrigan (Helen Shaver), Alexandra Moreau (Robbi Chong),
and Nick Boyle (Martin Cummins), members of the San Francisco "House"
act as guardians and sometimes conduits to those of us, mortal or otherwise,
unlucky enough to brush against the Dark Side.
Based on an idea
from the classic horror film, Poltergeist: the Legacy brings
to light the activities of a very "secret society" whose mandate is
to protect the pure in heart from the supernaturally evil forces that
surround us. While it may sound quirky, creator Richard B. Lewis is
in no doubt as to why the series appeals. "It's a fantasy," he insists.
"All these characters, doing stuff we are not supposed to know about
helping people cross to the 'other' side -- fighting evil spirits
-- something which has appealed to fans since the start of the genre."
He also believes that "everyone has skeletons in their cupboards," including
himself. "We all have things that if we could do again we'd do differently
and The Legacy is a group of people who have come together to help those
who haven't had that chance, who've been taken from this world unjustly,
to find some sort of closure."
The show's original
concept tapped into the idea that a ghost is someone who has unfinished
business. In its 4th season, Poltergeist: The Legacy will be
tapping into that idea in a completely different way. Writer and executive
producer Grant Rosenberg is more than enthusiastic about the latest
developments. "One of the things we put into motion last season was
that we tried to move the show away from episodes being story-driven
and worked toward making them more character-driven. We really went
a long way toward humanizing our main players and making the stories
more personal to them." He feels that by making the characters more
accessible to an audience, "by giving them more recognizable qualities,
the waiters have succeeded in stretching and pushing the characters
in terms of where they can go with them."
If the first few
episodes are anything to go by, they are pushing things a fair way.
Several intriguing story arcs are guaranteed to capture the hearts of
new viewers as well as tease the minds of the show loyal following.
In the premiere two-part episode entitled "The Traitor," for instance,
the usually close-knit team turns on Derek and accuses him of killing
an innocent man. Unaware that their suspicions are being controlled
by a malevolent spirit trying destroy their leader, the ensuing confrontation
throws into focus a series of questions and fears about what each of
them is doing on a daily basis. It's an incredibly explosive scenario
and concentrates on issues that will take more than one episode to resolve.
"Whilst our principal objective on Poltergeist: The Legacy is
to entertain, if we can come up with some ideas which get a message
across, then it's all to the good -- but it has to be done subtly. We
can't just bang people over the head with it."
A second story
line involving Dr. Rachel Corrigan's daughter Kat (Alexandra Purvis)
draws an analogy not only to puberty butalso to drugs and the very real
dangers young adults have to contend with in our society. With each
episode she slides slightly deeper into the culture of witchcraft, which
is presented to her as magical. She is innocent of its darker aspects.
Rachel realizes that her only child is slowly slipping away from her.
Helen Shaver enjoys playing the troubled mother and often skeptical
physician. "The characters are multifaceted," she explains. "They are
not all believers with 'the gift' and sometimes find it very hard to
accept the weird and wonderful occurrences. Rachel is faced with the
task of trying to wrestle with the difficulties of being a doctor, of
living in this far-from-normal household, of holding on to her own personality
as well as providing the support she must give to her daughter at such
a difficulttime in her life." While the actual circumstances may be
different. Shaver feels that many of us can empathize with her because
"all our lives are complicated to a certain extent by circumstances
beyond our control."
leader" Derek Rayne, a k a Dutch-born actor Derek de Lint, contends
with problems of a different kind, but is more than pleased at the prospect.
"For the first time in four years I'm being given a love interest. It's
about time," he smiles. "It was getting pretty boring, but I now have
an incredibly intelligent, extremely attractive investigative journalist
in my life." Laughing delightedly, he quips, "She had to be very interesting
and out of the ordinary because I live in a house with all these beautiful,
extraordinary women, so they had to come up with someone pretty special
-- not just an airhead."
De Lint is also thrilled that this season marks his directorial debut.
"I'm a little behind the others," he admits. "Both Martin and Helen
have directed episodes previously, but now it's my turn." Unwilling
to give too much away, he reveals that the episode contains just the
"female characters -- with one returning as an angel." Short of being
bribed by the Editor, his lips are sealed so you'll just have to watch
to find out which one. What he can reveal is that an ongoing villain
in the shape of Simon MacCorkindale arrives to stalk his steps.
The job of actually
depicting "celestial beings" to which these talented actors must relate
falls to the team of award-winning visual effects coordinators led by
visual effects supervisor Jim Finn. Having honed his skills in Southeast
Asia, he returned to Vancouver and became involved with the making of
Poltergeist: The Legacy from the start. "I came into the show
as an editor and compositor on the first two seasons before deciding
to change hats and become a director rather than a mechanic." Working
as co-supervisor on season 3, he eventually assumed sole responsibility
for creating the spine-tingling effects for season four. He clearly
relishes the challenge. "The whole concept of the supernatural and the
spiritual conflicts which the Legacy have are very metaphysical and
therefore hard to portray. We started building a consistent look for
the show by creating a path for ourselves so that we're not constantly
wondering. How do we make this different every time?" He feels that
"we've come up with a formula, an organic mandate to make that element
work so that we can [now] focus more on making the effects innovative
and totally believable."
Finn cites his
most challenging episode to date as the comedic "Irish Jug," directed
by castmember Martin Cummins. The episode took Derek out of the Legacy
precept and made him into a kind of comic archaic person. "We had to
manufacture his transference from a criminal character from the past
to his own body in the present, then get 'the genie back in the bottle'
without it looking like a scene from Aladdin." Using a combination of
physical effects like high-pressure air, then incorporating interactive
light techniques with live action, they built up the visuals to give
a smooth, seamless representation. "I like to ensure that when an entity
appears on the screen, it looks as though it was shot there, rather
than just pasted over the top."
Season 4 sees Finn's
team raising the standard yet again. In the opening episodes, the evil
spirit coming to discredit Derek Rayne have to execute transitions from
several actors as many as four times, but Finn is quietly confident.
"I think it's going to work." While he hates to use the word "morph,"
it best describes the technique that creates the effect. "We thought
about this a long time until we were satisfied that we'd achieved the
impact without it looking too much likea music video." Given the number
of prestigious Gemini Award nominations the feam has garnered over the
past three years, it's hard to equate the caliber of their work with
a three-minute short.
has nothing but praise for their achievements. "One of the things we
are blessed with is a really great technical and visual crew." Acknowledging
that Vancouver is now one of the busiest film- and television-producing
communities on the North American continent, he is thankful that Poltergeist:
The Legacy was able to retain over 95 percent of its crew to go
forward into the new season. "We are trying to give the show a signature
look, one that's designed just for us. We are fortunate in that the
people we have are extremely motivated and united in that quest."
For "local boy"
Martin Cummins returning to reprise his role as Nick Boyle was "a little
hard, particularly as we all had such a great summer."
A testament to
the affection the Legacy actors have for one another is the fact that
they spend a lot of time together off-set. Despite having to work together
for 12 to 14 hours a day "a couple of the cast members bought vacation
homes within a two-mile radius of each other so we all hung out there."
Confessing that "coming back to work wasn't that arduous," he says,
"it's like meeting up with your family again. The crew is really cool
-- we all grew up together and we actually do like each other." Playing
Nick is not his only project this season. Cummins will be expanding
his role as director too. "I'm really excited because I get to direct
two episodes of this show, as well as an episode of The Outer Limits.
It's great for me as an actor to be given the opportunity to branch
out in that direction."
that his character is probably the most down to earth and mirrors his
own persona. "Whilst I don't go around punching people out or gunning
them down, I think you take certain parts of your personality and photocopy
them 10 times larger than life, then you have your character."
With a smile that
suggests he shares Boyle's cryptic sense of humor, Cummins insists,
"I think of him a Joe Regular guy -- but I guess anyone who lives in
a house with three people who are forever off chasing ghosts has got
to be kind of an odd bird." Comparing Nick Boyle's lifestyle to that
of a detective who spends his time investigating and dealing with unpleasant
situations, he feels the character has to be able to see the irony in
the circumstance and apply a sense of humor. "He would to crazy otherwise."
Everyone from the
technical side to the actors agrees that the move to the Sci-Fi Channel
will be beneficial from many different aspects. Rosenberg expresses
his view that one of the problems encountered in the past was that the
audience was confused as to when and where the show was going to be
"Now we can say
that it will air at the same time on the same day each week without
people having to search through the listings for us." Derek de Lint
agrees: "The switch in channels is so very great for us because The
Sci-Fi Channel is, of course, for Sci-Fi lovers, so it's where we should