Tonight Syfy airs the final three episodes of season three of 12 Monkeys
. Todd Stashwick, who plays Deacon, recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about working on season three, playing his father, acting alongside Emily Hampshire, and much more.***Contains Spoilers up through 3.09***
SCIFI VISION: For this season, Deacon has changed pretty drastically. Can you talk about what you did to prepare for that both physically and mentally?
It was interesting, because as the scripts came out, before they were actually sent to us, Terry [Matalas] was developing them. He texted me that basically I needed to kind of get in prison yard shape. [laughs]
And I said, "What kind of prison yard?" He's like, "De Niro in Cape Fear
So then to physically prepare for that, I hired trainers at Nerdstrong Gym in North Hollywood, and I hired a nutritionist, Sarah Lynn Baird, at Fit-Fax in Pasadena. Then I went basically into hard core training, eventually working out nine times a week with a deeply restricted diet, because I wanted to convey that this man was locked up and kind of crawling back from death for over like a nine or ten month period.
So I did a very rigorous workout regimen to get into the shape of from where things were left [laughs]
, and he was left pretty bloody and pretty beaten. So I worked very hard with some very skilled professionals in order to, in the allotted time, get myself into the condition that we believe he'd been in while locked away.
And then I basically stop shaving, and then they did the hair and everything, so that physically, on the outside, I would give the appearance that this man was trying to beat back death.
Emotionally, what was really interesting, was for that episode, he's been isolated for nine months; so he's kind of wrestling with his own demons. And I didn't shoot anything with any other cast member from the [main] team before that at the beginning of the season. So other than table reads, I didn't get to really see anybody, and that added to the fact that I kind of looked cut off from everyone. I mean, I saw people personally, but I didn't see anybody professionally on set or anything like that. So that was fascinating.
And the only people I got to work with, were people who were part of Titan and the person - I say body double, but the actor who was there so I could act opposite my father in that scene.
So I wasn't alone alone, but at least I was alone in my head. I mean, I kind of leaned into feeling cut off, and I leaned into the physical aspect of trying to get myself back into shape after being left for dead. It was a fascinating four and a half month process to get ready for his quote unquote resurrection. You know, I wasn't sure at first that his father was also you. I think it was because you'd lost weight, and I was like, "Wait that's him!" [laughs] So I also wanted you to talk about playing both roles and also the logistics of shooting both sides at once and kind of how that was.
You know, it was really interesting, because I had to shoot them on two separate days. We had an actor that was dressed as the character in my height playing him, so that I could do the scenes as if Deacon was looking at kind of himself in his father's clothes. So I did all of the Deacon side of that scene first.
What was cool about that, was then I was able to shave the beard down, and then they added red to the beard, and there were conversations that I had with wardrobe and makeup department of how we wanted him to look. We gave him a bit of a pot belly.
And then we had another actor who was not as tall as me, because we wanted that stark difference when it's revealed that no, his father doesn't actually look like him. He is just having this fear, that he feels like his father’s abuse and his father's legacy live on inside of him, and so he projects himself on that, until he comes to that epiphany moment that he is the master of his own destiny.
He doesn't have to be responsible for the sins of his father; he can move forward from there and be who he is. And that's not to say that he was a pussycat [laughs]
in his life. He even says in the scene: "I've done way worse things than you," but not out of just pure cruelty; he did it out of survival in the apocalypse and protecting his brother.
So then when I got to spin around and be the father a day or two later, the father wasn't really in that space. He could have a different tone. He could be lighter and funnier; it's a projection.
So to play it as something that Deacon created to fight against, to survive, he needed something to beat.
So to make the father this jovial, taunting, sarcastic - not that Deacon isn't all that [laughs]
, but within the confines of that scene, within the confines of that cell and the environment, to have this guy just kind of just smoking his cigarette, walking around like they're having a conversation in a bar, berating his son for his weakness, that was fun. It was fun to play a different kind of role.
Photo © Ben Mark Holzberg
And then when I rehearsed it, I tried to have the conversation in my head, because Deacon knows that the conversation's only going on in his head. You know, you have to hear your own voice in your head when you're leaving room for the other actor to play the scene, because I kind of had an idea of how I was going to play it and then how I was going to [laughs]
react to myself.
But the logistics of it, it doesn't feel like it feels when you're watching it obviously, because it was shot on the two different days. And there were other actors in the room with me playing the other side of the conversation, but it cuts together really well. This connects to a question I was going to ask you later in the interview, so I'll ask now. I really hadn't thought about it until now, but probably a big part of the reason that Deacon feels like he is always on the outside, is because of the way he was treated growing up.
He talks to Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) about not being in her drawings, and he's upset about it. And he talks to Olivia (Alison Down), saying he's not a red shirt. He kind of seems really bothered that people don't see him as an important part of their plans, and he feels on the outside. Could you talk a little about that?
I think before Deacon joins Team Splinter, he sort of was the master of his domain. You know; he was the head of the West Seven, and he was this shot caller. He had a sense of importance and necessity, and he was keeping two hundred people alive. And then when he realizes the greater stakes of joining Team Splinter, he keeps putting himself out there for them and putting himself at risk, and he keeps being vulnerable with Cassie (Amanda Schull) and being vulnerable to the situation.
Then when he looks at the Word of the Witness, he sees that he doesn't figure into that picture, at least not in terms of what the Witness wrote down. All the key players are there on that document: Ramses (Kirk Acevedo), Jennifer, Cole (Aaron Stanford), Cassie, and Jones (Barbara Sukowa). They're all there except this guy, who from his point of view, is equally invested in this mission by this point. He's gone out of his way, risked his life, and had his fall from grace with the West 7. He's crawled back from the dead. He's rescued Railly (Schull) more than once, and somehow the wheels of fate are not acknowledging his contribution. So that gets him kind of questioning how he fits into this. Is this all really worth it? If his contribution is insignificant, is it worth putting his neck out for all of these people in the long run? And yeah, it bothers him; plus he's got an ego the size of Manhattan. He changes his allegiances a bit though throughout the season. He betrays of course Cole and Cassie, but also Jennifer sort of, locking her in a cage, at least in the eyes of the audience.
Is that betraying her? Is he though? I mean, is he betraying her, or does he think she's compromising the greater mission that they've all laid out?
From his point of view, Jennifer betrayed them. Like if Jones is the spearhead of this mission and the second in command is Cole carrying out those orders, then Cassie would be the third, and Deacon is part of that army. And Jennifer and Hannah (Brooke Williams) were all part of that army. And if basically Cassie and Cole go rogue, and then Deacon finds out that they were aided and abetted by Jennifer, who misled Jones and him and Hannah, then Jennifer's the one who betrayed them.
And in many ways, Deacon doesn't hesitate to put a bullet in people's heads who betray him. So he locks her up, but he doesn't kill her, you know what I mean? He has this compassion, but he goes, 'Okay, for the greater good of the mission, at this point, I've got to take her off the playing field,' but I don't think he betrays her. I mean, yes, he said, "No one's ever going to lock you up," but she changed the equation by betraying the mission.
It depends on if you think Cole's mission is the one that works. Cole and Cassie's mission is a bigger gamble than Jones,' which is 'kill the Witness.' Kill the Witness; that's the goal. And that's all we know up to this point.
And then Cassie and Cole go, "Maybe we could turn him...." And there's the fact that Jennifer didn't tell anybody that the kid [laughs]
was Cole and Cassie's, and that she's been misleading us. Like there's a lot more from Deacon's point of view, a lot more betrayal going on from Jennifer towards the missions, than Deacon betraying Jennifer. And I know he feels bad and even kind of helps her after, lets her out.
Absolutely. Absolutely. I think it’s interesting to look at it from that perspective, but I think part of everybody's problem, is that no one tells anybody anything, because they know it won't work out.
Yeah, because the stakes are so high that if Cole and Cassie had gone to Jones and said, "Well, guess what? The Witness is our kid; we're going to try and change his mind," when as far as anybody knows, as the future has played out, the Witness is the architect of the plague. We know it's a sure bet if we just kill that person.
One of my favorite lines that Jones has, is "A bullet doesn't kill in a second; it kills in every second. We're putting a bullet in the child when we want it in the man."
Photo © Ben Mark Holzberg
And so had Cole tried to reason with Jones and said, "This monster of a being, maybe I can change his mind," well, that's a far riskier approach than, you know, "kill Hitler." [laughs]
You and Emily Hampshire are so great together. Could you talk about working with Emily? And just kind of about their relationship.
Me and Em, we have a blast. I mean, in many ways Emily and I are the jokers in the deck. You know, they write funny often for our characters, and then she's so much of you get what you see. [laughs]
She is Jennifer Goines.
So there is a very invested, playful, experimental edge playing with her, and I got to work with her a lot this season, and it's always fun. The ensemble is what it is; is it's so vast that when they start pairing up different people, it brings out different things in each actor.
The dynamic between Deacon and Jennifer is very paternal in many ways. And he also carried the guilt over from shooting the old version of her [laughs]
, you know, he sort of felt beholden.
But between Emily and myself, I absolutely love working with her. I mean, I love working with the whole cast, but it was fun, because I didn't ever really get to work with her much in seasons prior. She and I really had some wonderful moments together on and off set. She's among my favorite people. I really enjoyed especially the two of you in the sort of heist episode when he's pretending to rob the place while she gets the painting. I loved that.
Well what's so funny is that she is just nothing but a match in a box of fireworks. Deacon is very laconic and sarcastic and kind of comes in under the radar in many ways, and so it's that combination.
And there's this great moment where she's going in front of the security guards and she's just rambling and rambling and rambling, doing this lovely soft-shoe, and Deacon is just kind of quietly rolling his eyes and nodding and muttering, because those two are playing a scene. The characters are playing a scene and leading into it.
And all the stuff in the auction, that was one of my favorite episodes to shoot, because the episodes prior to it were so heavy that there was just a big exhale amongst everyone. Plus I was dressed as Sonny Crockett, you know [laughs]
, from Miami Vice
. It was a blast.
Even the scenes with Cole and Cassie are funny. We had so much fun making that episode. You now, I know you described their relationship as paternal, but I could actually see the two of them together at some point. They're both kind of broken. Jennifer more than Deacon [laughs] but they kind of have that in common I think.
You know, it's funny. I see they both had abusive parents, but she wrestles with her primary powers, which is something he doesn't have, and so I think he tries to let her know that she's not crazy, that she has a gift, but it's interesting, because other people on the internet have brought up Deacon and Jennifer as a romantic couple. And that's a fascinating notion, but I think as of right now, what we've seen with them has been much more familial. But there's definitely chemistry between the two of them, and they definitely understand each other in a way that other characters maybe don't understand. Deacon understands Jennifer in a way; Jennifer understands Deacon in a way that nobody else does. There' a bond. And he's also known her for a very long time. Because, you know, in season one when he's putting the powder in Cole's wounds to get him to trip, he says, "I got this from the Daughters." And so he has known about Jennifer since she was old, so I think that they go way back. Either way they fit great together.
Thank you. And look, anytime I can get a chance to have scenes with Emily, I'm excited. Spinning off from that, someone asked me who you ship on the show.
Like what couples; who I think should be a couple? Yes.
Furrow) and Adler (Andre Gillies). I think they're deeply in love. They are like the Statler and Waldorf, if anyone gets that Muppets reference.
It's funny, because it's easy to say Cassie and Cole, because they are the couple celeb of the show. And again, I adore the idea that people ship Deacon and Jennifer; I think that's a lot of fun.
I do think there's an unspoken thing between Lasky and Adler. They bicker like an old couple. They're a hoot. And I also loved Eklund and Jones in season two. I loved Michael Hogan and Barbara [Sukowa]. That was fun. Then I was also curious how much you knew ahead of time what was going on. The show really changes once again at the end of the season. Were you surprised? [Laughs]
You know, it's funny, because when we go into the season Terry will tells us ideas he has for where he wants things to go, but because the writing process is so mercurial and they have to stick the landing, everything has to kind of braid together or else - you know, we have a very, very smart audience and they will call us out. So I listen and enjoy Terry and the musings that are coming up in the writers room and where he thinks he wants things to go, but nothing's in stone until we get the scripts, because these guys and gals are working overtime to craft theses scripts, and then the season as a whole, and now making sure that season three and season four really satisfy the story. So I know stuff, but I also don't know know it until I read the script, and then I know that they've committed to an idea.
Photo © Ben Mark Holzberg
But I have ideas. Like when he called and told me to get into prison yard shape, that was obviously something that they had nailed down already in terms of breaking the story. I usually get two or three episodes ahead, and that was only episode three of the season we were going to go shoot. So I hear stuff going on about a few episodes ahead, and then I hear broad strokes about where they want to go ultimately, but I don't believe it until I see it in print.
He definitely knows where he wants to go, it's just the how is something that often has to be massaged and done just right. Terry has known where he wants to go with this probably since day one; it's just that he finds discoveries along the way that they find worthwhile, which is what makes it such a living process.