The latest season of the horror anthology series “Channel Zero” has been injecting our Wednesday nights with a dose of the creepy crawlies. Filled with morbidly captivating visuals and paced to unsettling perfection, “Butcher’s Block” is a gem of a genre offering from series creator Nick Antosca and the folks at SYFY, but it’s the ensemble cast that has us transfixed.
Diana Bentley portrays Edie Peach in the mystery-filled season, and much like the character’s surname would suggest, she is surface sweet, but there’s also something completely and utterly menacing about her that indicates this Peach is rotten to the core.
We recently sat down with Bentley to discuss her “Channel Zero” trip, why she was instantly at home in Edie, and the reason she feels so lucky to be a character actor in the current content climate.
TrunkSpace: “Channel Zero” is part visual feast and part mind trip. “Butcher’s Block” in particular looks like it would have been quite the experience for all involved just because of the nature of the story and the world in which you’re working. When you’re performing in a project that has a heightened reality, does it make the process a bit more surreal?
Bentley: This process was unique because, although the world around Edie Peach in “Channel Zero” is surreal, Edie is quite a grounded and clear mother bear to me. She sees the world only from her own perspective and experience, and isn’t concerned with seeing anything other than that. So, for me as the actor I felt like I was wandering around set in rose colored glasses having the time of my life! I’m sure it was a very different trip for the rest of the cast. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: We know you have a theater background. In watching “Butcher’s Block,” we couldn’t help but notice that there’s something very theatrical about it at times, even right down to the framing. The dinner scene in particular comes to mind. In those shots where the entire table is visible, it’s almost like you’re looking up at it on a stage. As you were working on the project, did you get that theatrical vibe at any point during production?
Bentley: I don’t know whether I would say I felt the show was ‘theatrical’ but I would say it feels heightened to be inside. There’s a tension and a need and a ‘keeping up appearances’ that kept me feeling like I couldn’t let the ball drop. I think that’s the magic of the Peach clan and the show’s storytelling.
TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what was the most exciting aspect of Edie Peach that you were looking forward to tackling? Was there something in her personality that was an entirely new take on a character for you?
Bentley: From the moment I read the audition I fell in love with Edie and needed to play her because I understood her so deeply. I’ve never felt so at home in a character or loved them so much. There is a quality to Edie that wants to love and be loved so badly, that it obliterates everything else. I found this an intoxicating aspect of her personality.
TrunkSpace: We always hear about character complexity and how that can make working on a project more interesting for a performer, but does that also apply to story complexity? Does a yarn spun with lots of twists and turns keep things more interesting for you?
Bentley: Yes. The story is everything. Arkasha Stevenson and Nick Antosca had such an incredible grasp on the story and who these characters were, and that made it a delight to work on. Arkasha let me improvise as Edie and pushed me to explore Edie’s humor and also her darkness. She trusted that I knew the character inside out and let me play – it was just the best experience. When you can really follow a director and where they take you it makes for an awesome ride.
TrunkSpace: “Channel Zero” plays in various genre sandboxes, but the one that is most apparent (and the big draw for viewers) is horror. One of the things the show does so well is setting a really uncomfortable, creepy tone for the audience, and based on early feedback, this season is firing on all creepy cylinders. What are you most excited for viewers to see and experience as the season rolls on?
Bentley: I just think as the show delves deeper and deeper into the world and psyches of the characters, viewers will be more and more entranced and horrified. Olivia (Luccardi) and Holland (Roden) have such wild journeys – I can’t wait for the audiences to see where these two sisters end up!
TrunkSpace: Horror fans are pretty welcoming when it comes to new projects, especially when those projects are done right. When you’re coming into a series like “Channel Zero,” do you go in thinking about the end product and how it will be perceived? When all is said and done, the genre has a bit of a built-in audience so there’s automatically going to be a set of viewers who will tune in to see if it’s their cup of tea, which must be nice to know as you’re working on something… that the work you’re doing will be discovered regardless?
Bentley: I didn’t think about the end result – but I was really excited to share this show with viewers. I just think it’s such a wacky, dark, terrifying and often funny ride. As a cast we really bonded making it, and when that happens it’s usually a sign that it’s going to be good!
TrunkSpace: You’re also returning to “Frontier” for Season 3 later this year. We hear so much about how exciting of a time it is for actors in this “golden age of television” because of the rich, character-driven stories, but is the quantity just as exciting as the quality? Is there more work now than when you started your career?
Bentley: I feel pretty lucky to be a character actor right now because I think more than ever dynamic and meaty characters are being written for women. Edie is the perfect example – she is all of the traditional conventions of femininity but turned upside down. And Imogen on “Frontier” is not dissimilar! What you see isn’t always what you get and that’s what I’m drawn to.
TrunkSpace: Is theater still a big part of your life? Does acting on stage give you a different thrill than tackling a role on-camera?
Bentley: Theater is a huge part of my life. I run my own theater in Toronto called the Coal Mine Theatre! It’s a 90 seat theater in a storefront and we have an awesome audience. There’s nothing like performing on stage – it’s a different thrill performing live and a different beast in many ways. I like flexing those muscles once in a while.
TrunkSpace: What is the best house you’ve ever performed in? Not the best play or experience, but the most beautifully-moving theater itself – the kind of place that inspired you night after night – and why?
Bentley: I did a show at my own theater a few years ago called “Bull” by English playwright Mike Bartlett. It’s a play about bullying and we did the entire show inside a cage with the audience right on the other side of the cage, up against it. It was the most insane experience because the audience felt free to speak and comment and voice what they were feeling throughout the show. It was intense but awesome.
TrunkSpace: Anything is possible in “Channel Zero,” so we figured we’d take a page from that fantastical handbook for our last question. If we had at time machine and it could send you ahead 10 years to see what your career would look like in 2028, would you take that opportunity for a futuristic sneak peek?
Bentley: No! I love living in the moment. One of things I try to embrace about being an actor is not knowing what’s coming next or what’s happening. It’s one of the unique things about the profession that I’m learning to love. Your life could completely change overnight and that’s intoxicating if you let it be.
“Channel Zero” airs Wednesdays on SYFY.
For more information on the Coal Mine Theatre, visit here.