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Travelers

The Featured Presentation

Benjamin Charles Watson

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PHOTOGRAPHY: Noah Asanias/GROOMING: Frida Norrman/STYLING: Derek Perret

For an actor, joining an existing series can be a daunting task, but any nerves Benjamin Charles Watson had upon signing up for Season 3 of “Designated Survivor” quickly vanished after the first day of filming. As confident digital officer Dontae Evans, the Jamaican-born actor’s emergence into the political thriller came at a time when the series was transitioning from ABC to its new home, Netflix. While many of the original cast members remain (Kiefer Sutherland, for example, still plays President Thomas Kirkman), many new faces have been hired on at the fictional White House, making Watson’s arrival a welcome addition to the ever-growing on-set family.

I was basically joining a family that had already established its relationship for two years,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “But I was accepted with open arms and quickly became one of the team.”

We recently sat down with Watson to discuss how the current political climate impacts the show, its newfound realism, and his “Snowpiercer” future.

TrunkSpace: You joined the latest season of “Designated Survivor” as digital officer Dontae Evans. Were there nerves joining the cast of an established series with the on-set tone already in place, even with the show making the leap to its new home Netflix?
Watson: I was absolutely scared to join a team that had already established itself with its audience. Being the new guy, I had to carefully study the first two seasons in order to match the tone. After the first day of filming, my nerves disappeared because I had the opportunity to work with actors I’ve always wanted to work with. I was basically joining a family that had already established its relationship for two years. But I was accepted with open arms and quickly became one of the team.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of that, is there also something exciting about joining a series that already has an established audience, knowing that there will be eyeballs waiting for it when the episodes eventually air?
Watson: It was very exciting joining a show that has such a fan base, but at the same time it made me nervous. This show is filled with characters that are dearly loved by its audiences and some characters didn’t return for Season 3. As a new member of the team, I had to make sure my character would be loved and accepted as a new member of the West Wing. And I think it was accomplished. Also, Dontae on the team will bring a fresh audience that has never experienced the show.

TrunkSpace: While you’re new to the series, tonally, has anything changed given that there are no longer the same restrictions with the content given its new home? Is it grittier than what people will recall from its time on ABC?
Watson: I think after leaving ABC and finding its new home on Netflix, the show has gotten better. We’re able to push boundaries a bit further and also explore real topics that affect the American people. I find that the show is a lot more realistic and engaging. We parallel some real-world events and it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

TrunkSpace: There are some heavy hitters in the cast. As an actor, do you view an experience like this – and any experience really – just as much of a learning experience as you do a job? Can you take a role like Dontae Evans and apply the time on set to future roles/jobs?
Watson: This show was a huge learning experience as an actor. Getting the opportunity to watch Kiefer Sutherland work, was absolutely phenomenal. He’s such a master craftsman and sharing screen time with him on a one-on-one basis was exhilarating. I understand what it takes to be an actor at his caliber, and it was fascinating to watch him work. He was an incredible scene partner and absolutely a dream to work opposite.

Dontae is a lot stronger than I am in real life. He fully knows who he is as a person and is unapologetic about it. I’ve taken Dontae and applied him to my real-life, including auditions. He is strong, confident, fearless and wears his heart on his sleeve. He taught me a lot about life and how to become the person I truly desire to become.

TrunkSpace: We’re living in a very politically-focused time right now, particularly here in the United States. Does a show like “Designated Survivor” benefit creatively during a period of such uncertainty and unrest because so many people are attuned to what is going on around them? Does the attention on real-life politics spill over into the fictional world?
Watson: With the political uncertainty happening in the USA right now, I think it works amazingly for the show. This show gets the audience to look at the inside of The White House from a point of view they’ve never seen. This season, we’ve touched on so many real-world events that many individuals don’t necessarily know about stateside and abroad.

TrunkSpace: For the audience the final product is always the most memorable, but for those involved in a project we’d imagine that it goes much further than that. What is something from your time working on “Designated Survivor” that you’ll take with you through the rest of your life and career?
Watson: The thing I will take away from working on “Designated Survivor” is knowing that I’ve done the work and trusting that life I’ve prepared for my character will show up once the director calls “Action!” Also, just knowing and trusting myself and being confident in my abilities. I remember having a rough time on a scene and Julie White, who plays Lorraine Zimmer, saw how badly I was beating myself up and she told me that it’s okay and I know what I’m doing so just be easy on myself. After this pep talk, I attacked this scene in a completely different way and I’m happy I had her to calm me down.

TrunkSpace: When you receive a new script on a project that you’re working on – in this case “Designated Survivor” – what are you most excited to discover when reading about your character’s latest narrative progression? Is it his overall arc? Is it a great piece of dialogue? What are the most intriguing aspects for you personally about reading a new script for the first time?
Watson: Whenever we got a new script I’m so intrigued to discover more about Dontae’s arc throughout the episode and how it affects his overall objective goal. Dontae’s biggest reveal is that he’s HIV positive and I had no idea until I received and read the script! It blew my mind because I was so excited to research and explore the aspects of living with a disease that affect a lot of individuals, including African American men, and has been stigmatized for a long time. As an actor, I love researching every aspect of my character and knowing him fully from early childhood to his current life.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Noah Asanias/GROOMING: Frida Norrman/STYLING: Derek Perret

TrunkSpace: You’re also set to star in the small screen adaptation of “Snowpiercer” for TNT. This is a show that people are very excited about. For those fans of the film, what can they expect when they see the series air later this year, and how your character Brakeman Fuller falls into things?
Watson: I’ve been a huge fan of “Snowpiercer” for such a long time! The fans can expect something out of this world. You’re going to be drawn into a world that is chaotic and extreme, but full of heart and hope.

Brakeman Fuller is obedient, but he’s a bit weak and a follower. He’s primarily seen with John Osweiler (played by Sam Otto). The thing about Brakeman Fuller is that when the going gets tough, he’s not down to fight.

TrunkSpace: What is a character that you portrayed – even as a guest spot – that you wished you had more time to spend with and explore further?
Watson: I had a guest spot on “Travelers” and I wish I had more time to explore my character Lars. The episode was entitled “17 Minutes” and we see my character basically crying because one of his best friends dies. I just wish I had more time to explore the dynamic and greater inner work of Lars, especially his relationship with his best friends.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Watson: Time machine! I’m not sure if I’d jump into the future 10 years. I’d be worried that by entering the future, I’d change the trajectory of my path by viewing it. What if by looking into the future, that the specific timeline would be changed? What if I saw myself and then I’d have to explain to myself who I was? Too many possibilities. But if I do go into the future and don’t like what I see, I would probably come back to the past and work diligently to change my future. SOOOOO, MAYBE I WOULD…

Season 3 of “Designated Survivor” is available now on Netflix.

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The Featured Presentation

Patrick Gilmore

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Photo By: Karolina Turek

It’s not often that an actor starring in a series is as big of a fan of the show as the fandom that supports it, but for Patrick Gilmore, Season 2 of his Netflix series “Travelers” is queued up and ready to stream along with the rest of us. As David Mailer in the time-traveling drama, the Canadian-based actor continues to be impressed by the grounded nature of the science fiction storytelling, relishing in the human moments that the writers craft for both his character and his costars’.

We recently sat down with Gilmore to discuss how he became a fan of his own show, what keeps him from calling it a science fiction series, and why he felt overwhelmed walking the floor of a recent comic convention.

TrunkSpace: For you, someone who is involved in the series, what was the most interesting aspect of “Travelers” that first drew you to it? Was it the premise? The tone? Or was it something else entirely?
Gilmore: For me it was, and I’ve been using this term a lot, the world building. The show is a sci-fi show about people from the future, so on paper you read this and you’ve got something in your head that belongs on the SyFy channel. But if you watch the show with the sound off, it’s just a normal show about people. It takes place in present day, and it’s about relationships. That’s the part that excited me, is that you don’t even get much of a glimpse of the future – in fact I don’t even think you see it. It’s alluded to, which allows you to embrace the show a little more because it’s a little more relatable, given that it’s in present day.

TrunkSpace: It’s an aspect of the story. It’s not THE story.
Gilmore: Yeah, and I think that allows the viewers to connect in a way that they might not connect to a show about people in a spaceship. These are people sitting in a coffee shop and breaking up. It’s something we’ve all gone through – more than once sadly. (Laughter) It just makes it more real. It removes that block. It allows our suspension of disbelief and again it raises the stakes.

TrunkSpace: And it probably opens the door to a wider audience because some people place a stigma on science fiction. “Travelers” isn’t what they’d expect.
Gilmore: Yeah, my parents are a perfect example. They’re not gonna watch a show about a spaceship or an alien, but they’re curious about this couple. There’s a woman raising a child practically on her own with an alcoholic husband who happens to be a police officer. That’s fascinating and that’s just one of the storylines in “Travelers.” When people ask me what kind of show it is, I always hesitate to say sci-fi. That’s the inroad for the show, but the show becomes so much more.

TrunkSpace: What were you excited to do with your character David that you have yet to tackle in the past with previous characters?
Gilmore: I have hinted at other romantic relationships, but I’ve never actually had a chance to really fully play out this will-they-won’t-they thing, which I’ve been such a fan of since the days of Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd in “Moonlighting.” They just set the bar so high.

It’s such a catalyst for so many storylines of keeping these two orbiting each other. As a fan, it breaks your heart to watch what these two characters go through, David and Marcy – Marcy being a time traveler and me being her ex-social worker, now romantic interest. That was really fun for me to watch, because you grow up and you want to be an actor and you want to be Bruce Willis. You want to play that guy that is trying to win the girl over, but all of these circumstances are keeping you apart. I think that is fun. If you like that, you’re gonna like the show, especially how Season 1 ended in such a dramatic fashion. But the way Season 2 ends… I went to the writers after I read the last script, and I said, “How are you possibly gonna pull out of this nosedive?” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And we’d imagine that because it’s still not fully fleshed out yet, you probably don’t even know how they’re going to pull out?
Gilmore: They give me hints. I think they just love torturing me, because they probably do know the answer. (Laughter) And I like it that way, because otherwise I’m seeing the strings of the show – and I’m a fan of the show myself. I remember being on “Stargate Universe,” which was another Brad Wright joint, and whenever the scripts would come out it was like Christmas. They would just print them off and you could see everybody during lunch break or during the downtime, in a corner of the studio just flipping through the script, because they couldn’t wait to see what happened. I was typically going through the last few pages to see if I survived the episode. (Laughter)

I feel the same way with “Travelers.” I’d love to know what happens with David, but I want to be a fan too. I want to go on the journey as much as I can from the outside.

Photo By: Karolina Turek

TrunkSpace: It has to be very exciting to be a part of this Golden Age of television, but at the same time, with so much quality competing content out there, does it get more difficult to bring eyes and interest to a show?
Gilmore: Absolutely. It gets harder to promote things. Back in the day – when I say the day, when I grew up I had, I think, two or three channels on my TV and you had everybody tuning in for the finale of “M*A*S*H” and “Dallas.” So what are you gonna watch? Well, you really only had a couple options. There was a template and you had your multi-cam sitcoms and you had your procedurals, and your “60 Minutes.” You really knew what you were going to get tuning into something. Now you have no idea. That’s fun, because you’ve got so much creativity being given a stage. As far as promotion goes, yeah, it’s tough. How do you say, “No, no, you should watch mine because mine stands out for X, Y, and Z reasons.” So you almost have to have some sort of MacGuffin or an angle that’s going to make you standout from the rest.

TrunkSpace: And the real trick for the viewer is, for the most part, everything is good now. The stories and characters are so complex. You spend more time deciding what you’re going to watch next than actually watching it.
Gilmore: Oh, I know. It’s like a kid in a candy store. I get overwhelmed. My buddy and I went to Fan Expo that was in Vancouver last weekend, and I’d never been. And we go to buy maybe a comic book or a little collectible toy or something, and we walk in, and it’s too much, there’s too much choice, and I felt overwhelmed. I had to just calm myself, do a little walk around and then decide. There’s a lot of time spent in that.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) It’s like going grocery shopping when you’re hungry.
Gilmore: Exactly! That’s exactly what it is!

So what makes this standout? I think the fact that you have someone like Eric McCormack who is known for playing the – I almost compare him to John Ritter in his physicality. Eric is known as a really funny, straight laced guy, then you see him in this role – and they’re airing the same week, so it’s really fun to be watching “Travelers” and see him on “Will & Grace” a couple days later. He’s bringing something so dark and so new to what people are expecting, so that’s a ticket to watch this show. You’ve got a cast of up and comers like Jared Abrahamson, MacKenzie Porter, Nesta Cooper, Reilly Dolman, who a lot of people don’t know, but it’s just solid, solid acting. There’s not one false note in that whole score.

Again, I’m trying so hard not to be biased, but I am a fan of the show. (Laughter) It would make my job a helluva lot harder to be on the phone with you if I’m like, “Yeah, I’m on this show but there’s other cool things on TV…” I just think you’re gonna dig “Travelers.”

TrunkSpace: You guested on “Supernatural” way back in Season 3. It’s currently in its 13th season. If you were in a situation to be David in “Travelers” for 13 seasons, would that be something you’d be comfortable with and would you feel fulfilled playing the same character for that long?
Gilmore: That’s a great question. My immediate thought was paying my bills, and I’m like, “Oh, yeah! That would be awesome! 13 seasons!” But I think the beauty of “Travelers” is that they’re not bottle episodes – they’re not filler to get that 20 episode season that the network requires. Each episode builds on the other, and I think that to go beyond X amount of seasons – and I’m in no position to guess whether it’s five or six seasons – anything beyond that I think would do a disservice to the show as a whole. I think that the writers have an endpoint in mind – I know they do, but of course they’re not telling me. (Laughter) I can’t speak for the producer or the creators, but I feel like they have a certain amount of seasons in mind, and I don’t think that they would go beyond that, just for the sake of keeping the quality of the show where it is.

Now as an actor, and again someone who’s paying the bills, to be on a show for 13 seasons, that allows you a lot of flexibility to go on a vacation, buy food, or pay my bills. (Laughter)

Season 2 of “Travelers” is available December 26 on Netflix.

Season 1 is available now for binging. Check out the trailer below.

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