Published: Friday, 27 March 2015 | Written by SciFi Vision
Tonight another new episode of Helix airs on Syfy. The season has been full of shocks and twists. This season Sergio Balleseros, played by Mark Ghanimé, has still been working at Ilaria, but he has been working with Julia Walker (Kyra Zagorsky) to find a way to stop them from committing genocide in an attempt to control the population.
Last week on Helix, Balleseros fell from a bell tower after having been pushed off by Sister Amy (Alison Louder), and viewers were left to debate his fate.
Yesterday Ghanimé talked to Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about his work on the show and his character's journey.
Balleseros loyalties have continued to change this season. Ghanimé talked a bit about what thinks really brought the changes on, since there weren't any flashbacks. "I don't think it had to do with Julia. I think it had to do with what Hatake (Hiroyuki Sanada) was doing with the kids in season one and my relationship with Anana (Luciana Carro). That kind of got me going on this better path, and I think I linked up with Julia because it afforded me the opportunity to get in on the inside. Just like she was using me for whatever reason, Balleseros wasn't going to just be someone's whipping boy again, but he developed feelings for her, and he developed care towards her, and as they worked together more and spent more time together, he wanted to take care of her and make sure the mission got done."
There was originally a scene connecting those old story lines, but it was cut. It didn't really fit with everything else in season two. "There was a scene with Anana and I, a cafe scene, where I gave her a dose of the Narvik cure. When Julia presents it in the boardroom and says, "Keep it safe," I turn around and go and give it to Anana. I think that got removed, because I don't think it quite made sense, and I don't think the writers were ready to revisit the relationship of bring in the Anana story at this point. I just don't think it fit. And there might have been timing issues with the episodes."
Balleseros is not only out for himself anymore. He really does care for Julia and wants to help her. "Balleseros was working with Juliet to stop Ilaria; they didn't want people like Amy becoming immortal and taking over the world, because that's just bad news. He did want to prevent this mass genocide, the thinning of the herd, as it were, from Ilaria. So he was no longer just out for himself and trying to make a buck.
"He's developed a relationship with Julia. I mean, we didn't get to see it too much this season, but we saw glimpses of it. He's developed feelings for Julia, her situation, and her journey, and he is trying to help; he's trying to be part of it. He's trying to protect her and kind of protect the human race in as much as he can, so I think he is definitely looking to do that.
"If he comes back he's definitely going to be joining the fight against Ilaria and the bad stuff. He was just working from the inside this year."
Balleseros might have changed for the better and switched his loyalties since the start of the show, but the actor enjoys playing both sides. No one is just one thing. "You can't completely erase either side. You can't just play one part of him. There are always going to be aspects about a character that continue on throughout the journey, no matter what events occur.
"I really liked playing Balleseros in season one. I mean, he had a lot of fun things to do, so as an actor, it was quite enjoyable.
"In season two, interacting with crazy Amy was the highlight of his season two, and I think he likes being back in the mix working with the weirdos. I think he likes flexing his muscles in that sense and getting the job done. He's useful. He has a lot of skills; he reads people; he's tactical; he's got combat skills. You know, he took down Landry (Sean Tucker). Obviously he may or may not have made it out past that, but he did end up throwing him down the bell tower. So he's got the skills and he enjoys using them. But no, I can't really say I would choose either one as an actor. They're both fun to play."
The actor is obviously a lot different in real life than his character, but he has found some similarities to connect to. "Everyone has good and bad aspects of their lives, things that have happened that are great, and things that have happened that aren't so great. And I think that his desire to be better I relate to absolutely.
"I've wanted to just grow as a person. Especially in the last couple of years, I've worked really hard to do that, and I think that for Balleseros, and for me at the time when I started playing him, those went sort of hand in hand, and I really appreciated that about the character."
The actor talked about where his inspiration for Balleseros, which came mostly from two fictional characters. "There was Han Solo, and there was a bit of Sawyer from LOST. Those are two of the mainstream influences that I sort of used and built upon. I found a lot of likeness in his character in season one and decided to model him a bit after that absolutely."
In the first season Balleseros always wore an army uniform; this season he's always in suits. Which one best represents the character? According to Ghanimé, "The uniform was a front; the uniform was bullshit in season one. He's not an army guy, whether he had training or not, he's just not part of the US Army, so it was all a front.
"I enjoyed living in camouflage; I thought it was great, but at the end of season one, you're like, "Okay, I'd like to put on some different pants now."
"But I personally love wearing suits; I'm a suit guy; I feel like I should have been born in the 20s. But I love the suits, and I thought it was a nice twist for season two to bring him up two or three class levels in the show."
Ghanimé did not get to work with many of the other actors on the show this season, but would love to have had more time with more of the cast. "I don't know what it's really like to work with Neil [Napier]; I would love to find out. I'd love to just have some major interactive scenes whether it's in Helix or on another project at some point, I would love to properly work with Neil.
"I would have liked to have worked with Matt Long. I've watched some of his previous work. I'd love to get a chance to work with him.
"And Billy [Campbell]. Billy's a fun guy to work with; we had a blast working together last year, and I would have loved to touch on more of it this year.
"And it's funny, Jordan Hayes, we didn't interact very much the first season, and then nothing at all this season. So yeah, I would have loved to just have reconnected with all the old cast if I could have.
"I mean, I ran into Meegwun [Fairbrother]; we had a little cast dinner one night, so I ran into himwhen he was in town filming his parts. That was nice to see him again. And I saw Hiro as well. It was nice to kind of reconnect with them on a personal level, but it would have been fun to work with all those people again."
One of the people Ghanimé did get some scenes with other than Zagorsky this season was Alison Louder, who plays Amy. "It was a lot of fun working with Alison. She's very talented; she's very energetic; and we got along great. And it was nice for me to interact with somebody new on the show. This season I had only interacted with Julia otherwise, so it was nice to kind of get a different take and different energy from somebody else on the show.
"I mean, I didn't work all that much last year even with Julia, so coming into it this year, Kyra and I had to sort of figure out how we were going to set our relationship. But there were still remnants of what happened in season one, but with Amy and I, it was brand new. And based on the story and what my tasks were, I just got to attack it in an interesting way.
"She's really good at her job, and we brought something fresh take after take. It just was interesting and a lot of fun.
Possibly Ghanimé's most pivotal scene this season was his fall from the bell tower. The actor talked about the set where the scene took place. "They had built this amazing set; they built two sets: one was basically a two story platform - you go up some stairs, and that's where you see me walking up when I'm like "It's hard to believe you were ever a kid," when I said that to her before I got attacked. So you see the last couple of steps as you climb up, and then it's on a platform and that's where the fight scene occurred with Landry.
"And then they had a second set that was just the tower, where they would just release the stunt people and myself, just drop us from a cable. And it was probably a three story tower that they had built separately just for the fall stunt. So it was kind of neat; it was broken up into two pieces."
While the actor's take wasn't the one used in the final cut, he did try out the fall for himself. "I did the fall as a test, and I think ultimately they just decided to go with the stunt person, but I also just wanted to do it for myself, for curiosity sake. It looked like a very fun ride at Six Flags, so I thought, I've got to try this. If I'm not going to be used, as at least I want to give it a shot. So it was scary as heck, but it was a lot of fun. Even the stunt guys were like, "We do this all the time, and you still never get used to free-falling."
"It was very very safe. I mean, our crew is incredible. They took very good care of me, and they made sure everything was all explained. I was fullly harnessed up, and this mechanism that they use, it's like full free-fall drop, and then it just decelerates you smoothly. It's like you're Superman when he lands from a flight. He's just kind of on his feet and ready to go. So it was really neat."
Even though Balleseros hasn't appeared in every episode this season, Ghanimé has continued to watch. "I've watched every episode, absolutely. It's my job as an actor on a show is to be part of the show to collaborate, whether I did one episode or more. I mean, when I've ever done guest roles on shows, I watch as many as I can leading up to it, just to get an idea for my work, and if I really enjoy the show I keep watching it. Helix was my show last season. I had a blast, and I was very fortunate to be a part of this, so absolutely I watch every episode and support my peers and the crew who put in all the hard work to make this thing happen."
Being caught up with the show, Ghanimé was surprised by some of the scenes this season. "The biggest one that creeps me out was the birthing chambers. That was a bit much for my heart. But that was crazy; that was like out of left field, and I did not expect that. But I've sort of gotten accustom to the shock of Helix in every episode something new and crazy happens nothing really floored me as much as the birthing chamber. It was like WTF television.
"The other one was Landry's creepiness with the kids and the stuff where there was harm towards the kids in the second season. That was probably the hardest thing for me to see."
Ghanimé has some other projects lined up soon. "I'm working on a little sci-fi project coming up soon, a science fiction film that I can't really talk to much detail about, but I'm getting going on that in April, and I'm really excited. We've got some really good people involved from some big films, and that is going to be a fun role for me. That will be released in 2015, and I'm excited to start that. It's untitled at the moment.
"There're lots of new projects happening in Montreal that I'd like to get involved with and there's lots of good stuff going on on both coasts that I'm putting my name into a hat for, for sure."
Ghanimé has thought about what other roles he's looking for in the future. "I just want something that's got a lot of depth, and something very well written. Something literally that when I get the role, it scares the crap out of me like how to play that role. Those kinds of things are interesting. The ones that make me go, 'Oh how the Hell am I going to do this?' That's interesting to me. The ones were I'm playing the guy that I can play on a daily basis, the standard Mark Ghanimé role, that's easy. That doesn't get the creative juices flowing. But something where I go, 'Oh, I'm not necessarily perfectly poised for this part, and it's going to be difficult to figure out how to play it, let's get to it,' that kind of thing interests me.