Tonight Syfy premiered it's new series Incorporated
. The show takes place in a dystopian 2074 where governments have fallen due to climate changes and other crises and corporations have taken control. The series follows Spiga Biotech executive Ben Larson, played by Sean Teale, who is hiding his past (and true identity) and risking everything by using his influence in the corporate world to save the woman he loves.
Teale recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about his role on the series, and insight into both sides of his character.*Contains spoilers for 1.01 and very slight general spoilers*
SCIFI VISION: Can you talk about how you first got involved in the series?
I got involved in the show very fortunately, really, from about a year and a half ago now, a year and seven months ago. I was doing something in Montreal, and I had decided I wasn't going to stay on Reign
, and I was going on to parts that were different, not greener or newer, but just different. And a lovely lady, Meg Liberman at CBS, who I had talked to about doing Reign
, had sent my manager something about potentially going out for the script; they hadn't found their Ben Larson yet. And over a series of a few months or maybe six weeks, it was all relatively fast, I had auditioned, I talked to the creators, I retaped in London, and then I had flown out and screen tested, and a few months later I was on the job shooting the pilot. Is there anyone or thing that you were particularly inspired by for the character? Even just someone you thought of when you created him?
Well it's quite fortunate that they created such a well-rounded person. You know, I watched movies that inspired the creators to create the show, and I also realized that there were similarities between Soilent Green
, and then there was this movie - I don't know if the creators really paid much attention [to it]; I think they might have in some way, but Gattaca
, with Ethan Hawke. When he takes on the company to get into space on that mission, he's an invalid; he's like someone from the red zone, like Ben is. He's forged this identity to obtain his goals against all odds. So that outsider concept of being behind enemy lines was great to [think on].
I'm sure there're a thousand people within me that come out, but I didn't have a specific person to mirror on as I very much played him from scratch I think. And then with the help of the scripts, I mean they do so much of the work for you. I assume the costume must help as well, the suit and the way you wear it.
Yeah, it's this weird clinical, synthetic sort of world that they live in, and he's had to design this persona, and the fun thing about the suits and stuff, other than the fact that they're beautiful suits, is that you know ultimately this suit for him is a suit of armor. I put that suit on every morning and I knew exactly where I was going and what I had to do. It's a really lovely ritual, and something so clinical and precise and beautifully and intricately made.
And really I loved dressing as Aaron as well, for totally opposite reasons, but you put this thing on, and you realize you're here to do business. And I always envision it's this suit of armor that protects who Ben is underneath from the outside world, this cloak that he wears that seems to make him fit in. And that was something incorporated into the show. Can you talk about working with special effects? I know some of the computer screens that you're touching aren't really there, is that hard to get used to?
It's not hard to get used to. If you're an open actor than it's an enjoyable experience; it's a challenge that you have to take on. I don't see these things as hindrances. They do make my life more difficult, and they require more planning, and they require more focus, but that's a thing that you should enjoy doing, whether it's stunts all the way through or working with new tech that you never had to work with before. It's a skill that you can acquire and accrue and get better at. I really enjoyed working with it. Most of my time on the show is spent slapping the air around like something out of Minority Report
, but it's quite fun to be involved in that, and you feel like you're creating something alongside it. You sit down with the visual effects guys, and you discuss what it is you want, what you think you're seeing, and how you think your character navigates through these things. So it's fun. There's a lot of new technology in this show. If you could have one piece that was invented for the show in real life, what would it be?
All of the other devices I think we will eventually have anyway, but the one that remains relatively special, I guess, because Ben makes it, and it suits him so well, is the keyhole. It’s this clock-shaped device that he uses to sort of navigate in and out of databases and hack certain tech that it's attached to. And he can navigate and hack and sort of traverse these realms without leaving any footprint or sort of paper trail, which is an incredibly useful tool for him, but because it's sort of his brainchild amongst certain other things you'll see later on the series. It's quite a satisfying one to have. And if I could have it in the real world, if I could truly exist online without everything being documented all the time, it would make me feel a lot nicer and a lot safer. If I had the chance to delete a stupid tweet, I'm sure that clock would allow me to do it without it getting out there. [laughs] Can you talk about Ben's balance of his double life? He's working to help Elena (Denyse Tontz), but it seems like he might really love his wife (Allison Miller). Can you talk about how he's working to keep both lives separate and stay sane?
It's a never-ending struggle for him. I think it's, 'does the end justify the means?' Is the life you have now better than the one you once had? And in all of its irony, is it that once you've lied to get yourself in, that this is actually ultimately better for you? You start to realize that it's way more complex than you think, and that it's also black and white, and that actually he could be in love with someone and also have loved someone in the past. Although he's hell-bent on finding Elena and getting her out, the world's murkier than that. The lines are more blurred.
He and Laura have a truly strong connection, and you see the way that they're interacting with each other later on in the series, they have these moments of just pure heartbreak where she's so wonderful and loving and amazing, but it's always reciprocated and followed up by this pang of guilt, because he's lying, so he can't enjoy it. He really is between a rock and a hard place. He's really squished in between these really unsavory walls; he's sort of trapped in the middle of these two, and he's forced to do things he would never do otherwise, but he kind of has to, which is a shame that he's driven to it. Obviously some of the things he does will have consequences, and there may be some things he may or may not have inadvertently caused that we find out as we move through the season.
A lot of what his journey is, is the stripping away of the air of humanity. And I don't want to give away too much, because I don't want everyone to know the journey he goes down, but he does go down a very large journey, and one that requires him to get his hands dirty.
And will he or will he not be able to sacrifice either others or his goal to achieve one or the other? Or does he see another way through and hurt people along the way? That tears at him all the time.
Also the series [of events] that occur make his life incredibly difficult, and he has to make some really snap quick decisions that will cost him who he is and eventually is going to cost him - whether the ends justify the means and whether he's fighting for something that doesn't exist anymore. I mean, I feel for him, I have to. I have to be him so I totally sympathize with him, even though I logically would have done some things differently. He really to some extent doesn't have a choice. Do you think he has an ultimate plan of what he's going to do once he assumingly eventually reaches his goal of getting to the 40th floor, or is he just kind of winging it as he goes along?
Ultimately it's a mixture of the two. I think the problem is, he has some sort of game plan in place of sorts with the objective coming up ahead of him. He has some short term goals; he's always working short term, because the world that they live in I guess is so volatile and violent, and so many things come out of left field so often. And you have to think on your feet, and you have to reciprocate accordingly.
So, you know, there're some things that come his way that he did not see coming, and there's some things that he knew that he could do because of processes that he could manipulate. It's a mixture of the two. He kind of has an idea of what he has to do next, but he doesn't have an idea of how it's going to go and how that will knock him to the next stage.
You'll see that his actual plan, his actual sort of evacuation concept, is threatened into disrepute if he ever finds her in the first place; the problem is that he hasn't found her in years. So you find out in the first episode, she pops up after years and years of searching.
The game is on, and I think ten episodes happen within twenty days of real time. It's just a barrage, an onslaught of scenarios and danger that he has to traverse and navigate. Yeah, he sort of has a grand plan, but it's more refined in the short term. Do you have a favorite scene that you can talk about?
Episode five was a really enjoyable episode for me to film. I think it's just that there're some really great moments in episode five where Ben's pushed to a point that his journey really takes a turn. And the audience will maybe be awakened to something that they were not aware of before, and actually that he wasn't aware of before, whether it was in him or not, that he was capable of it.
And some things go down in episode five that just really push the limits, and they sort of change the tone. They shift the goal post as you will, and I just think that was really fun.
It was a really involving and really engaging time to work with a great director and a great writer and [other cast members] I got to play with, Doug Nyback (as Roger Caplan), especially. We did some really intense stuff together, and I really enjoyed that.
Although I loved every episode in its own way, there're some really great scenes in episode five for both characters, both Ben and Aaron, that will help the audience understand more where they're going with the show.
But I think the motives and the fallout from that are quite powerful. I hope at least that it lets the audience go, "Oh shit; he's not the man that he used to be anymore, and he's starting to become aware of it." Can you talk a bit about what it was like working with the rest of the cast as well?
Well it was nothing but a pleasure, literally every day. You get to work with actors like Dennis [Haysbert] and Julia [Ormond] who have been on [award-winning] great TV shows and have a plethora of experience and wealth of knowledge and ability that you get to feed off of that. I felt very selfish, but very fortunate to do so.
But also I speak highly of all the cast, and I entirely mean it when I speak about them.
I work with Damon Herriman (as Hendrick), who is a great Australian actor; he's one of my favorite actors I've ever worked with, as are many on the show actually. We all end up working with some great performers, but me and Damon had a wonderful time.
Eddie Ramos (as Theo) is astonishing. It seems like he's worked for way longer than he has, not that I should know any better.
And Allison Miller playing Laura and Denyse playing Elena, they play them so well that you just can't imagine anyone else playing them. I think maybe there’re a thousand Bens out there, but with those guys, there really aren't any other Lauras or Elenas.
I mean, it was an absolute blast; it was such an honor to meet them.
...It was a pleasure to work alongside all of them, and I'm the fortunate one that got to play with literally all of them. Lastly, can you describe your character - both versions of him - in three words?
Ben: enigmatic, clinical, damaged.
Aaron: hopeful, bright, young.