Exclusive: Elyse Levesque Talks Shoot the Messenger and More

Elyse LevesqueTonight WGN America premieres episode two of their newly acquired series, Shoot the Messenger, entitled, “There Will Be Blood.” The eight-part political-crime thriller stars Elyse Levesque as Daisy Channing, a reporter working at The Gazette, when she witnesses a murder and suspects a cover-up. She is joined in her pursuit by her senior reporter, Simon Olenski (Lucas Bryant), her editor, Mary Foster (Alex Kingston), and Detective Kevin Lutz (Lyriq Bent).

Levesque recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about her work on the show.

SCIFI VISION: How did you first become involved in the show?

Elyse LevesqueELYSE LEVESQUE: Well, it was actually kind of a long process. Sometimes you audition, and you find out within a few days, but this was months of a variety of callbacks and whatnot.  I think I first put it on tape with my mom. My mom was visiting me in LA, and I had to do a self-tape for this character, Daisy Channing, and she helped me tape it.  And then, maybe like two weeks later, I had to go to Canada for work and got an email saying, “There’s an interest; you might have to audition again.”

I missed the callbacks in LA, so then I had to go do this strange Skype callback with the creator, Sudz Sutherland. I was really lucky, because they booked out an audition room here in LA, and I went, and the reader was a good friend of mine, and he was like, “Listen, I was there for the callbacks last week. I know all the notes.” So he gave me all the notes. Actually I don’t know if I ever told Sudz this but...

That’s cheating. [laughs]       

[laughs] I know! I had the inside scoop.

And so then Sudz Skyped in, and we did that session.

And then I think a few weeks later, three weeks later or something, I had to go back to Vancouver for work, and they flew me back down to LA to do a chemistry test with Lucas and Lyric, who were already attached to the project. I did that, and then I had no idea. I actually thought I didn’t do very good. I thought maybe I, like, bombed. But again, I had another friend of mine who was in the room - a different friend, funny enough, who was in the room - and he texted me afterwards and was like, “They loved you. You were hands-down their first choice.”

But then I didn’t hear for like a month or something crazy! It was like a month before I actually got the phone call that I got the part. So, I think all in all it was like three months of auditions and whatnot before I finally got the word that they wanted me to climb on board. I was really excited.

Was there anything in particular about the character or the script that drew you to it in the first place?

I’ve done a lot of sci-fi, and I hadn’t really played someone - I’m looking for the right word to describe her, but “professional,” I think, maybe that’s the word. There was something about being able to access my intelligence to play this character, and she felt really close to me. That was something that I hadn’t really gotten the chance to play with, and I didn’t really know initially where they were going to take her.

Elyse LevesqueA big part, to be honest, of what made me go, “I want to do this” - because initially I think I only had like nine pages of sides - was when I met the creator, Sudz, in that Skype callback thing. He was just so smart. His notes were really on point; his understanding and his ability to direct actors was incredible. I understood; we spoke the same language, and I thought, “Oh, I want to work with this guy.” So, it was partly the character that I thought was this strong, complex young woman, but a big part of it was Sudz. I just felt like, “Oh, he’s someone I want to work with.”

So, that was it initially, and then once I got the script, I was like, “OK, I’ll do it!” And was like, “Oh my gosh, this is a lot scarier; I didn’t see it going this dark.” She’s got a lot of problems and demons that she’s fighting on her own. So, that was an exciting treat to go, “Oh wow; this character’s a lot darker. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

How did you connect to that side of her?

I take a lot of my own experiences, but in this situation I had to be a lot more imaginative in my understanding of some of these things she was dealing with. I did some research on addiction, and then I did a lot of sensory work and tried to connect to it as personally as I could.

Did you do any other research or preparation for the role?

There were definitely a few things I drew from in terms of what’s out there already. I watched a lot of The Newsroom and also Homeland, because, for me, there were a lot of parallels between that character, Carrie on Homeland (Claire Danes), and Daisy.

I also met with a former reporter. She used to work for the Globe and Mail in Toronto. Her name is Lisa Priest, and she and I had a sit down and a good long chat, and we talked a lot about her experience as a woman in this field, not just the technical side of it. And I think I got a lot from that side of it, the obstacles of being female in journalism, which especially at the time she was working in it, was a very male-dominated field. I think it still is, I don’t know, just the need to prove yourself and to be taken seriously, and the complex relationships between reporters and the police. She proved to me how much Sudz and Jenn Holness did their homework, because she was like, “Absolutely; a lot of the things that they are talking about in this show are absolutely correct in terms of the dynamics of police and reporters.”

Elyse LevesqueAnd, as you know, Daisy makes the grievous mistake of putting the wrong name in the article, and there are repercussions because of that error. Which to me, I had no idea. When I was reading it, I was like, “Why is everyone making such a big deal? It’s a mistake. She made a typo; they happen.” And this reporter was like, “No. That is a huge faux pas; that is not good.” So, she was massively helpful in creating my understanding of this world that I was about to inhabit.

Can you talk a bit about her relationships with both Kevin and Simon and tease the complications and things that arise from that?

I think that Daisy is massively afraid of deep intimacy, and I think initially she develops this relationship with Detective Lutz, and it has its professional advantages. Obviously there's chemistry there. There's something there, but it's unclear what exactly her motivations are for that partnership.

And then here comes this other young reporter, Simon, who I think connects to her in a different way. I think he brings out her playfulness and her sense of humor in a way that she doesn't really experience with Lutz, because even though there's a connection there, it's very business-like almost, their relationship, and what can they get from each other. But then as it unfolds, we start to see that maybe there is more there than just “what can I get from you?” There actually is a genuine, deep connection.

So, I think she ends up being very conflicted in terms of her feelings. I also think that she's sort of got this “I don't care” thing going on, but it's actually hiding the fact that I think she's scared and also desperate for love. She's not necessarily making the smartest choices when it comes to matters of the heart.

Can you talk about working with those two actors? And also with Alex Kingston?

They’re all so great. I got to see them the other day to do some press, and they're so great. They're all lovely, lovely human beings.

Lucas is hands-down one of the funniest people on set. He is so clever and so generous and just a lovely human being.

And Alex, you know, we shot all of her stuff, because we only had her for a small window, for two weeks straight.  We just shot all of those scenes from all the episodes; we block shot all of it. So, we had her for this really intense little period of time, and she was such a pro. She just came in and brought so much levity to the set. She has got such a great sense of humor and is just a phenomenal actress as well. So, we were really lucky that we had her, that we were able to get her.

Elyse LevesqueAnd then Lyriq, he’s one of those people who you meet at first, and you think, “Who are you? What's our deal?” But as you get to know him, he has, I think, got one of the gentlest souls that you'll find. He is in a lot of ways similar to that character: a bit tough on the outside, but take a peek, get past that tougher exterior, and he's the sweetest, most thoughtful, big-hearted person. And he’s super-committed to making the scene and his partner as good as they and it can possibly be.

Do you have a favorite scene that you can tease without giving too much away?

Oh man, I have to think…For me, I had a lot of fun with some of the scenes that are in the third episode. I am going to do a broad tease: there are some pretty hot scenes that happen right out of the gate and also down the line. Having some sexy costars is not a bad thing [laughs], and we got to have some fun with those. I mean, those scenes are the most awkward to have to do; they're sometimes some of the most painful scenes, but the energy was always so good and fun on set that it wasn't so bad.

Can you give me three words to describe your character?

Tenacious, vulnerable, and impulsive.

I wanted to ask you, I thought this was a limited series, but it’s left open that there could be more. Is there a possibility of a season two?

I'm not really sure. I think for right now it's a limited series. I mean, anything could happen. As you know, it ends in a way that that could be it. But I also do know if there is a season two, the powers that be have a lot of great ideas for where they want to take it. So, you never know.

Before we go, I was thinking about it and I realized, you were on one of the very first conference calls I did, when you were on Stargate Universe.

No way. That actually would have been one of my first interviews too. [laughs] I was so green. I was like, “I have no idea what I’m doing!” That’s so funny. That was like almost ten years ago; it’s hard to believe. It’s been a long, long time.

Elyse LevesqueIt is.

I just wanted to ask, although obviously
Shoot the Messenger isn’t, you’ve done a good bit of science fiction overall. Were you drawn to that or have you just fallen into it? Do you enjoy it?

I used to live in Vancouver for about six years, and for some reason there're a lot of sci-fi shows that shoot there. I don't really know what that's about, but there's a lot that go up there. Maybe because they need things to look like alien planets? There's a lot of diverse landscape, maybe? I'm not really sure, but I think it's just what happened initially for me. I did a lot of that actually when I was younger. Some of the first things that I did were sci-fi based. I did this show (2030 CE) that took place in the future in the year 2030 where kids ruled the world, and I was this evil doctor, Maxine Rich, the head of this corporation called Nexus that ran the world. [laughs]

So, it was somehow like a running theme. I don’t know, maybe I look like an alien? [laughs] I can't be sure, but I do get a lot of that stuff. I'm happy that I do, because that is when you really get to play outside of the norm. You get to go into these worlds that are so different, and you really get to use your imagination. On Stargate there were so many cool sets and special effects and sometimes acting to tennis balls. [laughs] It's so fun and so different when you get to do that. So I really like it; I actually love working and shooting sci-fi shows. I think it's a blast.

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