Eric Balfour Talks About His Character's Fate on 'Haven'

Eric Balfour, who first began his career at the age of fifteen, has appeared in such films as What Women Want, the 2003 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and recently the Syfy movie Dinoshark. He has also appeared on popular television series such as HBO’s Six Feet Under, where he was a series regular, NBC’s Conviction, in which he had a starring role, and 24 on Fox.

Balfour is currently working on the science fiction thriller Skyline, and can be seen weekly on Syfy’s Haven.

On Haven¸ based on Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid, Balfour plays the role of Duke Crocker.

Balfour sat down to talk to media journalists, including Sci-Fi Vision and Media Blvd, about his life and his character’s fate after this week’s episode of Haven, where Duke is at the center of the town’s mystery.

Question> I think we've all seen the previews for this episode and you've got some pretty heavy makeup and prosthetics on. And I just wondered if you could talk about the process of I guess getting into that look and how was it to work with that?

Eric Balfour> Yes. You know, it was actually really crazy. Even in prepping for it we were so under the gun because we were in the middle of shooting another episode.

And it came down to just even at the beginning they had to fly me from where we shoot the show in Halifax on a redeye to Toronto at like - it was 11 o'clock at night. And I flew in and I had a few hours sleep and then I went to the visual effects artist’s studio and they started doing the face mold and cast.

And, it's that weird process where you have to, you know, they put a bunch of plaster on your face and alginate. And you sit there with a little straw coming out of your mouth and trying not to get claustrophobic. And so we had to do it really, really quickly.

But they had a few days to prep and then they showed up on set with these different prosthetic pieces.

And, we've been talking about it for a few days before about how the aging would take place and the different stages of ages I would go through the first one being a light prosthetic and mostly just makeup use. That would age me about 20 or 30 years.

And then from there you go to about 75 or 80 years old and then to about 95 and then all the way up to, you know, well we hope to about 100 years old because Duke’s going to live a long time or so we thought.

But it was a pretty intense process. I mean it was about four or five hours every day in the makeup chair.

But to be honest it was so helpful once you started getting into the prosthetic because we had talked about the different physical attributes that come along with the way that your body can, you know, degenerate over time and the physical abilities you lose and the joint dexterity and your voice changes.

And but the minute we started putting on the prosthetics it makes that whole process so much easier. It was crazy.

It was a little scary at times because you're looking at yourself going is this really what I'm going to look like in 30 years, 40 years?

But in some ways it was interesting because some of it was very correct. You could see wow, that's what my face is going to do.

Given the nature of that it’s not, you know, reality. And it is still an artistic, you know, conception of what you look like.

It was interesting to see even the makeup artists themselves, the visual artists; they’d look and go oh you know what? Now having spent a little more time looking at the way you use your face these two wrinkles won't really happen to you, but you're going to get a wrinkle here not there. And so it was really fun to play with that.

And then we went through a long conversation about facial hair. Because there was this sort of - a question of well okay so if you're aging really quickly would the hair continue to grow at the same rate and if you didn't shave it would you have it?

So as you probably have seen in some of the pictures I have at one point this really sort of long goatee, this wispy long Fu Manchu goatee because we just - we decided to play on the idea that well if you've got facial hair and he doesn't cut it would just keep growing.

And then eventually, you know, as you got really old you would just start to lose your ability to grow hair and that would all fall away.

But it was intense. I mean I had to show up hours before everybody on set and sit in the makeup chair and try to keep myself awake all day. And then it’d take about an hour and a half after everyone left at the end of the day to get it all off.

And we did like three or four straight days of that. And it was intense but those guys were amazing. And it was just - it's so much fun to like - to be perfectly honest, I haven't gotten a lot of opportunities to dive into that sort of heavy a character development as far as totally taking on a different character.

And although it was a character I play it’s at an age that I've never played or at a physicality that I've never played.

So it was really fun as an actor to get to really put on a character, you know, not just a maybe a little bit of an accent but to really - you know, my favorite actors growing up were guys like, you know, Gary Oldman and Daniel Day Louis and Sean Penn and guys who really were magical, Meryl Streep, were incredible actors at creating completely different chameleon characters.

And Gary Oldman being really one of my biggest inspirations because he, no matter how big he takes a character and how out there it seems it's always so realistic.

It's always so believable in some ways. And I'm just - I’m fascinated by the work that he does and it's always something that I wanted to do.

So even getting that opportunity even if it's only for a few days was really special to me.

Question> Duke gets aged possibly to death or at least to the age of 100 and there’s obviously going to be circumstances we don't know about that make this come about, does this affect Duke and his personality and his relationships with Audrey and Nathan going forward?

Eric Balfour> Well this event is going to have an enormous effect on the character and on the show and Duke's role in it. I don't want to give it away so you'll have to tune in when it airs... see what happens. But there is beyond what happens simply to Duke there is a - something else that happens that whether Duke lives or dies completely affects his legacy and his life. And it was pretty shocking when we read it and it's pretty cool to see what's going to happen.

But, you know, I think Duke is - has been so much fun for me to play because he is rooted in an ideology that is very unique.

And he is a guy who doesn't take no for an answer, who doesn't believe that rules exist, and has always managed to survive by looking out for number one and looking out for himself.

So this really put some perspective I think in his character. And, you know, it's an interesting thing. I remember when we were doing Six Feet Under it was something we always talked about.

In dealing with death you face life. And there’s been great characters throughout history.

And I remember watching Dead Man Walking. And it was really interesting to watch that movie and realize that Shawn Penn's character in that film, the only way that he could really find salvation for his soul was to die. You know, that was the only thing that was going to make him take responsibility for his life. So it's very interesting to use those type of themes for me to create to what was going to happen to the character in this episode.

Question> The show has garnered such an online presence. And I mentioned, you know, you're also on Twitter. How important is the online community to the show's success and why is it important for you to interact with your fans online?

Eric Balfour> You know, I have to say I am so overwhelmed and honored in a way and taken aback by the response that we've gotten on Twitter and Facebook and all of these social networking sites.

And I think, you know, there - it's such a big question and there's a lot to say about it so I'll try to keep it concise.

But the fact of the matter is that this generation with the ability to move and transpose information and connect to each other is nothing like we've ever seen in history.

And the ability to put ideas and thoughts and movements and causes out into the world and spread that information has been amazing.

And so anybody who doesn't take advantage of what new media is and what social networking is as a tool to connect the world is really a fool.

And the simple fact that, you know, in some ways someone could argue that, you know, it demystifies the artist in some ways because it puts them in direct contact with their fans. But the fact of the matter is that this is an artistic medium that we work in.

And the ability to hear and to acknowledge how the fans are feeling about it has been amazing.

And some ways I'm still very novice at it and really sort of doing my best to keep up to the curve.

But I can’t tell you, you know, just the simple ability to know that if somebody is enjoying what I'm doing on the show or is a fan of mine and the ability to thank them as, you know, as simply as via a Twitter message, it's amazing to see how that can change the way someone's day or week or month or year is going to put a smile on their face and to acknowledge that person that basically is the reason that I've been able to continue having a career.

You know, the truth is I - I've been lucky that I've continued to work as an actor but I am not the prettiest boy on the block and I'm certainly not the most talented actor.

So the fact that people who do appreciate what I do get out there and say that and spread that word and tell people about it has been, you know, a huge part of why I get to keep going to work every day. It's why I have a roof over my head. And I'm just really grateful and lucky that I get to be an artist as a job.

And the fans who enjoy that are what make it possible. So I can't tell you how much it makes me happy to acknowledge them and communicate with them.

And I mean even today, you know, I've been on Twitter and even just doing a fun little contest we basically, you know, came up with an idea that we would - whoever could get the most re-tweets all of their tweets telling people to watch the show this Friday I was going to make a little video message thanking them personally and post it up on Twitter.

And we're going to decide at the beginning of next week who actually won and check the actual number of re-tweets that that person got from their message.

It just makes it fun and it makes us all connected. And it makes us a community. And it makes us like, you know, it's fun being us against the world, you know, in some ways. It's a tough business and to have the help and support of the fans is just amazing.

Question> Can you tell us kind of how you came to work on Haven, the auditioning process and everything?

Eric Balfour> It was actually a pretty fun story. One of the executive producers, Shawn Pillar is one of my oldest best friends.

And we had actually gotten on the phone one day to talk about something else completely. And he's sort of out of nowhere went, “Oh my God, oh my God, Balfour you should be playing Duke.” I’m like, “Who’s Duke?”

He's like, “Oh my God I'm doing this new TV show for SyFy, and it's like based on the Stephen King novel. And Duke is like this rogue character in the show and he’s like a modern-day Hans Solo and his boat is his millennium falcon.”

I'm like, “Oh my God that sounds amazing. Yes he's like a modern-day pirate.” I’m like, “Well dude let's make this happen. How do we - what do we need to do?”

He’s like, “All right, I'm going to get on the phone with casting and your agents.” And it became this minute of like a standoff because I'd gotten an offer that same week to do a pilot for another network.

And so my agents and managers who are amazingly talented and, you know, kick butt working for me were like well, you know, you have this other offer. And if they want you bad enough they should make you an offer.

And then obviously the network SyFy, you know, they wanted to see who was going to be playing this role and they wanted to see me in the character and they wanted to see something.

And there was this standoff where we couldn't exactly figure out how to get everyone in line. And so me and Shawn, because we were friends, we’re like “Screw it. Let's not tell anybody. I'll come into the office. We’ll make a secret tape me during one of the audition scenes and we'll send it to network.”

Well the casting director who’s a really, you know, just awesome professional guy was like, “Wait, wait, wait, wait. I cannot allow this to happen. I can't like have you guys secretly doing this. I’ll get in so much trouble with your agents and that's not cool.”

And we're like, “Right okay. Well I'm going to go to Shawn's office to have lunch in quotes. And I don't know, we just may happen to talk about that.” Was there a camera there? I had no idea?

So we actually kind of secretly made the tape together and then they sent it off to the network on their own and that was able to get them to be convinced that I should play the role.

And the next thing you know, you knew the network got what they needed and my agents got the offer they wanted. And technically I don't think I ever auditioned. And it just all magically happened.

But it really is, what's the word I'm looking for? I guess it's really a kind of a kudos to them that, you know, I don't believe in nepotism. I don't think that will garnish a career.

And the fact that me and Shawn were friends didn't guarantee me anything. But what it did do was allow us to work outside of the box a little and make this happen.

It wasn't going to happen without me auditioning, and without the network seeing what I could bring to the role.

But at the same time it did allow us to (mock) it in a way where we could, you know, make everybody happy.

And, you know, there's a lot of politics in this industry. And, you know, like I said, me and Shawn being friends didn't guarantee me anything.

But I do strongly believe -- and this is for anybody who’s thinking about wanting to be an actor or work in this industry, just becoming friends with somebody isn't going to make you a career.

Trying to become a friend of someone famous or, you know, someone important won't guarantee you anything.

But building true relationships with people and being sincere and, you know, really, you know, learning to allow people to know who you are and to build sincere relationships, people want to work with people they like. And that's true in any industry. It doesn't guarantee anything.

But I really do believe that, you know, the relationships I've built and the people I've worked with and the friendships I've maintained do pay off.

You know, and it's a fine line between I guess this sort of cliché of networking and just genuinely being yourself and building true relationships with people you respect.

Because if you're going to spend months and months with somebody you want to do it with somebody you like. You know, and no, that's not going to - that's not enough to get you a job but it does factor in when you're going - if all these stars align and that person is - has the right skill set for the role and you like that person and you want to fight for them, it definitely hedges your bets.

Question> I want to know what does filming in Lunenburg give the series do you think?

Eric Balfour> Well filming out here in Nova Scotia and Lunenburg and Chester and Hubbards in these amazing little towns we film in I think beyond the visual attributes that they give us, you know, they are very rich emotional locations. They also allow us as the actors to not have to pretend.

You know, when - in these little towns that we've been filming in they have this very cerebral tone to them and they're very visceral. You can feel them.

And I think I've said it before that they carry and emotionality with them. So it's always a strange thing. And it's the magic of making movies and television shows, you know, and they - and you hear them building these elaborate sets for a Pirates of the Caribbean or for some movie where they build these futuristic sets. It's all about creating the most reality for the actors in those worlds.

And so getting the film in a place like this where everything is tangible and real and the docks and the boats and the houses and the water and the forestry around this, it really allows you to just sort of soak in the environment and feel like you’re really a part of it and to feel like you really are in this town that we've created, Haven.

So as difficult it is being away from home and away from friends and family and picking up your life for months at a time, the benefits that go with that definitely outweigh the negatives.

Question> In the last episode Duke was given the lease to the restaurant. Are we going to see that play out for the rest of the season? Are we going to see him actually working on the straight and narrow or is he going to be (pulled) in some bad boy ways still?

Eric Balfour> Well I can say this, given what happens in the next episode Duke's fate is certainly unknown. But if he was to survive, I can guarantee you that Duke will never be on the straight and narrow. It's just not in his DNA.

He is a modern day outlaw for sure. And I don't think, you know, you'll never see Duke if he makes it out of this, he'll never be a 9:00 to 5:00 guy.

And, you know, the restaurant which I doubt Duke would keep it as a restaurant. I think he's more of a bar man.

But I think it only allows Duke another outlet for what he inherently already likes to do. And, you know, I think what's interesting about Duke is that I'm sure he could do lots of other things and he could probably make money doing any number of things but he's chosen to live his life as an outlaw and not only out of necessity but he likes it, you know, he likes the lifestyle.

So no, I don't think you'll ever see Duke be - have a regular 9:00 to 5:00 job ever… And I think also he likes, you know, there are people who really believe rules were meant to be broken. And I think he lives by that. So he never...[likes] rules.

Question> I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts of comparing your experiences making Haven with some of your other experiences and particularly your experiences on the show 24 because the two characters are so vastly different.

Eric Balfour> They are different. You know, it's been an interesting process. Specifically 24 was such a fine, fine well oiled machine. And I came onto that show really from the first season to the last season I did as in some ways as a guest.

You know, Kiefer [Sutherland] is an amazing actor and amazing Captain on that ship. And it, you know, they’re - in every different project you take on a different dynamic on the team, sort of like a basketball team. You know, some guys are role players, some guys are the captain of the team.

And in some ways this experience has been unique to me because in some ways I have had fortunately a lot of experience being on TV shows and being part of a group of people who are creating something.

So this experience, the producers and writers have been so gracious and really being open to my thoughts and opinions and valuing what I bring to the table. And it's been an amazing experience in that way to feel like I'm really part of the creative team.

I mean I can't say enough about how talented they are and the character that they've created for me because the response to the character’s been amazing and overwhelming.

So it's definitely been unique in that sense to have my voice heard and to have it appreciated and valued. It's been wonderful.

Every show is different. What I think has made this really I guess sweet in some ways, you know, as an actor your only power is to say no.

You know, you can turn down a role but that's really the only power you have. And so when you walk into a series you're not the writer, you're not the director, you're not the producers, you’re not the network who decides what time or where it goes on the air.

So in one sense, you know, I've been very lucky that I've continued to work as an actor and blessed that I’ve have a job to go to most of the time.

But I've been on a lot of shows that, you know, for whatever reason were short-lived. And in some cases you take the blame for that. And it's an odd thing because you’re sort of going wait, I didn't write it. I didn't direct it. I didn't edit it. I didn't decide what time to put it on the air or what show to put it up against.

And in any case you put your heart and soul into your work as an artist you have no choice. And so it's very difficult when you watch a show that you love and care about not last.

And it's such a strange thing when week to week, you know, you're working on a show and you're giving it everything you have and you get the ratings numbers the following, you know, Monday or whatever it happens after the show airs.

And sometimes you watch those ratings decline. And there’s a little bit of heartbreak the goes with that, not a little bit, but a lot of heartbreak because it's like watching a loved one die.

But it has been absolutely amazing to see in this case that we’ve held our numbers. And even last week we had our numbers go up and climb and we gain new viewers.

And to see the possibility at least still that this could actually make it to the next echelon and to actually continue into another season and to have a life, it’s pretty amazing.

And I guess all of those other experiences have made me really grateful for this because I have been on the other end of that and seen a show prematurely or maybe not prematurely pass away.

And so to have something take on its own life and so to start to actually grow and take on its own momentum is even more sweet.

I really do believe that the journey that I've gone on has made me appreciate the successes that I have had now.

Question> Your character on the show is kind of a wild child. I wondered what is the most adventurous thing you've ever done in real life?

Eric Balfour> Oh wow, well I have been very, very lucky that I've gotten to go on lots of adventures in my life. And I have a group of friends that are thrill seekers just like me. So there's been a lot of adventures.

But I can think back one of the most recent adventures I got to go on was a couple years ago me and about ten or 12 of my best friends, we took a boat trip to Maldives. And we lived on a boat for about 2-1/2 weeks. And we traveled from little island to little island looking for amazing surf spots.

And we lived on this boat and we went through storms and we traveled through, you know, these amazing countries. And that was a really fun adventure and I still look back at that.

And actually as a kind of fun little tidbit, inside of what is now Duke’s restaurant or bar if you pay attention to some scenes you can see up on the ceiling there is some posters that they’ve printed up of me surfing. And those pictures were actually taken on that trip to the Maldives…It's been one of the funnest parts about playing Duke is that I've been able to pool so many of my own experiences.

And in that regard I mean they're definitely things that are different about me and Duke but there are similarities that I definitely feel between me and Duke as far as our sense of adventure and our sense of, you know, curiosity.

And so being able to use my life experiences and my travels around the world has definitely helped.

Question> Haven appears on SyFy and yet it's Earth-based science fiction. Do you like science fiction? Do you consider this to be a science fiction show?

Eric Balfour> It's an interesting question. And to be perfectly frank I don't know if I have the answer to that in some ways.

It's sort of like when somebody asks me about a musical genre. You know, well is this rock or is this alternative or is it, you know, emo, or is it punk or is it - you know, I don't know if I could say that I think this is a science fiction show because I don't know if I know exactly what that means.

But the term science fiction can cover a really broad span of genres in some ways. But I do believe that in my opinion science fiction is anything that falls under things outside of our known reality.

And whether it be Earth-based science fiction, or futuristic science fiction, or otherworldly science fiction, or supernatural science fiction, I'm fascinated by all of them.

Am I a fan of science fiction in and of itself? I'm a fan of good film and television. I'm a fan of things that are interesting and smart.

And so some of my favorite, you know, films have fallen under that genre. I don't know that I would say I search it out purely because something is science fiction but, you know, Star Wars is an amazing movie at science fiction.

The Exorcist is - maybe that's horror, science fiction. I mean it’s certainly not science fiction as you think of it. But it's an incredible film.

And you think of the movie I have coming out in November, Skyline, I mean that is, you know, sort of classic sci-fi genre filmmaking. And I loved making it and I love being a part of it.

So yes, I am a fan of sci-fi but I don't search it out purely because something is science fiction. I just like - I like things that are good and fun and smart.

Question> With a hit science fiction show comes sci-fi conventions. Do you enjoy that sort of environment or are you looking forward to possibly doing some promotional work in that vein?

Eric Balfour> Well, you know, this year was my first experience really getting to dive into that. And I got to go to Comic-Con for the first time ever in my life. And I got to do a panel for the film I have coming out Skyline.

And then I was really fortunate enough to get to introduce that week's episode of Haven in front of a live audience that I watched it with.

But it was an amazing experience. It was so much fun. I mean walking down the streets in San Diego downtown and just every freak in the world was out. And, you know, I'm a big fan of letting your freak flag fly.

So to get to be a part of it and hang out with all those people there is a sincerity with sci-fi fans. And there is a lack of pretension I guess you could say.

And they're just fun to be around. And some of them - the really fun ones are the ones who dive into the mythology or dive into the reality of what, you know, you always hear about the people who have, you know, written books about what the actual Starship Enterprise’s different levels look like and what the engine room looks like and how, you know, people who’ve - have translated Vulcan into a dictionary.

It's like it's just so much fun because they're so sincere about their love for it and they’re so sincere about their passion for it; it's hard not to have it be contagious.

So I would be happy to be a part of that anytime if I'm so fortunate and people wanted me there I guess because it's just fun. You get to be - this is - all of this what we do in some ways reverts back to all of our childhood fantasies and make-believe and fantasy and adventure. And so getting to be an adult and live a little bit in that world is just really fun.

Question> This upcoming episode, has that been your favorite two films so far? And if not which episode was?

Eric Balfour> Well the episode coming up was definitely the most challenging and most satisfying for me as an actor because I got to sort of spread my wings and really got to work hard, and it was challenging, and whenever you're faced with a challenge that's exciting. Whenever you're a little afraid of something is exciting because you're taking on a big undertaking. And so in that regard yes, it was absolutely one of my favorite episodes.

To be honest every episode that we do next in some ways is becoming the favorite episode because of the way that the chemistry is starting to grow between me and Emily [Rose] and Lucas [Bryant].

I can see it every day. I'm starting to see it more and more. And I was actually thinking about it on set yesterday.

There’s a looseness and a fun and a sense of play that’s starting to happen between the three of us and a sense of camaraderie.

And I'm starting to feel it in-between takes and when we’re hanging out, you know, waiting for set ups.

And so in some ways each episode that we do gets more and more enjoyable because all of a sudden now you're not working with these people that you don't really know or have just met or maybe knew a little bit.

Now you're starting to work with friends, you’re starting to play with friends. So it's a tough question. It's a really good question. But as an actor this week’s episode was really exciting for me and I was really grateful to the writers that they wrote it for me.

But as far as just being a favorite episode to work on, you know, they're only getting better and better.

I mean I'm - we're seeing it every week that the writers are really starting to understand what they want to say with the show and with the characters and the entire - I mean our crew on set, I really got to say that the people that we've been working up here with in Nova Scotia have been amazing.

And you're starting to see a synergy between what the writers write and what the cameraman, our director of photography (Eric), who’s amazing, the crew and the AD departments and the props departments and the set department and everybody down the line is really starting to understand what Haven is. And it's pretty cool to see.

I can't wait for season two, three, four, and five if we’re lucky enough to get there because it's only getting better.

Question> We've been talking throughout this call about, you know, character and the importance of it at all which sort of brings up the question of what would you say are the main similarities and differences between you and Duke?

Eric Balfour> I think the main similarities between me and Duke - and I’ve thought lots about this - are two things. One neither of us like to take no for an answer.

Two we do not like rules. I don't like rules in my own life and Duke definitely doesn't like rules.

And in some ways it's got me into a lot of trouble in my life and in other ways it's opened up the world to always - and I remember as a kid I used to get in trouble for it in school because I always asked why for everything. I wanted to know why.

And I remember in school as a kid I remember it offended some teachers because they thought I was being adversarial or contradictory.

But it really came from a sense of I didn't want to ever take anything on face value. And that was something that was instilled by my grandfather and my family.

And the, you know, the world is a difficult place. And the only way to really see how you want to live it and to form your own opinions is to question things and to ask why.

And I tell that to kids all the time, you know, don't take anything on face value, you know. If you don't understand it or you want to know why ask. And so that to me is really the biggest similarity between me and Duke.

I think the biggest difference between me and Duke is that, you know, I grew up with a really, really strong sense of family and community. And nothing ever superseded my love for my friends and my family and taking care of them.

Duke is different. You know, there's a lot I think to be learned still about Duke. And there’s a lot that we don't know about his past.

But he grew up having to take care of himself. And I can relate to that in some ways because I started at a very young age working and providing for myself and having to take care of myself. But I was fortunate that I had, you know, people around me who I could turn to if I needed even when I was on my own.

But Duke I think really has cocooned himself to not depend on anybody and not to trust anyone. So I think those - that's the biggest difference between us.

Question> I've noticed with a lot of the fans and even more so than what's going on in Haven, a lot of people are speculating on the relationship between Duke and Nathan.

Will we see more of this revealed over the course of this first season or is that going to remain one of the town's mysteries?

Eric Balfour> Well obviously we’ll have to see if Duke makes it out of this episode first. But, you know, I know the writers have hinted at a long history between Nathan and Duke. And it's been hinted in the episodes that have aired even.

But I honestly, you know, I don't know exactly when those things are going to be revealed and how quickly.

I think it's like any good sauce, you know, you have to let it simmer for a while. And I honestly don't know. I think there is definitely things to be revealed that will be revealed but I don't know when.

Originally published here at Sci-Fi Vision on 6 August 2010.

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