CCH Pounder on Her Role on 'Warehouse 13'

CCH Pounder is probably best known for her role of Claudette Wyms on FX's The Shield, but has appeared in many popular television shows such as The X-Files, ER, and Millennium, and more recently The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Pounder has also been in films such as Face/Off, Orphan, and James Cameron's Avatar. She has also appeared on Broadway in Open Admissions.

Recently Pounder joined the cast of Warehouse 13 where she plays the mysterious Mrs. Frederic.

On September 13th, Pounder sat down with media outlets to talk about her role on the series.

Question > You usually played some really memorable characters out there in a lot of different genres. And I was wondering if you could talk about just generally how you go about deciding, whether or not, you want to take a role and specifically how you came to play Mrs. Frederic?

CCH Pounder > Well, only recently, like maybe in the last seven years, I took a look at my resume and kind of went, ooh, I’m kind of hitting my stride on touching pretty much every genre known to man in the film world. Maybe I should just go for it.

And so, this - all this is about timing. It wasn’t that I went out to seek a sci-fi product, but it - one came up and the other thing that came up was, police captain. And I thought, well having just spent seven years in that end, perhaps I’m going to go sci-fi. So that’s actually how I found sci-fi again.

And this way, the character, Mrs. Frederic is so mysterious, that even the writers are - haven’t been able to tell me who she is. She has no legend like the other actors do.

And I thought, it might be fun to just so sort of insert yourself in a place where you know nothing about the character, except what’s written on the page for that particular episode.

And so far, it’s been a little scary, but still challenging and fun.

Question > Since you’re Mrs. Frederic on the show, there must be or must have been a Mr. Frederic at some point. Do you have any druthers on who you’d like to see play him if they ever go that route for the show?

CCH Pounder > Well, I’ve been trying to figure this guy out. First of all, is he still alive? Did she take over his job? Was there actually a Mr. Frederic and she knew so much about him that she just took his place, which sounds a little bit like Avatar with the dude, the dead brother and the living brother.

But, it’s a possibility. And then again, there’s Mrs. Frederic with that fabulous beehive hairstyle stuck in the 60’s, perhaps he was the guy in the audience that - while she was singing in the nightclub, that passed on secret information to her.

I really could go anywhere. So, I have no clue, but I cannot wait to see who or what Mr. Frederic was or is. And does he look his real age? So is he like 150?

Question > Ms. Frederic has a connection to Warehouse 2. I don’t know how - how much of her back story will we see in the “Buried” episode?

CCH Pounder > Well, some of it will escape, because Mrs. Frederic is sick, and therefore, the computer/brain in her head starts to spew out information. You just have to learn another language to figure it out, but we’ve got the fabulous Claudia to figure that out on the computer.

So, you will learn a little bit more about her and maybe Warehouse 2 is, one of several warehouses that she has participated in.

So, your guess is as good as mine, but you will get a hint of it in this “Buried.”

Question > What was it like working opposite Lindsay Wagner?

CCH Pounder > Oh, that was fun. It’s so funny, because when you’re known for something, people never say, it’s sort of like, “Oh, you know, who’s coming in on this set, it’s Lindsay Wagner.” They go, ‘No, it’s the Bionic Woman."

So, your mind goes back to the Bionic Woman, what 30 years ago. And then Lindsay Wagner, the actress, shows up and she is a fabulous actor of film and television and theatre and you get to work with a pro and it’s cool. And the Bionic Woman, long dead and gone.

Question > Will be able to learn more about the [enigmatic] regents and the right eye of Horace? When we spoke to Allison Scagliotti a couple of weeks ago, she said that regents were working class people rather than government types.

And since the last two episodes of this season are in Egypt, are we going to see more behind the Egyptian symbology, between the regents and the make some fault line?

CCH Pounder > Now, that’s really interesting that Allison, young pup, only saw what looked like working class people in that café, because in fact, there was sort of every level of humanity in that café and the surprise was, was that, they looked ordinary and that was the difference. So, I would say that regents are ordinary looking people with extraordinary responsibility. That’s the first thing. I think you’ll hear a lot more about the regents because they are the big decision makers of Warehouse 13.

Now, how did that’d all come about? I have no clue.

Question > Is there anything that you can tell us about the Egyptian symbology? But I kept feeling that there was - that part of - refers to McPherson plotline that wasn’t fully paid all up.

CCH Pounder > Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think Warehouse 13’s probably really confident, especially when they already know that there’s - the season three is going to happen, so that maybe they didn’t have to explore everything and explain everything all together this season, because we’ve got another season to come.

And I think all those things kind of will reveal itself, but I don’t know which path that they’re going down. I don’t know whether it’s the eye of Horace path. I don’t know whether the Egyptian warehouse kind of Alexandria will come back up again.

And I’m kind of clueless as you are.

Question > I would love to learn more about that plot line. I was kind of disappointed that we didn’t get more of that this season, but I’m really psyched to here that we’ll be able to get into that next season.

CCH Pounder > Well, particularly because the - Egypt basically is the origin of the warehouse, so I think the possibilities of it going back and forth there is, you know, and plumbing those stories is probably a reality for them.

But, it’s my educated guess. That’s all I’ve given you.

Question > Do you have any theories about what or who Mrs. Frederic is?

CCH Pounder > Yes, I do. I think Mrs. Frederic is a hologram.

Question > Oh, but she can touch things and interact with people.

CCH Pounder > Yes, she can.

Question > And the mystery of how she is able to transcend time and stuff. This is a very interesting...

CCH Pounder > Yes, how is she able to transcend time? Why doesn’t she need to enter through a door? All these things. Why is that hairstyle so prominent? Is that period that she liked and said, “Okay, I’m going to go with this for the next 400 years."

Did she see it in the future and decide that’s a fabulous hairstyle? Is it a memory of the past? There’s, you know...

Well, I’m always trying to figure it out myself. I will tell you that, Mrs. Frederic has no legend and I don’t know if you know, that most actors are given a kind of legend or background story of who the character is. Mrs. Frederic just got a blank page and said, “Not to be divulged.”

Question > Without knowing much about Mrs. Frederic, her character’s background, what would you personally like for the writers to do more of with your character?

CCH Pounder > Well, one of the fun things about being CCH Pounder, is that the one quirk I have, is that I am rather fascinated by what writers do. And so, I never like to put ideas into their heads and I love to just sort of reveal what it is that they’ve written in kind of flesh form.

I just like to sort of create it there. So, I don’t have a sort of personal ego about, oh she shouldn’t become this, and oh, she can’t do that. I’ve never had it.

And so, it affects this show just as well as it did the others. And the others were very successful for me, by not requesting that my character become so and so. So, I kind of rather like my small ego-minded self and then the character becomes the big deal.

Question > [Is] there anything that’s similar between Mrs. Frederic and yourself?

CCH Pounder > Besides the fact that we both wear glasses, absolutely nothing. Even in the sense of women in authority - I think most people know that I’m a giant wimp, so it’s kind of fun to be able to play these characters in the fake world. That I have visions of full of in real life.

Question > Well, I wanted to take it back to your classic characters and ask you about Avatar, if I may. I know that I was one of the people who knew your voice so well, but because it was a type of animation that you know, we were like to trying to figure out, is that CCH? Is it not CCH?

And you know, of course, you had the accent. So it was like, you know, when we finally saw the credits and it was you, we were so excited. So I was wondering if you got any of that from friends or family watching the movie and trying to figure out, you know, if that was you?

CCH Pounder> Well, Avatar has huge credits. They’re really, really long and I know lots of people who stayed to determine whether that was my voice or not.

Yes, I got that a lot from lots of mail, lots of Facebook reaction on that. But, it’s really interesting that the folks that - who were under 15 years old who are friends of Justice League and recognized - know Amanda Waller’s voice, knew even in another language, even while speaking another language, knew that it was me, which I felt pretty amazing.

So, I’ve got a slew of 15 year old young men who said, “We knew that was you.”

Question > Another thing I wanted to ask you about...I’m taking it like way back, a cult classic I know in my own household is, The Tales from the Crypt Demon Knight. And you have so many quotable quotes in that movie, we still watch it to this day and we quote you non-stop. Did you ever get anybody coming up to you quoting you from that movie or any of the other films you’ve done?

CCH Pounder > I do. I tend to get people who’d make their arm disappear. They like to do the arm disappearing and the swigging the vodka moment a lot. Yeah. And so, even if they don’t speak to me, right away you know exactly what they’re talking about and what they meant and they get a thrill of like, “I thought you knew what I was talking about.”

Question > as you said earlier, you played in pilot ones for seven years on the table where you know, one of the regular characters and a cornerstone of the show.

And now you can do Warehouse 13 where you’re this mysterious character who kind of floats in and out. Is there, acting-wise, how do you adjust to the varying difference there?

CCH Pounder > Well, there’s kind of really no difference in the acting, except that in terms of how I go about it. But what is really nice, is that I’ve always tried to either extend characters that I did before sort of cameo style and I get an opportunity to do say, like a police captain in another genre, in another area.

For instance, I did a police captain in the film and then suddenly I got the shield and they had similarities. And I brought that one core thing that they had, which was they were very tough and then tried to turn it into, why did they become tough, how did it happen, etc., etc., and what made them the type of character that they are.

So, with Mrs. Frederic, who has no history whatsoever to be - for the writers to tell me about and they won’t tell me about it, I can tell you that.

I’m just like a complete blank slate. So they get kind of a thrill of me showing up and say, “What is she going to do with that?”, and I get the kind of excitement of, I have no clue as I have no idea where she came from, where is she going.

Is she human? Is she - what is she? And still trying to pass on information, so you’ve got a story to tell.

So it has been kind of like the hare’s wild ride and another thing, Mrs. Frederic cannot be a regular, because some of the things, if you’re mysterious and you keep showing up all the time, then it’s like not so mysterious. You’ve going to eventually have to say something that gives people some kind of information as to who she is. I think she’s kind of going to remain this sort of character that you sporadically see, but when you do see her, something major’s going to happen.

Question > I was just wondering if there’s any updates on the progress of artists for a new South Africa?

CCH Pounder > Well, right now we are in the throes of a thousand tiny little projects. When a subject isn’t big news, like Apartheid right now, is not big news, although, when you do something for 50 years and it’s part of the fabric of a place, it’s really hard to kind of have the independence, have ten years of Nelson Mandela and everything is all fine and dandy.

The repercussions of it, is it that there is still a lack of housing, that there’s still an AIDS pandemic. And so we are working on all of those tiny things, but we get a third of the amount of the donations, because right now all the emergencies are very different.

Pakistan has a huge emergency. Haiti has a huge emergency. There are all these immediate things, so it’s one of those organizations who understand the ups and downs of being recognized and right now we’re going through just in the trenches, slogging from one part to the next to get funding for this, that and the other.

And we’re still here. I always like charities to disappear, because I still find that things got better and something was remedied, and I try really hard to be patient and proud.

It not being done in my lifetime, you know, what I mean. So I have to hang in there.

Question > Coming from The Shield, which was set in nitty gritty outlay. How’s your experience been working in the Toronto so far?

CCH Pounder > In Toronto, in Yorkville, where the restaurants are endless and the shopping is right at your fingertip and you can walk anywhere freely, day or night, compared to the risk with studios. But compared to where the studio was in L.A. for the Shield, this is sort of almost downtown and in the rough and tumble areas, but what I call very artsy. And thank god for artists.

We turn everything into shinola, which is really great. So, it’s very, very different, but the physical place of where Warehouse 13 takes place, like when you actually go to work, it is in a giant warehouse and it’s surrounded by a certain amount of barrenness, which does kind of - well it doesn’t look like the desert, but it does look deserted.

And well, it’s fine. It’s very, very, very, very different. Because the whole situation for me is different. In The Shield I was a regular and we were very family like. We worked together all day long all part of the castings of the Police Station, so, that’s very different after coming in as the mystery woman and working once or twice per episode, one or two days for episode. It’s very different.

Question > I’m not sure if all of this was done in the studio or not, but how did they transform Toronto into Egypt? Was that all done in your studios or were there any locations that were suddenly transformed into Egypt for these upcoming episodes?

CCH Pounder > Well, I’ve got tell you, they are the specialists ex-king. I just don’t know how they pull this stuff off, but they do and it was all done in the studio and you know, I think cordoning offer part of a neighborhood and sucking it out turning it into that Egyptian look.

And which, by the way, because you know, Toronto is a really eclectic city and it’s got all types of people there. There were - they didn’t have to go to any great lengths to make it look like Egypt, by the way.

Question > Will you lend your voice again to play Amanda Waller in any upcoming animated movies sufficient with the Justice League?

CCH Pounder > Well, it’s very interesting, because there is actually a movie coming out and Pam Greer is playing Amanda Waller. So, that was, I believe, the third Amanda Waller that there is.

I can’t remember who the very first one was. So, I don’t know, but I do know that the Amanda Waller’s voice that I’ve done is, probably the most recognized. So it’s very possible that we could do something like that. We’ll see.

Question > It sounds like you’ve got a really big fan base from that, as well.

CCH Pounder > I’m very surprised. Yeah. It is pretty surprising.

Question > What are the different challenges do you see from doing voice acting versus doing television or movies?

CCH Pounder > I don’t find them very, very different at all. But there’s just one thing though that I really do want to clear up, particularly for something like Avatar, which a lot of people consider that voice acting, but in fact, you’re doing like a full bodied acting where your physicality is what you’re actually seeing on the film.

What you’re not seeing is what I look like. You’re seeing what the Avatar looks like. So, a lot of people got confused by that, and it took us a really long time to explain that...oh, no this is not an animated voice thing.

This is actually actors acting, but they look physically different. But all the physical stuff that they did, all the gestures, all the eye movements, but that was all us doing the work.

So, there’s going to be a lot of changes then, because that’s basically, I think one of the new things, new parts of technology and incorporated with acting that’s going to be happening and it’s going to be a regular part of our lives.

So, the people who had not considered using their voice as, you know, part of the acting world, I think that very quickly now, they’re know, they’ll have to incorporate that too, because there’s going to be voice acting. There’s going to be performance capture acting and then they’ll be just regular everyday acting that you see now.

Question > That’s fascinating how much technology has changed.

CCH Pounder > It really is, because I can imagine that the person who was in the silent movies and who suddenly had to go to the talkies and hearing their voice for the first time, and suddenly, you know, not be eligible because your voice sounds too squeaky or you know, you look manly, but your voice sounded too soft.

All those things are in - have to be taken into account, even from - yet going from black and white to Technicolor and now from this idea of what we see as acting now into performance capture where you put on this gear. You’ve covered in electrodes. You’re doing the acting, but you don’t see the actor. You just see the animated version of that actor or that Avatar.

And so, you can become anything now.

Question > But the performance that you give is still captured and it’s executed that way, right?

CCH Pounder > Exactly. From now on, I can say any fact, any age, and any race. Yeah. Equality at last.

Question > I was wondering if you have at the bar with Warehouse 13 as favorite episode or scene that you’ve done?

CCH Pounder > Favorite. No, I don’t want to say I had a favorite. I’ve had one that made me the saddest and that was when I lost my bodyguard.

I don’t know if you’ve seen - saw that episode already, but at the end of the first season, my bodyguard got some kind of internal choking mechanism happening to him while driving and he imploded.

It was horrible. I miss him. Yeah.

Question > How did you land the part of Mrs. Frederic? Were you approached? Did you have to go and interview for it? How was that done?

CCH Pounder > I think because I’ve done a series of -for the fairly authoritative women and I think a lot of the times the word CCH Pounder and Gravitas go together. Somebody there, I was just asked would I consider that?

So, it was simple. At this point, it’s kind of simple in the things that people know you well for. What’s the challenges an actor is - the other things that you want to do and they just kind of imagine you doing it, because you’re such a heavy or you’re such a giggler or you’re all of those different kinds of immediate recognition things that they give you.

So right now, I’m CCH Pounder, the woman of gravitas. So when they’re looking for gravitas, they call for me, but I could be quite silly and lighthearted.

Question > How did you get started in acting?

CCH Pounder > I grew up in England in a Boarding School. And I got hit at the back of the head with a cricket ball. I had short term memory and the nuns thought - it was a private school lead by nuns, the nuns though, “Oh, you know what, if we taught her poems, perhaps it’ll kind of get her memory going."

And so I used to learn these poems by rote and recite it back to the nuns. I should say the nun - then the nuns, because the more I recited them back, the more poems I learned, the larger the audience of nuns became.

So that was my very first audience, me and my crappy memory reciting poetry to nuns. And then I entered amateur theatre and then became professional, all in a nutshell.

But it was really because of that cricket ball, because I was going to be a doctor, of course, like every other kid in the world.

And so, that’s how it originally happened and I was in the theatre for many, many years before I came to television and film.

And they were all by accident. So, this has been guided by sort of Kismet and good luck and timing.

Question > You were on two of my favorite shows. Could you talk about working on TheX-Files and Millennium?

CCH Pounder > Sure. Well, I’ll talk about Millennium first, because I thought that was the darkest show on earth and I kept saying over and over to the Chris Carter, “But Chris it’s so dark. There’s no hope.” How, I mean, he said, “No, but it’s something that there’s a glimmer” and I said, like another thing, “I never saw the glimmer.”

So X-Files on the other hand, which is by the way, how I met Chris Carter, was Agent Lucy Kazdin that I played in - for them, who was a marvel of efficiency. And I really had a very, very good time in X-Files, and there was a moment there when I thought, oh this would be recurring and then we moved onto Millennium.

X-Files, I found that really fascinating. That was terrific and scary and weird in lots of ways, but Millennium I found scary and dark and dark and dark. And it just - it was actually kind of depressing when I’d go to work. It was sort of like, you’re never going to get out of this fog and I was actually really amazed that there’s a group of people who are like really staunch Millenniumers or whatever, like they are really behind it.

But it’s - that’s a dark series.

Question > I think it started to get a little lighter though as the show went on, but not for a while I guess.

CCH Pounder > Not for a while and I think it also sort of went lighter, because of pressure, you know. So they said lighten it up. Come on. But, I don’t think that we’re in the habit of seeing things that seem without hope.

Even though I thought the writing in it was really super and the look of it was pretty amazing, but I don’t know, I just thought that in terms of telling stories, that lightness had to be a huge part of the story. I didn’t think there was very much light in it.

I should have asked Chris Carter was he was going through at the time.

Question > Talking of your fan base, I mean, someone has mentioned favorite shows you’ve been on and ER was one of mine and I’m - you know, you must be approached by a range of different people, on, you know, a range of different subjects and roles you’ve played in general.

Like what is your life that way to, you know, dealing with being recognized for so many different things you’ve done?

CCH Pounder > Well, I think that there’s a through line in all of them and that is the character is always very, very believable. And a lot of the characters, people seem to sort of relate to personally that there is truth in her that they recognize in themselves or other people that they know, so that she’s not foreign or distant or alien.

A lot of people when I’m walking around the streets, think that I was their high school principal, because she’s so amazing.

So, they all - but it’s all this, “You were in charge of that. Artbury- were you the principal of my school?”, and it was so funny that you - that for some how or either, I’ve impressed upon them that when they see me they’re supposed to sit up straight and speak correctly.

But, the roles that I have played so far have been, for the most part, my choice. And I am fascinated by, I say it often, the extraordinariness of ordinary people and the things that they pull out of their reserve to get things done.

My mother did and made it by that. And I really think that super heros are you know, everyday folks.

Question > I wanted to congratulate on your Emmy nominations for the No. 1 Lady Detectives' Agency. And that was another of my favorite roles of yours and a very, very good chill. I don’t know if you know anything about what’s going on with that show or not, but I think it’d be awesome if you did continue to - that you made an appearance there. Do you have any information about that show?

CCH Pounder > Well, I’d love to visit it again, but (Jill) recently had a baby and I know that she doesn’t want to have the baby travel until- I don’t remember what month or how old she had stated.

And so, I think they are trying to work around that. But at the moment, it is on hold. And the baby’s gorgeous.

Question > I’m not sure how much you’ve watched Warehouse 13 other than your own part, but do you have a favorite artifact or also if you could like pick some artifact to be in the show, what would it be?

CCH Pounder > Well, the thing about what you guys don’t get to see, is us when we actually walk down through the warehouse. They- their artifacts there that have nothing necessarily to do with the current show, but they’re there in the event that that might happen, so they are some pretty amazing ones.

I like sometimes the really simply ones, like the wallet that talks and influences. There were the bronzification machine and to see that in person, the stuff that they’ve built, is pretty extraordinary.

In terms of what else could be in there, I’m kind of tickled by the fact that it is sort of steeped in history in some way or another and that kind of steam punk look is a huge part of our show.

And so, not necessarily the artifacts, but I use computer to see it in reality is an amazing thing. It is fabulous to look at how they put these - these keys look like they’re from the old adding machines and then it’s bronzed over.

And this case is completely ornate. It’s - I don’t know where we get out talent for our props and the works, but this stuff is gorgeous.

Like fiber ware. Yeah. Fabulous.

Question > You talked a bit earlier about kind of that you don’t know, you know, any of Mrs. Frederic’s story or have an idea. But if you could write something, and you know, make whatever you wanted up, is there something that you’d either like to see have been in her back story, or see happen on the show?

CCH Pounder > I envisioned that Mrs. Frederic was actually a back up girl for some singing group. And that the resolve is a fellow in the audience that came to see her over and over again, and obviously this was CIA agent, but she didn’t know that at the time.

And that on - he came one time when he was sick, and after her performance, he approached her in the hallway backstage and said, “Can I have a drink with you?”

And then, of course, it was the ‘60’s and I think that Mr. Frederic was a white guy and they have to find a place where a black person and a white person can have this conversation.

And he tells her his entire life and who is and what he does, and that he has this information and he says, “And I want to feed it to you.” And by whatever means he does it, through blood, through transfusions, through hooking up to electrodes together, he implants all this information in the now Mrs. Frederics playing - who has moved from Show Girl background doo-op singer to the incredible brain of Warehouse 13.

There you go.

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