Exclusive interview with Allison Scagliotti of Warehouse 13 - June 28, 2011Interview by Jamie RubyWritten by Jamie RubyWarehouse 13
, Syfy's most successful series ever, returns for its third season on Monday, July 11, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The series follows a team of government agents who protect a top-secret warehouse that holds strange and mysterious artifacts that they help track down. The team is led by former secret service agents Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly), who's character left the warehouse at the end of last season. They are joined by apprentice Claudia Donovan, played by Allison Scagliotti, and new agent Steve Jinks (Aaron Ashmore), as well as the warehouse's caretaker, Artie Nielsen (Saul Rubinek).
Claudia, Scagliotti's character, is the brilliant young hacker who kidnapped Artie in the first season in order to save her brother, and was eventually welcomed as part of the team by Artie, rather than disposed of as a security threat. She has become a very valuable member of the team.
Scagliotti recently sat down with Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision for an exclusive interview to discuss the upcoming season.
Scagliotti knew she wanted to be a performer from the time she was little. "Acting was the kind of thing that I knew I wanted to do, before I really knew what acting was, and how you can make a living at it. From the time I was a little kid I just always enjoyed putting on a show.
"I was involved in ballet from the time I was a toddler. I loved music and my parents recognized when I decided to have all my family seated while I could recite an A.A. Milne poem, it was probably time to find an outlet for this weird performing gene.
"So I got involved in community theater and school plays, in the first grade, and then I met an acting coach when I was eleven who was touring with a book that he had written...
"This is the guy who sort of specializes in seeing things in kids and their abilities, and he told me, "Don't leave this Barnes and Noble without me speaking to your mom." And so he highly recommended attempting pilot season, and my parents deliberated, and I did my homework, and I said, "I want to take this opportunity. I want to learn". And tried it, and I was really lucky to be as successful as I was so early on, and to get an agent and a manager, and book a pilot for NBC.
"I'm told all the time how unheard of it is to land a gig your first year out, but I guess there's something to be said for being an eleven year old with red cheeks and a sarcastic wit. (laughter) I haven't turned back; that's it. I knew since I was a little girl I wanted to be on stage."
The actress didn't take long to find her big break on Warehouse 13
. "Two years ago I was in school full time, in college, and it was pilot season, so I was auditioning like crazy, and auditioning came through. And I lucked out, because I happened to know two [Warehouse 13
] writers, Benjamin Robb and Derek Hughes, from a web series I had done the previous year. And I knew our show runner, Jack Kenny, from several years earlier on one of the sitcom pilots that I did.
"But this role, I guess it had been gestating for awhile. They were initially looking for an Asian girl to play Claudia, didn't quite find the right fit, and so I auditioned. I met another producer at the time, and Drew Greenberg, who wrote the episode, and within the span of a week, I went from full course load at the college I was attending, to full-time gig in Toronto on Warehouse 13
. It was whirlwind, but a happy whirlwind."
Scagliotti knows that comedic timing is important to a series like Warehouse 13
. "My first handful of jobs were on half hour sitcoms where timing is irreplaceable; it's arguably one of the most important elements of a sitcom. So I was always told as a kind, you can't teach timing, that's just sort of something you either have or you don't, so I never really understood not being able to take a script with funny beats in it and make somebody laugh.
"So working on Warehouse 13
strikes this great balance between gravitas and dramatic moments and those more vaudevillian theatrical comedy moments that our show runner actually excels in creating for us. So I have been really lucky to be able to utilize both sides of my creative muscle."
Scagliotti sometimes gets to use that creativity when it comes to developing her character and saying her lines. "We strike a balance. Our writers come up to us regularly and if we ever have questions on that day they are right there available to us. There's a lot of actors' collaboration that goes on on a daily basis, which makes for a spectacular environment of creativity. And it all comes from a place of passion for the show; that we really just care about what we're doing. So, no, we are not one of those shows that's word perfect. I've never come to set and perhaps by accident said the wrong word in a line and had a writer jump on me. They're very flexible."
One of the things that Scagliotti finds challenging about working on the show is the long hours. "There're a lot of hours in any given day on Warehouse 13
. If the character is written particularly heavy in an episode they can work all eight of the eight days it takes to shoot any one episode. And a day ranges anywhere from 13 to on really rough days 18 hours. And then get up in the morning and do it all again. So the hours can be taxing.
"And typically one-hour shows and feature films are shot out of order due to locations and efficient production scheduling. So it can be a little confusing when you film the end of an episode first and the beginning in the middle and middle in the end.
"It's all a challenge. If you can get good at it and never get bored that's the other thing. Never get bored while shooting a series. We're up here for six months doing this season. But the season only lasts twelve weeks when you watch it, so it's staggering. So that's the hard part, which is not really bad considering we're living the dream."
Because of the kind of series it is, the show lends itself to using a lot of green screen, which can be another challenge. "We have done quite a bit of green screen work this season, which is always challenging because it relates to performing when there's nothing there.
"Saul [Rubinek] calls it schmacting like "acting, schmacting," because what it really is is like extreme imagination and remembering what it was like to be a kid and playing pretend. Like pots and pans that made a drum set or a helmet or you tied a sheet around your neck and you're a superhero.
"You kind of just have to suspend your disbelief as an actor and really commit to, if you're looking at a big blank green canvas, imagining that there's a castle in the distance. It's hard, but it's fun. And it's always a surprise when you see the finished product, whether it was anything like you pictured it in your mind's eye. Special effects, it all requires extreme imagination."
Rubinek, is one of Scagliotti's favorite actors to work with. Their first day together is her favorite memory of working with him. "My very first day with Saul is my favorite memory of him, because my first day on Warehouse 13
was such a big day. I had to film all of my very first scenes appearing in the warehouse, abducting Artie, electrocuting him with those cuffs. It was really challenging and I was nervous. And I told him that, after having known him for all of two hours. He just knew the right things to say to inspire me and give me the confidence to get to the real work.
"And we had such a fun time filming those scenes from "Claudia" that I always think about that when I think about what Saul has meant to me as a mentor. Because I just feel really lucky that I get to work with him on such a regular basis, because he is so wise. It's like a master class every time I get to work with him."
Scagliotti also remembers a few funny moments on set with Rubinek that happened this season, however did not make it on film. "Saul and I were filming a scene where I was hacking behind his back doing something he expressly told me not to do, and he sneaks up and essentially pulls a "Mrs. Frederic" on me, surprises me, and I startle and I turn around. But we did one take where he didn't startle me at all. For whatever reason I just didn't jump. I wasn't expecting him, but I didn't have the reaction that I should've had. Well, okay, he didn't really startle me on that one, so we did it again. And he yelled so loud I jumped out of my chair and screamed. I had no intention of doing that. Everyone laughed so hard afterwards, myself included. It was great. It was such a natural reaction, but that's me, that's me and Saul. He tries to crack me up all the time. We had another scene yesterday, I was typing and I had the first line of the scene and he just reached over and started poking my hand while I'm typing, just to try to set me off. But I maintained, I didn't break during the scene."
This season of Warehouse 13
, according to Scagliotti, will have twelve episodes in the regular season, plus a special Christmas episode. She also says that this season we will learn new things about the characters' pasts. "Season three has been a really, really exciting ride for all of us. We delve into how our actions in the past and our histories affect us in the present. And for Claudia specifically it's been a really important time to sort of figure out how she fits in with her community, which is this ragtag group of warehouse agents."
The actress talks a bit about working with her new costar. "We've got Aaron Ashmore who's joined the cast as Steve Jinks...And he's just been wonderful to work with, he's a really phenomenal actor and a great presence on the set. His character is extremely important to the Claudia character because they inevitably begin working together and form a really strong bond and friendship. Which becomes complicated in later episodes but that's part of the over-reaching sort of conflict of the season, which I can't speak too much about, that'll be a big surprise."
Scagliotti adds, "Working with Aaron has been some of the easiest and most fun work of my career, I think, just because we're wired very similarly in terms of the way we approach a day. We come to set very prepared and, um, ready to have fun and explore the scene and we're both pretty lighthearted. Like not afraid to have fun but at the same time professionals at heart. So we kind of just immediately had a great working chemistry, which it can be really hard to find in this industry because it takes all kinds and every actor has a different process.
"But we really lucked out with Aaron and the way that he has chosen to flesh out his character. He's a lot of fun.
"And you don't just see Steve Jinks and Claudia getting into trouble; we definitely cross-pollinate all the relationships in the show. So Steve has his dealings with Artie, with Pete and Myka, and with others later on. So the Steve Jinks character has been a great new addition to the show."
There are some other great new characters and artifacts coming this season as well. "We've got an exciting new villain that's extremely layered and very complicated, and sort of related to the consequences of using an artifact and how good people can go bad.
"We've got fun, quirky new artifacts. We've got a dog that joins the warehouse team at some point. So it's like all the things you loved about last season with all the excitement of a new season."
There are other new guest stars, some yet to be revealed by the network, but Allison is able to divulge a few of them. "We have Steve Yeun from The Walking Dead
. We have a couple of local Toronto actors who are just great.
"Lindsay Wagner and Rene Auberjonois are coming back. We've got Caprica
alums Sasha Roiz and Alessandra Torresani. I've had the pleasure of working with both of them - separately, because if their characters actually crossed paths that would be a little too Caprica
"But our guest cast this year has been really spectacular. I noticed that about three or four episodes in, just how lucky we've been in terms of our guest stars, both local Canadian and Stateside alike."
Another returning character is Fargo, played by Neil Grayston, who last year crossed over from Syfy's other popular summer series Eureka
. "Neil Grayston is coming back for another crossover episode. Neil's episode is actually my favorite of the season. It's our crazy kind of Dungeons-and-Dragons
Scagliotti has become friends with Grayston. "We picked up exactly where we left off. Working with Neil is easy. I've said before it's like going to summer camp with one of your best friends. It's just a lot of fun. My instinct is to say it's amazing we get any work done because we just joke around so much. But Neil is one of those perennial professionals and I like to think of myself that way too, so we find a way to have as much fun as possible while still getting the job done.
"Also, you'll see when you watch the episode, Neil is running around in one of the most ridiculous costumes I think I could imagine him in. So it was a pretty lighthearted week.
"But any excuse to have Neil in the same city as me is great, because as of now he lives in Vancouver and I split my time between L.A. and Toronto so it's always hard to get time with my buddy. He always does an amazing job on the show and I honestly can't wait for this episode to air because it's my favorite."
Although Scagliotti has crossed over to Eureka
herself in the past, she admits should would also like to appear on another Syfy series, but perhaps as a different character. "I haven't seen it yet but Alphas
is actually shooting here in Toronto at the same time as we are, and I've had the pleasure of meeting Ryan Cartwright and Laura Menell and they're fantastic. So I'm really excited about that show; I'm excited to see it, I hope it does well.
"I think it would be fun to head over to Alphas
, maybe as a different character though. I feel like I'd like to step out of Claudia for a minute and go be an assassin or something on Alphas
Scagliotti adds that if she could have one of the Alphas' powers for herself, it would be mind control like the character of Nina Theroux. "I'm actually really jealous of Laura Mennell's character, being able to manipulate the mind. I think it might be cool if one was sort of a pathological liar, to make lies come true just because that would become so complicated and could make for great episodic television."
Scaglotti may not get to play a character with super powers on Warehouse 13
, but she gets to play with a lot of cool artifacts. Jimi Hendrix's guitar is her favorite of the season. It is something that she has been asking for, which appears in the first episode, airing this Monday. She loved getting to play it, even if you don't get to hear what she was playing. "I was playing guitar. I do play guitar and I have whined at our show runner and at the writers' room enough to the point where they have finally said "Alright! Put a guitar in her hands and shoot it!" So there are actually a few moments this season when I get to play and a couple where I get to sing.
"Claudia goes to an open mic night in episode six and again in episode ten, and that's been nerve-wracking and fun and different because I've not been able to do that before.
"I don't know what music they actually added in to that first episode, because obviously I was playing an electric guitar and I wasn't plugged in. So the chords that I was playing on the day probably did not make it into the mixed sound that you heard. But yes, that was actually me playing."
Scagliotti also reveals that there is a spark of a love interest for Claudia that starts at that open mic night. "It's very quick, but Claudia meets a musician at an open mic night and has some curiosity. But her own emotions and a pesky artifact get in the way of her would-be romance."
Speaking of artifacts, Scagliotti has an idea for an artifact that she has actually pitched to Jack Kenny, which could help tell her character's story. "I pitched to Jack the red shoes as an artifact – the red shoes based on of course the famous ballet about a girl who was flighty and just wanted to dance all night and so bought a pair of red shoes and danced herself to death – because I thought it would be sort of an interesting opportunity for Claudia to be taken over by an artifact that could be easily related to maybe her back story emotionally.
"Because we don't know how Claudia's parents died. It was established in the Claudia episode in season one that she and her brother were orphans and they were, you know, all each other had from then on. But I'm really curious about Claudia's parents and what they did and what happened to them and what her relationship with them was like. So that's something I'd like to explore down the line."
Scagliotti was able to talk about some of her other favorite roles besides Warehouse 13
, which is her favorite at the moment. "Before Warehouse I had a great time playing Jayna on Smallville
, the wonder twin. Just because it was silly and fun and I remember watching Wonder Twins
cartoons when I was a kid. And I've always secretly wanted to see what I would look like as a big cat. Cross that off my bucket list. Aside from that, Drake & Josh
was a really, really fun ride.
"Well, you know what? Favorite role: Sigourney Weaver's daughter on The TV Set
Scagliotti enjoyed her time on the set of The TV Set
, a comedy written and directed by Jake Kasdan and also starring David Duchovny. The movie is about what happens behind the scenes as a movie goes from production to airing on television. "I was in one scene so I spent four hours on that set, but four hours in the company of one of the most regal actresses I think I can ever think of, was an honor. Sigourney Weaver was so lovely and warm and also alarmingly intelligent, and quick-witted and just wonderful, wonderful to work with.
"Great director too, Jake Kasden, I follow his work. He's hilarious, great instinct. I wish that The TV Set
had been more accessible to the masses. I think generally unless a movie about Hollywood politics is marketed like Tropic Thunder
, it tends to go a little over peoples' heads."
Scagliotti may one day take a turn behind the camera herself on Warehouse 13
. "I have considered [writing and directing]. And then I watch the directors of Warehouse 13
every episode just kill themselves with stress.
"But, it is absolutely something I think about all the time and I will probably realize one day, but at the moment I am focusing on acting."
Scagliotti has learned a lot since working on the series. "I have learned that this is what I was meant to do. No matter how long the days are or how sometimes tedious things can get to do the same scene over for hours and hours, I love this. I love coming to set and working with these great people and collaborating with writers and finding fun little nuances to do with props. I love learning, and I love to perform. And Warehouse has been a great outlet for that."
Regardless of Warehouse 13
, Scagliotti will continue to enjoy her acting career. She does have some other recent projects coming out in edition to the new episodes of Warehouse 13
. "I do have on actually called Losers Take All
in Memphis, a little indie movie that takes place in the 80s about a punk band. But I don't know anything about where that is in the development process. Last I heard, it was being re-cut, but I don't know anything beyond that."
Meanwhile, Scagliotti is having fun acting and meeting her fans. "I do get recognized a lot, but oddly enough normally for Drake & Josh
, but not for Warehouse 13
. The latest one was, I was at a Devo concert here in Toronto with another friend who is an actor, but of other things, not on Syfy. A fellow came up and asked me for a picture, saw my friend and was like "Aw, you too man!" It was sort of an actor sandwich."
Scagliotti is not sure what the future holds, but she knows what she wants to eventually accomplish. "I kind of want to tour the world. I have yet to really travel the world. Read all the literary classics. Become a masterful blues guitar player. But then again, there really aren't enough hours in the day to do all of them."