Neil Grayston is in the process of moving from Vancouver to LA after appearing in several Vancouver productions including Supernatural, Smallville, The Dead Zone, Godiva’s, Dead Like Me, and most recently as Douglas Fargo on Eureka. Shortly before Eureka‘s series finale, Grayston appeared at Polaris 26 in Toronto, and here are some highlights from his Q&A sessions that weekend!
What is his favourite non-Fargo character?
There were so many small roles, but one that sticks out is the Smallville part where he played a swimmer. He spent 3 days in a hot tub after having his chest waxed to meet with the WB no body hair policy. Of those three days, only a snippet of his head over someone else’s shoulder was ever used. He tries not to let the implied comment on his physique deter him.
His Supernatural role was memorable for other reasons. From the time he left his house, did the role and left the set was two hours. It was the fastest set visit he’d ever had.
What was the Eureka audition process like?
The character description was “Warren King’s mousey assistant”, so the room was full of all sorts of interpretations of ‘mousey’. Neil figured his angle would be to be as directable as possible. Many people were in and out in a couple of minutes, but when he went in it was with director Peter O’Fallon, with whom he’d previously worked. Neil did several different readings, based on the approaches Peter gave him. When he left, he realized he’d been in there almost half an hour. He got the role. The first contract was for six seasons, but only six episodes per season. The first few scripts revealed that he didn’t have many lines, but he was always present in the scene and they would cut to him for reaction shots. Then he found his role getting larger.
Any upcoming projects to mention?
There are a few things in the works, but he can’t announce them yet. Neil’s in the process of getting a Green Card and emigrating to Los Angeles, which for bureaucratic reasons means he can’t work for a while. One project he can talk about is The Millionaires Club. During the Vancouver Olympics, all of the productions in Vancouver went dark. He joined, as actor and producer, a group which included several of the Eureka crew to make an independent feature. It’s about a group that spends their days in a mall. When the mall is threatened by other development, they work to fight it. It’s a dark, R-rated, depressing comedy. “Is that even a thing?” he quipped. Since normal productions were suspended during the games, they had access to top quality equipment. It’s in post-production sound now and he’ll let everyone know when it comes out.
Why is he emigrating?
LA is the center of film production and there is a lot more opportunity there. But one main reason he’s getting his Green Card is because of all the hassle he’s gotten crossing the border. He’d been going down so often to promote Eureka that he was being detained Every. Single. Time. At one point he wanted to tell the guards just to IMDB him. “I’m not rescinding my Canadian citizenship; I’m just going to move there,” he reassured the crowd.
How does he think the Canadian Film/Television industry is doing, comparably?
Canadian television is at its best point in years. Series are being sold internationally, which means Canada’s making quality projects that have a wide appeal.
Any advice for local actors?
Stay here and build up a resume. Toronto now has ten series being shot here – make use of that opportunity to learn all the parts of the industry. During Eureka he learned a lot from Colin Ferguson, who took a mentoring role and explained many of the crew’s roles and their effect on the final product. Neil is still learning what some of the crew do, and that the knowledge of all the parts lets him perform better.
Did he learn any special skills for Eureka?
Neil recounted how they brought in an expert to teach them origami. They spent hours at it, but he picked it up quickly and the shot of Fargo making a crane was actually him doing it. (At this point, one of the backstage people brought him out some paper).
What was the shooting schedule like on Eureka?
Each episode was scheduled to be shot in 7 days, then it became 7 ½, then 8, and up to 10 days with the B units.
It would start on Mondays with a 4:30 am call. But as the days ran long, 12/14 hours then 16/18 hours then at the end it was 22 hours which were fueled by the reptile brains, 500 Cokes and copious amounts of black coffee. Due to the mandated rest breaks, long days meant that by Fridays they had a 4:30 pm call times.
However, when Colin Ferguson directed it would be done in six hours and then they’d film alternates. Neil praised Colin’s organization skill and his knowledge of all parts of the industry because it flowed so quickly.
How was time filled on set?
Napping (lots of laughs from audience). Colin had the skill to be able to sleep in a chair with perfect posture so none of his clothes wrinkled. When you called his name, he’d snap from R.E.M. sleep to ready to shoot. Neil however would try to find the hardest surface possible. He’d lie still in a ‘corpse’ pose with his arms by his sides and legs straight. There weren’t any gags that would tie up shooting, the cast and crew were too professional for that, but there were puzzles and games and socializing. It was a friendly group.
Neil paused questions to show what he’d been working on behind the podium. It was a basic airplane! “Hey that training was MONTHS ago!” (More laughter!) With permission, a fan ran up with a paper crane to give him.
Favourite Eureka moment?
He laughed. “I’m going to take the lazy route and say all of it.” He got to work with so many cool people and there was no competition between them so they all came together. Colin had a broad base of knowledge that he imparted to the new guys about why things happened and became a mentor to Neil.
How did voicing S.A.R.A.H. (Self Actuated Residential Automated Habitat) come about?
In the second episode, there was an exchange when Carter first ‘meets’ the house, S.A.R.A.H. Carter asks, “Fargo, is that you talking like a girl?” Neil’s uncertain “no” let them run with him voicing the house.
Neil enjoyed being able to act as two people in one scene. He ‘knew’ how he’d say S.A.R.A.H. lines so that let he react properly to them. He literally got paid to talk to himself. This last season, with the Holly storyline (vague to avoid spoilers) plus the Deputy Andy & S.A.R.A.H. story line, things got complicated as he was dealing with two romantic relationships. One scene saw him as Fargo talking to his love interest and him as an automated house talk to her robot lover at the same time. Only in Eureka!
Photo Courtesy of Syfy