Travelers is the very best mix of an ensemble show that has layers of players, and Jennifer Spence‘s Grace is one of the initial core team-adjacent folks who dropped a bomb in the middle of them by resetting Marcy without all her pieces in place.
[Warning for the Netflix crowd: General spoilers ahead for Season 2.]
This season, she’s faced a tribunal for those actions, which gave us an opportunity to see another side of her complex character. This week, I chatted with Spence, who you may also recognize from Continuum or Van Helsing, about her expanded role this season, her just-wrapped short film, and the return of You Me Her.
Spence says when read for Grace, showrunner Brad Wright sat in on the audition and gave her the heads up that the character would evolve. “He said it may seem like she’s a guidance counselor. She becomes a Traveler. I didn’t know that until he told me in the room. I knew at that point that it would turn into something more, but I didn’t know exactly how far it would go,” she recalls.
“And there are no guarantees in sci-fi whether they can kill you. [After I read in] the season finale of Season 1 that she gets shot, I saw Brad at catering at lunch, and he said, ‘Oh by the way you’re going to be OK.'”
All the characters on Travelers rattle off a fair share of tech vocabulary, and Spence says the key to getting it down is repetition, and understanding the emotion behind it. “I’m not at all tech-savvy in real life. If there’s something I don’t understand, I’ll ask Brad or one of the writers, whoever is around,” she says. “I almost always have to ask what it means. Learning how Grace actually feels about it is more important.”
Spence is having a ball with her character, most especially for her lack of a filter. “It’s been awesome. She’s totally one of the favorite characters I’ve ever played in my career. She’s fantastic. It’s all there in the writing; you read it and it’s all on the page. It’s a true gift to have that quality of writing. I love her. I don’t think she’s doing anything wrong. I think she’s doing the right thing as far as she’s concerned,” she explains.
“I think most villainous characters, not that she’s a villain, believe they’re doing the right thing. She has different ways of expressing herself that aren’t socially acceptable. I believe she has good intentions and that it’s all for the greater good. I’ve often wondered if she’s somewhere on the autism spectrum. There’s something to be said for people who are direct.”
Spence doesn’t yet have a bead on where a possible Season 3 will take Grace, but she knows what she’d like for her character. “I’m excited to see where it goes. I think it would be interesting if something did happen between her and Trevor. Not necessarily that they fall in love. But I think it would be interesting to explore … let’s get her needs met and then get back to work,” she laughs.
“I think it would be interesting to see how Marcy approaches Grace now. Is she coming from a place of forgiveness or is there still a lot of anger? It represents an interesting story point of what humans do when they’ve been ‘wronged.'”
“Do they move forward with forgiveness or bitterness? And what that does to their relationships… Does it get worse or get better? For storytelling purposes, I think it’s always interesting to have conflict. We’ll see what feels real to Marcy and Brad and the writers. There are so many places it can go, which is the beauty of sci-fi.”
“I’d like to see some other aspects of Grace’s life coming to the forefront. What does it mean to her, intimacy-wise, since she pushes people away, inadvertently? Does she need human touch or contact? What does that look like? Does she get involved with some at the school and does that blow up in her face?”
“What other kinds of situations does she get into because she once again thinks she’s doing the right thing and once again takes things into her own hands? I’d love to see more predicaments she gets into and as a result the other Travelers [have to act] and the ramifications of that.”
Spence’s favorite episode so far was “Traveler 0027” two weeks ago. “From an actor’s point of view, it was really great to do…because there was so much beautiful, meaty stuff to work with. Anytime she’s integrated into the story in such a way that it’s like having to atone for her sins or justify why she did what she did, those are wonderful, beautiful moments,” she shares. “And what a gift it’s been to play her so food-focused. I love her in all her faults and quirks and gifts. It’s a joy to play to someone so different.”
Spence just shot Dog Bite, a short film directed by her Continuum co-star, Luvia Peterson, who’s now starring on Syfy’s Ghost Wars (which will be on Netflix in Canada in 2018). “Dog Bite is a fantastic passion product that we just completed on Sunday. It was a wonderful experience. Luvia had approached me to see if I was interested. I said, ‘Of course. That would be great.’ She put together a phenomenal group of people,” she says.
“They’re working for free or very little money [and most have day jobs in the industry]. I was blown away. They’re doing this out of love of the craft They worked so hard and cared so much. There was a great vibe on set. No one got upset. Everybody wanted to make the project the best it could be. We did it all in two days.”
“[Luvia] is a powerhouse. She’s going to make some records, I think. She’s a great actor and fantastic director. She knows exactly what she wants and knows how to communicate. I was really impressed by her. It was a positive experience for everyone. She commands a great set.”
“Gemma Holdway who was the writer for that, writes on Ghost Wars. This is something that happened to her and it’s inspired by a true story. She was bitten by a dog who she was friendly with, on her lip. She kissed the dog on the top of the head and her necklace swung and hit him in the nose and scared him and he bit her lip and pulled a chunk off.”
“She got it reattached and you can’t even tell now. It turned out to be a happy ending. She was wrestling with things like how she looks, even though looks shouldn’t be important, and how she’s going to work [and all the things that go with that]. She didn’t know how it was going to turn out.”
Spence will also be back in Season 3 of HBO Canada’s You Me Her (Audience Network in the U.S.) in 2018.”It’s been a really fun role to play. She’s evolved a lot. This year is looking more at the challenges of parents who have jobs and want to have jobs and career, and the different struggles and how that impacts their relationship,” she points out.
“Sometimes you have an agreement about [how long you will stay off work] and you want to go back sooner or you want other things. It’s about that challenge to maintain your identity and keep chasing your dreams as well as facing the responsibilities of raising a family.”
While Spence ultimately prefers comedy projects, she’s grateful for sci-fi’s limitless possibilities for women. “Comedy is a big passion of mine. I really, really like doing it. I don’t get the opportunity to do it that much. There isn’t a ton in Vancouver. I love doing that any chance I get,” she says.
“I love doing sci-fi as well. It’s always been on the frontier of writing strong, complex female characters and they’ve never been afraid of that and they’ve been ahead of the game for a long time. The number of places a story can go is really enticing.”
Travelers airs Mondays at 9pm ET/PT on Showcase. You can catch up on the first ten episodes of this season on Showcase’s website. Season 1 is running now in the U.S. on Netflix, with Season 2 arriving on 12/26. We’ll be back tomorrow and Monday with interviews with Brad Wright.
Photos Courtesy of Jeff Weddell/Showcase and Dennys Ilic