CW and CTV series Reign wraps its four-season run this week, and while we never need a reason to chat with Steve Byers, the series finale seemed as good a reason as any given his recurring role this year as Archduke Ferdinand, Queen Elizabeth’s fiancé. It’s been just over a year since Slasher aired its first season, and since then, Byers has been busy, shooting new films for Lifetime and Hallmark and taking on roles in the new version of Flatliners and Ubisoft’s 2018 release, Far Cry 5.
The opportunity to play the Archduke on Reign was a little bit of coming full circle for Byers, who had previously auditioned in the show’s early days and subsequently been offered one-off appearances. When the opportunity arose to recur in a role fairly integral to Elizabeth’s arc, he jumped at the chance to come on board.
“I had read for one of the characters at the beginning of the first season and it didn’t go my way. After that, I was always busy and they had come to me with guest star roles. When you do that, you don’t generally get to play as much, unless it’s a special role. They came to me with the Archduke and it seemed like there was a nice arc with him. I was also free, which worked out really well,” he explains.
Byers spent almost the entire role working opposite Rachel Skarsten as Elizabeth, and says they were somewhat siloed onscreen and off. “[Mary’s court and Elizabeth’s court were] two very different sets in two different locations,” he says. “Even the people working every day on the show, the only time you see each other is in the makeup trailer.”
“Rachel and I had a lot of fun. The worst part was that it must have been 85 degrees and you’re wearing furs and beautiful textiles — their wardrobe and costume department is amazing, and it was authentic and incredibly heavy and hot. You have sympathy for period pieces. There was that part of the acting.”
Byers is most fond of “Coup de Grace,” directed by series star Megan Follows. “She did an outstanding job, by the way. We did a scene where we were eating dinner out in the courtyard, and she wanted it to have a circular feeling. She set up a track all around the dinner,” he recalls. “It almost had a music video feel to it. It took a hell of a long time and I had five pages of straight talking but it was a really beautiful shot and scene. We had a lot of fun despite it being in the middle of the night. It speaks of what the relationship is in the shot itself.”
He says the finale should check the boxes for most of the fans. “They didn’t know if they had their pickup when we were shooting the finale. I didn’t know until I got my script … what was going to happen. I know what happens, historically, to him, but I wasn’t sure where they were going to leave him [on the show]. There’s a finality to our relationship that happens,” he says.
“I had read a couple of things about people being worried about the finale, especially being the series finale. Obviously, you can’t please everybody, but I think people are going to be satisfied. They’re going to feel like they got what they came for, for the entirety of the series. It’s a fantastic episode.”
I’m among the folks who were staunchly against the idea that Flatliners ever needed to be remade because the hella scary 1990 original stands up (and is wonderfully devoid of the cell phones and text messages that so many horror movies fall back on these days), but Byers says it’s not a straight redo, which the trailer released earlier this week also semi-confirms. In the film, he plays the boyfriend of Nina Dobrev‘s character. It was a reunion for the two, who co-starred several years ago in Lifetime’s My Daughter’s Secret.
“That one hit all the marks of a Lifetime movie. We had known each other from that, so it was an easy step-in. Flatliners came out of nowhere. They were a week into shooting. They wanted someone to be able to come in and work with Nina and play her boyfriend. The movie itself is a really interesting take on [the original]. It’s actually not trying to emulate it. I was involved in the film, but not in a large capacity,” he says.
There some unintentional levity because he agreed to drive a stick shift even though it had been a while, and “driving” may have been an understatement about what was expected of him. “When we were talking about doing it, they asked me if I drove a standard. The director wanted to get a specific car. I thought, ‘What could be the worst case scenario?'” he laughs. “Every single thing that could happen when you’re rusty was there. There was a hill, there was hail, there were 5,000 people watching me. Needless to say, I had to remember my standard driving really fast.”
Deadly Secrets By the Lake aired on LMN in the U.S. earlier this month and is available on Amazon Video. It’s the first in a planned series of films from a new collaboration between Lifetime and Harlequin, similar to the Nora Roberts films of the mid-aughts. In it, Byers stars alongside Stefanie von Pfetten and Tahmoh Penikett in a story about a detective (von Pfetten) who returns home to help her sister and is pulled into the lingering emotional drama around the long ago disappearance of her BFF and her unresolved feelings for her first love (Byers).
“The intention was that Roma [Roth], who produced them, had us commit to doing a few of them. The partnership is very new for them,” he explains. “Harlequin hadn’t partnered with anyone before. It was a match made in heaven, and they’re still working out the kinks. There’s a book series that these are based on — the Jennifer Riley mysteries is a franchise [by Zoe Carter]. This is [based on] the first book in the Thornwood Heights series. Avid Harlequin people would recognize it and were excited about it. It fits the Lifetime model.” No word yet on when everyone may regroup for follow-on films — the first one was shot last summer.
Byers just wrapped The Christmas Cure, starring opposite Brooke Nevin (a co-star from his guest spot on Call Me Fitz). The film is set to sneak peek on Hallmark Channel in the U.S. on July 15th as part of the network’s Christmas Keepsake Preview July programming, and will join the full Christmas lineup in November. “It has Brooke, myself, and Patrick Duffy. He’s a lovely man. They say never meet your heroes, and this was the opposite. He was such a kind, giving, generous man, and lovely actor,” he says. “Great to work with, as was Brooke. We had a lot of fun on [Call Me Fitz]. When I found out she was in it I was really happy.”
“Brooke is Vanessa, an ER doc who comes back to town after leaving to do life. We had a blossoming romance before that. I play Mitch, the lifer, who grew up there and stayed there and becomes a handyman/carpenter of sorts. When she comes back, the relationship they had long ago sparks back to life. They explore that and she explores whether she should stay or go, all lightly coated with Christmas wonder and all that jazz.”
Far Cry 5 is due out next year and was a gig that found Byers rigged up for image capture and tapping into his training as an actor. “It’s a really fun, dream project. I play Nick Rye, a gun for hire who is a really fun character for me. You’ll learn more about him when you meet him in the game,” he shares.
“We got to do all the performance capture. You go into Ubisoft and you put on this neoprene type suits that’s more breathable. It has these reflective balls on it and you put on a helmet that shines lights into your face and has a camera on it and they capture everything you do. The data is fed into their computers in real-time.”
“The number of people working on it is astounding. Each person is working on a different part that they layer onto your face and your body and they can make you whatever they want but ultimately it’s your performance. It’s a lot of dialogue. It’s a real exercise for actors. It’s different from film and television. It’s not sit around and wait. It’s, ‘Here’s your 30 pages of dialogue for today.’ There’s a real sense of imagination and play because you’re in a black neoprene type suit and your props are very minimal because they can’t get in the way of all these cameras. It’s a dream for an actor.”
“You do [still] work with other actors. Mayko Nguyen, who co-starred with me in Slasher, plays my wife in this, so that was a ball. And I have interactions with Greg Bryk‘s character, and a lot of stunt guys. Everything has to have a reality to it. They have these amazing stunt guys who do the explosions and flying off of structures. It’s pretty cool.” Far Cry 5 will be available on February 27, 2018.
Here’s a sneak peek of Nick Rye in Far Cry 5.
Here’s a sneak peak of The Christmas Cure.
Photos courtesy of Crown Media, The CW, Lifetime, and Ubisoft; Videos courtesy of The CW and Ubisoft.