Thanks to Glamour Elf for sending this in!
Starlog Magazine Dec. 2005, issue #341
On the Night Beat by Ian Spelling
Here's a mystery worthy of Carl Kolchak checking it out:
What is Stuart Townsend--an Irish actor who had been establishing a perfectly good career in films (Queen of the Damned, About Adam, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and on the West End stage--doing on TV? An on no less than Night Stalker, a re-imagining of Darren McGavin's creepy-funny old series about a reporter knee-deep in bat guano as he chases vampires, monsters and other creatures that lurk in the dark?
"I'm up for anything," Townsend explains during a break from shooting Night Stalker, which debuted in September on ABC in the tough Thursday night 9 P.M. time slot, pitting it against CSI. "It's kind of strange, though, because the actual work is exactly the same. I'm on a film set all day long, too. The only difference is that we do four times the volume of work [on this show]. But that's really great. There's no sitting around. The pace is incredible, it's pretty challenging; much more so than film has been. Also, there's a different approach to television acting. You don't get precious about the lines. You don't have time to sit around and think about them, say than and get on with it, which is refreshing."
Executive-produced by Frank (The X-Files) Spotnitz, the new Night Stalker unfolds in a modern-day LA and kicked off with a pilot in which Carl Kolchak (Townsend) copes with a dramatic twist that was never part of the original version: His wife has been murdered by something inhuman. As in the short-lived 1974 series, however, Kolchak remains a newspaperman. In this edition, Perri Reed (Gabrielle Union), photographer Jain McManus (Eric Jungmann), editor Tony Vincenzo (Cotter Smith), and FBI Agen Benard Fain (John Pyper-Ferguson).
Townsend realizes that fans of the old Night Stalker will no doubt compare and contrast Kolchaks, but he's quick to assert that similarities between the interpretations will be few and far between.
"I had never watched the Night Stalker, Townsend confesses. "We didn't get it in Ireland. Even though this is called Night Stalker, this was never -for me anyway- about doing a remake or anything like that. I watched the originals, just to do my homework, but I didn't take anything away from them. This is a very different set-up, and they're completely different characters. My Kolchak is more ambiguous. He has a darker past, and we're not even sure if he's a good guy or a bad guy. I guess the two Kolchaks have something similar in that they're relentless in the pursuit of unexplained mysteries, but my Kolchak is a bit more forthright and intense about trying to track down killers at all costs.
"I don't even think it's about his job as a journalist so much," Townsend continues, "It's more about attempting to put his past to rest. So, my Kolchak comes with a different dimension, a more personal dimension. Even the relationship he has with Vincenzo is different. The original Kolchak and Vincenzo had a funny banter, but that can become a little one-note in a series. So our relationship in this Night Stalker has an element of Vincenzo chastising Kolchak now and then for going too far. But that will progress as we go on.
Spotnitz cut his writing and producing teeth on Night Stalker, a show that creator Chris Carter acknowledged was inspired by The Night Stalker. And it can be argued that without The X-Files - and, surely the success of Lost- there would be no Night Stalker redux. That said, some people are worried that this version will evolve into The X-Files: The Next Generation. Townsend expresses no such concern, but does confirm the influence of The X-Files on his new gig.
"The formula for The X-Files worked, and this is a similar realm," he notes. The Night Stalker isn't aliens, but it is unexplained mysteries. And in that case, one does have to be skeptical. So there is that element, which plays into the X-Files thing, and maybe Perri is kind of like the Scully character. But Perri is more skeptical. Anyway I think that's maybe where [the comparisons] end.
"It's a very different show in every other way-in tone, in theme," he adds. "Obviously, we're different actors, and this has more comedy in it. As the episodes have been going forward, we've been adding more comic elements, which I think is great. A story like this needs humorous moments. So Night Stalker is different from The X-Files, in many, many ways, but at the same time, there are going to be similarities. And I think they're good similarities, not bad ones. There are worse shows to which we can be compared. I loved The X-Files, and I don't think anyone is going to watch Night Stalker and say 'Oh, it's the The X-Files.'"
Night Stalker has staked out its own mysteries and mythology. Kolchak's search for his wife's killer, for example, looms large over the preceedings, and the weird wrist cuts come into play every so often. Townsend laughs and tries to play coy when asked if Spotnitz has clued him in to the major revelations to come or if, like Kolchak, he remains in the dark.
"Frank is a tricky character," Townsend says. "He likes to play his cards very close to his chest. He has told me little bits of information here and there, which I've had to extract from him. and I do know certain things, which are exciting, Obviously I can't tell you. I can't tell anybody. Hopefully these thing will hook people right away. In the first episode, we told the story of the mark and left it open to questions. What is the mark? What does it mean if you have it? Kolchak has one. It's hard to talk about the whole concept when we're only a few shows in. We want the audience to try to work things out for themselves and then be surprised.
Townsend, squeezing this conversation in during a production break, is about the busiest guy on the set. The show is called Night Stalker and he is the Night Stalker, thus Townsend is in nearly every single scene nearly every single day. "It's pretty intense, I have to say," he acknowledges. "The first few weeks were tough. We were just slow, figuring it out, asking questions, and then we had to do double the work. So the first three weeks were extremely hard. And we're still working 14 hours a day. Life goes out the window a bit. It also means that I really, really enjoy my weekends off. It's amazing how many things I can do and how long I can stretch that day-and-a-half off that we get each week. At the same time, it's great to work at this pace, with this intensity - It's a fantastic opportunity."
Lightening the star's load somewhat are his fellow Night Stalker cast mates Smith Jungmann and Union. "They're three amazing actors," Townsend raves. "Cotter comes in once a week and he's a really strong actor. It's a joy to work with him. Eric is so funny; he's sort of the comic element and has a great sense of timing. And Gabrielle is the best. I have to work with her all the time, and if she doesn't give 100 percent, my life-and everybody else's-would be so much more difficult. But she's so on top of it. We watched the pilot and the third episode the other day and she just nails every beat. She really does. Gabrielle has loads of energy, and thank God she's a fine talented actress. We're extremely lucky. Frank and [pilot director and co-executive producer] Dan Sackheim did a good job casting her."
Pre-Night Stalker. Townsend appeared in two other projects of interest to genre fans Queen of the Damned and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Queen melded the Anne Rice Novels The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned into one story, popped Townsend into the Lestat role first essayed by Tom Cruise and cast Aaliyah (who died before the film's release) as Akasha. Advance buzz suggested that Warner Bros. might dump the flick into the DVD Bins, but the studio ultimately released it to scathing reviews and, after a decent opening weekend, eventual movie goer indifference. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was a troubled production from the get-go, with graphic novel co-creator Alan Moore distancing himself from the project and reports of budget overruns and open hostilities between director Stephen Norrington and Sean Connery. The film- which features Townsend as the ageless Dorian Gray---elicited middling reviews and disappointing box-office results.
"Honestly, I never liked the Queen of the Damned script, ever- -not from the moment I recieved it," I didn't really want to do it. My agent said, 'You have to do this. It's a big movie.' So I read the script again. The reason why I did it was is because I love the Lestat character, but I would have prefered to have been Lestat in a really good version, in a really good script. So the script never worked for me, and the film did not quite work for me, either Sometimes that's the choice you're given: 'Do you want to do it or not?' I would rather act than sit at home and do nothing.
"I really enjoyed League, but it got destroyed by the critics. I thought it was quite unfair. Pirates of the Caribbean came out at the same time, and I don't think that was much better at all. But for some reason the critics fixated on not liking League, and that was that. I liked it. Was it worth six months of my life? No. It was a tough shoot beacuase we had floods and it pushed our schedule three months longer We were in Prague half a year and not able to get home much. That wasn't much fun. But I made some great friendships on League and had a good time."
Townsend nearly appeared in another genre production- -three of them, actually. He was set to play Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but departed New Zealand just days before Peter Jackson rolled camera on the risky groundbreaking, Oscar-winning enterprise. Jackson recast the vacant role with Viggo Mortensen, who rode the part to glowing reviews and stardom. Despite missing that date with destiny, Townsend evinces no regrets about his Rings fling.
"That's one thng about my life: I have no regrets. And I hope I can maintain that," he says. "Everything works for a reason. We hadn't even started shooting Rings. It was like two days before we were to begin filming when I left. I was so delighted to get out of there. I went to Australia and hung out with a few friends, and I was completely relieved. It was a horrible experience to be down there [in New Zealand], and hopefully that will never happen again.
"The whole thing blew up, that was a whole other experience, because I had forgotten about Rings," he explains. "Within two weeks I had put it away and moved on. I started doing theater in the West End, I was having a great time and then suddenly a year later- and for the next three years-- it was like Lord of the Rings! Lord of the Rings! Lord of the Rings! I had to kind of relive it, I suppose. But I'm very quick to say, 'OK, it didn't work out, whatever' and put it behind me. Rings haunted me for a while, but I have no regrets absolutly none. I've heard Viggo is an amazing guy, and it's great he got the opportunity to portray Aragorn. He wrote me a beautiful letter at the time, and I really respect that. But it's all water under the bridge."
Returning to Night Stalker, Townsend could be stalking for a long time if his show becomes a hit. Never having done one thing for too long, the actor can neither predict Night Stalker's fate not gauge how he might feel about a lengthy run. "You can't tell how long you're going to do a TV series for," Townsend says. "You don't know how long it will run. And like most actors, I don't want to do the same thing all the time.
"One of the joys of acting is I get to play different characters and change things. Having said that, I do love reading new Night Stalker scripts and saying. 'Every two weeks we're going to tell a new story.' Acting in movies, you make maybe two maybe three films a year, but with TV, you're doing an episode every two weeks. It's a huge volume of work and I'm loving it. Will I like it in six years? I can't say. But I really love it right now.
"Also, I'm not watching the ratings," Stuart Townsend comments. I'm not interested. I honestly don't care what happens. That's not my deal. It's out of our hands. It's all out of our control. You never know what makes something a success or not. What's important to me is the day-to-day stuff and telling these stories as best as I can. That's what I'm interested in. The rest of it is in the lap of the gods."