BY: HERMIONE WILSON
SCI-FI’S NEWEST POWER COUPLE
If you’ve had a chance to watch Syfy’s new three-part miniseries Childhood’s End, you know that Ricky (Mike Vogel) and Ellie Stormgren (Daisy Betts) are this show’s equivalent of Brangelina. Everyone wants a piece of them! When Ricky is chosen for the dubious honour of negotiating with the Overlords on behalf of the human race, he and Ellie’s quiet country life is upended. Suddenly hundreds of people are making the pilgrimage to their little farmhouse, jostling for a glimpse at the first two humans to interact with their mysterious new rulers. Understandably, the Stormgrens are a little less starstruck and would just like to be left in peace, thank you very much!
What attracted you to this project?
Mike Vogel: Daisy Betts [Daisy laughs]. I think after my first conversation with [writer and executive producer] Matthew Graham and [director] Nick Hurran, when I saw how collaborative they were about this, their vision for it, and how open they were to really doing some fun, interesting stuff and returning to believable, integrated sci-fi, taking these aliens, making it completely believable and intertwining them with humanity, that was an interesting thing for me. And then when I realize the pedigree of it, when I realized that Childhood’s End was literally the benchmark of science fiction [literature] that has been out there for the last sixty or seventy years, that it was Stanley Kubrick’s favourite Arthur C. Clarke work, I realized how special it was.
Daisy Betts: There was a little bit of Arthur C. Clarke name dropping going on when I was pitched the project. I don’t have a big background in sci-fi, so I just had to trust other people, but when I hear a big name like that and that it’s going to be quite a challenge, then you don’t want to fall flat, you don’t want to fall short. Knowing that, as Mike said, knowing that Nick Hurran and Matt Graham were going to try and do the book justice and really wanted to make the sci-fi fans proud of this work, that’s very reassuring. You know, a big factor for me was that it was shot in Australia over Christmas time, summer time, not going to lie about that. But the actual project itself was really interesting and it’s going to be quite different I think to anything that is on TV now or has been on TV because of the format and because of the subject matter. I like projects that make people think and this is definitely one of those projects.
What was it like filming in Melbourne, Australia?
Daisy Betts: For me it was just beautiful going back to where I grew up and being surrounded by that again, and asking myself why I live in Los Angeles now and not in Australia [laughs]. But, yeah, we had to create this utopia and for me that was just not difficult to imagine, because Australia is a little bit of a utopia to me in my nostalgic brain. What about you Mike?
Mike Vogel: It was wonderful. I guess the big thing about this project is that it’s so global reaching. You had to double Rio de Janeiro, you had to double China and all these places across the map, and for us, a Missouri cornfield. We were able to replicate all those places there in Melbourne. I had a fantastic experience – nicest people in the world second to Canadians [laughs].
Can you tell me more about the Missouri farmhouse set where you guys were shooting?
Daisy Betts: Do you want us to ruin the illusion?
[Laughs] Sure, go ahead!
Daisy Betts: That was a lot of movie magic there. They grow these cornfields to make oil and stuff like that, and it’s kind of on water sewage treatment land, so it’s not a real farm. They built that house in the middle of the cornfield in a water sewage treatment area, so some days smelled less pleasant than others. And then we built the interior in the studio, which was an amazing interior design and set design for our house. I loved Ellie and Ricky’s house! But the exterior on the cornfield was just an empty shell that became a bit of an 80’s disco pad sometimes – that’s a little reveal about our behind the scenes life. Mike Vogel really likes 80’s music [laughs].
Mike Vogel: Sometimes you gotta to go to the hair bands.
There are a lot of incredible special effects on this show. Now that we’re talking about the farmhouse, I’m thinking about the scene when your whole house comes apart when Karellen first visits, and I’m wondering how much of that did you see and how much was added in post?
Mike Vogel: All of it. Literally Nick Hurran was off camera yelling with a British accent “OK fellas what’s flying by your face? Yes, duck. OK you’re walking – Oh! What’s that? What’s that?” It was all just trying to imagine – which I don’t know how you ever could – [the house] being ripped apart board by board, separating, being put back together. But again, seeing the final project was cool.
Daisy Betts: After we were done shooting the set, I think they did take it apart piece by piece and kind of photograph it along the way to help do this special effect. It’s a pretty amazing process.
I wanted to ask you Mike – I know you’ve said you read the book when you were preparing for the role – what do you think Clarke is trying to convey in his book, what message?
Mike Vogel: Well, there’s many, but I think early on in the book… [he’s trying to] hold a mirror up to humanity and saying “Hey, you guys have had a fair shake here and you’ve successfully managed to really mess it all up”. So [the aliens] basically come down and make sure we don’t continue achieving light-speed travel, we don’t pollute other worlds with our filth. What’s scary is that this book was written in 1953. Fast-forward sixty, seventy years and we’re essentially dealing with a lot of the same players and the same problems that existed when Clarke wrote the book. I think the hope, and what I believe to be the overarching idea of this thing is, given the way this all turns out, is that hopefully we would all look at that and look at ourselves and say “Alright yeah, now it’s time to do something about it”.
Daisy, I had a chance to ask Mike the other day, if aliens were to land on Earth and offer this utopia, but you have to give up science, you had to give up culture, would you take that deal?
Daisy Betts: After making this show, I would say no. I would not give anything up. I think that human beings are capable of pretty amazing things. I think if we all just keep striving forward with the best of intentions, then we can achieve so much. It’s a little bit sad when you hear people say that we’re in the same situation as we were seventy years ago in terms of war and issues of injustice, but if we keep striving to try and solve those issues, I think that is great and that aliens can butt out [laughs]. We got this!