The new BBC America sci-fi drama Outcasts, takes viewers into a new world as it explores what it takes to survive in a post-Earth era. Actor Eric Mabius plays Julius Berger, the Vice President of the Evacuation Program on Earth and instrumental in leading the evacuation to Carpathia. Five years after the start of this new society, Berger is now en route to Carpathia on a transporter, expecting the power and status that he enjoyed on Earth, but likely to find resistance from its inhabitants, including President Richard Tate (Liam Cunningham), a fair and respected leader who is determined to run the planet in a democratic way and keep the human species alive.
In an interview to discuss what it’s like to make this new epic series, Eric Mabius talked about playing the American villain on a British TV show, this being one of the most fun characters he’s ever played and what it’s like to live in South Africa while they’re filming. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: Who is this guy, Julius Berger? Is there a backstory about why and how he got to this planet?
ERIC MABIUS: The whole pilot episode is the impending arrival. There hasn’t been a transporter that’s landed on Carpathia in over five years. This one comes out of nowhere and it creates tension. There are some really great scenes, as it becomes clear who is on the ship. My name comes up and it’s kept very vague. We know that president Tate (Liam Cunningham) is not exactly happy about him being there, and we’re not sure why.
Were you given that backstory upfront, or did you develop it yourself?
MABIUS: We were given that information as a breakdown. As the series goes on, we specify that I was in charge of the earth evacuation program and I have some political aspirations, and I may or may not have been part of NASA. He’s definitely a wise guy.
What attracted you to this role?
MABIUS: This is probably one of the most fun characters that I’ve ever played because he’s not black or white. He’s the hero and anti-hero, for lack of a better description. He is all things to different people, and has a very specific relationship to each of the different characters, depending on what he thinks they need or what he’s trying to get out of that dynamic.
My character arrives and sees a huge gap in what’s going on in Carpathia, in terms of the spiritual. That’s really the way in which my character anchors himself, as well as seeing that the people need hope. It’s like the classic platonic definition of love, and being in the state of want or not. They’re in the state of search and figuring out what to do once you’ve arrived. There’s all the spinning-off emotions that each of these separate people feel as a result of that, and I think that creates limitless directions for the series.
How do you like living in South Africa?
MABIUS: It’s fantastic. We found this area about an hour north of Cape Town, called the Friendship Valley. It’s more beautiful than Santa Barbara.
Did your family go with you?
MABIUS: Yeah, absolutely. I can’t go anywhere without them.
Do you feel that the location in South Africa is crucial to the landscape of the show?
MABIUS: South Africa has quite a few useful and varied locations that we’re shooting. We’re shooting in the desert and the beach, in the same days. We can be high in the mountains or on the soundstage. It’s convenient. The viewing audience can come with a clean pallet to the experience, which serves us on many fronts.
Why did you decide to come back to TV so soon? Was it just a great role that you couldn’t pass up?
MABIUS: Really, it was the script and the director, Bharat Nalluri. I’d worked with him before. He’s one of the more talented people that I have had a chance to work with. At the end of Ugly Betty, we were focusing on moving back to our home because we hadn’t been there in several years.
Is this role a huge departure from what you were doing on Ugly Betty?
MABIUS: Yeah, but people only think of you from your last project. I’ve done a lot of drama-style themes.
What is your relationship to the other characters like?
MABIUS: I have a specific relationship with each and every person on the planet that’s very different. He’s such a great character in that he’s seemingly there to serve. I think that’s what he truly believes.
Is this new planet a second chance for these people?
MABIUS: It’s a second chance because we’ve screwed this planet up completely and the stakes are high. There is no other fallback plan, at this point, so that is a great, expanding thing. The scope of the show is that you start at a very specific, small place with these characters and, at the end of the season, it’s very expansive. The weight of the stakes becomes quite apparent.
How would you classify this series?
MABIUS: The director of the first block of episodes called it “soft-fi,” which we all laughed at.
What’s it like to be the American villain on a British show?
MABIUS: We have so many TV shows and films where the second the British actor comes on the screen, we go, “Aw, there’s the bad guy,” but here it seems to be happening in the reverse. It’s nice, for a change. It’s refreshing to be out of the Hollywood paradigm. Being tens of thousands of miles away, we’re free to not be watched and to pursue what we think fulfills what (show creator) Ben [Richards] has put into motion. It’s nice. It’s more fun to create in that environment because things are more rugged from the crews themselves to the way things are done. There isn’t as much of a legacy, per se, and there are unimaginable amounts of raw beauty down there.
Since you’ve had experience with genre acting before, with projects like The Crow, do you notice a different approach, in terms of how you have to see the world?
MABIUS: It’s absolutely no different. Specifically to the character and to whatever project I’m doing, if I don’t believe what I’m doing, then I don’t expect an audience to, so I jump in with the same kind of passion and outlook that I would, even doing Ugly Betty. There’s really no difference.
Are you happy with the way that Ugly Betty ended?
MABIUS: I thought so. They weren’t too specific, but they let everyone draw their own conclusions. I like that it wasn’t shoved down their throat, and it left some room for a possible film.
Would you be into that, if they want to make a movie?
MABIUS: Of course.
Do you still keep in touch with any of the cast?
MABIUS: Yeah. It’s the closest I’ve ever been with a cast, and we all keep our hands in what is going on with each other. Becki [Newton] told us all before everyone else, when she got pregnant.
For more on Outcasts, here’s our interview with creator Ben Richards.