The Syfy original movie Mysterious Island, adapted from Jules Verne’s 1874 novel, follows five northern POWs from the American Civil War, who make the decision to escape by hijacking a hot air balloon. When they wake to find themselves marooned on a desert island, inhabited by a cast of survivors who have been lost in space and time, they are faced with defending themselves against vicious pirates, terrifying creatures and an active volcano that’s ready to blow, and they must find a way to survive and escape the island before it claims them forever.
During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, actress Gina Holden talked about being offered this role and how much she enjoyed playing Jules Fogg (one of two sisters, from modern times, who become stranded on the island while flying over the Bermuda Triangle), how much she loves doing stunts and dealing with special effects, what a great vibe there was on set, and how impressed she was with actor-turned-director Mark Sheppard. She also talked about getting more involved as a producer, the episode she just shot of the Fox drama series Fringe, and how she prefers playing strong, intelligent women, as opposed to the more gratuitous roles that she often gets offered. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
GINA HOLDEN: I was, actually. I don’t know if it has to do with the network so much as the producers that were involved. I feel really, really fortunate that I’m even in a position to get offers. I audition tons and tons and tons, and I work all the time towards being a part of projects like this, so to get a call and have someone say, “They want you for this, here’s the script, take a look and see what you think,” I was obviously over the moon. I saw that Mark [Sheppard] was directing it, so I was really excited, from the get-go, and I had a really great read. I enjoyed the whole thing.
My character, Jules, is just a fun, strong female character, which is always good. There was no gratuitous ridiculousness in it, and no big sex scene. That’s part of entertainment and that’s great, but it was really nice just to read how fluid the characters all were and how they really worked together. Lochlyn [Munro] and I did have a lot of chemistry, and the characters had chemistry as well. It was a really strong script, so given the opportunity, and after reading it, I said, “I would love to be a part of this.” It all happened fairly quickly. I got to chat with Mark and the producers, and the next thing I knew, I was on a plane to Louisiana. It was really very exciting.
Was it fun to be the modern-day woman, trapped on this island with people from various time periods?
HOLDEN: It was really fun. Reading it, I thought, “Oh, how cool that my sister – Susie Abromeit’s character – and I are from the future, and then we meet up with these guys, from way back when, in their Civil War uniforms.” That scene when Lochlyn says, “Flying locomotive,” and I’m like, “An airplane?” was fun. But then, on the flipside, it’s neat to do the period piece thing and put yourself in a different mind space. But, the boys did really well with that, and we brought the fun element to it, of the future. When we got into filming, I was thanking my lucky stars because the weather was so unbelievably hot and humid, and I was in jeans and some light sneakers and a light t-shirt while the boys were in those heavy, wool uniforms. I was like, “Yeah, I’m really glad I’m from the future now!” Had I been in period wear from that time, it would have just been unbearable.
HOLDEN: Very loosely, I knew about it. My brother actually knows everything about Jules Verne. He’s read every bit of his work. My brother is my go-to with scripts, especially when we’re talking genre pieces, because I want to make sure that it’s legit. I can love it, but then I pass stuff on to him. There have been things in the past that I have ended up not doing because he was like, “No, this is so far from the truth,” or “It’s so far from the original,” or “It’s so far from the books.” He sat with me, read the script, and went through it with me and said, “This is fantastic! It’s an awesome novel, and they’ve done a really good job with the screenplay.” So, he helped me with it. With my little bit of knowledge, mixed with his amazing knowledge of it, I was very confident, comfortable and excited to go into it.
Was it challenging to do a film like this on a TV budget?
HOLDEN: Yeah, it’s always a challenge, so you need good people attached to make every dollar count. A lot of it falls into the hands of post-production. So, it’s important, from every aspect, to have 100% commitment. We had such a great time doing it. I’m hoping it’s enjoyable to watch. It’s an escape, even for myself. That’s why I love the genre. I can always put everything aside and escape, which is great.
HOLDEN: I love it! It is just so invigorating and exciting, going to work and knowing I’m going to do some type of a stunt, or run through the swamp, or work with green screen. All of those things are tremendous challenges, but they’re what make it fun for me, in this genre. That’s why I keep doing it. I certainly do all sorts of work. I’m very, very blessed to do drama and other types of television, and things like that, but I always go back to sci-fi, whenever possible, because that’s really exciting for me. I love that I can do this type of thing that my friends and family are familiar with, and I can impress them with the type of visuals that come with doing this. I get to do fun things that I would never, ever normally do. I feel very, very lucky to be a part of stuff like this. And, I have a crazy amount of energy and it’s hard for me to sit still, anyway, so put me to work, make me useful and throw up a huge green screen of a giant octopus, and I’ll have fun with it.
What was this ensemble of actors like to work with?
HOLDEN: That’s something you never, ever know, and I’ve been really lucky. There have been very few times I’ve had any difficult personalities. It’s probably only been one time. But, you don’t know. Everybody flies in on their own, and you’re there for four weeks, or whatever, together. Lochlyn Munro was our leading man and he set an incredible tone. He’s a very hard worker, and having your number one be a very hard working, keen actor really helps everybody else to get really comfortable. There were no attitudes or egos. It’s like, “If he’s getting in there and going for it, then let’s all get in there and go for it as well.” He really set that tone, to begin with. I was so thrilled and excited that it was him because he is such a pleasure to work with, which you’ll hear, across the board, from anyone that he’s worked with. He’s so professional.
And then, we had Caleb Michaelson, who is a local from Louisiana, and he was hilarious. The southern hospitality doesn’t hurt. Once you’re there, you’re family. We had dinners and everybody hung out together. It was a lovely thing. The great cast and an awesome location was a win-win. It was just too much fun. We had a big challenge on our hands, so all of us were equally keen and wanted to do the best job we could. Nobody was there to slack or have any type of vacation. It was all about the work and getting as much done as we could, every day. We pulled together and got through any of the challenges we had to get through. We did fight a lot of weather, and things like that, but we all stuck it out, and I think that shows in the final product. There was a cohesiveness between all of the cast, and everyone behind the camera as well.
Were there things that most impressed you about Mark Sheppard, as a director, especially taking on a project that was so challenging?
HOLDEN: I was impressed with his sense of humor. You need a sense of humor and somebody who’s a little daring, to do something like this. It’s a story that’s been done a lot before and it’s an incredible novel, so you want to do it justice, and he really approached it with passion. He was very well-prepared, and his sense of humor was great. Because he’s an actor with quite an extensive resume, he knows what it’s like to be on the other side, so he knew how to get the performances out of everyone. It really worked, the way that he approached it. He wouldn’t get upset and change the tone. If we were getting a funnel cloud because there was a tornado on the way, he wouldn’t let that discourage him from what his ultimate goal was. It was like, “Okay, let’s hide under this cement barricade here and wait out this storm.” And, we all sang songs and kept the spirits high. A director really has to set that tone, and that’s what he did. That was fantastic!
HOLDEN: A little bit. I don’t think I’m quite ready for that. I’m still very much wanting to perform and tell stories from the actor’s perspective. But certainly, one day, maybe. It’s inspiring to see ‘cause it’s quite an accomplishment. It’s an accomplishment he can be proud of, and that would be neat. To have led the entire cast and production, and to see a finished product, would be quite rewarding.
Do you have any idea what you’re going to be doing next, as an actor and as a producer?
HOLDEN: I’ve moved into the area of producing quite a bit, doing smaller projects, shadowing on television series, and co-producing on Sand Sharks, which I did last year. It’s just another element and another way to learn more about the movie-making process. I want to make myself useful, in every way, and knowing as much as I can about it, from start to finish, is beneficial to me, as an actor, as well. So, I’m always looking for that now and moving into that direction quite a bit.
I’m very lucky to have had great projects come to me, on a nice, steady pace. I just finished a great episode of Fringe, which is another sci-fi/genre show. I’m not quite sure when it will air yet, and I don’t want to give anything away because I want to respect the fans, but that was the most recent thing that I finished. Now, I’m just getting ready for a new project, coming up. I’m always keeping busy. There’s always great stuff happening.
HOLDEN: Oh, yes, so many. I feel like I haven’t even started yet. It’s endless. That’s the beauty of art. Hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to play many more characters, whether it be in theater, film or television. Every time I get something that’s different than the last thing, I get excited. I don’t want to play the same thing, every single time. I’ve been able to do a lot so far, but then I think that I haven’t even started, really.
I hope I just keep getting that opportunity to try new things. It’s hard because I seek out strong female roles. I turn down a lot of stuff, not because it’s not good, but because I don’t want to play certain types of characters. I don’t like to just play the pretty girl. The gratuitous stuff doesn’t really interest me that much. I’d probably work a lot more, if I took that other stuff, but I’ll hold off and stay strong, and hopefully they’ll keep writing strong roles.
When I’m watching TV, I’m always drawn to those female characters who are doing something that I would want to do. I hope to play characters that my female fans, when they’re watching, can go, “Good for her!” I want it to be that type of thing. I want to make my friends and family proud, and all my female fans that are out there watching. I want to do them justice.