On SyFy’s re-imagining of the popular BBC television series Being Human, Montreal native Meaghan Rath plays a ghost named Sally, who is a young woman searching for the truth behind her early demise. In life, she was vivacious, smart, funny, driven and excited about her engagement to her college sweetheart. She now lives in the apartment they once shared, along with a vampire named Aidan (Sam Witwer) and a werewolf named Josh (Sam Huntington/read our interview with him here), as she learns to navigate her new ghostly existence.
In a recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Meaghan Rath talked about how excited she is to be a part of Being Human, how she hopes that fans of the original series will gave this version a chance, the fact that 13 episodes will give them a chance to expand and add storylines, and the unusual challenge of playing a character that no one can touch because she is a ghost. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
MEAGHAN RATH: I kind of always knew. I watched a lot of movies when I was younger and I remember, when I was seven years old, I asked my parents if I could have an agent for Christmas. It was always something I wanted to do, so it really is a dream come true. Also, to shoot this show in my hometown, being from Montreal, is really amazing. I get to be at home with my friends and family, and I get to do this amazing project. What more could I ask for, really.
How did you come to be a part of Being Human?
RATH: I remember getting the sides and the script from my agent, with a breakdown of what the show was about. I didn’t know about the British show before I started preparing for the audition. I remember immediately connecting with the story and the character, and I auditioned. I was called back a couple of times to do some auditions with Adam Kane, who’s our executive producer, and he directed the first two episodes and the finale, and I remember really connecting with him. And then, they flew me to L.A. to do the screen test, and that was that. At the screen test, Adam came out and gave us all a little individual pep talk and gave us some last minute direction, and when he was talking to me, I was just in my head going, “This can’t be it. This can’t be the last time I work with this guy.” He had so many great ideas, and I loved what he was saying and how he was saying it to me. We really connected and I was like, “This can’t be it! I have to get this.” So, it all worked out.
Did you have any hesitation about signing on for a role that you could be playing for a number of years?
RATH: Not at all. I was actually really excited about it. As an actor, it’s steady work. I’ve done a couple of series before and what I like about TV is, as an actor, you get that chance to practice all the time, and that’s really how you grow. Doing a show for five months is the best practice and training I could ever ask for. Sam Huntington and Sam Witwer are the best scene partners in the world. They’re amazing. I love those guys so much. I feel like they’re brothers to me now. It’s really nice. We’re very lucky to have the connection that we all have together. I learned so much. And, we had this amazing line-up of directors that we worked with. It was a dream, really.
What do you learn about yourself, as an actor, when you’re working with different directors for each episode, who each have their own vision for the characters and story?
RATH: You have to be adaptable, first off. You establish this relationship with one person, and then a month later, it’s somebody different and you have to be able to adapt to their style and what they’re looking for, but also be able to retain your vision of the character. When new directors come on, we know the characters better than they do, so it’s a compromise. It’s being able to keep your instincts and what you feel the character would do, but also respect what they’re bringing to it. It’s a nice balance.
RATH: I did watch a couple of episodes during the audition process, to get a sense of the tone and the vibe of the show, but once we started filming, they didn’t want us to watch any of them. So, I’ve only watched a couple. I think I actually watched from the second season. But, it was really important to them that we bring ourselves to it, so it’s something fresh, new and different from what the original cast was doing. I think it does turn out very different from theirs because we’re all completely different people and we have different takes on who these people are, and they are different from the original. We’re doing 13 episodes this season and they have six, so we have a lot of time to develop these characters and we really get into their backstories and who they were. Naturally, we bring something new to it.
Is it more of an expansion of the same storylines, or are you also adding new storylines to fill out the extra episodes?
RATH: It’s both. It starts off very similar because it is a re-imagining of the same show, so we’re establishing what the story is about and who these people are. But, we do have a lot more time to go off on our own thing. Mid-season is where we really start exploring something new. One thing that’s different is that you don’t see a lot of the werewolf’s family. With Josh (Sam Huntington), we bring in his sister and see a lot of his backstory, what his family was, the relationship that he had with them, and what he’s torn with and struggling with. We also introduce this new sect of vampires, towards the end of the season. That’s different from the original. There are a lot of different things and a lot of little subtleties that we’re bringing to it, that the British one didn’t have time to get into. We’re taking advantage of our 13 episodes. From what I’ve seen, I feel like our characters are a lot more sarcastic and a little more deadpan than the British ones, but that is in the writing. Anna [Fricke] and Jeremy [Carver] are unbelievable. They’re so great and it was such a pleasure to be a part of the world that they adapted and created. And, Boston has its own life and vibe. It was very important to them that we embrace what Boston is and that whole New England vibe.
With the original series being so popular, do you think it helps the show that there is already a built-in interest, or is it more nerve-wracking because you have something that you actually have to live up to?
RATH: It does make it nerve-wracking, I’m not going to lie. Especially because the British show is so popular and they have such a loyal fan base, it is kind of daunting. But, at least people know about the show and are talking about it, and they’re probably going to check it out to see how it compares. If they just come into it with an open mind and are ready to embrace something different, I think they’re really going to like it. I really like the show. I’m kind of biased watching it, but I was really, really impressed. I’ve seen up to Episode 10 and it was really nice to see that we’re making the show that we all hoped we were making. We’ve never met or spoken to the British cast, but I’m sure that we will. They seem amazing. We hope that fans of their show will be fans of our show, and new fans of our show will check out their show. Their creators are on board with us and we’re all working together, which is really nice. And, the Aidan character in our show is named after Aidan Turner, who plays Mitchell on the original. I was reading some stuff online – and I should definitely stop with Google – and people were outraged and said, “Oh, I can’t believe they would use his name!,” but it’s in homage to them. It’s a little shout-out. I see it as a compliment. I understand. They love their show. I get it. But, hopefully, they’ll watch ours and see how great it is, and like it for something different than what the British show is.
RATH: First of all, I would say that it’s not a competition. We’re not competing with them or trying to replace what their show is. But, we’re doing a version that takes place in New England, offers something different, and brings something fresh and original to the show that’s already going on and is amazing. I just hope that they know that we completely respect and admire everything that the British show is. The acting on that show is incredible. I’ve only seen a couple of episodes, but I was completely blown away by everything that they were doing. We all have huge shoes to fill. We just hope that they check out the show and come in with an open mind, expect something different and try to embrace these new people. Hopefully, they’ll like it. I’m sure, if they actually give it a chance, they’ll like it.
Do you get to collaborate on new ideas for the character at all, or are you just going with what they give you in the script for now?
RATH: We’re going with what they give us in the script. It’s our first season. Our creators are really involved and, personally, I just want to do justice to what they’ve done and what they’ve created and the ideas that they’re giving us. Needless to say, we bring our own personality to it, but when it comes to the character’s journey or what happens to them, we don’t have any input in that.
How do you see Sally? What kind of person is she to you?
RATH: I see her as the person that she was in life. She’s dead, but the essence of who she is, is exactly the same. In life, she was someone that was vibrant, smart, funny and outgoing, and that lived her life a certain way. She was very involved in everything that she did, and had big plans for herself. In death, she’s the same way, but now add to that her struggle of figuring out what she is, where she is, where she’s supposed to go and how she’s supposed to get there. There are these added problems that she has to deal with, but she’s still able to retain the sense of fun and the energy that she had from when she was alive, which I really admire.
RATH: Yes, it’s really hard, especially for me, because when I talk to people and I get animated, I touch them and am very physically involved. It’s actually been really hard, but it’s an acting challenge. You have to not fall back on those habits, and it’s a challenge to just let the words speak for themselves without adding any physical connection to them. But, I feel like I’ve gotten a good hang of it. This complex that I have now, with not touching people, has brought itself into my normal life, which is weird. I’m out with my friends and someone brushes against me, and my first impulse is, “Oh, god, no!” It’s been funny. Anytime we do scenes together, we have to be very conscious of our knees not touching, if we’re sitting together. Even if we get a little close, it’s like, “Oh, it’s a little too close. It could pass for some touching.” Now, we’re just concerned if anyone is touching on the show, at all. Nobody should be touching.
Are there changes that have to be made to the set and the set pieces to accommodate that aspect of your character?
RATH: Yeah, there is. When I sit on the couch, I have these pillows that are made out of concrete and they have it upholstered. It’s so I don’t make an imprint. That’s uncomfortable. It looks like a normal couch, so you forget that it’s cement and you just plop down on it and really, severely hurt yourself. That’s been hard. Or, if I’m lying on a bed, it’s all rigged with that concrete, which is strange. It’s very uncomfortable because I have to look very natural on it. It’s all in a day’s work.
How is it to work with Sam Witwer and Sam Huntington? Do they have a very similar or different approach to their work?
RATH: I feel like, technically, we have a similar approach. Honestly, they’re amazing. I really admire them both as actors. I think they’re two of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with. It’s a pleasure to do scenes with them. When the three of us have scenes all together, we’re all very excited about it. We have this confidence going into it, where we know that it’s going to turn out right because we can trust that our chemistry will be there and will carry us through the scene, even if we’re having problems with it. Sam Witwer is a very classically trained actor who is so emotionally available and extremely generous, so doing scenes with him, it’s like I can just sit with him and look at him and everything that we need will be there. He’s so present. It’s amazing. It’s so nice to do scenes with him. I feel like I need to thank him, after we do a scene together. And, Sam Huntington is one of the funniest people I know. It’s just a blast, doing scenes with him. When we would get the scripts for the upcoming block, I’d count how many scenes we’d have together and be like, “Yeah, we get to hang out and be together.” He’s unbelievably generous and so warm. We can just be together in a scene and trust that everything is going to turn out okay because we just play off each other very well. We’re really lucky to have each other. The chemistry is just right, and it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. These guys look at her as a sister and they care about her and want to protect her, and I feel that, in life, with them. Those guys are really protective of me, in a weird way. They’re a little too protective, but it’s nice. It’s just as it’s supposed to be.
What have been the biggest challenges in making this show?
RATH: A lot of the challenges come from all the special effects that we do. It’s really grueling, especially for Sam Huntington, who has to go through the werewolf transformation. I know it’s really exhausting for him because it’s a huge process. For me, I work a lot with a green screen, which is really time consuming. All the special effects are. It’s hard to keep the energy and the emotion of the scene when they’re installing a massive green screen behind you. The whole show is a challenge for me, just because, as an actor, it’s rare to do a role where the character is so well-rounded and just feels like a normal person. You have to tap into all these different emotions and all these different experiences that she’s going through because these characters do go through so much. I feel like all of us are really invested in it and we all put our hearts into it, and we just hope that people like it.
RATH: I think it’s amazing. I’m excited. I’m actually familiar with the fans because my brother is a huge fanboy. I was exposed to the genre really early, so I know all about it and I’m really excited about it. To me, the fans just seem so loyal, above anything, which is amazing. What more can you ask for in a fan? I’m excited. I’m not worried about anything.
If the attention that you get from being a part of this show leads to some film work, are there types of roles or specific genres that you’d love to be able to do?
RATH: Well, I love anything Quentin Tarantino, so I would be pretty amazed, if I could do something like that. That would be my dream. That’s not too far off. I really like him. I saw this interview that he did, where he was talking about Inglourious Basterds and that scene where Christoph Waltz had to strangle the girl, and they were like, “How did you get it so real? How did you actually film that? It looks like she’s actually choking.” He was like, “Well, it was actually my hand that was going in and choking her.” The interviewer was like, “How is that all right? Did it hurt her?” He said, “Well, it hurt just as much as if you were into that kind of thing.” I was like, “Oh, god, I love you! That’s amazing!” I love the action stuff. Honestly, I like sci-fi and everything supernatural. I feel really lucky.
BEING HUMAN premieres on SyFy on January 17th