Haven returns: A Q&A with Eric Balfour
'Haven' star Eric Balfour talks about his character 'Duke,' and what to expect in Season Two of Syfy's supernatural TV show. 'Haven' premiers tonight at 10 p.m. on Syfy.
When Stephen King first wrote the short story, “The Colorado Kid,” he probably never envisioned that it would inspire a modern day supernatural television series. Syfy’s series HAVEN features not only a mysterious town with inhabitants that are stricken with abilities that border on the supernatural and super-freaky, it offers a complex look at a trio of heroes caught up in the story of how to solve the puzzle of what brought these troubles to the little town of Haven. During a recent press call, Eric Balfour shared what makes his character Duke Crocker tick and also provided a few key insights on the upcoming season of HAVEN.
How is the dynamic within the cast change, as the show has progressed?
ERIC: Last season, me and Lucas have had a history together — we worked on a show before and we have a really good rapport, and Emily and Lucas had worked before together — but we hadn’t all worked, the three of us together. So we really became friends last year. This season, we really have learned to look after each other and support each other. It really is a really tight bond. Most shows don’t have this small of cast. Most shows have seven or six regulars or even sometimes more. It’s really the three of us that are permanent fixtures on the show. So we really have become like this little unit and little family in a way. So I think the biggest difference from this season to last is just our camaraderie and our comfort level. I mean I love Emily and Lucas and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for them.
What do you enjoy most about working on HAVEN?
ERIC: I love playing Duke, I really do. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the writers for writing this character because he’s so much fun to play. He has no boundaries. He can say what he wants. He can do what he wants. He doesn’t have to abide by anyone’s rules and I think that’s probably something I enjoy in my own life. So I just love playing Duke.
So if there’s more to learn about Duke, do you feel you’ve got a handle on who he really is or is he still somewhat mysterious to you now going into the second season?
ERIC: It’s always interesting because the writers are always throwing new little twists at us about the characters that we didn’t know. I mean from an emotional standpoint, I feel like I definitely do understand Duke. I love this dude. I just think he’s awesome. So in that regard, yes. But there’s always – in every episode there’s always some little twist the writers are throwing at us and little hints that they’re giving us and we find out some new twist about the show. I’m never completely sure of exactly who Duke is, but I think at his core I really do understand who he is and I like him. He’s fun.
Since we see more of Reverend Ed when the show returns, can you talk about working with Stephen McHattie and what it’s like to play off of his intensity?
ERIC: Stephen McHattie is pretty fricking awesome. He’s an odd bird in some ways. He really is an artist. That I appreciate so much — that he takes what he does very seriously and he’s very good at it. But he doesn’t have sort the normal, linear conversations like the average Joe does, and that kind of makes him fun. But, at the same time, you’re always a little unsure of what Stephen McHattie thinks and you’re always kind of trying to figure him out. But I think that makes him really fun.
Can you kind of talk about the new character that’s kind of coming into your character’s life and about her — or are you not allowed to talk about that?
ERIC: Yes, I can talk about it. So Duke has this woman come into this life. And Duke — is sort of, I guess similar to me in that way that he – Duke is attracted to dangerous women. He is one of those guys who doesn’t like anything that comes easily. He likes the challenge and he likes a certain amount of danger and game and suspense. So this woman comes into his life and definitely starts to turn things upside down and really is a catalyst for a big part of where Duke is going this season and really in future seasons too.
Are we going to get more of the town’s past this season and more about what’s going on?
ERIC: Oh, yes. We’re going to find out a lot about this town and we’re going to find out a lot about how Duke is connected to this town and to the troubles.
Are we going to get see more about how what happened with Duke and Nathan?
ERIC: We are definitely going to start to see Duke and Nathan’s relationship evolve. But thus far, we haven’t spent a lot of time as we did last year examining their history. I think last season we had a lot of references to sort of what caused their rift and the possibilities of what they once were friends and no longer are. But this season we’re really sort of moving forward with their relationship and seeing what it’s evolving into.
Over the last year, you have done everything from TV to film. How you felt about doing those gigs and what was so unique about HAVEN that probably stands out for you?
ERIC: Well, as far as HAVEN is concerned, I just loved that this show took place in this very quirky, macabre, funny world. And I love the character. I love that HAVEN, while it has all this mystery and it has all this danger, it also has this very small town warmth and it has this sense of family — and it’s strange. I’m always pushing the producers and the writers to actually perpetuate that even more — because I think one of the most interesting things about this show is how sort of odd everyone is in this town. I mean when you think about the characters, Vince and Dave who run the newspaper, I love those guys. They’re just funny and weird and goofy. And I’m hoping to really, as the show goes on and we move into further seasons, that we really, really keep pushing that boundary even further.
How was it guest starring on NO ORDINARY FAMILY and how was it different from your HAVEN experience?
ERIC: Obviously, the biggest difference is that HAVEN and the crew and show have become like my family. I mean, we really are lucky. We have an amazing crew and we have a lot of fun together. It’s always interesting to go to another show, as a guest, and to sort of be an outsider. But it was a lot of fun. I mean hanging out with Michael Chiklis was really cool. And it was actually cool because the couple of weeks that I was there, he was right in the middle of releasing a song that he had produced and sang. So it was really fun watching the dude from THE SHIELD — this sort of tough guy — actually really being like giddy and like a little kid. He was so excited about this song. So it was really fun to hang out with him. And he was a really cool dude. And I got to hang out with Lucy Lawless, who is just awesome.
Do you know if there’s going to be an answer as to why there are “troubles” in HAVEN or why they come back?
ERIC: I do know for a fact that Sam Ernst and Jim Dunn, the creators of the show, definitely 100% know exactly what’s going on in this town. So some day, I know they will [tell us], but I think it’s probably not going to happen for like Season 5 or 6. They’re going to prolong it as long as they can. But they definitely, definitely, definitely have an answer. They know exactly what’s going.
Do you have a guess?
ERIC: Do I have a guess? I’ve always imagined, in my mind, that what’s going on in HAVEN is in some ways, it’s almost like global warming. As things shift in the universe of HAVEN and the world shifts and humanity shifts, things change. And while at one time, HAVEN, this town, was exactly — as its name ensues — was a safe HAVEN for people that had these supernatural curses or troubles or afflictions. So as nature changes, something happened in the energy of this town that created this Molotov cocktail of supernatural occurrences. And I always felt that it was much more evolutionary versus being one single action.
You’re playing this ambiguous character in HAVEN, and you don’t exactly know what’s going on with him from week to week. How do you get in the mindset to play this part?
ERIC: What it usually entails is a lot of phone calls and emails back and forth from the writers. Because this show is so intricate in its dynamics, you’re always having to ask questions and to get questions answered. There’s two different schools of thought. Some people like to keep the actors guessing because they want their responses to be honest. For me, as an actor, I like to know what’s coming ahead, because I feel like it is my job to paint a palette, and to know that if I’m going from A to B, there’s certain hills and valleys that I’ll want to hit along the way. So I like to know the answers. So a lot of the time it’s me reading the next week’s script and then sending like two-page emails to the writers with a thousand questions and they just go, ‘Oh, man. Balfour is emailing us again. What are we going to do?’ But they’re always really cool about it. And they always take the time to answer our questions and talk us through things. I’ve got to hand it to them. They’re amazing in that way that really appreciate and respect how much we have breathed life into these characters. So they really do value our opinions about what our characters do. It’s really neat. It’s cool.
Other than the fact that you’re both attracted to dangerous women, what characteristics do you see in yourself, that your character Duke has?
ERIC: I think the most obvious answer for me is that we both have an aversion to authority. Neither one of us likes rules very much. I think that would be the most obvious thing to me when I think about how me and Duke are similar. It’s interesting. There’s a lot of similarities. I think Duke is innately more confident than I am in some ways, which has actually been really kind of a blessing for me in my own life. Playing Duke, I have to get outside of myself and really have strong belief in who I am as Duke because that’s what makes Duke really kind of awesome is that he has a confidence and a charisma that I’ve sort of learned a little bit from playing him in my own life. He walks through the world believing that he can do anything and that the rules don’t apply to him in that. Anytime somebody said you can’t do something, that’s just a challenge for him to do it. It’s a lesson that I’ve sort of taken in my own life.
So what have you learned about yourself from working on HAVEN?
ERIC: I would say that’s a really good question — a really good question. I think one of the things that I’ve learned about myself is that in playing the character Duke I realize how many insecurities I have myself, because Duke is so confident and because Duke carries himself with such gallantry and sort of grandiose behavior. It really made me look at my own life and my own insecurities in how, in some ways, I don’t live that way. It’s really forced me to look at my own life and look at my insecurities and look at the things that I carry around as baggage really, that in some ways holds me back. So that’s been one of the biggest things I’ve learned about myself. And honestly, that is really the thing that most profoundly stands out to me.
It appears that there is a rivalry between Duke and Nathan as they have the same attraction for the same woman. Why do you think Audrey should pick Duke over Nathan?
ERIC: If I was being really honest, I don’t know that I would tell the character Audrey to pick Duke. I think in some ways that Duke is Duke — because he is a loner in a way. He does walk to his own drumbeat and I don’t know that he is capable of really ever being domesticated. I think it would be a lot of fun to see Audrey try to settle him down, but at the end of the day, I don’t know if Duke is capable of it. I think Duke is one of those guys who probably will one day get on his boat and sail around the world and kind of sail into the sunset on his own. And he’ll just disappear one day and you’ll never know what happened to him.
What are your expectations for your character for Season 2?
ERIC: You know, I think what I was really hoping for this season was to really see Duke evolve. . . I think this season I was really looking forward to Duke being faced with tough questions, where he really had to choose a side finally. Because last season he was able to sort of dance around and play both sides of the fence. It’s such a perfect transition for him to have to make these decisions because it’s exactly what he doesn’t want to do. He’s always – he’s (painted) himself to be self-serving and to only look out for himself. So I think this season we’re going to really get to see Duke have to choose a side — and it’s going to be really tough for him.
You film in what must be probably the most beautiful landscape that any sort of science fiction, sort of fantasy show films in. What are some of the pros and cons of filming in a seaside town?
ERIC: Well, the pros of filming where we film are, without a doubt, the visual landscape of the place. We could never recreate this world on a soundstage or in Los Angeles or almost anywhere. It is vital to the visceral energy of the show. I mean, this town is a character in the show and the landscape is a character in the show. So, in that regard, we couldn’t do the show with these towns that we shoot in Nova Scotia. The downside is that it’s only summer about four days out of the year — that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. But I mean, literally in June, we redubbed the month of June, Jun-uary, because it pretty much rained the entire time. So it’s a challenge. I mean it gets cold and it gets rainy and it’s unpredictable. But we deal with that because it is so beautiful when the sun does come out — and even when it doesn’t it definitely has this really neat (macabre) soggy sort of other worldly feel.
What can you tell us about when it was like working with Jason Priestley, who I understand is coming on the show this season?
ERIC: Priestley has got to be the sweetest dude I’ve ever met. Really. When he was younger he was on one of the most successful shows in the history of television, you know? And he is so not jaded and so excited to come to work. What was my favorite thing was when he directed an episode recently. Because it’s just really fun getting directed by other actors who have a sensitivity for what we do. And he’s just a really, really sweet, fun guy.
Can you talk about some of the like stunts that you do on the show?
ERIC: This season we’ve actually been getting to do a lot more. There’s been a lot of gunplay this season, which has been really fun. We just finished an episode a couple of weeks ago, where I was getting to fire this like big 12-gauge shotgun with these massive rounds. And it was fun. It’s running around, badass with sawed-off shotgun — just really cool.
What’s been the favorite scene you’ve filmed this season?
ERIC: My favorite scene I filmed this season? I think my favorite scene this season, honestly has been really the scenes between me and Lucas and Emily. At the beginning of the season there was so much going on individually in each of our character’s lives, that we were sort separated a little bit. And so as the season went on, I started (missing) them. So as the season went on we really got to get back to the three of us being together and the camaraderie and sort of the shorthand that we have with each other. And that’s my favorite stuff so far this season. It’s just playing Emily and Lucas. I really have a good time with them.
We’re starting to figure out a little bit of Emily’s past with the cliff of Season 1, how Duke sort of figures into that storyline of Emily’s past. My guess is you’re going to play some type of significant role in that, yes?
ERIC: Yes, as we’re learning that, you know, obviously, Audrey Parker’s character, or Lucy or whatever. I can’t even keep it straight at this point. But as we are learning how she is connected to HAVEN, we’re going to find out that Duke has a really strong significant role to play in what is happening in this town. And actually how, not only Duke, but his entire family is connected to HAVEN and its struggles.
Can you say what was the biggest challenge for you in this new season?
ERIC: I think the biggest challenge this season was because what I love about Duke is his humor and his sort of spontaneity and his wit. And that’s, in some ways, the levity that he brings to the show. But because there are some really drastic things going on for Duke this season and some really heavy things happening, it was really challenging to be truthful and honest in the moments that those things are happening with the character, not lose what makes him fun and not lose that sense of play that he has. Because as life gets dramatic it’s hard to laugh it off. But that’s, in some ways what really makes Duke, Duke. I think like a lot of my favorite movie (anti-heroes), he has the ability to laugh in the face of danger. When you think about like Han Solo or Bruce Willis in Die Hard, Indiana Jones, what makes them great is the ability to crack a joke when they’re facing their doom.
Since the show is dealing with supernatural elements, I’m wondering what’s your personal opinions on that?
ERIC: Well, there are a lot of things that we don’t have proof of in this world. There are a lot of things we don’t answers to. We don’t know for sure if aliens exist or we don’t know if ghosts exist or if there’s an afterlife. All these questions, we don’t know the answers to. And I don’t profess to say that I have a definitive answer either, but I guess I would say it sure does make life more interesting to believe that these things exist. In some ways, whether or not they do, I sure would like to believe that there are crazy little alien men running around on another planet and that ghosts really do exist. And that there are people out there that have super powers and can do things with their mind and we see evidence of it all the time, but obviously we don’t have definitive proof. But I sure just think it makes like more interesting to believe that those things do exist.
Have you ever been approached by any (irate) Stephen King fans about HAVEN?
ERIC: No, I haven’t. I think for the most part the Stephen King fans have been very supportive of the show. I don’t think we were never dishonest, that we said that HAVEN was like a direct copy of a Stephen King novel. HAVEN has always the novella that HAVEN was based off of was always the jumping off point. And we were always really straightforward about that. I mean obviously, if you’ve ever read it, it’s very short and very simple and there’s not a lot to base an entire series on. So it was always the jumping off point. And I think because we were honest about that, that the Stephen King fans didn’t really have any argument to that or angst.
Having starred in HAVEN and the film Skyline, have you always been drawn to the sci-fi genre?
ERIC: No, not at all. I wouldn’t say that I’m not a fan of science fiction. It’s not innately in my lifeblood like other people. I’ve been fortunate this last year or so to get to work on some really fun science fiction projects. But I’m a fan of a lot of different genres. And it was, honestly, as much I’d love to say, with some calculated move and decision. I’m always just happy to be working. So it was a certain amount of just serendipity and coincidence that created that course of events. But there are sci-fi projects that I love. When you think about Blade Runner or Aliens, or even things that cross into sort of fantasy and horror. There’s all kinds of projects that I always love, but I not would say that I am innately a science fiction buff.
Do you have a preference for any TV shows from when you were a kid to when you are now, whether it’s HAVEN-like or whatever, a really cool sci-fi fantasy or horror show, that you really like?
ERIC: Growing up, one of my favorite sci-fi shows, hands down, was the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. That was one of my favorite shows. And then the other one was BUCK ROGERS.
Can you tell us how the difference between — because you got a sci-fi and a horror and a cult following and then I’m sure you’ve got your normal fans that are more mainstream work — what’s the difference, like between the two?
ERIC: The sci-fi fans are way more awesome and crazy and enthusiastic!
To learn more about Duke Crocker and the secrets he is hiding, be sure to tune in when HAVEN returns for its surprising and tantalizing second season on July 15th at 10 p.m. on Syfy (Monday July 18th on Showcase in Canada).
Tiffany Vogt blogs at The TV Addict.
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