A Few Minutes with Mr. Anthony Lemke star of the hit TV show ‘Dark Matter’

Posted in Interviews, TV by - July 07, 2016
A Few Minutes with Mr. Anthony Lemke star of the hit TV show ‘Dark Matter’

I’m going to have to throw a little bit of journalistic integrity out the window on this one, because I have to admit something.

I have a legit man-crush on one Anthony Lemke.

With his chiselled good looks and beaming smile; he’s the guy that every woman swoons over and every guy wants to have a beer with.  If there was a “Wheaties” box for Canadian actors this guy would be on the cover, but there is a secret about him that not many people know.  Aside from having a law degree, being fluent in both English and French (he worked in the Quebec TV and Film industry for many years) and being crazy smart in general…he’s a science-fiction nerd just like the rest of us and he’s slowly on his way to becoming a Canadian icon, if only because that is that last way that he would ever describe himself.

And quite honestly that fits perfectly with his leading role as “Three” on the hit show Dark Matter that is produced in our own back yard here in Toronto.  On the eve of the second season premiere this past Canada Day here on Space for those of here in the Great White North and on SyFy for those of you to the south I got the unique pleasure to sit down with the man over a cold beer and a plate of nachos to talk a little about how he ultimately got the role, the fun that he has been having and how important it was for him a Canadian actor to ultimately land on a Canadian produced TV series that is being seen across the globe.

 

Dave Voigt: Obviously I love the show (you’ve even had me on set once) but walk me through your initial emotions and reactions to the fact that you’ve just finished a season, the show got renewed and your character hasn’t been killed…

Anthony Lemke: (Laughs) Well I won’t walk you through that! (Laughs) However, the way that the first season was structured none of us on set really knew who the traitor was going to be.  It became clear who it wasn’t going to be or at least the season did eliminate a few characters from that debate but I mean it could have very easily been me.  Could have been “Six” and obviously you know that with serialized television that it has become a bit of a thing to “Game of Thrones” everybody and sort of run it down that road.  At the end of last season, as I had to wait and wonder if I was the traitor I just had prepare myself and go through it all that “Ok, if I am the traitor” does that mean I am just a recurring role for season 2 or I am off the show or what?” because I’ll tell you…I LOVE my character, he is just a really fun character to play.  He’s gotten even more complex in this upcoming season as we learn more and more about him and he keeps getting more and more fun to play with, I am having the time of my life.

That was really the first stage of the roller coaster ride of going OK, I made it through a season, I am in Season 2 and they have picked up my option, so I am there…but even then you never really know if your character is going to die in a plasma blast or have some creature inhabit his brain or is in stasis for the rest of the season but it really is just such elation for me because I love the show and I love my character.

DV: How much of it really came down to “Right Place, Right Time” because you’ve been working for awhile and even with some of the producers on this show on other things, what was it about this that allowed you this moment where you are really clicking and happy?

AL: It really was a “Right Place, Right Time” kind of scenario because I’ll tell you, when I got the audition and I got to see the material, I just knew that I knew this character, inside and out.  I didn’t have a single doubt that I could do this role, so much so that I didn’t want to go into an audition room for this.  I was shooting on set somewhere else and I couldn’t go in to audition so I taped.  I didn’t want someone to say “Oh, can you just try it this way…” and that’s the take that ends up going to the producer.  I knew this character, I just knew him and then for the call back it was the same scenario even though it was a bit of a machination on my part, because I COULD have made it in that but it would have been extremely complicated, I was in a different city but thankfully they let me send in a tape and it really was “Right Place, Right Time” because I had a good relationship with not only the show runner but the production company for them to hire me without ever really having met me.

DV: How does getting your option picked for a show like Dark Matter affect your ability to go out and find some other jobs?

AL: Harder to chase to be sure…and to be honest I really haven’t been chasing them.  The rhythm of this show is so intense that you just want a break.  Last year, I went from Good Witch straight to Dark Matter and then this year that with the exception of on the weekends, I’ve barely seen my kids for a good 6 or so months so I decided to wait a couple of months and then numbers were coming in and the ratings were good, so then I decided to wait a little longer and see if we got a pick up and we did so I just took the time for myself and didn’t chase anything.  This season will probably be a little more of the same, I am shooting something else at the same time but it ends pretty quickly into our run and if the numbers end up being the same then I’ll just concentrate about what is on my plate rather than trying to add to it.  Enjoy some time with my family and count my blessings that we’ll all be back for Season 3!

DV: You and I have talked about the Canadian industry before and how in many ways we all have a bit of a chip on our shoulder in bearing our “Canadianness” proudly, but more so now than ever the lines are starting to blur, Dark Matter is a show produced in Canada but it obviously has a global market and partners that show that.  Do you think that for us going forward as a national industry that the concept of co-productions which basically remove all nationality from the equation is the way for our business not only to survive but thrive as well?

AL: Well, it’s definitely an example that works in Canada.  If you look at a company like Prodigy Pictures and a show like ours, because it’s a show that wasn’t immediately funded or had a home on any specific network.  They funded it by selling it across the globe, quite literally.  Now it isn’t a co-production or anything like that but fundamentally it is a show that is made and assembled here in Toronto but then subsequently sold around the world.  The consumer is really all around the world and that is just a MASSIVE thing.  The model is good, and if you look at the network SyFy in the States, I mean I haven’t counted up the amount of shows that are shot here in Canada, it’s a lot and even the words “most” do come to mind.  It’s basically the Canadian version of Space to the south of us and at the very least you can easily count on two hands the amount of productions they have up here.  So it’s a model that’s working because we as Canadians can make a darn good TV show for a lot less money that it costs down in the States and the audiences don’t know.

DV: It makes it more of a global experience, plus it’s less of a financial exposure for the networks if someone comes to them with something already finished and in many ways pre-sold.  I’ve got to imagine that helps a lot when it comes to simply making something entertaining and intellectually engaging which has to be the end goal of it all.

AL:  It is, it really is and Jay Firestone over at Prodigy Pictures has been quite successful at it for a many number of years with shows he’s sold all around the world and this one is no exception it may have even beat the record, because it is in A LOT of countries.  It really is a very accessible show, there’s not too much of anything, it’s fairly restrained from any sex, nudity, gore and violence which helps it to travel exceptionally well across the globe.

DV: The TV landscape right now is so fantasy driven with shows like Game of Thrones and many others taking up the airwaves and science fiction which used to dominate has gotten pushed to the background a bit.  Was it just the right time for something like Dark Matter to finally hit and do you think that it could have survived in a world with something like a Battlestar Galactica or some form of Star Trek show out there on the air?

AL: I’d like to think that it could, and there is a lot of competition going on right now with a new Star Trek movie and show coming down the pipe, I guess we’ll find out pretty soon if people are still watching our show! (Laughs)  Ultimately though I think that space really is only part of the equation, there is a bit of zeitgeist back to these kind of shows, because I mean the Europeans announced that they want to have a base on the moon by the year 2030, there are guys like Neil DeGrasse Tyson talking about space all the time and getting a zillion YouTube views.  Not to mention guys like Elon Musk who are out there who has said that the reason why he started the three companies that he did is that he basically wants to colonize space itself.  This stuff is happening now in our real life, so in the next 15-20 years the idea of landing a guy on Mars or having a colony on the Moon isn’t all that farfetched and in the public sphere no one was really ever talking about this as little as 10 years ago.  Our minds drifted off to werewolves and vampires during that time because we need to dream and I think that this is just a great time to be doing a space ship show.

DV: It’s a great time to be doing TV in general because I mean I don’t have cable, but I bought my iTunes season pass and it downloaded every episode right when it came available.  The options out there for consumers right now are just absolutely staggering; could you as an actor back in the day doing French soap operas in Montreal even have imagined these kinds of networks being available for content?

AL: To be fair, as an actor especially in my earlier years it just wasn’t something that I had ever put a lot of thought into but the notion having the one (or three or four) large distribution models (networks) was something that just was never that logical and it needs to be instituted and protected by government regulation, which here in Canada it absolutely is.  It’s not surprising that now there is this incredibly amount of kinetic energy that is trying to destroy that system, and when the technology caught up it just made sense that the distribution models would fracture into a million pieces, but thankfully not the stories.  People want and crave stories; it’s in our DNA as we have been telling stories to each other since the dawn of time or at least the beginning of some kind of vocabulary.

However it is the delivery and the financing mechanism of it all that has become the real challenge of it all.  It’s changing, I mean Netflix is not an insignificant part of the financing and the way a show like this survives but this business is evolving so fast because I mean what really is protecting someone like a Netflix from all the other competitors that are starting to bubble up now, it’s a crazy time but fundamentally the business model is a simple one and it is the same as it has always been.  Without the content, without the story, what are they doing?  Their business model doesn’t exist without the story, it’s not rocket science and I of course am not about to start something up, but you can’t tell me that a Disney or Google couldn’t.

DV: Do you think this all allows for better content?

AK: Hmmmm (Pauses) It allows for DIFFERENT content, niche content to be sure.

DV: It allows for content period, because we do live in a world with a glut of content right now.

AK: I really think that the challenge for anyone in this industry is financing.  The model in our Canadian industry does allow us to make quality television for cheaper than someone in New York or LA but it still costs one heck of a lot of money to get done.  Dark Matter clocks in with a budget of about $2 million per episode which is funny because it is a lot more then it was when I started in the industry because the technology exists to do it for a lot less because I lived and worked in Quebec where they do it for MUCH less each and every day, and the quality of the product is there at a fraction of the price.  It really feels like there is something that is happening in the industry where inefficiencies, which thankfully allow a lot of people to live because a good chunk of that two million ends up in the pockets of some pretty hard working people, but I think that a genuine shake out of the industry is still waiting to happen.

DV: But wouldn’t you also say that it allows for the talent to rise to the top as well?  Because let’s be fair if you are on a shitty show, you are on a shitty show…thankfully you aren’t you’re on a great show.

AL: We’re lucky, I’m on a REALLY great show (Laughs) But it does and to be honest in many ways I have always felt that talent always rises to the top anyway.  It doesn’t always mean that if you have talent that you WILL rise to the top but on the whole people who are in the public spotlight in this industry are pretty talented people.  While admittedly some of them may be choosing to do formulaic stuff that people just think is crap…it’s still really hard to make and you have to appreciate that.

DV: Plus it does bring up that fact that while you might prefer to be off shooting an independent film somewhere it doesn’t always pay the bills and you have to find that balance.

AL: You know; I’ll tell you when I moved back to this province from Montreal, I told my agent that I am moving back for one reason and one reason only.  It’s money.  I love Montreal and I would not have left if there had been anything close to some equal economic opportunities.  I said to my wife and my agent that what I want is to land on a Canadian sci-fi show; Canadian for a reason and I’ll explain in a minute but a Canadian produced sci-fi show where I play a character that is a lot like Han Solo…

DV: (Laughing hysterically) Oh you are full of shit! (Still laughing)

AL: Nope, I am DEAD SERIOUS about this… (Smiling from ear to ear) Talk to my agent, or talk to my publicist who is sitting over there…and lo and behold I am on a sci-fi show, that is Canadian produced with a character that is not dissimilar to Han Solo.  The Canadian produced is really important though, because if it was American produced and still shot here, it means that I don’t get nearly as good of a role that I got on Dark Matter with my character ‘Three’.  My role goes to someone from LA that they bring in and I get role seven, eight or nine down the line.  I knew I wanted to be on Canadian produced show where I could get role two, three or four and that is exactly what this is.  Jay Firestone is a Canadian, who brought in Canadian actors to make this Canadian show and that’s what this is.  That isn’t the case with a lot of the other shows up here, where they will bring up American actors for the leads and then populate the recurring and guest roles with Canadian actors.

DV: Plus it gave you an opportunity to shine, is that the ultimate message to convey to any working actors out there to try and know what the right spot is for them rather than to overly worry about the job or the location?

AL: I’d say that the short answer to that is yes, but in Canada it is a little more complicated than that.  I’d say that the trick for actors in Canada is to always live in a small house (smiles), don’t buy two cars, don’t buy a cottage and if you can keep your expenses pretty close to where they were when you weren’t working and didn’t have three kids then you’ll be OK and you have power over the roles that you choose.  However when you start to live a normal adult life, you have to start making decisions with car payments and mortgages and you know that you have to start taking parts where you won’t shine.  You know that you are doing it for the bank account.  It took me a long time, but the trick for an actor knows exactly what you bring to the table.  My particular situation was pretty difficult, especially when I was first starting out because people were bringing me in for the generic “Captain/Quarterback of the Football Team” kind of roles because I’m athletic and I’m 6’1…other than that really who knows, but I’m just not that guy I never was.  When I grew up in high school, I was like the second shortest kid in the entire school and I sprouted when I was 16, I mean when I was 25 I still looked like I was 16 so people saw me in a certain way, and it took me a long time to figure out how to change that and make the package that I am given on the outside work in concert with who I am on the inside.  I would say that the older I have gotten, I have gotten more roles that fit with who I am as an actual person, at this stage of my life more of them exist.  I was never the young superstar, and when you are in your twenties those roles of the young whipper snapper who has his life together is everywhere, but it just wasn’t me.  Of course now when I’m in my forties the roles for the damaged 40-something who should have and could have been something are out there for me and that is my character “Three” in a nutshell.  In another universe he should have been the leader of this ship, but he isn’t.

DV: But that’s why we like him so much as well.

AL: Fundamentally, it’s a role that I inhabit very naturally.

DV: Well you slayed it as always, thanks again for the time today.

AL: Thank you man, this was fun.

Dark Matter Season 2 is airing now on Space here as well as on SyFy in the States or on demand with services like iTunes.  You can also catch up on Season 1 via Netflix or via iTunes.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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