Summer to watch over you
By: Anthony Brown
Every child has an imaginary friend at some point, even it it's only talking to their teddy. Later on, most boys will dream of having a robot friend which will obey their every word... and in a particularly twisted way, that's exactly what John Connor got in the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day. But now, in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, he's a but older, and the lucky teenager's robot companion is no longer Arnold Schwarzenegger. Instead she's the spitting image of Firefly's River Tam... mainly because she's played by the same actress, Summer Glau, though the only thing the characters have in common are their martial arts skills.
"Well, you know, it's very different from what I did with Serenity," the actress says of the differences between playing a Terminator and her artificially augmented character from Firefly and its big screen follow-up. "There are no martial arts here. Terminators don't do finesse, they don't do subtley - they just reach out and destroy."
"I did a lot of gun training. I did a lot of stuff at the shooting range. Our fights were choreographed, so we worked really hard on those in the pilot. I am going to work even harder now on the series, and it's going to be difficult just being in top shape. There are really only four of us in the cast, and it's going to be a really, really intense work load. That is the thing that I am going to find the most challenging, is staying fresh, staying focused, and being able to give my energy every, every day. Make sure that I give one hundred per cent."
Nevertheless, there's a certain similarity in the character's fighting abilities, which is bizarrely why Glau was surprised to get the role, even though she knew and admired producer Josh Friedman's work. "I didn't think I would be seriously considered for the role. I didn't think I was right for it at all," she says. "I feel that I look like a normal girl, and I thought they were looking for someone very statuesque and imposing. I was reluctant to go in, I thought they wouldn't take me seriously, but then I saw Josh and we talked about it. Once I knew he was involved I really, really wanted the part."
"I'm really honoured to be a part of it, I really love the cast, and I'm having a lot of fun." That's the case despite the chances of injury that come with stuntwork, where bad luck cought up with Glau during shooting of the pilot... "I did, I burned my face. A shell jumped back and got stuck on my face, and I had to pull it off. In the pilot, you can see the scar, but it's faded now." Letting the injury show was director David Nutter's idea. "David wanted it to show. They could have covered it up with make-up, but David said, 'I want her to look Human, so keep the scar'."
Scars can be the least of it though, with past Terminators having lost large ammounts of their flesh over the course of the movies. Glau's not bothered by that prospect... "When they did the first prosthetics on me when the metal shows through, I took the picture to my boyfriend. He was so excited he made it his screensaver!"
Normally, most actors would try to think through their character's back story if it wasn't provided by the series bible, but that isn't something which really works when you're playing a reprogrammed robot assassin. "That was the most challenging thing about this role, just how to approach playing someone who doesn't feel. I have played very vulnerable and emotional characters up until this moment," says the actress, adding, "and in a way, I feel that she is vulnerable. I want her to seem very childlike, because she came back from the future and this is a very new world for her. She's thrown in, and she is very wide-eyed. She is absorbing things like a sponge. That is very vulnerable, in a way. So, I am trying to make her Human/ I think as time goes on, she is going to take on more and more characteristics around her."
Inevitably, the actress checked out the actors who'd played Terminators before her - most prominently Arnold Schwarzenegger, but also Robert Patrick and Kristanna Loken (not to mention a few others who played Terminators in disguised forms). "I did, I hadn't seen them until I got cast," she admits. "My dad chastised me for not knowing them. I went home after I got the role, for Christmas, and he got all the movies for me and we watched them together. It was really fun."
"What I loved most about the movies was that I had an idea of what they were. Of course, they are iconic; everybody knows even if you haven't seen the movies, you know what they are, and I wasn't disappointed, the action is amazing, and Arnold is amazing."
"The thing I loved most about it is how much I cared about the characters. I wasn't expecting that, how touched I was by Linda Hamilton, how passionate she is. I didn't realize how vulnerable she was going to be, either. I knew that she was pumped up and tough, but once I saw th movies I respected her on a new level. And what the movies were saying, Arnold's character when he sacrifices himself at the end, I cried. It was really beautiful."
That leads on nicely to Glau's co-stars - British actress Lena Headey, who takes over Linda Hamilton's role as Sarah Connor, and Heroes' Thomas Dekker, who takes over from Edward Furlong and Nick Stahl as her son John. "I think that both of them have aspects that are very reminiscent of the original characters - obviously, I think that is why they got cast!" Glau comments.
"Lena, just from spending time with her in the pilot, she has so much heart. She has soul and guts. She is tough, and she is passionate. She comes to work, and she is a force of nature, and I think that is what this character has to have at her core. She is passionate, she is strong, and Lena has those things."
"Thomas I saw in the pilot, and I found him absolutely compelling, and it was stunning performance. He is so raw, real, and natural. I got to read with him too when we were cast. I got cast, and then I came back for his test. I read with him and the other boys. So, I read with him, and I felt it was the right fit."
"It's going to be different," she says of the relationship between her Terminator character, Cameron, and the Connors, "it's going to grow over time. We are doing something different because a TV show is different. You can devote more time to develop characters, to tell little side stories that you can't do in a film, so the characters are going to develop, and we are going to know more about them. As far as matching and being right for the role, I think they are both perfect."
For Cameron, the character growth is going to come through the need to pass as Human, absorbing all those little bits of social behaviour that take so long to learn. "Absolutely, don't you think?" Glau agrees. "She's going to high school, and it's going to be really interesting to see. What does a robot do in high school? What does she think is going to work? It's going to be fun for me because I never went to high school. I am nervous about it, too. We'll see how it goes, but it's going to be really fun. I think there are definitely opportunities for humor. Knowning Josh, he's that kind of writer. It's dark and intense, but we are going to find humour in it too." Like an Arnie-esque catchphrase? In the pilot she get to use the iconic line 'Come with me of you want to live' while leaning out of a truck. "I think about it every night," Glau laughs. "I wanted that truck."
As for a catchphrase, "It's just the first thing my friend said when I got the job. She texted me 'So now that you're a Terminator, you have to come up with a bad-ass catch phrase'." Glau laughs. "So, I'm still working on it."
TV Zone, Issue 224