Helix: Creepy Plague from the Arctic
By: Lynn Barker
Shooting in Montreal for the Syfy channel, “Helix” stars Billy Campbell as Dr. Alan Farragut, head of the Center for Disease Control's Special Pathogen Branch and Kyra Zagorsky as Dr. Julia Walker a senior CDC scientist trying to cope with a really weird virus outbreak in a remote arctic research lab. This is no ordinary virus. Is it supernatural, alien or… what? Whatever it is, you don’t want to tangle with its victims!
If you like creepy mysteries and cool action, “Helix” might be for you. (Note: It’s more for teens that young kids).
Kyra Zagorsky as herself
Kyra Zagorsky has had roles on TV’s “Falling Skies” and “Supernatural” and is really excited about playing a scientist trying to preserve life, including her own, while trying to figure out how to stop a horrible plague from spreading to…where we live!
Q: Hi Kyra. You are shooting the series in Montreal but probably inside on a stage, right, not really outside?
- Kyra: Yes, it was pretty incredible. We had a room that we called the freezer. If you were shooting in the freezer that day, that was sort of a joke. But the fake snow and how they would do it, they’d get the fans going, and it looks incredible and the only thing that was tricky is it was supposed to be freezing and we had these huge arctic coats on.
- But there were a couple of times that we did end up moving the set outside to shoot some of the outside scenes just because we needed a bit more space and that ended up being a little bit more helpful and easier to breathe, too, when you’re dealing with some of the fake snow stuff. But it was a lot of fun and it looks amazing.
All bundled up for fake cold
Q: Much of the show is just in the station and not outside. How do you deal with that?
- Kyra: I think the other side of that is embracing the claustrophobia and that’s kind of what a huge piece of this show is, just watching people go through having to be stuck in that. I think the audience is going to feel some of that. It might not be comfortable but it’s really cool to just kind of be experiencing that along with the characters that you’re watching. And so I think that’s what can help the audience connect to the humanity and, again, the good and the bad of each character/
Q: You grew up in Colorado so did you like snow but hate the fake stuff?
- Kyra: I absolutely love the snow. I think that because I grew up in that environment, it’s almost nostalgic for me. I just get so excited to see it. I prefer being in the snow than the rain in the winter, for sure. So that’s the one thing about being in Vancouver sometimes in the winter. It’s a bit tricky.
- I know right now (some of the U.S.) is not enjoying it, with people trapped in their houses but there’s just something about the snow and how beautiful it is. It just kind of wipes the earth clean for a second. I love it.
Q: What makes “Helix” not just another zombie-type show?
- Kyra: The show is based in real science. There’re real life epidemic scares out there throughout history where there’re these huge viruses that have wiped out huge populations and so we’re dealing with something that the CDC hasn’t seen before, but it comes from a virus. And so that’s something that’s based in reality. And then you put the science fiction on that and it’s a really interesting combination. I think that’s another thing that makes it unique.
Dr. Walker (Kyra) holds a light on a virus victim
Q: What do you personally enjoy most about the show?
- Kyra: I love the psychological thriller piece of it. I think that because we are trapped in this isolated environment with a deadly virus, what’s really interesting is that everyone’s darkness comes out because we’ve got these life and death stakes going on and then there’re these interesting relationships going on but we can’t quite deal with them right now because we’ve got something better to do, which is survive.
- It takes some of the characters to some very dark places and they start doing things that they might not do if they were in regular circumstances. And so their true humanity comes out, the good and the bad. And I think that’s what’s so interesting about the show; the psychological side of it.
High tech lab equipment
Q: How would you describe your character Dr. Julia Walker?
- Kyra: She’s a very intelligent, accomplished woman in her field. She’s one of the top scientists with the CDC (Center for Disease Control). She was incredibly ambitious and got herself in this line of work but she exists for purposes outside of her relationships which I think is a really important thing for female characters in film and TV.
- She is the ex-wife of Dr. Alan Farragut, that’s not at all what my purpose is in the series. She’s there because she’s trying to deal with this virus. She’s there to do her work as a scientist. She’s passionate about her work.
Kyra, as Dr. Walker, suits up
Q: Billy Campbell plays your fellow scientist and ex-husband. He has a lot of TV experience. What is it like working with him?
- Kyra: Well, working with Billy is incredible. I mean, he’s technically amazing. He’s been doing this for a long time. He’s a master at what he does. He’s very emotionally connected and full and always available and powerful. And so it’s an interesting combination. And the other thing about him is that he’s a blast to work with. He’s so funny. You get in a serious scene with him and I can’t tell you how many times I would start cracking up. Billy is just so funny and he’s just a blast to work with.
Dr. Farragut (Billy Campbell) is worried about the new virus
Q: Will you have some cool guest stars?
- Kyra: Yes, and there’re a lot of surprise characters that you just would never expect and that’s what’s kind of fun about it. There’s a huge element of surprise that starts to happen pretty soon in the series. I have a whole episode where I’m not working with any of the core cast but just other interesting characters. So it’s pretty fun.
Q: Do you know what will happen with your character Dr. Walker right up front or is it a surprise to you too?
- Kyra: I had to discover it (episode by episode). That’s part of the fun in being on the show. You could not wait to get your next script to see what was going to happen to you. The only information I got (up front) was that I had a history with Billy, the Alan character and with his brother, Peter.
- I also feel like when I find the character’s darkness, when everything opens up emotionally, that’s when I started going, “Okay, now I’m starting to really feel like I’ve got a handle on her.” Walker goes through some amazing things. It’s pretty incredible. Every episode was pretty dynamic.
Julia (Kyra) and Alan with young colleague Dr. Jordan
Q: You call the infected people “Vectors”. How creepy is looking at their make-up?
- Kyra: Pretty creepy, especially when you were at lunch and you had to sit across from a Vector in the makeup. That was one of the things where we thought, “okay, I don’t want you to just sit next to me at lunch when you’re in that makeup”. And they’re eating with you as if there’s nothing wrong.
Creepy virus victim
Q: Was there a time during filming when you got scared?
- Kyra: The CDC gets brought up to this place to deal with this virus and it’s something that they’ve never seen and that, in itself, is quite frightening. These people who are at the top of the CDC, they should have every answer and they don’t know what to do. I think that’s pretty terrifying and “real life”. How much worse can it get and I my character has no handle on it. At some point, this is going to get everyone sick and we don’t have any answers. And that’s pretty frightening because it’s total annihilation of the whole planet if it gets out.
Kyra and Billy Campbell with rest of Helix cast