Three’s journey in Dark Matter‘s Season 3 has been an unexpected and emotional one, thanks to the revival of his past love Sarah (Natalie Brown) and his attachment to the Raza crew. As the series has progressed, Three has evolved from a generic “shoot first, ask questions later” space cowboy, to a good-hearted guy with a tragic past, and a tendency to still sometimes shoot first and ask questions later. This three-dimensional portrayal wouldn’t be possible without Anthony Lemke, the man who brings Three to life each episode.
Now approaching the Season 3 finale, Three has lost Sarah once again–though she’s out there somewhere with a shiny, new android body–and, though he doesn’t realize it now, was told the devastating secret that he was the reason for Sarah’s illness and eventual death. Unable to deal with the truth, he opted to erase the memory by letting his clone body be shot down by Zairon soldiers.
The TV Junkies had the chance to chat with Lemke about Three’s journey this season, both with Sarah and with the crew, his reaction to Three’s secret, and why the upcoming season finale is his favorite one yet.
The TV Junkies: What are some of the reviews and responses you’ve seen from fans this season?
Anthony Lemke: The truth is, the fans have been pretty damn supportive from day one. They’ve been with us on this ride and I would say that, in terms of live fan reaction at cons and stuff like that, our last San Dieo Comic Con panel was packed, they had to turn people away. That was fantastic, to be able to go and chat with all those folks. We had the chance to go up and down the line, especially the end of the line for all the folks who didn’t get in. At least we got to meet a whole bunch of them anyway.
Honestly, the fans have been very wonderful on this show, and they’ve followed the characters along. They’ve expressed their opinions pretty vocally when things happen that they may agree or disagree with. In terms of specific reaction this year, versus the previous years, obviously there’s plenty of reactions based on storylines, but I would say that it’s been fairly consistent and we’re very lucky that way. We’ve had a pretty surprising and supportive fanbase from the very beginning. I think that’s partially because of those who came with their own fanbases. Joe [Mallozzi] from his Stargate years, Zoie [Palmer] from Lost Girl, Jodelle [Ferland] from her entire career, and Roger [Cross] brought in his pretty solid fanbase as well. We’ve been lucky that way.
TTVJ: Three has had some pretty fantastic character moments this year. From your perspective, what is it that drives Three to be such a support system for the crew?
AL: I think everyone’s a good support system in their own kind of way. Not everyone, but many are. Five is, Two (Melissa O’Neil) is, Four (Alex Mallari Jr.) not so much, and Six has other things on his mind. He wants to support the crew, but has other objectives as well. I think, for Three, this is the family that he lost when his parents were taken away from him. I think that’s a thing that Three is finding throughout Season 2 and 3; he’s finding a real moral and loyal center and, in a way, there’a almost nobody, other than Five, who’s more beholden to this one family because they just don’t have anything else. Sarah was gone for most of Season 1 and 2, so his peeps are the crews, it’s that simple. He’ll be incredibly loyal to the crew, and opinionated on whether they’re right or wrong, but he’ll stick with them. Go to the wall for them. It’s fun to play that.
TTVJ: I really enjoy how loyal Three has become, and how you can really understand the motivations behind his actions. It’s great how three-dimensional he is.
AL: I’m fortunate in that regard, in that the character that they created started off being someone that everyone hated. It gives you a long way to go when you start from that position, and it was actually a real gift, as opposed to a character like One (Marc Bendavid), where he was this character who everyone was supposed to like and had a fairly moral center and good upbringing. He didn’t have many challenges to face in terms of audience likability, whereas my character was the exact opposite; he had to win everybody over, even the crew. I think, in a way, it’s a lot easier to play as an actor when you start off unliked and move to liked, whereas the surprises that came up in Season 1 for many of the characters were often unsavoury. For Two, in the first season we find out she’s kind of a vicious sort of half-created, half-human thing and, she’s a beloved character but, I think just from a strict actor’s perspective and the joy of going on that journey you come from being least liked to people just keep discovering better things about you, as opposed to the other way around. That’s been a part of the DNA of that role from the very beginning, and I think the audience gets that. The audience is slowly moving more and more into Three’s camp and it’s just been incredibly rewarding.
TTVJ: It’s funny, I remember in my very first review of Dark Matter I’d said something like how I know I’m supposed to hate Three, but I feel like I’m going to like him eventually.
AL: [laughs] You knew, you knew where this going! Yeah, he was not so likeable and a little one-dimensional, but that’s exactly where he was supposed to be for those first few episodes, so it was really great of the audience to stick with us and grow with the characters. The Android is a fantastic example of a character where, in the beginning, many people could have gone “oh my god, do I have to watch this” in the same way they would have done for Three, where it was a one-dimensional kind of play, but what Zoie has been able to bring to that character, and Joe and the whole creative team, but in that particular case it was really led by Zoie, because the Android was not supposed to play as central a role as Three has played. There were things that weren’t planned, like Sarah’s continued presence in the show, she was supposed to come in and out in Season 1 and that was it. There were things like that, but for Zoie, my gosh, you’d see the rewrites come in for Season 1 and you’d see them go, “boy, we’ve got a real character here that’s a heck of a lot of fun to play with.” Then Season 3 it’s the Zoie Palmer show, it’s fantastic. She was given an opportunity to play such a fun and complex range of emotions and acting styles, and I think that’s one of the strengths of the show, that they are willing to grow the characters in the direction of what the actors are bringing.
TTVJ: I’ve heard from Joe that he’s very open to talking with the cast about their character arcs. What are some of the conversations you’ve been able to have?
AL: It’s a fairly collaborative process. Every actor has a different collaborative instinct and Joe’s office door is always open, for sure. Without a doubt, I walk into that room and discuss my character and the whole show. I find that this show is fairly complex in terms of the manner in which the characters can interact with each other, so I love sitting around and talking with Joe. On the whole, for me, it tends not to be a specific notes kind of situation. I don’t tend to go to the read-through and then write down notes and go to Joe afterward. For sure, it’s happened, but our interaction tends to be more big picture kind of stuff.
An example might have been in Season 2 when my character was occupied by the alien. During the shooting of that I’d be in and out of Joe’s office, chatting about how cool that was and whether he had any plans to have that ripple forward. That’s about it, and lo and behold in Season 3 there’s that whole episode where one of the central elements is that there are ramifications for his occupation where he can somehow hear things that others can’t because they were inside him. That led to an entire storyline. There is absolutely no way I went in there and said, “by the way, I’ve got this really cool storyline for Three in Season 3 where the ramifications of him being occupied in Season 2 are…” That’s not the way it went. It was a very open discussion of “wouldn’t it be cool if that serious illness, kind of like when you get chicken pox when you’re younger, you get shingles when you’re older, but you can only get shingles if you’ve had the chicken pox.” The broad strokes of it were things we had discussed, and I think that’s fairly representative of the types of discussions that Joe and I have, where he’s very open to almost anything. Usually the actual creative impulse, in terms of the written word, comes from him, even though we may have had a discussion before.
TTVJ: It’s a bit like you plant the seeds and things move forward from there.
AL: The truth is we plant the seeds together. That particular discussion was us going back and forth on that and, lo and behold, it flourishes into a full blown story a year later. It’s that kind of thing, because Joe’s very prepared. The scripts are a lot more done than on many other shows. When you shoot on other shows often you get a production draft a week before shooting, whereas that tends not to be the way this show works. By the time you get to production Joe and his entire writing team have written six to eight scripts, and that isn’t always the case [with other shows]. It’s a different kind of process but, man, it’s fun.
TTVJ: Three’s relationship with Sarah has been a big part of his storyline in Season 3, and it’s really the first time we’re seeing Three in a somewhat stable romantic relationship. Did that affect your approach to playing Three this season?
AL: Of course yes is the answer to that question, it did affect [my approach]. Paradoxically, from the character in the beginning that we all saw, I kind of see Three as one of the most stable and loyal characters, because Three had the most stable [upbringing], up until he was the age of 10 or 11–a very loving set of parents, an idyllic childhood that felt very family-centered. Five almost wanted to stay there forever in Season 1, although we all thought it was One’s childhood and it turned out to be Three’s childhood. So much so that Six had to go back and pull her out. That’s who he is, and my contention with the Sarah storyline from the very beginning, and it’s something Joe agreed with and probably had in his mind as well, was that given the opportunity, this is what Three could be. Sarah is that opportunity. For some reason, for Three–post-mind wipe, because pre-mind wipe we discover that she didn’t have the same influence on him, with the whole idea of him being responsible for her death–that catalyst effect of Five [reviving Sarah], offered a rebirth of what he used to be and what’s been locked inside him, that has been covered over by years of abuse and criminal activity.
I think it’s a part of the character that I probably enjoy the most, that unfailing loyalty to the family and to his love, Sarah. It creates a wonderful juxtaposition with his somewhat live-in-the-moment, carefree attitude when it comes to most things in life. I think that complexity is a hell of a lot of fun to play and it’s a fun line for the audience to walk as well because you don’t always know where he’s going to fall on most issues, except when it comes to the family and Sarah. You know he’s always there, no matter what, even though he doesn’t have the superpowers, you know? Really, when it comes down to it, he’s not some super human being like Two or the Android, he doesn’t have the tech or problem-solving skills like Five, he’s the most regular guy. He doesn’t even have mad sword skills like Four has. He’s just a regular dude that wants to do right by his family, and I think that’s a very attractive character to play.
TTVJ: What was your reaction when you learned the truth about how Sarah got sick?
AL: It was another one of those fantastic “gotcha” moments. Joe had been planting that seed; Three knew that Ryo knew something after he got his memories back, which means that I knew there was a big reveal coming. I guessed a bunch of different things, but I did not guess that. My reaction was surprise and, to be honest, I was happy that that was secret, that it was related to Sarah and not something else. When I read Three’s response, it somewhat felt right, like that’s exactly what I imagined Three would have done. He wants to keep that person buried, and this is an element of Boone that he just doesn’t want to know. It does raise that good question I remember seeing on the cover of Wired magazine a few years ago: if there was a pill to erase your memory, or selectively erase it, would you take it? This show has asked that question a number of times, and different characters have different answers to that question. Three, in that particular case, says, “Yeah, I’ll take. This is a part of me that I’m better off not knowing.”
TTVJ: I’m glad you brought up that scene because it really stayed with me, especially that moment when Three had that smile on his face. I know that moment wasn’t in the script, so was that something improvised or thought out ahead of filming?
AL: That was not improv in the moment. That moment was meticulously discussed between myself and the director [Bruce McDonald]. Everything from the fact that you could still see the gun in the hand, the fact that it was a slow turn. We talked about the framing. Bruce is such a wonderfully collaborative director, and I talked very specifically about what I hoped this moment would convey for the audience. It needed to be a really clear act of essentially clone suicide, and it needed to convey a melancholy, then a peace that this was the right thing for Three. It was a closing of the door to the past and saying I am no longer Boone, I am Three. It’s a lot to put on one little moment, but Bruce did a really great job of ensuring those little beats were there.
TTVJ: It was such an effective moment for me, so I’m glad it was so meticulously thought out!
AL: These big character beats often are. Especially because that particular one, for me, [was important]. My character didn’t really have a storyline outside of Sarah. Three went on other missions, but in terms of the overarching storyline, it was Sarah, so that was the closing of the storyline, and for me it was very important that the audience sense that this is where we started, and this is where we end. I’m glad Bruce treated it that seriously as well, because often when you have directors, they haven’t been with the series. You have a number of directors and they haven’t seen all of the episodes, maybe haven’t even read them all, depending on the director. They definitely haven’t seen the edits, haven’t seen the performances, they don’t know the little beats that the actors have created between characters, so it’s important for a director coming into a series to be open and aware that the actors have lived all of this. We know where our characters are and where they’re going for the season, and Bruce has always been incredibly open to actor input. He’s one of my favourite directors to work with.
TTVJ: Joe himself said that he purposefully had McDonald direct that episode because he was so great with those character beats.
AL: The truth is, many of our directors do a good job, but Bruce has got a very special relationship with the cast. Not that other directors don’t, but every director comes from a different place in life and being a director has many, many different facets. Some directors come at it from more of a cinematic viewpoint, and they relate to actors differently, and see their role with actors differently from a director–and Bruce is a great example of this–who comes from a place where his relationship to actors tends to be almost more intimate. You can tell there’s a lot of joy in that particular collaborative aspect in drawing out a performance and finding a nuance within a moment that comes specifically from the acting. A lot of directors have different strengths, and that’s one of Bruce’s. Maybe that’s why Joe thought it was so important for him to be on that episode.
TTVJ: What can we expect for Three’s story in this week’s finale?
AL: Season finales often lead to cliffhangers, and I can say that there is one [this season]. A season finale tends to not ever be about one character, it tends to be about the world, and a cliffhanger for the Raza crew, and that’s no different this season. There is a specific cliffhanger for Three within the larger cliffhanger for the season.
I think this is the best cliffhanger we’ve had, largely because the previous two cliffhangers were big questions, they were massive questions. If you think about Season 1, we all get captured and we’re going to jail, but it’s a sci-fi show, so unless it turns into Raza is the New Black, we’re not going to stay in jail forever. Most members of the audience knew if there was a Season 2, that they would end up back on the Raza as space cowboys somehow, so the outcomes are predictable, in the sense that they’ll probably end up back on the Raza, they’ll probably have to escape. The same thing for Season 2 where there’s this massive cliffhanger where it looks like we all die, but clearly we don’t all die because then you wouldn’t have a show anymore. The questions are more like who escapes, and how do they escape? You have some sort of notion that Season 3 is going to start with that explosion and telling the story of how people got out.
With this one, I was like, “oh, that’s really cool and complicating.” It’s my favourite cliffhanger because I don’t know and it’s not a simple answer. It’s something that, if we’re lucky enough to get a Season 4 and 5, will ripple forward throughout the rest of the series.
What are your predictions for the Dark Matter Season 3 finale? Sound off in the comments below.
Dark Matter airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on SYFY and Space.
Associate Editor Kelly Townsend always had strong opinions on TV growing up, so it was only natural to evolve from couch musings to online journalism. She can't ever choose a favorite series, so please don't ask. Her writing has also appeared on IndieWire and Tribute.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.