Dark Matter‘s Misaki Han is many things–ruthless, cold, calculating–but don’t ever call her a villain in front of Ellen Wong, the Canadian actress who portrays her. Misaki has been a compelling character from the first time we met her in Season 2, when she tried to kill Four (Alex Mallari Jr.) for the sake of the throne of Zairon. Her role greatly expanded in Season 3 when she helped him stage a coup against the Empress, his step-mother, believing him to be the right leader to end the war against Pyr.
Heading into the eleventh hour of Season 3, Zairon is losing badly, forcing Ryo to make allies with Ferrous in order to force the Raza crew to give him the blink drive he desperately needs. The TV Junkies spoke with Wong, who was recently named a 2017 TIFF Rising Star alongside Daniel Doheny, Mary Galloway and Théodore Pellerin, about Misaki’s mission to save Zairon and why she’s giving Ryo the right counsel over Teku (Andrew Moodie). Don’t forget to come back next week for part two of our interview, where we discuss the aftermath of Ryo vs. the Raza.
The TV Junkies: First off, congratulations for being named one of TIFF’s Rising Stars for 2017!
Ellen Wong: Aw, thanks, Kelly. I appreciate that. I’m really excited. It’s really awesome and cool to be able to celebrate Canadian storytellers and figure out where else we can go, you know? I’m really excited to be among the other stars this year. They’ve got films in the festival and I feel lucky to be among such amazing artists, because I think we all have something different to rally for within storytelling, and it’s really cool to be able hear all the different perspectives. It makes me go, “oh my god, Canada is really frickin’ awesome!”
TTVJ: It’s amazing how much Canadian TV in particular has grown in the last few years.
EW: Yeah, it is really exciting, because I feel like for awhile Canada has been overshadowed by American productions and now we’re getting a little bit more of a spotlight on our films and even TV shows. It’s really cool to be on this more global landscape.
TTVJ: You’ve played Misaki on Dark Matter for the past two seasons now. How has it been getting into the mindset of this slightly unhinged warrior?
EW: Oh my god, I’m so in love with you for calling her that instead of a villain. I feel like people ask me all the time what it’s like to play a villain, and to me, my perspective is that I’m not a villain. I’m doing all the right things and leading Ryo to make the right choices; that’s not in any way evil or villainous, that’s the right thing. I mean, I also think she’s slightly unhinged too, but obviously from an acting perspective on the outside of Misaki’s brain, I can recognize why she would be described as unhinged. She does make choices that go against the usual moral or ethical human code, like killing Nyx (Melanie Liburd), for example, and willing to go to what most would think are extremes to save Zairon and her people. To me, I feel that it’s always coming from a place of needing to make a decision for the greater good and sometimes it sucks to have to lose things along the way, but that’s part of war and that’s part of it being your home and your people in the long run. That’s my perspective. [laughs]
TTVJ: What I love about Dark Matter is that there are no cartoon villains. Everything is shades of grey, even the heroes the show; they’re mercenaries that steal and do whatever they need to do to survive. Even with Ryo, while he is the “big bad” of the season, we know where he’s coming from and can root for him and Misaki.
EW: Yeah, that’s what I really love about this show. It’s so amazing how Paul [Mullie] and Joe [Mallozzi], the creators of the show, are able to create such a variety of characters, good and “bad,” but that you can understand what their intentions are and why they have these conflicting views. You’re not watching and hating a character because they’re just so evil and everything they do makes no sense. There’s an intent for each character and a reason for each conflict, which I think makes it so exciting as an actor to be able to play that. You’re not coming at it from this surface layer of “I’m this bad guy,” no, it’s “I am this human with needs and wants, and I have this intent and I have to find a way to reach my goals.” That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be nice all the time to do that.
TTVJ: One thing that’s made Misaki’s storyline particularly interesting this season is her awesome rivalry with Teku. They’ve been described as the devil and angel on Ryo’s shoulder, but who do you think has it right in terms of what’s right for Zairon?
EW: I mean, I’m always going to say Misaki. I don’t think Teku at all knows what is right because, from Misaki’s perspective, she knows that Ryo is making decisions with his heart and not with his head sometimes, which is not exactly a bad thing, but as a ruler you have to be more logical, and you can’t be distracted by emotional things like a lover. It’s not about these ethical, moral choices, it’s simply doing what’s right, and that can be as hollow or full as you want that to sound, because doing what’s right can mean hurting people sometimes, unfortunately, but a leader knows how to handle that balance. I think Misaki is trying to help Ryo to understand that and it gets frustrating because he keeps getting emotional about everything and that’s just annoying. [laughs] She’s not evil! You know, Misaki is not evil, she’s just loyal to her people, to Zairon, and she knows how to be calculating to get what she needs for the greater good. Someone like Teku, she knows he appeals to Ryo’s humanity, and Misaki knows that a true leader can’t afford to lead in that way always.
TTVJ: Not when you’re in the middle of a war that needs to end.
EW: Exactly. There are sacrifices that need to be made. Ryo has already failed in many ways, in Misaki’s eyes, he’s had many chances to fix things and so I think, especially in this season, she has to try even harder to make it known to him that, whether it’s in a harsh way or being aggressive towards him, there are bigger things at stake and he can’t think on a small scale; he has to think bigger picture and look into the future.
Do you think Misaki’s advise is the right move for Zairon? Share your theories on what will happen on Friday’s big confrontation.
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.