Dark Matter‘s “Built, Not Born” was a big turning point for our Android (Zoie Palmer), who learned the truth behind why she feels more complex emotions than your average Android, and why she had such a connection to Portia Lin (Melissa O’Neil) before the mind wipe. The episode was a particular challenge for Palmer, who had the task of playing both the Android and her creator, Dr. Irena Shaw, as well as navigating through the Android’s difficult emotional journey.
In part two of our interview with Palmer, we spoke about her reaction to playing a completely new character and how the Android’s emotions have evolved since Season 1. You can catch part one of our interview here, where we discussed the Android’s comedic side in the recent time travel episode, and her thoughts on getting a glimpse into the crew’s future earlier in the season.
The TV Junkies: What was your reaction when you got the script for the episode?
Zoie Palmer: I think it’s so great when they write anything for me that gives the chance to pull out a little bit and play some more things. That was really my first reaction. I love playing the Android, I really do, and it’s been one of the biggest challenges in my career, for sure. But, of course, playing her every single episode, sometimes it’s so much fun to do anything else. And they do that for me a lot. Joe [Mallozzi] is really open to giving me the chance to play around and do other things.
TTVJ: This season you’ve played the Android with the upgrade and under a mind hack, but this was the first time you played a completely separate character. How was that?
ZP: It was great. In this episode I play that character with the Android. We’re doing twinning in that episode, where I’m having scenes with myself. Melanie Orr was the director, and she’s done a lot of work on the Orphan Black set, so was very much used to that, but I haven’t done a lot of it. It was really interesting because there’s a scene in there where I’m playing Dr. Shaw and there’s nobody else in the room with me, but I’m talking to five people. What they do is they put a little thing in your ear where you hear the lines, and you have to remember where each actor is standing so that when they deliver the line you turn to where they would be standing. It was really challenging and it was really bizarre and out-of-body for an actor to not have the other actor in front of you, but to hear their lines. [laughs] It was so bizarre, but a very cool thing to try.
I have huge respect to somebody like Tatiana Maslany who has been doing that non-stop for years on end and does it seamlessly. It gave me a tiny window into what she has gone through for a long time. It was a very cool episode and Melanie Orr is an extraordinary director. This was the first time I ever worked with her, but I would work with her over and over again because she made that a lot easier than it may have been otherwise.
TTVJ: I thought it was pretty flawlessly executed here. It’s always interesting how sci-fi offers some big acting challenges you don’t always get with other genres.
ZP: No, 100 per cent. It’s things you wouldn’t even necessarily think about that come up in ways that they don’t on other shows. It was a really cool episode for me, and one of my favorites.
TTVJ: It was definitely the most human we’ve ever seen the Android. We saw her have an existential crisis, and we saw her act on her romantic feelings for Victor (Brendan Murray). Do you think it was a turning point for her?
ZP: Yeah, I think certainly the end of this season there’s a lot of that for the Android. We’re really starting to see, certainly with her dynamic with Victor, that there’s something going on. There’s no doubt in this episode that, not only is there something you might want to call feelings for Victor, but also just feelings in general. She’s uncomfortable when she realizes she was made in the image of another person and she leaves. You can see that she’s having a real reaction to that. We start seeing that with the Android. We start seeing that she’s having what look like human emotions and reactions to the external things going on in her world, which we’ve seen in the past, but not to the degree and to the depth that we’re starting to.
TTVJ: Her character progression in this series has been a joy to watch. It’s so subtle and so slow, but in such a great way.
ZP: It’s so much fun and it’s such a challenge. My biggest worry when I got this part was how I can do this so that people won’t be bored to tears. It’s always the anxiety of every actor of “can you do something and be interesting?” That’s your job, is to be interesting. I mean, your job is to portray a character, but you need to do it in a way that’s interesting and that people want to watch. The struggle with this character is that times a billion, because I have none of the tools that I normally would use as an actor to apply to [the Android]. I’m constantly trying to find the most subtle of things to hopefully read that people can attach to and think, “oh, maybe she’s feeling protective” and all of that stuff that I can’t show in the way that I would like to or that I’m used to.
Are you looking forward to seeing more of the Android’s emotions? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Dark Matter airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy and Space Channel.
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.