Leave it to the Zeph to save the day again on Killjoys–and in more ways than one.
Not only was Zeph (Kelly McCormack) able to save Dutch’s (Hannah John-Kamen) life before she plummeted into a sun, despite only being a hologram, she gave Dutch the honesty she needed to be real with D’avin (Luke Macfarlane). That same conversation may have also given Zeph the confidence boost she needed to try to save Pip’s (Atticus Mitchell) life heading into this week’s episode.
In part two of our interview with McCormack she shares the many reasons why that final scene between Zeph and Dutch was special, working with first-time Killjoys director Stephanie Morgenstern, and those pesky spores. Part one is available to read here.
This interview has been edited and condensed
The TV Junkies: I loved seeing Dutch and Zeph together in this episode. It was so evident they have no understanding of girl talk, but that’s almost what makes them work so well.
Kelly McCormack: Yeah, they’re like ride or die sisters, but they act more like dudes who don’t know how to communicate, which I think is really funny. When [Dutch] said something about, ‘how you toss your salad is between you and Pip’ and Zeph is like ‘what?’ Zeph understands quantum physics, how to deliver a baby, everything about centrifugal force and all this shit, but she doesn’t what “tossing salad” is? I was dying. It was so funny.
I love all my stuff with Dutch and there’s more of it to come. It really has such a beautiful, altruistic, positive power behind it because we’re so different, but we both seem to have the exact same philosophical views on what we want and what we want for our found family.
TTVJ: Clearly Zeph struggles with girl talk, but was there anything you found difficult in this episode?
KM: The whole spore thing was kinda mental. At Fan Expo I turned to [Michelle] Lovretta, because I was sitting on the panel with her, [about being there] as the resident scientist of the show. I’m pretty ready for fans to ask me any science-based questions about the show, because I try and understand it and understand what I’m saying as much as I can, but I was like, ‘as long as they don’t ask me about the goddamn spores!’ [laughs]
I understood centrifugal force. I understood separating it. I understood the sun thing, but that episode was so bananas because we were shooting in two different locations since I’m in the Armada and she’s in the ship. It was a hilarious mindfuck. I was just hoping at Fan Expo they don’t ask me about the spore, and then when they showed the teaser clips for the fans, the first clip was me being like, ‘Dutch! The spores!’ And I’m like, ‘goddammit.’
TTVJ: I fully admit some of the science goes way over my head, the spores included. I’m mainly here for the feelings.
KM: Basically I was trying to separate the spore from its base, to stop it from decaying, through centrifugal force, which is like when you take a bucket of water and spin it around upside your head, it moves to the edges. But in order to do it we had to fly really close to a sun, which Dutch was crazy enough to do, but Dutch is on this Khlyen-inspired suicide mission. And you’re right, there’s so much science, but the end of the episode lands nicely on a very honest conversation that the two of us have. I really love that scene because it was the first time that Zeph gave herself permission or had the guts to give Dutch advice and say something honest, which is, ‘you can let in some light without setting everything on fire.’
It was a great line and such a gift from the writer Derek Robertson. It was an important step for Zeph the newcomer, this person who at first was such an awkward turtle, weirdo, runt of the litter addition to Team Awesome Force. She’s moved her way into such a close, personable, and trustworthy position to Dutch, the leader of the team. This was the first time she had the guts to say, ‘Dutch, you’re not infalliable.’ I really appreciated that. Then the whole Pip spider thing and Dutch being all kind about that. It’s like our “girls’ night out” is almost dying, a shit-ton of science, and then us having the most heartbreakingly honest conversations with the each other. [laughs] It sounds like fun. That’s the kind of girl friends I want, for sure. It’s ;all right, a lot of shit went down, we’re trying to save the world and we’re being way more honest with each other than we’ve ever been before.’ Maybe that’s 2018.
TTVJ: I also think that line is a credit to how important Zeph is as a character. You can say things to Dutch and she’ll either take it in or she won’t, but this time she really listened to Zeph’s advice and applied it in order to have that “adult conversation” with D’avin.
KM: I think the credit to Zeph’s growth, in turn, is a credit to Dutch because last season Zeph would have never had the guts to say something like that or maybe wouldn’t even have had the perspective. And now–especially with her relationship with Pip and her seeing how her affection for him is playing against, pivoting with and adding to the drama of the Lady, the science, and Team Awesome Force–I think Zeph is doing a lot of reflecting on how you fit a loved one or loved ones and how you choose those loved ones in a time of strife. In a rush to try and save everybody, you can forget that you yourself is someone that you have to look after.
I think if there’s anything that Team Awesome Force has taught viewers it’s that there’s not one right way to save the world. I love how it’s constantly changing. It’s always like, ‘I know this isn’t the most ideal plan, but we have to go save this person. Why? Because they’re our guys. That’s what we do.’ I love that about Killjoys, where it’s not always that this is the right answer, do or die, it’s this fabric and tapestry of relationships folding in on each other. There’s never one right answer. There’s never one way to do something and one way to love someone and one way to show you love them and all that. But I loved shooting that scene. And that final scene with Hannah in the cockpit, we were running out of time by the end of the day, so we basically only had one take to shoot that scene in.
TTVJ: How did that go?
KM: Our director [Stephanie Morgenstern] pulled us into the lounge and she was like, ‘all right, ladies, we’ve got only a few kicks at this can, let’s just sit on the couch and talk about this scene.’ You get into these moments in filmmaking where you are running against the clock and you only have so much time to do something. Sometimes technicalities can put you in a situation where you have this really emotional scene and the director comes up to you and says, ‘we really don’t have that much time to do this, but I believe in you guys. Let’s just sit down and do this.’ And I think as actors, we’re so used to being under pressure, you kind of get into this altered state. We’re like, ‘all right, then we’re doing it.’
So Hannah and I sat in the lounge chairs and her and I just connected, talked through the scene and rehearsed it with each other once or twice. And then we went onto that cockpit, sat on the floor and did that scene in maybe one and a half takes, and that was it. It was one of those magical moments where, if you’re close with another actor and you can trust each other’s instincts and you know the characters well enough, you can do it under high stakes and pressure. I really love that scene for many reasons, not only because Zeph gets to give Dutch some sage advice, but also because it was a wonderful and warm moment that Hannah and I had with our director, Stephanie, in the lounge. And I’ll never forget it, honestly.
TTVJ: That’s really amazing. And I know this was Morgenstern’s first time directing a sci-fi series as well so, apart from that last scene, what was it like to work with her?
KM: She was unbelievable. She came so prepared. At one point she came up to me with this massive book, she had the whole script and she had pages and pages stuck in between each script page. She had storyboarded absolutely almost every shot. And she was explaining to me how we had to match cut Zeph in the cockpit as a hologram with Zeph in Armada as real Zeph. So a lot of the motions that I had to do with my hands had to perfectly match the cockpit. So sometimes when I was in the Armada I’d be asking, ‘alright, what am I seeing? Am I seeing her at this moment in the cockpit or am I seeing this screen that’s here?’ [Stephanie] would show me on her book. She had storyboarded all of the shots and she drew these look adorable little Zephs and all my bangs. [laughs] My bangs looked so cute. I looked like this little anime character, I was so excited. But she was so prepared and so lovely. Every single time she came up to us she had so many ideas and was able to talk through every shot. And so when we did have that time crunch with that last scene, you already felt like you were in the hands of a seasoned director who could sit two actresses down and [talk it through]. It was a really lovely moment between the three of us women. I’m really excited to work with her again if I get the chance.
TTVJ: Hopefully. The more female directors out there, the better.
KM: Of course! And obviously on Killjoys they’ve been up on that for awhile. We’ve worked with many incredible female directors on the show, and Lainie [Knox] is one of our DPs who I adore as well. We got to work with her more this season as a DP as well as a camera operator. I mean, the feminine energy on the set of Killjoys is incredible. And I mean that in the way everyone, men and women, behave on set. All the day players who come to the show, the guest stars and the recurring characters, they all say to me afterwards, ‘so, you’re on this incredible set. Everyone just loves each other. Everyone is so kind and there’s no bad apples’ and it’s remarkably true. Everyone contributes to that, but I think it has something to do with the feminine imperative that trickles down from the above the line women on the show like Michelle Lovretta and Karen Troubetzkoy. You’ve got to have females above the line to have a feminine imperative drive a set.
What are your thoughts on Dutch and Zeph in this episode? Sound off in the comments below.
Killjoys airs Fridays at 10 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.