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Outcasts – Eric Mabius on being out of the Hollywood paradigm

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Outcasts 1.02 - Eric Mabius
Episode 1.02 - Julius Berger (Eric Mabius) © Kudos/BBC 2011

 

Outcasts 1.02 - Eric Mabius
Episode 1.02 - Julius Berger (Eric Mabius) © Kudos/BBC 2011

Actor Eric Mabius became familiar to American audiences from his TV performances on The L Word and Ugly Betty and in the movies Resident Evil and The Crow. He returns to his sci fi genre with is new TV series Outcasts.

With Earth no longer habitable, a group of courageous pioneers travel to another planet to begin again. Mabius portrays Julius Berger, who was the Vice President of the  Evacuation Program on Earth, instrumental in leading the evacuation to the planet of Carpathia, so when he arrives on the last transporter he expects his status to be similar – only to find Richard Tate (Liam Cunningham) is now the President of Carpathia.

In your mythology, what is the reason that these people have to leave Earth and find another planet to live?

It has to do with the intensification of the problems we already have, shortages of space, water running out, viral issues, so on and so forth. It’s sort of like us in 40 or 50 years. Hopefully not.

What is Julius Berger’s relationship with President Tate in this?

Outcasts 1.05 - Eric Mabius
Episode 1.05 - Julius Berger (Eric Mabius) © Kudos/BBC 2011

When we pick up the show Liam Cunningham’s character is the President of Carpathia. And he’s firmly entrenched in trying to not make the same mistakes we did on Earth. So he’s fiercely secular and trying to separate any type of military from power. And my character arrives and sees a huge gap in what’s going on there, in terms of the spiritual. So that’s really the way in which my character anchors himself; seeing that the people need hope.

Can you talk a little more about your character in this? Did you write a back story about how your character arrives on the planet?

That’s actually how the whole pilot episode begins. It’s the impending arrival of the transporter. As I mentioned, there hasn’t been a transporter land on Carpathian in over five years, so this one kind of comes out of nowhere, and the tension that it creates. There are some really great scenes as it becomes clear who’s on the ship. My name comes up and it’s kept very vague, we know that President Tate is not exactly happy about the news that I’m there, and we’re not sure why.

In some shows like Lost the cast didn’t know everything about their characters, and they made up back stories to find out they weren’t true. Did that happen to you?

Outcasts 1.06 - Eric Mabius and Hermione Norris
Episode 1.06 - Julius Berger (Eric Mabius) and Stella Isen (Hermione Norris) © Kudos/BBC 2011

No, we’re given that information and you specify as the series goes on. I was in charge of the evacuation program and I have some political aspirations. I don’t think we address that I may or may not be a part of NASA.

Where are you shooting this?

We found an area about an hour north of Cape Town. It’s way more beautiful than Santa Barbara. It has a few useful and varied locations. We’re shooting in the desert and the beach on the same days and high in the mountains. It’s convenient, and I think the viewing audience can come with a clean pallet to the experience, which serves us on many fronts.

It’s refreshing to be out of the Hollywood paradigm. We’re free, being tens of thousands of miles away, free not to be watched, to pursue what we think is fulfilling what Ben Richards’s (the series creator and Executive Producer) put into motion. It’s nice.

Isn’t this a huge departure for you from Ugly Betty?

Outcasts 1.07 - Eric Mabius
Episode 1.07 - Julius Berger (Eric Mabius) communicating with someone of world © Kudos/BBC 2011

Yeah, but you know as well as I do people only think of you from your last project. I’ve done a lot of genre things over the course of the years.

Could you talk about the aspect of genre acting? Is it a different approach in terms of how you have to see the world?

Absolutely no different. Specifically to the character and to whatever project I’m doing, if I don’t believe what I’m doing, then I don’t expect the audience to. So I just jump in with the same kind of passion and outlook that I would doing Ugly Betty. There’s really no difference.

This is probably one of the most fun characters that I’ve ever played because he’s not black or white. He’s sort of the hero and antihero, for lack of a better description. And he is all things to different people and has a very specific relationship to each of the different characters, depending on what he thinks they need or what he’s trying to get out of that dynamic.

The stakes are high. There is no fallback plan at this point. So the scope of the show is that you start in a very specific and small place when you get to know these characters, and by the end of this first season it’s so expansive and you can really see that the stakes have become apparent.

Doesn’t your character also seek a second chance personally?

Yes, [my character] makes the comment, ‘Shouldn’t I deserve the same?’ because I know that as a [person] people have formed certain opinions of me.  The President of Carpathia has different wants and needs than my character does, so we end up in opposition to each other.