Back Where She Belongs: Interview with Warehouse 13's Joanne Kelly

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Justin Stephens/Syfy

Joanne Kelly as Agent Myka Bering in Warehouse 13

As human beings we all try to give each other a second chance and the benefit of the doubt. That is exactly what Agent Myka Bering did last year on Warehouse 13 with H.G. Wells. On the surface it appeared as if the former Warehouse agent had turned over a new leaf but, in fact, she had not and later used an Artifact to try to create another Ice Age on Earth.

Myka succeeded in saving the day, but her misjudgment of H.G. rattled the agent’s confidence and she resigned from the Warehouse. In the show’s third season opener, “The New Guy,” her former partner, Agent Pete Lattimer, and his new sidekick, Agent Steve Jinks, seek out Myka’s help to solve a rash of Artifact-induced murders. At the end of the episode it is a sincerely remorseful H.G. who persuades Myka to return to the Warehouse. For actress Joanne Kelly, stepping back into the role of Myka was akin to slipping on a comfortable pair of shoes.

“I think this year everything has just gotten easier. It feels like every season is a little bit easier, and by that I mean more comfortable,” notes Kelly. “The scripts are more surefooted, and I as an actress as well as my character have further matured this season. It was like coming home, and it was really interesting because it was sort of like what Myka went through in season one. I kind of felt myself getting into the rhythm, too. Jack Kenny, our show runner [and executive producer], is very smart in that he tends to write parallel to all us actors and what we’re experiencing in our own lives. So it’s always fascinating how those two intersect sometimes.

“For me personally as an actor, I’ve been able to relax with Myka and let her ‘run’ a bit this season. I let the reins out so to speak and I feel more comfortable with her. It’s also been more fun for me, too. Playing someone who’s uptight as she is was exhausting, but this year Myka has kind of relaxed in her journey on the show and we’ve seen her open up and trust the people around her. That was a challenge for me, not only allowing her that freedom to run, but trust enough in my performance to let my character do that. I think it shows in the work, though, how much I enjoyed working on this season.”

Although Myka is welcomed back with open arms to the Warehouse at the end of “The New Guy,” she must still convince its executive board, The Regents and, perhaps once and for all, herself, that she has no lingering doubts in her ability to do the job. Myka manages to do both in the next episode “Trials,” where Pete (Eddie McClintock) is among those affected by an Artifact that causes memory loss followed by regression in its victims.

“’Trials’ was written by a lovely man and writer named Drew Greenberg, and when I first read the script I was really excited about it,” recalls Kelly. “It had a certain maturity to it that was a new stride for the show and, I believe, a step forward. It was, as I previously mentioned, one of those surefooted episodes that felt really good to me. The story neatly tied up all the questions left hanging from the season opener and it was also a strong character piece. Anytime an actor gets to explore new territory with his or her character it’s a joy as well as a challenge.

“I have to say, too, that Eddie is amazing in ‘Trials.’ He constantly surprises me by what he brings and continues to bring to the table. Eddie is a very talented actor and I still remember his little boy version of Pete. It was just so endearing and honest. We have some gifted actors on our show, we truly do. The work is top notch and everyone is 100% committed to creating genuine, three-dimensional, dynamic characters, and I feel like we really earn those moments of honesty. Yes, we have the tongue-in-cheek moments along with that light touch, but I love that we have real emotions at the heart of our stories.”

When Myka returns to active Warehouse duty, Artie (Saul Rubinek) puts her back out in the field with Pete. As for “the new guy,” Steve Jinks (Aaron Ashmore), he and Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) are sent on their first mission together to retrieve Typhoid Mary’s meat cleaver in “Trials,” while in “Don’t Hate the Player,” Artie and Steve have to snag and bag Vincent Van Gogh’s "Stormy Night," a painting that is responsible for more than one death. How has Kelly seen Myka’s relationship develop with newcomer Aaron Ashmore’s character so far in Warehouse 13’s third season?

“You know, Steve has more of a dynamic with Claudia,” she says. “I don’t think we’ve seen Steve and Myka ‘tango’ quite yet. Maybe that will happen next season. We’ll have to wait and see.

“As far as working with Aaron Ashmore, he’s the nicest guy and sweetest person. He brings a great energy to the show, both as a human being and as his character. Aaron has a calmness to him, and I look at Steve Jinks as being like the eye in the middle of a hurricane. It’s a very complementary energy and I love that he’s so different from Eddie’s Pete. Aaron adds a nice dynamic to the storytelling and having him here is like when Allison Scagliotti joined the show in season one. It seemed as if she had been around for the entire time. It was seamless, and I can honestly say the same is true of Aaron.”

In the third season episode “Love Sick,” Steve has his hands full trying to reason with Pete and Myka, both of whom end up drunk after handling W.C. Fields’ juggling balls. Using Richard Nixon’s shoes as bait, they lure poor Steve into the bronzer and "bronze" him. Unfortunately, in their intoxicated state, Pete and Myka have a tricky time trying to undo the process.

“Playing drunk is hard to do, and Eddie and I struggled a little bit,” says Kelly. “It’s a fine line insofar as making something believable and not going too far with it. We had a wonderful director for this episode, Tawnia McKiernan, who worked on the show last year as well, but Eddie and I still struggled. We’d go over the top and then bring it back down. It was tough to find just the right balance.

“The interesting thing about playing drunk is that it’s not the person playing drunk, but the person trying to act sober, do you know what I mean? That’s what drunk people do, they try to act sober as opposed to drunk. In the first scene that Eddie and I played drunk we probably did more takes than we usually do just trying to find that fine line. Once we hooked it, though, it was easier to navigate those waters.”

In the upcoming “Shadows,” guest starring former Caprica cast member Alessandra Torresani, Myka and Claudia travel to Portland, Oregon to investigate a string of mysterious disappearances that seem to center around a certain individual.

“This was the first episode this season where it was just me and Allison, and we had a lot of fun,” enthuses Kelly. “Allison’s character has really grown up and there’s a new maturity that is evident in her this year. As a result, I think we see Myka and Claudia as equals now; we’re moving from the older sister/younger sister dynamic to one where they’re standing kind of shoulder to shoulder.

“The relationships amongst all the characters are much stronger this year and not as tenuous as they were during the first two seasons. There’s an understanding and a quickness with them. There aren’t a lot of questions being asking about one another because they already know each other through and through. So I do see Myka relating to Claudia this year as more of an adult, and that’s fun because Allison is an old soul, you know? I think she’s happy about getting to play a more mature character. Again, we’ve really seen Claudia grow up, just like we’ve seen Allison grow up that little bit more.”

In addition to Alessandra Torresani, season three of Warehouse 13 has played host to a variety of guest stars from other genre TV series and feature films including Faran Tahir (Iron Man), Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Lindsay Wagner (The Bionic Woman), J August Richards (Angel), and Jeri Ryan (Star Trek: Voyager). Kelly was especially pleased to work with former Star Trek: Voyager leading lady Kate Mulgrew, who plays a Regent named Jane Lattimer in the episode “The 40th Floor.”

“Kate is so awesome and such a tour de force,” says the actress. “I love working with female actors because the dynamic is so different from that of a man and a woman. In this case it was very true to life in the sense that I think my feelings as Joanne for Kate are the same as Myka’s for Kate’s character - admiration and a little scared. I think Myka is used to running around and getting stuff done, and when someone else comes along with the same Alpha-type vibe, something quite interesting happens. I had a blast with Kate and I’m thrilled to have her on the show.”

Last month it was announced that Syfy has renewed Warehouse 13 for a fourth year. Just prior to the show wrapping production in Toronto on season three, the cast and crew shot its second annual Christmas-themed story that will air later this year.

“The Christmas episode is one of my favorites this year,” says Kelly. “It is so well-written and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed shooting it, even though we did it in July, so we had to pretend it was cold. We film the summer in February and the winter in the summer. The logic of TV is in there somewhere,” jokes the actress.

“I hope we get to do a Halloween episode next year. I’ve been asking Jack Kenny about that for a couple of years now, or even a New Year’s Eve episode. I mean, let’s do something really different and shake things up on Warehouse 13.”

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A native of Massachusetts, Steve Eramo has been a Sci-Fi fan since childhood, having been brought up on such TV shows as Star Trek and Space: 1999. He is also an Anglophile and lover of British TV. A writer for 35 years – 17 of those as a fulltime freelancer – Steve has had over 2,500 feature-length…

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