Misfit Of Science: Interview With Warehouse 13's Allison Scagliotti

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Justin Stephens/Syfy

The lovely and talented Allison Scagliotti as Claudia Donovan in Warehouse 13

For the past two years, Allison Scagliotti has been helping bag and tag dangerous artifacts in her role as the super-smart, resourceful, steampunk-attired techie and agent-in-training Claudia Donovan on Warehouse 13.

In real life, the actress herself is just as cool as her TV alter ego. On this unseasonably warm Tuesday in Toronto, she along with one of her fellow castmates and the show’s crew are on-location working on the upcoming third season episode “Shadows.” Scagliotti, who is in every scene today, including one inside a second-floor apartment, graciously comes down between takes to sit under a shady tree and chat about her work on the show this year. It only makes sense that the conversation begins with her involvement in this story.

“The episode we’re currently shooting is number nine, and in it Claudia goes out into the field to help investigate a string of mysterious disappearances in Portland, Oregon,” reveals Scagliotti. “We have a couple of familiar Sci-Fi faces to look forward to in this story. Unfortunately, I can’t disclose their identities just yet; my knowledge of that is kept under lock and key,” jokes the actress.  “Claudia’s involvement in this particular case is important because she’s close in age to the young woman who is being affected by this strange phenomenon, so she’s able to talk with her and level with her in a way that Pete [Eddie McClintock] and the others wouldn’t be able to. So there’s a sort of peer element to that relationship.

“Yesterday we got to shoot at a cemetery, which I expected to be creepier than it was. I think there’s something to be said for visiting a cemetery in the daytime in that the vibe is different, although I wouldn’t have been against shooting there at night. As for today, it’s like someone flipped a switch here in Toronto and all of a sudden spring is over and summer has arrived. So for example, right now we’re in this tiny, cramped apartment building and [cool] air is being pumped in from the outside through these giant hoses, only between takes, though, because of the loud sound that it makes, which wouldn’t work at all in the final cut. This story has been a lot of fun to do and I can’t believe we’re already on episode nine. This season is definitely flying by.”

At the end of Warehouse 13’s second season, Claudia along with fellow Warehouse agent Pete Lattimer and their boss, Artie Nielsen (Saul Rubinek), as well as their boss’s immediate superior, Mrs. Frederic (CCH Pounder) reluctantly said goodbye to Agent Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly), who handed in her resignation after what she felt was her misguided trust in a former Warehouse agent, H.G. Wells (Jaime Murrray), almost resulted in a catastrophe. Despite missing their former colleague, our heroes must carry on as usual, and in the season three premiere, “The New Guy,” Agent Steve Jinks (Aaron Ashmore), is assigned to fill the gap left by Myka’s departure. For Scagliotti, stepping back into Claudia’s shoes this year was, at first, slightly daunting.

“Believe it or not I was actually a bit nervous coming back,” recalls the actress. “I don’t know why. Maybe it was because I’d been so busy with personal stuff as well as school over the hiatus, but I was nervous. I had a lot of props to deal with in this episode along with the anxiety that I was feeling, but luckily I had quite a number of scenes with Saul, and he is the best when it comes to actor pep talks.

“The challenge for me this season with Claudia is the same as it has always been, and that is even though I’m not playing myself, I am playing someone very similar to me. And the one thing that Saul is constantly reminding me of is that it’s important to continue to tell the truth of what I, Allison, am going through within the context of my character. Sometimes that’s scary because it’s so personal, but that, to me, is also the beauty of acting. It’s an outlet where, through my character, I’m able to express myself as well as my fears and emotions, and hopefully reach people in the process.

“So I was able to get over those initial jitters thanks to my mentor. 'The New Guy' is also the first episode where we meet Steve Jinks, played by Aaron Ashmore, who has been just a joy to work with. In terms of what my character gets up to in this first episode, Claudia is experiencing what all young adults go through at her age, which is trying to define herself within the group she’s in. In this case, that group happens to be the misfits of Warehouse 13. Oh, my favorite artifact is actually in this episode, too, and it’s Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. So Claudia gets to shred on it for a couple of seconds, which you get to see. It’s a really fun episode and I can’t wait to hear what the fans think of it.”

Scagliotti’s character has changed quite a bit since she was first introduced to viewers in the season one Warehouse 13 story “Claudia.” In it, she blames Artie for the death of her brother Joshua (Tyler Hynes) several years prior. Claudia, however, believes her brother is still alive and she kidnaps Artie so that he can help her find him. They discover that Joshua is trapped in inter-dimensional limbo and succeed in rescuing him. Much to Claudia’s surprise, rather than turning her over to the authorities, Artie has her assigned to the Warehouse to repair the damage she caused. In fact, he recognized her potential and has never regretted giving her a second chance. Claudia has become a valuable member of the team as well as part of the Warehouse family and allowed to further shine in season three.

“So far Claudia is enjoying some increased responsibility this year, and with that comes a little bit more comfort in her own knowledge and her ability to apply that knowledge to the task at hand,” says Scagliotti. “Like I said, I’m a young adult going through changes and I’m playing a young adult going through changes, so my character is not unlike me in that we’re both seeking to be treated like the adults we are. In Claudia’s case, she is also dealing with how her past influences her today, which you could actually also say for all the characters.

“As far as Claudia’s place in the Warehouse family, that dynamic continues to grow as do the people within that family,” she continues. “With Pete, he has always been like an older brother as well as a little brother to Claudia, and this year we see that same sort of deepening trust in each other and genuine familial caring.

“With Artie, his approval has always been paramount to Claudia, but now more than ever in her quest to be treated as an equal member of the team, that approval is really important and I think Claudia is trying to prove that to him at every turn. In terms of Aaron Ashmore’s character of Steve, he’s the first peer who Claudia has had around the Warehouse. He’s not exactly her age, but he’s younger than Pete and the others, and the two of them have been able to work together as a team, which is, I feel, an important part of the dynamic for Claudia this season. Again, it’s been a joy to work with Aaron and cultivate our onscreen relationship. I think it’s going to be really exciting for viewers to see how that relationship evolves and where it ends up by the season finale.”

Last year, the Warehouse 13 cast and crew had to get into the holiday spirit a little early - summer to be exact - in order to film the show’s Christmas episode, “Secret Santa,” which was directed by series executive producer and show runner Jack Kenny. They will be doing the same thing in just a few short weeks when this season’s holiday-themed episode goes before the camera.

“The reason we shot season two’s Christmas episode in the middle of July instead of in February when there’s actually snow on the ground is that the Christmas episode is the last one that has to be ready for airing,” explains Scagliotti. “We have to get a jump on what’s airing first because this is such a visual and special effect-heavy program and it takes a while to get the episodes ready.

“Aside from sweating it out in wool and boots, it was a fun way to wrap the season, especially with the family dinner at the end of the episode with Judd Hirsch’s character [of Artie’s father, Izzy Weisfelt], and my character reciting a Hebrew prayer, even though her last name is Donovan, which probably means she’s a Roman Catholic, at least by birth, but to be honest Claudia is a Pagan,” she says smiling.

“Being directed by Jack Kenny is also a pleasure. He brings the same sensibility that he has as a show runner to his work as a director, which is his complete passion for the story and the characters. Jack is so hands-on and that didn’t falter at all. There are some directors who are more about composing the shot, which makes for a pretty product, but it doesn’t always make for something that grabs you, pulls you out of your seat and makes you feel something. Jack is really dialed into that, and perhaps it’s because he used to be an actor, so he gets into what he’s watching. He’s directing our Christmas episode again this year. I’m not looking forward to sweating in my sweater and Doc Martins again, but I am looking forward to the Christmas episode. I’ve heard the concept and it sounds way more exciting than last year’s, which was fun, but this is that times 10,” enthuses the actress.

During the hiatus between seasons two and three of Warehouse 13, Scagliotti managed to squeeze in one project in between her studies and personal life.

“I did a little independent movie called Losers Take All, which was shot down in Memphis, Tennessee,” she says. “It takes place in 1986 and is about a burgeoning punk rock band on the eve of climbing the ladder. I play a punk rock vixen [Simone], who is very dialed into the music scene and responsible for getting the band that the film is about set up with their first record label.

“I got to work with Kyle Gallner, who I’ve been running into at auditions for years and years, as well as Billy Kay, Adam Herschman and a bunch of other kooky and awesome people. It was directed by Alex Steyermark, who also directed one of my favorite movies of all times, Prey for Rock & Roll. So that was a lot of fun. I don’t know where the movie is at in terms of distribution. Last I heard it was being re-cut. I haven’t seen it yet but I’m really looking forward to it. It’s my kind of movie.”

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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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