Getting His Geek On: Interview With Eureka's Neil Grayston

"Fargo" speaks.

By , Contributor

Art Streiber

Neil Grayston as Eureka's Dr. Douglas Fargo

For the past five years, TV audiences have come to know Dr. Douglas Fargo as one of the resident brainiacs employed by Global Dynamics and living in the small Pacific Northwest town of Eureka, where you can always expect the unexpected. Like many of the brilliant minds working at GD, Fargo has experienced his fair share of scientific mishaps. In fact, the phrase “inappropriately pushed buttons” appears 38 times in his personnel files.

At the beginning of Eureka’s fourth season Fargo - minus his clothes - was transported along with four other residents back to 1947, which is the year the government founded Eureka as a top secret research facility. He and the others eventually made it back to the present, but to an alternate timeline where Fargo is now the director of GD. With some behind-the-scenes help from his friends, he has managed to step up to the plate and admirably fill his predecessor’s much-loathed shoes.

Fargo Liftoff Eureka.jpgUnfortunately, poor Fargo lands right back in hot water when, in the show’s season 4.5 opener “Liftoff,” Zane Donovan accidentally launches them into Earth’s orbit onboard an antiquated space capsule with limited air. Despite his character’s life-threatening dilemma, actor Neil Grayston, who plays Fargo, could not have enjoyed himself more

“Most of that episode was just me and Niall Matter [Zane Donovan] in the space capsule,” notes Grayston. “We spent three or four days in that confined space and it got really warm in there because of the lights and just the fact that the capsule itself was so small. There are a couple of scenes where Niall and I are sweating, and that’s not pretend make-up sweat. That was us dabbing ourselves with towels before the take in order to get all the sweat off us.

“So it was hot in there but super fun. I mean, Niall and I are good friends. The two of us work well together and we have the same vibe in terms of how to get the job done. Niall and I actually ended up working together a lot during season 4.5 as well as in the fifth season, which we’re currently shooting. He and I sort of jokingly call ourselves ‘The Kings of Second Unit,’ because if there’s a B-story involving Zane and Fargo in an episode, it’s typically going to be shot during a second unit day with just the two of us, which is always a blast.

“In previous seasons Zane and Fargo were almost rivals in certain respects, but in season 4.5 you’re going to see that they’re more like friends. They’re kind of like a yin and yang, where they both have their strengths as well as flaws that they work on with each other. So it’s been terrific for the dynamic between those two characters to not just have, oh, Fargo is mad at Zane again. That’s sort of been replaced with Wil Wheaton’s character of Dr. Parrish, who becomes my character’s ‘nemesis’ if you will for the remainder of this season."

During Eureka’s third season Fargo became involved with a fellow lab technician named Julia Golden (Leela Savasta), who impersonated Deputy Jo Lupo (Erica Cerra) in the episode “Your Face or Mine.” Fargo is noticeably disappointed when he discovers that that relationship never existed in this new timeline.

Eureka Fargo Holly.jpgA few sparks do begin to fly, though, when in the season 4.5 episode “Reprise,” a rocket scientist, Dr. Holly Marten, arrives in town to help oversee the planning of an important outer space mission assigned by the government to GD.  Grayston was only too happy to join his fellow Eureka castmates in welcoming Felicia Day, who plays Dr. Marten, to their onset family.

“I actually met Felicia for the first time last year at Comic-Con and the Syfy/Entertainment Weekly party,” recalls the actor. “I knew she was going to be coming on the show so I made a point of introducing myself and we pretty much got along right away.

“I remember she was a bit nervous during her first day of work on ‘Reprise,’ but she soon discovered, which people do when they come to our set, that everyone here is extremely welcoming and open. We said to her, ‘What are you worried about? This is a job, and a fun job. We’re all here to tell fun stories.’ I think after that, Felicia was like, ’Wow, why was I so nervous?’

“So she’s fit right in with the whole group and her character has created yet another awesome little dynamic on the show. I have to tell you that I’m really fond of the first scene in ‘Reprise’ with Felicia and Chris Gauthier [Vincent] where their two characters are talking to one another in Café Diem and going back and forth with their little jokes.

“Of course, Fargo then uses the FTL [faster-than-light] drive to zap Holly to the outskirts of town, which was pretty harsh, but if you saw the episode you know that it was the jukebox that made him do that. Once the effects of that wears off, Fargo and Holly realize that they have a lot in common. But then there’s also Dr. Parrish, and a little triangle of sorts develops between him, Fargo and Holly. So we’ll have to see what happens with that.”

The aforementioned Dr. Isaac Parrish was introduced in the season three Eureka episode “All the Rage” as head of the Non-Lethal Weapons lab at Global Dynamics. It did not take long before Parrish’s ego began to irritate Fargo and the two have been butting heads ever since. It is the same in the alternate timeline, although the off-camera relationship that Grayston has with Wil Wheaton is altogether different.

“What I like about the Fargo/Parrish dynamic is that it’s the total opposite of the Neil Grayston and Wil Wheaton one,” he says. “Wil and I got along right from the get-go. He’s such a nice, down-to-Earth and super-smart guy, so I see a kinship with him as opposed to a rivalry.

“I grew up watching Wil on Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as Stand by Me, which is one of my favorite movies, and Wil is one of the reasons that I wanted to get into acting in the first place. I loved the idea of a young guy who is smart, solves problems and does all sorts of other stuff onboard a spaceship [referring to Wheaton’s character of Wesley Crusher on TNG]," he said.

"So getting to meet and work with someone like that was so neat, and the fact that I like Wil so much and we get along so well is why the two of us can do such a good job of not getting along as our characters. So just as it is with the rest of the cast, it always feels like Wil and I are working together to tell a story. It’s not though we’re trying to one-up each other, and I find that to be such a positive and fulfilling [creative] environment.”

Fargo Claudia Warehouse 13.jpgAlthough currently airing on Syfy, season 4.5 of Eureka was shot last year in Vancouver along with the first half of season four. During that time, Grayston also spent a couple of weeks in Toronto filming “13.1,” a Warehouse 13 crossover episode involving his character of Fargo. Allison Scagliotti, who plays Warehouse 13‘s Claudia Donovan, did the same when she guest-starred in the season four Eureka episode “Crossing Over.” Grayston returned to the Warehouse 13 fold again this year to work on another episode of that series which will air during its third season.

“They’re like my other family over at Warehouse 13,” says the actor. “Eureka is my family and the people on Warehouse 13 are like my cool uncles, aunts and cousins. So it’s always a treat to go there and see everyone again. This most recent episode I did is one of the craziest episodes of TV that I’ve every done.

"I don’t think I’m giving anything away," he continued. "Because you see it in the TV commercials, but in this episode I’m dressed as a wizard, Eddie McClintock [Pete Lattimer] is a gladiator and Allison is an elf, so take that as you will. It was quite bizarre but a lot of fun, too. This episode was written by Ian Stokes, who wrote the last Warehouse 13 crossover episode I did, ’13.1.’

“It’s so hard to think of Warehouse 13 as work because we all have such a good time doing it. Last year it was pretty much me and Allison and I had couple of scenes with Saul Rubinek [Artie Nielsen] as well, but this season there was a lot of me, Allison and Eddie running around. I was also in one scene with the amazing Saul Rubinek and he always makes everything he does hilarious.”

This past April filming began on season 5 of Eureka and the past few months have been busy ones for Grayston and the rest of the show’s cast and crew. “We hit the ground running in season five," he reveals. “The first three episodes sort of deal with the cliffhanger from season 4.5; if you put them all together they’re almost like a movie. I feel bad ‘teasing’ people already about it when season 4.5 hasn’t even finished airing yet, but we’ve got major amounts of neat stuff happening next year.

“As for my character of Fargo, up to now he hasn’t really had to seriously deal with some of the important issues that he has to deal with in season five. There are a few scenes I’ve had to do as an actor that I’ve never done before, at least in terms of playing Fargo. So it’s definitely an emotional rollercoaster ride for him in season five. Having spent almost five years honing my comic chops on Eureka, I’ve really been enjoying getting to do some dramatic stuff.”

In season one of Eureka, Douglas Fargo spent much of his time at the beck and call of the-then head of GD, Nathan Stark (Ed Quinn). The character has certainly come a long way since those days, and in season 4.5 he has managed to gain the respect of those around him while not losing his nerdy charm.

“Season four kicked off a neat [story] arc by making him the head of GD, and then season 4.5 makes him more ‘human’ while not getting rid of what makes Fargo who he is,” says Grayston.

“He still bungles things up, but there are actually a couple of times in 4.5 where my character comes up with the solution to the problem. That not only makes me excited, but it makes me happy, too. I always worried that Fargo would just become the perpetual sort of clown and we would get to a point where people would be wondering, ‘How is this guy still employed, or not in jail.’ But they [the show’s writers/producers] have given me quite a few opportunities this year to further grow as a character. That’s actually true, though, of all our characters in season four.

“My initial contract with Eureka was only for seven episodes. I was more or less going to be in a couple of scenes per episode and doing a lot of the explaining and rattling off of scientific jargon. Then, however, they kept giving me other things to do, which I’m thankful for. It’s kind of cool to think that Fargo started out as what was intended to a pretty minor character and now I’m getting the chance to play a full-blown character with emotions, relationships and responsibilities.”

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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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