Roughly 25 years after a reptilian race landed on Earth in the ’80s television series V, there’s a new batch of duplicitous aliens on TV as the roster of sci-fi-tinged serial dramas continues to grow.
The revamped V features Elizabeth Mitchell of Lost as FBI agent Erica Evans, while Scott Wolf of Party of Five plays self-serving broadcast journalist Chad Decker. Morris Chestnut plays the enigmatic Ryan Nichols, who hides a dark past.
As in the original, the seductive visitors inspire immediate devotion from stunned humans who are swept up by the arrival, while others decide it’s time to take up arms.
But despite the familiar premise, Canadian co-star Laura Vandervoort says recent world events add a new layer of fear and paranoia to the storyline. She notes that the series kicks off with the visitors’ spacecraft thundering over Manhattan in a not-so-subtle echo of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“One of the things that the cast and I were discussing is the post-9/11 world and having to maybe have something you want to believe in — a religion or a faith or something that you can put your hopes into,” Vandervoort says in a conference call from Los Angeles.
“When something shakes and rattles the world so much in sci-fi, whether we’re dealing with the spaceships coming to Earth and just rattling everyone’s lives and their belief in God, I think sci-fi allows people to escape and it allows for things that normally wouldn’t happen to happen. It’s a fantasy and that’s popular right now because people want to escape from their daily lives, especially post-9/11.”
Vandervoort, a Toronto native whose previous roles include Supergirl on Smallville, plays Lisa, an alluring alien who wastes no time in recruiting Erica’s impressionable teenage son Tyler, played by Logan Huffman, to be one of her race’s biggest champions.
Even for Vandervoort, it’s not entirely clear what Lisa’s motives are.
The 25-year-old blond says cast members are pretty much kept in the dark regarding plot twists, and that has affected how she approaches the role.
“Because they haven’t told me whether I really am good or bad, I’m just being as honest and innocent and kind as I possibly can. So that if it does turn out she isn’t a good person, it’s all that much more devastating for the audience and I didn’t give anything away,” says Vandervoort.
She admits the secrecy can be difficult to cope with.
“We get a little frustrated because we’re like, ‘I don’t really know where I’m heading with this and what I mean by this line,’ but if you look at if from the outsider’s perspective it works well because we’re not going to give anything away. Them not telling us makes us so excited to read the next script — we’re constantly checking our emails to see if it’s come in yet, and ‘OK, do I die in this episode? Or do I eat a rat?’ You never know and I prefer it that way.”
The rat-eating scene in the original series is an iconic moment in ’80s television, and Vandervoort jokes she’s eager to rip off her face to reveal a reptilian mug — unless it signals the end of her character, of course.
Vandervoort says she was aware of the original series when she was cast but had never seen it before joining the big-budget revamp, which is shot in Vancouver.
She says she bought the DVD to catch up but stopped watching after just a few scenes.
The original 1983 miniseries, and 1984 serial that followed, starred Vancouver native Marc Singer as rebel leader Mike Donovan.
Vandervoort says she’s thrilled to be part of the action-laden overhaul, noting that she was initially invited to join the ensemble cast as a guest star but that her part was eventually expanded to a recurring role.
“I’ve never really been on a show of this magnitude that started from the ground up, so it’s kind of cool to see the birth of the show and to watch it evolve,” she says.
The new version of V debuts today on CTV and ABC.