Every now and again a new series comes along that masterfully ticks off all the right boxes for us geeky TV viewers. Well, I’m here to tell you that FreeForm’s BEYOND is one of those shows. I’ve seen half the season and I am hooked.
I recently had the chance to chat exclusively with series lead Burkely Duffield about his new show. We discussed what it was like to receive the call informing him he’d booked the lead, feeling privileged to be working with showrunner Adam Nussdorf (LOST), Tim Kring (Heroes) and David Eick (Battlestar Galactica) and so much more. Dive in fellow geeks!
MustGeekTV: So, I did a little homework and noticed a trend in your TV work. There’s Masters of Science Fiction, Supernatural, The Tomorrow People, and Minority Report… seems like you dig sci-fi, eh? What is it about “genre” programming that excites you?
Burkely Duffield: I think as a viewer and as a fan of shows growing up, I’ve always loved sci-fi. I’ve always loved the idea of taking a world that we know and having fun with it, altering it, and bringing in something just a little bit different. So it’s a cool way to start a show, and that gets me into it. I mean, I don’t just seek out that type of genre role but it’s something as a viewer I’m attracted to and I guess that’s the path that its brought me to. Being able to have a lot of fun starring and guest-starring and having roles in these kinds of shows that I, myself, as a viewer love to watch.
MGTV: Have you had a chance to catch any new genre shows? Or is there anything out there you’re excited to check out?
BD: Well, I just finished Westworld which I’m a big fan of. I mean such an all-star cast and wow… it was just such an incredible piece. I have a constant TV list that I am going to make my way down, so I’ve got to see what I pick up next.
MGTV: How did you come to the project? What was it like to get that call, that you booked it? It must be so cool to be the lead in your very own “Tomorrow People-type” show?
BD: It is! [Laughs] I’ve got to pinch myself every day. It really is unbelievably cool! In my position you get to read a lot of scripts and Beyond came and I was like… wow! This is something cool and new. Even in the pilot and explanation I was like, I think they’re really going to explore some cool stuff. I didn’t even know the extent of what we were going to find ourselves doing, which was awesome but I was really drawn to it. During the audition process I’d go in and do my best and I’d just keep my fingers crossed. You can’t get yourself down if you get bad news, but you always want to hope for the best. I did that every step of the way hoping I’d make it one step closer and I’m still speechless. My heart skips a beat thinking about me receiving that call that I’d booked the role. It really was an amazing opportunity to be able to even just shoot the pilot and to work with such a talented group of people. It has been a blessing since I got that call and I can only hope that I’ll be able to shoot more.
MGTV: That’s a nice segue into my next question. You must have felt safe in the hands of Adam Nussdorf (LOST), Tim Kring (Heroes) and David Eick (Battlestar Galactica), right?
BD: To have such talented people… To have Adam be the creator of the show, such a talented writer. To have Tim Kring and David Eick be behind the show. To have Lee Krieger (The Age of Adaline) sign on to direct the pilot. I mean, it was such an amazing group of people that had come together to create this project. We really have attracted such an incredible group of additional directors that we have throughout the season, as well as writers and other people that came to it. It has really been a stellar group of people to be able to work with.
MGTV: What can you share about Holden Matthews’ journey this first season? While being careful to avoid spoilers of course.
BD: Holden is really finding his footing. He wakes up in the pilot and as you’ve seen and our viewers will, he’s totally lost in this new reality he wakes up into. He doesn’t know his family, his friends. He really feels so alone. So I think his journey is, you’re really going to see him grow up. From that boy he still felt like at the beginning, to taking those steps to becoming a man. Building that foundation of who he is with the people that he meets. Finding people that he can trust. Finding people that he does not get along with that are his enemies very quickly. On top of that, figuring out what these new abilities mean and unfortunately what trouble they’re going to get him into.
MGTV: What was more fun for you to play, the fish out of water aspect after 12 years in a coma or were Holden’s powers the really fun stuff?
BD: You know what, they’re so uniquely different but both so much fun. I mean, that’s another reason why this character was so much fun for me. To really have that range. Whether it’s the verocity of him being able to get into that moment of having those action sequences, or those quirky fun moments that were great to play when he’s sort of finding himself and stumbling through situations. So, I don’t know if I can put a finger on which was more fun, but I definitely had a lot of fun doing all of them.
MGTV: The sci-fi elements are what drew me in, but it’s always the character relationships that keep fans invested. Can you speak to that a bit and whether there was a relationship that challenged you the most?
BD: You totally said it. It is a sci-fi genre show, but it really is a story based in reality upon these very real relationships. The family dynamics. Of young relationship dynamics. Of enemies. And of all these people as they interact with Holden as well as each other. I can only say it’s a merit as well to my very talented co-stars. We have an amazing cast on this show. I think there were obviously more challenging moments, whether it called for emotion or whether it called on drawing on different aspects of the character but it was a great collaboration process between us as actors and our directors to really try to keep those grounded relationships true. True to the story and true to what people, and especially young people find themselves in. It was a really cool opportunity to play such a true character.
MGTV: It’s always tricky discussing a show’s mythology without spoiling things, but what can you hint about the larger conspiracy. The folks that are after Holden etc?
BD: Holden’s got a couple of things going. He’s got these abilities that he really does not understand. Where they came from. What they do. And what he’s going to do with them. He finds some helping hands on the way to sort of understand those, but as any great mystery or something we don’t understand that seems to yield power in some way, there are people that want to manipulate that. Or use it for their own gain. As Holden is honestly trying to understand these powers and really see the depths of what they mean, people are taking them more at face value. Can they use these powers for monetary gain or some sort of new world understanding? It’s a very interesting thing we dive into in the show and you meet some pretty nasty antagonists.
MGTV: Speaking of which… Yellow Jacket! He’s such a fantastic villain.
BD: Yeah he’s a cold-staring, death-stare mercenary who is a very chilling character. Peter’s [Kelamis] an amazing guy, but his character’s so strong on the show that it’s always an interesting dynamic whenever he’s on screen. You really have no idea what this guy’s gonna do.
MGTV: I honestly can’t wait for viewers to meet Beyond’s big bad.
As I’m sure you know, sci-fi fans are some of the most loyal and intense of any fanbase. The pilot screened at New York Comic Con, so what was the reaction? Are you ready for the insanity heading your way?
BD: I am so ready! We worked so hard on this project and we love it. We are so happy that we can finally share it with everyone. It was such a cool experience watching people watch the pilot and seeing them react to the funny moments or the action moments. You kind of forget that even though this is an amazing project and we work in such close quarters that it’s for everyone to be able to enjoy. It’s so neat to be able to watch your work, along with your co-stars and the fantastic crew that we have and see people have these emotions. Shows these laughs or these gasps or whatever it is when they see your work. It was so cool to see people’s reactions at the screening and I can only hope to hear more feedback from the fans. I love that interaction!
MGTV: Freeform is embracing “Binge-watching,” which I’m a massive fan of, with this series. What are your thoughts on all 10 episodes being released immediately after the two-hour pilot?
BD: I totally agree. I love being able to watch my shows like right as they come out. You get to see all the episodes that you want. Sometimes, I mean I want to immerse myself in that world. If I’ve got a weekend where I’m like, I can’t wait until the next episode. Do I have to wait another week? I love being able to put myself in that world and be able to really understand the characters and keep that momentum going. It’s exciting to be able to give the audience that opportunity. If you see the pilot, you watch the season premiere, you don’t have to wait until next week if you don’t want to. You can watch a couple more episodes, or hey maybe the whole season.
MGTV: I’m with you, because when you’re into a really great book you don’t just drop it and pick it up a week later. Everything stays fresh in your mind and my favorite way to watch TV.
Looking back at the first season, do you have a specific memory of the entire experience that stands out? Being cast as the lead? Reading those wild twist and turns? Shooting visual effects?
BD: All of those moments. I think one of the cool moments for this show I will always remember, is the first time that I got to experience and shoot Holden actually using his abilities. To have fun sort of channeling that drive from the character and to see those emotions bubble over into this energy blast you see in the pilot. That was a very memorable moment to me, as a viewer growing up and loving those shows to be able to embody a character that has these otherworldly abilities and be able to use them on screen in such a cool way… I will always remember shooting that day.
MGTV: Beyond is highly serialized [fingers crossed for a second season]. What are you most looking forward to in Season 2?
BD: I think definitely continuing the story. I mean, there were so many twists and turns in the first season, I can only imagine what they’ve got cooking up for us in the second season. I loved working with the cast. We’re such a tight “literal” family on-screen, but we are really a tight family off-screen. I consider all of them to be very close friends. In saying that, I do see them as much as I can from time to time though we’re sort of spread out. I do get to see them, but it’s always fun working with them every day. I can only hope we’ll back back soon enough to shoot a little more and give the audience a little more if they want it.
MGTV: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me Burkely. I really think folks are going to love the show!
BD: I appreciate you sitting down and talking with me. We’re excited for the show. Thank you for being a fan of the show, already.
Why did all this happen to Holden? You’ll just have to tune into the series premiere of Beyond on Monday, January 2 at 9pm/8c on Freeform! Then, binge-watch the entire season via your favorite digital platform.