Manticore’s New Minion

Among the new faces arriving in Seattle, circa 2010, for Dark Angel‘s second season is sci-fi alumnus Martin Cummins, who joined the show as shadowy government clean-up operative Ames White in the ep Bag ‘em. It was a role that came about incredibly quickly, he says.

“I sent in my reel, interviewed in Vancouver, went down to meet the kids from Fox in LA, and was on the set three days later.” Signed for a minimum of seven episodes, Cummins is most likely familiar to genre viewers from his four-year stint as Nick Boyle on the Showtime/Sci-Fi series Poltergeist: The Legacy—an experience Cummins says was like film school because it gave him the chance to direct. After doing 88 episodes in four years, he believes the show explored everything it could in that arena, so for those stalwarts out there hoping for a movie follow-up, it looks highly unlikely.

Beyond that, Cummins’ genre work is far ranging: he’s directed and starred in The Outer Limits and guested on shows such as Highlander the Series and most recently, VH-1’s anthology series Strange Frequency, where he was a disco king minding the boogying ranks of hell. This summer, he appeared alongside a host of familiar Canadian faces in a disaster flick for television that he laughingly admits was a post-Christmas paycheck.

When he’s not dabbling in television, Cummins exercises his creativity in film. Earlier this year, his Poltergeist co-star, Helen Shaver, was recognized with a Genie award in the category of best supporting actress for her role in We All Fall Down, Cummins’ feature directorial and writing debut, and he received the best supporting actor Genie statue for his role in another Canadian independent film, Love Come Down. He also just wrapped a six-hour miniseries that should hit the airwaves sometime next year. Cummins took a break from his busy schedule and his Canadian Thanksgiving holiday to chat with IGN-Sci-Fi about Dark Angel, going back and forth between television and film, and getting to play with really high class toys.

IGN Sci-Fi: How did the Dark Angel role come about?

Martin: Pretty much in the usual way. I’d been on vacation after wrapping the miniseries in Quebec and my manager sent my reel to the casting agent. The folks saw it and decided to take me to network and that was that. They had seen several people and were getting close to production. One day I heard about it, and the next I was on set.

IGN Sci-Fi: What was that first day like?

Martin: It’s a huge set. I haven’t worked on television show that knows how to spend the money like that. The first time I walked into the camp I was supposed to be leading, there were 50 guys in combat gear and each guy was carrying the most high tech of machine guns and there were Hummers and choppers…it’s like a MASH unit from when you were watching the 4077th as a kid—all that on top of 200 members of the crew.

IGN Sci-Fi: How many episodes have you done so far?

Martin: Three, and I’ll probably do another four or so before Christmas.

IGN Sci-Fi: We don’t know much about White. What is his agenda, and who does he work for?

Martin: His agenda is to wipe out any evidence that Manticore has existed. He’s a National Security guy…one of those shadowy men with shadowy glasses.

IGN Sci-Fi: Is he replacing Lydecker?

Martin: I really don’t know. The first episode I did, Lydecker was in, too. From my understanding, Lydecker is sympathetic to what Max is going through and they wanted someone who would be a spoiler to her and the other transgenics and who’s not sympathetic and I’m that guy.

IGN Sci-Fi: Is it strange to be the bad guy?

Martin: Most of my career I’ve played a lot of unsavory characters and hoods and bad guys. In Canadian independent film, I’ve generally played the hard guy. I don’t think White’s necessarily the bad guy. [Feigning anger] I actually take objection to that.

IGN Sci-Fi: So he’s just misunderstood?

Martin: Yeah. After all, I am representing the government and doing this for the safety of the public. Ultimately, the dark angel is the bad guy. It depends on your point of view.

IGN Sci-Fi: Given your background, any plans to direct on the show?

Martin: It’s a whole different ballgame between network and syndication—twice the money and four times the number of executives. I’d say that would be a big leap.

IGN Sci-Fi: What’s this miniseries you mentioned?

Martin: It’s a six-parter and it has sort of paranormal and psychological bent. It’s a story about a detective who’s deeply Catholic and an alcoholic and a closet homosexual and he falls in love with a guy who he later realizes is a serial killer. It’s called Dice, and it’s based on the book The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. It’s some of the best writing I’ve come across as an actor. It’s a great cast—Fred Ward (Tremors), Callum Keith Rennie (Due South), and Aidan Gillen (Queer as Folk).

IGN Sci-Fi: You did a pilot a couple of years ago for a Renny Harlin-produced genre show called T.R.A.X. Whatever happened with that?

Martin: That was too bad. It was a bizarre kind of thing to shoot because it was all shot on digital video it was a real sort of tongue-in-cheek, very violent black comedy. It was a half-hour for Fox, and it was a little too violent for mainstream television. It was quite bizarre and really off center, which made it a lot of fun to do. There was interest in doing it on cable as an hour show but that wouldn’t have worked because it was shot in documentary style. So it died.

IGN Sci-Fi: Was it ever done as a one-off for video or a standalone episode?

Martin: No. And Pearson closed its North American television division so that ended it too.

IGN Sci-Fi: That shelved First Wave too, didn’t it?

Martin: Yep. They do better overseas, so they decided to let America go.

IGN Sci-Fi: When y’all wrapped Poltergeist, did you know that was it?

Martin: Oh yeah. I was never under any impression we were going to go back and do it again. I think in a sense we’d all had enough. I was glad to be done. I was really thankful for the experience. Because I was a Vancouver kid, I’d known a lot of those people for a dozen years. And because people really enjoyed working on the show and it was a really nice set, the guy who set the stand on the first shot was there at the end. It was like your living room. You spent more waking hours there than at home. It was a real nice atmosphere.

IGN Sci-Fi: Are you drawn to sci-fi more than other genres?

Martin: Not really. In terms of acting it isn’t so much that as being drawn to interesting characters. I’m finally getting a crack at playing an adult. It’s fun to play CIA agents or cops—it’s like when you were ten years old and playing in the front yard with a gun made of plywood your dad made for you. Essentially you’re doing the same thing, only the equipment’s better.

Heather McLatchie