A Chat with “Harper’s Island” Victim #9

This was, for my money, the best episode of “Harper’s Island” to date. It was fast-moving, full of action, scares, and information. More importantly, however, the characters finally started to get to the same approximate place that we the viewers are. So raise your hands: who was surprised to see this week’s victim get it? There was a constant suspicion that, as a suspect, this person was almost too likely to be the killer, but having their name taken off the list leaves the pool as wide open as it’s ever been.

Head over the interview with this week’s victim. It’s waiting for you after the jump…

Dean Chekvala: Hey, Will!

Premium Hollywood: Hey, Dean, how’s it going?

DC: Good, buddy. How are you doing?

PH: Pretty good. I’ve been thrilling to your antics for the last several weeks.

DC: (Laughs) Thanks!

PH: So how did it feel playing the black sheep in the family?

DC: I loved it! The best character on the show! No, I’m kidding…but I did love it!

PH: So how much of the character of J.D. did you go in with yourself? Do you have any tats?

DC: I don’t have any tattoos, and my hair’s normally kind of like a dirty blonde, a dark blonde. So they dyed the hair and slapped on the tattoos… (Laughs) …and gave me that wonderful dark wardrobe.

PH: I’ve heard from most of the other actors that, when they auditioned, they read sides that had nothing to do with the character they ended up playing. Was that the same case for you?

DC: No, y’know, I actually read the sides for my character, but the sides that I read were of a scene that they made up just for the audition. So that scene never came up.

PH: So at what point did you find out exactly how crazy a character you were playing?

DC: Um, define crazy. (Laughs)

PH: (Laughs) Yeah, I guess crazy is relative.

DC: Well, I booked it, then I got shipped out the next morning, basically, to go up to Vancouver, and it wasn’t until I got to Vancouver that they really closed the door and explained what the concept of the show was and what was going to be going on. And at that point, they explained the back story of the character. No, come to think of it, at my second audition, when I met with the producers, we actually chatted for awhile, and they kind of gave me the gist of who this character was, of who J.D. was, and that he was the black sheep, he was suicidal, a chip on his shoulder, an instigator type of character. So they told me early on.

PH: How far along in the process did you come to discover that you were, in fact, not the killer?

DC: Probably Episode 6 or 7. It could’ve been Episode 6. Up until then, I thought I was still fair game.

PH: So when you were playing the character, were you playing it as if he was the killer, or were you playing him as if he was just a troubled guy?

DC: A troubled guy, looking for answers.

PH: What was your favorite episodes of the ones that you were in? I guess that was most of them, right? No, wait, you weren’t in Episode 4.

DC: Yeah, Episode 4 I wasn’t in. (Considers the question) I think one of my favorite episodes was Episode 6, although I loved the very first scene…well, I guess it wasn’t the first scene, but it was the fight scene in the bar. I loved doing that one. I mean, what a great intro to a character: a bar fight. (Laughs) But I think Episode 6 was kind of where, structurally, it changed for me, because he became very proactive. I mean, he definitely had an agenda, where he was pursuing something. Previously to that, he was kind of reacting to things, but he wasn’t really instigating things to change. And that’s kind of when it got really exciting to play and very clear to play.

PH: In the third episode, when you had to suffer through a near-hanging, was that odd to play? I’d think that, at the very least, it would be a little disconcerting.

DC: Yeah, but it was actually kind of fun, I’ve got to tell you. Half of it was a stunt guy and half of it was me, but I kept asking them if I could do it, because it seemed like, y’know, “When else would I get a chance to play that?” Although that set we were on was, seriously, about 150 degrees.

PH: Yikes.

DC: The cast and crew were just pouring sweat during the hours we were in there. So it was a little uncomfortable in that sense, but it was fun to kind of experience what it was like to stand on that chair and have that noose around your neck. Well, I don’t know if “fun” is the right word… (Laughs) …but it was definitely a unique experience.

PH: So did you think that you were the killer at any point? Because, at least at my house, we were regularly torn between, “Well, that would be too easy,” and, “Well, maybe it isn’t too easy!”

DC: You know, the exact same thing happened with us on set. We kind of all thought we could be the killer, and everybody was…I think that, secretly, everybody wanted to be the killer, and everyone had a way to convince themselves that, yeah, possibly I could be the killer! Because you wouldn’t get the scripts until a few days before shooting, so everyday new information came out, and if we were still in the script, if we weren’t the one who was killed, then we were excited at the possibility that, “Oh, there might be more information that we don’t know about yet that will explain why I am the killer!” From the beginning, they asked us, “If you’re the killer, do you want to know?” I think they were asking everybody. Not that they were telling anybody, but I think they were just curious if people would want to know. And I just told them, “Look, I don’t need to know unless you think I need to know at a certain point.” But because they asked me that question, immediately my mind was, like, “Omigod! I’m the killer! Why would they ask me that if I wasn’t the killer?” And you begin to sort of convince yourself that, Omigod, this is a great possibility for me to be it! And it would’ve been fun to be the killer. I think. You know? Just to kind of explore that sort of character and figure out why they would do it. So part of me wanted to be, but then as Episodes 6 and 7 came along, I was, like, “You know, I think I’m still crucial to the information of the story, but I’m probably not the killer.”

PH: How was Cassandra Sawtell to work with? I interviewed David Lewis two weeks ago, and although he couldn’t stop talking about what a great actress she was, he admitted outright that she was creepy when she was playing her part.

DC: (Laughs) Oh, she’s the sweetest girl! She’s great. She’s a super-smart kid, and we used to joke because every time she was on set, she was reading a new and different 500- or 600-page novel, which she’d finish during the course of that day. I was, like, “Seriously? Are you kidding me?” And she speaks, like, five languages. No joke. She’s just a super-smart kid. And…honestly, I don’t find her creepy, but she’s very, in a sense, honest. She’s very aware of things that are around her. But she’s fun. She was fun to play with. I felt like we were real kindred spirts!

PH: So how did you actually find out that you were going to be off the show? Did you get tapped on the shoulder, or did you receive a phone call?

DC: (Laughs) I got a phone call. Usually, Karim was given the assignment to tell people, and he’d try to tell them in person. Usually, he’d use the line, “Listen, we gotta talk. Come walk with me.” That kind of thing. And the reaction on set was, “No! I don’t want to talk to you!” But in this case, he was leaving for the airport that night, I think. It was a Friday, and he was leaving for the weekend from the set, so he just had to call me and tell me over the phone.

PH: Were you surprised?

DC: I was very surprised. I thought it was, like, a social call. That it was gonna be, like, “Hey, what are we doing tonight?” And it turned into, “Oh, you’ve got to go.” (Laughs) So in that case, it was a surprise, but as far as the story’s concerned, you know, I think it strengthens the story because it just shows the audience that anybody can go, and I feel like they’d started to build…well, although they made J.D. look guilty, they also built up his character, so people could kind of be more engaged in the story.

PH: Yeah, at times, you were torn between accusing him and feeling sorry for him.

DC: Yeah! Which one did you think? Did you think he was more of the black sheep or the killer?

PH: Y’know, I really tended to think he was more of the black sheep, though there was certainly enough out there that I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had been the killer. But I didn’t really think he was.

DC: Were there any points when you thought, “Oh, he’s actually the savior”? (Laughs) Because after I wasn’t the killer, I was, like, “Oh, well, clearly, I’m going to save this island! Clearly!” But, clearly, that didn’t happen. (Laughs) That pendulum definitely swung the other way for me. I was thinking, “They’re trying to make me look good, so obviously I’m going to come back, swinging in on a vine to say the day!”

PH: What’s your favorite onset anecdote from your time on “Harper’s Island”? And who did you most enjoy working with?

DC: Well, I loved working with Elaine (Cassidy) and Chris (Gorham). Most of my stuff was with them and Cassandra. And there’s one kinda funny story about Cassandra…well, it’s not that funny…but it was me, Elaine, and her in the car with her, and she was saying how she was going to be a writer when she grows up. And we were, like, “Oh, that’s great! Maybe you can take that book and turn it into a movie, and en maybe you can cast us!” She kind of nodded and took a beat, then she tapped us on the shoulder and said, “Um, I don’t mean to be rude, but…aren’t you going to be too old?” (Laughs) We’re, like, “Okay, get out of the car.” So, okay, maybe that wasn’t the best anecdote, but I remember that for some reason, because it was just so charming of her to point out how old we’re going to be when she’s a successful writer. (Laughs) But mostly it’s just working with…well, y’know, I just thought the crew and cast were so pleasant to work with. You know, we all started the same day, literally in the same boat, so we all had this sense of community and camaraderie that started from the very beginning. We were sad to see people go as the numbers dwindled, but we were really a close, tight-knit group. We’d hang out all the time after filming, at dinners or having drinks or whatever, and the Canadians definitely showed us the perks of the town. (Laughs)

PH: So have you been watching the show consistently, and will you continue to watch now that you’re off the show?

DC: Oh, I’m definitely going to watch it, because I don’t know what happens! It’s great, because now I get to be a viewer, and I get to kind of see how they’re going to shape the story and see how much of what I think is going to happen is or isn’t going to happen. And I have been watching it…you know, I watch on the computer, but I watched it last week with Matt Barr, who played Sully. We just hung out and watched it together. It’s always fun to get together. If people are around and we can actually get a group together to watch it, it’s always fun to hang out.

PH: Yeah, when I interviewed Sean Rogerson, he said that he and Chris Gauthier had gotten together to watch an episode.

DC: Cool!

PH: Well, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, Dean. You did great work on the show, and I’m looking forward to seeing who the actual killer is.

DC: Me, too! Thanks, Will!

* Missed our interview with Victim #1? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Victims #2 and #3? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Victim #4? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Victim #5? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Victim #6? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Victim #7? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Victim #8? Go check it out!

  

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