The Final “Harper’s Island” Chat: A Killer And A Survivor

Well, kids, it’s over: “Harper’s Island” has reached its conclusion, and we finally know who the killer is. I get the impression, however, that many people had it figured out long ago. As for me, I’ve said it elsewhere, but just for the record, I’ll say it here as well: I never really had a theory, because I was too busy enjoying the ride. As a result, I didn’t have nearly as many problems with the final episode as, say, Michael Slezak over at EW’s PopWatch Blog. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t spend a fair amount of time saying to my wife, “It couldn’t be that person, could it? That’d be too easy, wouldn’t it?” But never once could I be heard to suggest that I had any real idea as to who was knocking off folks on a weekly basis.

I did, however, find myself growing increasingly enthusiastic about seeing who the Victim of the Week was. It’s hard to tell how many people were reading these interviews, since – with the notable exception of Jim Beaver – the majority of the comments tended to be criticisms of my victim numbering (in retrospect, I never should’ve started counting them in the first place, but it’s far too late to worry about it now), but I’ve certainly enjoyed talking to the various folks over the course of these 13 episodes. If nothing, I feel that, by doing these weekly interviews, I managed to bring “Harper’s Island” to the attention of some of my friends who might not otherwise have been aware of it, so I’ll take my sense of accomplishment where I can find it.

One last observation: if you dug the show, or if you missed the first episode or two and figured you’d never be able to catch up, then you’ll be pleased to hear that the series will be released on DVD on September 8, 2009. Better yet, it will be filled with loads of bonus material, including some of the scenes you may have read about in these interviews which didn’t make the cut. If you want to get your pre-order in right now, all you have to do is click right here.

And with that bit of shilling for CBS/Paramount out of the way, let us move onward and offer up the final installment in our “Harper’s Island” interview series…!

Christopher Gorham: Hey, Will!

Elaine Cassidy: Hi!

Premium Hollywood: Hey, guys, good to talk to you from your respective places! (Writer’s note: Christopher was somewhere in L.A., while Elaine was sitting pretty in Manchester, England.)

EC: Thanks!

CG: You, too!

PH: So you guys survived until the bitter end…or, at least, Elaine did, anyway. How close was it to the end of the series when you found out that you were indeed going to be making it until the last episode?

CG: Well, we found out at different times. Go ahead, Elaine.

EC: Oh, no, no, no! I’ll go after. (Laughs)

CG: Okay, well, I was highly suspicious of my character from my start, so I had a pretty good idea that I was going to be around ‘til the end, but I didn’t know know until we were almost done shooting Episode 7. At the end of Episode 8 is when Henry killed J.D., and Abby finds him standing behind her, covered in blood in crying, and the producers felt like, at that point, I needed to know what was really happening for my character. Just for what I was doing. So that’s when I found out.

EC: And for me, I kind of…nothing was ever said for definite, and I wasn’t guaranteed a certain amount of episodes, but it was always implied that Abby would be there, and I kind of just felt, from a story point of view, that she seemed quite integral to what was going on. I kind of felt that she’d be there ‘til the end, so I took out a six-month lease, and no one told me not to. (Laughs)

PH: Elaine, in the early episodes of the show, were you given the impression that Abby still had a thing for Henry, or did you feel it was just a very solid friendship?

EC: You know what? Only in Episode 1, and that was kind of…you know, it was when were with Jon Turteltaub, and there was one scene in particular – by the fireplace, after the bar fight – where, from hearing Jon’s direction, he was trying to push little subtle messages. And it was always implied that they kind of got it together…or maybe they didn’t. Nothing was ever said for definite. I thought that it could’ve possibly gone in that direction, but then when it came to Episode 2, it was like that was the end of it. There was no talk of there being a possible romance in the future of the series.

CG: I don’t think we even worked together again until Episode 9 or 10!

EC: (Laughs) Yeah! But, you know, it was just a weird one, too, with all of the confidentiality. Sometimes, you didn’t tell people things that you could tell them because you were afraid of telling them too much, so it’s just best to say nothing.

PH: Elaine, you were part of the original pilot presentation for “Harper’s Island,” but you weren’t, Christopher. How easy was it to get comfortable with the rest of the cast?

CG: It was pretty easy. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and very supportive from the beginning. It’s always kind of a weird thing, you know, doing that. But I’ve been on the other end of that, too, where I’ve done a pilot but not done the series, so I kind of know what both sides of that are. It wasn’t a problem. They made it easy.

PH: Did they actively seek you out for the series, or was it just a standard audition?

CG: It was just a standard audition. As far as I knew, anyway.

PH: Was it the same for you, Elaine?

EC: Yeah. I just put myself on tape…and they lost it, and I had to send it again! It was all very last-minute. I think it was on a Wednesday, and if I was to get the part, I’d have to fly in on Sunday. And it got to Thursday when they said, “Yeah, we want to screen test you, but you’re in London, and you won’t be able to get here in time, because we want to cast it by Friday.” So I just kind of re-did this scene and sent it over again. And in the early hours of Friday night…or Saturday morning for me…I got the call, saying that I had it and that I would be flying in the next day and would have to start work on Tuesday!

CG: Oh, man, I hadn’t heard that!

EC: (Laughs) It was a whirlwind…but a fun one!

PH: You and Jim Beaver had a great onscreen relationship. How hard was it to find the balance with your scenes with him, where you had the love for your father but the awkwardness because of your history?

EC: Oh, well, Jim is such a lovely man and a gorgeous actor, and I loved the scenes that we had together. It was a joy to work with him. You know, there was just so much back story there, so we had so much to work with. You just kind of…it came from a different place. It was nice that there were enough scenes to get to show the different stages of showing them reuniting them as father and daughter. Of course, yeah, the scene before he dies was draining… (Laughs) …because that was quite emotional, but, I mean, it’s part of the job and it’s part of why I love the job. So, yeah, I really enjoyed the scenes with Jim.

PH: Christopher, how did it change your approach to playing Henry once you found out that you were the killer?

CG: Well, you know, it actually didn’t, because the only difference was…for me, I knew why he was acting the way he was acting, whereas before I was misled as to why. But I still had to behave the same way, so, y’know, in order to do that, you still have to believe the truth, whatever the truth is for the character in that scene. If he has to make it seem like he’s in love with Trish, then I have to behave like I’m love with Trish. It doesn’t matter if I know I’m the killer or not. In fact, it becomes vitally important that I do exactly that, because you don’t want to tip your hat. There were a couple of instances where I purposely made a choice that I would not have made had I not known, but I always did it both ways and then would tell the producers that I’d done it both ways, so that they had an option if they wanted to use it.

PH: This one’s for both of you: do you have any horror stories from filming the show? I know a lot of folks had complaints about having to deal with the weather, specifically the rainy outdoor scenes.

EC: Oh, God, Episode 11, the last two days of shooting that…

CG: Yeah!

EC: …probably was the most hardcore, the coldest anyone has ever been. It was like your head was freezing, and my motivation for most scenes was, “The minute this scene is over, I’m heading straight over to that heater to get warm.” (Laughs) And the poor set designers and prop guys were shoveling snow out of the way, so it was limiting for the director and the DOP, because there were certain shots that I’m sure they would’ve loved to have gotten…but they couldn’t.

CG: Yeah, I mean, when we shot Trish’s murder, she’s running barefoot through the woods, and the set dec guys are just off the path, literally melting snow with giant blowtorches, keeping the path clear. I mean, the ground was frozen. It was just absurd how cold it got! And we were all dressed for fall, because the whole show takes place in a week, so it’s not like we could start wearing big, bulky sweaters or coats or anything! We would just pile on as many layers of thermals as we could underneath our skin-tight sweaters or whatever. (Laughs)

PH: You guys did not have the horror of getting the phone call from Karim. Were you around anyone when they got their phone call?

EC: No, I wasn’t. Were you, Chris?

CG: No, me, neither.

EC: I wanted him to call us! (Laughs)

CG: I got the different call, because…it was interesting how they told me I was the killer, and I almost blew it, because the day before, Karim had come up and said, “Listen, we’re gonna meet up at this point, and we’re gonna have a meeting with you, Katie, and Elaine – just the three of you – to talk about your arc for the rest of the show, just because we feel like you need to know a couple of things, and we want you to know where things are going. When’s a good time for us to meet with you?” So we set up a meeting, and then I of course immediately went to Katie and Elaine and said, “Oh, my God, they’re gonna talk to us, we’re gonna find out the whole end, isn’t that great?” Well, it turns out that they weren’t really planning to have a meeting with Katie and Elaine. They just told me that so that. So I had my meeting with them that night, and they told me, and I think we got on a conference call with (producer) Jeff Bell, and after the pleasantries, Jeff says, “The magic word is ‘Henry.’” And I’m, like, “The magic word? What do you mean? What are you talking about?” (Laughs) And he’s, like, “It’s you! You’re the killer!” And then after we’d gone through that, because I had a million questions and we went through the whole thing and told me everything, I said, “So when are you guys gonna tell Katie and Elaine? Are you telling them, too?” And they’re, like, “What are you talking about?” “Well, you told me that you were gonna be meeting with all three of them, so they know I’m having this meeting, so what the hell am I gonna tell them tomorrow when I can’t tell them the secret?” So they had to set up fake meetings with Katie and Elaine…

EC: …which involved no information whatsoever! (Laughs)

CG: …and I had to act all disappointed, like, “Aw, no, I thought it was going to be this whole thing, but instead they just told me a couple of little snippets and wanted to go ahead what was going to happen at the end of the next episode, with J.D.. I just don’t know what the point of these meetings are!” (Laughs)

PH: Well, I know I’m going to be shooed off the line in a moment, but I just wanted to ask you one more, Elaine: if they did decide to move forward and tell more of Abby’s story, would you be willing to reprise the role?

EC: Well, I…you know, I’m contracted, so… (Laughs) …I don’t have a lot of choice anymore! But I really think, for me personally, I think it’s more powerful if it’s left at just the 13 episodes. I mean, Abby is going to be a wreck after this, and I think there’s maybe more interesting angles that could be taken, but maybe that’s because I’m not a writer and don’t come up with ideas. I would be very interested to see if they did come up with an idea for another series, as far as what it would entail, but I like it kept the way it is, more in keeping with a film. A 13-hour film… (Laughs) …but I just think it’s stronger the way it is. But who knows? I don’t. I don’t know what they’ve got planned.

CG: 13 hours of Abby in a padded room?

EC: Yes! Now that would be interesting!

PH: Well, it’s been great talking to you guys. You did great work throughout the series, and I really enjoyed watching it.

CG: Thanks a lot.

EC: Aw, thank you! Cheers!

* Missed our interview with Harry Hamlin (Uncle Marty)? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Sarah Smyth (Lucy) and Anna Mae Routledge (Kelly)? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Victor Webster (Hunter)? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Sean Rogerson (Booth)? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Richard Burgi (Mr. Wellington)? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with David Lewis (Richard)? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Chris Gauthier (Malcolm)? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Dean Chekvala (J.D.)? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Cameron Mink (Mrs. Wellington) and Amber Borycki (Beth)? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Jim Beaver (Sheriff Mills)? Go check it out!
* Missed our interview with Cameron Richardson (Chloe) and Adam Campbell (Cal)? Go check it out!

  

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