When SCI FI's original series Eureka returns on Friday with a run of 10 new episodes, one will mark the directorial debut of Colin Ferguson, who stars as Sheriff Carter.
The episode was actually the first of the new episodes to be shot, but it will not be the first to air: Producers scheduled "Your Face or Mine" first, so that Ferguson could use the week prior to filming for preproduction. Were he midway through the season, he would be acting while the next episode went into prep.
Since Ferguson stars in every episode, he's already learned what works and what doesn't. "I know where the cameras go in these sets, or where the cameras hopefully end up despite where everyone tries to put them," Ferguson told reporters in a conference call last week. "So a lot of those things I didn't have to learn, but it's really different once you step into the helm of it and really are responsible for what happens on set. I loved it. I loved every second of it."
"Your Face or Mine" gets Sheriff Carter out of the main action quickly, so that Ferguson could spend more time behind the scenes. As part of annual re-certification, Carter must take a series of tests at Global Dynamics, so he's away when a lot of the episode takes place. The writers designed the episode this way for Ferguson's benefit.
"I was really grateful, because I wanted to have a full experience as a director," Ferguson said. "When you're on camera, it's fine, but you really are leaning on everyone around you. I mean, you're not watching. You're not watching the screen. You're not watching what went down, so it was important to me." (Spoilers ahead!)
"Your Face or Mine" centers on Jo (Erica Cerra), who begins exhibiting uncharacteristic behavior: hitting on Fargo, letting Zoe stay up late, partying at the bar. By the time she figures out what is going on, there are two Jo's in the same scene.
"That was fantastic, and she just kicked the hell out of that scene. By me getting to direct an episode, it pulled me out of the plot in a way where Jaime [Paglia] actually got to write a smaller, more sort of character-driven episode for Erika. It was also great to be able to work with Erika, who doesn't get a ton to do on a lot of emotional stuff to hold or long plots to adhere her. To be with her through that experience was fantastic and to watch her grow, even through not because of me but just having to do the exercise."
Ferguson got to experience all of his usual cast and crew in a different light. As an actor, he just shows up and does his job with everybody else. As a director, he got to interact with them and develop ideas.
"As a director, you get the script seven days in advance and you have a week of prep," Ferguson said. "So all the conversations you have over the course of that week, everyone's so open and so like 'Oh, great, yeah, we'll try that; oh, that's good. Oh, no, we're doing this because of this.' You get to have these wonderful conversations. What I liked about it so much is how collaborative it is and how hard it is to be as collaborative as an actor simply because of time. When you show up on set, you have to have this thing shot in an hour, so there's only so much discussion you can have."
Eureka moves to Fridays at 9 p.m. starting this week.