Heroes' James Kyson Lee fights giant space bugs in Star Runners

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Heroes co-star James Kyson Lee told SCI FI Wire that he'd never shot a movie in Bulgaria before, so when the opportunity arose to film the upcoming SCI FI Channel original movie Star Runners there, he leapt at it.

Lee plays Lei Chen opposite Star Trek: Enterprise's Connor Trinneer as Tycho "Ty" Johns. The two pals find themselves in deep when they come into possession of a mysterious crate and wind up crash-landing on a planet populated by killer bugs. Something of a cross between Pitch Black and Starship Troopers, with an injection of buddy humor, Star Runners premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

SCI FI Wire spoke to Lee by telephone exclusively last week. The following are edited excerpts from our interview. (Spoilers ahead!)

What was it about Star Runners that you liked enough to slot it into your hiatus from Heroes?

Lee: We had a couple of months off from the writers' strike, and I think the schedule and timing happened to be right. And they said, "We'll be filming in Bulgaria," which is a place I'd never been to. And I said, "Why not? Let's do it." The sci-fi genre is fun, and, I think, first of all, I read the script and the script was good. With sci-fi films, they can be great or really campy. It's hit or miss. This script, ... Rafael Jordan, the writer, just did a really good job. I read it, and 10 pages in I was like, "Wow, I'm sucked into this story." The characters are fun, and it's a movie with a sense of humor, which I liked.

How would you explain the plot to someone?

Lee: Well, the tagline is "Two guys. One crate. A whole lot of bugs." That's a good [way] to capture it. I play one of two space bandits. We basically get captured, and part of our bail is that we have transport this crate from one planet to another. Now, being the troublemakers that we are, we end up opening it, and inside a package is a girl who's sort of frozen in cryogenics. She seems like an otherworldly creature. She can't remember who she is, why she's there, and the next thing you know we're being hunted down by all these bad guys. So that's where the story takes off. It's fun, man, I've got to tell you. It's got a lot of unexpected surprises.

As you said, there's a whole lot of bugs. What were you looking at? Was it the usual ball on a stick with effects to be added later?

Lee: Ah, nothing! That's the fun part. It was a whole lot of green screen. That's the interesting part about doing a movie with special effects and creatures that are added in later. You have to be totally committed to the scenario and be able to act against things that are not there physically. You have to think, "Oh, this will look like this. The fangs will be here, and the claws will be here." It took a lot of imagination. We talked to the director [Mat King], and we talked to each other, and I think they incorporated some of my reactions into what was happening, so that was good.

And how did you enjoy working with Connor Trinneer?

Lee: We had a great time. I think that's one of the things that pops out from the movie. I saw some of the scenes from doing [additional dialogue recording], and we have really good chemistry together. You had the friendship and sort of the two guys doing their shenanigans in space.