Continuum’s Tony Amendola On The Show’s Politics, The Mysteries Of Serial TV, Boxset Culture And More

Simon Barry’s Continuum is my favourite genre show on TV right now. It’s a time travel story set largely in modern Vancouver.

Things gets rolling when a group of insurgents flee 2077 for 2012 under very violent circumstances. They accidentally displace a future cop, played by Rachel Nichols, at the same time.

She works to track down this rebel group, Liber8, in the present day. Meanwhile, they set about trying to rewrite the future…

I spoke to Tony Amendola about his role in the show. He plays Edouard Kagame, a leader of the Liber8 terrorists-cum-freedom fighters. It’s a tough role because Kagame is obviously conflicted –  and so far, quite enigmatic.

Here’s some of what Amendola told me.

Continuum definitely incorporates some similar ideas to the Occupy movement and some of the social movements going on now and I really am fond of that. It seems to me that sci-fi shows are never about the future, they’re more about our present fears and hopes. It’s a wonderful thing to incorporate [the politics]. It gives the show a wonderful flavour and a contemporary resonance. 

[Continuum’s creator] Simon Barry’s got a great ability to distill what is going on in the contemporary world and work those things into a show. He’s such a bright clever man but at the same time he’s very personable, so as an actor, I find him very helpful.

It’s intriguing on this show. There are different levels of knowledge. The actors playing the Liber 8 group will only know so much, there’s [my character] Kagame who knows a little bit more, and then there’s Sadler who maybe knows even more. Keeping all of those circles separate but being clear about what you’re asking of the actors was very clever.

The big question mark about Kagame is the violence. Is he a violent man? There’s an ambivalence towards violence with him. In the early flashbacks you almost see him like a Ghandi figure and then later on he becomes more of a Che.

The big thing for Kagame for me is the Nietzsche quote “Be careful when you fight monsters lest you become one yourself.” I think that haunts Kagame. He tries to fight through resistance, and then you don’t quite know what forces him into the bold act that opens the first episode of the show, but I think he lives with the weight of that action. That conflict, the control of tension is what exists within Kagame. It’s very interesting to play. This is the man who has committed the ultimate violent act, in many ways, and yet he’s got a conscience. That was very human, I thought.

In my conversations with Simon he would sometimes give me a piece of information that was just enough for what I needed. At one point the were many directors who would only give you your own side, they didn’t want you to know the whole story. They wanted you to be part of the story so you don’t get ahead of yourself and you don’t aim at what the end is. Because your character hasn’t yet made the decisions that will take them to that end.

I always get torn – sometimes I like to know. On Continuum in particular there was a sense of knowing some things the gang didn’t know and then later on finding out that I didn’t know some things. That was delicious.

Working this way is a lot more like living life. Actors say they want all of the information about a character so they can be truthful but the fact of the matter is, in life, we don’t know what’s going on. That can be quite scary for an actor, quite uncomfortable.

As an actor you need to be adaptable – sometimes you’ll work with somebody who will give you the whole story and you’ll have that arc, other times you’ll get producers and writers who are not and they’ll make you figure it out. But Simon certainly knew himself.

The audience is a pattern making animal. They’ll see how the jigsaw puzzle really comes together and the actors are pieces of that jigsaw, laid out by the writers and creators. Depending upon what is going on at any time, one character can become more resonant than another but as an actor, you can only play the moment that you’re in. Within any such moment you make a choice, you make an action and you try to accomplish something but it’s not as if you really know what effect it’s going to have in the bigger picture.

If I did know where we are going next, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what it is – and you’d hate me if I did spoil it for you. I know a little bit but not very much. The most important information I have, though, is that we are going forward. That’s the bottom line and I’m very excited to see what happens in the next twelve or thirteen episodes.

I eat up TV boxsets – Homeland, Game of Thrones, I just went right through them. What’s useful about a weekly schedule, though, is the social aspect. You have the anticipation, see an episode and you get to dissect it, to talk about it, to praise it, to bitch about it. It’s a connecting thing for the Continuum community, if you will. I love the ability to watch a show at any time I want but I do remember the old days, “water fountain shows” where the previous night’s episode was on everyone’s mind.

Thanks again to Tony for talking to me. Season one of Continuum will be available on DVD in the UK from Monday January 28th. You can hear me discuss the show, a little, on this week’s Bleeding Cool Movies Podcast.

For those of you not over here with me, SyFy are screening the first series on Monday nights in the US and Canadians can stream the show on the Showcase website.

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