Actor Stephen Collins has been on television’s 7th Heaven and in feature films Blood Diamond and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Currently, he plays the character of Dr. Dayton King on ABC’s new hit TV show No Ordinary Family (NOF). If you haven’t seen this show, it revolves around the Powell family and how after an accident they are suddenly blessed (or cursed) with superpowers. Viewers watch as the characters cope with these new-found powers (super strength, speed, mind reading and genius) and how their lives have been changed. Their nemesis, whether they know it or not, is Dr. King. I won’t give too much away to avoiding spoiling the fun and the drama for new viewers – and neither does Collins as he takes some time to chat with me.
But he does talk about what it’s like to ditch the bible and play a bad guy, the pleasure of not working with a**holes and he dishes on Betty versus Veronica.
Exclusive interview with Stephen Collins.
This interview has been edited and condensed. But don’t worry, none of the good stuff has been removed.
Comic Canuck (CC): What was it that drew you to the show?
Stephen Collins (SC): I thought the pilot script was terrific. I thought it had a blend of adventure, drama and comedy that a lot of people attempt and very, very few people succeed at. It managed to make me care about the family and at the same time, believe the whole superpower thing, which is all in the writing. My role was minuscule at first and I was going to pass on it, but I had a conversation with (executive producer) Greg Berlanti, who I have met and really come to admire back in the early Everwood years (a TV show that aired on the WB network) when we were both on the WB. In talking to Greg, he said, “For all sorts of reasons we kind of need to keep this role under wraps in the pilot. But if it goes to series, the part’s going to to become fun and I really hope you’ll do it.” And he told me the basic idea he had about it and I thought, “Well, that’s good enough for me because I have admired this guy for a long time – and he’s good to his word.” As soon as the show was picked up by ABC, he immediately added a scene in the pilot, which unfortunately probably a great majority of TV critics never saw because the screening was in July and the scene hadn’t been shot yet.
CC: Well, I’ll tell you, I’m glad the series got picked up.
SC: What I love is that when we sit down to the table reads [this is where the cast reads through the script together with the writers and director] and everyone is going, “Oh my God! Whoa!” (He laughs) Because we’re kind of the audience at those table reads and we’re surprised and drawn in, hopefully the same way the audience is.
CC: On Twitter, you mention in your bio that you played the Dad (Reverend Eric Camden) on 7th Heaven, which was a very good series that ran for quite a while. Now, have you heard how your fans have responded to your villainous character on NOF?
SC: I hear a lot through Twitter. I think people are loving it. They’re enjoying it. By and large the response that I get on Twitter is incredibly enthusiastic. It’s so cool to me to play the bad guy. My favorite response was earlier in the show when they were still trying to figure out who Dr. King was, “Is it possible that you’re a bad guy? Wait a minute…” I love it and it’s fun to play with people’s expectations.
CC: What I like about you being cast in this role, and you play the character so well, is that – to use a Michael Jackson line – you’re a smooth criminal. You’ve got that look of the good, trusting confidante and it’s nice to peel those layers back and see what’s really lying underneath.
SC: I think it’s important that I just want to make him believable. And I think the way you make a villainous character believable is that publicly he must seem like the most trustworthy guy on Earth. And I don’t think he thinks of himself as bad… King believes that Global Tech (the fictitious research firm where Dr. King is a top executive) is going to come out with products that will feed and save the world. And so if a couple of people have to lose their lives, well that’s just relatively small collateral damage.
CC: Can you give us any hints of things to come from your character or do you have to stay pretty mum on the subject?
SC: I have to stay pretty mum, but I think what people are going to see for the rest of the season is this guy who has always had things well under control and, in a way, the show is about people losing control. The Powell family in some ways gain control over their lives and in some ways they lose control. … King has always had everything go very well for him up to the time that No Ordinary Family starts. He’s managed to keep the genie in the bottle and able to control things. Things are going very well. I think as he tries to figure out just what’s going on with Stephanie (the super-speedy wife played by Julie Benz) things start to get much more complicated. And his relationship with – we call him the Watcher on paper – Will (played by Josh Stewart), my henchman, which is kind of like a father/son relationship becomes very complicated. I think it’s almost like that moment in life when a father loses control of his son.
CC: You alluded to it a bit already pertaining to the fun table reads, but I want to ask what it’s like to be part of such a fun and popular show?
SC: It’s always wonderful to work on something that people like and get. This show has a chemistry among the cast, writers and crew and you know, a show either has it or it doesn’t. Having it doesn’t guarantee success, but it sure makes going to work everyday terrific… It’s just a great group of people. The chemistry on NOF has something in common with 7th Heaven. We used to say at Seventh Heaven we were lucky that there were no a**holes in the group. Because there’s almost always an a**hole somewhere and you kind of have to navigate around that person and things can still be okay. It’s the same with No Ordinary Family. There’s no a**holes. (We both laugh) I wish I could put that in a more positive way, but you know no matter where you work there’s always that one person where everyone kind of rolls their eyes at and you just wish they’d go away. There’s nobody like that on this show and that makes the working environment just terrific.
CC: We have a lot of people who follow our site that are fans of the show and since the show is related to the comic book world of heroes versus villains, were there any comics you loved reading growing up?
SC: I grew up reading comics, but probably not the ones that when people talk about comics they’re usually talking about the Marvel comics. I grew up and I was fan of Archie comics, Little Lou-Lou and a bit of Superman, but I was more a fan of Superman on TV. But those are probably sidelights compared to the world of Comic Book Therapy.
CC: Well Archie comics are still some of the top-selling comics in North America.
SC: (Laughs) Are they? You know reading those comics I was always like, Archie just go with Betty. What’s wrong with you?
CC: Okay, Betty or Veronica?
SC: Well it was impossible to not be attracted to both of them. But I totally would have taken Betty. Low-maintenance, but gorgeous. If they were creating it now I wonder if they’d create them the same way.
CC: Finally, thank you from all of us at ComicBookTherapy.com and myself as a fan, for taking the time today.
SC: It’s a pleasure. Thank you.
Thanks for taking the time read about Stephen Collins and NOF. You can follow Collins on Twitter @_StephenCollins. Stay tuned for a follow-up with him after the finale of season one. And while you’re on Twitter, follow the official Twitter feed of NOF @NoOrdFamilyABC. Have fun and keep reading!
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