Ahhhhhh, summertime! There’s the beach! And backyard barbecues! And meteor showers that threaten our idyllic (or at least geologically intact) way of life here on Earth! On June 21, ABC is unfurling the latest theory (via a two-part movie called Impact) as to how we’re all gonna go. North Korea is nowhere to be seen. But the moon is. Remember that scene from Jurassic Park, when the T-Rex is inches away from chomping the Jeep, and the words in the rearview mirror insist that “Objects Are Closer Than They Appear?” Substitute “moon” for “T-Rex” and “Earth” for “Jeep,” and there you go.
Ratcheting up the thrill factor of this particular ride is Natasha Henstridge, whom we all know boasts unparalleled sci fi cred thanks to her iconic role in Species. In Impact, she plays a scientist who has to break the bad news to the people who really just want to go to the beach and barbecues.
Henstridge recently took the time to talk to Fancast about this project. So why are conversations with astrophysicists nearly as depressing as the disaster movies inspired by astrophysicists? Does she enjoy watching scenes of impending doom in her own spare time? And what other roles would she like to tackle before Earth is decimated for real?
What is it about the big epic disaster movie that we as an audience can’t get enough of?
There’s this thrill in watching Earth on a collision course with aliens or meteors or……do you have any theories as to why that is?
I don’t know what is is, exactly, but we as humans have this curiosity about life and death, where we come from, where we’re going, how we’ll get there, so I think that’s part of it. And there’s that raw reaction that we have whenever we see a car crash – and we wanna look, and we wanna see it. Maybe it makes us feel more. Maybe it makes us realize what we have. I think it has to do with some of those things. Plus it’s about the ideas and imagination, that’s what is kind of interesting about this project. The more I worked on it, the more I worked with an astrophysicist up in Canada, and I asked a lot of questions, and found myself saying, “These things are actually possible.” I know they call it sci fi, but it’s more possible than you’d like to believe. That’s what was frightening about it.
How does a conversation with an astrophysicist go? How did you approach that?
I approached it [from the standpoint of] I had specific things in the script I wanted to talk about and I needed to understand, so I just went through things in the script with him, and asked, “What exactly is a brown dwarf? What’s a white dwarf?” I can’t even remember the differences now, of course! We just went through a lot of what it means, how things happen. Then of course he filled us in and gave us more information than we bargained for. Some of the information you don’t want to hear. You just want to dig a hole in the ground for your head.
What was your favorite scene to film in this? Did any jump out as being particularly fun, or particularly challenging?
It was challenging, to say the least. I got hired on this project three days before we began filming. I looked through the script and thought, “Great idea.” I skimmed it before I accepted the offer. But when I actually got it, I went through it and went, “Oh my god.” I’m going to have to not only wrap my head around all these ideas and know what I’m talking about, but learn these lines? So I went up to Canada and locked myself in a room for three days, and hired someone to come in and help me run lines. Meanwhile, I was looking stuff up on the web. A lot of the scenes were challenging. We all as actors really helped each other out, because we were all in the same boat. The major monologues we had, and maybe you’re [illustrating with] a graph as well, that was challenging! The whole thing was a mouthful. But super interesting. And I really enjoyed working with the two children; the kids that were in this were beyond polite and I’d never worked with child actors on that level before, but they were so well-rounded, so polite and entertaining. Lovely, lovely children.
And who was the most fun in between takes?
Me! [Laughs] I’d say me. I don’t know what everybody else would say. No. We all got along really well. I spent a lot of time with David [James Elliott] and Benjamin [Sadler] – the two other scientists. We all three got along very very well.
Since you’ve had some significant experience here, what’s the best thing about working in the genre of sci fi?
I really like the whole concept of “What if?” What if this happened? What if an alien came to Earth and could be half and half? I find that really interesting and fun. In this particular case, I found it really educational, because it was a little more based in a possible reality. And the fans of sci fi are wicked cool. They are so supportive, and that’s something I’ve really learned to appreciate. They really look out for you and watch everything that you do. In sci fi, I’d say it’s the fans that are hugely important.
On the flip side of that, is there anything you find challenging or frustrating about working in this genre?
Well, it’s not only sci fi, but any time you’re working with green screens……for us [in Impact], when the scientists went to the moon, there was a lot of stuff going on that we never got to see. You’re just looking at a dot and a piece of tape. So I would say that is challenging. Not nearly as challenging as all that dialog! Maybe a close second.
What recent TV shows or movies have rocked your world? What do you like to watch when you have a little bit of free time?
What rocks my world? Hmmmmm. I love comedies. I like going to the movies and just having a complete escape. I haven’t seen ‘The Hangover’ yet, but I’m dying to see it. When I’m alone and I have a night to myself – my fiance is out of town, and my kids are with their dad – I’ll just sit in bed and watch chick flicks. This past weekend I watched “Rachel Getting Married.” So I like watching chick flicks. But I love comedy.
What’s your dream role? What haven’t you tackled yet that you’d really like to sink your teeth into?
Oh my gosh, so many things. I don’t know what THE role is, really. I don’t have just one thing. I’m a big fan of the writer Paolo Coelho. There’s a book he wrote called Veronika Decides To Die, and I was looking into getting the rights to that, but I think somebody else beat me to it. I heard they were even making it. Not sure. It’s such an interesting story. A brilliant story, and he’s an amazing writer. If you could translate that storytelling into film even remotely as well as he writes the books, it would be such a fantastic movie. So there are things like that. And I’ve always wanted to work with Jim Carrey and do something silly and slapstick and over the top. Of course I love drama too. I’ve always wanted to do something like The Fabulous Baker Boys. A little lounge singer-y kind of thing. I’ve always had that fantasy as well.
What would your sales pitch be in getting people to watch Impact? What’s really going to grab people?
Oh god. I’m so bad with these one liners. It’s just your classic disaster movie filled with a ton of adrenaline. Just when you think things are going to be OK, that’s when realize just how horribly bad things are getting. So you’re on the edge of your seat. It’s one of those things where you just can’t stop watching. [Pauses.] I wouldn’t be a great sales pitcher. I’m not gonna lie to you. It’s not my forte!
Ah, but fortunately for us, Natasha’s forte (or one of ‘em, anyway) IS playing one hell of a kick-butt sci fi heroine. Check her out in Impact, which airs Sunday June 21, and concludes on Sunday, June 28 on ABC at 9/8 c.