Small Town Girl - Eureka's Salli Richardson- Whitfield

Salli Richardson- Whitfield Interview

Eureka’s Dr. Allison Blake has seen more than her fair share of strange occurrences since being assigned by the U.S. Department of Defense as the government liaison between the Pentagon and this small Pacific Northwest town where the next scientific advancement could, and sometimes does, wreck havoc on the community and its residents. For two years, the brilliant minds working at the local think tank, Global Dynamics, have kept her busy dealing with everything from an out of control doomsday device to spontaneously combusting townsfolk and even events in a parallel universe.

In the show’s third season opener, Bad to the Drone, Allison along with Sheriff Jack Carter and her estranged second husband Dr. Nathan Stark must find a way to stop a temperamental target drone named Martha from destroying the town. For actress Salli Richardson-Whitfield, who plays Allison, stepping back into her role this year was both a joy as well as a challenge.

“The season opener was a big episode for us, mainly because of all the VFX, and as a result, we found ourselves right back in the thick of things quite quickly,” recalls Richardson-Whitfield during a break in shooting on Eureka’s Vancouver set. “The thing is, after being away from the show for a few months because of the hiatus, it takes a little time to get back into the groove of doing it. So the first two or three episodes were definitely hard going and you’re thinking, ‘My God, I don’t know if I can make it. I don’t think I can work this much and still survive,’” jokes the actress.

“As far as playing our characters, all that just falls into place. We’ve been doing this for a long time now, and after one scene you find the rhythm of acting opposite each other. That’s one thing that always comes back to you. Again, it’s more the daily grind of working on a TV series that you have to get your body as well as mind readjusted to.”

At the end of Eureka’s first season, Nathan Stark (Ed Quinn) was given the opportunity to delve deeper into the mysteries surrounding Global Dynamics most prized scientific possession, the Artifact. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned and Stark was subsequently relieved of his post with the company, only to be replaced by Allison. In "Bad to the Drone", Eva Thorne (Francis Fisher) a.k.a. The Fixer is sent in by the government to get Global back on track. She takes over as its new CEO and appoints Allison and Nathan as co-managing directors. Not surprisingly, having Eva around takes some getting used to.

“Obviously it’s a difficult situation because Eva arrives on the scene, and my character is still the boss, or one of them, but not really,” explains Richardson-Whitfield. “Suddenly, Allison has this individual with her own agenda working at Global and who is also her senior insofar as the chain of command.

“That causes problems because Eva wants to do things her way. Having been in town for two years, Allison understands how Eureka works, and now we have someone coming in here who doesn’t really ‘get it,’ and doesn’t know that we’re all going to fix whatever the problem is no matter what it takes. So there’s definitely some tension between these two women, although they do manage to build some sort of friendship.”

Happily, any onscreen animosity between Allison and Eve does not exist behind the camera with Richardson-Whitfield and Fisher. “Francis is a wonderful lady and such a pleasure to work with,” says the actress. “When I heard she was joining us I was like, ‘Wow, that’s some good casting,’ and it just further proves that they [the producers] really do care and that they cast talented people on our show. No matter how light a script might be, when you have the caliber of actors that we do on our program, it just brings a certain gravitas to the stories we’re trying to tell.”

Because of her job with the DOD and responsibilities at Global, Allison interacts a great deal with Sheriff Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson). During the first season of Eureka she developed romantic feelings for the lawman, much to the chagrin of Nathan Stark. Last year, despite being relieved of his duties at Global, the scientist carried on his research with the Artifact and its link to Allison’s son Kevin (Meshach Peters) from her first marriage. That’s when she began to once again see the Stark she originally fell in love with, and this season, accepted his second proposal of marriage. Their impending nuptials were initially a bit of a concern for Richardson-Whitfield.

“At first I didn’t know if the audience would accept it,” she says. “I wasn’t sure if we’d done enough with bringing Allison and Nathan back together so that viewers would think, ‘Of course they should be together. It’s obvious that the two of them care about each other.’ However, as the first few episodes of this season unfold, you see their connection growing more and more and understand why my character does love and appreciate Nathan.

“I think in the beginning you could never tell where Stark was coming from and what his true intentions were towards Allison. But, again, this year you discover that they do have a deep love for one another. That’s why he asked her to marry him again and why she would even consider it.”

What about Allison’s feelings for Carter? “They share a very different type of thing,” muses Richardson-Whitfield. “When you think about the man you’re supposed to be with, should your relationship be full of drama and mystery, or should it come down to a really strong friendship? And I think the latter is what my character and Carter have. Their bond is one of trust and acceptance of the one another, both of which are very important to Allison.”

In the real world, some businesswomen find it nearly impossible to show their true selves while at the same time exerting their authority. Allison has, with Richardson-Whitfield’s help, successfully achieved a balance between the two, which is a big part of what still makes playing her enjoyable for the actress.

“Over each season, I’ve found a way to make my character a bit softer,” she notes. “It’s somehow come naturally, though, and I don’t know if that’s just me getting older and the changes in who I am as a person, but Allison isn’t as hard-edged. I’ve found it’s given a different dynamic to my character and made her that much more likeable.

“At the same time, as much as I say I’ve worked on making her a little softer, I love Allison’s strength. I enjoy coming in and playing a woman who is in control of this huge company. I also really have fun doing my scenes with Colin Ferguson because a lot of them are lighter in tone and I get to do some comedy-type stuff. One of my favorite scenes so far from this season is in what I believe is episode three ["Best in Faux"]. Allison is trying on wedding dresses when she’s called out to go meet Carter and ends up in the middle of field walking around in this wedding gown. It was the kind of script when I first read it I thought, ‘This is a Eureka script because just in reading it you can imagine Allison getting out of her car dressed like this and Carter going, ‘What are you doing?’”

All too soon Richardson-Whitfield has to get back to the set where she and the rest of the Eureka cast and crew are filming the mid-season finale "From Fear to Eternity". However, before leaving, she gives a little taster of what audiences can expect to see.

‘In this episode some aspects of why Eva Thorne has come to Eureka are explained,” reveals the actress. “So a lot of questions about her will be answered, including is she here for the greater good or for herself. And with Allison, she comes out with a big revelation and a secret that everyone finds out about. The story is a nice ender to the first eight episodes of this season, and we’re hoping that the fans will enjoy it.”

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