Update: Thanks to the watchful eye of one of our users, we've corrected a couple of geographical errors in this article, as well as the anglicized spelling of Rhys's name. Darn our U.S. school system!
Torchwood, like a lot of imaginative genre fare, isn't easy to describe. A show about a team of professional scientsts and investigators guarding a rift in time and space -- through which all manner of alien monstrosity falls through -- in the Welsh city of Cardiff, it began as a spin-off of the new Doctor Who, and rapidly became Britain's answer to The X-Files, albeit with a good deal more swearing and sex. Later this year (most likely before July, as that's when the DVD release date has already been set for), Torchwood will enter its third season -- one continuous five-epsiode story, entitled "Children of Earth", told on five consecutive nights in both the U.K. and (if our friends at BBC America have their way) the U.S. And to whet our appetite, star Eve Myles, the lovely Gwen Cooper herself, and "Children of Earth" director Euros Lyn (who will be helming all five episodes) each took a turn chatting with us at this month's New York Comic Con for an in-depth, exclusive look at what promises to be the darkest, most action-packed Torchwood tale yet...
Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper)
For the uninitiated, how would you describe Gwen?
Gwen's constantly an evolving character. She's very much the eyes of the audience and has been since the beginning. But, as you'll see in the next series, she's becoming more and more a kind of militant figure, I think. Jack has a militant background as well. But she's becoming more militant because of the responsibility that's on her shoulders. And there's very little space for fun and for release. That you see that as well with Rhys, who's a kind of normality base for her. But whatever you throw at her she'll take on board in abundance. She'll always, always do her best. Gwen is exhausting to play. She's an extraordinary character – she's grounded, she's young, she's modern, but kind of old-fashioned in a way as well. She's kind of unique. She's got a very old head on young shoulders. And if she loses an inch of that responsibility, people will die. She's very aware of that. She's kind of a star, because she saves people's live every single day, and any kind of gratitude she completely brushes off, because she's here for a purpose. What's great is that Russell T. Davies intimated that Gwen was related to the character I played in Doctor Who. So they've always, always somehow been related to the rift. I think that was a very clever move. There's always been a connection with Gwen's family to the rift. They're protectors of the rift. That's what she does every day, and then she goes home and has lasagna and a glass of wine and has a chat about the weather with Rhys. She's quite extraordinary. She's bonkers in fact! I couldn't do it. [Laughs.] I'd be like, "I did this today, and I did this, and I did this. And I saved the world – so give me a big gold star!" But she's not. [Laughs.]
In Children of Earth she also gets to pull off some pretty smooth action moves! I noticed that, in this story, you're firing two guns at the same time.
This series was hilarious actually, because I got the script and the first page was no dialogue. It was just an action sequence. First line: "Gwen runs, runs, runs, runs…" I go, "Okay, this is kind of what's gonna happen this year, I take it." So it was a lot of action this year, and I can't get enough of it. There wasn't enough in my eyes. If I could have done more, I would have. I like to throw myself at things and jump on things that I shouldn't jump on; I get injured all the time. And I loved it. I did all the explosion sequences, jumping through the air with guns. Some stuff wasn't in the script, and we all went, "Right, this is what we're gonna do…" It was an absolute pleasure to do. I loved it, I absolutely loved it.
What can you tell us about the storyline for Children of Earth?
I can tell you a little bit. Not too much, we don't want to give too much away, because we're quite away off from it yet. But it's very much about morals and – this will sound terribly boring, but it's certainly about… You have to lose something to gain something – that's the strong essence of this particular series. I think it's very interesting that we did, in the first series, an episode called "Countrycide". We and the audience had become very used to the opponent being an alien or something that was not from Earth. And this particular episode was about cannibalism, and it was about humans being actually the worst monster of all. I think that's been taken into the series, and I think it's about mankind, humanity, and when people are put under pressure how they handle it. I think it's very apt – the title is what it is. It is about every child on earth, and it's about the destiny of mankind.
With the deaths of her two teammates in the previous season has Gwen risen in leadership in the team?
Absolutely. It's heightened that what she does is very dangerous, and it's also heightened her commitment to Torchwood. She could have easily walked away from it there and then, and lived in ignorance, but she didn't. She fought back, which Gwen does all the time. She just fights, fights, fights. She fights back with an astonishing kind of power. It's wonderful, but then there's moments in the series where we keep going back to the story of Tosh and Owen. I have a picture on my desk, and Gwen looks at it every morning when she says good morning to them. It's a symbol to her, it's a symbol of how important life is, and it shows her how important her job is.
Regarding one of her other teammates… There's always been a romantic spark between her and Jack. Do you think that spark should be fanned, or do you think she's best with her husband Rhys?
I think that lovely mixture of will-they-won't-they is always wonderful to watch. It's great drama, and it's very sexy. Sometimes John [Barrowman] and I don't even have lines, but we make sure there's a constant connection between the two characters. It's great to play. It's a fantastic thing to play. But it's kind of like feeding the baby when it's not hungry – do you know what I mean?
There's not a need?
I don't think so. I think there's more drama … I'm not saying I wouldn't love to snog John Barrowman – I would. But there's more drama in it not happening, I think. I think the chase is far more interesting than the catch. That's my personal psycho mind. [Laughs.]
Were you a fan of science-fiction or horror growing up?
I was a big fan of The X-Files and Buffy, basically those two, and then Angel as well. But the first lot of Doctor Who and things, I was too early for it. It's kind of like, you have your normal soaps, and then Doctor Who is always there. You're always kind of brought up with it. You always have memories of Doctor Who. So to be a part of it… I didn't actually realize how big [the new Doctor Who] was going to be. I don't think anyone anticipated how big it was going to be. But to be a part of it, and then to go back and play a different character… It's just amazing.
Do you have any other projects you're working on right now that you can discuss?
There's a lot of things going on at the moment. But I'm absolutely desperate to go back [on stage.] That's what I love. I mean I love doing TV. I adore it. But there's something very different about theater, and I love it. I absolutely love it. There's nothing like it. It's extraordinary. So I'd love to go back and do some more theater. Lots of other projects going on, which I'm excited about, but I've kind of chilled out. I've turned 30, and it's ridiculous. I've really kind of gone "We'll see what happens…" I bought a dog. I'm very happy with my dog.
Going back to Torchwood –
You want to talk about my dog, don't you? Everybody does. She's fantastic. She's a beagle. Her name's honeysuckle. And she actually is learning to speak. Everybody thinks I'm joking. I'm not. She is almost ready. She can even say the days of the week. She's great with Britain's times table. She's doing really well. I'm very happy. [Laughs.] That's my little rant.
[Laughs.] Congratulations! Well, with Torchwood, were you surprised by the reception the show received here in the States? It's BBC America's top-rated show.
I don't think "surprised" gives it enough credit. Personally, I didn't know it was going to be airing in the States. Then I was over the moon. I've got relatives that live in West Virginia, and for them to see it… They're like, "We see your big Welsh face on the telly!" That makes me laugh a lot. But to have the response that it had… Not in a million years would I have ever, ever imagined it would. I mean, not just Torchwood, but with any kind of project, to be accepted in the States is an honor, and a really great surprise, and it makes me very, very proud. I got on the plane yesterday, and people from New York kind of recognized me and they were talking about the program with such excitement and support.
Given the success of the show, and you're fondness for your character, how long would you like to stay with it?
When I'm about 85, I don't think Gwen will be able to fire two guns at the same time and – I don't know why you're laughing about this, I'm being serious – and I can't see myself jumping through… I don't know. May it last as long as it's loved, and as long as I love doing it. I'll do it for as long as I enjoy doing it. Every day is different, and you get super scripts, super directors. Just the extraordinary to do every day. And the best thing is that we film it where I live, so I get to go home every night as well; and that's really important. I'm into Torchwood. So as long as I love Torchwood. And I'm totally in love with it.
Above: Director Euros Lyn and star Eve Myles at the New York Comic Con Torchwood panel moderated by USATODAY.com's Whitney Matheson (left). (Photo by Sophia Quach.)
Director Euros Lyn
You're currently helming both Children of Earth and the final David Tennant episodes of Doctor Who – what can you tell us about Children of Earth?
I think the idea of the kids freezing right in the very first scene – that every single child on the planet stops dead – at 8:41 in the morning kind of builds up that expectation of something terrible and disastrous that's about to befall us. And humanity having to come face to face with an unstoppable force, with something so much bigger and so much more terrible than you could possible deal with, and how human beings and our heroes try to deal with it.
Especially top-secret are the final Tennant Who stories – is there anything you can tell us about those?
Do you know what – I'm very pleased to be able to tell you that I don't have to keep anything from you because I haven't even seen the scripts. So I've been leaked some teasers by Russell, but I don't know anything about the story. I know he keeps on saying it's going to be big, and that's all I know. We start prepping in three weeks time.
What's makes season 3 of Torchwood unique?
I think, with season 3 especially, we wanted to tell a story about a world that exists, that this isn't the real world, and that there are aliens, there are creatures and forces from other worlds and other planets and other dimensions that visit us. And in season 3 we've got our three heroes – we've got Captain Jack, we've got Gwen, and we've got Ianto – the three of them working in this huge subterranean cavern in Cardiff, trying to protect humanity and trying to investigate these otherworldly events.
Were you a fan of the genre before working on these shows?
Yeah, I've always been a huge fan, since childhood. And it's interesting that the Children of Earth season is especially an inheritor of a very British tradition in sci-fi, and is a continuation of the long lineage of things like Quatermass and John Wyndham's ideas. And the kids especially, that's very referential.
And you're bringing that tradition to a new generation now, because for many it will be there first exposure to it.
Absolutely. And as ever sci-fi is a genre that's useful for telling very human stories. They're stories about how people respond to world events that are just far, far greater than they themselves can cope with. With the global financial crisis or global warming, those things are huge, and bigger than any individual, and yet we have to do something about them. I think, in a way, those these themes are what season 3 of Torchwood is about.
How difficult is it for you to constantly generate thrills with such stories, where so much is always on the line?
I think lots of the pace of the show is determined by the script, and the narrative has to work in script form for me as a director to make it real. I mean, in the cutting room, you can do so much to structure stuff and pace stuff. And the addition of music is just the most transformative thing you can imagine. Watching a rough cut without music is a terrifying experience, because you're just thinking, "Jesus, this just isn't working. This just isn't dramatic." But if you find the right piece of music, suddenly it kind of sets on the right way.
As a genre fan, did you have any favorite films or series?
My all-time favorite is Alien. The grandness and the epicness of it, and silence, and the tension that builds up to the moment when all hell breaks lose and you finally get to see this creature's jaws leaping out at you from the dark… And from a design point of view, it's so beautifully designed, and there's such amazing unity. And also, one of the other things I love about that film is the microcosm of society that's created on board the spaceship – the grease monkeys who virtually go on strike because they're [not paid what they want], and where the crew has to sort out its own human problems in this very alien environment.
Getting back to Torchwood, can you talk about the additions to the team that we might see this series?
I think originally we planned on bringing Mickey and Martha Jones back, and they were gonna be part of the Torchwood team's project. Unfortunately, with Noel, who plays Mickey, and Freema, who plays Martha, being tied to successful acting careers in their own right, they had to go off and do their own things. But there are new characters. We've got a new character called Lois, who is a bit of a reluctant hero, she's a bit of an everygirl, and finds herself accidentally right in the middle of our story, and she's forced to make a choice. Is she gonna join in the struggle, or is she gonna do what the government's telling her. And her journey is really important and central to the series. We've also got a character played by Peter Capaldi. He plays a character called Frobisher, who's a middle-ranking, gray civil servant, who's done nothing but work hard all his life and keep his head down and never stick his head above the parapet. He's kind of cast right into the heart of our story.
It sounds like Lois is reminiscent of Gwen when she was first introduced on Torchwood. Might we see Gwen looking at herself on the other side of the fence in this tale?
One of the things about Russell's writing that's very interesting is that he wants to write stories about ordinary people. When you write stories about saving the earth, you could write a story about a president or the leader of a country. But Russell wants to write stories about the ordinary person on the street who gets thrust into the heart of the adventure. Like Rose in Doctor Who, Gwen in Torchwood, and now Lois, it's very much the story of the ordinary person who finds themselves in extraordinary circumstances.
Is there a chance we may see these two new characters in future stories?
Who knows. Both Frobisher and Lois are fantastic characters played by brilliant actors. Who knows.
What can you say about what's in store for Captain Jack in season 3?
In season 3, we get to glimpse aspects of Jack's past, terrible things that Jack has done in the past, that he finds very difficult to have to live with. And obviously not being able to die means he has to live with them for a very long time. So this is a character who's got these stains on his soul. We also get to learn a lot more about his relationship with Ianto, the nature of their relationship.
Is it hard to tell suspenseful stories about a man who can't die?
Absolutely. There are quite a few moments in season 3 where "Will Jack survive this event?" And you know in the back of your mind he always does, so the prospect of death means nothing to him. There's a higher price that he has to pay – there's a moral price. There's a price of loneliness. There are things worse than death.
How about Gwen – where does she go this season?
She has this wealth of experience, so she now is on a par with Jack, in terms of having the knowledge and the experience to make decisions and to be a heroine.