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Neil Napier Talks Mysterious Viruses, Familial Strife on “Helix”

by  in TV News Comment
Neil Napier Talks Mysterious Viruses, Familial Strife on “Helix”

Things are spiraling out of control on “Helix.”

In Season One, the Centers for Disease Control ventured to an isolated Arctic base to investigate the outbreak of a virus that transformed people into zombies. One of those infected individuals was Dr. Peter Farragut (Neil Napier), who luckily recovered. Ultimately, the finale saw the compound blown up and, in theory, the virus along with it.

Flash forward 15 months to Peter leading a three-member CDC team to a remote island. The group soon discovers a cultish community tampering with a new virus strain, one that could have disastrous consequences for mankind. Further complicating matters is the fact that one of them is Peter’s brother, Alan, who formerly headed the CDC team. Naturally, nothing is as it seems — and that includes Peter’s own private agenda.

Ahead of the show’s ninth episode, “Ectogenesis,” Napier spoke to SPINOFF ONLINE about “Helix’s” Season Two shake up, deadly viruses, sibling squabbles and how one of the sequences actually made him queasy during filming.

Spinoff Online: When “Helix” was renewed for a second season, how relieved were you that Peter would be chased by the zombie-like infected instead of being one?

Neil Napier: Well, I didn’t know that until we got some first scripts back in July, but I was pretty relieved. I was like, “Well, so far, it looks like I’m not going to be spending three hours a day in make-up.” That was a relief.

The series changed locations, from an isolated Arctic base to a remote jungle island. Did it feel like the writers hit the reset button on “Helix?”

Not quite the reset button, but they did hit the shake-up button, for sure. I find it really interesting how they took a lot of the characters and the major parts of the storyline and plunked them down in a completely different environment. I think it’s very exciting. That was the idea the whole time and the way [producer] Cameron Porsandeh envisioned it. The idea was each season would be encapsulated in one location and then that place would be figuratively blown up and we’d move on to the next.

Did you welcome the departure from the cold room sound stages to a more tropical setting?

Yeah, absolutely. I thought the sets and the environment last year were amazing. It was a lot of fun playing in those sets. Guy Lalande, who is our set designer, did a fantastic job in Season One. Then, in Season Two, he’s outdone himself. There’s so much more air. There’s so much more space in Season Two. It offers more options in terms of storyline. There are so many nooks and crannies and basements and alcoves and woods where terrible things can happen. It offers a whole new world to play in.

Peter and Alan have been at each other’s throats for most of the season. What have you enjoyed about that dysfunctional family drama?

I’ve enjoyed the truth of the relationship between brothers. Brothers who have bad blood between them, or any issues, stay with them. It’s a real challenge to push through that, to come to a new understanding. I think we get that with Peter and Alan. They get stuck in this.

I have an older brother and we’re in a really great place in our relationship now, but growing up, there were some really tough times. Nobody can press our buttons like a sibling. You can bring up one little thing, and to an onlooker, it might seem innocuous, but within that dynamic of family, you’ve just hit a white-hot spot. There’s a lot of anger and resentment between these two. A lot of times, as viewers, we wish they could push past it and work together, but they are not capable of that. I think that’s sort of a tragedy, but I love that they can’t get past it.

Will there be any reconciliation in the future? Will they have to band together against a common threat?

Well, that would be nice. We are going to see how their relationship develops further as we move into the back half of the season. Rest assured, our relationship will be further explored.

There have been some gross and cringe-worthy moments in the show. Has anything made you squirm?

There is one scene coming up in a couple of episodes. You’ll know it when you see it. I was on set, and we were shooting. Between set-ups, catering had come and brought some food for the crew. Every three or four hours, people have to eat. I was so disturbed, physically, by the set I was in and what we were shooting that when I smelled food, I had a strange reaction to it. I usually have a very positive physiological reaction to food, but I’m sure you’ll know the scene when you see it.

Peter was investigating this monastery and virus on behalf of the Ilaria, a company run by immortals. How has his agenda or allegiance changed over the course of Season Two?

I’ve always felt Peter, in Season Two, is a man in search of a purpose. We see him try to be an effective leader of this CDC team. Meanwhile, we have found out he also has another agenda at play. As we learn more about the nature of that agenda with Ilaria, we’re going to see how Peter reacts to the change in conditions within his world. We’ll get to see how that plays out and how Peter’s tactics change.

Can you preview what is in store for Peter in this week’s episode, “Ectogenesis,” and beyond that?

By this time, we know Peter is becoming more and more isolated from the CDC, from his teammates and from his brother. We’re going to see how that isolation affects him. We’re going to see a little bit more about some of his motivations concerning Ilaria. Poor Kyle is going to get himself into some more trouble. Peter’s story takes another turn towards isolation from the CDC. At the end of the last episode, Sarah basically tells Peter that he was just keeping Alan’s seat warm until Alan got back. She puts up a wall between herself and Peter, so he’s feeling pretty alone.

Peter’s journey in the last few episodes is really informed by that isolation. We are going to see how his relationship with Ilaria either falls apart or becomes stronger. We’re going to get information on that. We are really going to see the effect all this has on him. The culmination of everything that happened to him last year — being sick and being a traitor — we’re really going to see all that come to a head for him. The whole season ends in a really strong way. We get a lot of answers. Of course, we get some more questions to take us into season three. But, in terms of Peter’s storyline, we’re really going to see the effect the last 15 months has had on him.

It’s been a year full of mysteries, scheming and time jumps. How happy are you with “Helix’s” season finale? Does it neatly wrap up all the dangling plotlines?

I don’t think it wraps things up in a nice tight bow. That is not the goal, either. I think it wraps up a lot of the storylines nicely. It brings our characters to some satisfying places from an audience standpoint, and opens up a lot of possibilities for what’s to come.

“Ectogenesis” airs tonight, March 13, at 10PM/9PM Central, on Syfy.

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