Marc Bendavid and his fellow co-stars are lost in space in the new drama "Dark Matter," which premieres tonight on Syfy.
Created by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, based on their 2012 Dark Horse comic, the series chronicles the plight of a six-member crew that awakens on a spaceship with no recollection of who they are or they got there. To survive, they must band together against old enemies and new threats as they solve the mystery surrounding them.
Bendavid plays One, the reluctant leader whose own secrets threaten to destroy him. He spoke with SPINOFF about his enigmatic character, “Dark Matter's” big mystery, science fiction tropes and his lack of fighting skills.
Spinoff Online: "Dark Matter" is more than just a conventional sci-fi adventure. What were some of the elements that attracted you to the project?
Marc Bendavid: Right off the bat, that it looked like it would be so much fun to shoot. Just in the pilot episode, there's fight work, special effects, stunts and explosions. It was hard to put down the script because it was so fun to read. I thought, "Man, if I'm on set actually shooting this thing, it's going to be such a blast." I had never done something like that. That was the initial reaction. The kid in me was really turned on by the thought of doing all that kind of stuff.
What really tantalized me as far as the characters are concerned was how lost they all were and the complications, struggles and arguments they experienced. It's like a regenesis of these peoples' lives. I really liked that they immediately seemed to be a dysfunctional family that was going to have to find a way to have a peaceful life together.
The series' premise stems from a comic-book miniseries. How did that source material inform your performance or help you better understand One?
For my character, not at all. I read the comic book before we started shooting, and the first four episodes of the series are pretty faithful to what happens in the comics. I know the set, concept and costume designers relied heavily on the art and comic books to create that blown-up, fantastical world.
But, as far as the character himself, the narrative and the words are pretty faithful to the script. The only thing I would have been able to take from the comic is a massive, hulking physicality, which I am not. Then there was his high cheekbones and jawline, which I also don't have.
Introduce us to One. Who is he and what's his role on the team?
One is often described as the moral compass of the ship. I think that's a really nice way of saying he doesn't know how to do anything well, or, at least we don't know what he knows how to do as well. Everyone, it seems, has a skill that they are extremely proficient at. You can actually see that in the trailers. Everyone seems to know what they are doing, but this guy doesn't. He has a very good sense of what's right and what's wrong, and an innate sense of justice and goodness, but he lacks the skills the others have to act out his vision.
I hope what happens along the course of the season is that these people learn that all they need is each other. Even though they may be antagonistic, or they may seem cruel, they are, for all intents and purposes, the closest thing they have to friends and family. One relies heavily on the crew because he's not as slick as the rest of them. At the same time, he's sort of functioned as the de-facto spiritual leader.
Once everyone wakes up, how well does One play with others?
There's one character that he has a confusing, and, it seems, a constitutional aversion to. We don't learn why that is until episode 6. There's somebody that he wakes up and he just can't stand this person. It seems out of the blue and this person's behavior seems unacceptable and off-putting to One. We learn later on that there's a very good reason for that. They don't feel any connection to these people because their memories are gone.
There's this looming mystery about who these people are and what happened to them. How many questions will get answered on a weekly basis?
A lot. The writers have done a really good job of giving payoffs to the audience. It doesn't feel like shows where you don't find out the things that you really want to know until the last episode. There are payoffs starting at the very beginning, starting with the big reveal at the end of the first episode. Every episode ends with us figuring out something we wanted to know, whether it be about somebody's origin or their highly serialized motives. It's satisfying. It's highly serialized in that the narrative builds across the season. But, you feel satisfied while reading a script because although there may be new things, you find out the things you wanted to know at the time.
Obviously, the mystery is only one piece of the series. What kind of trouble do they find themselves in along the way?
Every kind of conceivable trouble. They wake up from stasis in a really hostile part of colonized space. They wake up with a lot of enemies. They don't know how they've offended these people and what they've done to anger them, but as soon as the show begins, they are being assaulted on all sides by grudges, mobsters, governments and corporations they have betrayed or stolen from. We have to start to learn to anticipate. We have to piece together as much as we can about who we are.
There's still the matter of who is responsible for their memory loss. Who would you consider the show's big bad and what are we going to learn about them?
We have a couple of ongoing adversaries. This may be getting poetic or philosophical, but I would say the biggest bads of the series are the reasons we have not to trust each other. It's clear from the get-go that we can't trust others outside the ship, these people that we are dealing with. It becomes clear quickly that we are in a hostile environment and we have to be careful who we trust. But, the most persistent impediment to our freedom and happiness is the fact that we have such a hard time learning to trust each other.
Apart from that, there are handlers, moles, kingpins and vindictive ex-colleagues. There's not really one big bad. There are some recurring threats, but I think the biggest challenge comes from inside.
Viewers expect certain tropes when it comes to space operas: Huge action sequences, technology, zero gravity, gun fights. In what ways does "Dark Matter" deliver those goods?
I'm not the world's most up-to-date and well-read sci-fi fan. I'm probably the person on the show that has the least experience with sci-fi. I watched stuff like "Star Wars" and "Interstellar" when they came out, but I'm not as familiar with the tropes as my cast mates are.
But, from what I can tell, it matches or exceeds whatever I've seen as far as fights, explosions and special effects are concerned. I think they didn't create this show unless they found a way to do it the way they wanted to. It looks to me, to my uneducated sci-fi eye, amazing. The fights, in particular, benefited from an extremely talented stunt choreographer, John Stead, who ended up directing one of our major episodes. He has an incredible way of showing fights that fit so well into the narrative that they almost seem like expressions of people's feelings rather than doing what you need to do to get out of trouble.
Which aspect of “Dark Matter” did you have the most fun with?
I really like doing the fights, although I have woefully few of them to do. The character One is not a slick fighter. Even when we were rehearsing the choreography for the fights, we had to keep in mind that there's a certain level beyond which I shouldn't get good at. The character is referred to as a "pretty boy." They make fun of the fact that if One had to fight to save them, everybody would die. At one point, Two [Melissa O'Neil] says, "You look like you are getting a little pudgy there, a little bit doughy."
We were doing all these fights I wanted to really get into, but I had to keep stopping myself and say, "No. I have to look like I don't know what I'm doing." It's clear from the beginning of the season that he doesn't know how to hold a gun right. When he throws a punch, it is wimpily done. He has to look like he doesn't know how to fight. There's a reason for that, which we find out eventually. Two has the best fight scenes and I wish I could have done more of them.
”Dark Matter” premieres tonight at 10 ET/PT on Syfy.