‘Crazy’ script lured ER’S Ed­wards back to one-hour TV show

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - BRAD OSWALD

PASADENA — It’s an awk­ward as­sem­bly of words, but a con­sis­tent truth, in show busi­ness, as in life: There’s al­ways a rea­son to say “Never say never.”

Take for in­stance, the re­cent ca­reer shift of ac­tor An­thony Ed­wards, who ended his eight-year run as the star of ER in 2002 by declar­ing he was done with weekly se­ries tele­vi­sion. Well, uh, pag­ing Dr. Greene .... “Yeah, I said I would never do a one­hour tele­vi­sion show again,” Ed­wards said this week dur­ing ABC’s por­tion of the U.S. net­works’ semi-an­nual press tour in Los An­ge­les. “I was done ... (which is) to say that, like, when ER was done, I felt like I had really ac­com­plished some­thing. It had been an amaz­ing eight years, and I was ready for a new ad­ven­ture.”

Ed­wards, as it turns out, was here in Pasadena to dis­cuss his star­ring role in Zero Hour, which is — wait for it — a one-hour TV drama se­ries that pre­mieres Feb. 14 on ABC (and, in Canada, on Global). In other words, “never” really meant “later.”

“It really took a while to re­cover,” Ed­wards ex­plained. “I also knew that if I was go­ing to come back to tele­vi­sion, hav­ing done ( ER), it would have to be some­thing that was as ex­cit­ing to me as that was go­ing in, and like with all things in life, it was about the sur­prise. And this was a great sur­prise when Lorenzo (Bon­aven­tura, the se­ries’ ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer), an old friend, sent me this script, and I read it, and I could not put it down.

“And I just said, ‘If th­ese guys are crazy enough to tell this story, I want to do it with them.’”

The “crazy” story told in Zero Hour is ac­tu­ally a dense, com­plex yarn filled with his­tor­i­cal de­tail, re­li­gious sym­bol­ism, fa­nat­i­cal vil­lainy and end-of-times prophecy.

Ed­wards plays Hank Gal­lis­ton, the pub­lisher of a New York-based mag­a­zine whose sole pur­pose is de­bunk­ing myths and dis­miss­ing con­spir­acy the­o­ries. But when his wife is kid­napped from the an­tique clock shop she runs, Hank is forced to re­con­sider his skep­ti­cism and em­barks on a des­per­ate jour­ney that could make him a be­liever in many of the wild the­o­ries he has spent his whole life ridi­cul­ing as non­sense.

It turns out that an old clock his wife ac­quired con­tains a tiny jewel that has en­graved upon it a de­tailed map and cryptic text that could, if they fall into the wrong hands, have dire con­se­quences for all of hu­man­ity. It’s a sto­ry­line el­e­ment that prompted many in at­ten­dance here to won­der if its writ­ers were look­ing to build a Da Vinci Code- style mythol­ogy.

“For me, a se­ri­al­ized show is only as good as its MacGuf­fin,” said se­ries cre­ator Paul Scheur­ing, re­fer­ring to the show­biz term for an ob­ject or goal that mo­ti­vates dra­matic characters’ ac­tions. “Over the years, I’ve in­ter­faced with a lot of other cre­ators of se­ri­al­ized shows, and I’ve really been kind of blown away by the fact that they cre­ate a big spec­ta­cle at the be­gin­ning in the pi­lot, but they don’t ul­ti­mately know where they’re go­ing. And that’s ter­ri­fy­ing to me, and cre­atively disin­gen­u­ous.

“So ul­ti­mately, be­fore I even put pen to pa­per... I was like, ‘What’s the coolest MacGuf­fin you can come up with? What are the last frames of this se­ries?’ The se­cret that’s be­hind this en­tire thing (has) to be evoca­tive, quite orig­i­nal, and thought pro­vok­ing, and it (can’t have) been done be­fore. So from that, I re­verseengi­neered this larger kind of con­struct and threw in all th­ese de­li­cious el­e­ments, like the Nazis and the church and such, to get to that fi­nal place. That’s a very, very long-winded way of no, it’s not The Da Vinci Code.”

OK, then. The se­ries pi­lot was shot mostly in Mon­treal, but one se­quence in the episode-end­ing cli­matic chase was ac­tu­ally filmed last spring on the not-quite­frozen-enough sur­face of Lake Win­nipeg.

“We shot the pi­lot in Mon­treal, but lot of the tundra stuff was shot north of there,” said Scheur­ing. “We were really chas­ing the snow last year, be­cause it was quite warm in Canada, 20 de­grees warmer than nor­mal, so we had to shoot that se­quence up on Lake Win­nipeg, which was melt­ing right be­neath us.”

For Ed­wards, the whirl­wind, two-day jaunt to the west side of the Man­i­toba’s big­gest lake last March turned out to be a par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We had a lot of ex­perts with us, test­ing the ice all the time, so it was much safer than some peo­ple would like to let on,” Ed­wards told the Free Press in an ex­clu­sive chat. “We were shoot­ing in Mon­treal, and we just took a smaller group to Gimli to do those scenes on the ice. We landed that Ot­ter (small air­craft, used in the se­ries pi­lot) on the ice, which was su­per-cool, and when we got there, it was so clear and beau­ti­ful. But it was pretty warm, and we had this sub­ma­rine thing on the ice, and it kept sink­ing.... We didn’t have quite as much snow as we wanted.

“But I’ll say this — Gimli’s a wild place, a beau­ti­ful, fun place, and as a pi­lot, know­ing the story of the ‘Gimli Glider,’ and know­ing how that guy brought in that (1983) Air Canada (Boe­ing 767) flight, dead-stick­ing it into that tiny place, was un­be­liev­able. And it’s beau­ti­ful up there; I can to­tally un­der­stand why peo­ple spend their sum­mers in Gimli.”


An­thony Ed­wards (third from left) plays Hank Gal­lis­ton in Zero Hour.

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