Sex, aliens, and shooting your boss - they're all just a typical day if you're Burn Gorman of BBC America's hit show Torchwood
. Starpulse recently spoke with Gorman, who portrays Owen Harper the team's morally ambiguous doctor. From guest stars to script surprises, we learn just how much fun working for an alien hunting organization can be.
(Editor's note: In the UK, seasons of a television show are called series.)
First off, congratulations on the success of the show.
Thank you very much
Were you surprised with the strong positive reaction the show has received in America?
To be honest I think we are surprised and really pleased. Obviously in the UK the show had started on BBC 3, which is an offset of the main channel, and started as kind of a cult show and its grown from there. So to get such a really enthusiastic response from the viewers and fans in the US is a real joy and bonus.
What drew you to the role of Owen Harper?
In England, obviously I knew what Russell T. Davies had been involved. He is a very prolific writer and involved in very groundbreaking projects, so first and foremost it was because of him. We started rehearsing in Wales and I hadn't seen a script at all, I hadn't seen a character breakdown, nothing about the character, really. In fact, I had just met the producer and the casting director, so I really didn't have an idea as to what it would entail except that it was linked to the Doctor Who
world and that it had a very experienced and exciting team - the producers, directors and the actors in it as well. It was an amalgamation of those things that really made me want to do it.
The first series really pulled away from its roots as a spin off of "Doctor Who." Do you think this was a conscious effort to try and distance themselves and create their own identity?
I don't they tried to distance, I think they were very clear in that they wanted to set up an Earth-based alien hunting organization. "Doctor Who" is a massive legacy, the longest running sci fi show, but I think they very much wanted it to stand on its own. There are obvious references and it's a real pleasure to be linked to a show that the fans are so committed to, plus Captain Jack goes back and forth, but I think they really wanted it to stand out on its own. For Owen, he is completely unaware of this whole other world, completely unaware of the doctor, he only learned in series one that Jack was immortal and he's really concerned with this earth-based organization.
So far this series there seems to have been a lighter tone, can we expect this to continue throughout the series two?
Yeah, I would say this series is very much about the team working together where in series one I think that there were some teething problems in who the individuals in the team were and focused quite a lot on the angst within the team. I think series two is much more about these people can work together to really do the missions well and also its nice to have Jack back, who had been away on "Doctor Who." I think we all were a bit like a ship without a rudder.
Can tell us what to expect from Owen this series?
Well, I can tell you that Owen has an extreme roller coaster this series. We learn lots about all of the team's history, and we learn very much about why Owen is like he is. We all know he can be a tricky customer, arrogant, aloof and not particularly good at expressing his feelings, and in series two we find out a little bit more as to what really makes Owen tick and also perhaps explain some of the strange goings on from series one. Pretty exciting.
Last series Owen had a relationship with Diane (the pilot from "Out of Time"), which seemed like a new experience for him. Can we expect any other lasting love interests or is Owen going to be that free wheeling guy from series one?
I'm pretty sure that Owen has changed in the respect that he has grown up slightly. He takes his vocation as a doctor extremely seriously and is very dedicated and extremely passionate about that job and about Torchwood. I think that after he shot Jack and Jack in a sense forgave him, he's taken that as a chance to turn over a new leaf in terms of his commitment to the team. We see Owen is able to enter morally gray areas that other members of the team can't. We see him involved in things which perhaps might be slightly dubious. I am glad to say Owen keeps his top on a lot more this series and the others get some of the action [laughs].
Speaking of the relationships that go on, a big deal has been made about the fact that the Torchwood crew seems to hook up with people regardless of gender, or even human or alien. Why do you think people are so fascinated by how "Torchwood" handles the issue of sexual identity?
I think the issue is that the creators don't make an issue of it. They set off very early on to set up Captain Jack as this guy who I believe his quote was, "people on Earth and your quaint little ways."
When we get a script, for example, we would never know if we would have a relationship with somebody. It very much comes out of the blue. It just doesn't seem unnatural in this pressure cooker environment that is Torchwood where you can die any day. I've always thought of it as a bit like wartime mentality that you're under siege and you sort of more or less, certainly for Owen in the past, you take what you can get. I think that its dealt with in a way that doesn't make an issue of it, which is groundbreaking I believe.
James Marsters of Buffy fame guest starred on the series two premiere, are there any actors you'd like to work with in the future on the show?
I'm a big sci-fi fan and to have James with us in the beginning of the series and hopefully coming back is really great because he raises your game. He's very experienced, and you think "he's doing it like that" and you try to match him. I think it's really great to get lots of guest stars. I know in Britain with "Doctor Who" all the classic actors and the people who you'd really want to, work on the show. I like that the fact that "Torchwood" has actors that want to be involved from the stage. It has raised our game, and I'm just happy for good actors who want to be in sci-fi shows who love the genre. I think it makes a difference when the actors are enjoying it more than anything because we have a real blast on "Torchwood."
So what other projects are you working on?
Well I've been doing something for the BBC again which is about these comedians we had in Britain in the 60s called Steptoe and Son (Sanford and Son when remade in the US) about two rag and bone men, sort of scrap metal collectors, so I've been wearing a very itchy false beard for a number of weeks.
I'm also working on something for the national theater. I'm going to go back and do a bit more theater. I like to try and do different projects between the series; it keeps the acting muscle stretched.
Are there any types of characters you are particularly fond of playing?
Well, I've always seen myself as a character actor so I was surprised when they wanted me to get my top off for Owen. I thought, "oh no, you're making a big mistake," but I really love the classic actors we have here and in America. I always look up to people like Michael Gambon
and Tommy Lee Jones
, and I hope that as I mature I will become as craggy as them. I've been in a couple of films this year and had such a really great time. I worked with Elijah Wood
and John Hurt
on The Oxford Murders
which is coming out in April. I'd love to do more far0out eccentric characters, they're what I'm drawn to, so Owen is a really straight role for me.
Check out "Torchwood" on BBC America, Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET.
-Learn more about "Torchwood" here.
Interview by Dan Chruscinski
Starpulse contributing writer