Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: Interview: Shirley Manson on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Monday, September 15, 2008

Interview: Shirley Manson on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

by Tony Dayoub

If you're a fan of the Terminator movies, then you might be looking forward to the newest entry in the franchise, Terminator Salvation. Scheduled to open in the summer of 2009, it's the first of a trilogy starring Christian Bale as the messianic John Connor, savior of Earth's future. With McG (Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle) helming the latest entry in the resilient franchise, however, the film is a bit of an unknown quantity.

Far more dependable, fans have found, is the TV spinoff, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, currently in its second season. Creator Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds) has won geeks' hearts by adhering closely to the Terminator mythology, despite the challenges of keeping plots straight with time travel in the mix. He's also supplied us with some notable casting surprises including the career redemption of Brian Austin Green (Beverly Hills 90210), who has finally joined the regular cast this year as Derek Reese, brother of the time-traveling hero Kyle played by Michael Biehn in the first film. But this year's biggest surprise has to be the casting of rock star Shirley Manson, lead singer of Garbage, as Catherine Weaver, CEO of ZeiraCorp, and as revealed in the climax of last week's episode, a T-1001 model Terminator.

Manson is excited to add actress to her resume, but keeps it all in perspective. "I know there is a lot of criticism whenever a musician steps into acting, and whenever an actor steps into music, and I understand where that comes from. I’ve certainly been guilty of being very suspicious myself of people who have done crossovers." Regarding her fellow actors, she says, "They all have their different styles and techniques they bring to their craft and they’ve all been very helpful. Richard T. Jones [Agent Ellison on the show], in particular, is sort of my main man on screen because we spend a lot of time together, and he’s been incredibly patient and generous with me. He’s given me some tips along the way, and I really have been very blessed by having him around because I’m sure it must be very annoying to have some upstart musician come in who really knows very little about the craft of acting. I’ve been very lucky."

When I asked her if she's had any scenes with the rest of the regular cast yet, she said, "We have not crossed paths yet, on screen." But she looks forward to doing so, maybe in a stunt scene of some kind. "I have noticed that all the terminators on the show want to meet the other terminators, we’re always making hints that it would be great fun to have us all take our super powers against each other."

You wouldn't think that being the most advanced Terminator out there is a drawback.But for an actor, it might be limiting. "I fear that I am so sophisticated that I don’t even need to fight. That’s my problem, that’s the problem with being at the top of your series, a top of the range model, I don’t know if she needs to get her hands dirty, which might be the only downside to my character." Like any good actor, though, Manson is doing some extracurricular prep, just in case. "I’m sort of … action and I would love to do something like that, but whether I’ll get to, I don’t know. I do know my trainer has started having me box a lot more in the off chance they’re going to ask me to do some stunts. Who knows?"

Is Manson going to give up music to turn to acting full time? "I feel like I’ve really been bitten by a bug, and I find it really exciting and very challenging. It reminds me of being little, when you get to play in the sandbox, or in your Wendy house or playing with dolls, there is something really innately childish about it, but also as a result, really thrilling and exciting." Fans of the singer don't have anything to worry about, though. "I’m still working on music. Obviously, I’m not a huge lead in the show so I have plenty of downtime too, despite some of the crazy hours we work. I’ve been working all year on stuff and continue to do so. I have a lot of material, I’m intending actually to go in and start recording some of the songs live, next month, so we’ll see if I manage to pull it off."

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles airs Mondays at 8:00 p.m. on FOX.

Stills provided courtesy of FOX Broadcasting Company.

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