Harper's Island hits DVD on September 8th. CBS's groundbreaking horror series set up a thirteen-episode arc that saw one or more cast members getting killed off with each new installment. If you missed an episode, you pretty much had to drop out of this weekly mystery drama, as clues surrounding the unexplained deaths of a wedding party became harder and harder to piece together. Now, with this new four-disc set, you wont miss a single moment from this harrowing thriller, which comes complete with unedited moments of gory dismemberment. You'll be able to watch it as it was always intended, as one long, thirteen-hour movie. We recently caught up with cast member Matt Barr, who played best man Christopher "Sully" Sullivan on the show for all thirteen episodes. Here is what he had to say about the experience, and being known as the "lothario of the island":
It's not too often that someone in this day and age gets tarred and feathered. What did you think when you read that in the script, and what was that experience like for you?
Matt Barr: I remember when the producers were talking about that. I completely bet money that it was a joke. Then I saw it in the script, and I said, "You've got to be kidding me!" (Laughs) It was this honey substance. I just remember how cold it was, being covered in this sticky honey. It actually might have been real honey. You know what? I am all about having a good time, and I like going for it. If it makes for good entertainment, then let's do it. Let's have some fun.
This is a very fun show to watch. But if you miss one episode, it is really hard to get back into the groove of the storyline. Do you think it's going to flourish more, now that it is on DVD? Now that you can sit down and watch the entire series in one setting?
Matt Barr: I always thought the show was going to be better on DVD, because you can sit down and watch the whole thing. This is a serialized show. It is really a thirteen-hour movie. You can sit down all-day and watch these thirteen episodes straight. And it definitely plays better that way. Especially in the beginning, when you have all of these characters, and you only have an hour to establish certain people in an episode. You will get a more full circle concept of what is going on when you're able to watch each episode within proximity of each other, without missing any of them.
Did they give you a complete outline of the series when you signed on? Or was this an instance where you had to wait script to script to find out what happens next?
Matt Barr: We knew absolutely nothing past the first episode. We did the pilot, and there was nothing. I thought maybe they'd give us some sort of character arc. Not what was going to happen to them, but where they were going to go. They gave us nothing. They told us to sign on and hit the road. We had to buckle up and rock and roll. That's what made it so much fun. It was unlike any job I have ever had, or will probably have in the future. The fact that it was so in the moment from week to week. I was experiencing the story just as the audience was, watching it. I would read the script on Sunday night, and that's when I would find out who died, and who lived. It was pretty scary.
To make this show really work, the characters need a certain amount of camaraderie. Was it hard for you to get close to your cast mates when you knew they might be dead the following week?
Matt Barr: That was funny. We joked about that in the beginning. We would always say, "Don't fall in love with me." Or, "Don't get too close. Because I could be dead next week and shipped back to LA." That was the toughest part of the show. That might be one of the only parts of the experience that I didn't enjoy. When we all fell in love with each other, and it was a big, tight knit family. It was like being at camp up there. It was like summer camp. But each week, one of your family members would get the ax, and they would be shipped back home. It was tough. But we always had a big going away party, for lack of a better term.
Did it make it easier for you, as far as acting, to feel the absence of these characters once they got killed off and shipped back home?
Matt Barr: Right. It did. Its funny how it worked out this way. The actors' last scenes were always their death scenes. Maybe that is a conquincidence, because we obviously weren't shooting the scripts in order. But, yeah. They would die. And the next morning the van would pick them up, and drive them to the airport. The rest of us would still be up there. We'd have contact via the phone and Internet, but otherwise, it was quite. It was funny how, as the show went on, it got quieter and quieter there in Vancouver. We had such a big cast at the beginning. It was like this big party. By the end, there were just a handful of us left. At lunch break, we are all sitting in the tent eating, and it started to get pretty quiet.
About the death scenes. With this heading to DVD, did you guys go for broke with some of the gorier aspects of the show, just so you'd have that once you were away from the network censors?
Matt Barr: Oh, yeah. The death scenes in the script were written extremely rated R. We all wondered why. There was no way the network would be able to air this. These deaths were hardcore. We would shoot them that way. We were all bummed, because I love this genre, and I like the edge. I like the gross out stuff, and they really went for it with this show. The special effects were awesome. But they would CGI in shadows, and edit out bits of blood, and cut some of the gore. They had to make it PG or PG-13. That's why I'm excited about the DVD. Hopefully they will put back in a lot of this original footage. Its edgy, badass stuff. It is "Too Hot for TV!" I don't know if you heard, there are also a couple of scenes that got cut out. They have put those back into the DVD.
That's pretty exciting. Usually, when you get a series, you have time to evolve your character over the course of a season, barring cancellation. Here, you didn't have that. You could be dead in episode one. Did you have to put a lot of pressure on yourself to get in there and find this guy. To really nail it for the audience, and make them care about you immediately?
Matt Barr: You are right. If you know your character is going to arc over thirteen episodes, you can pace yourself. You can take time with the character. But here, we didn't know. I had to shoot every episode like it was going to be my last. I tried to go for broke every episode. A lot of the time, the director or producers had to pull me back. Because I was trying to steal every moment that I could. That's why the producers had the full concept in their mind. They were able to keep us in our place, but at the same time, I just wanted to go for it.
You are also the lothario of the group. Did you have a hand in crafting this character, or was that all on the page?
Matt Barr: That's the thing. They didn't stress much. They just cast us and let us go. I was told by one of the producers that I was hired to create this guy. So create him. Paint that canvas. I thought, "That's fun." All I knew was that he was a Casanova, or a Don Juan. So I thought it would be funny if this guy thought he were those things, but in actuality he is not. I thought that would be a funny choice. He acts suave, but he is really not. At any moment he will trip over himself. It's the way you perceive yourself. As the show went on, I don't know if its what they'd always planned, or if it had anything to do with the stuff I was creating. I really enjoyed the way the series came together in the end.
Were you able to second guess the writers? Or were you completely shocked when you read the season finale?
Matt Barr: I was shocked. I would have bet that I was gone by episode three. They wrote Sully as this trivial character. I thought, "Man, if anyone deserves to get killed, its Sully." After every episode, I would tell the cast good-bye. I didn't think he was going to make it to that last episode. I would think it was my swan song, but I kept breathing. I would read the scripts, and somehow, I was still there. I thought it was funny how the things that made Sully trivial in the beginning of the show ended up being the quality that made him a good survivor. In the end, he did do a couple of heroic things. Those character traits certainly served him in a way. Until he gets it in the back.
With the finale, your character really went for it. He was almost the hero. As far as his death, it really defined who this guy was. Can you talk a little bit about how Sully eventually gets it in the end?
Matt Barr: I remember this quote from the new Batman. "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villian." I thought that Sully had a very shallow existence. Being put into this extreme experience, he realized that there was a deeper experience he could have in life. He owned his integrity. And the most poetic way to end that was to have Sully not get on that boat. He had to die. That made him more tragic. The artistic side of me really liked that romantically tragic ending that Sully meets. Especially since (spoiler removed) literally stabs him in the back. I think that self-sacrifice was important. Cinematically, I loved Sully's death. I couldn't have wished anything more for him.
We are talking about your death, which isn't too much of a spoiler since audiences go into this knowing all or most of the characters die at some point. But you did just give away a major spoiler from the ending of the series.
Matt Barr: Oh, sorry.
It doesn't ruin it for me, because I already knew who the killer was. But is it hard for you to keep the surprise of the reveal ending away from fans now that the series has aired on TV. I know a lot of people are going to become fans of this on DVD, and when they first watch it, they aren't going to want to know who the killer is. That's half the fun of the show.
Matt Barr: I do want to keep it a secret. Its funny. We can talk about it now. When we were shooting, we had these huge confidentiality agreements that scared the hell out of us. (Laughs) We were feared and damned to Hell. That was a funny running gag. The thrill of this DVD is who-dunnit. I would hate to take away that magic. When I talk with people about it, I do try to facilitate the mystery of it all.
You guys shot a fifteen minute promo reel for this series before it was picked up. What was it like for you to know you got hired from this promo reel, and are we going to see it on the DVD?
Matt Barr: To be honest with you, I don't know if it is going to be on the DVD. I haven't heard. We did an interesting thing. We shot a pilot presentation. We basically shot a huge trailer. We shot the best scenes, which would be culled from a whole season of one show. I love trailers. They are my favorite thing in the whole world. This was like taking the meat out of any show and shooting that. We were running from explosions, and jumping over cars, and carrying guns. We were crying and screaming. Someone was about to be stabbed. It was one of the more unique shooting experiences I have had over a two-week period. It was funny, because it wasn't concurrent. It was discombobulating, but at the same time, it was awesome. At the time, we didn't know where the show was going to go, or who our characters were. Or how they would evolve. It was just a bunch of scenes edited together. It seemed like it would be a hell of a time, so I was in. I said, "Let's do it."
One last question. What is your favorite scene from the entire series?
Matt Barr: My favorite scene is an homage to my favorite movie, which is The Last of the Mohicans. Which is when Chloe is faced with the decision to either be killer by the killer or commit suicide. She pulls a Romeo and Juliet. She lets go of the railing to be with her lover. There is a scene in The Last of the Mohicans that is similar to that. It is beautifully shot. And I thought the music was great. It was everything I love about the TV and movie world. That was by far my favorite scene.
}Harper's Island is coming to DVD on September 8th, 2009.