SyFy is about to debut a brand new four-hour movie event called The Phantom this weekend, with the first two hours set to debut on Sunday, June 20 at 7 PM ET on SyFy. The show's star, Ryan Carnes, recently held a conference call to discuss this new program and here's what he had to say.
We've heard rumors that the min-series may be a backdoor pilot for an actual series. We're wondering if there is any truth to those rumors.
Ryan Carnes: Yes, there is truth to those rumors in terms of the way that the project was presented originally. It was presented as a backdoor pilot. And, you know, at this time we don't know what's going to happen. We don't know what the fate of the min-series is going to be, but obviously the more people that watch, the better chance this thing has of getting some legs and getting a following and becoming a series. So we obviously are encouraging as many people as possible to tune in.
We were wondering have you always been a comic book fan and called The Phantom in particular. Were you a fan of him?
Ryan Carnes: I actually have to be honest, I wasn't as a kid. I wasn't in to comic books; I was more into sports and music and stuff like that. I was outside a lot. I grew up in a really small town kind of on a farm and in the woods so that occupied my - most of my time. But, you know, I mean I think it definitely has been a dream of mine as an actor to be able to play a super hero at some point. You know, there's so many more super hero movies and comics being turned into movies now. It was awesome. It mean it really was like a boy's dream come true. And in terms of The Phantom, I had heard of called The Phantom. I was somewhat familiar with called The Phantom though I can't say that I was, you know, a loyal fan who had followed it. So when I got the audition for the project I did some research and then once I got the part then I dug in and did a lot more and found out a lot more about Chris and Kit Walker and called The Phantom.
I was curious as to since this is re-imagining, what you did actually look at as far as, you know, was it the comic strips or the previous movie version of called The Phantom in preparing for the role.
Ryan Carnes: I did both. I screened The Phantom from the '90s with Billy Zane. And god, I only wish we would have had the budget that they had for that movie. We - you know, we would have shot for six months instead of two. And I did, I went back and I looked at some of the old comic strips, you know, and I looked on line. I looked at, you know - just like I researched the history of the character. But at the same time I was cautious with myself to not get too caught up in, you know, being oh, you know, I have to make sure that I do this, this, this, this, and this because it was a re-imagining and it was a very new take on an original series. And, you know, I wanted to be able to still make my own choices and my own conclusions based upon what was on the page for me in this project.
Now how does it feel to put on that new suit as opposed to the famous purple suit?
Ryan Carnes: Well I'll tell you what, this is a point of great contention among the fans. You know a lot of them - I think I've gotten the impression that they really, really loved the old suit. You know, I've never put on the purple spandex so I can't speak as to how that feels. I would imagine it feels tight and vulnerable. But I can speak to how it felt to put on the new suit and that was really cool. It was really cool actually to - you know, there was a process in terms of going when I first arrived in Montreal, going to the fittings and all that with the costume designer, and so I sort of knew what I was in for. But it wasn't until I finally actually put the whole thing on that I went okay wow, this is pretty rad, I could get used to this. And it changed actually. It evolved through the course of the shoot because in the beginning it was very tight and restrictive. I actually had to because of some of the stunts and some of the choreography that I was doing, I actually wore it for rehearsals for the martial arts choreography so I could break it in because it was so restrictive. But very quickly it just sort of loosened up and took on the contour of my body. And about halfway through the shoot of two-thirds of the way through the shoot we actually had to have them take it in in areas because it had gotten - it has stretched so much. So it was really cool. I mean I was - I've never gotten to wear anything like that before and it's not what you get at the Halloween costume store for dress up for Halloween, that's for sure. It's a little fancier than that.
Now can you talk about the different stunts you performed and how difficult or fun they were?
Ryan Carnes: Well anything that I got to do was fun. And I mean unfortunately because of insurance reasons there were some things that I would have loved to have done that I didn't get to do. On the other hand, fortunately for insurance reasons there were things that they wouldn't let me do that probably saved my life and some bones. Because my stunt double Marc-Andre was - he was incredible man. I mean he - I mean he just had no fear. And actually he busted himself up pretty good a couple of times through the shoot. But a couple of the things that I got to do were was some of the green screen stuff that we did I got to be pulled up on a harness and do some sort of like scaling - not scaling but sort of like repelling on the wall. That was very cool. I got to - there's a scene where I come in through a window and, you know, they didn't let me come through the glass obviously, even though it was safety glass. But I still got to sort of - I still got to make the jump and swing in on the rope and do the roll on the ground and that was really cool. It was like, you know, I felt like I was like five years old again going crazy in my mom and dad's house, you know, tearing things up. That was a lot of fun. I'd love to get to play like that again.
Now you're only the third actor to play the character in the character's 70 year history so there's a lot of traditions and a lot of background for the character in print and on the big screen. And while the mini series respects those traditions of character there are a number of changes, obviously the suit being number one of which. Which of the other differences did you find most interesting?
Ryan Carnes: I think what I felt - well, I mean, in terms of - well I speak to what first came forward for me. In terms of the things that have been on the screen, you know, like compared to the movie of Billy Zane, I found it interesting that they chose - because this was an origin story that they chose to -- excuse me -- to make The Phantom younger. And I mean this was a kid who was in law school so he's somewhere between 22 and 24, assuming that he went straight to law school after undergrad. And you know, that's young. That's much, much younger than the Billy Zane character was. And I found that interesting because that is a time of great transition in any young man's life. And to go from being - I mean you know, it's not like you're 35 or 30 and you sort of like - you're sort of beginning to figure out life a little bit maybe. I mean when you're 22 you have no clue or at least that was my experience. And so I thought it was really interesting to make that choice to just throw this kid into - in front of the bus really and go well here. You know you thought you knew what you were going to do with your life sort of; now you have no idea. Now let's see how you rise to the occasion. So that to me - that was, I think the most interesting departure.
Ryan Carnes: Well, you know, it's different. It's very different especially in this instance where basically we were doing two movies. I mean we were doing two back-to-back movies essentially. And I actually really - I liked that. Sometimes TV - I have a lot of respect for actors who do a lot of TV because, you know, from my time on Desperate Housewives I knew that you don't know - one doesn't know from one week to the next really what's going to end up in the script, what turns and corners the character is going to go around; what new revelations are going to occur. So it's challenging - it's really challenging and you've really got to sort of fly by the seat of your pants. And to contrast that with this you know, I had two full length scripts in front of me and I could really chart the journey. I could chart the arc. I could track that and that helped me as a performer to be able to I think, give the best version of myself and the best version of the performance. So, you know, in that respect I loved it. I loved what it afforded. And, you know, just beyond that I mean, it was a very different kind of role. I mean I had a blast. Like getting to do drama and some comedy you know, there's definitely some light moments in it mixed with action adventure it's like my dream role. It really was. To get to just run around and run away from villains and chase villains and shoot guns, it was great. I didn't get to do any of that stuff on Housewives or General Hospital so...
So what would you say was more in the challenging experiences while filming The Phantom?
Ryan Carnes: I would say probably the three weeks of nights that we shot about two-thirds of the way through. That was very challenging. My co-star Cameron she told me she did a horror movie one time that they did like three months of nights, and I can't imagine that. I think I might have lost my mind. It was challenging because, you know, I was already far enough into the role that I had sort of begun to walk around. I mean I felt as Chris and Kit anyway, and sort of lose track a little bit of myself and then mix that in with being on nights for three weeks where, you know, you're rhythm is off, your hormones change. By the end of that three weeks I really - I felt like a zombie. I mean I felt like I was in like a zombie movie.
I wanted to find out if there was like one particular thing you thought was your special contribution to this iconic role, maybe like a body movement or a particular clothing style that you insisted upon having, just the one thing that made the role your own.
Ryan Carnes: Wow, that's a great question.
Okay you can think about it, I can have a follow-up question here. What was it like to work with Isabella Rossellini?
Ryan Carnes: Well that was a tremendous honor to get to work with her. I don't think that many young actors my age have been able to have that honor so, I mean, and she's and icon. And I was just really honored to get to do that. And, you know, I don't know - I don't want to give anything away to anybody who's going to be reading these releases, but the way that she and I interacted in the movie was pretty surreal for me. So I'll just leave it at that. And then to answer your first question, yes I think one thing for me that I really wanted to maintain I guess in this character was his sense of sort of irreverence at times as Chris. You know, at the core he was an irreverent guy, but there was something about him that really wanted to rebel against who he was becoming I think in terms of becoming a law student and to sort of - you know, I mean it's doing the par coeur I think, speaks for that. You know, that's a little bit of a counter culture rebellious type activity that, you know, that guys engage in -- or girls. So, you know, just in terms of like - I was really insistent upon keeping my tennis shoes untied as much as I could because to me Chris wasn't the type of guy who would have his tennis shoes always tied up perfectly. He was the guy who would walk around with his sneakers untied so he could just kick them off whenever he wanted. Or, you know, it was like it was a small thing but for me that really helped ground the character in the way that I saw him.
I wanted to find out maybe if you could tell us a little bit about how you first saw your character's relationship develop with both Sandrine Holt and Cameron Goodman's characters as the min-series unfolds.
Ryan Carnes: Well to start with Sandrine, I think that - I loved that relationship because there was definitely I think from the beginning there was like there was something in Chris - in Kit that knew that she was sort of like the oracle. That she was somebody that he could trust whereas his trust and faith in (Vandermark) wavers. And that's really conflicted relationship. But with Sandrine, you know, I think from the very beginning, even probably from the first encounter in the - down by the East river docks, I think there's something in Chris that knows that it's okay that he can trust her. And then obviously as time goes on she proves worthy of his trust and I think it was a great relationship because it really gave Kit a rock to lean on and somebody that he really felt was not going to betray him. In terms of the character with Cameron, you know, that was a great relationship too because I mean I love the fact that they knew each other from sixth grade and, you know, hadn't seen each other since. You know, I've had those own experiences in my own life and those are synchronicities like that are just awesome. I love when things like that happen. So that was really cool to sort of like kick off that relationship. And then for her to come to represent something from his life it's like she's the only remaining shred of his old life. And a time when all these things are unfolding and revealing themselves and he has no idea who he is anymore. You know, and that scene with (Jordi) sort of proves it - the scene outside the coffee shop. You know, that's another attempt at him to reconnect to a touchtone of his old life. But, you know, the woman who is his love, the love of his life who may in fact bear his children at some point, that's huge. And that was a rally beautiful relationship to see be maintained throughout the mini-series because you know, I think there's something inside of him - something instinctual that knows that he must protect her. He must hang on to her and it gives him something to fight for.
I wanted to know since comic book fans can be very unforgiving, did you feel any pressure stepping into this role?
Ryan Carnes: Actually I didn't really allow myself to entertain those doubts. I didn't - when I got cast in the role I didn't go online -- which I don't anyway. I don't - I make it a habit to not go online and read what people say about me or the projects that's I'm in. You know, I let - I get - I let that stuff be filtered through my - the team that's around me. You know, I trust them to inform me of what I need to know. So before I went into it I - you know, I didn't go online and see what people were saying. I just didn't allow myself to go there because that would have - to me that's like - that's a good way to kill the art and to kill a performance by being affected what people think and what they're saying about you or the project or the role. So I can't - quite honestly, I can't say that it affected me at all. I mean, you know, of course inherent in being number one on a call sheet and being the lead in a franchise like this, sure there's some pressure. But I just chose not to go there.
Well now that the project is wrapped, if you had a chance, what would you tell fans that might be staying away from this version because of the differences? Like what would you tell them to get them to at least give it a chance?
Ryan Carnes: Well I guess I would just say that I would really encourage them to try to go into it with an open mind and attempt to allow themselves to surrender to viewing something that is in some ways an entirely different story. And that you know yes, it is the same story. It does carry the title of The Phantom. Many of the things are the same, but we really were going out trying to re-imagine a story and tell it in a slightly different way and take some risks. So I would just encourage them just to surrender to what they might see and see if they don't enjoy it. I would challenge them to just watch it with an open mind and just see if they don't enjoy it.