TORCHWOOD: A Chat with Arlene Tur

Arlene Tur is one of the new US cast members in the latest iteration of TORCHWOOD, joining John Barrowman and Eve Myles returning as Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper, late of the Torchwood agency. And we got to chat on the phone with her a while back.



SciFi4Me: We’re talking with Arlene Tur, who’s going to be Dr. Vera Juarez on the upcoming season of TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY, and Arlene, thanks very much for your time today. First of all you’re playing the medical professional this time around, so I’m assuming you’re going to have quite a bit to do with trying to figure out why people aren’t dying. What can you tell me about that?

AT: Well, first off, people are reacting to Miracle Day as… I mean, I don’t know. When you hear, “Hey, we’re not going to die anymore. We’re all immortal. Everybody’s going to live forever.” Initially you would think society would celebrate that, and they do in the show, to the point where they start acting like they’re superhuman. But nobody ever thinks about what Vera Juarez is dealing with, which is in the emergency room, there’s no resources. There’s no staff. And there’s no space for everybody that’s stopped dying. Because there’s still people being born daily, and there’s just an extreme over-population. So she goes through all kinds of problems and goes through the panels with the government to see how we fix the situation.

SciFi4Me: Now how much interaction you have with the rest of the cast? I see your character and Agent Rex Matheson, who’s being played by Mekhi Phifer. You seem to have a number of scenes together. Are you interacting a lot with the original cast, with John Barrowman and Eve Myles?

AT: I do have scenes with pretty much everybody. I was lucky enough to be able to interact with the whole Torchwood team, and at one point, I even become Torchwood.

SciFi4Me: So how is it for you coming into a genre show — and from the looks of your IMDb listing, this is your first genre piece at all. You haven’t done science fiction before. How different is it for you?

AT: Very exciting. It wasn’t too different in my studies, because I still took the character, who’s a medical doctor, a cardiothoracic surgeon. So I still did the research as I would any other thing, because I’m not really involved in the extra-terrestrial element so much. I was more involved in “how do we save society?” So for me, the study wasn’t that different. It was very exciting in that I get to be part of all this fun green screen and all these crazy events that are happening. That was very different. Every day at work, you just don’t know what’s gonna happen. It’s up to Russell and Julie, and their imagination. It’s not based on an actual ER.

SciFi4Me: Now you’re talking about Russell Davies and Julie Gardner, who brought this show over from BBC, and it’s now co production with Starz. Do you get the impression that their approach to this show is any different now that there’s an American component or does it feel – just based on your impression on set – does it feel pretty much the same? Are Barrowman and Myles acting like it’s a completely different show?

AT: Not at all. Not only that, but also Russell and Julie… Starz has given them the green light. They’ve given them total control, and they’ve given them opportunities to have fun and use their creative any way they want. So I believe that the collaboration was gorgeous in that, they’ve been given the opportunity to just come together with us instead of – you know how the States usually buys off the shows and does the American version. In this case it’s a compliment, because it’s saying “We love what you’re doing, and we’d like to be part of it.” So we just continue on, and we add some of our people from over here. I think the collaboration was brilliant, and the transition for them I think was very smooth. Because I wouldn’t be able to tell that it’s a different show, or that they’re at all uncomfortable.

SciFi4Me: How was it working with Bill Pullman?

AT: Bill is amazing. He’s such an excellent actor, and such a great, sweet and humble man. He’s great. I didn’t have direct dialogue with him, but we still share the same scene, so I pretty much work with all the characters, which is fun.

SciFi4Me: Your background also includes the Starz TV series “Crash” which was based on the movie. Did that help you get this one or was the call out saying “we’re looking for people for TORCHWOOD” and you jumped on it pretty much on your own?

AT: I would say that, being that they know me and know my work and they know my professionalism as an actress, Starz was happy to bring me on. But my getting TORCHWOOD, I don’t think it had to do with that. They interviewed all kinds of people and auditioned all kinds of people. And I was the lucky one. I was the fortunate one to get it. They’re familiar with me, but I don’t think that played too much of a role in my being in TORCHWOOD.

SciFi4Me: What can you tell us about Dr. Juarez’ arc in the “Miracle Day” storyline? How much can you reveal, and how much do you have to keep secret? Because she ends up being part of the Torchwood team. Where does her journey take her?

AT: Well, the journey starts with Rex Matheson, Mekhi Phifer’s character, getting impaled by an iron rod off of a truck in the first episode. That’s how we meet. That’s when Miracle Day occurs, and because of Miracle Day, I’m able to save him, because we have more time.

So, there to the CIA, so Vera Juarez is now dealing with the CIA and supplying pain medication. And also getting curious about what’s going on, because I’m on the panels. We start going through the panels trying to determine what we’re going to do with the over-population, what courses we have to take in order to make this crisis go away, turn this phenomenon into something positive like people initially thought it was going to be.

And then, in the end, she feels like a total fish out of water. Because she even goes undercover for the CIA. Here she is, a cardiothoracic surgeon going in to spy for someone. So, it’s very exciting because I thought I was going to spend most of my time acting in the ER, in the hospital setting, and that was not the case at all.

SciFi4Me: Is this going to be a long term commitment for you? Have they talked about additional seasons yet?

AT: Well, not yet. Everybody’s waiting to see how the first season goes. But we don’t talk about that yet, and I wouldn’t want to say, to reveal anything in the show

SciFi4Me: Well, nobody dies. So we know everybody’s going to come out of it. What else is coming up for you besides TORCHWOOD? What other projects are you working on?

AT: Well, a couple of movies I’m waiting to hear back on, that I auditioned for. So that’s good, but I’m not at liberty to release the info yet.

And I’m working on my first production gig. I’m going to be producing two shows.

One of them, I can let you know what it’s about. The title is “Homeless Improvement”. It’s not a scripted show. It’s a reality show. It’s like “Home Improvement”, but for all the homeless people in the country. We’re starting in America, and we’re following the homeless. Because the homeless have a very bad rap. Basically, society feels like they’re the drug addicts. They’re the people that don’t want to work, the lazy ones, when they really are homeless. They just can’t help it and are dying to get a job. They’re constantly trying. Those are the people we’re focusing on. And we’re following them, and either getting them back to their families or getting them whatever it is they need or cleaning them up and getting them jobs.

SciFi4Me: That sounds like a very ambitious project.

AT: Thank you. It’s very exciting. We’ll also have a charity so people can give and see their money actually being put to work and change people’s lives.

SciFi4Me: Do you still have designs on building your tree house?

AT: Yes, I do! I have twelve books I’ve collected, so I already – I have plans in my head. I’ve just got to find the perfect tree. That’s the problem.

SciFi4Me: Arlene Tur, thanks very much for your time today. TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY on the Starz network Friday at ten o’clock Eastern and I’m sure we’ll be talking with you again about your upcoming projects. Good luck with all of that.

AT: Thank you so much.

[“Torchwood: Miracle Day” site on Starz]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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