It's an unprecedented time in our world's history, but even in times of calamity, the show must go on.
It's more important than ever to keep a smile on your face, and Christian Kane, who stars on Almost Paradise premiering tonight on WGN America, is more than happy to do what he can to keep you smiling.
On the new series, Kane stars as Alex Walker, a former DEA agent forced into retirement as he settles in the Philipines with the expectation of long, lazy days and restful nights but soon learns his island paradise isn't at all what he remembered.
We had a chance to chat with Kane about the new series, filming in the Philipines, leading a production so far away from home, and a whole lot more. I know you'll enjoy excerpts from our interview below.
How are you fairing during this coronavirus crisis?
Out of the frying pan and into the fire, but it's okay. I'm hunkered down here and we'll see what goes on. A little nervous, a little worried like everybody else, but we'll fight through it.
I had a chance to chat with Dean earlier, and he said that you were the inspiration for Alex Walker.
Well, he's a very kind gentleman. It was just funny because he came to me, and he said, "Let's have lunch." And so we had lunch, and he said, "Do you want to do a TV series that I've got called The Librarians?" And I said, "Absolutely."
And so he goes, "I wrote the role for you," which he did. And he told me that day, this was five years ago, he said, "I've got this other project." He goes, "You're just too young to play him." And he goes, "And it's so bad because it's you."
And when The Librarians was done, he goes, "You ready?" And I was like, "Yeah." And so, he offered me this role as well. I've had 13 years with this man as my boss and my friend and I couldn't pick a better, man. He's been very kind to me.
And what is it about you two that makes such a great partnership?
Honestly, I don't know. I think I understand him. Some of the movies that made me want to become an actor were actually his. Independence Day, Stargate, Universal Soldier, you know, stuff like that. Stuff that I loved as a kid.
He loves action, he loves drama, and he really loves comedy, and he loves to put all those together. That's his formula. And for some reason, that's exactly what I love to do.
And I guess because we grew up loving the same stuff about film, I understand his writing, and I understand his direction, and I think he appreciates that about me.
And he also said that you really stepped up as a leader on this production in the Philippines with a bunch of people who have never really been a part of this business before.
Again, he's very kind. It really was the Wild West when we got there. I didn't know what to expect. I'd been to the Philippines once but just for vacation. And so, we got there, and the Filipino people are so used to filming their way, and of course, the Americans have to do it their way.
And we found a really happy medium that leaned a little heavier on the American side. And Marc Roskin came in to direct the first and second episode, and then went away, and I'm, all of a sudden, the only American there.
So, I just had to tell people, I said, "This is how we do it, this how you guys do it. Let's find somewhere in the middle," and it worked out really well.
Some people like to do things a little bit different. I don't. There's no reason to ever yell at anybody on the set. The set is a gift. If you're on a set, no matter what capacity, it's a gift that we get to work in this business, and as an actor, there's never any reason to yell at anyone.
If they're not getting something right, then you talk to them and figure out what's wrong, but you don't yell at people, man. Every single person there on that set is there to make me look good. Why would I ever get pissed off? You know what I mean?
Very good attitude. What kind of challenges does filming in the Philippines present for you both professionally and personally?
Oh, first off was the heat. I wasn't used to the heat, and it's a humid heat, and it never goes away. And I'm like, "Man, is there a wintertime we can come back out?" So, that was the big thing because I'm very hot natured, and so my body can't deal with that, man.
I have to have it freezing cold in my house. So, it was a tough gig, man. Just all the sweating and then trying to keep the makeup on and trying to keep your shirt from soaking wet.
And then you did one take with it dry and then the next take it's wet, and you got to change shirts. It was just crazy, man. But it was fun, and I acclimated pretty quick. And then the only other struggle I really had, which wasn't even a struggle, it was a very fun puzzle to solve, was I had never played a character that wore his heart on his sleeve like this.
I always played the tough guy, the dangerous guy, whatever. And so, this guy is the same, but this guy really wears his heart on his sleeve, and there was a lot of emotion.
I'm used to the comedy with Dean. I'm used to some emotion with Dean because I prepare for whatever scene it was. But every scene, this guy really put his heart into it, and so I really enjoyed that.
I loved playing the character, and in all honesty, I felt like I became a better actor because of it. So, that was the fun challenge dealing with the emotion. The physical challenge was dealing with the heat.
It works out well, though, the heat and the sweating because then you didn't have to overact when it comes to those hypertension scenes.
Exactly, because I was already sweating, and they started mopping me off. The first couple of weeks I'm like "Guys, it's the Philippines, we're going with it." And so, after that, I was covered in sweat, and literally, I would put makeup on in the morning. Everybody knows actors wear makeup.
I put makeup on in the morning, and I never got retouched the whole day. I said, "Don't touch me again." I said, "We're going normal." I said, "If Clooney can do it, I can do it." Because Clooney never wears makeup. So I said, "If Clooney's doing it, Kane can do it. Come on."
Well, I've got to tell you, I am a hot natured person as well, and I work from home, so I hardly ever wear makeup anymore and when I have to, it's the first thing that goes.
Your body just says, I don't like it there. It's got to go. I can't even imagine the pancake stuff that they put on you guys.
Yeah. Literally, in that heat, you feel like you dipped your face in cake and then looked up.
But the good thing is you have the Kaniacs, who are not going to care how you show up. Let's be honest.
Well, as long as I show up doing my job, they're the best in the world. They're the best fans in the world. They really are. They're my friends and my family, and they supported me through thick and thin, and they show up every time for me. And it's pretty amazing.
I remember talking to John Rogers, and I'm not talking out of school here, he literally called and said that the year we beat Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead for the People's Choice Award, he literally goes, "You know that the Kaniacs were 100% responsible for that."
And I was like, "Oh, shut up." And he goes, "No, I'm serious." And so, that's a pretty powerful group of people right there, the Kaniacs, that they can go ahead and go in and get a People's Choice Award for us.
And they're always interested in seeing more of you. And they always bring up Leverage and The Librarians and if there's a show that they want to see redone again, it's one of yours. It's amazing. You are so lucky.
And it's also because of you and who you are. I think that even though you're not comfortable playing a character who wears his heart on his sleeve, I think that you connect with your fans in that way. And it shows who you are.
Yeah. It's a lot of the writing too. It's a lot of the writing and the characters that they've written for me. And I think Elliot Spencer really kicked it off. You go all the way back to Angel where I started, where these people got together.
Huge genre, huge scifi fanatics out there that I absolutely love because when I first started this, you were either on Star Trek or you were on Buffy and Angel, or you didn't go to conventions. Now, it's pop culture.
But back then, you were either on Star Trek, or you had something to do with vampires, and those were the only conventions in the world really for television series. And then it just blew up into this whole thing. You know what I mean?
And so, I got there day one and saw them. With Lindsey on Angel and then carried over into Elliot and then Jake Stone, these guys started writing for me for Jake Stone because it's Dean Devlin again.
It's a lot of the writing. It's a lot of the genre. But I also got out there with my band, and before we did a show, I played in every state there is in this country and a lot overseas. And before every show, it meant a lot to me that these people showed up for somebody like me.
So, I would go down and give them a hug, and I just really didn't realize that all those hugs would end up forming this group of people called the Kaniacs, to fight cancer, that save dogs, and that embrace me and give me a meaning for getting up in the morning, man. So, it's really crazy how that happened.
Hey, what's going on with your music by the way? People are wondering!
Yeah. Well, fortunately, I've been really busy, but Dean had promised them some music on Almost Paradise. He said if we do Almost Paradise, this was about a year ago, then Chris is going to be doing music, and he kept true to his word as he always does.
And so, I will be singing and playing on Almost Paradise in one of the episodes. It's going to be fun getting back out there.
Do you know what episode?
Honest, I'm not keeping it from you. I just can't remember. We filmed a couple of them out of order, so I'm not sure exactly. I can't remember the number that it was.
And is it going to be a nice little live, onstage presence, or are you going to be playing in the gift shop?
Yeah, he's not going to have an onstage presence. It's not that type of show just yet. But he strums a little bit and sings a little bit and there's another cat that's there, and it's a good little scene.
His whole point is just trying to relax on the Island, which never works out for him. So, he's trying that, and it doesn't work. I don't know, we'll have to see.
Hope you guys have half as much fun watching #supernatural tonight as me and my dear friend @jensenackles did redneckin’ around like our young Hollywood, Texas roots getting us in trouble, days of the past. We’ve been friends a very long time and what ever you see tonight... I’m sure in some way shape or form, we’ve been together and done it in real life. Hahaa thanks for the memories @jensenackles I love you man!
And what sightseeing have you done down there?
Well, fortunately, we filmed in so many different locations, so many beautiful locations that my sightseeing was just being on set. I would sit there, and they would say cut on a scene, and I'd just turn around and look and take pictures. And I was like, "I can't believe I'm here."
And of course, everyone that's local is going, "What's he freaking out about it?" I'm like, "This is beautiful. Look at the ocean, look at this view, look at this mountain."
It's just so many things to look at. There's a lot of poverty in the Philippines, and especially where we were, and we filmed in a lot of it. But the people are happy, and the colors are beautiful. There's so many colors there.
It looks like a Pollock painting everywhere but in a really well organized disorganized way. I don't know how to explain it, but just the colors there, man.
And there's not been an American TV show that's ever been filmed in the Philippines. We are the first. People have seen Japan, people have seen China, people have seen Korea in some sense, but no one's ever seen the Philippines.
If you're American, you may have taken a trip there, but they just don't show the Philippines on TV or in movies. And so, we're the first people to ever do that.
And that's why I'm so proud of it, and at this time when it's so rough for us, when people are like, "How do you feel about going out and promoting the show when all this is going on?"
I kind of struggle with it. Let me tell you how I feel. We worked really hard on this show, and I owe it to a lot of people that were on set with me to go out and make sure that people know that this is on.
At the same time, everyone's at home. "Why don't you just take a vacation, man, and get your mind off of what's going on in the world?" And we take you to the Philippines.
And like I said, most people have never seen the Philippines. So, this is going to be a lot of fun for me, introducing people to this great country and these great people and the great food and the culture and the spirituality of it. It's my honor to take you there every week. So, I'm really excited about that.
And the only thing people have right now is entertainment. And if there's ever a time where people need escapism, and they need to get out of their own heads, it's now, and this is the perfect show for it.
Yeah, and you can't go anywhere. You have to be on the couch. And so, if you're on the couch, why not take a vacation? And I think that Leverage did the same thing for people for a while. We were going through a pretty bad economical time.
People were getting bullied at work and stuff like that, and then we started throwing punches at those people. We started beating up the bullies and I think that's why Leverage was such a well-received show is because these people wanted to say something. They wanted to do something, but there's not a lot you can do legally.
Well, we did it for them, and I think that's why we had so many people that followed Leverage and became Leverage fans, and I think the same thing will happen with this show. Not because we're doing something great.
I am taking down the bad guys again, but at the same time, I'm getting you out of the house, man. I'm getting you out of the house, and we're providing some emotions. Laughter, maybe a little crying, but some excitement that people really need right now to keep from going stir crazy.
And you have a couple of really good co-stars who you mesh with really well. Talk a little bit about working with Samantha [Richelle] and Arthur [Acuna] and what the three of you were like on set.
Yeah, it's a family. It really is a family, and it became a family quickly. And the thing is that the first two episodes are fantastic of this show in my opinion.
But Marc Roskin who directed one and two, who's directed a lot of episodes of Leverage with me, almost all of my fights he directs, and a lot of Librarians and he's doing The Outpost now, as well.
He came on board, and you can't have anyone else but Marc Roskin because Marc Roskin is really good at understanding the fact that he's got to introduce characters, he's got to give back story, and he's got to do it all to introduce the world to these people and watch them and try to get them to come together and glue them together.
And he did that so well, but it just keeps getting better and better and faster because once we're done introducing the characters, now we've got a family. Usually, it'll take about five episodes.
Sometimes, my God, it takes a season, but we did it so unbelievably quick. By literally the second episode, we did it, that now we've got this family and we can just all run together. And that rarely happens on TV.
And Samantha, she hadn't done that much. This was her first series and really one of her first acting jobs. And she just picked the ball up and ran with it, and it was very fun because everybody stopped worrying about her. How is she going to be coming out of the gate? She was fantastic.
We worked on our characters together, all of us. We would get done filming and we'd go back to the hotel and have a cocktail and have a little dinner, and me, her and Art would talk about the day and what we did, and what we've got for tomorrow.
We were stuck on this Island. So, we were forced to do it in a great way. And that just bonded all of us together. The next day when we showed up, we knew exactly what we were going to do. And you just don't get that.
Most of the time when you're done with the show, especially something filmed in LA, everybody goes home, and we didn't. We laughed, and we continued working off set, and I think that really built a family, and it definitely shows on screen.
Well, I saw the first two episode,s and there's a lot of shows that don't really stick with me, you know? But I remember both episodes really well, and I feel like I saw a lot more than two. They're very well introduced, and they're fully fleshed out.
They are. Well, that's also the writing team that we had. And of course having Dean Devlin, with his success with Leverage and The Librarians and everything else he's done, be at the helm. You know what I mean?
But it's just like I said, it just gets faster and faster. I talked to you, and I hear you say that you've seen one and two, and I'm so proud and very happy that you enjoyed it, thank you for that comment.
But at the same time I'm like, "God, I wish she would've just seen three as well." You know what I mean? You can see the momentum. Literally, it never stops. And Dean Devlin came in and directed the 10th episode, which is the last episode of this season and ties the whole season up so beautifully, and it never stops.
I never stopped running. I hit the ground running in that episode, and I don't think I stopped. For a week and a half, I don't think there was a scene where I walked. I was running. It's that high intensity, and Dean likes to blow stuff up.
So, we were blowing stuff up, and it's just amazing, and it's just such a great wrap up to a season. You think it's going to calm down, and it doesn't. It doesn't calm down at all. So, I love that about the way Dean produces stuff.
And what's your favorite thing about Alex as a character?
I think it has to be the fact that I love comedy, and I love comedy in a different sense than slapstick comedy. I loved filming Just Married with Aston Kutcher and Brittany Murphy.
Oh, thank you for bringing that up because that is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. I absolutely love it. I can't tell you how many times I've seen it.
That's so great, then you understand what I'm talking about.
The director, Shawn Levy, had someone else in mind. It was between me and someone else. And because Ashton is over the top and because Brittany can do whatever the hell she wants as an actor, you had to have somebody come back down. And so, he got me because my comedy is underlying.
I learned from some of the greats. I just spent four years with John Larroquette, who can do that with his eyes closed, you know what I mean? It's not over the top.
And this character got to be a little over the top because he's compensating for health problems and the fact that he wants to be back in the game but physically can't. And so, it was fun because I got to use comedy as a cloak, and I've never gotten to do that with another character.
And so, it was so much fun to play off of that and to be really, at some times, over the top but to use comedy to... Elliot used to use his fist to cover up stuff, and Jake just used his brain.
This guy uses comedy, and I really loved that about him. It was very fun to play this character because I've spent too much time in the field with these great actors that can do it.
And I've never gotten to play a character where I could do it, you know? Noah Wyle taught me it's okay to make fun of yourself, and I got to do it with this. And so, that was my favorite part about playing this guy. So unlike anything I've ever played.
That's awesome. A fan mentioned that you had learned to scuba dive, and they were wondering what that was like.
Man, when I first got to the Philippines, I honestly felt like everything there was trying to kill me. No one knows this, but I got vertigo after that. I got vertigo really bad for three days, and it was really tough.
The first day of filming is actually the first time in the doctor's office. And I was really working out hard. I looked really great, but I spent three days in bed staring at the ceiling, and my body started eating itself literally.
And so, I would have to do a scene and then close my eyes, and people would grab me and walk me to my chair. And that was the first two days of filming of the season. So, it was really hard for me. When I started diving, I got attacked by clownfish, one of the fish knocked my respirator out, it was a horror show.
And I thought that I should not be down here. I realized that people shouldn't be down here, that's for sure. Other things live down there that don't want you in the water.
So, it was really tough, then but I finished the course, and of course, it paid off big time afterwards because we have some diving stuff, and we're underwater a lot on this show.
So, it was very fun filming it in a controlled environment. But when I was down there, I was seeing stuff like, "Hey guys, I saw an eel." And he was like, "Don't even think about it..." You know? I'm like, "I'm going to go ahead and get out of the water."
That's so funny!
Every time I went down, I was attacked by a clownfish.
That's one of the scariest things to me. I don't even know how people do it. To me, it's the ultimate claustrophobia.
It's claustrophobic as hell, and I'm not good with that. I started having panic attacks and anxiety, and it really helped me out with the character, but just the littlest things. We saw a scorpionfish. We saw a jellyfish. We saw other kinds of things, and I kept my distance, but these little clownfish would come out and attack you, and they hurt, man.
Now you know why they're called clowns.
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, and I didn't realize that that was going to happen. I'm like, "Oh, there's Nemo." And he's like, boom. And I'm like, "Hey, man."
And of course, I'm trying to throw punches at him underwater, and they're going so slow, they're swimming around me and hitting me again. It was like fighting Muhammad Ali.
That is so funny. And everybody has said how much they love all of your photos and they're hoping that you'll continue to do behind the scene photos.
I'm trying to do that, but I've got a lot of them that will come out. I just can't release them now because they give away some of the plot, but every week, I'll be trying to put stuff out there that relates to that episode, which is a lot of fun. Yeah.
So, if you could sum up Almost Paradise in a few words, what would they be?
The title almost speaks for itself. It really does. I think Almost Paradise, in a few words, I would just say, Oh my gosh, be careful what you wish for.
That about sounds right from what I've seen.
Yeah, exactly. Be very careful what you wish for.
Almost Paradise premieres Monday, March 30 at 10/9c on WGN America. Don't miss it!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.