"Torchwood"actress Alexa Havins wasn't opposed to using plot secrets to get some help around the house.
The actress plays CIA analyst Esther Drummond in "Torchwood: Miracle Day," which premieres at 9 p.m. July 8 on Starz. Everything Havins knew about the show before she took the job she had learned thanks to her husband, actor Justin Bruening. He is a huge fan of the series and promised to stay home with their new daughter, Lexington, if Havins took the role. Once she did, he wanted details about the story.
"I've got a little bit of leverage," the 30-year-old deadpanned during an exclusive interview in June at the Cable Show in Chicago. "'Torchwood' is my ace in the pocket. 'Babe, can you do the dishes? I'll tell you what happens with Captain Jack.'"
For those of you who aren't "Torchwood" fans like Bruening, Captain Jack (John Barrowman) is the omnisexual, immortal and rascally leader of the now defunct Torchwood Institute, which for three seasons on British TV (and BBC America in the U.S.) investigated alien happenings on Earth.
A spinoff from "Doctor Who," "Torchwood" is moving to Starz for its 10-part fourth season, called "Miracle Day."
Barrowman, Eve Myles, who plays former Torchwood operative Gwen Cooper, and Kai Owen, who plays Gwen's husband, are the only major players from the original show in the Starz season. Creator/writer/showrunner Russell T Davies and producer Julie Gardner also are on board.
Havins said she has "the honor of being the 'Torchwood' tour guide" for new viewers. Since her character, along with CIA agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer), knows nothing about Torchwood, they must get up to speed just like new audience members will.
"The questions that Rex and Esther are asking, "Who is Captain Jack?" and "What is Torchwood?" are the same questions new viewers will be asking," Havins said. "Esther is digging deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, so I feel like, in a way, Esther is the introduction to 'Torchwood' for the new viewer."
And just what is Esther digging up? At first, it's all the information she can find about Torchwood. That leads her and Rex directly to Jack and Gwen, and together they tackle a scary new threat to the world.
That threat is that no one is dying, which at first sounds like good news. They may live forever, but people now suffer terrible, normally terminal, illnesses for eternity. Even when their bodies are crushed or burned or blown to bits, they live. And because no one dies, the sudden overpopulation threatens to gut the planet's resources.
"[It's] so disturbing in the best possible way," Havins said of all the issues that arise because "people are living when they shouldn't be." She said the actors couldn't wait to see each new script.
"It's this inner woven web of Russell fabulousness. We have this huge story, but at the same time I love it when he throws a little tidbit of comedy," she said. "I feel like there is a little something for everyone. That's the nice thing with this show."
Havins believes that while things will be explained to new viewers, longtime fans like her husband won't be bored with it. Bruening, whom she met when they were both on "All My Children," was not allowed to read the scripts. But he has seen the first episode.
"It was more exciting just watching him react," she said. "He just wanted more. Yeah, he's a big fan."
How much did you know about “Torchwood” before it came to you?
I was privy to the information by way of my husband, Justin Bruening. … He is a big sci-fi fan, so he starting watching from the beginning and I got sucked in and by way of him. I’d be walking by and I’d see a little something and it was that slow-sit onto the couch, leaning forward. Next thing I know I’d be four episodes in. It’s one of those shows that sucks you in.
Right. Did you ever think you’d be fighting side-by-side with Gwen Cooper?
Gwen, I feel, is a bad ass. Esther, as great as she is in her own right, she is no Gwen Cooper. Esther is the computer [person], the techie. I would say her computer and her brains are her weapons. I didn’t get a bazooka or a machine gun or anything as cool as Eve did.
But in the premiere you, as Esther, have one of the most difficult stunts from the first three episodes!
These heels! They’re like five-inch heels! They’re stilts! I either call them torture devices or stilts. When we did the wardrobe fitting I was like, “Great, so you know that I’m doing these running and action [scenes]? Cool. OK, great.” [Viewers] see it once, and I hope I make it look effortless, but we shoot things a couple times, a couple 10 times! So it was one of those balancing acts of not falling on my face.