Naill Matter and Felicia Day in an upcoming episode of "Eureka." (Syfy )
Niall Matter found the perfect role when he joined the cast of "Eureka."
"I'm not unlike Zane in a lot of ways," said Matter, speaking of Zane Donovan, the snarky, bad-boy physicist he's played since the second season of the Syfy series about a town of genius inventors and scientists.
Matter isn't a physicist, but he knows computers well enough to have recently fixed co-star Neil Grayston's. His eight years working on Canadian oil rigs when he was younger prepared him for the action-hero-worthy stunts he gets to do as Zane. And, he admits, he still has "that little flair of a troublemaker" that led his parents to send him away when he was in high school.
"When I auditioned for this role … I just thought, 'Really, this is like spot on,'" the 30-year-old told me during a recent phone interview, laughing. "I knew right away that I'd be playing this guy."
As Season 4.5 blasts off at 7 p.m. Monday, Zane's shenanigans accidentally cause the launch of an old rocket into space, with Fargo (Grayston) and himself onboard. "Liftoff" is Matter's favorite of this new batch of 10 episodes.
When Season 4 began, Zane was not one of the five main characters who traveled in time and ended up in a current but different timeline in which they have different jobs, living arrangements or love lives. Despite—or maybe because of that—the actor seems to be getting more and more screen time.
"The reboot was probably the best thing that could happen because it reinvented the character," Matter said. "He was the only lead who didn't go back in time, so he is the only one who has to change his interactions with every single person."
That gives Matter a lot of fun scenes with Grayston as well as with Erica Cerra, who stars as Zane's old timeline love, Jo Lupo. In this timeline, Zane mostly just gets under her skin—at least for now.
Matter's own wild streak as a kid growing up in Alberta, Canada, often tried his parents' patience.
"When I turned 17, my parents couldn't deal with me any more," he said. "I was quite a bad kid actually … My parents actually forced me to go work on the oil rigs with my grandfather."
He came home for his senior year a different person, he said, improving his grades and deciding that he would study film. He returned to work on the oil rigs to make money while pursuing his dream in Vancouver until his was 25, when he was nearly killed in a rig accident that crushed his right leg.
"It took me about six months to learn how to walk again. And when I got back to the rig, my very first week I saw a terrible accident … and the next day I quit," he said. "I came back to Vancouver [and] … after a month of working as a bartender I ended up booking my very first lead role...
"I have not quit working ever since."
Matter and I talked more about the new "Eureka" episodes, Zane and even about getting into trouble.
Let’s talk about Zane Donovan, aka Professor I.P. Freely.
[Laughs.] All right.
You’re getting a lot more screen time.
Yeah, especially in the last half of Season 4. And as for Season 5 [which is currently filming], I’m on set every day now; it’s great.
I’ve seen “Liftoff” and I love all the great comedy you and Neil Grayston get to do. It’s almost two episodes.
Yeah, that’s the thing. It really is like two episodes because you have what’s happening on the ground and then you have what’s happening up in space. And all of the CGI up in space? Could you believe that? It was amazing, phenomenal. It looked incredible. You do get a really different feel whenever you’re up in the capsule with us … I was really impressed with how that episode turned out.
Do you enjoy the comedy?
Oh yeah, I love doing the comedy. That was originally my interest in “Eureka,” because it was a dramedy and I was drawn to the comedy aspect of it. And it’s fun to play because Zane is usually so calm and cool most of the time. And then, up in space he kind of shows a little bit of his fear, that’s where the comedy comes from that episode.
Right, he pretty much loses it.
Yeah, yeah, which is great. It’s nice to be able to have somebody with such a cool exterior lose it.
Going forward in the season, Zane and Lupo have a lot together. Has it been fun to step back with the reboot of the series and have them be separated and Zane be sort of the bad boy again?
Yeah. Every single one of the characters went back in time and then came back. Now they have a different back story with Zane … I’ve had a lot of fun trying to figure out the relationship with each one of them and how it differed from the original timeline.
I do like the [Zane-Lupo] relationship a lot more this year. It’s just a lot more involved now.
[NOTE FROM CURT: I’ve removed big chunks of the interview for spoiler reasons. Check back each week for Matter’s take on the first three episodes.]