Interview Date: 01/06/2011
Run Date: 01/17/2011
Megan Ward is hardly a household name, but chances are you’ve seen in her something – maybe even many things, as her list of credits is long and varied. Movies? “Encino Man,” “PCU,” “The Brady Bunch Movie,” “Glory Daze” and “Joe’s Apartment” to name but a few. How about TV? “Melrose Place,” “Sports Night,” “Sleeper Cell,” “Party of Five,” “Class of ‘96” and those are the just the shows in which she had recurring roles. Let’s not even get into her one-off appearances, or we could be here for a long, long time. She’s always working, doing something of note, even if we’re not aware of it.
But one of the crowning achievements of her career is the 1996 one-season wonder “Dark Skies,” in which she played the bright-eyed girlfriend Kimberly Sayers against Eric Close’s darker central figure, John Loengard. Those bright-eyes didn’t last long, however, as Kim found herself spiraling further and further down into a complex situation beyond her control. “Dark Skies” was the ultimate conspiracy theory TV show, and now, finally, after 14 years, it’s getting a DVD release on January 18th, thanks to Shout! Factory. Megan took time out to discuss her time on “Dark Skies” with Bullz-Eye, as well as fess up that her career has had its fair share of bumps in the road. For this interviewer, however, there was only one way to kick off a conversation with Megan, and that was to address her co-starring role in one of the most warped and yet little seen movies of the ‘90s, “Freaked”, which was co-written, co-directed by and starred the great Alex Winter, best know as Bill S. Preston, Esq. from the “Bill and Ted” movies.
Megan Ward: Hi there!
Bullz-Eye: I know that voice. That’s the voice that said, “Cool! A freakshow! Let’s check it out!”
MW: That – (bursts out laughing) – oh my God you made my day.
BE: Did I really?
MW: That is one of my favorite jobs ever. People don’t really know it. It’s very obscure and didn’t get much of a release.
BE: You have no idea how many times I’ve seen that movie. How I turned all of my friends on to it. It kind of even started to take on this life of its own outside of the movie itself amongst my friends.
MW: Well I can see how it would do that. There’s so much to quote, and the more you watch it, the more inside things you see. It’s a cool flick, it really is.
BE: “Freaked” is pretty outstanding. I interviewed Alex Winter years ago. We sat down for about an hour, and he’s such a warped, cool guy. I can only imagine what it was like making that.
DT: I love it. I think God made Cape Town for himself and is pissed off because everybody found out about it. Maybe there’s a war going on because he’s vacationing in Europe.
MW: Yeah, and Tom Stern is the same, and then Tim Burns – all three of them together, they were in heaven, because they had all of this money, and they were making this dream project movie. They had to keep topping themselves, basically. You know, grossing themselves out more, or coming up with more random, odd jokes. It was really fun. We were all young and it was just such a crazy project. At the time, I didn’t know it was so crazy. I certainly got the humor, and it was completely my personal sensibility, but looking back on it, it was crazy, that movie. It’s amazing that it was a studio film.
BE: It is! In fact, Alex told me a lot about that, and I can’t remember who it was that greenlit it-
MW: It was Joe Roth…
BE: Joe Roth! Yes!
MW: …which is why that’s so cool, because he’s so cool. He has a sense of humor, but the problem was is that he wasn’t there when we were finishing it.
BE: Exactly. I still think I was one of the first people in San Antonio to see that film, because I was working at a laserdisc store. The day it came out on LD, I was like, “What the hell is this?” So I took it home and, oh I don’t know, the rest is history. Obviously, I could go on and on about that movie, but I’m pleased that you’re happy that I know it - and I was worried that you might have bad memories of it - because it’s my favorite thing you’ve ever been involved in.
MW: Oh no! It’s just so funny how obscure it is now, but it was a big movie to get – a big deal – and because it was so left of center, and because of the changeover of hands, but if you look back – and this is your job so you know – that movie should have been more recognized.
BE: It should have been.
MW: If it had come out at any other time, I mean, that’s the story of my career: Bad timing on everything. (We both laughed painfully at this assertion.)
BE: Oh Megan, don’t tell me that.
MW: But it’s so true! Like that film! The thing is, it’s not for the uninitiated, it’s definitely the kind of material you’ve got to be down for, you gotta be really into it, because jokes go over most people’s heads – they don’t get it. But if you’re into these off the beaten path, sort of obscure humor [types of films], it’s a gem. A total find.
BE: I still turn people on to it to this day; people who love movies, who’ve never even heard of it.
MW: Awesome. Well you make us all very happy. Keep doing the good work.
BE: So this supposed to be about “Dark Skies,” so I’m going to move on to that now. I’d never seen the show until the last week and a half, with the box set. It was the most unexpected fun I’ve had in months watching a TV-on-DVD set.
MW: Oh yay! I’m so glad you liked it.
BE: I loved it! And I have to tell you this, you are so incredibly beautiful on this show.
MW: Awwww! Thank you! It was so long ago. I was so young!
BE: I just got off the phone with Bryce [Zabel, co-creator of “Dark Skies’], in fact, and he told me to tell you “She gets more and more beautiful by the year.” That you’re even more beautiful today than when you did “Dark Skies.”
MW: Man, this is a good day for me! Thank you for all the compliments! It helps.
BE: Oh…well….but you are so beautiful in that show, it’s almost - dare I say it - distracting. Even when you’ve got critters crawling in and out of your mouth, you’re still very pretty.
MW: I was gonna say, even when I’m hacking up a phlegm ball?
BE: Absolutely. So it’s weird because it’s been 14 years since “Dark Skies” ended, and you’ve had a big career – well, I don’t know if you’d call it big, but I would.
MW: Busy. I’ve been busy.
BE: Yes! Busy. You’ve done a lot of stuff since then. And yet here you are, doing interviews for the show, and you’re all over the DVDs. So, out of everything you’ve done, where does this project kind of sit for you?
MW: (heaving a sigh) The thing about “Dark Skies” is that it was a very big job for me. Doing the female lead in a prime time show – it was a very expensive show, by the way, it was one of the most expensive shows produced at the time. Real high concept, and ambitious scripts. It was a big deal to get, and it felt like it. It felt like I had some career marker with actually getting the job. That aside, it was a very complicated process to commit to, because physically we had to endure really long hours – like 80 hour workweeks. To this day I’ve never had to work as hard as I had to work on that show. Crazy locations, recreating history – we had to have history lessons every week, and we didn’t have the internet the way we have it now. I couldn’t look up Wikipedia and get the Cliffs Notes version. There were several layers to the process of making the show. It was almost too big for itself. It was hard for it all to be managed together, which was part of its failing. It was an expensive, large show that needed to have a bigger reaction I think, ratings-wise, in order to stay on the air. For me it was a huge investment, but exhausting and kind of sad because it ended. So I have mixed emotions about it, because it was such an important step in my career both professionally and personally to commit myself so much to a project, but it was also such a great disappointment. It’s always a little bittersweet that project, because it really should have gone on longer. We should have had another few years to go on this intense journey, to go through history and have this alien conspiracy. So it’s a very big personal marker in my life, because I felt like I really had to grow up on that show.
BE: Speaking of mixed emotions, I had very, very mixed emotions about Kim toward the end of the show. It was really rather heartbreaking to see what had happened to her, because she’s somebody that - over a very short period of time - I fell in love with as a character. And it was so, so sad, but very brave dramatically what they did with her. How did you feel the day you got the script for Episode 15 or whichever one it was?
MW: Yeah, I had the same reaction. It’s tricky because my character was the emotional through line of who these two people were and what has changed for them. She represented the sentiment of what happened to the American public – all of the change that happened to that generation. It’s somewhat internal. It’s not a dynamic of “I’ve got my gun and I’m racing to chase some alien.” It’s more cerebral, emotional expression of the storyline. It’s not quite as dazzling as guns and spacetoys, but at the same time what I loved about the original script of the pilot was that it was the human experience as opposed to the alien experience. I felt a great responsibility to play that – and that was my job to do – but it broke my heart that she lost her son in the process of becoming Hive. It’s a tragic ending, an ethics tragedy, and at the time we were doing it I didn’t know what it meant. Was it the period at the end of the sentence, or was it just a chapter? Would Kim find her way back? It was just ridiculously sad that in her attempts to do the most humane thing that she ends up giving up her child. It’s something I can’t—I didn’t like it, let’s put it that way. That being said, it was a great story to tell and I didn’t know where it would go to. I was hoping that it would evolve into a longer battle between Kim and John, the two sides of this whole war, and that there would be a confrontation and that she could come back, and she could find her son. That’s me projecting Season Two or Three or Four, and being the consummate storyteller, that was always sort of my purpose. I’m not going to say, “This means she’s gone forever,” or “That’s the end of this part of the story.” I’m going to play this for all it’s worth because ultimately isn’t that a fantastic interesting direction to go.
BE: One of my very favorite episodes in the whole season was “Inhuman Nature,” which is the one where she gets a surrogate child for a really short amount of time, and it almost seems to choreograph what ended up happening in the end. She was really, really into this kid that – well, that’s a really whacked episode.
MW: Yeah, that’s exactly right. That was exactly the point. That was exactly her emotional storyline. The reason Kim was fighting was to get life back to the way it was supposed to be, back to their idealistic start in Washington. The change is supposed to be that she can be her own person and still have this quintessentially American life. That’s supposed to be the big change her generation is about, not about fighting aliens. John’s fight was far more “good against evil.” His fight is a far more traditional when it comes to who is the good guy and who is the bad guy when it comes to the government. It’s a much more traditional struggle, and hers was all about getting back to what life should be, even though obviously they could never go back again.
BE: Yeah, the episode in which she went back home. Boy, what a slap in the face that was for her to come back and find out it had infiltrated her home, and then later on we find out it had infiltrated John’s home as well! There was just no way out for these people. That’s to me almost the greatest tragedy of the show going off the air is that it ends so tragically for everybody. You kind of want there to be more hope.
MW: It’s true. It’s a drag. It’s the end of a first season, and as a cliffhanger it’s great because you’re pissed off - the aliens have John and the boy, Kim is Hive. It’s great, but at the end of the series you’re like, “Nooo!” You know, it’s tricky. Shows are forced to go through a hodge-podge of opinions and ideas, and what is show is meant to be and what it actually turns out to be are always two different things. But it’s evolution, it’s what happens on a series, and fundamentally the core storytelling style was still there throughout the whole thing, which is taking these historical events and giving them a twists with an alien conspiracy involved. It’s infinite the amount of stories that could have been written and I’m very proud of being a part of such a versatile storytelling style. It holds up – the intelligence factor, the thinking factor. It’s interesting to watch because it’s familiar but it’s new. You can still watch those today, like you said, you enjoyed them.
BE: I had a blast watching this series! It was great. So I noticed that you did an episode of “Without a Trace” [which starred Megan’s ex-“Dark Skies” co-star, Eric Close].
MW: I did!!! That was actually the first time I’d seen Eric in years. I hadn’t run into him. There was no occasion for me to. We worked so intensely together, and when you’re done with a show, you’re kind of like, “OK…I’ll see you!” I was so exhausted. I think I went off and did some little tiny independent movie right after that. But it was great see again after all that time and play very different people. And then when we did the box set for this we did a little interview and I hadn’t seen him in forever again and it was so nice. It’s really amazing how much time had passed in between, but when you start remembering it, it’s like no time had passed at all.
BE: You’ve done at lot of sci-fi and horror. Do you ever do conventions?
MW: You know, I haven’t!
BE: Really!? I’d think somebody like you would be a shoo-in for that.
MW: I know! The last few years I’ve spending some time in daytime [TV; Megan has had an ongoing role on “General Hospital”], and I’ve done a few for daytime which was all brand new for me. And you know, I should think about that, but I guess no opportunity has presented itself. You know, I started out doing Charlie Band films – Full Moon Productions. They’re just these little movies, right? Talk about commitment to storytelling – you’ve got to really believe it because you don’t have the sets or props to tell it. It’s amazing that I still get fan mail for my first movie, “Crash and Burn” – my first tiny little movie. If you’re that kind of fan, you’re into all of that, and I love that. Just because a movie is made for shoestring doesn’t mean you dismiss it. People are down for the journey, and even when things are feature film, $100,000,000 movies, they still want to see a good story. They still believe. They still invest in it. And it’s so nice for those of use who make these projects to know that people want to go on the ride whether it’s a big movie or a little movie. So maybe I should look into that because it would be fun.
BE: You should look into that. Well I should probably let you go.
MW: Did you get enough? I know. I rambled. Was that OK?
BE: No, you’re wonderful. Are you kidding me? This was a great afternoon with you and Bryce, especially after having watched the box set, yeah, it’s been great.MW: Oh, I’m so glad. It’s one of those things that it’s remarkable that it never got released until now. For so long, so many people would say to me, “That show needs to be on DVD, because it’s such a great “sit through and watch ‘em all together” kinda show. It’s made for DVD really, and the fact that it’s finally been done, and done so well, and I was able to personally reunite with Eric and Bryce and Brent, it’s really been a very interesting point in my life to look back at it all and I’m really glad that you enjoyed it, and I hope that your readers will, too.