A Traveler Returns
By: Bryan Cairns
Date: May/June, 2008
Source: The Official Smallville Magazine (#26)
There seems to be an interesting trend happening on Smallville. First, Tahmoh Penikett appeared in season three as Vincent Davis before popping up again as killing machine Wes Keenan in last season’s Prototype. Now, his Battlestar Galactica c0-star, Aaron Douglas, is revisiting Smallville in Traveler after briefly passing through in season one’s Obscura.
“I believe that Smallville was my first guest-starring role,” recalls Douglas. “I remember having fun with Darren Klimek, the other cop, who turned out to be the bad guy, and just how nice Tom Welling and Kristin Kreuk were. They were great, and getting to do some stunt driving was fun as well.”
As Deputy Michael Birtigo, Douglas was helping to investigate Chloe’s sudden disappearance. At one point, Birtigo comes calling on Lana after hours at the Talon, and for a split second, his shady behavior fingers him as the obvious suspect. That is, until the true culprit takes him out from behind and grabs Lana.
“In the original script, it was only the one cop, and they were just going to make him the bad guy,” explains Douglas. “Then when I auditioned, apparently they said ‘That guy is a really good red herring; why don’t we make it two cops? We can pull the old switcheroo and make it look like it’s one instead of the other.'”
It had been many years since Douglas last walked onto the Smallville set, and he still had to go through the traditional process for his second outing.
“I auditioned before Christmas and almost wasn’t going to do it,” reveals Douglas. “It just didn’t feel like it was a part I would get hired to do, so I tried to blow it off a couple of times, but my agent wouldn’t let me do that. I went and auditioned and actually didn’t feel like I did a very good job. I thought it was probably one of my worst ones in the last couple of years! I drove over to my agent’s office to try for something else and while I was there, the assistant told me I was on hold Smallville. I just stood there laughing; I wasn’t expecting that at all!”
This time around, there was little doubt which side of the law his character, pierce, was on.
“The breakdown of the script described Pierce as a mean, fast, killer. Ex-Army, Special Forces hired gun,” says Douglas. “He has no conscience or remorse. He’s there to do a job and will do whatever is necessary to get it done. And Pierce absolutely hates the meteor freaks. It’s his life’s ambition to rid the world of the pestilence that is the meteor people.”
Appearing on the same series as the polar opposite of his last character wasn’t the least bit jarring for him, however.
“I enjoy playing darker, malevolent people,” notes Douglas on Pierce’s character. “He is just evil for the sake of being evil. That’s always fun to do, because then you get to pick whatever it is that’s setting you off and making you angry about the situation or person you’re attacking.”
Before the opening credits even run, Pierce had already targeted his next victim – none other than Clark Kent. Of course, the Kryptonian wasn’t about to go down without a fight!
“There are tons of stunts in this episode, unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to do any of my own,” states Douglas. “I like to do my own, but they had stunt doubles for me and Tom. There were high falls and crashing through banisters, railings, and really crazy stuff like that. Once I watched them film it, I realized it was probably best I didn’t do them! Tom and I just did the smaller stuff.”
“I do love the physical stuff,” continues Douglas. “I get to do a little bit of it on Battlestar Galactica. There’s only one stunt I wasn’t allowed to do, something about falling into a vat they wouldn’t let an actor do.”
Once Clark is under lock and key, Pierce is hardly an accommodating host, evidently getting a kick out of dishing out some serious pain instead.
In some warped way, Lionel Luthor originally believed he was keeping Clark safe from another threat until Pierce turned the tables on them, opting for a more fatal destiny for their captivated guest.
“From my understanding, Pierce had that in mind all along and maybe misinterpreted what Lionel really intended for him to do, that he was just supposed to capture and hold Clark,” offers Douglas. “I think it was probably Pierce’s intention all along to do away with Clark.”
There were a few confrontations between Pierce and Clark, but Douglas’ meatiest dialogue occurred with actor John Glover.
“That was great,” enthuses Douglas about his co-star. “John is just the nicest guy. The first day [of filming] he wasn’t feeling very well, but he sucked it up and went on for the 15 hours or so required. He’s a great actor, kind to everybody on set, and always in a good mood. There are no real egos on that set.”
Understandably for Douglas the main highlight of the episode involves the interaction between Pierce and Lionel Luthor.
“There’s a scene between Pierce and Lionel where I reveal my true intentions and knock him out,” Douglas says.
Eventually the cavalry arrived, yet by his own twisted sense of logic, Pierce had the best intentions at heart. After all, meteor freaks have frequently terrorized Smallville and Metropolis, but his judge, jury, and executioner style left little doubt that he was a villain.
“I would say he’s one, too,” agrees Douglas when asked how he sees his role. “Pierce had his own agenda. Villainous people don’t see themselves as villains, and crazy people don’t think they are crazy. From his point of view, I genuinely think Pierce believed he was saving the world and doing a good thing. For the rest of us, he’s a bad guy doing bad things. Maybe he was just misunderstood.”
No matter how many credits Douglas racks up, in an impressive list that includes blockbuster movies such as X2, Catwoman, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Reaper, Dead Zone, as well as the upcoming Keanu Reeves feature film remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, there is little doubt this Vancouver native will always be best remembered for his standout performance as the intense, fiercely dependable Chief Petty Officer Tyrol in the critically acclaimed Sci Fi series Battlestar Galactica.
“It’s been one hell of a ride, that’s for sure!” says Douglas of his role on the show. “[Acting in] Battlestar Galactica has been some of the most challenging work of my career, both professionally and personally. I’ve loved it, met some wonderful people, and made some long-lasting friendships on the set.”
And did he always believe he was destined for success?
“I was thinking about this last night. There were a bunch of bumps in the road professionally and I could have gone either way. I could have done this movie or gone to do Battlestar Galactica or some other TV show. My career would have been considerably different had I taken those other parts. I’m pretty proud of Battlestar Galactica and my work as the Chief. It’s a great piece of television that will stand up for a long time, something we can look back on fondly, and share with fans for years and years to come. It’s a lot like Star Wars on TV, where people will look back on 30 years from now and go ‘Boy, that was really fun!'”
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