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BIOGRAPHY CHANNEL: Exclusive to TIWWA - Interview with Shae Popovich

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Shae Popvich is an Emerican actress and social justice campaigner who fans remember fondly for her appearance in Forcing the End as Rachel Levinson. As well as appearing in our beloved franchise, Shae has appeared in Cold Feet, The Burning Zone and a number of feature films before taking a break from the profession to concentrate on matters close to her heart. Shae very kindly agreed to speak to us as part of our Easter celebrations.

TIWWA: I wondered if we could begin by asking you how your journey to the acting profession began and how you came to play the role of Rachel Levinson in Millennium's "Forcing The End"?

SHAE POPVICH: I started my acting career doing small theatre in Toronto. I eventually moved to Los Angeles where I joined a local theatre company. Several years later, I decided to move to Vancouver for a couple of years. I auditioned for "Millennium"and was excited because I was a huge "X-Files" and Chris Carter fan and Millennium was considered the "sister show" to X-Files. I auditioned along with several other women and the callback came down to 3 of us. I wasn't Jewish and the other 2 women were so I didn't think I would get the part, but I did. I remember being very nervous but was confident and felt in my heart that I was right for this part.


TIWWA: Were you familiar with Millennium prior to being cast in the show? Do you have any recollection of your own opinion of the show at that time and do you remember what your first impressions of "Forcing The End" were when you received the script?

SP: I was more familiar with X-Files and watched all episodes. I wasn't as familiar with Millennium but thought it was a very well done show and was always so intrigued with Lance Henriksen. I thought he had the most amazing and expressive face. I thought both Millennium and X-Files had such a unique look and the Vancouver cloudy/dewy outdoors certainly lent a interesting quality and feel to both shows. When I received the script for Forcing the End, I thought it was very well-written. My only concern was the Hebrew that I had to learn! The producers eventually sent me a tape with some of the Hebrew on it so that I could practice in my spare time.

TIWWA: "Forcing The End" was directed by a stalwart of the Millennium franchise, Thomas J Wright, who has elicited a lot of praise from cast members for his work on the show. What were your own experiences of working under his direction in comparison to other directors you have worked with?

SP: I found Thomas J. Wright to be one of the nicest, most patient directors I have worked with. I always felt a sense of calm on the set with him. Of course I tried my hardest to be bang on with all my lines for every take but I knew even if I screwed up, he wouldn't be on our cases. I think from what I witnessed that the crew respected him greatly.

TIWWA: Could you describe for us what you recall of the particular shoot? How long you were on set, which actors your principally worked with and whether it was an enjoyable shoot?

SP: I loved every day that I was on set with this episode. It was so far removed from anything I have ever done before. My shooting days were a combination of day and night scenes so my length of time on set for each particular scene varied. The night shoot where I am stoned to death was longer than usual but I was taken care of very well. It was Vancouver rain and chilly but I had many layers under that hideous black outfit so I was pretty warm and relaxed! I worked primarily with Andreas Katsulas and Juliet Landau. Of course my only scene with Lance was my death scene!


TIWWA: I had the opportunity to speak to Juliet Landau who recalled how demanding and intense the birthing scenes were and the need for trust amongst the actors taking part in those scenes. What are your own recollections of that particular scene and your own, and Juliet's, part in it?

SP:Juliet is correct. The birthing scenes were indeed demanding. We were in the water a long time and we all had to trust in each other that it would be okay. I was concerned about the Hebrew I was uttering (did it sound okay?) as well as handling a live baby in the water. I remember looking over at the baby's mother after every take and letting her know by a nod or a smile that I was being extra careful with her child. I remember that although the scenes called for some very heavy drama, that we managed to sneak in a few laughs to lighten it a bit. I had never been in a pool dressed in full garb before and the clothing became very heavy after awhile!

TIWWA: Your character was later killed after it was wrongly assumed that she had taken part in helping Juliet's character, Jeanie Bronstein, escape the clutches of the cult. Your final scenes had you covered in blood, laying on the ground after being stoned to death. Do you recall shooting those final scenes and was it as unpleasant to shoot as the end results make it look?

SP: I do indeed remember the stoning scene and the actual death scene. We shot Forcing The End out of sequence so I think the death scene was my second or third day on set. The make-up took about 1-2 hours to apply for that. I had a great time that evening. I formed a nice little bond with some of the actors that played some of the smaller roles. Several of us had worked together on other shows.

One sad note on this; one of the actors in the stoning scene who was very young passed away suddenly shortly after our show aired. It was not unpleasant to shoot the actual scene but it was indeed emotional, especially since I was gearing up to be stoned to death so it was important for me to focus and go within myself to reflect as the character would. I do remember asking Thomas if he wanted an open or closed eye death. I think we both decided that open eye would be more jarring. Lance was very sweet. He gave me a few tips on maintaining an open eye death because he does come up and shine the light on my eyes. I thought he was kind, considerate and very professional.


TIWWA: From a personal perspective, "Forcing The End" is, like much of Millennium, a dark and involved narrative and I wondered if humour amongst the cast and crew is a necessary part of shoots like these. Do recall any humorous incidents during filming.

SP: Forcing The End was indeed a dark and very involved narrative but yes, the cast and crew had several moments during my week of shooting that would have us laughing. The birthing scenes were among some of those as was my death scene and of course the late great Andreas Katsulas who played Gourevitch had a great sense of humor. He and I would share many a laugh during set-up and share stories of our lives, his in LA and mine currently in Vancouver.

TIWWA: Have you revisited the episode since you filmed it? If so, how would you appraise your work on the episode and and the episode itself a decade later?

SP: I may have watched the episode once or so since I shot it, I don't really remember. I am the type of person who will not want to revisit a part once I've completed it. I have a hard time watching myself. How would I appraise my work? Well, I think for the most part I tackled the part in the manner that I had hoped I would. My not being really Jewish didn't matter. It was the soul and energy of the character and what I gave to Rachel that was important. I used my truth as Shae to focus in on what I believed the heart of Rachel was all about. So, in that respect, I suppose I succeeded. Millennium was a great show and it still holds up to this day.

TIWWA: Could you tell us a little about your work since Millennium and what Millennium fans can keep their eyes and ears open for with regards to the continuing career of Shae Popovich?

SP: I stepped away from performing shortly after Forcing The End. I think I did an independent film and perhaps one more TV show. Then, in 2001 I became involved in the social justice movement. I have been to the Middle East on two peace delegations and I am currently running a peace and justice non-profit. However, in the last several months I have decided that my performing side is and will always be a part of me so I am going to take the plunge and get back into some acting. I just signed with a manager and I hope to be auditioning again soon. I will be doing a play(a comedy who dunnit murder mystery) called Immaculate Deception shortly (May/June) here in LA where I will be playing a nun!

TIWWA: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me and to fans of Millennium and we wish you every continued success for the future.

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Another great interview, thanks Shae and Mark!

I love hearing new tidbits about behind the scenes of Millennium, and this is no exception.

Happy Easter from Iceland!

- Jósef

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Nice interview gents. It's a shame the great Andreas Katsulas (or G'Kar to his friends) is no longer with us in so many ways, but another is added in that he isn't here to talk about his time on MILLENNIUM.

Looking forward to more from the Biography channel!

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  • Elders (Admins)

What a superb and intriguing interview! It certainly can't of been easy for the cast and crew, filming such a dark episode. Its difficult tale to watch, especially given that some of the actors have passed on. I'm glad there was some levity on the set during filming, so that it didn't get too dark.

Thank you for your time Shea, good luck with your career and return to acting!

Thanks Mark for arranging this Easter gem, and for the wonderful questions, you have still got it! Its not easy composing interview questions folks like these, Mark deserves everyone of your rep points, so share the love!

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Thank you Graham. It really was a shame to learn that someone died so young not longer after filming this episode but their talent remains immortalised in it and it's clear from Shae's words that being part of Millennium was a meaningful and very memorable experience for all involved.


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