Interview: Killjoys‘ Tamsen McDonough Talks Fan Experiences, Playing a Spaceship & Being Part of the MCU
In case you haven’t noticed, I am a huge fan of space, space westerns, and of Killjoys in particular. Even more specifically, I’m a huge fan of A.I. characters and even wrote about their origins and my favorites recently! So, when I was offered the chance to ask Tamsen McDonough from Killjoys (keep making shows, Michelle Lovretta, and I’ll just keep watching and loving them!) some questions over email, I was a complete fangirl about it. My goal in creating the questions was to be as interesting as possible for entry-level fans, and established fans alike, and to make the questions at least somewhat entertaining for Tamsen to answer. She was absolutely lovely about responding and in her correspondence. Without further ado, have a look at my interview with Tamsen McDonough, the woman behind Lucy the Spaceship in Killjoys, the best big damn space western since Firefly!
Sara Goodwin (TMS): How would you describe Killjoys to someone who had never heard of the show before to get them interested in watching it?
Tamsen McDonough: Killjoys is a comedic and dramatic action TV series set in space. It follows a trio of bounty hunters, known as Killjoys, who chase deadly warrants through the Quad, a distant area that is near the start of a violent class war among multiple planets. And their mode of transportation is the sleek and sassy AI spaceship, Lucy. She’s been called the fouth Killjoy and loves her humans (especially John)… no bias but I think she’s amazing! ;)
Do you have a definite favorite episode of Killjoys? If so, which one and why.
I really do love episode 206 where Lucy gets downloaded into the fembot. It was so cool cutting Lucy loose, letting her have some fun, and getting some great data… can finally smooching your crush be called “data”?
Is Killjoys the kind of show you normally watch? Are you a science fiction/fantasy person? What are some of your favorite pieces of entertainment? Older, newer, etc.
I admit that I really enjoy TV in general and tend to watch a smattering of shows, simply depending on my mood (or if I saw an ad for something… I’m an advertiser’s dream). Killjoys happens to be a big one for me as I love shows that have a bit of everything: action, adventure, comedy, drama, SPFX, style and attitude. Firefly was also great for having a balance of everything, and other shows like Burn Notice and Lucifer. But I love sitcoms: Mike and Molly, gritty dramas: Justified, dark-comedy thrillers: Dexter, or ‘thinkers’: West Wing… okay, I have to stop or I’ll fill up an entire page ;)
What are some of your personal favorite AIs from other shows, movies, etc., and did they influence your interpretation of Lucy? Some of my previous favorites (before Lucy, of course,) were Rommie from Andromeda and J.A.R.V.I.S. from Iron Man.
J.A.R.V.I.S. from Iron Man is definitely one of my favourites, as is C-3P0. Both for their personalities and loyalty to their humans. Those are the two main characters that I took a look at for inspiration.
When you’re not busy being Lucy, what do you like to do? Any hobbies, other projects you’re working on? (Are you secretly a pop star in some other country?)
I would LOVE to secretly (or not so secretly) be a pop star in another country, but I think they all know that my singing voice sounds like nails on a chalk-board. I like to write TV and film projects; generally fail miserably but have a great time doing activities like trapeze, wall-climbing, archery, etc.; watch movies and TV (bien sur); and harass my friends.
You were in The Incredible Hulk, the 2008 version with Edward Norton. What was it like being in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film? Is that something you would want to do again? Do you have a favorite superhero you would like to see make it to the screen or even play yourself? (Were you Team Iron Man or Team Cap, or Team something else entirely?)
It was very cool to work on a project with so many talented people and such a large budget (though they shot a lot of footage and most of my part ended up on the cutting room floor… I must have just been TOO good… heheh).
I would of course love to do more–Spiderman’s Black Cat would be a dream to play as she’s both witty and silly, with just the right mix of good and bad intentions.
I know that your experience working on Killjoys is different from the rest of the cast because you probably do the voice work alone in a booth and see the final integrated product later. Have you gotten to know and interact with the cast of the show in other arenas like conventions?
I met a bunch of the cast for actor hangouts (like Thom Allison’s “Shut Up, It’s Christmas” show last year), but I finally got to meet Luke MacFarlane for the first time when I went to set for episode 206. He’s incredibly nice, and much funnier and goofier than anyone would imagine of someone with a “very, very nice chest” (I read that somewhere ;)
I’m a huge fan of conventions. I go to them to listen to actors talk about the media I love, to interact with other fans, and see the amazing cosplays. I’d love to see a Killjoys panel if any come reasonably near to where I live! I know that you and many of the others have been on some convention panels. Do you have any good convention stories to share with us?
I’m with you, I have realllly enjoyed my convention experiences. It’s so much fun interacting with the fans. My first convention was for Killjoys season 1 and it was the first time I was meeting any of the cast from the show: Aaron Ashmore. He’s even more sweet and handsome than you’d expect, but didn’t help my nerves when he informed me that he was also very nervous (after the dozens of conventions he’s been a guest at)… gulp ;) But I survived, also with the help of the amazing hosts of Innerspace: Morgan Hoffman and Ajay Fry.
I love it when Lucy is funny and teasing, like in a recent episode when John told her to put on her “analysis pants,” and Lucy replied, “I don’t wear pants, John. I’m a spaceship.” What are some of your favorite things Lucy has gotten to say? Is all of it down to the writers of the show, or have there been any lines or ideas that were yours?
I would love to take some credit for Lucy’s killer lines, but that’s all Michelle Lovretta and her writers.
I think Lucy’s especially fun to play whenever she gets fastidious about her physical body, like when things gets spilled on her or a pregnant person is trying to give birth on her loading dock.
You had worked with Michelle Lovretta before on Lost Girl. Did they think of you for the role of Lucy because of your previous experience? What was it like to audition for the role of spaceship?
When I was auditioning, one of the notes I was given was that the producers really liked the sassiness of my Lost Girl character, and to see if I could channel some of that vibe into Lucy.
Auditioning for a spaceship? It’s so rare for that opportunity to come up in an actor’s career so I was super jazzed!
In my opinion, the biggest strengths of Killjoys are the relationships between the characters, from John and Dutch’s platonic love for each other, to D’avin and John’s brotherly bond, to Lucy’s affinity with John. I feel like the audience is given a buffet of types of affection to choose from. I don’t want to be too spoilery for those who have not yet finished season 2 or haven’t seen the show yet at all, but one of my favorite things about Lucy has been her bond with John Jaqobis. The end of season 2 pulled my heart out through my nose and stomped on it a little bit. That Lucy understood that he needed to go and didn’t want him to be alone was a beautiful moment. Is it harder to get into the emotion of a scene like that when you’re not physically there with the rest of the cast?
I’m with you, I think the writers have done a ridiculously good job of creating unique, complex, and entertaining yet real relationships.
That final “heart pulled through nose scene” was hard to do in the studio. Aaron did such a lovely job that I kept tearing up and had to start again.
It’s always more fun to work with actors in person, but the sound studio is set up to make it easy for actors to get into character and react to what they see on the giant screen with enveloping sound. I also get to see most or all of the SPFX in place so I don’t need to imagine those pieces, as the others have to do while on set.
What directions would you like to see your character move toward? A lot of fans seem to want Lucy to have a permanent physical presence, similar to Rommie from Andromeda, and like we got to see for a few moments in the episode, “I Love Lucy,” where you got to play an android version of Lucy and collect some serious “data” on John Jaquobis. Do you think that’s a direction the show might take in the future?
It’s always so nice for actors when their characters get what they want, get to fulfill their dreams. And I feel like Lucy would love to get more and more “data”, but I think she’s also a pragmatic AI and is happy with whatever way the wind blows so long as she gets to hang out with her humans… so that’s where I sit ;)
Are there elements of your own sense of humor and personality that go into the character you play? What advice would you have for people who want to enter the field of acting and/or voice acting?
I believe that a great character is an amalgamation of the writer’s vision, the actor’s personality and ideas, and the relationships with other characters. Killjoys is actually a perfect example of where a character can shift depending on the relationship with other characters: Lucy was supposed to favour John, though not necessarily be so flirty with him. But when I first stepped into the studio to work with Michelle Lovretta and the other producers and creatives, seeing John’s handsome face and his affection for Lucy changed my interpretation of their relationship, causing her to have a strong crush on him. And we all just went along with it.
Do you have any humorous stories from your work on Killjoys? Bloopers, on-set or at-convention silliness, or social media-related things?
On the “I Love Lucy” episode, one of the sets has a replicator prop surrounded by long, vertical bars. At the end of almost every take in our scene there, all the characters would grab the bars as in a strip-club and dance around… until someone finally grabbed a boombox and played the famous “Magic Mike” song “Pony” to get the mood right.
Killjoys images via Syfy
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Sara Goodwin has a B.A. in Classical Civilization and an M.A. in Library Science from Indiana University. Once she went on an archaeological dig and found awesome ancient stuff. Sara enjoys a smorgasbord of pan-nerd entertainment such as Renaissance faires, anime conventions, steampunk, and science fiction and fantasy conventions. In her free time, she writes things like fairy tale haiku, fantasy novels, and terrible poetry about being stalked by one-eyed opossums. In her other spare time, she sells nerdware as With a Grain of Salt Designs, Tweets, and Tumbls.
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