After US credits including True Blood, Lost and Ugly Betty, it was Defiance that elevated Grant Bowler to an international series lead.
Bowler plays lawkeeper Joshua Nolan in the post-apocalyptic town of Defiance, where aliens exist alongside humans.
In the Canadian series now approaching its third season, this NZ-born Aussie performs alongside Scottish, British, Canadian and American actors, in a world where sci-fi allows for bold concepts.
“That works for the show because it’s meant to be a melting pot. It’s meant to be about disparate cultures, and it seems to work really well,” he says.
“It gives you a bit of license to explore those greater themes, and it also allows you to bend some rules in terms of gender politics, race and a number of other areas. Science fiction gives you a lot of grace.”
Filming in Toronto, the series even combines the western and sci-fi genres.
“It is very much a meld of those two tropes, with a dash of post apocalyptic thrown in as well,” Bowler explains.
“We built an entire town in the backlot where a good half of our work is done. For anything macro we use green screen to a degree. But we make sure all our locations are wilderness and uninhabited.
“Every other show shoots downtown near the restaurants, and we’ve never shot anywhere with cafes or people.”
But filming in Toronto is not without its hazards, with unforgiving weather making this season especially tough.
“My first day there was a snowstorm, and I mean 3 feet of snow. Not like in Australia. It was minus 28 degrees with the wind chill and we were shooting on the edge of ravine,” he continues.
“When I looked at the shot on playback the snow was blowing up the ravine it was that cold. The big print on the scene was ‘Nolan and Irisa come to be covered in snow.’ It was the coldest I had ever been in my entire life!”
Much of Bowler’s scenes are with his adopted alien daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), and the town’s new mayor, Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) but season three also adds new cast members Lee Tergesen, Conrad Coates and Nichole Galicia.
“Season Three the show hits its stride. I remember that in a lot of shows, True Blood became perfectly itself in that season. I think it happens a lot where shows throw out all their ideas in the second and they figure out what they are in the third. Lost was like that,” he suggests.
“The show is very directional and thematic again, and very focussed. That’s what I’ve been loving about shooting this season. I’ve been getting to the end of episodes and looking back at them individually thinking, ‘I love that episode about Redemption or Responsibility.’
“The first two episodes are brutal. The environment is brutal in terms of where we were shooting, but also the politics and consequences of everybody’s actions.”
Also returning is original Terminator heroine, Linda Hamilton as Pilar McCawley.
“There is far more of Linda Hamilton is S3 than in S2. She kicks off right off the bat. She’s an absolute trouper. We were out in that weather together, and she stood out there in minus 30 with me. She’s as tough as ten men, that girl.”
I can’t help but ask Bowler if he has any thoughts on why Australian television hasn’t produced much in the way of Science Fiction TV?
“Our guys always talk about doing things as CGI projects because it is in reality, much cheaper. But I think the perception is that it’s really expensive and difficult,” he says.
“But I think we haven’t had a lot of the technicians. New Zealand has a big store of them because of Peter Jackson. But I don’t know that we really grow a lot of 3D animators in the TV world.
“We seem to have a huge addiction to True Crime, which seems to populate a lot of our Television. But I don’t really know the answer to that. You see a lot of Science Fiction in British and American. They seem to have the market covered.”
The versatile Bowler, who has hosted The Amazing Race Australia (he says there are no plans for more) and impressed in NZ dramedy Outrageous Fortune, is also looking forward to the upcoming prequel, Westside.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea. It will come down to the cast, because for us it was so much about chemistry and how well James (Griffin) and Rachel (Long) can write to that cast. I have no doubt about their talent, but there is always a degree of alchemy,” he adds.
“I can’t wait to see it. I hope it goes gangbusters. I really do.”
Defiance returns 8:30pm Saturday June 13 on Syfy.