Back to Frank Black speaks to Bill Marchant

Bill Marchant is an actor, director, and writer, his feature film “Everyone” won Best Canadian Film at the Montreal Festival and played to packed houses at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Mr. Marchant is also an accomplished musician, having produced and co-written the album “Odlum” with singer-songwriter Michael Chase. Tracks from the album have been featured on Showtime’s “Queer as Folk” (2000), Fox Television’s “Higher Ground” (2000), and the feature film “Suspicious River”, directed by Lynne Stopkewich.

To Millennium fans he will be recognisable for his two appearances on the show in season two’s 19:19 and season three’s Collateral Damage. Despite being incredibly busy, Mr. Marchant took the time to talk to us at BackToFrankBlack and we are extremely grateful to him for his time and encouragement.

BACK TO FRANK BLACK: I believe that prior to your first on-screen role, in Millennium’s “19:19”, that you were a drama teacher in Vancouver for many years and working predominantly in theatre. What inspired the transition from stage to screen and can you recall the process that lead to “Millennium” appearing on your resume?

BILL MARCHANT: I did do some film and television work in my youth but played mostly in the theatre until my 30’s. I never considered my self a theatre or film actor; I am an actor, period. The only thing that changes is the size of the audience. In film, the audience is “one”.

The role on 19:19 was a joy because I only had a small amount of dialogue but was a large role. I could concentrate on learning camera technique and the subtleties of physical characterization.

BTFB: Was that something of a daunting experience for you given that it was your first television role and you’re suddenly surrounded by veterans of that type of work such as Kristen Cloke, Lance Henriksen and Christian Hoff and can you recall the mechanics of that role e.g. how long filming took, how much rehearsal time you had and your recollections of the cast and crew?

BM: I was on set for 7 days. The cast were all so sweet. Very friendly. Christian and I hit it off right away. He’s a dedicated, focused actor and great man. Lance? Well, he’s one of my heroes. His resume speaks for itself. Being part of the “19:19” experience is one I will always remember and cherish.

BTFB: Interestingly your second television role was also in Millennium, this time as David Cougar in ‘Collateral Damage’, at that point there had been huge changes in not only the cast and crew but in the nature of the show’s thematic and the type of story it was changing. How do you rate your second appearance on the franchise in terms of experience, personal satisfaction with your work and so on?

BM: That was a strange shoot and I was blinded by the prosthetics for a whole day and couldn’t use my fingers at all because of the latex stubs they gave me. A teamster had to help me go to the bathroom. Very uncomfortable but funny in retrospect.

Again, all the cast and crew were a joy to work with. Millennium was a pleasant experience overall and I enjoyed my time on both episodes of the show. Working on anything Chris Carter has created is a real gift to an actor and I am grateful for the experience.

BTFB: For people who are not appreciators of Millennium and what it aspired to achieve it is often posited that it was too dark, too philosophical, too intense for a large audience to digest it. As a a writer yourself, when you’re faced with blank page, as Chris Carter was, is there an internal argument between telling the story you want to tell and giving the audience what you think they will want to see?

BM: You have to write what you must and hope that the audience finds you. Chris is a genius. Simple as that. I’ll follow him anywhere.

It’s similar to acting, I always bring my passion and professionalism. I treat every role like it was Shakespeare. I also have a deep love for science fiction, so I give over to “play” with ready abandon. You have to go where you must.

BTFB: I know your recognised, amongst your many roles, for your appearance in Stargate and you’ve spoken of the attention you’ve received from fans of the show and now you’re here talking about Millennium with fans of that franchise. Do you believe ‘the fans’ matter to the industry, do they matter to the artist and are they capable of affecting change and resurrecting shows in the way so many attempt to do?

BM: A fan doesn’t watch a show; they are the show. You can’t have one without the other. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

BTFB: I know you’ve talked of your love of sci-fi in other interviews you have given and wondered what science fiction films or television programmes you rate highly in terms of narrative given that you have an informed eye with regards to the processes that brought that script to the screen?

BM: I just saw Moon and it blew me away. Silent Running is favourite. And Alien. Oh god, I love Alien. 2001. It doesn’t get better than that.

BTFB: If you look back over your career and the numerous roles you have portrayed what gives you the biggest sense of satisfaction and what was it about that particular role that made you choose it?

BM: I loved Stargate but the show I am the proudest of is Millennium 19:19. The storytelling was masterful. I loved that I was responsible for developing the character. Tom Wright gave me total freedom in that role, to make it my own. That was a very rewarding and privileged position to be in.

BTFB: You’ve acted, written, directed and produced, you’ve had a string of successful plays across the continent and you are an accomplished musician to boot. What’s next in the continuing career of Bill Marchant and what drives you to continue to explore different mediums of creativity and different roles within those mediums?

BM: I have four(!) plays opening in the next year, including Gift of Screws which opens in October. I am finishing work on another feature called Exley which will be in festivals in 2010 and I have a pet project called Phillum for tiny art films that I’ve made which should be up by the end of the year at Phillum.com

BTFB: Thank you, Bill, for taking time from your busy schedule to speak to us.