Vancouver born writer/director Dan Zukovic began his career as an actor working both on stage, and in television appearing in Guest Starring roles on "The X-Files", "Cold Squad", "Millenium", and feature length films such as "The Perfect Score", "Cody Banks", and "Disturbing Behavior".
To fans of Millennium he will be instantly recognisable for two memorable appearances in the franchise as Waylon Figgleif in 'Somehow Satan Got Behind Me' and Robbinski in 'Jose Chung's 'Doomsday Defense.' I have been particularly eager to have the opportunity to talk to Dan due in no small part to my intense admiration for those episodes and for the amazing contribution he makes to them. Both episodes required a certain something from the perfomers that few could competently deliver and Dan is a sterling example of Millennium's adept casting choices. We thank Dan for taking time from his busy schedule to speak to us.
BACKTOFRANKBLACK: Firstly, allow me to begin by saying what a pleasure it is to have the chance to speak to you. Could we enquire how you came to be a part of 'Millennium'?
DAN ZUKOVIC: I was up in Vancouver, and had auditioned for the show in it's first season. The wonderful Canadian casting directors Coreen Mayrs and Heike Brandstatter (they did "Millenium", as well as "The X-Files"), who have an unusual and refreshing openess to different, at times risky performance choices, brought me in to read for "Jose Chung". So, they were the ones who brought me to Darin Morgan's attention--which led to "Jose Chung", then several months later I did Darin's second "Millenium" episode as writer/director, "Suddenly, Satan..."
BTFB: Darin Morgan is largely considered something of a narrative genius and as fans of his we wouldn't contest that. When you received the scripts for 'Somehow Satan Got Behind Me' and 'Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense', were you aware at the time that you were holding something particularly special in your hands?
DZ: Without question. I've done my fair share of televisual palaver, and it's instantly apparent when a writer is coming from an original, warped, ambitious place. Language, ideas, butt crack jokes--this was all part of the bizarre cocktail Darin Morgan was serving up. (Indeed I quaff from the same glass myself.) This crashing together of high philosophical discourse and low bodily humor was a bracing thing to read, and as you point out, Darin was able to weave it all together with a strange narrative pull--which may be the true test of a writer.
BTFB: With regards to 'Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense' we are aware that at the time of broadcast that executives on the show and at the studio had taken concerned calls from within the Scientology community expressing concern about the alleged depiction of them via the cult of 'Selfosophy'. When you were making this episode was their any anticipation that it would be somewhat controversial with regards to this?
DZ: As I recall, any potential controversy wasn't specifically spoken of on set, but I'm sure the exec's had their concerns. For awhile there one scurried with extra speed past certain intersections on Hollywood Blvd.
It was a privilege and a blast working with the whole "Millennium" team. Lance was most welcoming, and we had nice chats on both episodes. In "Jose Chung", I took a pretty keyed up, "juiced" attack on the character, and I was a little unsure of how he was going to go with it, but he was absolutely onside--and his reaction shots were priceless. (Indeed he talked about wanting to do more offbeat comedy himself, which I think would be a great avenue for him.) It was particularly rewarding working with Darin, as I believe "Jose Chung" was his first time directing. As a writer with a truly idiosyncratic voice, I'm sure he had been thinking about taking the next step to directing for awhile. As a result, he had definitely thought things through, was super prepared, yet had a nice open touch with the actors.
Television moves at a murderous pace, and Darin finessed it nicely, also coming up with an effective visual correlative to his writing, with inventive comedic sight gags, etc. (And of course along these lines, mention also must be made of the superb Canadian DP Robert McLachlan.) Darin would be an example of a Writer/Director in which neither function can really be separated, they are both creating the integrated "voice" and style--which makes one hope he gets back into the Writer/Director saddle soon...his voice is needed now more than ever.
BTFB: We are aware that a number of the cast and crew actively sough roles within Millennium due to the impression the first season of the show made on them. Were you aware of the franchise before you appeared on it? I would imagine if you were your own episodes would have come as something of a surprise?
DZ: As I had auditioned in the first season I was aware of, and impressed, by the show. But yes, given the established somber and ominous quality of the series up to that point, Darin's episodes definitely came as a left field surprise. The great thing about "Millenium" was that it had the elasticity to accomodate Darin's bizarre comic vision, and then be able to snap back into the more serious core tone.
BTFB: You've worked as an actor, director and writer and I was delighted to discover that your own movie, 'Dark Arc' is a very stylish, dark comedy that had me in mind of the eccentricity of Darin's work. Has your exposure to his work on Millennium informed your writing in any way and how would you describe the style of 'Dan Zukovic' to someone who has not experienced your work?
DZ: I actually consider that we were working in parallel (Darin more in television, myself in the indie feature film world), which I why I have a great affinity for his work. My first feature film "The Last Big Thing" (which was shot in 1995, before I did the "Millenium's") was actually characterized by a lot of the media as a "millennial comedy". (It was a nice surprise when Darin showed up at a later screening of the film at the American Cinematheque, about which he was quite complimentary.) "Dark Arc" is, fittingly, darker, with a more psychosexual, art-obsessed side--but still hopefully laced with offbeat humor. (An art film, amongst other things, with a comic awareness of the Art Film). Another thing Darin and I share is this self-reflexive quality, along with a bending and blurring of genre in order to hopefully get at a somewhat more complex, yet still entertaining tone. So, as regards my own work, my primer for the uninitiated would be--expect something you haven't quite experienced before.
BTFB: Millennium has an episode entitled 'Thirteen Years Later' and, prophetically, thirteen years later interest in the show has never been more vibrant. What do you ascribe as being responsible for the show's enduring popularity? Would you like to see a cinematic vision of Millennium and would you relish the opportunity to be part of that project?
DZ: Well, I think "Millenium" was always about the broader Millennial transition time, so the weirdness wasn't going to stop on January 1st, 2000--nor has it. In fact, it's only gotten weirder. That strange, almost animal sense that some deep, unsettling, tectonic shift is taking place, and that we are still in the middle of it (or the beginning) is what gives it a continuing viability. And unlike some series the occupation and concerns of the lead character don't feel moribund or hackneyed, deep-rooted in the time of the original show--in fact, quite the opposite. So I think a cinematic version of "Millenium"--updating the mysterious quest of Frank Black-- is a fantastic idea, and it goes without saying that I would love to be a part of it. (Nonetheless, I just said it.)
BTFB: If you look back over your career as performer in front of the lens, what do you consider to the be most satisfying portrayal you have given as an actor? Do you feel your skills as a performer have been sufficiently utilised or have certain roles eluded you that would like the opportunity to portray?
DZ: Actually, the two "Millenium's" remain an absolute high point for me as an actor (again, it's all about the writing), along with my own two feature films. As with most jobbing thesp's, I don't yet feel I've played that key role--so the hunt, alas, continues.
BTFB: What can admirers of your work keep their eyes open for with regards to the continuing career of Dan Zukovic? Having accomplished so much and having had the experience of a number of roles is there an undiscovered country with regards to film and television you would like to tackle next?
DZ: At long last, my first feature "The Last Big Thing" should be available on DVD (and digital platforms) soon, with "Dark Arc" shortly to follow. Currently I'm gearing up for a new indie feature film as writer/director (and actor)--a 21st Century global scammer noir (with dark comic elements), which should definitely be of interest to "Millenium" fans. It features a key role written specifically for Kirk Douglas (we are currently trying to get to him). So that may be the new undiscovered country--another genre-annihilating exploration of these strange times, with a killer turn for the great 92-year-old Kirk Douglas!
BTFB: Many thanks for taking the time to talk to us Dan, let's close with a bit of fun.
MILLENIUM GROUP INITIATION TEST
1) Heaven is.... Screening the Criterion Edition of "Ace In the Hole" (I'm on a Kirk Douglas DVD jag)
2) People who know me think I'm... Somewhat wacked
3) Heaven is... A Newcastle and attendant foodstuffs
4) I must confess I... Am trying to get ahold of Kirk Douglas
5) My Motto is... I am He as You are He and You are Me and We are All Together
For more information about 'Dark Arc' check out the link here!