I spoke with Kandyse McClure about her role as Dr. Landis Barker in Syfy’s Ghost Wars, her experience working with Kim Coates, Vincent D’Onofrio, Meat Loaf and the rest of that phenomenal cast, being part of the Stephen King world, being directed by Jason Priestly, her role on Supernatural, and so much more. Ghost Wars also stars Kim Coates, Vincent D’Onofrio, Avan Jogia, Kristin Lehman, and Meat Loaf. Ghost Wars premieres Thursday, October 5th at 10/9c on Syfy.
Lena Lamoray: I’ve been looking forward to Ghost Wars since the cast was announced and then I was really sold when I saw the trailer.
Kandyse McClure: I know, the trailer is crazy. We were actually blown away too because we had no idea. At that point, I think we were just a few episodes in, it was our first glimpse at what the tone that they were going for really was. That was exciting for us too.
What we know so far is that a mass haunting is threatening to destroy everyone in a remote town in Alaska. Can you elaborate on that?
Kandyse McClure: What’s interesting to me is how people deal with it. The town becomes overrun by ghosts but how people accept it, or rationalize it, or how it comes up against their own personal beliefs. How it makes them behave is what’s interesting to me. Certainly my character, Dr. Landis Barker, as a theoretical physicist she’s always skirting this line between what’s really possible in the universe and then having to prove it. A lot of the time she’s preoccupied with proving whether these things are real or not.
Since you were in an episode of Supernatural, how do you think Sam and Dean Winchester would handle what’s going on in Ghost Wars?
Kandyse McClure: [Laughing] Well, I can see one of them being really excited about it and one of them being really disbelieving of it. They would probably get the ghosts to turn on themselves—those two charming boys.
It must have been great working on that show.
Kandyse McClure: My time was brief. I just came in as a guest star, but it was so great to see Jensen Ackles again. It’s been way too long since I last worked with him. We worked together on Dark Angel and that was so long ago. The fans of that show are incredible. Even though I was only there for that one episode, they just embraced me as part of the Supernatural family as well. What an incredible fan base.
They did a phenomenal job casting Ghost Wars.
Kandyse McClure: Isn’t it great! Wait, I’m not saying that about myself. You know what I mean. [Laughing] I mean just sitting at the first table read and hearing the words spoken for the first time by the actual voices. What is it about this show that has these people gravitating towards this work? That was really interesting. It’s ghost wars, we are telling a story about a war with ghosts. There are layers here that have obviously caught the attention of people who are really interested in doing real work, and I get to be in scenes with these people. It was everything that I had hoped it would be.
Kim Coates is one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met. Do you have any fun stories about working with him that you can share?
Kandyse McClure: Doesn’t he just have the biggest heart? I worked with Kim predominantly. Our two characters do quite a bit together. We all have a Kim Coates impression. [Laughing] He has little sayings and isms that are definitely him. They are all very catchy and we all found ourselves saying them. He just has a very generous way about him. He’s thinking about everything that’s going on in the scene, in front of the camera and behind it. He wants everybody to be included in that. He’s very generous in terms of going over lines and talking about issues and talking about scenes. He clearly just loves what he’s doing, and it’s very contagious to just be around him. That’s Coatesy!
Can you talk about working with the rest of the cast?
Kandyse McClure: It’s kind of obnoxious because it was a bit of a love fest. When you first begin a series in particular where you are going to be working with these people for a long time you do seek to find a commonality, in a way a sense of intimacy. You do have to trust these people to be with you in the work and in what you’re doing. You work long hours, especially with a lot of visual effects because those things are very time consuming, but there was a very natural synergy amongst all of us. Vincent D’Onofrio is captivating. You forget that you’re in a scene because he does just suspend the world around him. He’s also really funny, really kind, and a bit of a joker. It’s so much about the work. It’s lovely to just be so in it with somebody like that—his experience as well. Avan Jogia has such an ease about him with the depth that he just pulls out of well, I’m not sure where. I didn’t get to work with some people on the cast as much. Sharon Taylor is so incredible. She’s got this powerful femininity about her that’s so captivating on-screen. Kristin Lehman, who directed as well as acted in a few of our episodes, the level of experience that she was bringing to the work was great. She was so inclusive and so, so smart in that she’s thinking about everything around her, whether she’s acting in the scene or she’s there directing the crew—great leadership. Jesse Moss was so great to see. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked with Jesse and he’s doing some phenomenal work. Meat Loaf is fantastic in the show. I think people are going to be maybe not surprised, he is a rock god after all. What can’t he do? He brings a vulnerability to the role that was unexpected from what the character is, I think. It’s just really beautiful to watch. I can’t say enough good things. We all just had a really good time. That’s the long and the short of it. [Laughing]
That’s always really great to hear. Meat Loaf was my favorite in Fight Club.
Kandyse McClure: Yes. He’s really, really fantastic. The choices that he made. He’s so committed and so into it. It’s really incredible to watch.
Jason Priestly also directed some episodes.
Kandyse McClure: Yes, Jason Priestly came in and directed some episodes. We loved it when he was there. He really knows what he wants to see. He’s been doing this a minute, so he has the procedure definitely locked down. [Laughing] The methodology—he’s thinking so fast. He knows exactly what he wants to see. Our days with him were so great because he was so clear about what he wanted that he had time for us as well. We were able to talk about things and work through things.
Do you think it’s easier working with directors that are also actors?
Kandyse McClure: Selfishly, as an actor, yes. [Laughing] Maybe not for production. As an actor, yes. You have a commonality of language in understanding what the truth of what’s going on really is and bringing words to life—we have a common language that we can speak from. Sometimes, not all the time, when you have directors that come from a more technical background that’s not always the case. In that case you have to be self-responsible to what it is that you have to do. You always have to be self-responsible really, but it becomes this lovely luxury to be able to speak with a director with more depth. Leslie Hope, who directed episodes two and three, was phenomenal for that. She’s definitely an actors’ director but also so technically proficient and knew what she wanted to see but was available to give options—to try things differently and figure it out later on and just give them all those choices. That was a lot of fun.
You have plenty of experience fighting the supernatural and being supernatural, with the roles that you’ve taken on over the years. Do you prefer being supernatural or fighting the supernatural?
Kandyse McClure: Wow, what a question. Being supernatural. I haven’t gotten to be supernatural as much and I think I would like that.
At least in The Seventh Son you got to play a witch.
Kandyse McClure: Yes. Also my role in Alphas, I was so sad that the show got cancelled. I had a lot of friends on that show. Matt Hastings gave me one of my first jobs back in the day. It was great to work with him again. Warren Christie is a great old and lovely friend. He’s not old, we’ve just known each other for a long time. [Laughing] I was so bummed when that show got cancelled, but more bummed when I found out I wasn’t going to get to play Agnes. I thought she was so interesting—this person that all she wanted was to just be close to people and she never could. Yes, playing transforming witches and mutants with superpowers. I think as humans we do, kind of, have superpowers. It’s about taping into what that is and turning the dial up on it. I think fighting them you operate from a little bit more curiosity but I would prefer to have the superpowers.
You were in Carrie and Children of the Corn, a couple of films by Stephen King. What was it like being part of that world?
Kandyse McClure: What a legacy. When I look back on it, I’ve done quite a bit of Stephen King. How did that happen? [Laughing] With both, and I resist this term, but it is what it is colorblind casting of both those roles. It was really interesting and I think something that happened more often in sci-fi and thriller than in other places. Carrie was a really pivotal role in my career. It’s one of the first feature leads that I did. I identified so much with the character. I was really learning a lot about the craft and what it meant to be an actor doing that role. That was such a great introduction to it. They play that movie all the time, both of those movies. I’m constantly getting twitter messages about it. It’s crazy. Children of the Corn was definitely a little more challenging—the process of it. I wanted to do something else with that character but had to stay true to a lot of the original work, so that was a learning curve. I am now a part of this Stephen King alumni. [Laughing] Not anywhere that I ever imagined I would be but again what interested me was the telling of the really culturally ingrained stories that people really knew. They grew up with them, and had memories of them, and they did it in a way where my race wasn’t an issue. It was never discussed and it was never a thing. It just was.
I’m so glad that IT is doing well.
Kandyse McClure: IT is doing so well. I’ve been messaging back and fourth with them in Sweden. I missed the premiere. I’m so happy for Bill Skarsgård.
Do you still keep in touch with Bill (Hemlock Grove)?
Kandyse McClure: Yes, and Landon and Brian. I saw Landon not too long ago here in Vancouver. This is the thing about series work and a perk of this job that I’m so grateful for is that you do form families with the people that you’re around. Obviously, it didn’t happen all of time but I’ve been genuinely lucky. In my body of work, I’ve made some really close and lovely friends in people that I would never have met otherwise.
I was looking at your Instagram and I noticed that you enjoy spending time in nature. What have been some of your favorite animal encounters?
Kandyse McClure: It’s less about the animals and more about the trees. I do have a scary animal encounter story. I was on, kind of, a safari in South Africa. We got out of the car, near a lake to stretch our legs, and I almost went walking down the beach until I spotted what had to be a ten-foot crocodile. I quickly got back in the car. Especially in South Africa, you run into zebras and all different kinds of deer, elk, and stuff like that. I love dogs. I don’t have one because I travel so much but I’m a big dog lover. I think they bring so much joy and love into peoples’ lives. It’s more just about being near water and trees—just not around concrete.
What other projects do you have coming up?
Kandyse McClure: I’ll be shooting an episode of The Good Doctor. I shot an independent film called Moving Parts. It’s kind of heavy content about human trafficking through the Caribbean, particularly from Asia. That will be coming out at the festival really soon. I actually have a film coming out at the Trinidad and Tobago Festival. It’s a short that I did with my friend called Salty Dog. I’ve got a project in South Africa with a director Jamal Qhubeka that I’m still in talks about. Hopefully, the schedule works out with that. It will be shooting in South Africa, which I really hope I get to do. I’ve always wanted to go back to South Africa and do work. I produced and directed a couple of small projects there but never as an actor. That’s definitely something that’s on my bucket list to do. That’s it for the moment. I’m looking forward to being on the festival circuit next year and to another year of Ghost Wars.
Ghost Wars premieres Thursday, October 5th at 10/9c on Syfy.
Kandyse Photo: Torquille DeJonge