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This Is Not My Life


Charles Mesure is Alec Ross - or is he?

Charles Mesure takes some time off recording the new series of V to talk to us about This Is Not My Life

Tell us a little about how you got involved in this project
I was working on Outrageous Fortune - another Rachel Lang project - and Kaitangata Twitch - another Gavin Strawhan project - and I read for the part of Alec Ross. I was also offered a role on the Cult, but the dates clashed with Kaitangata Twitch. So when I was forced to pass on The Cult , TINML thankfully came back and offered me Alec Ross.

Tell us about your character - and how did you get into their mindset?
Alec Ross is a guy who does not know who he is. In the beginning, he believes that he has been robbed of his identity and his memory somehow - through psychological, surgical or (as it turns out) technological means - and his quest throughout the show is to find out who he really is and why this has been done to him. So he lives pretty much in a constant state of existential doubt and paranoia - and also fear for his safety, after witnessing what happened to Kyle in the forest. As with any character, you rely on imagination and experience to get into their skin - but in this case, I was kept pretty much in the dark about scripts and story developments until the last minute, so that helped inform Alec's fear of the unknown. Also, the shooting schedule - on top of my professional schedule in the months leading up to TINML - kept me in a pretty "method" kind of state of anxiety and fatigue!

What was it about this show which attracted you to get involved?
The smartest scripts I've ever worked on. You put the likes of Gavin Strawhan, Rachel Lang, Rob Sarkies, Peter Salmon and Tracy Collins together (among others) and you have as great a level of what I call "story-telling intelligence" as with any project I've ever worked on - either in NZ or the US. Put that together with the opportunity to lead a show  - playing the protagonist as opposed to my usual villain/heavy/love interest/supporting role - and TINML became the chance of a lifetime.

What was the shooting of this show like - particularly as the lead actor for Alec Ross?
Hectic. Really hectic. Shooting all day then learning dialogue and mastering very intricate plot until one or two every morning. Then up at six and do it all again! Our producer, Tim Sanders and my colleagues, particularly Tandi and Miriama , were supportive to a fault - they really had my back.

What were the challenges of this show?
What challenges didn't we have?? Actually, we had a lot of advantages, in terms of the people involved, the weather being on our side, a very supportive producer, etc. But the challenges were numerous. The schedule. Creating an alternate futuristic world. Telling a story that was intricate and detailed beyond anything I'd done before. Working with the RED cameras - that ultimately gave us some wonderful images but which were unreliable beyond belief. One aspect of the shoot was very interesting - some of our key personnel came from a TV background and some came predominantly from film. There was something of a clash of cultures - the story-telling practicalities and time constraints of TV colliding with the film world's love of "the shot". But these creative tensions no doubt took the show to another level, despite a few tense moments on set. And our cinematographers Andy Commis, Tom Burstyn and Simon Raby gave the show a world class look - remarkably so given the time constraints.

With a production like this and the filming schedule, was there any room for fun? Were they a good crew to be part of?
The shoot was really enjoyable. Apart from the odd testy moment over the schedule, everyone played together incredibly well. I'm very grateful to the ADs and the cast for looking after me so well - on and off camera. And Peter Salmon and Miriama made me laugh every day.

What was it like being part of a different kind of NZ show like this?
We were very aware from day one that this was different. Truth is we had no idea how it would be received. I was in love with the show - but we knew that it could become a huge hit or a very noble failure - because it was so different for a NZ show.

Is there any part of Waimoana that you would like to have as part of your own life?
It's an interesting one - to live in ignorant bliss? During filming, I often thought how fantastic it would be to have a chip and to not have to deal with the real world! There is wonderful potential in Waimoana - where criminals can be rehabilitated, where a deeply unhappy character like Tandi's character can achieve some kind of happiness, where there is no crime or disharmony. But you bring in the profit motive - personified in Richard Foster - and all that potential becomes corrupted. I guess in the end, the truth is best - however ugly.

Was there anything from the Waimoana world that you tried (or succeeded) to take home from the set?
I took home some of Alec's G Star jackets - very cool!

We're also seeing you on screen as Kyle Hobbes in V - how was that for a different level of experience?
As much as I love coming home to work in NZ, I am very lucky to get to work so often in North America. It's so hard to even make a living as an actor and the working conditions and rewards are night and day compared to back home. V is similar to TINML in some ways - one thing they have in common (which believe me is all too rare) is an ensemble cast that genuinely likes going to work together and acting with each other. Most of my scenes are with Elizabeth Mitchell (from Lost) and we have an absolute ball together.

Without giving too much away and given you're filming this at the moment, is it the kind of role you want to continue in?
We are filming season 2 at the moment and I understand that I will be around as long as V is. I'd love to continue to play Hobbes - it's more of a "boy's own", sci-fi, action role than the cerebral angst of Alec Ross - not that one is more interesting than the other, but it's nice to keep playing different colours.

How do you feel not being in New Zealand to see the launch of your leading man role?
Very disappointing - the TINML team went through so much together that it was a shame not to be there with them. But in my game you have to follow the work if you want to eat - if I couldn't be there for the premiere, then the next best place was on the V set in Vancouver.

What's next for you?
More V for now, then my life falls back into the hands of the ratings gods!