TORONTO – The sci-fi cop drama “Continuum” features wild futuristic fantasies including time travel, invisibility suits and wearable micro-computers but its most provocative ideas are rooted in the here-and-now, says star Rachel Nichols.
The Vancouver-set series centres on a cop from the year 2077 who is transported to the year 2012 to stop a terrorist attack on the world’s biggest corporations.
The would-be insurgents are convicted criminals who have also time-jumped from the year 2077, when all-powerful businesses have replaced governments as law-maker and many individual rights have evaporated.
It’s easy to draw parallels between the show’s anti-corporate revolutionaries and the current “occupy” movement meant to highlight social and economic inequities, but Nichols says that’s where the commentary ends.
“We’re certainly not being political, it’s just thought-provoking,” says Nichols, a model-turned actress whose past roles include turns in “Sex & the City,” “Alias,” “Criminal Minds,” and “Star Trek.”
“There’s a social commentary to it which is really important… Where are we headed? What is our future? Where are we going? Are we going to what we’ve portrayed as 2077, is that where we’re headed? Where the government doesn’t regulate the corporations, the corporations own the government?”
Nichols stars as Keira Cameron, a dedicated cop from the year 2077 who is inadvertently transported to present-day Vancouver when a group of time-travelling fugitives blast themselves back in time.
Their plan is to stop corporate powers from ever achieving the level of authority they do in 2077. Tracking them down requires Keira to assume the identity of an average police officer, albeit one with some high-tech gadgets and eerie insight into the world around her.
“It’s kind of the best of both worlds when it comes to the mash-up of the science fiction and the police drama,” says Nichols, who has had formal martial arts training and performs her own stunts in the show.
“We’ve put those (genres) together but we’ve also paired it with a show that’s very character-driven, which you don’t always necessarily see in a cop show or something that’s sci-fi. It’s very character-driven … and that’s what makes it really great because I think (audiences) come back to shows because they really relate to, or love, or are drawn to the characters.”
Of course, the tech toys add a layer of fun for any amateur futurist wondering what gizmos could arrive in five decades’ time. Nichols admits they’re handy storytelling devices, too.
“When I find myself trapped in 2012 the only lifelines I have are the suit that I’m wearing and this multitool that I have and this gun that I have that were part of my equipment in the future. And that’s how I get around and that’s how I sort of slowly start to learn things,” says Nichols, admitting her character is very much like the Terminator in her reliance on computer data to determine her next move.
“I’m kind of a robot, in the future you depend on your tech… It’s almost as though humans in the future aren’t like the humans today. It’s very different. But my suit and my multitool and my gun are great for storytelling because I can go invisible and I can break into cars really easily or I have a truth serum that I can stab people with or I have an energizer… they kind of do anything we need them to do, which is really handy.”
Pulling off a skin-tight jumpsuit with some authority had its challenges, Nichols adds. The sexy get-up was a little light for Vancouver’s wet and crisp climate in January, when shooting took place.
“It was chilly. It was brisk. But it was all worth it,” Nichols chuckles gamely.
Originally from Maine, the 32-year-old Los Angeles resident said she enjoyed her stint in Hollywood North.
“When I got there in January everybody said, ‘Oh, the rain,’” she said of warnings that she may not like the weather.
“And I went, ‘I live in L.A. It’s sunny all the time, I like the rain.’ Four months of rain was a bit aggressive. But the few nice days that we had I thought, ‘Oh, this is why people love Vancouver.’
“But aside from it being a bit wet it was lovely and clean, people were great, the restaurants were fantastic and it’s a very manageable city. I really liked it and I think it’s cool that the show is set there. We’re not pretending it’s another city, it is Vancouver.”
“Continuum” debuts Sunday on Showcase.