Helix Executive Producer Steve Maeda and series star Kyra Zagorsky talk about how the show is not about zombies and the importance of creating good female characters.
Syfy’s Helix premieres tomorrow night and if trailers are any indication, the series is going to be one heck of a thrill ride. However, there are some misconceptions about the show’s premise. I chatted with Helix executive producer Steve Maeda and series star Kyra Zagorsky to clear up any misunderstandings about Helix, as well as what we can expect.
One of the most common misconceptions about Helix is that the series is about zombies because it deals with a deadly outbreak of a virus that could destroy mankind. But this is not a zombie show, according to Maeda. “Our watch word over the season was not zombies. There is certainly a human element to the show and a science fiction kind of trope that we’re sure to get compared to, and that’s okay. I don’t mind that, but we’re really trying not to make it a zombie show.” But the show does deal with an outbreak that creates humans called vectors. Maeda insists that vectors are not “mindless sort of eating machines,” though.
So what exactly are vectors? Maeda said, “They’re human and they look horrible. But our team will discover things about the virus. What we’re going to find out about the vectors is that they’re incredibly smart.” In fact, Maeda said that vectors retain their intelligence after being infected with the virus.
Zagorksy believes that this added realism to the series is what sets it apart. “The show is based on real science. There are real life epidemic scares out there, throughout history, where there are these huge viruses that have wiped out huge populations.” She reiterated that on Helix, the outbreak is similar to something like that, a virus, but it’s something the CDC hasn’t seen before.
So if Helix isn’t about zombies, what is it about? “It is an outbreak show, at least at the beginning,” Maeda said. He stated that the outbreak occurs in a remote and dangerous location, the Arctic. The initial premise is that a team from the CDC is checking it out. There’s much more, though, to the series, and with each episode, it evolves and changes. Maeda said of future episodes, “What you thought the show was going to be about is not what the show is about any more.” Maeda praised Syfy for giving his team the freedom to explore the series in this way.
Zagorsky, who is known mostly for previous guest star roles, talked about stepping into the shoes of lead character, Dr. Julia Walker. This character is the ex-wife to Dr. Alan Farragut, played by Billy Campbell. The character is super smart: one of the top scientists at the CDC. But most importantly, Zagorsky said, “She exists for purposes outside of her relationships, which I think is a really important thing for female characters in film and TV.”
Zagorsky continued to speak about her love for the character. She said, “She’s just a very full human character. Because sometimes when we’re creating strong females, we give them a weapon and turn them into something macho, or a superhero character or else, she has to be a full on business-person and has to be cruel or something.”
Maeda agreed and stated that this was something the writers thought about when working on scripts for Helix. “That’s what we were very conscious of when we were trying to talk about the characters and really round them out,” he said. “We had many, many discussions about the female characters and how to really make them feel as real as possible and to be credible as scientists, to have them be really smart, to not have them just be defined by their relationships.”
Obviously, that sold me on the series (although I was already sold when Ronald D. Moore became an executive producer on the show). So if, like me, you plan on tuning in, Helix premieres tomorrow night, Friday, January 10th on Syfy at 10/9c.