New series, new faces: Executive producer Bill Dial previews Season Five

Long-standing fans of Sliders will face something of a shock when the show returns for a new season in the summer. In the opening scenes of the first episode, two of the principal characters - Quinn Mallory (Jerry O'Connell) and Colin (Charlie O'Connell) - are lost in a freak accident within the sliding vortex... For executive producer Bill Dial, the fifth year has been a time of change and discovery. Dial joined for Season Four, after the show had been cancelled by Fox and subsequently bought by the Sci-Fi Channel. Freed of network interference, he and his colleagues were able to reinvent the series for a more discriminating audience. Sliders became edgier, more cerebral, and told some terrific, high concept stories.

Given the quality of the production during Season Four it seemed almost inevitable that a further series would be commissioned. However, few fans had envisaged Sliders continuing without Jerry O'Connell, who had headlined the show from the very beginning...

"Jerry had created that role, and he's a very important part of the show, not only as a leading man, but as a producer and director," Dial tells Starburst as we meet in his office at Universal Studios. "He directed four or five shows, and he was terrific. In addition to being a very talented guy, he's also one of the nicest and most grounded young men I've ever known. "He just sold a big screenplay; so he has an unlimited future and I think he wants to go with that. We wish him the best - both he and Charlie are great guys."

It's obvious there are no bad feelings concerning the O'Connells' decision to pursue their respective careers; and the Sliders production staff have chosen to use their departure as an opportunity rather than a burden. Enter a new recurring villain, Dr Geiger, played by Babylon 5's Peter Jurasik and a fresh story arc that will span the fifth season.. "We had this idea of a physicist trying for world domination on a quantum particle level," Dial offers. "But he's 'unstuck'. Basically he's been fiddling around with some quantum forcefield that has kind of unglued him from dimensions - he can' t stick in one dimension. He manages to put together a forcefield that contains him, but what he's trying to do is create a universe that he can live in."

As the season opens, Dr Geiger believes he has found a way to escape his prison within the vortex - by melding himself with an unwitting Slider. First he must test the process, and chooses a lab rat from a parallel dimension... Quinn's own double, Mallory. The results of this experiment are devastating: Colin is seemingly vaporized, and Quinn becomes the 'melded' version of two people, played by newcomer Robert Floyd.

Earlier in the day, we had met Floyd, and instantly noticed strong similarities between the young actor and Jerry O'Connell. Had this been a factor when the character was being cast? "In a lot of ways he does;" Dial concurs. "but aspects of the old Quinn only appear in the first couple of shows, and then the old Quinn goes away and it's explained. We didn't want to have Robert having to be Jerry, although in the beginning it was a pretty good idea. "He's a good looking leading man type, and we are finding his comic abilities. That Quinn Mallory was a genius; this character is basically a lab rat, a gopher. He's a little more 'street' than Jerry's character was. He can hotwire cars and get out of meat lockers. There are all these little shady things that we learn about him as we go along."

The loss of Colin and the existence of the melded Mallory are a terrible blow for existing Sliders Rembrandt (Cleavant Derricks, now the show's longest-serving cast member) and Maggie (Kari Wuhrer). They are forced to seek help from Dr Geiger's assistant, quantum physicist Diana (Tembi Locke), who is unaware of her mentor's evil schemes. Shocked to discover the state of her friend Mallory, she decides to travel with the Sliders, and vows to find a way to un-meld them.

"Tembi has been remarkable," Dial enthuses. "Her audition was purposefully a tongue twister. It ended up not even being in the first script - it was just all of this techno gobbledegook. We figured that any actress who comes in here that can do this could do anything else we throw at her. "She's a very intelligent, focused young woman. She's also being played as a kind of... not shrinking violet, but she's always pursued an intellectual career and not had a social life that Maggie has had. So we're introducing her a little bit to that."

The Original Sliders:

There have been many changes to Sliders since the show first began. Originally the show followed the brilliant young inventor: Quinn, his mentor Professor Arturo (John Rhys Davis), Wade Wells (Sabrina Lloyd) and Rembrandt Brown, travelling between dimensions and attempting to return to their original Earth. Three years later, Arturo has been killed off and replaced by gutsy Marine Maggie Beckett. Wade disappeared between seasons, abducted by the Sliding aggressors known as Kromaggs. And 'our' Earth was conquered by the creatures, as Quinn discovered he was actually born in a parallel dimension, and that he has a brother...

Although Dial and his team have chosen to tone down the Kromagg storyline in Season Five; we are promised - at last - some resolution to the disappearance of Wade. "As Groucho used to say, 'There won' t be a dry seat in the house'," the executive producer promises of that story. "We invited Sabrina Lloyd to play the part, but she's in another show right now. She is coming in here on Friday, and she is going to do the voice of the character. "Her character has been altered," adds Dial elusively, "we're just using Sabrina's voice..

High five

Asked to choose some highlights from the forthcoming season, Dial thinks back over the 18 storylines that have been committed to film since shooting began in October. "One of the things that is most fun for me with this particular series is that we can jump across genres very easily," he muses, "because we are going to different worlds. We have done crime stories, we have done romantic stories, this year we've done a war story, we did a musical with a choreographed dance number. We just finished a show that started off being like To Catch a Thief, with a jewel heist in a luxurious hotel where a film festival is going on and it ended up being more like a screwball comedy. So we can go from comedy to tragedy.

"We did a show this year in which Maggie' s character confronts her father. Chris Black wrote it. In our mythology, Maggie's father was a Marine general who probably pushed her into the military. He was very distant, very cold, and this has been a problem that Maggie has been trying to work out. "She lands on a world and her alternate father is there, who had a daughter called Maggie that he lost. The thing that Chris did, which was really nice, was that this father is able to resolve problems he had with his daughter with Maggie, who is not his daughter, and Maggie is able to resolve problems she had with her father with this guy. It was a very nice piece of tightrope writing - a very moving episode."

A tour of the Sliders set also confirms that the Chandler Hotel - an establishment the travellers check into in most of the dimensions they visit - still plays a part in the series. Last year the Hotel was used as an obvious cost-saving exercise and a few stories (The Alternateville Horror, Data World) took place entirely within its confines. Dial reveals there were some lessons to be learned, but the idea of attempting 'bottle shows' has been revisited this season. "The Alternateville Horror was a standard ghost story," he says. "It started off with the idea that we would save a little money, but that show ended up taking seven days to shoot - longer than we would normally take because it was so complex. "We just did a show in which the Chandler Hotel is an archaeological dig. Somehow it's 400 years off from our time, and it's layered over with sediment and our people get to be part of this dig. When they go and see it's the Chandler, they find a beer mug that the archaeologist decides is a sacrificial goblet, then they have a big debate over what a parking meter might have been: 'It sells time... but to what end'! It's really our take on how these funny archaeologists can find one pot and then invent an entire civilization!"
When Starburst visited the studio during March, only a few weeks worth of shooting remained. Yet again, the future of Sliders is undecided, but one might hope that, given the amazing developments of the past two years, it must be good for another season...

"I don' t know what the plans are from the Sci-Fi Channel," Dial reveals. "They might not know what their plans are. Certainly I think the show should go on, whether I am involved in it or not, because it is successful and it's making money and it's got a wide-open premise. They can bring in all sorts of characters and go all kinds of places.

"The practicality is that everybody here is going to be unemployed in a couple of weeks, and the nature of the business is that people will do and take whatever they have to. I would like to be able to keep the company together... Last year the decision wasn't made for quite a while. We had all split up and gone to other places. It wasn't until August or sometime, and then it was a scuffle to try and get back the company together. One of the reasons we are able to do it for this money is the specific combination of people. I' ve been doing it a long time, and these are the best people I've ever worked with. I'm getting a little melancholy.

Source: Starburst Magazine #250

Babylon 5 Actors Slide Onto SCI FI

Former Babylon 5 actors Peter Jurasik and Jerry Doyle will be joining
the universe of the SCI FI series Sliders next season. Jurasik is set to
play the recurring role of Dr. Oberon Geiger, a disembodied scientist
who wreaks havoc with the Sliders when he causes the interdimensional
travelers to have an identity crisis.

Meanwhile, Doyle will play Sgt. Vernon Larson, the commander in charge
of troops in a type of purgatory between Earth dimensions where he is ordered
to protect a mysterious bunker. Jurasik will appear in the season-five premiere
episode "The Unstuck Man" as well as "Eye of the Storm" and "Applied Physics,"
while Doyle will guest star in "Strangers and Comrades."
The fifth season of Sliders begins June 11!!! ;^).

Source: Scifi Newswire

Slip Slidin' Anew

After surviving a triumphant 4th season with a major cast change, the ever-popular series Sliders is making a fifth run at the races Friday nights at 9:00 EST, exclusively on the Sci-Fi Channel. This time there is another dramatically reincarnated cast but it looks to be a good thing. Out are series original Jerry O'Connell, and his brother Charlie O'Connell, introduced last season, leaving the ever-lovely Kari Wuhrer and the anchor of the series, Cleavant Derricks. New this season is actor Robert Floyd, who appeared in the hit film Godzilla and a host of independents, as well as Glen Larson's Movie of the Week, Descendant. And rounding out the new cast is actress Tembi Locke, whose character brings an attractive, scientific pair of eyes to the ensemble.

Season 5 opens with promises of high adventure, flights of fancy, and a comical play or two, but this time around the team is rudderless and carrying a little extra mass in the form of Mallory, a Quinn alternate with the bane of hosting the original Q-Ball within after an experiment gone wrong, and Diana, a new female scientist who vows to set it all straight eventually.

Although relative newcomers to multi-dimensional television, both Tembi Locke and Robert Floyd have been familiar with the series for some time, as Locke says, "I had seen it and a couple of my friends did some episodes, so I knew all about it." And it didn't take long to feel right at home playing with series veterans Cleavant Derricks and Kari. "What's wonderful is, it's already an established family. The first day you think, I'm going to be a guest joining someone for Thanksgiving dinner,' you know? But it's not the case at all. This has been a very open and welcoming environment and has been a lot of fun. I couldn't have asked for a better experience." And, as the actress laughs, "When you go through a vortex with someone you bond with them really quickly."

Locke plays a scientist named Diana and her first meeting with the sliding gang is, well, explosive. "Diana joins Remmy and Maggie this season when they slide into her world. I'm a scientist and I am a part of an elite experiment being done at a vanguard research lab. We're experimenting with quantum theory, with genetic transmutations and are on the cutting edge, if you will, of science. I jointly head up that lab with my mentor, who is Doctor Geiger, whom we meet in the 1st episode of the season. The sliders slide into this lab and, of course, are missing Quinn and can't find Colin, and I'm sort of the go-between for them and my mentor. They enlist my help and help me to see how my leader is up to no good. At the end of the episode I join up and slide with them because they have a friend of mine now with them‹who is Mallory caught in Quinn's body, or Quinn's caught in Mallory's body I should say." Yes, she did say Quinn is in the body of a guy named Mallory.

"Basically, with Jerry having left the show and introducing a new character, what happens, and Robert will tell you this-Mallory [Robert Floyd] is one of our test studies in the lab and while we were doing our experiment, the vortex opened and Quinn and my guy got mixed into one body. By the end of the episode, my impetus for joining the sliders is, I've got to find a way to separate them. That becomes my driving force. And of course what is attractive as a scientist, everything I've been researching and doing studies on, the sliders now show me a way to do it for real. And Diana gets off on it, she thinks science is sexy."

Of course, being somewhat of a scientific prude, Diana oftentimes lends to the comical element of the show. "My background has primarily been in half hour [sitcoms], so I bring a certain comedy to it. You know, Diana is sort of a fish out of water, she's the brain of the operation. She's been insulated in her studies as a scientist and doesn't have a big social group, maybe never had a lot of dates, never had a boyfriend, so for the first time I'm put into situations I've never been put in before. I'm like a daddy's girl, straight A student, and I find myself carrying a machine gun in the second world we slide into. As we get to know Diana we get to see all her foibles because she is in unfamiliar and strange situations and is trying to bond with this new group of people. So there is a lot of room for humor, which of course is an area I love."

Having been torn from their own world and thrown onto a forever-changing stage, not unlike Remmy and Maggie, it is to these veterans Diana and Mallory must look. "Diana looks to Remmy as ... he's the heart of the group, he's the most experienced slider, and you defer to him under extreme duress. Maggie is the first woman I've met who is just so tough as nails, she is clearly connected to what it means to be a woman in the sexual sense. And Diana really looks up to her and is seeing a part of life she has never really experienced. She's not assertive in using her physical strength in any way, and she does not have 10 guys walking with their tongues dragging behind her. So, there is a nice friendship there. And with Mallory, we are the two sliders who join at the same time, we are both on that learning curve." As expected, Locke has too many amusing experiences to recount since starting Sliders; however, a scene or two does stand out in her mind. "Well, I think one of the highlights is seeing Diana going from the highly gifted, bright, princess type to being down in the trenches with a machine gun wrestling a Kromagg " [She laughs.] "and I think that sets the tone that anything can happen on the show. One of the most interesting things I've had a chance to do is meet myself in other worlds. You meet yourself without the education Diana has, or in one world I meet myself and am a single mom struggling with raising a kid." And as the actress points out, perhaps there is something to be learned from Diana. "By the end of the episode I think, hey, I want to get a boyfriend and have a little romantic action," she laughs.

Locke laughs at the thought of playing such a wound-up character, which she insists is very much not played from real life. "There are some similarities, although Diana is much more stiff than Tembi. Diana is not so sure having her footing in the social situation. She's a little more timid and is a science geek, and Tembi certainly isn't. I had to get a Physics for Dummies book so I could figure out what she was talking about." In fact, truth be told, Sliders is Locke's second foray into this genre. "I like science fiction and I had an opportunity to do a pilot show called Star Command on the UPN Network about two or three years ago, and that was my first jaunt into science fiction. What's great about sliding is that it's a mixture of telling what it's like being a regular person thrown into these fantastical situations under the realm of science. I like it a lot. I find myself watching Contact and Star Trek."

And if Sliders isn't enough for the fan base she is sure to garnish, Tembi Locke can also be seen, soon, in a number of film projects. "Right now I have a film project I'm going to be completing in the spring and one slated for some time in the summer. That's my other passion. One's called Unbowed and is a period piece, and the other is a murder mystery called 59."
One thing is for certain, her many exploits on Sliders are sure to provide ample experience for the myriad roles coming Locke's way. Not unlike Tembi Locke, actor Robert Floyd finds himself in rather unfamiliar waters as the new male sojourner of the series, having come primarily from a stage and film background.

So, how does a primarily earthbound, dramatic lead find himself in an other-worldly, hourly series? "Quinn was leaving and they needed a replacement. They called my agency and I was more than excited to join a show that had been so successful, and especially such a fantastic character, "Floyd sums up. "I've done seven years of stage in New York and then a lot of independents. A couple hourlies. Then when this role came up, it was a plum of a role, and I dove at the chance. It is different getting used to because with a film you're done in two or three months. It's a challenge at all times and at the same time you can work on the details, you don't have to let anything go, you can explore more."

And like Locke, Floyd was already more than familiar with the show. "Yeah. I didn't see all the episodes but I did watch it quite a bit and was a big fan of Jerry too, he's such a wonderful actor and so I was really enthused.... It's so much fun because every week and every world is so different; it doesn't always have to be one way or another, it's just fun." Robert Floyd joins the cast as the result of a lab experiment gone awry in the season opener. And right from the beginning, his character, Mallory, offers a rather new approach to surviving in a dog-eat-dog, "post vortexian" universe. "Mallory is your average guy, raised through challenges in life to become your modern-day hero. But he's still wily, [with a] wry, very dry sense of humor, enjoys life, and is always trying to make a buck here and there, which gives him a lot of fun in each of the worlds," Floyd explains. So, exactly how is Mallory introduced, and who is he, anyway? "I'm Quinn's alternate on another world and it's a wonderful first episode that brings us all together.

What happens is, there's a doctor who's been experimenting with wormholes and basically has me slam into the other Quinn Mallory. One of the villains is Doctor Geiger and he smashes me into the original Quinn and we end up becoming two people in one body and fighting for it. And fortunately or unfortunately, I win." And how does Mallory relate to Diana? "Right now it's almost a fraternal thing. We have deep feelings for each other but they're not explored. At the onset we are very good friends, but I don't have much of a family and she's it."

What makes the experience especially enjoyable is the reception the newbies received, regardless of having lost two other characters, "especially the original family member," Floyd adds. "You wouldn't have [to] know because everyone was really warm and welcomed here. It was a challenge from day one, but it's a real team effort. One of the great things here, especially with Sci-Fi, is you're not dealing with who is in love with whom but you're dealing more with life and death and exciting new worlds."

And Floyd is quick to take pointers from the veterans, whether that means how to survive dimensional travel" Rembrandt is not only teaching me how to slide but how to survive. Without that anchor I would have probably burned up in the first or second world. Rembrandt is always there for you. Now he has become almost the rock of the show"or surviving the media blitz the actor must now learn: "It'll be a new hat to pay to. There I look to Kari and Cleavant's help to do it properly because nothing phases them. I'm lucky to have veterans around like that."

After X number of worlds visited, there is one quality Floyd has noticed, and enjoyed, about his alter ego, and that is "We are starting to see a young man now. At the onset he was starting to spread his wings. Once he finally becomes the one person, after being fused as two, he really meets some big challenges. They say pressure is what turns coal into a diamond, and I think that's what we are starting to see, a rough diamond becoming whole, refining himself."

So what's next for Mallory? "Each episode is so different and so wild. We just finished a great motorcycle one, which was fun, and I fell in love on this world. The one before it we had a lot of singing and goofing off, sort of a roaring-twenties world. They just keep me guessing, I never know what happens next. We run into a couple wars, which is really dramatic. And I'm extremely blessed with three fantastic co-stars who are just always on the top of their game in every scene."

Are there any similarities between the actor and the act? "He's finding himself at every turn. He is a lot more ... he tries to get ahead through material things sometimes, where I really couldn't care less. Maybe from his own background he is a little love starved, and I don't feel that way either. The first time he experiences love he is ready to do almost anything for it."
After having experienced a multitude of lifetimes in one character, and not even one season yet, is there anything Floyd would still like to see his character explore? "I'd love to see him do anything with sports because I've played football and a lot of college basketball. We just finished the motorcycle episode and couldn't do that to save my life. I'd love for him to fall in love. He's done it once and it was so much fun, so many colors to play with."

While this actor is waiting for Mallory's next exploits, viewers can prepare to see a lot more of Floyd, having just been in Glen Larson's Descendant, and awaiting the release of two films, Cold Hearts and Another House on Mercy Street‹in both of which he plays the lead. To sum up expectations on the 5th season, I leave with the words of actor Floyd: "We just can't wait for the season to start, because it's gonna be fantastic, it's really good stuff, just really exciting episodes!"

Source: Taken from the Sci-fi Entertainment Magazine By James G. Boutilier
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Page Last updated on June 18, 1999