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Q & A with Allison Scagliotti of Syfy’s Warehouse 13 (Part 1)

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My first thought upon meeting Allison Scagliotti on Thursday, August 11, 2011, was, “Allison Scagliotti is a refreshing, energetic and authentic blazing star on the rise…definitely the real deal.”

Allison is absolutely charming, naturally hilarious and richly soulful and isn’t walking around with a sense of entitlement like so many in Hollywood today.  In fact, she takes the time to reflect and savor on the many questions volleyed her way. Scagliotti is as down to earth as one can get in the world of glitz, glamour, tinsel and plastic.

Scagliotti is one of the major player’s on the popular Syfy series Warehouse 13, where she plays the adventurous Claudia Donovan who is slowly emerging with each episode from the cocoon she has been encased in to become the butterfly she is destined to be. What sets Scagliotti apart from other characters on the screen – big and small – with how they learn to become comfortable in their skin, is the way she brings the character of Claudia Donovan to life. As Claudia, Scagliotti is bubbling over with effortless grace, agitated turmoil and a bit of frustration while keeping her feet – red shoes and all – firmly planted on the ground after slipping and sliding for so long she finally has a place to call home and family to come home to.

Allison recently sat down to talk to the media in a press conference about her alter ego, co-stars, storyline and her life outside of playing the whimsical Claudia.

Question: What’s it been like to work with work with Neil again on Warehouse 13 and what can you tell us about the episode? I hear it’s set in a video game?

Allison Scagliotti: So it’s always a pleasure to work with Neil. I’ve said in the past, Neil is one of my best friends, and so having the opportunity to work with him on set is just a joy. It’s like summer camp but we’re getting paid to run around in crazy costumes. He’s an incredibly professional, hilarious comedic as well as dramatic actor and is never afraid to have fun. I think I speak for the entire cast and crew of Warehouse when I say that being able to bring Neil Grayson onto the show is nothing but fun. And, in terms of this episode, this is probably our biggest concept episode that we’ve ever done. There was a lot of green screen, a lot of special effects. It’s airing sixth in our season but we shot it third in terms of shooting order because there were so many elements to capture and it took a lot of prep and we were directed by the incredibly gifted Chris Fisher, who’s also our supervising producer. And I can honestly say it’s my favorite episode this season so far anyway.

Question: Do you think Claudia is going to be, you know, going out in the field a lot more then kind of that second string team on the show?

Allison Scagliotti: Yes, I think so. You’ll see in plenty of episodes that the episode between Claudia and Steve becomes very pivotal emotionally as well as professionally, you know, in terms of the Warehouse teams. Claudia’s at this point in her life where she wants to prove herself as an adult and she’s sort of like all 20 year olds, figuring out who she is and what she wants to be. And that’s been really, really great for me to be able to bring that sort of part of my life and me discovering who I am to the character. So in terms of Claudia’s destiny, I know last season we sort of touched on her becoming and (ex-friend) with Frederick, and what happens to her at the end of this season is really emotional and intense. I think the world is sort of Claudia’s oyster. We can see her go in a couple different directions, so I’m really excited to explore that going forward.

Question: Now can you talk about some of the things we’ll see inside the Warehouse 13 video game?

Allison Scagliotti: Yes, it’s really – it’s a very tongue-in-cheek sort of lampooning of video games in general and their depiction of women as well as what the warehouse could look like to an outside viewer or from an outside perspective. It’s – the theme of the Warehouse video game, it’s called Fortress 13, and it’s the sort of castle medieval futilistic aesthetic. And so all the women have cartoonishly large breasts and the theme inside is very – it’s actually a little bit conflicting because there’re gladiators as well as knights and wenches and – what you’ll get to see is your sort of staple warehouse characters but as Fortress 13 avatars, so cartoonish representations of our normal characters. It’s really fun. Fargo sort of plays with the mythology of purple goo and artifacts. And I don’t want to give too much away but given that Fargo had seen the inside of the warehouse, you know, don’t be surprised when you see the disco ball from Studio 54 make an appearance (unintelligible). And is there a dragon? Maybe. I’m not saying there isn’t.

Question: Oh, okay. So you guys will actually be pixilated then, not as live action people.

Allison Scagliotti: Well, what’s interesting is we shot it in live action and then in post, the image was given a treatment so that we do look – we look stylized. We look animated in some way. But it wasn’t motion capture and it wasn’t animation. It’s just that the digital – I don’t even know what you call it – but the digital image was altered in post so that we look at least a little bit more like a video game.

Question: With the recent news about Eureka, has there been any talk about getting Neil on Warehouse 13 as a regular?

Allison Scagliotti: I honestly have no idea. I really – I don’t know a lot about the news about Eureka. I mean, it would certainly be great to have Neil on but I think it’s really early to say that kind of thing, and more than anything I hope that Eureka fans just tune into this episode of Warehouse because I think they’ll really like it. Neil gets a lot of screen time.

Question: So you’re – now obviously you’re done for the season. So kind of what are you doing now and what are – in your free time, what’s next for you right now?

Allison Scagliotti: I’m doing what every other actor does. I’m back in LA and I’m reconvening with my representation to look for more work. I’ve got a couple things I’m waiting to hear back on. I’m continuing to play music, taking lessons as often as possible and giving press calls like this to promote the rest of the season.

Question: Can you talk about working on the Warehouse 13 Web series?

Allison Scagliotti: Oh yes, the Web series. So that was really interesting. Part of it was live action and then the rest of it was, emotion comic, as you probably saw. We had one day where we had to shoot but the rest of it we were just in the studio in Toronto where we record ADR when we’re out there, and just sat in a circle and it was like a table read. And we were directed by (Andy Sepra) and it was just a really fun sort of extra thing to throw at the fans a little bit before the season started. Very different from our typical shooting schedule. I think – we actually had to film on a weekend in order to get it done because our episodes follow such a sort of strict schedule involving prep and locations and everything it takes to make a TV show, that this sort of had to be squeezed in between the real work that we had to do. But I think it was really fun. It came out well and I haven’t really heard a lot of feedback from the fans about it but I think they enjoyed it. So it’ll be up to Syfy whether we do it again next year.

Question: Who’s someone that inspires you?

Allison Scagliotti: Who is someone that inspires me? Good question. I want to think about that before I – this is going to sound really strange for a Syfy actor to say but people aren’t just one thing. I’m a big fan of Jessica Valenti. And if you haven’t heard of her, she is an author and an editor and a feminist. She’s actually written a couple feminist books for young women to sort of reclaim their self-esteem and learn about women’s issues. And any time I read anything by her, I feel so bolstered and empowered and I think she’s spectacular and I love the work that she does and I would love to meet her. So, yes, she’s the one who inspires me.

Question: I loved the episode by the way, this gaming episode. As someone who game way too much, it’s was – I think it was spot on.

Allison Scagliotti: Awesome. Oh, I’m so glad to hear that. It’s my favorite too and I’m not even a gamer.

Question: If you were to play a game, what – or are you more of an MMO type, are you more of a, like, first person shooter? What would you play?

Allison Scagliotti:

I have no idea. Let me start by saying that growing up, I never had a gaming console. All my friends had Nintendo or Play Station or those little cartridges you had to blow into because they got dusty. And that was never a part of my childhood. I mean, I was in every sense the theater kid who would just play dress up all day and then sit down at the piano and play for a couple of hours. So gaming is a whole culture that I have sort of no way to relate to. But if I did play, I’d probably play some adorable little Indy game or if not, then the Legend of Zelda because that’s as close to this episode of Warehouse as I can imagine.

Question: And I know you also had to kind of share the screen with Eddie’s pecs for most of that episode. What was that like for you?

Allison Scagliotti:

Well, you had to be careful not to bump into him because you’ll bruise. And I was worried that his pecs were going to be scene stealers but in terms of augmented body parts, I had pointy elf ears for much of the episode so I felt like I could contend to a certain degree.

Question: And just one other thing. I know that you’re pretty close with Neil and working with him again, I’m sure is a great thrill. You know, what were your thoughts when you learned about the fate of Neil’s show?

Allison Scagliotti:

To be honest, he and I haven’t had a conversation about it yet. I will say that this is sort of the natural order of the way television works. They’ve had a long run. I know they have a great fan base. And I hope that their fan base tunes into this episode of Warehouse next week because it’s a great episode for Neil and for all of us.

Question: What are some of your favorite ones so far? And is there one that you wanted to do that they haven’t done yet?

Allison Scagliotti:

My favorite one this year has definitely been Jimmy Hendrix’s guitar because it was the first opportunity they gave me to sort of play guitar on the show, which is actually something I want to add. For those of you who’ve seen the episode, you’re expecting this. But for the people reading this article who haven’t seen it yet, the writers and the network has been really supportive of my wish to play guitar and sing on the show. And this episode that’s about to air is the first time I do get to do that. So at the end of the episode, Claudia goes to an open mike and gets out on a limb and covers one of Claudia’s – I mean, Allison’s favorite songs. So that’s – but in terms of episodes – or rather, artifacts that I would like to see, I would love – I think I pitched the red shoes this year, based on the ballet. I mean, before that, the short story of the girl who dances herself to death or a pair of red shoes. I think that would be really interesting if some shoes sort of wound up on Claudia and she had to find a way to get out of them and they have some sort of emotional resonance. But yes, the great thing about this show is that it’s kind of past the limit. I think we can almost do anything in terms of artifacts, and even this year, we explore so many different themes that I don’t think any two episodes are alike. We’ve got this video game sort of Tran-esque episode and then two episodes later we’ve got a sort of Die Hard type story line going on. So we’re keeping it fresh.

Question: On Syfy we’re seeing that Haven is doing a big episode story of (Arch) with Twitter. Would you like to see that type of integration with Warehouse 13?

Allison Scagliotti:

I actually would not. And the reason is that Warehouse 13 is, you know, the mythology that we have established is that it’s a top secret government facility, where.. …sort of a sect that’s removed from the FBI. The Secret Service doesn’t really know about it. And so I think that – and to integrate something as public and difficult to control as Twitter into a mythology like the top secret mystery has an address, I think it would just sort of devalue the (unintelligible), the secrecy of what we strive for on the show. However, I’m sure it’ll be great on Haven. I actually didn’t know they were doing that but, you know, the great thing about this episode is that we take something as obscure as the video game and somehow integrate it into what we do at the warehouse and that’s because Fargo inadvertently came into contact with an artifact and integrated it into his video game software. So it’s been pretty cool to watch this episo- I thankfully was able to watch it before I got on this call with you guys. I love this episode. I think it’s hilarious and scary and all the things that make a warehouse episode great.

Question: With him coming from Eureka and then Eureka getting cancelled, do you think there’re more chapters for Eureka characters to appear on Haven – I mean, Warehouse 13, and then are there any more scheduled?

 

Allison Scagliotti:

Well, we don’t have anything scheduled because we haven’t our official pick up for Season 4 yet. In terms of the possibility, sure. I really don’t know. You know, that’s for the network to say. That’s for the folks at Syfy and probably the folks over at Eureka since they created those characters and I think they had a license to. So whether or not they’re comfortable with them going other places, but I say never say never.

Question: There’re a lot of Star Trek references on Warehouse 13. Are you – have you been a Star Trek fan and have you been to the conventions and met any of the Star Treklegends or actors?

Allison Scagliotti:

I am sorry to say that I’ve only ever seen one episode of Star Trek my entire life. And that is the most torrid episode of the Next Generation because that’s the one that sells, and it’s a great episode and (Blaire) is in it and I know that he and (Blair) became friends after that. But the only time I ever go to conventions is to promote Warehouse. I don’t think I have ever – no, I honestly have never gone to a convention of my own accord for anything other than Warehouse related promotions. However, I do geek out about things. I mean, you’re going to see the actor Steven Young from Walking Dead in this episode. Steven and I were friends long before Warehouse 13 or Walking Dead ever happened. But Walking Dead is one of my favorite shows on TV. I watched every episode religiously last year and I geeked out a little bit when we were both sort of backstage at Comic-Con this year. And Miguel was there and a couple of the other actors and standing there with my friend, honestly, kind of squealing over the cast members. So that’s where I geek out a little bit.

 

Question: Now that you’re out in the field with Jinxy and forming a relationship there, it seems like the focus has shifted a little bit from the Artie/Claudia dimension. We saw it a little bit again this week when Jinxy was not in the episode. But I did want to know, because you mentioned something about the finale. And it’s going to be sort of a pivotal one for you. Is it also going involve the dynamic of you and Artie?

Allison Scagliotti:

Yes, it does. It absolutely does. It – well I think the relationships between all of us are really hanging in the balance with what happens at the end of this season. The great thing about this season has been that we’ve been able to explore how our characters past and their histories effect them in the present and effects what they do. And so we – the Claudia and Reid dynamic is still very important and it’s still very much in play. But in order to just stick with Claudia’s role, the relationship between Claudia and Steve Jinx has been given a bit of a spotlight, which I really enjoy.

Question: Working with Lindsay Wagner, I mean, it must’ve been quite an experience for you, the times that she’s been on the show. What was it like?

Allison Scagliotti:

She’s wonderful. I love it when we get to have Lindsay on the show because she has such a fantastic energy about her. She’s very calm, she’s very sweet and naturally funny and always a professional. I love watching her. I love being in a scene with her. It’s an honor. She’s a lot of fun to work with and I think that it was really fun to see Artie in love. And I think that those two have a good chemistry as well. So I hope that we get to bring her back and explore that dynamic more in the future.

Question: Is there a story behind your getting the part in this show? Were there hoops to jump through? Or was it a relatively easy process for you, what?

Allison Scagliotti:

I think every actor will tell you that timing had a lot to do with a role that they love. I was in the middle of a full load at college. I was taking 16 units, and I had worked with our show runner, (Jack Kenny), years and years ago on the last pilot I did. And I worked with two of our writers, Ben Raab and Deric Hughes, the year before on our web series with (Adaria Dawson). And I sort of heard about this role being out in the ether and I knew that they were looking in Canada. I think the role was originally written to be Asian. It was an Asian character and they didn’t quite find what they were looking for. And so (Jack) called me. We had a conversation and he first wanted me to watch the pilot before I auditioned just to make sure it was something that I was interested in, and I did, and I fell in love with it. I watched the pilot maybe three times before I auditioned and took this role that I just fell in love with. I thought it was really perfect for me and I was really nervous when I auditioned but I did and that was that. And so within the span I think of a week and a half, I was sort of negotiating with my professors to let me take my work on the road and from then on it was spending months in Toronto with this weird family but they made me feel really welcome immediately. And (Saul) and I – we met and were working together within the same couple of hours and it just felt natural, it felt like we’d been working together for years and years.

Question: What do you think Claudia’s clothes and her physical appearance say about her on the show?

Allison Scagliotti:

I think – what I hope that say is that she’s her own person and she doesn’t concern herself with societal standards and what other people expect of her to – expect her to look like or expect her to behave like. You called (Saul) a self-starter. I think Claudia’s a self-starter. I think in addition to being insecure and figuring out who she is as an adult, she knows what she likes and the thing that I’ve been really flattered by in playing her is a number of, like, moms and young girls who reach out to me and tell me what a role model she is for young women, just sort of learning to love themselves. So I hope that what people get out of the way that Claudia presents herself is there’s nothing more beautiful or fun or comfortable then just doing what you like.

Question: The first question I want to ask is about the artifacts, which are absolutely amazing. Have you ever come up with any artifact ideas? And if you haven’t, if you had a chance to today, what would it be?

Allison Scagliotti:

I actually have pitched a couple different artifact ideas to them. This year I was taking a lot of ballet classes in Toronto. I actually danced for about eight years before I became an actress. And I pitched the Red Shoes, and I thought it would be interesting if Claudia sort of fell into the Red Shoes and had to dance herself to the brink of death before she could get out of them. But before our benevolent writers and producers were supportive of me playing and singing on the show, I pitched the stage door of (CBGB). And in order to somehow facilitate Claudia fronting an all girl punk band on the show, I believe the feedback was that makes too much sense, like what’s the parallel there. Claudia belongs in an all girl punk band. Yes, that’s it.

At press time, Syfy has renewed Warehouse 13. The Syfy series will return for a fourth season with 13 episodes set to air in 2012.

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About Diane Morasco