Wondercon 2009: Shirley Manson Reveals Why She Became A TV Terminator

She admits that taking on acting has been quite an experience.  “I feel like I’ve just learned so much over the course of the series, and start to understand more about the process of acting and making a TV show,” she says.  “I’ve just started to learn how to develop a character. So, I think I’m more relaxed on set, and I’m so overwhelmed at first,. I couldn’t really function properly. It was so nerve-wracking, It would be like you turning up and being a T-1001. Literally, it was that intense. It was the most extreme thing I’ve ever done in my life. You rarely have to learn how to do something in front of millions of people, stay scary, and I realized I was really opening myself up for a lot of criticism. I knew myself my work wsn’t perfect. That’s difficult in itself to overcome your fear and yor concern about what over people think of you  and just pitch through it and try to do good work.”

The storyline about John Henry and whether he is the prototype for Skynet will reach a climax asthe show airs its final episodes through mid-April. Things shift really fast, she says, and we learn Weaver’s true plans.

Manson decided to take on acting because it got into a point in her career “where you step in front of 100 thousand people and your blood pressure doesn’t change.”   When she got a chance to audition for the show, she says “I immediately would get this like adrenaline rush, and it gets you back in touch with I suppose who you were before you started putting all the armor.” She adds, It’s like the feeling that you get when learn how to ride a bicycle. It’s kind of like whhhhooooooaaa, and you’re off and running.”

Manson also owes a lot to her co-star Richard T. Jones, who plays former FBI agent Ellison. “He would give me acting classes on the job,” she says, ” and I’m very very grateful to him for his guidance and tutoring.”

But the role itself would be a challenge for anyone, new or experienced, and Manson knows this. “I definitely have a lot on my plate,” she says, ” but the young lady who plays my daughter on the set (Mackenzie Brooke Smith) is a great little actress. She really is talented. She made the scenes very easy, but it’s quite a trip.”

Manson is sometimes tripped up by the jargon, like when she was told they’re going to force her. That really means something about work scheduling.

She was interested in the job because she’s been a fan of the Terminator movies, especially the first two. Still, she was surprised how big her role would be, and that she would have to help define it.  She talked to executive producer Josh Friedman about who Weaver is, and he said he didn’t know. But “by episode 5, when they introduced the daughter, it formed everything.” she says. “To me, everything made sense. I thought ‘ah, OK, so she is a robot, but she’s already infiltrated society,  She’s a lot a weird, but she’s learning how to be more and more human as the season progresses. And that really really helped. ”
Her approach to the role was for Weaver to seem human, but not quite, almost like the movie Terminators played by Arnold Schwartzenegger and Robert Patrick. “I wanted to bring a sort of silliness to her,” she says,  “and that was a deliberate choice of mine.”
Manson of course, sang “Samson and Delilah” as a favor to Freidman in the season two premiere, and she is hinting that maybe that’s the start of more music to come.
She also compared music to acting, and found them to be quite different. ” In music, you’re basically bringing forth your self. You sing ‘this is who I am this is what I think, this is what I feel, do you feel the same.'”, she says.  “To me, acting’s the complete opposite. It’s like hiding yourself in somebody else. And using your experience to inform choices that you make creatively. It’s more of a cerebral experience than music, which is more of sort of a visceral one. I think the discipline you have to bring to both sides of the equation that you have to be disciplined. you have to be on point all the times. I think mentally, acting is more challenging in some regards but obviously emotionally and everything else is much harder for a musician. In some ways because when things don’t go well as a musican, you take it very personally.”

Whether or not TSCC will be headed for a third season, Manson says she is itching to produce music again, but hopes to prove herself as an actress, too. How she has handled her first role may prove she could do well in both.

Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles airs Fridays at 8 PM Pacific on Fox.

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Post Author: David Mello

Worked nearly eleven years at a radio station as a board operator, news reader, and assistant producer for baseball broadcasts. Have been a staff writer for Whedonopolis since July 2008

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