Megan Ward began working in the entertainment industry in the early ‘90s, getting her first taste of the business by starring in micro-budget science fiction outings for Full Moon Productions. It was there, under the watchful eye of director/genre favorite Charles Band, Ward starred in such cult classics as ‘Crash and Burn’ (1990), ‘Trancers II’ (1991), ‘Trancers III’ (1992) and ‘Arcade’ (1993) and began to hone her craft. As her star began to rise, she garnered larger parts, eventually leading to ‘Dark Skies’. As she will explain, every once in a blue moon a script comes along that is so innovative and intriguing, you have to be a part of it! Such is the case with ‘Dark Skies’.
At its core, the show is a magnificent period piece which centers around an idealistic Congressional aide, John Loengard and his fiance Kimberly Sayers. Their world is turned upside down when Loengard discovers evidence of aliens living among us and a massive government conspiracy to keep one of history’s biggest secrets under wraps. The show, which infused the iconic moments of one of America’s most captivating decades with the possibility of an alternative explanation to what we have all been told, quickly ignited a cult following dedicated to the creatively layered show. Fifteen years after its network television debut, the entire series will finally be unleashed for the first time on DVD to capture the imagination of a new generation. ‘Dark Skies: The Declassified Complete Series’ is set to be unleashed on January 18, 2011 via Shout! Factory, ironically marking the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s inauguration (who is a key player in many of the show’s events). We are often reminded by ‘Dark Skies’ that “history as we know it is a lie.” Now the truth can be told!
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Megan Ward to shed some light on the mysteries of ‘Dark Skies’. In the interview they discuss her roots in entertainment, her experiences as a young actress on the set of ‘Dark Skies,’ her work in the realm of sci-fi, and what the future may hold for one of Hollywood’s most multi-faceted actresses.
Where did you grow up and how did you get started in your career in the entertainment industry?
I was born in a town outside of Los Angeles but my parents moved to Hawaii when I was 5 years old. I grew up in Hawaii, believe it or not. My parents had been actors and that is how they met, but my Dad had a real job to pay the bills and basically that is why they moved to Hawaii. They started an acting school once we moved there. All of my youth was spent growing up in community theater, basically ‘Waiting For Guffman’, that is my childhood. [laughs] When I was 9, my mother was working in a modeling agency. She started sending me and my brothers and sister out for commercial and print work. So from the age of 9, I was working very steadily with Japanese and local commercials. It was sorta handed down, I was naturally put in to the business in a way because my parents were involved. I went back and forth to Japan during my high school years and moved out here, basically the day after I graduated and hit the pavement running and tried to get working in the big pond!
It certainly seems that it is working out for you so far!
Yeah! It’s going OK! Yeah! [laughs]
Aside from your parents, I am curious to know who has been most influential to you as an actress?
Ya know, I was almost kinda old fashioned I guess. As a young person, I watched a lot of the old classics like ‘The Sound of Music,’ ‘The Philadelphia Story’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ — all these old but very well known movies that would play each year on TV. I had my hairbrush in my hand singing the songs to all the musicals and I really wanted to be an old fashioned movie star! [laughs] Unfortunately, those times have kinda changed and I didn’t quite get that when I got here! But it was very much the Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn, Grace Kelly type of actresses that I admired.
It must be good to finally see ‘Dark Skies’ out on DVD after all these years. How did you get involved with the project initially?
It was a very normal, straight up Hollywood story where they were looking for an actress to play a role in the pilot and I got an audition. I loved the script! It was the most unusual thing that I had ever read because it started off with this page, a sort of cover letter, which kinda led you to believe that it was real, that it was true. I remember thinking that it had to be a great script if they were clever enough to have written that cover page. I went in and auditioned and tested. I did all of the things that I had to do to win the role. It was a very traditional process. I got the part by working hard for it!
Was there something that stood out about the character that initially attracted you to the role?
Very much! I have always really liked sci-fi and stories that are told visually as well as dramatically in a story arc. This project did both! You had this very sensational alien conspiracy that needed to be shown, shot and filmed in a very epic, larger than life way, bigger than your standard television show. At the heart of it all were these two characters that were very human. That was kinda the point, that they are not aliens and are very human and they are going through a very dramatic change by learning that there are other creatures who are infiltrating our world and our government is keeping that information from everyone. The core emotional arc of that character, “Kim,” along with the fact that she gets abducted to me was incredibly fascinating. She was this idealistic Kennedy youth with all the promise of the future ahead of her, yet both her and John are both burdened with this very important information and tragic circumstances. They now have to dedicate their lives to saving humanity. It was a VERY epic story and all very human and relatable. It was a very rich character to play. You don’t always find that!
What was the biggest challenge in bringing this character to life?
I think there were two things. One was that physically, it was almost an impossible show to make. We shot 80 hour weeks in crazy locations. The show took place in the ‘60s, in different cities and incorporated historical events. We had so much physical challenge just to pull that off. The other challenge was that my character was this emotional throughline of the story. She represented how America was changing during this time. That was very difficult to play a character that communicated with an alien without any words and to somehow convey a story that meant to continue the fight and strengthened the character in her journey. That was tricky for me. I think that, ultimately, the story may have changed partly because they needed more dynamic action or guns or things like that. So, it was tricky to do but I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to tell a story that way.
When you look back on that time in your career, is there something that stands out as a great moment from just being involved with the series and its talent?
You know, there were several! It has been a number of years, so it is hard to remember them all. I was able to go back and watch a lot of the shows before I did my audio commentary for the DVD release. It was just shocking how many things that we did that I had completely forgotten! There was one moment that I look back on and really love! The pilot was exceptional. It was a lot like making a feature film. During the series, there is a time where the characters are involved with the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. We shot the scenes at an old theater downtown. We have a scene where we are standing on the sidelines and the Beatles are doing their songs for the Ed Sullivan show and the episode involved the New York blackout. That was such an amazing moment because it felt so real! I had several moments like that but that was the most memorable because it was a fun and happy moment as opposed to laying flowers at the Eternal Flame for JFK. It wasn’t a somber moment. It captured a huge moment in history that had I been alive for, I would have loved to take part in!
On ‘Dark Skies’, you got to work with the late JT Walsh. From what I have heard he was quite a character. What can you tell us about working with him?
Ya know, both Eric Close and I were very young when we did the show. I think that our roles were the biggest responsibility that we had had at that point in our careers. JT was so wise and experienced. He had such strong opinions, which could make for a very difficult situation as well, but he was so certain of himself and the material. I always looked up to him and appreciated being in scenes with him because he was so clear. At that point I was still trying to figure out what a line meant or what a scene was about. He just always knew. The confidence that he had really meant a lot to me because I was able to look up to him, even if I didn’t have that much interaction with him. I felt very privileged to work with him. He was great even though he was difficult and tough but he was so talented and sure of himself. He had lived such a great life and I was very fortunate to work with him and to have learned from him.
You cut your teeth in the industry with some roles with Full Moon Productions such as ‘Crash and Burn’ and ‘Trancers II’.
As a fan of sci-fi and your early work, I was wondering what you learned from your time on these lower budget productions?
There is no time for any shenanigans when you are working on a movie whose budget is $800,000 or a million and a half dollars which might have been the biggest one. That’s because there are very few frills in the way of extras or privileges. Having worked on some bigger sets as well, it is very shocking to me how much money is spent on craft services, lunch or snacks! Or how much time is spent waiting for an actor to come out of their dressing room. There is no time for any of that on a smaller film! I feel really lucky that I started that way because it was always about the work! You only got a few takes and Charlie Band was just so wonderful to me. He was very inclusive in the process, so I was able to learn about camera set ups, lighting and all of the technical aspects that went into making those movies. I felt involved! I felt that everything I did mattered to the production, so I was invested to do the best that I could do. I feel that is who I am anyway, but it is carried through all of these years. “Don’t mess around, do it right the first time. If you don’t do it right the first time, do it right the second time! You need to make it good, collaborate but not waste time on yourself or on your ego!” There was no time for any of that! All of those little movies have so much integrity for me because they had to work so hard and do it right, because you don’t get extra chances. I think that every actor should have to work that way or do a project like that, just so they know how good they have it when they work on a larger production.
Obviously, you have dabbled in sci-fi, drama and have a recurring role on a soap opera. That is a pretty good mix of material. Is there a type of role that you haven’t played yet that you might like to tackle in the future?
It has always been my dream to be on stage and to do Broadway. That just seems so elusive to me right now because I have two young children and New York is very far away! But to me, every job is new, whether it is a commercial, television series or a feature film. With each role, there is something new to discover. It always feels fresh, even if I am playing a widow… again! [laughs] Physically, I would love to be on the stage and have time to rehearse. I feel like that is what I will do when my kids go to college! I don’t know, maybe that is going to be my final chapter! [laughs] I really do look forward to doing something like that. I have been on stage as a young actor a lot but not on a large venue with lots and lots of people! That would be the dream for me but I feel that I have a few decades left to do it!
What other projects do you have coming up that we should be on the lookout for and where is the best place for people to find out what’s happening with you?
I have an episode of CSI: New York coming up soon. I believe it will be airing in February of 2011. Look out for that! I do have a website at www.meganward.tv but that is sometimes updated! [laughs] People can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/themeganward.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out on a career in the entertainment industry?
Do it for yourself! Don’t look at results because at times they are incredibly arbitrary, do it for yourself!
Great advice! We thank you for your time and we wish you all the best!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.