With Ghost Wars premiering tonight on Syfy, executive producer Simon Barry adds to his horror series slate for the network alongside the Neil Labute-helmed Van Helsing. As showrunner of his latest creation, Barry has reunited with a fan-favorite actor, Luvia Petersen, from his first sci-fi creation, Continuum. Petersen spoke about how her role on the supernatural series came about and what viewers can expect to see in the coming season.
“It’s set in small-town northern Alaska,” Petersen says, setting the stage for Ghost Wars’ setting. “We’ve got water on one side; we’ve got terrain that you just can’t walk through on another; and then we have this one bridge that connects us. And when an earthquake hits Port Moore, there’s an event… and after this event happens, the veil between the land of the living and the land of the dead is pulled back.”
Petersen plays Val McGrath-Dufresne, mayor of Port Moore and sister of headliner Kim Coates’ character, Billy. “I can tell you that I have a chip on my shoulder,” Petersen says about her character. “I remember when Simon was telling me about the part, that was what he opened with. He’s like, ‘You’re perfect for her! She’s got a chip on her shoulder, you know, hard exterior, soft on the inside,’ and I was like, ‘Thanks, Simon — you see me!’”
Having seen her as Liber8 terrorist Jasmine Garza on Continuum, fans may be used to Petersen’s tough image, but Val has another key aspect in common with the actor. “This is the first time I’ve gotten to play an out character, a fully lesbian character on a TV series, and they do it so well and so nonchalantly,” explains Petersen. “It’s not a big deal, and it’s not what the story’s about. I’m just a human being just like anyone else, and that normalcy is so important for us to keep seeing on screens.”
Val even has a domestic life and a mayoral first lady to round out the normalcy, at least until the earthquake hits Port Moore. “I’m married in the show!” Petersen effuses. “My wife is played by Kristin Lehman, who you guys probably know from Motive, and we have two lovely children in the show who are creepy as all hell.”
The town has its problems, of course, and Petersen admits that Val starts out as one of the non-believers that holds onto her skepticism before experiencing the ghosts for herself. “You’ve got a lot of old feuds; you’ve got a lot of old wounds in this small town that have never been talked about,” Petersen explains, “but the war against these ghosts, really pulls people together, and they’re forced to put aside their differences in order to come together. Otherwise they will die.”
Petersen is a big fan of horror herself, so she was anxious to work on Ghost Wars for reasons beyond working with Barry again. “I love the horror genre because it gets my blood pumping!” Petersen admits. “You’re on the edge of your seat the whole time, anticipating, anticipating, waiting for that scare moment, and when it finally happens, if the filmmakers are doing it right, they don’t disappoint you, and they keep taking you to the next level.”
Ghost Wars exploits that anticipation to the fullest, according to Petersen. “New scripts were coming out, and we’re like, ‘There’s no way they can top what they did last episode!’” says Petersen. “And sure enough, we’d be at the cast read-through, and they did it again and again. Every episode, the tension goes up, so it’s really going to be an exciting ride for viewers who enjoy that kind of thing.”
Like Van Helsing, though, the pacing of Ghost Wars is likely to be more deliberate than most horror offerings. “There’s a lot of breath in it, and then a moment that knocks you off your feet, and then a little bit more breath,” describes Petersen. “It’s a slow, bubbling build until something extreme happens.”
That something extreme happens tonight as Ghost Wars airs its pilot episode entitled “Death’s Door” at 10pm after Van Helsing’s season 2 premiere. For the full audio of this interview, subscribe to our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast or simply listen below!