Brad Carter as Stokes on "Ascension." (SyFy)Link
Al Sapienza as Councilman Rose, left, Ryan Robbins as Duke Vanderhaus, Tiffany Lonsdale as Emily Vanderhaus, Brandon Paul as Aaron Gault, Tricia Helfer as Viondra Denninger, Brian Van Holt as Cpt. William Denninger, Jacqueline Byers as Nora Bryce, P.J. Boudousqué as James Novack and Andrea Roth as Dr. Juliet Bryce -- (Diego Uchitel/Syfy)Link
Brad Carter, center, as Stokes on "Ascension." (SyFy)Link
Brad Carter during his brain surgery, strums his guitar. (From Brad Carter)Link
SyFy’s new space-based miniseries “Ascension” begins its three-episode life Monday, offering a fictionalized take on real-world history.
In 1963, John F. Kennedy proposed a covert space mission dubbed Project Orion, designed to save the human race from the destruction of Earth following the Cold War. The series, created by Adrian A. Cruz and Philip Levens (“Smallville”), posits that the mission took place, sending hundreds of people on a century-long voyage to populate a new world. Almost 50 years into the journey, however, a young woman’s murder prompts the ship’s population to reconsider the voyage in a new light.
The ensemble cast includes “Battlestar Galactica’s” Tricia Helfer, Brian Van Holt (“Cougar Town”), Al Sapienza (“Person of Interest”), Ryan Robbins (“Falling Skies”) and Brad Carter as Stockyard Master John Stokes, who helps control and keep stock of the food and supplies for the starship Ascension.
Carter, a Los Angeles-based actor, musician and comedy writer, gained online fame for openly sharing his experiences battling a progressive neurological disorder, documenting his experiences undergoing brain surgery at UCLA on Instagram, Vine and Twitter.
Hero Complex caught up with Carter, whose other recent credits include turns on “Sons of Anarchy and “True Detective,” to discuss the new SyFy miniseries and his character.
Hero Complex: So, who is John Stokes?
Brad Carter: We know he’s a butcher and he’s good with knives. He’s a small guy, but he’s a dangerous guy. Without giving too much away, I think that a lot of people will identify with him because of his station in life. Basically, he’s been given this lot in life where you don’t get to choose your own job. Everything is chosen for us, predetermined, whether it’s by computer or committee, what job you have and what you’ll become in life.
HC: What’s life like on the Ascension?
BC: Even though they’re on a spaceship, they have the same problems that we have. For most of us, we’ve been born on that ship. My character was born on that ship and he knows that he’s going to die on that ship before they ever get where they’re going. Everyone at my age that’s been born on the ship, we don’t know if Earth still exists or there’s anything to go back to, but some of us want to turn and go back because we don’t believe in the mission. It’s awful to think that we’ve seen everyone that we’re ever going to meet and that we’ve gone everywhere that we can possibly go and that our lives mean nothing because we don’t have free will. To think of that for our characters is awful, and at least those upstairs get to live exorbitantly, but us downstairs in the stockyards 40 decks and below, we’re hard workers and are not given much respect and not given any good times — so we have to make our good times.
HC: What kind of good times?
BC: My character, in particular, makes a homemade whiskey called PGA. We don’t know what he makes it out of. It could have pig excrement or God knows what in it cause there’s not much to work with there. He’s also a connoisseur of alcohol. He has secret bottles of things that he’s collected because there’s only so many of them. Unfortunately because it’s [a miniseries], we’re not able to get as deep into every character as we’d like, and other things get cut out over time that you wish, as an actor, that they could be left in so that people can have a little more insight into your character. You never know what’s going to end up on the floor.
HC: This ship and mission were actually planned by the Kennedy administration. It’s truly science told as fiction.
BC: It’s based on the technology of the ’60s that they were exploring to use for an interstellar space mission. It’s a real project, and, by the way, it’s still considered the best way to do it today. You let off a nuclear bomb at the end of a ship with a pusher plate at the end of it that will protect you and propel the ship forward. It’s not just we’re in space for no reason. We’re in space due to actual scientific plans of the day that they were experimenting with, so that’s what’s kind of interesting and kind of cool. We’re a traveling time capsule.
HC: Is “Ascension” likely to become a full-on series?
BC: I would love for it to become a series. Philip Levens and Adrian A. Cruz have done an amazing job writing this thing and creating a back story. They also know what they want in Season 5! It’s there, and they’ve told me about where they wanted to go and it’s exciting. It can be something that sucks the audience in. You’re going to want to tune in each week; it’s just nothing else like it on TV, I think. It’s kind of like when I got sucked into “Lost.” Just when you think you know what it is, turns out it’s about something else.
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