Deadly virus threatens humankind in new drama ‘Helix’

ABOVE: Actor Billy Campbell talks about his role as a CDC agent in “Helix”

MONTREAL – If the possibility of worldwide pandemics is already giving you the jitters, Helix is poised to ratchet up your paranoia levels.

“There is a good creepy factor to it,” says series star Billy Campbell. “I’m a big fan of creep and I think we’re going to have a lot of creepy so I’m pretty excited about it.”

The latest entry into the mysterious-virus-runs-amok horror genre, Helix premieres Friday on Showcase.

Intrigue abounds as scientists from the Centers for Disease Control led by the brilliant Dr. Alan Farragut (Campbell) go to a remote Arctic installation to investigate the outbreak of a virus that could wipe out humankind.

“This could happen,” the Virginia-born Campbell says of the possible infection, although he acknowledges things get a little “wackier” in the show because of some plot elements he can’t reveal.

Story continues below advertisement

Helix, he says, taps into primal fears.

“It’s a fear, really, of ghosts and spirits and things that possess us. And in fact there are things that possess us that we can’t see and they’re called viruses. They’re smaller things than we can see and they get inside us and change us and kill us and leap from body to body and it’s a fact of life….

“What’s more scarier than the thing that you know is coming down the road?”

That’s echoed by Montreal-raised actor Mark Ghanime, who plays Maj. Sergio Balleseros, an army engineer with a mysterious agenda.

“We have viruses out there that have taken many, many lives,” he said.

“It’s a very large possibility. It’s not your far-fetched scenarios like zombies or vampires or werewolves. That stuff’s all cool but it’s very fantastical and not real. This is what makes it so scary is that it’s so plausible.”

READ MORE: Billy Campbell falls in love with Montreal while making Helix

Campbell, who is well known for a slew of movie and TV roles including Once and Again and The Killing, describes Helix as a “kind of science fiction-fantasy-horror mashup.”

“It’s a bit of a mashup of The Andromeda Strain, which is a good old movie — one of my favourites — John Carpenter’s The Thing, and The Walking Dead. Kind of a delightful concoction. A smoothie of horror.”

Story continues below advertisement

The easygoing Campbell imbues Farragut with an everyman quality that makes all his portrayals so accessible but there are also plenty of layers to the scientist, not to mention history with other members of the team.

“It becomes quickly apparent that not all is as it seems,” the actor says. “The whole show evolves or devolves into one secret on top of another and some pretty fantastic things happen.”

Helix is the latest offering from Ronald D. Moore, who serves as executive producer. He’s best known for the acclaimed reboot of Battlestar Galactica. Others on the crew claim stints on such sci-fi touchstones as The X-Files, Lost and various incarnations of the Star Trek franchise.

While the thriller is driven by the science fiction, it’s the human relationships that anchor it, says Kyra Zagorsky, who plays Julia Walker, a no-nonsense scientist who used to be married to Farragut.

“Everyone’s really tested and they have to uncover the light and the dark sides of themselves,” said Zagorsky, who is married to a Montrealer and splits her time between Vancouver and Los Angeles.

“There’s a lot of relationships that develop, a lot of relationships that they discover, a lot of trying to mend things and reach for people. It’s kind of about looking for connections in the isolation.”

And that isolation is well conveyed in the eerie facility where the story plays out.

Story continues below advertisement

“The base itself is a bit of a character,” said the Vancouver-based Ghanime, noting all the shadowy rooms, tunnels and ducts the actors have to negotiate. “They feel the intensity of the building itself.”

Zagorsky said the set enhances the actors’ performances.

“It’s cold, it feels isolated,” she said. “It feels pristine yet it’s full of this death virus. It’s this weird thing to be locked into and there’s times at least with my character where I get kind of stuck in certain icy-feeling types of environments just within the facility. It’s definitely another character. It feels like it’s your scene partner.

“Very creepy.”

Showcase is owned by Shaw Media, parent company of Global News.

Sponsored content