Interview with David Alpay of The Lottery

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This Sunday, July 20, Lifetime debuts a daring new series about a world where mankind is slowly going extinct, because women have become infertile – it’s called “The Lottery.” In this shadowy near future world, one hundred embryos have been created, and the decision has to be made as to who will carry them, and thus the suspenseful drama begins.

Biff Bam Pop! had the opportunity to speak with one of the stars of “The Lottery,” Toronto actor David Alpay. Check out our interview with David after the jump.

Glenn Walker: Hello David, thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

David Alpay: My pleasure!

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Glenn: “The Lottery” is a rather dark near future drama with science fiction undertones on a both personal and worldwide scale. Now you have a past with “The Vampire Diaries,” “The Borgias,” “Slings and Arrows,” and even an episode of Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” – do you have a preference for pseudo-genre TV, and if so, what draws you to it? And specifically, what drew you to “The Lottery”?

David Alpay: Pseudo genre? Or genre fusion! You’re right there is a bit of a mash up element to all these shows and to be honest, I hadn’t really noticed till now. Ha! So much for self reflection. What pulled me into the Lottery was the chance to tell this story. I think we’re at a turning point. More specifically I think we’re at a very delicate point in our history when the balance of power has shifted from culture defining environment to environment dictating culture. Some very weird stuff has happened in the last few years. First it was colony collapse disorder targeting bees. This year there’s been this near extinction event among west coast sea stars. Maybe it’s random, but more likely there’s a pattern. Our show asks a very simple question. It doesn’t matter what your personal views or politics are, what would we do if this happened to us. If humans were next on the chopping block. Its epic in its scope but also very personal. What lengths would you go to to protect yourself, your family. And what would it mean for society if the option of having children was permanently taken off the table. This is ultimately a story about people. People with competing interests and agendas, rife with paranoia, who have to trust each other just enough to work through this moment, or perish. The stakes are high. And to me this is very compelling. And like the best science fiction, its not just allegory for contemporary politics, it very well could be the real thing.

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Glenn: As I mentioned, “The Lottery” takes place in a rather dark, if suburbanly tame dystopic future. There are a lot of characters on the show, but you and Michael Graziadei play two of the more sympathetic folks, the good guys, if you will. What are your thoughts on television being filled with flawed and sometimes despicable protagonists as opposed to real heroes?

David Alpay: Michael is spectacular. But more to your point, what is a real hero? A white hat? Those were never real heroes. More like caricatures. I think the hero motif works if we can identify with them. It’s difficult to empathize with a flawless hero. A protagonist’s humanity is sewn into their faults. Good art always manages to reflect the world. So if it happens that we live in a morally ambiguous and confusing time, than it makes sense that the best shows should have flawed protagonists. Anything else is a simulacrum. A rubber doll. I had one of the wrestler Roddy Piper when I was a kid. He wore a kilt but his arms wouldn’t bend and that was so frustrating.

" DOMINION " Photo by Philippe Bosse

Glenn: You and Marley Shelton have a good if dubious chemistry in “The Lottery.”
What was it like working with her?

David Alpay: Dubious. I love that. It’s hard to tell at any given moment where James and Alison stand with one another. There’s this palpable sexual tension, and they seem to be at each other’s throats more than you’d expect. They’re a team though. And they’re bound by this higher calling, finding a cure for infertility… like the future of the human race depends on it, cause well basically it does. I like to think of them as foot soldiers in a war that has to be won. It’s simple. Their professional relationship trumps their personal one but ultimately feelings pop up and messiness ensues. After all it’s a story about people.

I adore working with Marley because she’s totally game for getting into the messy bits of the story, digging into the character, she’s pretty fearless that way and I love it. It makes a huge difference when you’re excited to go to work because you love working with your costar.

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Plus I think a lot of credit goes to Dawn Olmstead, Danny Cannon and Tim Sexton for cobbling together a truly amazing cast. Humility aside, I think people are going to be impressed by the quality of talent on this show. And that goes for the people behind the camera too. Our crews in Vancouver and MontrĂ©al are outstanding. I’ve never worked with more talented and dedicated craftspeople. And I think it needs to be said cause people forget that there’s this massive team behind us that makes the show come to life.

Glenn: The very themes of “The Lottery” invoke both personal and political views on women’s, children’s, and parents’ rights. Surely it will make its audience think. Would you like to share your thoughts of the topics explored in “The Lottery”?

David Alpay: You’re right. There are a number of very strong themes running through the lottery. What are the individuals’ rights to their own body? What jurisdiction does the state have over an individual’s children? The central question that ties them all is in an age of mass infertility, how far are we willing to go to find a cure? Do the ends justify the means? If we go to any and all lengths to save humanity, what will we become in the process and will we be left with something that will have been worth saving? I think the show is going to challenge our audience to think about these things. The show kind of gets you in the gut, moves up to your brain, back down to your gut…

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Glenn: “The Lottery” takes place in the year 2025. While it’s only eleven years in the future, how much was put into the little tech extras to make it seem like the future?

David Alpay: That’s a great question. There’s a little gadgetry and CGI wizardry at play on our show, to be sure. But like you point out, its set only a decade or so in the future. And remember too that this is a future derailed by a crisis that has compelled a massive reallocation of economic resources. So within that context and on a more macro scale, what does that future look like? On a micro scale its questions like, what do phones look like? What do people wear? Is there paper? These are things our production design and wardrobe teams have been actively working on. It’s cool, because its not so far in the future that anything goes. We’re definitely constricted by rules. That makes it much more interesting.

Glenn: I know that you have received raves for your award-winning role in the film Ararat and also for your stints on “The Tudors” and “The Borgias.” What can you tell us about your performances in those parts?

David Alpay: I’ve been extremely lucky in my career to have not been type cast as any one kind of performer. I get to flick back and forth between period, contemporary, and genre without too much fuss.

THE TUDORS

“Tudors” was sort of a special case. Michael Hirst, our only writer was himself a historian and university professor. People nevertheless critiqued the show for being historically inaccurate. As if they were there… puh-lease. But for all intents and purposes it was rooted in a very specific time period. And the characters on the show were bound by that era’s social conventions. All except for Mark Smeaton. Musician, dance master, all around bon vivant, he was a contemporary character in a period drama. To me, he seemed like someone who’d dropped in from another time, another place, where moral codes were different. And it was precisely this fault in his indoctrination that would be his undoing.

Glenn: I heard a rumor that you played the violin yourself on “The Tudors” and are quite the accomplished musician. Tell us about your involvement with Tim Robbins & The Rogues Gallery Band.

David Alpay: Trevor Morris won Emmys for his work composing music for “The Tudors.” The year I worked on that show turned out to be, among many highlights, a first class education in pan European renaissance music. My iTunes library is still heavily stocked with Toronto and Folger Consort, Jordi Savall, Sting’s John Dowland tribute Songs from the Labyrinth, etc. by then I’d been playing the violin for twenty years, five of which I’d spent as a teenager with the Canadian dance tapestry playing Canadian folk music with a lot of Irish, Scottish and French influences. So learning this new repertoire was a bit like learning a new dialect of a familiar language. Variations on a theme. Fitting.

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I met Tim through our mutual friend Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Tim, his brother Dave and I hit it off musically and I joined his gang of misfits (Sebastian Steinberg, Dave Coulter of the Pogues, Roger Eno, Stuart Johnson of the Leftover Cuties) a couple summers ago to promote his album of all original music, and more generally to rock the heck out of 40 north American cities and fourteen shows in Tokyo. I love playing with Tim because he puts everything into his music. Every ounce of passion. It was incredibly emotional and powerful. I think there’s a clip of us on YouTube playing Letterman if people are interested. Speaking of which, did you know Letterman keeps his studio at a balmy 5 degrees Celsius? No joke. It’s like a giant walk-in fridge.

Glenn: What is the lure of the period drama for an actor? It’s not just the dress-up part, is it? đŸ˜‰

David Alpay: A friend of mine once told me that opera was the last hiding place of melodrama. I think period drama is the last hiding place of enunciation.

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Glenn: What has been your favorite performance of your career so far? And your most challenging?

David Alpay: The walls in my apartment in MontrĂ©al are covered in torn magazine articles, photographs, pictures mainly of war zones, climate disruption, population relocations. It started pretty haphazardly but it’s grown organically to include models in weird couture, next to men in gas masks etc. and to be honest I’m not sure why they’re there but somehow it all fits. Slowly this world is taking shape on my walls, this vision of the future. Vaguely bleak, and even grotesquely beautiful. But it reminds me at every turn where I’m meant to be while we film this show. I like this feeling of saturation. I think the unique challenge of this show is bringing this vision of a darker future to our audience but at the same time delicately instilling a sense of hope, which is the essence of a lottery. And the optimism that if we work together, maybe we can dig ourselves out of a pretty deep hole.

Glenn: What’s it like being a young actor working out of Toronto?

David Alpay: There is so much talent in Toronto, the city is an incubator for art. What’s more, the industry is so decentralized that I think for the first time it really is possible to work and have a career anywhere. The flip side of that, though, is that you have to get comfortable not living in any one spot for too long. At least that’s been my experience.

Glenn: What’s next for you after (or during, should it continue, and we hope it will) “The Lottery”?

David Alpay: I’m really into this noir script by Toronto director Peter Lynch called Birdland. We’ll be filming in November outside Toronto. After that, if I can swing it, I want to go to Iceland. It’s been calling me for a few years. I think I need to check it out.

Glenn: Thank you for your time, David, and best of luck in the future. We look forward to the rest of this season’s “The Lottery.”

David Alpay: This was fun! I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it đŸ˜‰

“The Lottery” premieres Sunday evening at 10:00 PM EST on Lifetime. Check it out.

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