by James G. Boutilier
After surviving a triumphant 4th season with a major cast change, the ever-popular series Sliders is making a fifth run at the races Friday nights at 9:00 EST, exclusively on the Sci-Fi Channel. This time there is another dramatically reincarnated cast, but it looks to be a good thing. Out are series original Jerry O’Connell, and his brother Charlie O’Connell, introduced last season, leaving the ever-lovely Kari Wuhrer and the anchor of the series, Cleavant Derricks. New this season is actor Robert Floyd, who appeared in the hit film Godzilla and a host of independents, as well as Glen Larson’s Movie of the Week, Descendant. And rounding out the new cast is actress Tembi Locke, whose character brings an attractive, scientific pair of eyes to the ensemble.
Season 5 opens with promises of high adventure, flights of fancy, and a comical play or two, but this time around the team is rudderless and carrying a little extra mass in the form of Mallory, a Quinn alternate with the bane of hosting the original Q-Ball within after an experiment gone wrong, and Diana, a new female scientist who vows to set it all straight… eventually.
Although relative newcomers to multi-dimensional television, both Tembi Locke and Robert Floyd have been familiar with the series for some time, as Locke says, “I had seen it and a couple of my friends did some episodes, so I knew all about it.” And it didn’t take long to feel right at home playing with series veterans Cleavant Derricks and Kari. “What’s wonderful is, it’s already an established family. The first day you think, ‘I’m going to be a guest joining someone for Thanksgiving dinner,’ you know? But it’s not the case at all. This has been a very open and welcoming environment and has been a lot of fun. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.” And, as the actress laughs, “When you go through a vortex with someone you bond with them really quickly.”
Locke plays a scientist named Diana and her first meeting with the sliding gang is, well, explosive. “Diana joins Remmy and Maggie this season when they slide into her world. I’m a scientist and I am a part of an elite experiment being done at a vanguard research lab. We’re experimenting with quantum theory, with genetic transmutations and are on the cutting edge, if you will, of science. I jointly head up that lab with my mentor, who is Doctor Geiger, whom we meet in the 1st episode of the season. The sliders slide into this lab and, of course, are missing Quinn and can’t find Colin, and I’m sort of the go-between for them and my mentor. They enlist my help and help me to see how my leader is up to no good. At the end of the episode I join up and slide with them because they have a friend of mine now with them. who is Mallory caught in Quinn’s body, or Quinn’s caught in Mallory’s body I should say.” Yes, she did say Quinn is in the body of a guy named Mallory.
“Basically, with Jerry having left the show and introducing a new character, what happens, and Robert will tell you this-Mallory [Robert Floyd] is one of our test studies in the lab and while we were doing our experiment, the vortex opened and Quinn and my guy got mixed into one body. By the end of the episode, my impetus for joining the sliders is, I’ve got to find a way to separate them. That becomes my driving force. And of course what is attractive as a scientist, everything I’ve been researching and doing studies on, the sliders now show me a way to do it for real. And Diana gets off on it, she thinks science is sexy.”
Of course, being somewhat of a scientific prude, Diana ofttimes lends to the comical element of the show. “My background has primarily been in half hour [sitcoms], so I bring a certain comedy to it. You know, Diana is sort of a fish out of water, she’s the brain of the operation. She’s been insulated in her studies as a scientist and doesn’t have a big social group, maybe never had a lot of dates, never had a boyfriend, so for the first time I’m put into situations I’ve never been put in before. I’m like a daddy’s girl, straight A student, and I find myself carrying a machine gun in the second world we slide into. As we get to know Diana we get to see all her foibles because she is in unfamiliar and strange situations and is trying to bond with this new group of people. So there is a lot of room for humor, which of course is an area I love.”
Having been torn from their own world and thrown onto a forever-changing stage, not unlike Remmy and Maggie, it is to these veterans Diana and Mallory must look. “Diana looks to Remmy as … he’s the heart of the group, he’s the most experienced slider, and you defer to him under extreme duress. Maggie is the first woman I’ve met who is just so tough as nails, she is clearly connected to what it means to be a woman in the sexual sense. And Diana really looks up to her and is seeing a part of life she has never really experienced. She’s not assertive in using her physical strength in any way, and she does not have 10 guys walking with their tongues dragging behind her. So, there is a nice friendship there. And with Mallory, we are the two sliders who join at the same time, we are both on that learning curve.”
As expected, Locke has too many amusing experiences to recount since starting Sliders; however, a scene or two does stand out in her mind. “Well, I think one of the highlights is seeing Diana going from the highly gifted, bright, princess type to being down in the trenches with a machine gun wrestling a Kromagg,” she laughs. “I think that sets the tone that anything can happen on the show. One of the most interesting things I’ve had a chance to do is meet myself in other worlds. You meet yourself without the education Diana has, or in one world I meet myself and am a single mom struggling with raising a kid.” And as the actress points out, perhaps there is something to be learned from Diana. “By the end of the episode I think, hey, I want to get a boyfriend and have a little romantic action,” she laughs.
Locke laughs at the thought of playing such a wound-up character, which she insists is very much not played from real life. “There are some similarities, although Diana is much more stiff than Tembi. Diana is not so sure having her footing in the social situation. She’s a little more timid and is a science geek, and Tembi certainly isn’t. I had to get a Physics for Dummies book so I could figure out what she was talking about.”
In fact, truth be told, Sliders is Locke’s second foray into this genre. “I like science fiction and I had an opportunity to do a pilot show called Star Command on the UPN Network about two or three years ago, and that was my first jaunt into science fiction. What’s great about sliding is that it’s a mixture of telling what it’s like being a regular person thrown into these fantastical situations under the realm of science. I like it a lot. I find myself watching Contact and Star Trek.”
And if Sliders isn’t enough for the fan base she is sure to garnish, Tembi Locke can also be seen, soon, in a number of film projects. “Right now I have a film project I’m going to be completing in the spring and one slated for some time in the summer. That’s my other passion. One’s called Unbowed and is a period piece, and the other is a murder mystery called 59.”
One thing is for certain, her many exploits on Sliders are sure to provide ample experience for the myriad roles coming Locke’s way.
Not unlike Tembi Locke, actor Robert Floyd finds himself in rather unfamiliar waters as the new male sojourner of the series, having come primarily from a stage and film background.
So, how does a primarily earthbound, dramatic lead find himself in an other-worldly, hourly series? “Quinn was leaving and they needed a replacement. They called my agency and I was more than excited to join a show that had been so successful, and especially such a fantastic character,” Floyd sums up. “I’ve done seven years of stage in New York and then a lot of independents. A couple hourlies. Then when this role came up, it was a plum of a role, and I dove at the chance. It is different getting used to because with a film you’re done in two or three months. It’s a challenge at all times and at the same time you can work on the details, you don’t have to let anything go, you can explore more.”
And like Locke, Floyd was already more than familiar with the show. “Yeah. I didn’t see all the episodes but I did watch it quite a bit and was a big fan of Jerry too, he’s such a wonderful actor and so I was really enthused…. It’s so much fun because every week and every world is so different; it doesn’t always have to be one way or another, it’s just fun.”
Robert Floyd joins the cast as the result of a lab experiment gone awry in the season opener. And right from the beginning, his character, Mallory, offers a rather new approach to surviving in a dog-eat-dog, “post vortexian” universe. “Mallory is your average guy, raised through challenges in life to become your modern-day hero. But he’s still wily, [with a] wry, very dry sense of humor, enjoys life, and is always trying to make a buck here and there, which gives him a lot of fun in each of the worlds,” Floyd explains.
So, exactly how is Mallory introduced, and who is he, anyway? “I’m Quinn’s alternate on another world and it’s a wonderful first episode that brings us all together. What happens is, there’s a doctor who’s been experimenting with wormholes and basically has me slam into the other Quinn Mallory. One of the villains is Doctor Geiger and he smashes me into the original Quinn and we end up becoming two people in one body and fighting for it. And fortunately or unfortunately, I win.” And how does Mallory relate to Diana? “Right now it’s almost a fraternal thing. We have deep feelings for each other but they’re not explored. At the onset we are very good friends, but I don’t have much of a family and she’s it.”
What makes the experience especially enjoyable is the reception the newbies received, regardless of having lost two other characters, “especially the original family member,” Floyd adds. “You wouldn’t have [to] know because everyone was really warm and welcomed here. It was a challenge from day one, but it’s a real team effort. One of the great things here, especially with Sci-Fi, is you’re not dealing with who is in love with whom but you’re dealing more with life and death and exciting new worlds.”
And Floyd is quick to take pointers from the veterans, whether that means how to survive dimensional travel — “Rembrandt is not only teaching me how to slide but how to survive. Without that anchor I would have probably burned up in the first or second world. Rembrandt is always there for you. Now he has become almost the rock of the show” — or surviving the media blitz the actor must now learn: “It’ll be a new hat to pay to. There I look to Kari and Cleavant’s help to do it properly because nothing phases them. I’m lucky to have veterans around like that.”
After X number of worlds visited, there is one quality Floyd has noticed, and enjoyed, about his alter ego, and that is: “We are starting to see a young man now. At the onset he was starting to spread his wings. Once he finally becomes the one person, after being fused as two, he really meets some big challenges. They say pressure is what turns coal into a diamond, and I think that’s what we are starting to see, a rough diamond becoming whole, refining himself.”
So what’s next for Mallory? “Each episode is so different and so wild. We just finished a great motorcycle one, which was fun, and I fell in love on this world. The one before it we had a lot of singing and goofing off, sort of a roaring-twenties world. They just keep me guessing, I never know what happens next. We run into a couple wars, which is really dramatic. And I’m extremely blessed with three fantastic co-stars who are just always on the top of their game in every scene.”
Are there any similarities between the actor and the act? “He’s finding himself at every turn. He is a lot more … he tries to get ahead through material things sometimes, where I really couldn’t care less. Maybe from his own background he is a little love starved, and I don’t feel that way either. The first time he experiences love he is ready to do almost anything for it.”
After having experienced a multitude of lifetimes in one character, and not even one season yet, is there anything Floyd would still like to see his character explore? “I’d love to see him do anything with sports because I’ve played football and a lot of college basketball. We just finished the motorcycle episode and couldn’t do that to save my life. I’d love for him to fall in love. He’s done it once and it was so much fun, so many colors to play with.”
While this actor is waiting for Mallory’s next exploits, viewers can prepare to see a lot more of Floyd, having just been in Glen Larson’s Descendant, and awaiting the release of two films, Cold Hearts and Another House on Mercy Street, in both of which he plays the lead. To sum up expectations on the 5th season, I leave with the words of actor Floyd: “We just can’t wait for the season to start, because it’s gonna be fantastic, it’s really good stuff, just really exciting episodes!”
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