Behind the scenes during the filming of the hit made-in-Canada sci-fi thriller

It’s an uncharacteristically sunny Vancouver afternoon in early May, yet there’s a disconcerting scene unfolding outside the downtown CBC building: twisted metal girders, concrete rubble, dust blowing through the air while raggedy papers flutter gently to the ground…

“And… cut.”

The wreckage of what appears to have been a massive explosion is actually the on-location set of Continuum, the Vancouver-set sci-fi crime drama that racked up big ratings for Showcase when it debuted a few weeks back.

The scene that’s being shot — about which I am sworn to secrecy — is the final scene of the season’s final episode, involving stars Rachel Nichols and Erik Knudson and the aforementioned rubble — I may have already said too much!

A blending of genres

Continuum follows the fantastic adventure of Kiera Cameron (Nichols), a Vancouver cop from the year 2077 who travels back in time to 2012 while trying to capture a group of dangerous terrorists hell-bent on changing the future.

As extras with bloody head wounds amble around, drinking coffee from cardboard cups, I sidle over to series creator Simon Barry for a chat. He reveals that he first came up with the show’s concept two years ago when he thought about blending the sci-fi and procedural cop show genres. “That way, I could satisfy the requirements of television that lean heavily toward the procedural,” he explains, “but still satisfy my own desire to do something with more mythology, with more of a serialized nature.”

In Barry’s dystopian vision of the future, it’s corporations, not governments, who control the planet’s destiny, and fearful citizens have traded freedom for social and economic security. When a terrorist group called Liber8 begins causing massive destruction in an attempt to violently overturn society so it can be returned to the people, Continuum ventures into a gray area in which the hero we’re rooting for is actually serving a somewhat sinister master.

“One man’s criminal is another man’s freedom fighter,” says Barry. “We’re not black and white in terms of how we are expressing our antagonists and protagonists, so we keep things fluid. It’s very much a perspective-driven story.”

Erik Knudsen: computer genius

Between takes, I chat with Knudsen, who plays a teenage computer hacker who’s destined for an influential and powerful future. Today, however, he’s covered in grey dust, with a gory, gaping wound on his forehead that a make-up artist is dabbing at while we talk. “I can’t reveal much, but I had a little accident, as you can tell,” he laughs.

In fact, Knudsen admits he’s actually psyched to be on set with the rest of the cast, since his character is typically hidden away in his computer-filled barn, far away from the action. The season finale, he reveals, “is the first episode where I get to go out on location, so it’s nice to actually interact with Rachel instead of just talking into a bluetooth headset all the time.”

Speaking with former Stargate SG1 star Tony Amendola

Tony Amendola, a familiar face to fans of Stargate SG1, plays Liber8 leader Edouard Kagame, a driven idealist who has no qualms about killing innocent people to further what he feels is a just cause. Like the character he plays, Amendola doesn’t see Kagame as a villain. “I think he considers himself a moral person,” says Amendola. “But it’s a warped morality; he’s clearly stepped over the line, but we all have to own our own crimes and our own pain and I think he’s aware of the actions he took.”

Kiera and the “future suit”

Knudsen and Nichols are called back in front of the camera, and do another take of the top-secret scene that I’m not going to tell you about. When it’s done, I ask Nichols about the “future suit” she’s wearing, the skintight police uniform that’s imbued with all manner of futuristic technological gadgetry. “You know, the suit looks very sexy but it’s not that sexy,” she laughs, and describes squeezing into the costume as being akin to putting on a wetsuit. “Me actually putting on the suit? Not that attractive.”

The suit, however, serves a lot of purposes for Kiera. “It’s like a full-body iPhone,” jokes the actress. “I can take money out of ATMs, I can go invisible, which is a pretty big deal, and it’s bulletproof. The suit does everything and anything you need it to do. I could, like, make Erik Knudsen pregnant with my suit.”

For Kiera, the world of 2012 is weird and unfamiliar, and I ask Nichols if playing a character who perceives modern-day Vancouver as an alien environment has given her a fresh perspective on the world around her. “I’d love to say yes to that, because it would mean my answer would be super-brilliant and very introspective,” she says. “But no. I mean, I’m Rachel, I was born in 1980, but it has been interesting to understand what the future world is like and then come back to 2012. I mean, as Kiera, I’ve never seen a horse, or eaten meat, or ever had running water — none of those things exist in the future.”

Second season in the works?

Given the success of the show’s premiere episode — 1.7 million Canadians tuned in, making the Continuum pilot the year’s No. 1 scripted cable episode — things look good that the show will be back for a second season. If that happens, Barry says Kiera will continue her “discovery of herself, but there will also be the discovery of a larger mythology and a larger storyline that she’s part of, and I think that’s half the fun…I’ve already written the basic idea of what the series finale would be, so if that day ever comes, we know!”

CONTINUUM airs Sunday nights on Showcase