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Adrian Paul: Talking TRACKER Part One

The HIGHLANDER returns to television in his new series TRACKER and assumes a role behind the camera as well

By Abbie Bernstein     October 16, 2001


Adrian Paul plays an alien bounty hunter in TRACKER
© 2001 Chum Television
Some day, it's entirely possible that Adrian Paul will become best known for playing a perfectly ordinary human being but that's not in the cards just yet. True, after starring for six seasons as 400-year-old Immortal swordsman/martial artist/all-round good guy Duncan MacLeod in the syndicated HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES, the London-born Paul had a couple of gigs playing more-or-less regular guys in THE VOID (albeit up against an unnatural occurrence), STORM WATCH and CONVERGENCE (as a kinky coroner). These were balanced by more exotic turns as Sir Lancelot in MERLIN: THE RETURN, ethical vampire police detective Aaron Gray in THE BREED and a reprisal as MacLeod in the theatrical film HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME.

Now Paul is embodying another

Adrian Paul plays an alien bounty hunter in TRACKER

non-run-of-the-mill character, the extraterrestrial Cole on TRACKER, the new series from Lions Gate Television that begins airing this week. Cole's true form is pure light, but he must take on human guise when he comes to Earth to track down over 200 prisoners who've escaped from an interplanetary jail. "He's meant to be energy," Paul explains. "So the way he tracks is through energy, through feeling energy that's been there before. That's a small visual effect."


Cole can change his visage in the opening episode, he selects his human face and physique off an underwear billboard but otherwise, he has few strange abilities. "Hyperspeed is the only real superhuman power he has," Paul relates. "He is able to travel fast over short distances. The world slightly stops for that one moment while he's in [hyperspeed] and he can do whatever he has to do and comes back out and returns to the normal world. It does deplete his energy he can only do it once a day."


Behind the camera, Paul is demonstrating some superhuman stamina of his own, serving as executive producer with Gil Grant and Dave Fleming, as well as starring in the show. He sounds as if he's been traveling through hyperspeed himself lately, speaking by phone from TRACKER's Toronto location. "I'm working too hard at the moment," Paul acknowledges with a laugh. "Usually, I'm getting four or five hours sleep a night."


HIGHLANDER, especially in its latter

In TRACKER, Adrian Paul plays an alien -- that takes human form -- sent to Earth to track down a number of interstellar convicts

years, afforded Paul a fair degree of behind-the-scenes involvement he directed four episodes, widely considered to be among the series' best but he wanted a still more hands-on capacity on his next long-term TV commitment. "It's actually a lot more work," Paul says of his executive producer-lead actor double duty, "because I tend to get into everything, from the visual effects, to the casting, to the actual look [of] the interiors and exteriors, to the directors we choose, to actually everything that's done up here. It's a lot of work at the beginning, because you first have to do all the tests to figure out exactly what it is that we want to accomplish, so everybody is on the same page as to what [we're] doing."


As to how decisions are reached, Paul explains, "We kind of all consult on everything: Dave Fleming is actually the man who put the [TRACKER] package together; co-executive producers are Grant Rosenberg and Peter Lenkov; Kevin Beggs, who's the head of television for Lions Gate, and [Lions Gate president of television and worldwide distribution] Ira Bernstein, who is the one who brought TRACKER to the forefront. I have a very good basic [concept] of what I want, and so does Gil [Grant], so we really discuss a lot of this, and then we bring in other people's opinions and see what the ideas are and how best to serve them. Gil and I came up with a lot of how we want the thing to look and feel. We have one writer up here all the time and we have three or four down in Los Angeles. They've done a good job. We're actually ahead on the scripts right now. We have them rewritten for what we're doing here, and then I get it, and I go, 'Okay, let's look at the relationships and the humor.' Because there's a lot of humor in the show."


The production team concurs about TRACKER's tone. "We are all in agreement that this is a show that has a sci-fi element to it," Paul says, "but it's really about the relationships, which are working very well right now with the characters that we are building. It's a question of [deciding on the character dynamics and the look], first of all, and then waiting for it to be established so that you don't really have to worry about it, just adjust it from episode to episode."


Paul's involvement with TRACKER came out of an overall deal with Lions Gate to direct and star in several films and to create an episodic TV program. "[TRACKER] was one of the scripts that they presented me with, and I decided to go with this one."


Both the show and the character have altered somewhat since TRACKER's inception, Paul says. "It's the same type of feel [as] STARMAN, the 1985 picture an alien comes down to this planet. I wanted to make sure that his development was not fast, as often happens in TV. So a lot of the dialogue was cut we did a lot of things that worked through actions rather than talking. The [language] he assimilates as he goes along. After five or six episodes, he's talking relatively normally, so it's kind of evolved as we've gone."


Unlike a number of

Amy Price-Francis and Leanne Wilson in TRACKER

actor-producers, Paul sounds just as enthusiastic about the development of other actors' characters as his own. He describes Mel, the female lead played by Amy Price-Francis: "Mel is somebody who's never had a direction in life. The Watchfire is the bar that Mel has inherited from her grandmother. It's an old cop bar that she's trying to spruce up. The young girl, Jess, played by Leanne Wilson, who's English, has been there for the past year or two. Initially, [Jess] was going to be [Mel's] younger brother. Then it became her younger sister. Now it's become just somebody who works in the bar, who's actually been there for a couple of years. It's kind of the COYOTE UGLY type of feel.


"[Mel is] trying to figure out what she wants to do," Paul continues. "She's always started one job and ended that and started another one, and she's really sort of found something in Cole. She can't explain what, but it gives her some sort of purpose. And he, on the other hand, is really sort of fixed on what his job is, although he's now beginning to feel what it's like to be human. Having turned himself into the human form, he's now beginning to feel what it's like to have I don't want to say 'emotions' or 'feelings,' but the temptations we have as humans. He's learning a lot of that from Mel, this person who he doesn't quite understand yet [but] who is helping him to actually achieve what he is. And so it's an interesting, oddball relationship. It's like a reverse MOONLIGHTING."


Be sure to check back later this week for part two of CINESCAPE's Adrian Paul interview.

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