THE IMMORTAL: The New Series Debuts (Mania.com)

By:Frank Garcia
Date: Monday, October 09, 2000

'With this sword I will take an oath of vengeance! The evil ones will know my name and fear it! They will ride my blade to hell! And I will never stop until it is done!'Raphael Cain, The Immortal

Are television audiences ready for another Samurai sword-wielding immortal whose single-minded mission is to battle supernatural evil throughout time? Meet Raphael Cain. Alas, he's not from Scotland, like HIGHLANDER's Duncan MacLeod. But for 400 years, he's been fighting a secret war with Satan's minionsmillions of demons from hell who are operating on Earth as evil humans. Raphael is THE IMMORTAL.

A Canadian-British co-production, this new syndicated one-hour, action-adventure fantasy series premieres this week and stars veteran action star Lorenzo Lamas. As Rafe, Lamas is the hero who has walked through the ages with a young man at his side: Goodwin. In the two-part pilot, 'Demons of the Night,' the heroes are in modern day civilization, and the two warriors cross paths with another demon-hunter, parapsychologist Dr. Sara Beckman. Because Beckman has invented a means to identify and locate demons with highly sophisticated electronic equipment, the trio join forces to guard the earthly plane against Satan's army, which is scattered across the globe.

Raphael's story actually begins in 17th century Japanwhere he was studying under his martial arts mentor Yashiro (veteran actor Robert Ito)when a pair of demons, Mallos and Vashista, kills his wife Mikiko. 'Raphael becomes immortal because he forged his sword with hate and vengeance, directed toward Satan himself as the evil entity responsible for the death of his wife,' explains Lorenzo Lamas in an interview on the set of THE IMMORTAL. 'With that tremendous animosity, hate and vengefulness that he feels for Satan, he vows to avenge the death of his wife through eternity. And Satan is listening. He's a force that begs for confrontation. So, in a sense, Satan has given Raphael immortality. 'You want to mix it up? Let's go!'

'There's a moment in the first episode where Yashiro, Raphael's sagehis Yodatells him it is his quest to kill all the demons that walk the face of the earth. Raphael says, 'How am I going to do that? I'm one person...' 'You will find it is your calling...' So, in a sense, Yashiro is sending Raphael off. Raphael's vengeful promise to Satan is the ticket that gets him out of 17th century Japan and to an eternal life.'

After 400-years of demon-stabbing, we pick up Raphael in present day when he discovers a new ally in his crusade against the darkness. 'Dr. Sara Beckman totally intrigued me and made me fall in love with the project as a whole because she's really complicated,' says Canadian actress April Telek, on playing Rafe's newfound companion. 'As a child her parents were killed in front of her and she saw them ripped apart by what she knew to be an external force. Demons had possessed her parents and made them do these things to her because there was no way that they would do them on their own. That became her driving force, to find out who was it that did this. After years of research, she realized it was demons.'

Goodwin, a young blond-haired man who assists Rafe in his eternal quest, is the second immortal in this saga. He's played by Canadian actor Steve Braun. Being a sidekick with Rafe over the years, says Braun, has been 'a brotherly, fatherly and friend kind of a relationship. It's multi-dimensional. And now we have Sara. There have been very few women who have managed to make their way into our inner circle and be a part of our mission. That's going to take some getting used to.'

The origins of THE IMMORTAL, reveals Lamas, began as a screenplay for a feature project. Writer-producers Michael Grais and Mark Victor approached him to play Raphael. 'I was very intrigued,' he says. 'I thought it was the best two hours on paper that I'd ever read. It had all the elements that I'd ever liked about a hero. Not only was the hero formidable, he also had vulnerable qualities that I always find a challenge to flesh out. More often than not, you have heroes that are written as standard cardboard cutouts.'

With more than 23 feature and TV movie credits and under his belt, Lamas is instantly recognized as an action star and a romantic lead in Hollywood. 'I've been training for 20 years in the martial arts, and I'm prepared to deliver that type of action,' says Lamas. 'The most demanding part of the show is the amount of time it takes to film each day. The hours are tremendously labor demanding. I get up at 6 a.m. and get back at 10 p.m.' Audiences today still recall his memorable roles in the musical GREASE (1978), the TV series FALCON CREST (1981), and in many action films. He played Reno Raines, a bounty hunter in the syndicated TV series RENEGADE (1992). His sole genre credit was playing the voice of Cale Oosha, the extraterrestrial father of David Carter, in the Warner Brothers animated mini-series INVASION AMERICA (1998).

'During the development process, THE IMMORTAL became more about a syndicated TV series than a movie,' continues Lamas. 'The story lent itself so well to a television format. I signed on right away. When you look around, the world is full of potential demons. You meet them every day! We're taking this series as an idea that these unscrupulous types are in reality controlled by Satan. Our hero Rafe and his two good friends, Goodwin and Sara, try and flush these demons out into the streets and sewers of the world and return them back to hell.

'I thought the pain that Rafe carries with him, because in the 17th century the demons killed his wife and kidnapped his little girl, was a tremendous plus. Victor and Grais has given me so much opportunity for diversity with this character.' In one filmed episode notes Lamas, 'Raphael went through a whole gamut of emotions from self-loathing, doubting, to loss of confidence, not believing his own existence, and then finding himself again. There's a tremendous amount of opportunity.'

In broad strokes, Lamas describes the series as being a cross between 'THE X-FILES meets BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. It's good versus evil in its most primal sense. It is a show that a family can sit down together to watch. The show has a very unique quality about it. It doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a little bit campy. It's hardly ever overly violent. There's martial arts on the show, but it's exciting.'

Lamas says his favorite action moment filmed to date was on the premiere episode, battling with demons. 'Rafe has a battle in an alley with three demons,' he grins. 'He avoids a blow from one demon with a pipe in his hand by walking over the demon's head onto the wall and jumping down and killing the demon. It looked like MATRIX. We're able to stage good fight scenes. Members of the audience will really like that. It's demanding and physical, but I have a really good fight team to help me complete the fighting sequences.'

If television viewers are willing to share in Raphael's journey, they'll soon uncover dark mysteries that haunt the immortal. 'Expect to see bits and pieces of the puzzle that Raphael is looking for to find out if his daughter is still alive,' says Lamas. 'In each episode, there will be new demons, new confrontations. We'll find new clues to the old purpose, which is to avenge his wife's murder. Satan says, 'Raphael, come along! Bring it on!' and with that, he gives Raphael little clues to lead him on. To make him suffer. To remind him of his loss. To emotionally torture him in his immortal life. It's become Satan's game to play.'

Veteran actor Robert Ito will occasionally appear in the role of Rafe's mentor, Yashiro. Taking a page from David Carradine's old KUNG FU series, the show will flashback to the days of yesteryear in Japan where Yashiro's wisdom will guide Raphael's mission in the present day. 'Robert Ito is a terrific actor,' notes Lamas. 'I'm so glad he's playing Yashiro. Yashiro and Rafe's relationship is so important. It's like the Young Bull meets the Old Bull.'

Unlike Lorenzo Lamas, who has a long list of action-themed films and television series on his resume, April Telek and Steve Braun are relative newcomers to doing sci-fi TV series, which have some strong action requirements. Although Braun has been trained in the martial arts, this is the first attempt to apply his skills for the cameras. 'It's very physical at times,' says Braun. 'Goodwin manages to get the job done, albeit in an Inspector Gadget [fashion]. Just through sheer confidence. His confidence is almost his strength. He will run into a chair, the chair will fall, someone running will fall over the chair, hit the domino, the next domino, and the demon dies. There's a lot of slapstick, sarcastic humor.'

Braun is new to television. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Philosophy and has performed as a musician in bands. It was just last year that Braun turned his focus to professional acting and captured roles in an NBC movie of the week, DYING TO DANCE. His TV episodic appearances includes RELIC HUNTER and EARTH: FINAL CONFLICT.

'There was an action sequence we did where Rafe was demonized and he comes after me,' says Braun. 'He doesn't know who I am and he wants to fight me. He's in the hospital. Gurneys are flying and he's coming after me with a changing screen and I slip through the screen and jump up the bed and evade him. That was pretty neat.'

'I've been very lucky. I've not had to do a lot of physical stunts,' says Telek, who plays the observer during action moments. 'We have very talented stunt people. I'd like to get my hands dirty a little more. A stunt actor rolled down a hill into a ditch and I said, 'I can do that! Let me do that!' and they replied, 'Noooo! You're not doing that!' '

Although THE IMMORTAL is Telek's first TV series in a regular role, she's racked up an impressive list of supporting roles in features such as MASTERMINDS (1997, with Patrick Stewart) and guest appearances in TV series such as SLIDERS, OUTER LIMITS, HIGHLANDER, MILLENNIUM, DEAD MAN'S GUN, THE SENTINEL, SECRET AGENT MAN and THE CROW: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN.

In the four months they've been filming the series, all three actors believe that their on-screen rapport has been going well. 'The relationship between the three is almost like a dysfunctional family,' chuckles Lamas. 'Rafe is in a sense the working father. Goodwin is the troubled, incorrigible teenage son. Sara is the working mother trying to hold the pieces together.'

'I think there is a love that Sara has for Rafe that is buried deeply and she tries to keep it hidden. But who knows what the future will hold?' remarks Telek.

'This is like an education,' admits Braun. 'I learn so much every day. When you work with someone like Lorenzo it's great because he's been in the business for so long. He really knows his stuff. I just watch him and the way he handles himself on the settreating everyone with respect, getting the job done. He's a good man to watch. And Aprilwe're more on equal footing in that regard. This is sort of our first big thing. We go back to our trailers and talk about how cool this is!'

Summing up the show's appeal, Telek explains, 'I think THE IMMORTAL is a really wonderful combination of so many different genres put into one. I think this is a show that I'd never seen on television before. Sure, we've all seen demons on TV shows or on ALIEN. Martial arts. Science fiction. But I've never really seen a show that combined all of those elements with comedy and drama all into one episode. I think it is a really unique combination. That's what intrigues me.'

With about 80 percent of the U.S. television market cleared for broadcasting the series, THE IMMORTAL has a fighting chance to capture what it needs to survive: a faithful audience that will propel the series into another season of adventures.