Canadian-born actor Sebastian Spence, who has portrayed Cade Foster for three years on Sci-Fi Channel's FIRST WAVE, welcomes me warmly with a big hug. He's good-humored and polite, cracking jokes the kind of behavior friends and fans say is typical for him.
FIRST WAVE is based on a series of predictions by Nostradamus that ultimately lead to the emergence of Mabus, the Antichrist, who spearheads the Second Wave interpreted in the show as an alien invasion. Although ratings of season three in the U.S. have been solid, Spence has heard that the show will not be going forward with a fourth season.
"I have to move on because the show is not coming back," he says. "It seems like this indecision has been going on a long time because at one time they said the show was gone. Then [producer] Larry Sugar contacted the cast and said it looked good. Now this. I think everybody got tired of waiting. Just say yes or no so we can get on with our careers. Sci-Fi Channel said yes. That's why we were really sad about this. Last time I talked to Larry, he had even started to look at other companies for investing, but nobody stepped in. [Series creator] Chris Brancato is busy with another TV series called DOPE."
Brancato worked with Bert Salke for the F/X Channel on his new miniseries, however he still can come back to FIRST WAVE at any time.
"I think he might," Spence says. "I felt like we wouldn't even have a chance to finish up. We rushed the ending of the story, because if it turned out there were no fourth or fifth seasons, we wouldn't be leaving the story hanging. Chris set sort of a borderline ending. Cade Foster definitely wins the battle, and the aliens lose. Cade has a victory in the end, but at the same time Cade has had a chance to go to the past and come back. He's had closure. I don't feel like [the characters] got a chance to finish the show that way. [The executive crew was] taking it month to month."
Despite Spence's credible acting, supported by excellent work from the show's cast and crew, Pearson has decided not to finance any further seasons. Pearson, which was recently purchased by the German media company Bertelsmann AG, has said it won't be renewing the series.
Brancato posted a message on the Sci-Fi Channel message boards containing the bad news, and word spread lightning-fast to the disappointed fans. Considering this, Sebastian lapses into pensiveness.
"I didn't expect how I felt when I heard it was over," he says. "I had thought that once the show was over, I would move on to something else. But I put a lot into FIRST WAVE. In a way, I think I had a grip on the show, but the show had a grip on me, too. I need to let that go. It still influences what I do as an actor, but I'm slowly getting away from Cade Foster and doing different things."
How frustrating was it, not knowing if there would be a next season?
"I don't know if I was frustrated waiting for their answer, because we shot 27 episodes for the second and the entire third season before it went down. Such a lot of work. By the end of it, I was just happy to take a vacation. So in a way, I wasn't waiting for their decision. Although when it came down and we found out that the show was not going to go again, it was kind of sad. It took a couple of weeks for it to sink in. I miss Rob [LaBelle], Traci [Lords] and Roger [R. Cross] -- all the people I worked closely with for a long time."
But Spence is not spending a lot of time relaxing and waxing melancholy. He has taken several new jobs since FIRST WAVE wrapped up its final season.
"I appeared in James Cameron's DARK ANGEL ['Hit A Sista Back']. I thought it was great to work on a James Cameron project. I was very interested in appearing in a TV series that had three times the budget we had," Spence laughs. "I played Charlie Smith, a father who was raising and protecting his child. Charlie wasn't as aggressive in the same way Cade was. He was scared. He just wanted to save his kid. I wanted to do something different and I thought Charlie would be a good character to start with. The director was James Whitmore Jr., and it was a chance to work with him as well. I went into the audition to see if I still had my chops. They're very selective, only auditioning for top actors. I competed with some of the best actors in Vancouver and got the job, so I felt good."
Since DARK ANGEL has been given a green light to go for another season and is currently being filmed in Vancouver, Charlie may make another appearance in future episodes.
"That would be lovely," Spence says with a smile. "Apart from DARK ANGEL, I did HIDDEN TARGET [a.k.a. FIRST SHOT: THE PRESIDENT IS DOWN] for USA Network with Mariel Hemingway. I played an FBI guy. I'm a big fan of [Hemingway's]. Also, I did STRANGE FREQUENCY ['Don't Fear The Reaper'], which airs on VH1. I worked with Sebastian Bach of SKID ROW and Charisma Carpenter of ANGEL. That was interesting. The character I played was completely out there, very weird. He tries to kill a girl [Carpenter] and jumps around the living room with panties on. Just weird. A lot of fun."
Spence, who generally keeps his ambitions to himself, also had an opportunity in Hollywood to improve his career prospects.
"I went down to Los Angeles for a few weeks. I've got a management company down there, but I wasn't a big fan of L.A. In some ways I had to reevaluate what I wanted to do in this business, whether I was prepared to suffer in L.A. for nine months to get a feature film. I came close to a few big gigs, which I thought was good, because there was a lot of competition down there at the time. It was before the strike was threatening. All the Hollywood actors were going out trying to get as much work as they could. So for me, as a Canadian actor who was working in a series that was not very well known in the States, it was bad timing. The casting directors I met in L.A. didn't know FIRST WAVE. They had no idea Francis Ford Coppola was doing TV. God, I've been doing this for three years and it doesn't mean anything to these people. Which is fine. Besides, I was wanting to do a feature film and they were TV casting directors. That was kind of tough and disappointing. So I came back to Vancouver and decided to start working here again."
Millions of actors seek the chance for fame. It's ironic that Spence got the kind of role actors crave and gave the fans a strong image of Cade Foster, but his efforts did not attract production people the way he imagined.
"Although I'm first choice for a series in Toronto, I won't say any more about it because if I don't get it I'll feel bad!" He laughs. "Right now I'm really excited about that. It's a 13-episode commitment and very well written. It's sort of sci-fi, but not about aliens. It's all about biological stuff and human drama. So I won't have to scream at aliens." he jokes. "I think I will probably go down to L.A. again sometime this fall and try to get a feature film. The series in Toronto may or may not come to fruition. I've had several months to think about life, too. Taking a new approach as a human being, as an actor, you know."
Spence wants to try to create a better career to accomplish all he has set out to do. On top of that, being the star of FIRST WAVE for three years and being welcomed by sci-fi viewers all over the world has taught Spence some important lessons.
"I think I've learned a lot of things, good and bad. I've learned to pace. You know, they give you one episode and you put everything you have into it and then seven days later the episode is over and it's time to do another one. I was so exhausted, but by the end of the season I had learned to pace myself. For three years I had this wonderful chance to work with hundreds of actors and great directors, all their different styles, their talent. It's my biggest achievement. I think one of the biggest lessons I have learned in FIRSTWAVE is that you can have a bad day and it's nobody's fault. You only do what you can do. Sometimes you have to let it go. Some days you'll be better as an actor than others. So you just have to rely on editors. Chris said that I was a very consistent actor. I'm proud of that. I've seen actors come on the set and act unprofessional. For me, as soon the camera is rolling, I'm not sick anymore. I'm playing Cade Foster. That's what you have to do. You are a paid professional. It's not just about me. We all work together to create the best show we can."