BURBANK, California — "Am I safe here?"
Brian Austin Green is standing perilously close to a car that is about to blow up. Firemen are standing nearby, should anything go wrong. But Green isn't so sure he's in a safety zone, so he keeps asking, "We're safe over here, yes?" Five times he asks, and as he continues to get no response, he laughs. "Safety first — just not with me," he jokes. "I ask if I'm safe, and they don't even hear me. If I die today, I'm going to be really pissed!"
Right about now, many television shows are wondering if they're in danger — ratings are low, even for previous hits, such as this one. "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" was a midseason replacement earlier in the year, and when hardly any network had new content on the air (thanks to a little ol' writers strike), the all-new "Terminator" show, like its namesake, was unstoppable. But with most serialized dramas (even "Heroes") in trouble this fall, "Terminator" is embracing danger and risk — by adding more stunts, more effects and new stars, such as Garbage singer Shirley Manson. (Head over to the Newsroom blog for more on what she's been up to.)
Manson plays the most advanced T-1000 yet: a liquid-metal infiltrator model who is successfully running a company acquiring technology that might lead to the creation of SkyNet.
"Shirley's good, right?" asked Green, who plays Derek Reese. (Head over to the Newsroom blog to find out what he says about the revival of "90210.") "Now I take more notice when her songs are on the radio. Megan [Fox]'s always the first to point them out, because she was a huge Garbage fan. She's great on the show."
"It's a great role for her," said Thomas Dekker, who plays John Connor. "She looks very sleek."
Manson shocked viewers in the season premiere, after they'd been lead to believe she was just a corporate executive, when she transformed from the urinal she'd been disguised as (Terminators can masquerade as inanimate objects) and "terminated" an employee — by poking his eye out with a suddenly elongated metal finger.
"Did it catch you by surprise?" Manson asked with glee. "She's a very subversive character: The fact that she's in this male corporate environment, she's this incredibly self-assured, empowered character, it makes her a scary individual [to her unaware employees]. But Terminators have to be scary — they're not supposed to be cuddly and warm. And she's great for business."
While Manson's Catherine Weaver has made a few kills in the show so far, it's usually from behind the desk that she sets things in motion — by hiring people to track down certain machine parts that they don't even understand, for instance. During a scene she shot with Richard T. Jones (who plays former FBI agent Ellison) and Garret Dillahunt (who plays the Terminator Cromartie), she receives something in particular she really wants, "to do with what I want," Manson cackled. "And I do something very, very nasty." (The episode airs November 17).
Hmmm. Could that mean some robot sex is in a future episode? "We don't know, we don't want to know," laughed Leven Rambin, who plays John Connor's new love interest, Riley. "She might bite his face off."
"Can Terminators do it?" Manson asked. "Apparently, I am capable of having sex. They've got the mechanics for it. And I can just have better sex because I'm more highly evolved. My technique's better! I'd love to see some robot sex."
And if that's going to be the case, Manson recommends that they get another rock star Terminator on the show to match up with her (after all, at one point Billy Idol was considered for the T-1000 in T2.) "I think James Hetfield from
Metallica might make a great Terminator," she suggests. "I'd like see James as a robot. Maybe there could be some robot love."
Until then, there's plenty of robot hate — what with Cameron's constant malfunctioning ever since surviving a car bomb in the season finale. "The word for this whole new season is evolution," Dekker said, "because everybody and everything is changing and nobody and nothing can be trusted."
"What's really dangerous about her," explained Summer Glau, who plays the protector Terminator Cameron, "is that she's pre-programmed with an agenda," to terminate John Connor, which Connor had overridden. "And she's going through some programming complications which make her very volatile."
That volatility in Cameron, and the addition of Manson's Terminator, have lead to some of the biggest stunts and effects this season — such as Glau stapling her face back together or tipping over a car, and Manson going all liquid-metal gooey in a guy's mouth when he tries to make out with her, in effect killing him. Which was the goal, of course. "She gets to do whatever she wants to do," Manson laughed. "She's totally, in her own way, a total punk. That's what I love."
Will anyone be able to stop her? Manson doesn't think even Glau's Terminator would have a chance. "She's younger, but I'm more sophisticated," she smiled. "It'd be an interesting kickoff."