It's been a while, but the back half of "Warehouse 13" is headed to Syfy channel next week. For series fans, that means everyone dealing with the fallout from Artie's (Saul Rubinek) actions. And one of those characters who's been affected most is Artie's protege and the group's tech expert, Claudia played by Allison Scagliotti.
When we speak, she's not sure what viewers have and have not seen yet given that it's been months since the 20 episodes of season four were shot back-to-back in a 10-month block--so she treads carefully in her responses. Still, Scagliotti is excited to reveal tons of guest stars coming to the back ten episodes of the popular series including James Marsters, Anthony Head, Polly Walker, and Joel Grey. "There are very few people that I will clam up and not be able to talk to, but when I saw Mr. MC from 'Cabaret,' I squeed a little bit," she tells me, adding that she tries not to use that word because she hates it a little.
She doesn't seem like the kind of person who "sqees." During an early morning Skype chat, she seemed self-possessed and easygoing, telling me how much she was loving L.A. and lamenting that it's been a while since she's visited Seattle. It wasn't the kind of chat where the other person was there to sell the show--she genuinely seemed to just enjoy the opportunity to chat in the middle of her busy schedule. She smiles through much of the interview, telling me that in her own time she's singing and playing guitar, even making an appearance in an upcoming music video for the Chicago band Bummer. Her "Warehouse 13" work keeps her schedule packed for a large part of the year, but that hasn't stopped the actress from appearing in "Bones" this season and tonight's episode of "Person of Interest," and joining Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton on "Tabletop."
Scagliotti, a television veteran who's had guest stints on shows like "ER" and "Party Down" along with regular roles in "Drake & Josh" and "One Tree Hill" didn't expect this to be a regular gig, with the puckish Claudia starting off as a guest character early in the series' run. When I asked her what it was like bringing on guest stars to a show with an ensemble that already has its rhythm and its energy among the cast worked out, she looked back at her own start with the show: "At the beginning of my time on 'Warehouse 13,' I was that new girl--I was coming into a setup that had already found its groove. Even though they were a new show, they kind of had their routine down." But she says there's something about that cast and crew's passion for the show and fun-loving attitude that makes it easier for a newcomers to join in (although she adds that it might be a challenge sometimes for guests to keep up with them).
When I ask her what about herself has worked its way into Claudia, she says her humor, her sarcasm, and her own vulnerability are what inform Claudia's personality. "Those moments of 'How does the character deal with real conflict and real danger'" are the ones Scagliotti says most relateable to her. She tells me that the best part of the job is hearing from moms and young girls who tell her that Claudia is unapolagetically different--she makes them feel like it's okay to be smart.
She thanks "Warehouse 13" showrunner Jack Kenny and co-star Saul Rubinek for making her feel the most at home, though and helping her find her way with Claudia. Kenny (who she worked with previously on a forgotten sitcom pilot years before) offers the cast a collaborative environment on the 16-hour set, letting the performers find their way with the characters and then taking them back and workshopping them. She describes Kenny as "notorious" for being around during rehearsals, but she also says the set is such a welcome environment that early on, the process of finding Claduia's voice was an easy one because of how collaborative the series' creators were.
In the series, veteran actor Saul Rubinek plays Claudia's mentor (of sorts), and it's curious to see that relationship extend into real life, Scagliotti telling me that from her very first day on the set, Rubinek was looking out from her. In an early scene together--Claudia had just kidnapped Artie--she says she was struggling with a line and unsure of what to do next. "So I asked [Saul's] advice. And we worked on it together and right out of the gate, he treated me like a peer. He didn't speak down to me or make me feel like a fish out of water," she says. "As soon as I showed up, he made me feel like part of the family."
She says that likewise, the relationship between their characters has matured and deepened over the seasons, and that the next ten episodes will deal with mortality and with the family unit of the series figuring out how to grieve and deal with the consequences of Artie's dark side turn. It also gives "Warehouse 13" a chance to reflect on the way science fiction often finds ways to sidesep death ("Warehouse 13" has done this several times, bringing back dead characters using artifacts). "In sci-fi, there's this danger that when no one can die, then what are the stakes?" That doesn't mean some characters won't try to undo the death from the first half of season four--Scagliotti says it just won't be in the way you think.
"Warehouse 13" returns to Syfy on Monday, April 29 at 10/9 Central.