Jeff Teravainen is a talented singer and actor thus far best known for his performances on “Dark Matter” and “12 Monkeys.” He can be seen this Thanksgiving in the new Netflix production, “The Christmas Chronicles.”
Welcome! Before we begin, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in acting?
Sure, my name is Jeff. I am an actor/voice actor. I’ve been doing it full-time now since 2013. I started out in music, but when that fell apart I got into sales. While I was at the mall I got scouted for modelling. It was a fun way to make some extra money and meet girls?. Then I landed a commercial and thought this is fun I should do this! So I started lessons, etc., and slowly building from there. It didn’t seem like something you could make a living at in Toronto when I first started. Having been the proverbial starving artist as a musician I was leery of trying another crack at the arts. My actor friend had done quite well in film and television, yet was always broke it seemed. Otherwise I would I had done years before!
You were a singer before you began acting. What was the name of your band and what kind of music did you make? As a bass, are there any songs you can break out to serenade a special someone a capella-style?
Music was my everything from around 14 years old till around 2000 area. I ate slept and drank it. And so many times we came so close to achieving some pretty great things. But every time something would screw up. I actually tried giving it up a few times like a drug addiction if you will! And each time I would win an award or something and it would drive me back in.
My first true band was kind of a U2/Duran Duran/Japan kind of thing. We made a few waves but never made the big move. Our guitarist went on to form Our lady peace which did quite well though. We also shared our manager and rehearsal spot with the tragically hip which are sort of legendary in Canada.
The next band was a funk rock band called The Life. Again we had major interest from labels and would sell out shows and tours and independent CDs. We even got great rotation on much music with our terrible videos! But the right deal never came. And finally I tried solo. I won an award that helped finance a record. There’s a long story there but once again skulduggery etc. meant it didn’t happen.
I was so turned off by the music industry I stopped playing anything for a good 14 years I believe. I picked up my bass at Christmas two years ago and taught myself how to play “Hysteria” by Muse which is one of my favourite baselines. I was amazed how quickly I got it down. Haven’t touched anything since. As for singing my voice was probably comparable to Michael Hutchins From Inxs, Scott Weiland from STP and Elvis! But I don’t sing it anymore unless you prime it with a lot of beer.
I understand you are something of an amateur paleontologist. What is one of the most exciting finds you have read about in the news lately—and what do you love about hunting for fossils?
I absolutely love it. I love all history. It’s my favourite thing. It’s amazing what you can find when you just look down at your feet. Where I live there was an ancient sea during the Ordovician. So much shows up in the rocks in creek beds etc. some of the best stuff we found locally are amazing trilobites, orthocones and a partial sea scorpion which I figure was probably 3 feet long.
Probably the coolest thing I’ve been reading about is the discovery of the Denisovans. Another human species that lived at the same time as us and Neanderthals. It’s amazing to think about these intelligent relatives of ours and how they disappeared.
What do you think of the motorcycle chase in the new movie, “Mission Impossible: Fallout” as a sports racing buff?
My absolute favourite sport is motorcycle racing. I’ve been lucky to be a guest at Valencia a few times in Spain where it is extremely popular. Moto GP and the lower classes are just magic. I haven’t seen the movie to be honest, not really my thing. Though I’m sure the stones are amazing and I have huge respect for Stunt people.
You have described a certain stage of your acting career as being akin to going to Disney World without being allowed to go on the rides. Would you expound on what you mean?
Ha ha! I forgot about that. Certainly, when I first started acting. I went all in. I had the worst boss in the world and had been having more and more trouble with him. In the end I got fired which is the best thing that ever happened. Either that or I was going to go to jail for beating him to a pulp!?
Unemployed . I was told I could make money and get experience doing background work. Extra work if you will. So I tried it a few times. Suddenly I was right there alongside these amazing actors, part of these scenes in some pretty big movies etc. I was right there but I also wasn’t. I wasn’t talking etc.
For example I was in the movie, “The Sentinel.” There I was on set interacting with Kiefer Sutherland and Eva Longoria, but again, no talking.
It reminded me of being at the best place in the world, like Disney World. But I wasn’t able to go on the rides.
What is “Dark Matter” about and what is the role of your character within the arc of the series?
“Dark Matter” was essentially about a group of people waking up from stasis on a spaceship and having no memory of who they were. Gradually over the season they find out different things and most of it is bad. I first show up as part of this rebel group working under someone called the general played by my bud Andrew Jackson. We soon learn I am deep undercover and that I am actually working for “the good guys” , the galactic authority. Then we find out that one of the crew members was also deep undercover. The amazing Roger Cross.
I need to quit whining about it, but it’s an absolute tragedy what happened with the show. But on a personal level it beat the hell out of me. As Joe has explained my character was becoming a major part of things in the next season. There were so many amazing stories unfolding and mine was a major part of it all.
It really is heartbreaking for Joe and everyone involved. But for me, it was my chance to do something epic for my career. Especially working on such an incredibly supportive and friendly set. Kinda reminds me of my music career. One hand on the prize only for it to be taken away. As an actor I can’t tell you how nice it is to be part of something. I always felt I was a close cousin the way I was treated and how I felt going to set. Family. I can’t imagine if I had been on episode after episode.
What kind of interaction did you have with Joe Mallozzi during your time on “Dark Matter”? What makes him so special?
I will always have a special place in my heart for Joe. He took a chance on me as I think my resume was decent but I’m sure there was a lot of competition for the role. I liked him right away. Unlike many shows I’ve been on, he was hands-on and friendly. I’ve been on shows where I had a decent sized role and never even met the executive producers. They hang out back at video village as it’s called and send runners to give you directions if they don’t like something. That’s not the case at all with people like Joe or Terry Mattalas from “12 Monkeys.” Just good folk wanting to have fun doing what they love. And damn good at it.
They are also freaky with how much they get done in their lives. Writing, producing, directing, etc., etc. I don’t know when they sleep, or if they sleep?
One of my favourite people in history is Rod Serling from the “Twilight Zone,” etc. Writers amaze me, and Joe, for example, is able to continuously pull stuff out. Right now I think he has six or seven balls in the air that could come to fruition and I can’t even decide on breakfast.
How did you find out “Dark Matter” had been cancelled and what were your thoughts when you got the news?
That’s a story in its own right. Let’s just say I had just gone to Vancouver from LA after spending a fortune getting my US visa. And I was constantly being told that Hollywood wasn’t hiring “my type” right now. So I was in a pretty low state and I was getting on the plane to go home from Vancouver when Joe texted me. I remember tears welling up in my eyes, but I had my young daughter with me at the airport so I had to hold it together for her. It was a hell of a long flight to Toronto. And then my depression hit for a while.
For a brief time there was this period where there was some hope it would be saved. So kind of a double whammy. In the end they couldn’t make it happen. I truly hope not just for my sake, but for the fans and Joe’s especially that the rest of the story gets told even in a movie or miniseries. There is definitely an audience for it.
“12 Monkeys” was a big hit within the hardcore sci-fi community but struggled a bit in overall ratings. How would you both describe the show and explain why it is must-watch television to a casual sci-fi fan?
I remember Terry talking about this with Jay Karnes at lunch one day. He admitted the ratings were not great on TV but they had great numbers streaming etc. I think though, much of the upper brass saw the value in the show.
I would say if you haven’t seen it, you are missing out. I would also caution that the first season is good. But it just got better and better and better. Absolutely worth sticking with! An incredible story underneath everything and beautifully acted. One of my friends, ALISEN DOWN, for example is mesmerizing. And working with Jay was a dream. He’s like a professor with history as well, so on and off camera we had great times. I could talk with him all day.
One of your fans won the chance to ask you a question. Lisa D. asks, “Did you feel like you got a bump in popularity or fame among sci-fi fans from ‘Dark Matter’? Especially swoonging fangirls like me?”
— Seesas🌻 (@LisaD1903) August 17, 2018
Thank you Lisa D! Absolutely. Any thing I’ve got going definitely relates back to “Dark Matter.” They let me play better and longer scenes. Which gave me confidence to play that kind of thing more and more and also showed my ability to casting directors etc. Being part of that family and not just a day player really gave me a shot in the arm confidence wise. And of course people start following you on Twitter etc and interacting. I’m still amazed at all the love I get considering my character never really got to stretch their wings. But believe me I’m thankful.
You played something of a jerk in a recent Hallmark movie. Make your pitch for why Hallmark should consider you as a leading man in a future romantic movie.
I had so much fun doing that movie. It was like -22 out. You can tell in one of the scenes I can barely get my mouth to work . But who cares! The director Bradley Walsh was a treat . Working with Brooke Shields was a dream! Who knew she would be so fun and down-to-earth?! And yes, I was sort of half-jerky.
I recently just played a lead , and good guy in a Lifetime movie that’s coming out shortly. I had worked with them before and they were concerned when I was submitted as they thought I played such a good bad guy , I couldn’t be good. But I like to think I’m a good guy in real life. In the end the feedback has been absolutely amazing! Maybe it will help open some doors back at Hallmark as it would be wonderful to do more with them.
I can tell you I would give my hundred percent as I always do to the film. Because I got into this late, I think I appreciate the opportunity more than many do. So I will say, you won’t find a happier guy to beyond set everyday! But I’m also someone who loves to help promote these things and make sure they get the audience they need!
How does that sound??
What is your next project?
I have permission to mention “The Christmas Chronicles!” It’s a Christmas movie coming out on Netflix on American Thanksgiving. It stars Kurt Russell, is directed by Clay Kaytiss and one of the executive producers is The ‘Chris Columbus along with Monica Lago Kaytis. They are all seriously super people. But I was particularly blown away by Chris as he was so friendly and collaborative for such Hollywood royalty. Really really impressed me!