Douglas Nyback is one of those strangely gifted actors who has the ability to get right under your skin. No matter the character he’s playing, he manages to tap into precisely what makes that character human and deliver excellent, thought-provoking performances. And as the sly and shifty Roger Caplan in SyFy’s new series Incorporated, Nyback does all that and so much more.
Appearing in only five episodes, Nyback’s Roger makes a solid impact on the cast of characters on the show. And while the character is undoubtedly well-written, it’s Nyback’s unique flavor and finesse that ultimately make Roger a villain that’s both captivating and loathsome, all at the same time.
I spoke with Nyback just before the start of the New Year about Roger, Incorporated, and why acting is important to him:
TARA MARTINEZ: What drew you to this series? What was your audition process like?
Douglas Nyback: The first audition was in Toronto—well, they were both in Toronto. The first one came to me, sort of, the usual way by my agent. We were obviously really excited by the project and everybody that was attached to it. But it was one of those ones where you go and then you sort of try to put it out of your mind just because it was a really cool show and a really cool character. And then a couple weeks later, I was shooting Hell On Wheels in Calgary and they were asking for demo material, so I was getting all that stuff sent out to me and there was some legitimate interest. And then I ended up flying back—I think I wrapped at about midnight in Calgary and then I was on a plane at five in the morning to go back for my final, sort of, screen test with the producers and directors. And it was two completely different characters. I was playing like a prisoner of war during the Civil War in Hell On Wheels and then I was auditioning for Roger like eight hours later. It was really cool, though. And by way of what drew me to it, I mean, the material was just incredible and the guy was just so fun to play. So, it was pretty great.
TM: Your character acts as kind of a villain on the show. How would you describe this character and his journey? Do you think Roger has always been as shady as we’ve seen him in recent episodes?
DN: He definitely comes from a family where—it’s kind of explored in, I think, episode four—where he was pushed and prodded and was never good enough, and so I think with Roger, I think he learned really early on that you don’t have to be the best at anything. You just have to be really good at exploiting other people’s weaknesses and that’s a lesson taught to him by his father. So, in that regard, like by way of—could Roger have ever been a kind person, I don’t think he was ever really given that chance. I think one of the most interesting things about Roger is that he’s honest, like he’s very honest. He’s one of the only characters in the show that you get—what he represents is what you get. He’s not a good person, but he’s unapologetic about who he is.
TM: We’ve seen Roger go to extremes to meet his goals, and that’s kind of a theme in Incorporated. Do you think he went too far? Could he have done anything differently?
DN: I think with Roger—did he go too far? I think he tried not to; he tried to not exploit, you know, his brother. But ultimately, he needed that promotion so much, so obviously he did go too far. But he also couldn’t have expected what he found out about Ben. It’s like finding out that he’s literally not the person that he says he is. Like, there was no way that he could’ve predicted that. So, how, you know—I’ve thought about this a lot—how could he have done anything differently? I don’t think that he would’ve because what he found out was literally impossible.
TM: You mentioned before that Roger is one of the most honest, or at least, straightforward characters. Do you think finding out that Ben wasn’t who he said he was sort of fueled his ambitions even more?
DN: Yeah, and I think, truthfully, one of the things about Roger—and it’s terrible—is that he’s definitively an elitist. So, finding out that this person who came from, you know, a refugee camp—like somebody that Roger honestly believes he’s better than—I think that he’s just couldn’t compute. Like, he couldn’t accept a world where that was a thing. So, I think once he found that out, it was just kind of rage and he just had to ruin this person because he has no business being in Roger’s world.
TM: Roger met a gruesome end in the most recent episode. Were you expecting that? Did you know that would happen when you signed on for the show?
DN: Yeah, it was something that the creators, Alex and David Pastor, and I talked about once the show got picked up. And it was, you know, we all loved the character so much so we were all like, ‘It sucks!’ But it ultimately, without giving too much away, becomes a major plot point for Ben and for the show. I mean, it’s an act that just can’t be brushed under the rug, so it was unavoidable. And he’s so wonderful and delicious to play that it was sad, but at the same time, I think very necessary.
TM: You were in five episodes this season. What are the challenges of creating a layered character when you have such limited time to make that kind of impact?
DN: It’s definitely a challenge. My thought process with Roger in, sort of, every moment that he was on screen was to saturate the screen with character and behavior. So, I did everything I could to—whenever any information was given to me or whenever I was listening, Roger is constantly responding. So, my goal was, even in silence, was to just make sure that Roger was always saying something; he’s always communicating something, otherwise I think it would’ve been easy for him to come across as just a two dimensional jerk, and so for me it’s all about little physical gestures, and consideration of information, and things that he finds amusing, and that no moment was ever wasted. And I think, a lot of the response has been quite positive about him, and I think that a lot of people were like—I don’t want to come across as arrogant in any way, but it seems that a lot of people were shocked at how much he revealed in such a short amount of time. And it was all, like, all that detail work, plus working with Sean Teale was like a dream. That guy gives you so much to work with, so it was pretty great.
TM: Incorporated covers some heavy material that’s especially resonant, I think, in today’s political landscape. What do you think viewers can take away from a show like this?
DN: I think, I mean, our dystopian future isn’t all that dystopian anymore. And it’s, I think, it’s a real warning in unchecked corporate growth. I mean, we live in a world where corporations are considered people, and it’s truthfully terrifying. The idea of a capitalistic democracy ultimately is going to favor capitalism over democracy and I think our show is a perfect example of what that looks like. And I think for audiences, I think everybody needs to be very aware of how much power business are getting, corporations are getting; and I think our show is a really succinct warning of that. And I think people watching it are all—like it’s funny, when we started shooting it, the world wasn’t quite what it is right now. And as we were shooting it, we were like, ‘Wow, this is really personal for all of our audiences.’ It’s very similar to what is going on in the world right now, so yeah. It should serve as a warning, for sure, and I think hopefully it will spur people to make changes. Or, at least, make sure they’re educated about what the relationship is between corporations and government.
TM: Now, for a lighter question, Incorporated is obviously a science fiction show. Are you a sci-fi fan yourself?
DN: I’m from a small town and we only had three channels and every Friday night was Star Trek night. So, we would get pizza and it was the only time we were allowed to drink pop or soda, and so every Friday night—it started with the Next Generation and then it became Deep Space Nine and then it became Voyager and then it was Enterprise. Sci-fi has always been a huge thing in my family and, for me, it’s kind of a dream to be working in this world.
TM: What appeals to you the most about being an actor? What is it that keeps you doing it?
DN: I love, especially within film and television, I love the detail work that goes into it. The beautiful thing about performance on screen is that if you think it, it will read. And so, it’s all about creation of thought process and sort of going back to what I was saying with Roger, like saturating every moment with behavior and with character, and it’s that detail work that—a shift and a glance or inflection in a word or just simply thought can simply change everything about a moment. And for me, that always keeps me coming back because it’s like every new character, every new scene is like an Easter egg hunt. I just want to find all the Easter eggs.
TM: In your experience, what have you found is the difference between film and television? Or is there a difference?
DN: Well, in film it’s all, again, I guess, how thought translates. Television is a little bit of a smaller medium. I mean, Incorporated is shot very cinematically but, you know, when you’re in a movie and your face is 35 feet tall on a projector screen, like your eyeball—like a blink is like a house folding in half—so, like it’s shocking how quickly the audience can be distracted. And it’s all about making sure, in both mediums, that the audience has access to what you’re going through at all times. The, sort of, minutiae gets even more detailed in film than in TV. So, it’s very interesting.
TM: How did you know that you wanted to pursue acting as a career path?
DN: I was 16 and I was doing a play; I was doing a musical in Edmonton and it was a World War II piece and we’d had really, really great houses in all of our evening shows. One afternoon, we only had about 20 people in the audience; we couldn’t really see who was out there. And then after the show, all of these—they were all old men and old women—and they were all survivors of World War II or had lost people in World War II, and they were all waiting for me to shake my hand and give me a hug and be like, ‘You reminded me so much of my husband, my brother, etcetera.’ And it was like, in that kind of moment, that I realized what we do can make a real impact on people and that was what was really important to me. I loved performance up until that point, but that was a real turning point where I was like, ‘I can actually make people’s lives better with this.’ I think that’s a really important thing to do.
TM: Do you have any other upcoming projects that you can tell us about??
DN: I just finished shooting a movie in Cuba called Skin which is about a girl who is diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy and she turns to stand-up comedy to try to cope with it. So, in that I’m playing her boyfriend and I meet her right as she gets sick, and it’s a really interesting, again, like a really interesting, beautiful story of people supporting each other through illness. And then I’m actually off on January 1st to Romania to shoot a movie called The Dancing Dogs of Dombrova, and it’s this story about estranged brother and sister who—their grandmother’s sort of dying wish is for them to go back to her town in Poland where she had to leave during the Holocaust, and so it’s all about us, sort of, finding a bridge back to each other by exploring our grandmother’s history. And it’s a beautiful, beautiful story so I’m very excited to get over there to start working on that.
To learn more about Douglas Nyback, check him out on Twitter at @dnyback.