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This Week In Black Television – EUREKA Approaches It’s Swan Song and Shows How To Do Color-blind Casting the Right Way

This Week In Black Television - EUREKA Approaches It's Swan Song and Shows How To Do Color-blind Casting the Right Way

Debuting in 2006 , SyFy Channel’s Eureka has been a fan favorite for five seasons strong.  Now just two episodes away from the show’s final episode, a focus in this column is long past due. 

Colin Ferguson stars as Sheriff Jack Carter, a man of average intelligence among a hidden Pacific Northwest town full of the world’s greatest geniuses.  Carter uses his instincts, practicality, and ability to connect with others to help keep the peace and avert accidents and disasters in the town of scientists that’s founded and funded by the US government and has little to no cap for how crazy innovation can get, which is basically the setup for the majority of the episodes.  In line with most science fiction programs, wholly accurate science does not stand in the way of storyline, but they do find ways to make crazy science in humorous and playful, as opposed the creepiness and seriosuness that shows like Fringe specialize in. 

The great thing about Eureka is in its usual color-blind casting.  Aside from Sheriff Carter, the two main leads are Salli Richardson-Whitfield (I Will Follow, Biker Boyz, Posse) as Allison Blake and the delightful Joe Morton as Henry Deacon.  As long time inhabitants of Eureka, both are scientifically gifted in their own right.

Dr. Blake’s backstory started as Department of Defense agent and liaison between Eureka and the federal government, and in season two becomes the director of Global Dynamics, the science center of Eureka where the government projects take place. She primarily is an MD but also holds two PhDs.  From the beginning, Dr. Blake is the one who enlists Carter’s help whenever there’s a problem in town – so all of the time.   In Season 4, after a timeline switch affects the Eureka world, Blake is no longer head of GD and is instead head of their medical science division, which can be seen as a demotion but allows her to use her to be more engaged in the science aspects of the show more than before, as well as have more of a social life as she becomes involved with Sheriff Carter after multiple ‘will they or won’t they’ seasons. 

In a odd way though, maybe having Dr. Blake as a mate is cursed.  Her first husband, for who she has a child named Kevin (more on him later), died some time ago, then her second husband, who she divorced and later was set to remarry, former show cast member Dr. Nathan Stark played by actor Ed Quinn, gets killed helping Carter avert a scientific disaster, just minutes before their wedding.  Hmmm…  Still, it’s been reported that Richardson-Whitfield was the only woman of color to audition for the role of Allison Blake and that she won the role after having the best chemistry with Ferguson, and they do really have good chemistry together.  And there’s no ‘bad Black women caricature’ with Richardson-Whitfield’s character: she’s attractive, stylish, and heavily pursued by many men without being a jezebel, strong-willed and savvy with no sista-gurl attitude, and a devoted mother to her two children. 

One of Hollywood’s most endearing actors, Joe Morton (Brother From Another Planet, The Inkwell, Speed) plays the mysterious former NASA engineer Dr. Henry Deacon, who like many of the other residents is a multi-disciplined scientist, and in Henry’s case an expert in applied mechanics, time travel, memory-transfer, forensics and more. Unlike many of the residents, he has ethical objections to the research conducted at Global Dynamics and prefers to be employed as the town’s mechanic while he does his own scientific experiments. Henry is no team player, and to quote Morton often pushes “the envelope in terms of what he could create or what he could discover.” Yet his assistance is often counted on to defuse the situations the experiments in town create. He’s high-minded an unlike many of the residents chooses to do the humane thing over expected scientific achievement, quickly making him close friends with Carter.  He’s so beloved in town that during Season 3, he was even elected Town Mayor as a write-in candidate.

Henry’s not always such a prince though, as this past Monday’s episode (NO SPOILERS, SO DON’T WORRY) revealed. Yet he has the conscience to always try and do what he feels is the right thing – which is perfect for an actor of Joe Morton’s sensitivity and steel.  Not asexual in the least (see, no stereotyping!) Henry’s been involved with and old friend who eventually became his wife, Dr. Kim Yamazaki (the wonderful Tamilyn Tomita) but was killed in an explosion. He is now married to Dr. Grace Monroe, his intellectual equal, who was his wife in an alternate timeline and became so again in the new present yet altered timeline during the mind-bending Season 4, and she has just returned to the show this past episode albeit under horrible circumstances (see above spoiler warning).  Grace Monroe is played by sci-fi veteran Tembi Locke, who came to that prominence during the final season of sci-fi TV show Sliders.  She’s also one of the only Black people to ever appear on Friends

So how did Morton get cast as Henry Deacon?  He’s just fantastic, that’s how.  Director Peter O’Fallon directed Morton on an episode of House and was doing the Eureka pilot soon thereafter. He like working with Morton so much he recommended him for the job. 

The other recurring Black characters include Dr. Blake’s son Kevin, first played by Meshach Peters and presently by the engaging Trevor Jackson (A Beautiful Soul, Disney TV movie Let It Shine),  a genius as well who was originally portrayed as autistic but that was removed with the new timeline, and Roger Cross (Curtis from 24) as Major Shaw. Dondre Whifield, husband of Salli recently (finally!) guest starred playing Marcus, Dr. Blake’s even more genius brother (season 5, episode 9). A great episode with one of the show’s best lines ever (on a series in which there are many):  Kevin warns Carter that Marcus prejudiced.  Jack goffs, “Against white people?” Kevin: “No, against dumb people.” So Kevin douses Jack’s drink with a formula to accelerate his brian functions which causes Jack to become both the smartest, and most recklessly dangerous, person in Eureka. 

Seasons 1-4 are available on Netflix and seasons 1-3 on Hulu+ (most of season 5 is available on the regular Hulu online service. It should be noted that both Richardson-Whitfield and Morton have also directed multiple episodes of Eureka. 

Next week’s Eureka, the penultimate episode, goes deeper into last week’s soul transference/resurrection of Dr. Holly Marten (Felicia Day) and the evil program that somehow infected her and caused her to make duplicates of Henry, Jack and others.  As the doubles steadily take over Global Dynamic, which means Allison, Fargo (Neil Grayston), and Zane (Niall Matter) are in a fight for their lives and everyone else’s as they try to avoid capture and fix the problem. I’ll be watching intensely, and looking forward to the series finale week after next.

On other summer TV news, there wasn’t much more to report with this being a holiday week wherein mostly repeats or filler shows were aired.  The exceptions to this are:

True Blood – Totally unwatchable. They don’t know what to do with Tara or Lafayette and should be canceled immediately (that’s right, I said it!). 

AND

Rookie Blue – a show I always seem to miss but from what I’m told has gotten better

I’ve read all the stuff about LOUIE, one of my favorite shows as I mentioned a few weeks ago with my summer programming list, casting a Black actress as his ex-wife. The funny thing is I was just watching the season 2 episodes on Netflix (I missed a few last year) this past Sunday and his sister on the show described Louie’s ex-wife to something-to-the-effect of ‘tanned’. I wondered then and there:  “Hmm, it’d be funny if she was a sister,” then lo and behold, we have Susan Kelechi Watson (who I being the TV geek I am remember on NCIS a few years back).  My mutant power is predicting the future of TV!!!

Speaking of the predictions, tune in next week for my rundown of who should be nominated for the 2012 Emmy Awards and instead who more likely will.

This Article is related to: Television