HAVEN Co-Creator Sam Ernst Talks About the Audrey-Duke-Nathan Triangle
August 12, 2011 by Marisa Roffman
On Syfy’s HAVEN, new characters may pop up from time to time, but the core group is what keeps us (fine, I’ll speak for myself — it keeps me) coming back for more.
I talked with HAVEN co-creator Sam Ernst about the complexities of the Duke-Audrey-Nathan relationship, the Duke-Nathan friendship and why there are some words Duke won’t use…
There’s triangle of sorts between Audrey, Duke and Nathan. Sometimes it seems like it’s romantically tinged and other times it feels more like they’re a family unit. Are you going to delve more into romance between any of these characters?
Sam Ernst: The short, incomplete answer is yes. What we’re trying to do is…when you put a man and a woman together — partners or friends — the first question you want to know is are they going to sleep together. I don’t know why that is but it just is. [Laughs] And I know that with Nathan and Audrey, there were mash-up videos about the two of them four episodes in on season one. And we had not even explored that at all. In episode eight when the big reveal was that Nathan could feel Audrey’s touch — when she gave him a chaste, friendly kiss — we knew that changes the dynamic between them because you have a man who cannot feel anybody and the only woman, the only person he can feel or even get physically intimate with is his partner, his friend. That’s pretty powerful stuff.
We also like the idea of exploring their friendship as well. The fact that you do have people who are facing huge crises every week and there’s a friendship — a relationship — that’s intimate on many other levels as well. So, we really want to flesh that relationship out in ways out unlike other shows who linger in the “will they or won’t they” arena. And while we definitely are interested in that, because we’re people, we’re interested in all of the other aspects of their relationship as well. And why again, in this case, this isn’t solely a love triangle, this is a triangle that could go many, many, many different ways. And that becomes more and more clear especially by the time we get later on into the season. That has a major twist.
Interesting. Do you feel that HAVEN fans are more in the camp of Audrey and Nathan versus Audrey and Duke?
SE: They’re definitely split. From what I see on the internet, people are split all over the place on that, so I don’t know. I know how I feel about it but I’m privy to a little more information. So, I know where they’re going and that it’s big.
I like it when love triangles aren’t just solely about the romantic relationships — when there are far-reaching consequences and impact to the relationships, I’m intrigued. I don’t know how I feel about their relationships, but it’s fun to see how it plays out.
SE: I would argue that the most tension that you have in terms of — I mean it’s a three-way triangle, you know? Duke and Nathan have this very complex relationship. Nathan’s mad at him and we kind of figure out where that started a little bit… not started but we had the story about Duke playing a joke on him with the thumbtacks when they were kids. Do you remember that story?
I do. And one of my favorite scenes of the season was when Duke and Nathan were talking at the end of the premiere when they were about to bury the Chief. That was a really great scene where you can see tension on so many levels, but respect and understanding at the same time. It was really well done.
SE: Thank you, I completely agree. That scene blew me away and the two of them, we’re just setting them up. And one of my favorite lines [is] when Duke says to Nathan, “Just so we’re clear, I’m the lion.” [Laughs] That is something a guy would say to another guy, you know? He wouldn’t say, “we should talk about what just happened there.” I wish they would but probably they would start messing with each other and then Duke kind of smiles at him. But that’s their way of addressing it.
The fact is, there may be all of this intensity between them — there’s a moment when Duke’s Eric Balfour is in the back of a truck and he finds out that the chief is dead. And the look on his face is, “Wow. Oh shit, I’m so sorry.” And then he shows up. He shows up at that burial, which means that it’s not like it was posted it the paper. How did he know to go? Well, he probably talked to Vince and Dave, I don’t know, but he got there and he showed up and brought a shovel. Because no matter what bullshit is between them, there’s this underlying friendship. It’s deep and it’s long.
So, they have a very different relationship than either of them have with Audrey because first of all, Audrey just showed up! And they’ve been friends for their whole lives. It’s not the normal, “Well, he’s the criminal and she’s the cop and they hate each other.” We’re trying to get much deeper than that. One of the things that happened when we were casting was Duke — Duke was one of the hardest to cast. People were coming in and there was a scene that didn’t make it to the first episode, where he was kind of being his roguish self and people when they were doing it, they were kind of sleazy. And Duke’s not sleazy, Duke’s just a guy that likes to have fun. It was a tricky line to cross and when Eric Balfour came in, within a minute and a half, you’re like “That’s the guy!” And we’ve already seen just about everybody that we could see.
He definitely straddles that line very well of being kind of cocky at times but also being intensely vulnerable, too.
SE: He gets away with saying some outrageous stuff, absolutely. He’ll improv a line and throw it in and you’ll watch it and I’m like “Huh. That’s where he thinks this is going.” It’s very interesting because there words that Duke doesn’t use, and Eric picked up on that and he will take it out of his improvs. And one of the words that Duke doesn’t use is “dude.” I didn’t want him to use it and we never wrote it in because Duke has traveled a lot. He’s not specific to one place. He’s not a beach bum and he’s not a guy who just sits around. He’s a guy who has a long history, and I can’t get into all of it. But it’s not a big deal. I’m probably making more of it than I should because writers get a little bound up on certain words, phrases, or how people think because we’re paying attention. And Eric who will improv and try things out all of the time, he stops himself and doesn’t use the word “dude” and he came to that without me on his own.
I think that’s fascinating. That’s not something I had ever picked up on, but I will pay attention to that from now on.
SE: Yeah, you’ll see it. And there’s several writers, so one of the things we try and focus on is keeping our characters doing things they should do and would do, because that’s almost easier than having them say it the way they should say it. Whenever I’m done writing a scene for Nathan, I usually end up popping about a quarter of them out because he’s not going to sit there and say four [or] five sentences in a row. And then when he does, it is really powerful. But this is not a guy who sits there and talks. You know what I mean?
SE: I mean, Audrey will talk, but [Nathan] won’t. We really get into that and it keeps our eye on the prize: which is being a heavily affective character that is multi-dimensional and not just “crime solvers.”
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