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'Torchwood: Miracle Day' Mekhi Phifer interview: 'Rex is a lot of fun to play'

By and Chris Allen
Rex Matheson in Torchwood: Miracle Day

© Starz

Torchwood: Miracle Day is currently entertaining audiences in the US and UK alike, so last week, Digital Spy caught up with the cast members of the sci-fi show at this year's Comic-Con to get them to spill a few hints and teasers as to what to expect later this season.

Yesterday, we brought you an interview with John Barrowman. Today, we have Mekhi Phifer, who plays the charismatic CIA agent Rex Matheson. Read below to find out what the ER actor said in San Diego about his character, Esther's crush on Rex and shooting in cold Wales. And be sure to check back for interviews with Eve Myles, Alexa Havins and Bill Pullman over the next few days.

What was it like to play a character who gets speared with a scaffolding pole in the first five minutes?
"You know, what was so funny is when I first read the episode, I didn't know where they were going with that. I was like, 'He got a pole through his head. He's dead already in the first two seconds!' I thought maybe this was like the future and then we were going to a flashback and go from there. I didn't know where they were going with it. And it was a lot of fun actually, because I got to play a character that is obviously going through some pain, but he's also the type of character who's strong and rough around the edges and doesn't like people to see him vulnerable, so it's interesting to play that sort of dynamic."

If the Miracle is resolved, are you worried that nature will take its course again and you'll die?
"Absolutely. That's one of the themes that I'm working with as far as Rex is concerned. Yes, he's die-hard wanting to figure out what this Miracle is and solve it and save the world, but if he does, does he drop dead? If he ends the Miracle, is he just dead? That aspect of it is very interesting to play as well."

Rex Matheson in Torchwood: Miracle Day
Torchwood is known for having strong personalities, but in the first three episodes, you seem to be the guy calling all the shots. What was that like?
"Rex has to be stronger, because they are strong characters and have strong personalities. It's interesting, because obviously anybody who's watched Torchwood in the past knows that Torchwood is a very strong and astute sort of group, and it takes somebody to be that much stronger to have these guys try to respect him. What happens throughout the course is, they become more of a team rather than butting heads all of the time.

"It's a lot of fun to tell you the truth, being sarcastic with these guys and sort of looking at them like these clowns and that's what Rex thinks of them. He thinks of them as not that intelligent. He thinks they just have some form of connection with the Miracle and that's why he goes to the UK, to bring them back. I'm like, 'You guys aren't smart, you're not ahead' and that whole thing. But he comes to find out that they are, and very useful and helpful. So it's a lot of fun. What's so great about it is the unpredictability of it all. There's no set way to play it. As an audience member, you're on the edge of your seat. You don't know what's going to happen next, and you don't know when they finally do come together and actually have real respect for each other."

Esther (Alexa Havins) has a crush on Rex, but is he ever going to notice that?
"Maybe, maybe not. It's funny because Rex looks at her as just like, 'You're my sister', and obviously she sort of sensationalises about what Rex does. Rex is out on the field and he's international, dealing with espionage and different governments and all that kind of stuff. And she's very useful but more for the office - the CIA office on the computer. In her mind, it's more like wanting to hang out with your big brother when you're underage, almost. I think that there's a little bit of a crush, but I think she just more or less sensationalises about exactly what Rex does. And then she's thrust into this world, and it starts to beat her up a bit as the show goes on."

Rex Matheson in Torchwood: Miracle Day
Did you enjoy filming in Wales?
"Wales was great. The people were great and I had a great time there. I learned a lot. It was my first time ever shooting on the other side of the ocean, so that was a lot of fun, but it was also cold. It was just really cold. The only time when it wasn't really cold was when they said 'action' and then the adrenaline was running. As soon as they said 'cut', they bring in the coats. I had heat pads slapped all over my body and in my pockets. I had them in my shoes and wore three pairs of long-johns."

Did you try any local fare or any good food?
"You know what, we were so busy. We were shooting six days a week and had two or three weeks in the UK, so we had to bang it out. So I didn't really get to do much. It was a pleasure shooting [in Wales] but it was like - we had to get back [to America] to keep the show going."

You had that great scene with Dichen Lachman's character (Lyn Peterfield) when you snapped her neck. Obviously she's still alive, but how does she function now?
"She can't die - the best thing she can do is probably wear some form of neck brace. Her neck is broke - I don't know if that would heal or not. I don't know how that works. Obviously because it's Miracle Day, nobody dies. Even my character, I was supposed to die but they were able to fix me because my bodily functions were still working, so I never flat-lined. They were able to fix me up, so throughout the series I am healing as fast as you can heal with a hole through your whole body. So, maybe, maybe not. She was great, though."

Torchwood: Miracle Day continues on Fridays at 9/8c on Starz in the US and on Thursdays at 9pm on BBC One in the UK.

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