Avatar’s CCH Pounder returns to Warehouse 13

By Fred Topel

CCH Pounder may be best known for her heartbreaking and powerful role on TV’s The Shield. She helped make cinema history by playing the Na’Vi queen Moat in Avatar, the biggest movie of all time.

Pounder comes back to television with her recurring role on Syfy’s Warehouse 13.

“We’ve already started back,” Pounder said at an Earth Day event for Avatar’s DVD release on the 20th Century Fox backlot. “I’m already back. I just came in this weekend to chat with you guys.”

Warehouse 13 casts Pounder as Mrs. Frederic, the mysterious boss of the warehouse of mythical artifacts. New episodes keep Mrs. Frederic’s mystery alive.

“Do you know, she’s the only character that they don’t give a legend to. When I arrive, I kind of go, ‘What am I? Am I a hologram? Am I a real person? What am I?’ They kind of go, ‘They haven’t decided yet.’ So they’ve been playing with the character. So far it’s fun for me but it’s still a mystery.”

In its second season, Warehouse 13 has not yet made Pounder a regular cast member, but they have her for a good chunk of episodes. “I won’t be a regular but as many as I can do, I will. This year I believe it’s seven.”

Science fiction is the current trend for Pounder. She actually did an X-Files episode and Robocop 3 in the ‘90s, but those are overshadowed by her recent genre work. “I guess things happen in sort of cycles. I’ve done a series of women of authority, policewomen and judges and lawyers. That seemed to be a big part of my life. Before I was crackhead selling moms, weepy, crying, held hostage, miserable little women. That seems to be over. So now I seem to be in the realm of fantasy.”

Pounder has no preference. It just happens that right now the worlds of the future are keeping her gainfully employed. “I’m an old time lover of acting and I’m not a personality, I’m never going to be Kim Kardashian but I am going to be CCH Pounder. I’m happy with it. I’m really happy with the fact that I’m an actor who’s acting.” 

With Avatar breaking records as the biggest movie of all time, everyone assumes there will be a sequel. Pounder can go Na’Vi again, using the performance capture technology that James Cameron pioneered.

“I think one of the things that happened with the first film, which is why it took so very long to make, is that you have to get all the technical stuff in order and there was a lot of it. As we were making it, he kept saying, ‘We won’t be using this anymore. We’ve already moved from this. This is obsolete.’ By the time we get to the sequel or the prequel, I don’t know whether the technology is so great that you feel like you’re just back to making a regular movie, or whether he would’ve come up with something even wilder that we would have to get accustomed to. We’ll see.”

The plot of Avatar 2 remains in Cameron’s head for now, but Pounder will be patient. “I think he’s aware that it’s franchisable. I think it is not six months in Hawaii and we’re off to the races. This is a lot of time and he doesn’t have any more gray hair to get. He’s already doing what he needs to do. You never know, sometimes this influences him in a more personal way. It might be something else he wants to do or he might want to highlight that might have nothing to do with Avatar. I’m just glad to be a part of the one that he created. It’s great.” 

Before Avatar opened, the industry was skeptical that a 3-D movie starring blue aliens would even make its money back, let alone the success it ultimately achieved. Pounder knew early on.

“[Producer] Jon Landau came up to me and he said, ‘Okay, top secret. We’re going to show you like 45 minutes. You’ll put on the 3-D glasses and go upstairs. The guys will run this little secret and put a little music to it.’ I was so excited. At this point, I don’t think Neytiri had a face put in yet but it was in the Pandora environment. I put on the 3-D glasses and they started this little sequence and I knew then. That was the first year of working. I knew then that this was going to be awesome. I’m very hard to get my hackles up. I’m not a big party Twister girl. I knew then. I said, ‘Oh my God, it’s huge. I can tell it’s going to be huge.’”

The performance capture technology that turned Pounder and costars into Na’Vi is likely the future of acting. Pounder welcomes it with open arms, rather than digging her heels in and resisting change.

“This is the first part of that technology and that technology will eventually be able to capture your expression. You actually have to stand in front of the camera and they’ll say. ‘Sad. Happy.’ You go through this series of expressions. I think one day it will come to the fact that the actress is not here today, let’s get the avatar in there. Put it in the computer and let’s do it there. I think we are on our way to a certain kind of extinction but we’ve said that about many, many creatures and they’re still here. We’ve said that about many, many technologies and they’re still here.”

The days of flesh and blood actors may be numbered, just like old craft of live performance. “Well, I take a look at the theater and if we can have something like the Pasadena Theater, our State Theater closed down on us, I know we’re in trouble.”

Avatar is now available on DVD and Blu Ray. Look for new episodes of Warehouse 13 this summer on Syfy.


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