For an actor who has made a career out of playing intense characters, Michael Eklund is a pretty laid-back guy.
Or at least he sounds that way.
When he answers his phone in Vancouver, he tries to summon the gruff tone of Bobo Del Rey — the badass demon overlord he plays on new Syfy/CHCH TV series Wynonna Earp — but only manages a short greeting before he dissolves into laughter, his voice becoming friendly and warm.
“I kind of forgot how to do it,” he says, still chuckling.
Eklund’s lapse in memory is understandable. It’s been months since he last played Bobo, who — with his Mohawk, sporadically bleached beard, and hulking fur coat — is one of the most flamboyant TV baddies in recent memory, a scruffy punk peacock oozing menace and kink in equal measure. Still, he seems so effortlessly commanding in the role, it’s easy to overlook the work it takes to conjure such as character.
But Bobo was a difficult birth.
“Sometimes you get characters or roles that you identify with very quickly, and you just kind of get it,” Eklund explains. “Those are the easier ones, where you just kind of get the character, and then there’s the ones where you have to do a little bit of work and research and that’s when I pull out my imagination, and Bobo was definitely one of those characters.”
Eklund finished a film the day before he arrived on the Wynonna Earp set in Calgary and only had one night to shake off the other role and begin digging into Bobo. He found that constructing the Revenant leader’s unique look with the show’s wardrobe and makeup teams helped him bridge the gap.
“I wanted to have a certain haircut, the Mohawk, and then the hair and makeup team came up with the bleached side of the beard,” he says. “Then the wardrobe team came together and created this masterpiece of a coat that Bobo wears, and you put it all together and you start feeling the character.”
It also helped to work with Tim Rozon, who plays Doc Holliday, early in the series. “I got very lucky because I was working with Tim at the very beginning of the show, and he’s such an imaginative actor as well,” he says. “We work very similarly, and so together we just kind of put it together and knew where we wanted it to go.”
Which is a bit ironic, since Eklund originally auditioned for the role of Doc. “There’s an old quote that actors usually tell themselves that you are meant to play the part that you get,” he says. “I immediately knew why they chose [Tim] to play Doc Holliday, he was the best man for the job. I’m not ashamed to say that he’s Doc Holliday, and I was meant to play Bobo Del Rey.”
Bobo and Doc formed an uneasy alliance earlier in the season, but their dealings become more complicated in the episode “Diggin’ Up Bones” — which airs tonight at 9 p.m. on CHCH in Canada — as the Stone Witch (Rayisa Kondracki), Doc’s nemesis, is revealed to have an intimate — and freaky — relationship with Bobo.
“It’s a very unusual, I would say controlled, triangular relationship,” Eklund hints. “I need something from the Stone Witch, the Stone Witch needs something from me. Doc needs something from me, I need something from Doc. We all need something from each other, and no one is willing to give it unless their needs are given first. There’s going to be a power struggle between the three of them very soon to achieve the objectives they want later in the season.”
And he says if viewers think they know what’s in store for Bobo — or any other character — this season, they’re wrong. “Supporters of the show have no idea where it’s going yet,” he teases. “It’s like one of those Russian dolls, where you open one doll and there’s another one, and then once you think you’re finished, there’s another one inside of it. It’s going to be fun.”
A native of Saskatoon, Eklund fell in love with acting when his mother took him to his first movie at the age of 5. “I walked into the theatre and sat down with the velvet chairs and the light being projected onto the screen, and I was hot into this magical world of storytelling. I left that theatre basically changed. It just blew my mind, and I knew I wanted to do that.”
Not that it came easy. Saskatchewan isn’t a hotbed for acting opportunities, and Eklund never landed a role in any of the school plays he auditioned for. But he wouldn’t give up. “When I got older, I moved to Vancouver because I knew if you wanted to be an actor in Canada, you either go to Toronto or you go to Vancouver, and the weather was nicer in Vancouver,” he explains. “I started building the life of an actor without knowing exactly what I was doing and then just kind of falling into it and learning as I went on set. My education is on set experience. I just kept my mouth shut and my ears open and just listened.”
Eklund’s “fake it ’til you make it” determination paid off. Over a 17-year career, he has amassed nearly 130 TV and film credits, with notable roles in films such as Mr. Right (2016) and The Call (2013), and TV shows Bates Motel and Continuum. Many of those roles — including Bobo Del Rey — could be classified as villains, but he doesn’t see it that way.
“The first rule of acting is to not judge a character,” he says. “So if I’m playing a quote unquote antagonist or protagonist, I never judge a character on what they want or what they desire. To them, it’s just as important and truthful as anyone else. They believe that it’s the right thing to do.
“In Bobo’s head, he doesn’t see himself as the antagonist. Maybe that’s the perception from the other characters, but in Bobo’s world, they’re his antagonists.”
Eklund says he becomes attached to every character he plays and tries to hold on to the best parts of each of them.
“Our job is very interesting,” he says. “We’re asked to dive into these other characters’ lives, then you miss them a little bit after they’re gone. So there’s a piece of Bobo still inside me, and I love it.”
‘Wynonna Earp‘ airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on Syfy in the U.S. and Mondays at 9 p.m. on CHCH in Canada Follow Michael Eklund on Twitter
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Note: Canadian viewers can live stream ‘Wynonna Earp’ on the CHCH website at 10 p.m. on Fridays and again at 9 p.m. on Mondays
Follow Michael Eklund on Twitter
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