tamsen feature

Get to Know Killjoys’ Lucy: Tamsen McDonough Chats

I had a really fun chat with Killjoys cast member Tamsen McDonough, the voice of spaceship Lucy. We had a great time talking about the show, her interaction with the cast, her love of drag performances and trapeze, and her new project, Miss Odette’s Modern Handbook to Manners. She previously appeared in The Incredible Hulk (2008), Lost Girl, and HBO’s Grey Gardens.  There’s a little bit I can’t share with you TODAY – be sure to read my review of tomorrow night’s episode, “I Love Lucy,” for some special insight!

TIBS: How did you get the part of Lucy?

TAMSEN: I was in Vancouver, and this is just my interpretation of it, so nothing here is gospel, this is just the way I interpret things, as kind of dramatic, and I’m an actor, so… I got a call, there’s a great series coming out, can you come down and audition? So my agent said “they remember you from Lost Girl (another Michelle Lovretta show), and they really liked that character you did and think it might be a really good fit for this spaceship.” And I said, “what was that, what did you say? Spaceship? Oh, ok, Sure!” It took me a minute to really warm up to the idea. So I popped in, and the character they liked was named Janet on Lost Girl, and they just really liked how dry and smartass she was. So they said, just take a couple little bits of Janet there, and make her AI. It wasn’t talking about how she had a crush on Johnny, but you know, I went and looked up Aaron Ashmore, and checked out some stuff, you know, what the characters looked like, and you just get a warmth to your voice. So I went back for one or two more, and then they said I booked it.

That’s fantastic. We’re glad you got the part. Had you known any of the other castmembers before? I know some of them knew each other.


So you were all new to this group?

I was completely new to this. I also came in after they finished all their shooting.

That’s interesting. So you did the typical voiceover alone in a booth, or…?

Yes, all by my lonesome.


Tamsen McDonoughYes, with supervisors, and co-supervisors, and a wonderful bunch of people who were really cool, actually. Got to know them. They finished shooting in November, and I came in in January. I know they were looking for a little while, and I know the same thing was happening this year too. By the time I’m getting into the booth, I’m seeing the episodes mostly done. They look fantastic. It looks like most of the special effects are in there,and if not, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell. It’s just a lot of the voice stuff coming in, people doing ADR (rerecording voice over the video), if a line was not heard correctly, or if there was a plane going overhead. So I come in when everyone’s doing their last touches on voice. So it’s mostly edited. I do the same thing for this year. Last week, I think I did episode 208.

Have you had any interaction with the cast members then?

Oh, sure, there’s been tons of that. It was really just a matter of, like I said, I wasn’t even cast until after they finished shooting and everyone had already scattered to the wind. But as soon as the show started out, I basically met everybody, through social media and whatever. A couple of people I actually ran into. I ran into Sean Baek in the street. And I ran into Rob Stewart a couple of times. He lives in my neighborhood. It was funny with Rob, because he’d never seen me. I meandered over to him and said, “Hi! Are you Rob Stewart from Killjoys?”, and he looked at me like, uh oh, crazy fan, and again, I have a terrible memory, and I said something like, “I play Lucy, I’m Tamsen!” I remember the first thing he said after “Hi how are you!” He said, “everybody sure wants you and John to get together!” (laugh) It was something along those lines, made me laugh right away. I’ve seen him a couple of times since then. And then, we all got together a couple of times since then, for a party, and I’ve bumped into a lot of people when I’m doing my voiceover stuff too.

We don’t want to have you left out! You’re definitely part of the cast!

No, Lucy can’t be left out! She would blast her way in if need be.

Have you had any discussions with Michelle Lovretta about Lucy and where she comes from?

That’s the other thing too, I was with Michelle and Aaron at least year’s Fan Expo, that’s the first time I met Aaron, but I had met Michelle before that doing the voiceover. It was really fun meeting Aaron. We were laughing about Juicy – John and Lucy.

Because Lucy is really Dutch’s ship, but she seems to have an affinity for him.Tamsen McDonough_wStool_horizontal_med_LV (1)

Well, John takes care of her. As fond as she is of Dutch, and everybody is… we certainly had quite a conversation when I went in for the voiceover about where they wanted to go with the character, and the feel of her, and some of that was, ok, let’s just give it a couple of rolls, and it took a few hours to settle on where we wanted to go with her, and I think also, especially with sci fi, an initial idea often gets changed, as I’m learning very quickly. It actually started out as she had a totally different name, and was very maternal, she was an older woman’s voice, as I remember, and then they swung in a different direction, went with the name Lucy, she was very smartass instead of maternal, I was given a bit of backstory, but I think it’s probably changed into something else by now, it’s pretty cool. We’re only limited by all the writers’ imagination, which is phenomenal.

It’s a great combination of computer neutral and sassy personality. You can really see some personality come in, which I’m sure is what you’re looking for. You want people to be able to related to Lucy in some way, rather than see her. It’s interesting, the evolution of computer personalities from the original Star Trek where the computer had no personality to 2001: A Space Odyssey’s Hal – you’re somewhere in the middle there.

Exactly! And then Jarvis, from Iron Man, that’s who I was thinking of a lot. I really liked the Jarvis character a lot, and I was thinking Lucy would really like Jarvis. I think they would get along. I think they might butt heads, but I think there might be some good debates.

Lucy could get Jarvis to loosen up a little bit. He’s a little uptight.

Listen to better music maybe.

Last year, I interviewed Michelle toward the end of the season. She hinted that there might be a storyline at some point where we would actually see the human that inspired Lucy. Has that happened at all?

Well, you know Michelle would kill me if I said anything, right? She would take me apart, bolt by bolt. Gotta keep watching and see what happens! We could go anywhere with these things. Like I said, things can change on the turn of a switch. So I can’t say.

Hmmm. What kind of storylines would you like to see Lucy get into? Say we get a season 3, nothing that’s been finished already that you can’t talk about, just speculation. Would you like to see something where Lucy gets taken over by the bad guys?

I would love to see Lucy come to life and play out her mechanical fantasies about the humans that she’s now met, she was quite taken with Clara as well. And actually get to interact with the humans she quite likes. But also I would love for her to even turn on everybody and see how they … if she decides something happens, or her mantra goes against what the Killjoys are doing, and she just says “nope! That’s it!” and dealing with this rogue Lucy, it might be fun.

That would be fun, I’d like to see that. Should we campaign for that? Would you like us fans to campaign for that?

Anything is fun. I’m having so much fun with this show. The writers are so clever. Every time I get a script, I’m like “oh, this is so awesome!” It’s just so much fun, it’s such a thrill.

I love the show. Every week I just love it. I watch Killjoys and Dark Matter right after. We have a big debate on our site, Tom Gardiner covers Dark Matter. I like both shows, but I like Killjoys more, and he likes Dark Matter more.


So we have some good natured bantering back and forth.

We’re going to have to do something about that. We’ll have to work on the hashtag #PantsOff a little longer (follow @Thogar if you don’t get that joke!). Maybe he’ll come around to our side.

You know what I think is hindering that is that Dark Matter has been at ComicCon the last 2 years. He’s actually with the DM cast right now, as we speak (when we recorded this interview), one on one interviews AND press panel. And Killjoys has not made it there.

It’s something that I know nothing about, the marketing side, but Dark Matter seems to focus more on the ComicCons and fan expos, and Killjoys focuses more on posters and media buys, I guess. Commercials and that kind of thing. They’re sister shows, but completely different marketing teams who have gone in different ways.  Maybe it’s so that they’re not competing with each other, but so they can help each other. I don’t know.

They’re both great, and as long as they both keep going for several more seasons, we’ll be happy.


Tamsen is also involved in an upcoming web series, called Miss Odette’s Guide to Manners.

Let’s talk about Miss Odette’s!  Are we going to get episodes soon?

We are. We’re waiting for a very good editor who we’re a big fan of. Just through timing, and so on, we weren’t able to get her until now – she’ll get started this month (August).  She’s going to be cutting our first episode for us, and hopefully we can get started on more episodes.

Tell me about the premise. 

Basically it’s a take on – my mom used to read a lot of Miss Manners, and we have a little bit of a British influence… I like manners, but it’s also fun to turn them on their heads, and take a sort of a Seinfeld approach to them. And look at them from a different angle. It’s not so much what are your table manners. So the first episode is about hugging. And when you start thinking about all the different hugs there are, again going with Seinfeld, and there’s a grain of truth in each of these things, and then we take it to the nth degree, we get a little silly. But again there’s a grain of truth in each of these things, and everyone we’ve told the premise to, they say, “Oh yes! And what about such and such a hug?” I’m like, oh that’s a good one too.

Thinking about the next episodes – one of the next could be sidewalk etiquette, people who walk arm in arm, and span an entire sidewalk, or suddenly there are umbrellas, things people don’t think about, but everyone is dealing with them all the time. So it’s silly, but they’re still true.

How many episodes do you see for this?

Well, because it’s web, it feels fairly endless. You’re always hoping you get picked up and get distributed by somebody, that could be an 8-10 episode season, but if it’s just us having a great time with it on the web, you can just keep going, and every time you think of a good one, bam. There could be some of the fans saying “Ooh! What about such and such, like party etiquette of some kind?” OK, fans out there, let us know! What kind of situations have you gotten into? Do an episode based on that. So it will be fun when we can get a real fan base and start seeing what people have gotten into. Because as soon as you start talking about one thing, elevator etiquette, how to tell someone they have things on their face or in their teeth, or on their shoe – all these kinds of slightly awkward – I think that’s what it is, it’s awkward etiquette.

A big one in my (former) office is loud sneezers. Or coughers, people who don’t cover their mouth when they cough.

Bodily noises!

Right. I’ll wait for that one. I hope you’ll let me know when they come out so I can write about it!

They’re quite fun. Being a tall female, I just started to notice funny things going on, and I’m a bit of a physically awkward person, and I just found myself getting into these weird hugs all the time. I thought, “I’ve got to write something about this!” because it’s funny.

This struck me, in the press release that your agent sent out, that you’re always on the hunt for great drag performances.

I don’t know if this is what got me into it, but one of my favorite movies is Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Have you talked to Thom Allison about that show? (Thom performed in the stage version.)

the-adventures-of-priscilla-queen-of-the-desert-531c389d21a2cOh yeah! I told him, “you’ll have to let me know when you’re in that and I’ll lose my mind.” One of my first indie films I shot when I moved out to Toronto, I went out for a role of the Screen Siren, and he ended up casting someone else, but really wanted me in the role of the drag queen. So I played a very tall, slim, very loud and obnoxious drag queen, with big, big, big long hair. Big huge curls, he said Mariah Carey-esque. He (the film’s director) took me around to all the great drag clubs that were in Toronto, and told me all about the subculture, and the whole glam of it all, and I found it really interesting, and really fun. I like the camp of it, I like the humor of it.

It’s fun to watch people do something you don’t expect, and see them pull it off so beautifully.

Clever people doing cool things. I’m more into the drag queens that have this comedic mixed into chatting with the audience, and then doing a song. I love the ones who just sing, but I like the ones who really interact with the audience, and basically do standup at the same time. They blow my mind. A fun hobby!

And you like trapeze?

I do! I’m terrible at it, I’m so tall and lanky, but I always wanted to be in the circus. I love heights, and trapeze is such a draw for me. I took classes, but too many bruises! I try and finagle these long arms and legs – I’m not that tall, just all arms and legs, this short little body, but these spider arms and legs. In order to keep things around this tiny little bar, I keep smashing into the ground. So I’ll do it every now and then during the slow season just to keep up in the air, but it looks like I’ve rolled down a flight of stairs if I take a bunch of classes. And I’m clumsy, so I’m sure that’s just what it is, I’m clumsy.

I can empathize with the clumsy… I’m short, and short all over.prdlrg635_9

You’re close to the ground! You’ve got a lower center of gravity there.


When I fall I don’t get hurt as badly, I guess.

You get up faster then me, when I fall I have to gather up all the limbs.

Are you a sci fi fan?

I was always a bit of a sci fi fan – I’m one of those people who really enjoys TV and movies. I just do. And so it was always one of those things –sci fi was in there, but because I enjoy quite the gamut, it was never a focus. But I’m going back and I’m rewatching a lot of Star Wars, the second trilogy, and I’ve been trying to find Battlestar Galactica – it’s really hard to find. I’m a huge fan of Firefly, of course. Fifth Element is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’m just more aware of it now, going back and sort of rewatching. The superhero stuff has always been a big thing for me, because I’m a big comic book reader, so some of them have been – the first Iron Man is something that I just loved. Some of the superhero ones have fallen short, if you’re a big fan of the comic books, you have certain expectations. Standards, man! So like Deadpool has become one of my top ones. I’ve seen it twice now, and I’m not allowed to watch it again, even though I was one of the first in line to pick up the DVD. A girlfriend hasn’t seen it, and I was like “You have to get over here! I need to see it again soon!” I’m a proud card-carrying geek. Lord of the Rings…Getting involved with Killjoys, I’m more aware of it now.

It was so much fun to talk to you! It’s always fun to meet the people behind the Twitter handle.

It’s fun, because I get to be a little mysterious – you don’t see me, there’s a little mystery there.

But here’s the difference  – I have a professional photo of you, but you have no photo of me.

I don’t! Just a little cartoon! Well, maybe some day. Maybe I’ll meet you at a ComicCon some day.

Tamsen’s Website
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