KRISTOFFER POLAHA (Life Unexpected) Exclusive Interview

LIFE UNEXPECTED

I recently got a chance to interview KRISTOFFER POLAHA who plays Nate ‘Baze’ Bazile in The CW’s new original series, LIFE UNEXPECTED, which premieres on Monday January 18 at 9/8c.

In the show, Baze finds out that he has a fifteen year-old daughter, Lux, when she comes knocking on his door to get him to sign her emancipation papers. This leads to Baze reconnecting with Lux’s mother, Cate Cassidy, a star on local radio. When a judge decides to grant both of them temporary custody of Lux, their lives change forever.

Kristoffer Polaha talked about how he got involved with Life Unexpected, what’s in store for Baze in the upcoming episode, and much more. So enjoy the interview below.

Congratulations on the new show starting soon.

Kristoffer Polaha: Thank you, yeah. I’m excited. I can’t wait to see what people think. I know you guys have been very, very complimentary which we appreciate up in Vancouver.

What attracted you to the project and how did you get involved in it?

Kristoffer Polaha: Well, last December, it was literally like a year ago day, lets say, to make it mystical, it was a year ago today when I read the script and immediately responded to the material because Liz Tigelaar had written such a great, fully fleshed out, fully developed script. The world was tangible. The characters were approachable as far as actors being able to play them. I responded to Baze. I was at a reading and was just like ‘Oh’. It’s interesting, as an actor when you read scripts you either immediately start making choices, like, ‘I’d play it this way,’ and you can start seeing the scenes in your head or it takes you some time to get into the flesh of that character. With Baze it was immediate. I went, ‘I can play this,’ and I started seeing myself in the script as I was reading it. I knew that I responded to the part. Then I just went in and auditioned for Gary Fleder and Liz Tigelaar and the rest is history. We shot the pilot last January and waited for a pick-up which we got at the eleventh hour and we started shooting in September and we’re in our tenth episode now. It’s really been going just very, very well. We get along as a cast and each script is as good as the pilot. So it definitely feels like a charmed show and we feel like a blessed cast. It’s been fun for us so far.

I remember seeing the pilot a while back and then waited quite a while for more.

Kristoffer Polaha: Yeah, like during the summer, right.

I’m excited that it’s finally coming out.

Kristoffer Polaha: So are we. We felt like we were acting in a vacuum there for a while.

Can you talk about what’s coming up for Baze in the upcoming episodes?

Kristoffer Polaha: There is a lot coming for Baze. This I will say, Baze starts out in the pilot as the archetypical boy-man, the guy who doesn’t grow up. He’s got Peter Pan Syndrome bad and he meets his fifteen year old daughter. She comes knocking on his door and he’s like, ‘Who are you,’ and it turns out that she’s his little kid. Pretty immediately from that moment on he takes responsibility for this little kid. This is sort of an unspoken thing but as an actor it’s the choice I’ve been playing for this character, which is that he immediately decides to protect her and love her. He’s like, ‘I didn’t know that I had this but now that I do I’m going to do right by it.’ But what’s funny and what’s sad about Baze is that he’s ill equipped to do right. So he kind of tries and keeps messing things up and so you’ll see a lot of hijinks from Lux and Baze. There’s definitely some unresolved sexual tension between Cate and Baze which you’ll see played out. The crux of that relationship is that she’s engaged to a guy named Ryan played wonderfully by Kerr Smith. So the audience is in for a treat. I’m telling you that if you liked the pilot every episode, they just keep getting better. It’s a really good show and we’re really proud of it.

There is definitely sexual tension between Cate and Baze. Does this continue to be played out in the coming episodes?

Kristoffer Polaha: Yeah. It’s definitely played out because for a while Ryan doesn’t know what happened. Who knows but I’m sure that Ryan will find out what happened and so then how does all of that play out. And then what I can tell you is that every episode, the way that Liz Tigelaar and the rest of the writers have sort of constructed these characters is that in the pilot you’ll see what happens and then in the second episode it’s sort of redefines and clarifies who Cate is for the audience. The third episode sort of clearly defines who Baze is for the audience and then once you get into the fourth and then it starts running the story starts developing. Now you know who the players are.
So one week you’re rooting for Cate and Baze and are like, ‘Oh, those two, why don’t they just quit bickering? Why don’t they just get together?’ And then in the same breath, in the next episode you’re like, ‘I don’t know. It’s Cate and Ryan. Ryan is a great guy,’ because Kerr [Smith] is playing this part so well and with so much integrity that I’m actually rooting for Ryan. I’m watching it, going, ‘Oh, you’re a good guy.’ So it’s not cheap television. It’s not your average bear. I would say that it’s above average and I’m being modest when I say that, too. I think it’s on par with excellence.
So the treat is watching sort of what you normally see in television and what you hope for when you watch television and certainly what we have grown to expect from the television, that’s all in there, but how Liz and the rest of the writers are doling it out is just fantastic and really entertaining. We get the scripts like a week and a half before we have to start filming them and as actor I’ve worked on shows before when you get the scripts and you’re like, ‘Well, this feels like a week when we’re taking a step back in story.’ I’m sure as somebody who’s watching television and writing about it that you’ve seen episodes where you were like, ‘That was a doozy.’ Every episode so far keeps pushing the story further, keeps pushing the characters further, keeps stepping over the line of where left off. So it’s entertaining as us to actors, and so we’re all still up for the parts. I think the audience is going to get a real kick out of these characters and out of the show.

I’m glad that they didn’t make Ryan this bad guy, it’s more complex than that. Is Baze going to have any type of relationship with him?

Kristoffer Polaha: What I can tell you is that first they’re pleasant but will have nothing to do with each other, and then they’re pleasant because they have to have stuff to do with each other because of Lux, and then they’re having to do stuff with each other and they’re not so pleasant. Then there’s an episode where it definitely takes a turn for the worse for Ryan and Baze, where they’ve just had it. And then I will leave the rest…then there’s another turn and I’ll let the viewers and you figure that out. I don’t want to give too much away, but yes, they definitely have to deal with each other and that’s a part of the roller coaster ride of the show.
The core relationships are Lux and Baze, Lux and Cate and then Lux has her little world where she has this guy named Bug and this guy named Jones. Those are her two worlds, where she came from and where she is now. Then within Baze’s world, from my character’s point of view I deal with Cate. I deal with Lux. I’m now having to deal with Ryan and I have my two roommates, Math played by Austin Basis and Jamie played by Reggie Austin. And actually my father who you’ll see in episode three, I have to deal with a lot of that. We’re having to deal with the past in order to make the present, in order to make the future all better. There’s a lot of redemption happening and it’s all really good.

At first Lux stays with Cate, right? But does Baze get better at being a father to her?

Kristoffer Polaha: She is staying with Cate and then that can potentially change. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say and what I can’t say. I don’t know how much of these things are spoilers or not. What you see is that Lux and Baze are really good friends. Baze is just awesome, almost like a big brother at first. Slowly he’s having to not be as cool as he’s used to being and he has to be more of a parental figure. That doesn’t necessarily go over too well with Lux. I’m telling you, every script that we get I’m like, ‘This is awesome.’ Right now we’re working on an episode where Baze and Lux, she says, ‘I just want to be friends,’ and he says, ‘We can be friends but I want to be your dad.’ So it is a story about Baze growing up and finding redemption for this thing that he did. What I think is the most interesting is that in life we’ve all done something or said something or have had something done to us that we hold onto for years and years and years.
In the instance of Cate and Baze, Baze got Cate pregnant. He didn’t handle that pregnancy well at all. In fact, he was like, ‘I don’t know what I do. I don’t want to do anything.’ So he basically doesn’t even know that she had a kid. We worked that out. Liz and Shiri [Appelby] and I talked about it, that Baze had no idea that the child was born let alone given up for adoption. So he doesn’t even know that he has a kid out there in the world until she comes knocking on his door but at that moment when he didn’t take responsibility as like a sixteen year old for this girl and for her pregnancy he sort of shut down. So his maturity, his growth, everything kind of stopped for Baze in high school and he at the time, if you remember and you’ll find this out, was a winner. He was the quarterback of the football team. He was super popular. Everything was kind of going his way and you’ll see that he comes from a really successful family and his father is disappointed in him because he’s like, ‘You could’ve been something great. You could’ve done something with your life.’ He literally doesn’t do anything with his life and I think that he got shut down. So what’s interesting to play as an actor is the redemption of this kid and watching him take responsibility for his life and watching him sort of make amends for the past wrongs and be able to forgive himself and to grow up and mature. It’s an interesting process, personally, to watch as an actor and really great to play.

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