VANISHING ACT

Vincent Ventresca, the latest invisible man
by James E Brooks

The pilot has been airing (on movie channels) for a few months now. It was only a matter of time before the series got picked up for UK TV.

The Invisible Man himself tells Cult Times, “Things have begun to click…”

See also: Part 2 here • From Cult Times #68

Blame it on HG Wells. When The Sci-Fi Channel announced that they were doing a new series called The Invisible Man everybody thought they already knew the story, but when the series premièred in the US less than a year ago, this newest iteration of the story came as a pleasant surprise. Rather than being a tired old remake of a classic concept, the result was a fresh mixture of adventure and sly, literate humour, whose main character was a bad boy with a heart of gold.

As the opening of the show says, ‘The operation was a success… and that’s when things began to go wrong’. The gland implanted in Darien Fawkes's brain, which secretes a substance called quicksilver and enables invisibility, carries a price – the longer he’s invisible, the quicker the relatively good Darien turns into a Mr Hyde, complete with red eyes and a really bad temper.

Actor Vincent Ventresca quickly saw the huge dramatic potential in Fawkes being the one with this ability. “What would you do if you had a guy who could be invisible, a guy who’s not especially good? For Darien, the whole thing is a morality tale. Here he’s presented with the kind of opportunity or ability that would make him the most successful thief ever, but he’s tugged at by his conscience.

"In the pilot he actually gets caught because he’s trying to give CPR to the owner of the apartment he was trying to rob. He doesn’t always make the right choices, but he struggles and tries, even if he doesn’t want to admit it. The show is about a guy who has this great gift, one that can do great good or great evil.”

Lately, though, that struggle has sometimes been uncertain as witnessed in late first season story Money For Nothing, in which Darien goes further and deeper into a new stage of ‘quicksilver madness’. “For the most part, we have seen him use the gift for good, but in these last couple of episodes we explored what might happen if he went the other way and used the invisibility for bad things. I personally think that there is a certain balance in people; we all have good and bad in us. Most of the time we manage it, and that’s what Darien does, although we’ve played with that lately. At base, though, he’s more hero than anti-hero and I think that’s why we like him.”

Like the little train that could, the series has pushed uphill against the kind of obscurity that is the enemy of every new show, producing episodes that deliver the goods every week. For Ventresca, just the fact that the show is still on the air is cause for celebration; that a rewarding working experience would end up getting even better is icing on the cake. “Most shows that I’ve been involved with,” he says dryly, “usually get cancelled by this time.”

According to Ventresca, it’s a mistake to dwell too much on the invisible portion of the show since it’s merely a device to do the kind of storytelling that has made shows as diverse as Gunsmoke to the original Star Trek last far past their times. “In so many ways the title, The Invisible Man, is misleading. Frankly, it’s really more about the visible characters than the invisibility itself.

"I have no trouble separating the invisibility from the character of Darien Fawkes – even though having the ability obviously has an effect on who he is, it doesn’t define who he is. It’s just the secret weapon of his group – their ace in the hole, their star player. It’s what gives them the edge over all the other agencies that have the money and the benefit of being higher profile. It’s really just an under-funded agency...”

Cult Times #68Go on to: Character profiles • From Cult Times #68

Invisible Man UK transmission:

Season 1 starts on Bravo (stripped) from 7th May 2001:
Mondays to Thursdays 21.00 / 00.00
Images © Bravo / Sci-Fi Channel (US)
Feature © Visual Imagination 2001. Not for reproduction.