During Season 1 of Fox’s ‘Dollhouse,’ FBI agent Paul Ballard (played by Tahmoh Penikett) made it his mission to locate the titular facility that “imprints” people with personalities custom-fitted to a specific assignment. But a funny thing happened once Paul ultimately hunted down his prey: instead of exposing the Dollhouse, he became a part of it, if only to help the (beautiful) Active known as Echo (Eliza Dushku) reclaim her real-world identity as Caroline.
With Season 2 debuting this Friday at 9 pm/ET, Penikett reflected on Paul’s moral dilemma, teased the fate of a departed character, and weighed on the imminent “invasion” of his ‘Battlestar’ buddies.
I was surprised to see Paul embed himself in the Dollhouse. Did you always know that was the plan?
It was an interesting turn of events, but it makes sense if you take inventory of what little Paul had left. He found out that this company he had been investigating had been playing him the whole time; he’d fallen in love with his neighbor only to find out she was a Doll; he got fired from his job. He is so absolutely alone, but he has to see something through. So he sacrificed himself for Mellie/Madeleine (Miracle Laurie).
When he traded his silence for Madeline’s freedom, that wowed a lot of fans as quite the romantic gesture.
Yeah, that gave you a good sense of who Paul is. He really did care about this woman, but he also realized that what they shared was not real.
And yet I understand we will see Madeleine again?
Oh, absolutely. We’re going to have some interaction – quite a lot of it, in fact – and it will be tumultuous, to say the least.
All told, how would you say Season 2 is tonally different?
It’s actually very much tonally the same as the unaired pilot (titled ‘Echo’ and available on the Season1 DVD set). I watched that for the first time recently and I was like, ‘That is exactly what [series creator] Joss [Whedon] said the show would be about, and this is exactly where we are now.’ We kind of got away from that last season, but this season the episodes are dark and at the same time funny. The show has found its way.
Will Paul’s protectiveness of Caroline cause problems for him as a Dollhouse employee?
In the first episode you see that if Echo has a romantic engagement, he’s probably going to have issues with it. So for how long can he continue this? What is his agenda? He doesn’t agree with their practices, but he doesn’t have much of a choice right now.
Might Paul share his agenda with Boyd? He’d seem to be one person Paul can trust.
Boyd is perhaps the only one who morally agrees with Paul, but an interesting part of this season is going to explore the question of “Why is Boyd there?” We’ll get that backstory, and the fans are going to love it. Boyd might be someone Paul can trust, but he also takes his job very seriously. He saw [security chief Laurence Dominic] get sent to the Attic, and he knows the same could happen to him.
What’s it like to have two of your former Battlestar Galactica cast mates, Jamie Bamber and Michael Hogan, guest star on Dollhouse this season?
It’s awesome. I get to move onto an excellent series and then two talented friends come play with us. I just wish I had more scenes with them!
Who from Battlestar would you like to see do Dollhouse next?
I don’t know that I’d want to choose anyone in particular. Grace Park is one of my best friends, so that would be awesome, but just think about Edward James Olmos, or James Callis! What’s great is that Joss is smart enough to make the character very much a departure [from the ‘Battlestar’ role]. I mean, you’ve got Jamie with his natural [British] accent playing an evil gunrunner – that’s very different from Lee Adama. Joss taps into their range.
And lastly, for the lady folk, has Joss found new ways to organically get Paul Ballard shirtless in scenes?
[Laughs] Last season I was like, “Hey, look, another scene with Paul’s shirt off!” So it’s safe to say that this season, too, I’ll have my shirt off at one point or another.
Got questions (or opinions) about the new TV season? Want scoop on your favorite shows? Email MattMtvguy@gmail.com!