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Meaghan Rath isn't used to this, talking about a character who is, you know, alive.
It's a mid-January afternoon, and Rath, 27, is in New York City doing the press rounds for the fourth season of the SyFy original series Being Human. She has something else on her mind, though—her new indie film Three Night Stand. Co-starring and co-produced by Rath, the offbeat romantic comedy follows a vacationing couple trying to keep their relationship together while staying at a ski lodge run by the boyfriend's ex-lover. In less than 24 hours, the Montreal native is scheduled to hop on a plane and head out to Park City, Utah, to attend the film's premiere at Slamdance, the quirkier cousin to the neighboring Sundance Film Festival. "It's really exciting," says Rath, "because it's the first movie I've ever produced, but it's also a little strange talking about it. I'm usually trying to explain the afterlife to people."
That's what happens when you're the star of Being Human, SyFy's quietly successful adaptation of the British show of the same name. Rath plays Sally Malik, a sassy, sarcastic firecracker who also happens to be dead and the ghostly roommate of a vampire and a werewolf. She's not your ordinary apparition, though. Over the course of three full seasons (season four's third episode airs tonight at 9 p.m. EST), Sally has, in no particular order, battled a hunky Grim Reaper, briefly turned flesh-and-blood again and had a fling with a virginal mortician, inhabited human bodies, and been treated to manicures and pedicures while trapped in the limbo between Heaven and Hell. Oh, and there's also her ability to "shred" other ghosts.
No wonder the simplicity of Three Night Stand feels so jarring. "The mythology in Being Human becomes really complicated for me," says Rath. "I constantly have to map it out for myself to make sure I'm not lost in it. I often wonder, does the audience fully understand all of this? I'm sure there are people who watch the show and are lost, but thankfully enough people seem to understand it. Or if they don't, they just love the characters enough to stick around."
It's precisely that. With its lack of media fanfare, Being Human continues to be one of television's best-kept secrets, a funny and often powerfully dramatic look at social alienation and twentysomething insecurities channeled through classic horror tropes. For the wolf man (Josh, played by Sam Huntington), marriage is even more difficult thanks to he and his wife both changing into hairy, murderous beasts; the 200-plus-year-old vampire (Aiden, played by Sam Witwer) struggles with his addiction to blood like it's a drug and his sexual urges like a self-loathing playboy; and Sally's inability to fully connect with others is compounded by the fact that, well, she's dead.
In a perfect world, Being Human would receive as much media attention as The CW's like-minded, though far more melodramatic and superficial, The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. Yet Rath, for one, doesn't mind its position. "Being Human feels like an underdog, and I love that about it," says Rath. "I've always felt a bit like an underdog myself."
As told to Matt Barone (@MBarone)
On Growing Up in Montreal
On Her Early Struggles as an Actress
On Growing Up as a Genre Fan
On the Joys of Working on Being Human
"Being Human required quite a few auditions. I know they searched far and wide to find someone to play Sally, but I try not to think about that too much. It was tough. I connected with the character so much that I got this feeling that, as an actor, I've only experienced maybe one or two other times, where I read something and say to myself, 'If I'm not a part of this project, it will completely break my heart.' I just knew, I just had this connection with it. Luckily for me, that worked out."
"The chemistry I have with [co-stars] Sam [Witwer] and Sam [Huntington], my two Sams, is a weird thing because it happened so immediately and so easily for us. We met for the first time in L.A., and the second they put us in the room together, there was this immediate energy that we were all sort of shocked by. It's never gone away; those two are my best friends. I'm so close to them. They know everything about me, even right down to all the little sick details. [Laughs.] That's very rare in this industry, too. After the first season finished shooting, we all went to Hawaii with [fellow co-star] Mark Pellegrino, which is weird because you'd think we'd all want some time apart from each other after filming together for six months straight."
"One thing that still amazes me about Being Human is that we have these script meetings before we shoot every episode, where we're allowed to give input about our characters and let the writers know if there's anything that's really bumping us. I've never been so into that, though. Sam Witwer is so great at it, though, because he's obsessed with his work—that's a terrible thing, but it's also an amazing thing. He's so dedicated and so passionate, and that's what makes him so great at what he does."
"Me, though, I'm not a writer—it's just, you write for me and I'll figure out a way to make it mine. I'm always uncomfortable with challenging the writers too much because I don't feel it's my place, but I also know that they care enough to ask me what I think, and I love that."
On How Sally is a Lot Like Meaghan
"After the first season, I think the writers started writing specifically for us, the actors. I've gotten to know the writers really well over the last four years, and they've now gotten to know my sense of humor and what I do well. They write for that, they write for our strengths."
"I love comedy, but I've also developed this love for drama from working on Being Human. I feel like a mix of the two is perfect for me, that's where I'm in my happy place. That's what's so great about the show—we find the light in all this tragedy. There's a nice balance of that."
"Being Human, up until recently, was certainly the most dramatic thing I'd done. Before it, I'd done a lot of comedy because comedy comes easily to me. Now I think I've fine-tuned the comedy because I can balance it with the drama and the character's tragic side."
"Sally is such an amazing, endlessly fascinating character to play, too. There's an element of her being self-centered; when people deal with something very traumatic, they become self-involved—that's just how it is. That's why I like her so much; she's realistic. When you take away all the supernatural stuff, her behavior and her needs are really common among people. I like how she uses humor to mask what's really inside, this deep insecurity. She's lost, she doesn't know where she belongs. I love the idea that she finds that and becomes who she is in her death; she didn't know who she was while she was alive. And I like that."
"Growing up, I also didn't know my place. I didn't look like everyone else around me, and I was really insecure about that. I got made fun of a lot. The way I dealt with that was through humor and presenting myself in the way that I want to be seen, and I've found that in Sally, too."
"In Montreal, there weren't that many mixed kids around when I was growing up, which is funny, right, because now it's the complete opposite. But back then, most of my friends were Italian girls who were super developed really young, and there was me, this skinny girl. I went to a Catholic high school, but, while my mother is Catholic, my dad is Jewish. So I was always never fully anything that everyone else was. I always just felt different; I was brought up differently than everyone else was. It was something that made me really insecure, but when I became an adult, I started to really appreciate those things and valued them. That's what sets me apart from everyone else."
"Acting really helped me because I was shy growing up, because of those insecurities. It helped me open up and start appreciating everything that makes me different."