Gabe Jones is Nick Fury's "Q"

Ron Canada talks with us about Nick Fury

by Rob Allstetter
Used without permission (sorry)
webdate: 9/12/97

Ron Canada is playing a suit. As Gabe Jones in the Nick Fury television movie, the veteran character actor portrays a top S.H.I.E.L.D. executive, a deputy director looking prim and proper in his dark blue threads. He even wears a paper collar over the suit before scenes commence, ensuring no makeup smudges.

But there's more to Gabe than being well-groomed. He's much more than a paper-pusher or even a whiz-bang scientist. And unlike the other high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. officers, Gabe has the trust of Nick Fury, the cynical loner played by Baywatch's David Hasselhoff.

"Those guys have a relationship and it goes way back - and it's personal," says Canada, whose many credits include NYPD Blue, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5. "And it's built on having gone through the wars together. Nick respects Gabe because Gabe's also an action guy. Gabe can strap on a 9-millimeter and get some work done. He's a scientific guy who knows the practical problems of the man in the field."

Canada is part of an eclectic cast for the Nick Fury movie, directed by Rod (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) Hardy from a script by David (The Crow: City of Angels, Blade) Goyer. Tentatively set to air early in 1998 on Fox. The other performers include Lisa (Melrose Place) Rinna as Val, Sandra (Beastmaster 3, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation) Hess as Viper, Garry (Generation X) Chalk as Dugan, Neil Roberts as Pierce and Tracy Waterhouse as Kate Neville.

The movie's story has Fury coming out of retirement and rejoining S.H.I.E.L.D. to thwart Viper, the daughter of his dead nemesis Baron Von Strucker. As head of Hydra, she is attempting to unleash the Death's Head Virus.

Fury is poisoned by Viper, and he'll need all the help he can get from Jones, the man whose gadgets frequently haul Fury's fat out of the fire.

"The idea I'm working with is that he's sort of like Q from the James Bond movies," says Canada, sitting in his trailer off the set in Surrey, British Columbia. "He's always coming up with gadgets and bell and whistles. He's the final word on all technical and scientific matters, including the medical.

"Nick trusts the implements that Gabe provides him with. The stuff that Nick has, the techno-tricks, he accepts, because Gabe fits them to his style. Nick's solution to technical problems sometimes is to pump five or six rounds into the offending control board. But he has a different attitude toward Gabe's stuff, and I think that's because they've known each other. They've literally been to war together."

Unlike many of the participants of the Nick Fury film, including Hasselhoff himself, Canada was familiar with the character before production began.

"I remember him from the Marvel explosion back in the 1960s," Canada says. "As I boy, I was a DC Comics person like most boys were - Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Speedy. Then around '62, came these other books - Fantastic Four and Spider-Man and the Marvel boom. "And, along with that, there was Nick Fury and the Howling Commandoes. He was this guy with a patch and no helmet on. And his muscles were bulging like one of the superheroes. He had a sub-machine gun and he was fighting Nazis. I read the comics, and I'd like the realistic ones. I remember when they made him modernized with S.H.I.E.L.D."

So, when the part of Gabe Jones was brought to Canada's attention, he knew what he was getting into. He approves of Hasselhoff making the transition from clean-cut lifeguard in Baywatch to the cigar-chomping, no B.S. of Fury.

"Don't you think he looks just like Nick Fury?" Canada asks. "David Hasselhoff? I never would have thought it. But I walked on the set, saw him and went, 'That's Nick Fury!'

"I was just kidding David about being the Duke. I kid him about channeling John Wayne for his performance. And he says, 'Yeah, I'm trying to be John Wayne and Sean Connery and Kirk Douglas - all my guys.' I think people will see a David that's quite different from his Baywatch guy, with little glimmers of his Knight Rider guy."

Canada says Hasselhoff is trying to be truthful to the Fury character.

"It's been grueling for David because he carries the ball on this kind of thing," Canada says. "People don't realize that the lead in a television movie is a big, big job. It's a lot of hours on the set, not much time in the trailer. He's in most of the scenes. This is Nick Fury and Nick Fury is in 85 to 90 percent of everything that is shot. He gets the big bucks and he earns them. He works very hard and cares very much."

Nick Fury might be the most expensive television film Fox has made. In addition to elaborate sets, like the three-tier war room aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier that Canada is working on this summer day, the film promises more special effects than the usual movie-of-the-week fare.

"It's an ambitious TV movie, with the magnitude of the sets and that we're attempting feature-type shots," Canada says. "We're attempting shots that you don't try on television, unless you're Star Trek - and then only rarely.

"The sets are deep. They're massive and there's a lot of the camera moving around. Rod Hardy's got a lot of boom and crane shots working. It's not only kinetic, but I think he's helping the energy of the script."

Canada adds the moving camera helps the transition from comics panel to television screen.

"You're talking Marvel Comics and you're talking a dynamic that almost jumps off the page at you," he says. "When I was a young boy, there was a set number of frames on the page and things happen within those frames. What happened with the advent of Marvel is the frame became more dynamic.

"Sometimes the frame was two whole pages. You know, 'Galactus arrives!' There's a coming-at-you feeling in a Marvel comic, and it seems to have influenced all the comics as I've seen them on the newsstand."

Among the impressive visuals in the film is Jones' laboratory, which is several stories high.

"My lab is magnificent, and I hope it comes across in the shots," Canada says. "It's a place in Toronto where they actually create lightning indoors to study it. You have these huge pylons and conductors. It's colorful and dynamic, like something from the old Flash Gordon serials.

"They've done a tremendous job in the scouting and choosing of the locations to maximize the money they're spending to get something that will satisfy the expectations of the people who turn on Fox and the people who know who Nick Fury is. They're getting that kinetic, bigger-than-life sense of the comics."

The scouting of such sites as the Hydra base - which is located in an old mine - and extensive preparation helped get everyone get through the hectic, 26-day shoot.

"It's a little harder for the director, the camera crew and us as actors because we're trying to do a movie thing in a really compressed period of time," Canada says. "But that's always the case in television. You're working faster. Once you get an acceptable take, you move on. Whereas in the movies, you fiddle, you tweak.

"Stuff that we spend three hours on (in Fury), in a film they might spend two days on."

Hasselhoff and the cast met prior to production to discuss the histories of their characters from the comics, trying to bring out the interpersonal dynamics in the film, including a love affair between Fury and Val and old friendships forged from previous adventures.

"Gabe has, along with Dugan, a close relationship with Nick," Canada says. "There's a lot of trust between them. And that's been easy to establish with David."

Hasselhoff has signed for five Fury television movies as a possible franchise on Fox.

"Certainly, it ends on a note to allow the story to continue," Canada says. "Should the people with the clickers in their hands decide they want to see more, it's wide open to do more."

And will Canada be around for future Fury flicks?

"That depends. That's a negotiating thing," he says, laughing. "It's interesting enough and it has enough possibility in it. And I enjoy working with David. We get a kick out of each other. He thinks I'm funny, and I think he's funny - and that makes the work days go good."