Imagine waking up with 12 years of your life missing, including the best parts of your teenage years, and oh yeah, you also have super powers. That’s what happens to Holden Matthews in Freeform’s new original series Beyond. Burkely Duffield plays Holden, now 25 and trying to put his life back together, while discovering telekinetic powers he needs to learn to control and evading some shady characters who have presumably nefarious plans for him.
Duffield is no stranger to supernatural mysteries. He joined the cast of Nickelodeon’s House of Anubis, in which boarding-school teens explore underground tunnels for a mask to prevent a ghost’s curse.
Duffield spoke to Rotten Tomatoes about the series, which also stars Romy Rosemont (Glee), Michael McGrady (Ray Donovan), Jonathan Whitesell (Once Upon a Time), Dilan Gwyn (Da Vinci’s Demons), and Jeff Pierre (Shameless) and debuts in early January.
Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: Do you ever wish you could wake up with no knowledge of technology and social media like Holden does?
Burkeley Duffield: [Laughs] I think it would be an interesting time. I think sometimes there are so many updates that being blind and just learning one of them as opposed to being confused by all of them would be quite handy. But at the same time, week to week, once my phone gets updated, I don’t know how to survive so I don’t know if I could take not knowing 12 years’ worth of technology and trying to function in today’s society.
RT: Filming the rain scene in the pilot, did you feel powerful seeing stuntmen fly up in the air behind you?
Duffield: It was an amazing sequence and was really captured beautifully by our art director and cinematographer. It was really cool to be able to do. We loved it. Once you’re shooting in the rain and you’re doing all that sort of hard labor outside, it takes a toll, but once you get a product that looks action-based, and you throw ’em here and you see all this happening, it makes the entire scene work. So it was a very fun sequence.
RT: How much did you know about his powers at the beginning?
Duffield: In the pilot, I had talks with Adam [Nussdorf, creator] and our directors and our creative staff, so I had inklings. It’s been a very fun journey to see this character grow as well as see where these powers take him and where the boundaries to his abilities really lie. In the pilot, he really doesn’t know what they are or what they can do.
RT: Does he go back to school? Holden isn’t really equipped for high school at this point.
Duffield: Once again, another one of the things he has missed being unfortunately in a coma for so long. There definitely is a school element to the show that Holden tries to re-immerse himself in. Whether or not that goes too well for him I will not say, but he does definitely try to put himself back in education.
RT: Can he jump back into high school at his age?
Duffield: He tries. He sort of goes in to see where his brain power is at. He takes an equivalency test to see what grade or possibly out of high school he would fit in mind and in body. So that’s sort of a way that he starts to go into exactly where to pick up, because Diane, his mom played by our very talented Romy in the show, is very keen on getting her son back in school. As any mom would.
RT: Sure, but he can’t very well go back where he left off and be an adult in middle school.
Duffield: Exactly, and he’s 25 so going back to anything is a little bit odd. He has to try to find for this very specific instance would exactly might be right. Would it be going back to high school, middle school, home school, a private school? It’s something we explore on the show.
RT: If you just woke up this year, looking back at the past 12 years in movies and TV shows you missed, what would be the ones you’d want to binge-watch?
Duffield: Star Wars would be the one that came to my head. Having watched throughout my childhood as they were all being released, I’d say that that would be a huge franchise that I’d want to see. Let alone, I’m still living that now having more movies come out. So that would be the first I’d go, “I need to watch all of those right now.”
RT: Yeah, imagine if you woke up and there was a new Star Wars movie.
Duffield: I know, right? And answered all the questions that I wondered as a kid. I’d be first in line.
RT: So many famous superheroes have their own show now. Is it fun to get to introduce a brand new superhero?
Duffield: It’s sort of a spin on taking a boy who is granted these superhuman abilities. He really is just a normal kid who was given these abilities and unfortunately had all this time in a coma. It’s sort of a fun story to live and say what if these unbelievable abilities were given to a small town everyday kid and how would he learn to use them? It’s a very cool spin on a traditional story that’s been told a lot, and I think we’ve got a fun side to be able to explore.
RT: Do they let you do a lot of the action yourself?
Duffield: They do. I try as much as I can. I’m like, “Get me in there.” I love doing stunts. I love doing action sequences so as long as it’s safe and they think that I can do it, I love jumping in there. If it’s not and they’re pulling me back, I had a very talented double, Brennan, who would jump in and help me out and get that done. Being such an action-based pilot, I took it upon myself as well as after, before we shot the first season, to make sure that I was physically able to perform any trials or physical demands that the show would throw at me. I’ve always tried to stay fit whether it be for sports or just for my own pleasure. It’s also a social thing. I go to the gym with my friends. It’s nice. It’s fun.
RT: Do you still hear from your Nickelodeon fans?
Duffield: I do. I sure do. They’re great and it’s a great fan base that I have always enjoyed. It was a great time. I look back at my career and I have loved everything that I’ve had the privilege to be able to portray. So I love my fans no matter where they come from. The Nickelodeon fan base is something that stayed strong with me so far. I foresee them sticking with me ’til whenever because I think they’re great and they always pop up to support me and I love that. There’s fans that have watched it when it was airing and there’s fans that are newcomers to the show. It’s a cool place to be where people remember me coming on to the show or people go, “Oh my gosh I saw you in this and I watched you in something else.” The social media aspect of it and the internet itself has really allowed for not only fans of any show, but really of any movie or any actor ever to be able to look back at their past and see what else they’ve been in.
RT: Who do you still keep in touch with from Anubis?
Duffield: Still quite a few of the cast that I know. They’re either primarily in England still. Some of them come down to L.A. England’s a bit more of a trek to come out to, but I always try whenever I’m in L.A. or if they’re down there, I try to make a point to see a lot of them. I made a lot of great friends, as I have on Beyond. I try to keep in touch with them as much as I can.
Beyond debuts January 2 at 9 p.m. with a two-hour premiere on Freeform. The entire first season will be available on the Freeform app, Freeform.com, On Demand, and Hulu.