The Secret Circle's Gale Harold Talks Crystals, Madness, and Tornadoes of Pain

If you think it's hard to be a teenager in Chance Harbor, just look at the grown-ups! They basically have nothing to do but bicker over quartz and become alcoholics. Not so coincidentally, the same lack of activity seems to be true of the older actors on the show. For most of this season, The Secret Circle's star-studded roster of parents has been trapped in a loop of aimless scheming and plagued by a complete lack of awareness of what their kids have been up to (not to mention the fact that they were all in mortal danger). But that's all changed with the arrival of John Blackwell, whose appearance has amped up the parents' role considerably, particularly Gale Harold's Charles Meade. The man who began the series as a Darth Vader-esque walking nightmare was quickly transformed into a doormat, but Blackwell has awakened the spirit of vengeance in him and the season now appears to be headed for an exciting showdown. In other words, the grown-ups of Chance Harbor are finally starting to get their due.

Last week, Gale Harold was kind enough to let me badger him with dumb questions and he told me all about what he thinks of Charles' brain, his least favorite acting mistake, and guessed it: crystals.

Charles has some pretty interesting psychology. Do you feel like you have him figured out by now or does every script shed a new light on him?

I don't think that I've figured him out because I don't think he can be figured out. He's got so many problems. He's got so many things he's got to solve or convince himself that he's solving or deal with the fact that he's already convinced himself that he's solved them. Which is the behavior of a madman. There's no way. Just everything he does is kind of doomed, right? And so he's just scrambling to survive. Which is great for me because there's always something around the corner. You can't predict it.

He had one of TV's greatest introductory scenes, but then he became a little bit of a doormat. Were you kind of disappointed when he got less scary or were you happy for the nuance?

Always happy for the nuance. It's also structural, I think. You've got a lot of characters, you have multiple stories. I could be wrong about this, but if you push one character in one direction too soon, you kind of get stuck. So, I think that's what Kevin and Andrew had in mind, and that's what they're doing. They're actively destabilizing things, which for storytelling is great because you're always cleaning up messes. And with a bunch of witches that's a good thing, because they create a lot of messes.

So the shift gave you more of an arc for the entire season?

Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

As you mentioned it is a really large ensemble, but a lot of your scenes have just been one-on-ones with Natasha Henstridge. Do you even know how many hours you've spent in a parked car with her?

This week? Seven.

I mean on camera.

I was talking about on camera. You don't think there'll be a seven-hour scene?


There's a big musical number three-quarters of the way through that's gonna blow your mind.

That sounds really cool. I'm glad The Secret Circle is finally going there.

Oh yeah.

Would you say that's an ideal acting environment, sitting in a parked car while a rain machine is going?

I love it. I like rain machines. You know what's really weird? When it rains inside the car.

Yeah, that is weird.

You know, when you roll up the window and it rains inside.

Do actors ever tease each other about their resumés? Like when you're sitting in a parked car with Natasha Henstridge, do you ask her about Species II and does she grill you about Hal Sparks?

That hasn't happened yet. And that's cool.

So it's just all business with you guys. You just get the scene done and go home?

No, we joke around a lot. We haven't gotten into CVs yet but—

Is that a faux pas, for actors to comment on each others' past work?

I don't know, I think anything is possibly a faux pas at any time. But it's not as bad as when you're doing a scene with someone and they are silently mouthing the lines that you're actually saying until they take the cue for their next line. And luckily that's something that Natasha never does.

Oh I didn't know that was a bad thing. Okay. Interesting.

Imagine that you were having dinner with someone and you're talking, and while you're talking they're actually mimicking what you're saying—silently but you can see their mouth moving as if they're trying to say what you're saying while you're saying it. So that they'll know when you're done saying what you're saying and they'll be ready to say what they're going to be saying next.

Maybe they're just listening really hard and it's a compliment.

Yeah maybe.

This whole season has been building up to a Charles and Blackwell showdown. Should we be expecting carnage, like a big tornado of pain to go through Chance Harbor? Or will it be something more psychological?

It's both. Charles is definitely getting set up for a tornado of pain. That's a great way to put it, I'm going to steal that. Yeah, that's what's going down for Charles. That and carnage and brain damage and public hatred. Displays of bad behavior. And just immature activity everywhere. Teenage stuff. Blackwell is a very problematic person. Very problematic.

Have you and Joe Lando sat down and hashed out a more detailed back story for your characters or was that all provided to you by the writers?

We haven't done that. I kind of think—and I don't want to speak for him because I may be wrong—it feels like Charles is going the only way he can, which is into the unknowing. It gives you something to kind of play all the time, because for instance Charles has no idea what John knows, right? And I have no idea what my character knows beyond certain points. So that's very good. And to sit and talk about it, I think it could kind of handicap things. You've got to keep somewhere that you can't touch.

So is keeping yourself in the dark slightly Method, then?

Well it's not really— I mean it could be, but it depends on how you approach it. Because whatever you substitute for whatever it is you don't know determines how you're going to play it. So you could go this way, or you could go that way. I'm definitely not reaching back to nursery school and substituting that kind of stuff.

I know that they're MacGuffins but the crystals are so annoying to me. And your character has had to do a lot with the crystals this season. How do you hold up a piece of junk like that and pretend it has any kind of power?

Those actually are real.

Please, you could get something like that at a county fair. How do you instill such gravitas to something that's patently ridiculous?

Well, all I have to say is if you've ever held one you'd know the answer to this question.

Oh, dang.

Yeah. You know what I mean?

I don't know, if I ever held one I'd be tempted to get a hammer out.

And that's the mistake that most people make. They try and hit it with a hammer.

And bad times arrive?

That's not what you'd want to do.

What is the general vibe behind the scenes with regard to renewal? Are you guys feeling pretty good about it, or are you all putting your houses on the market?

My experience with that is to never assume. Plan for both things or even every possibility happening simultaneously. So that keeps your brain healthy, you know? It doesn't sound like it would, but it actually does. As far as the vibe goes, I don't know. I don't know. We're all being very hush-hush with each other about that.

So as to not jinx it?

Let's not.

The Secret Circle airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on the CW.

Also: For those fans of The Secret Circle who have these items called "iPhones" or "iPads," The CW would like to invite you to try the new Secret Circle app! I have no idea what it does, but I'm guessing it allows you to tap into dark magic? Be careful! Get the TSC app here.

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