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Tahmoh Penikett on Dollhouse

Published September 24, 2009 in Television
By Fred Topel | Image property of Fox
Dollhouse Dollhouse
Dollhouse is a dream role for Eliza Dushku. She gets to play a different character every week. Echo is an active who is imprinted with a new personality for a client's request, then wiped clean to the blank state. For a restless actress, she'll never get bored.

Penikett on Dollhouse


Season two of Dollhouse finds Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) working for the organization he was trying to take down. Suspended from the FBI, Ballard has no place else to go.

“Paul has nothing,” Penikett said. “When we leave him last season, you realize he really doesn’t have much left. He’s lost his job which was pretty much his life. It’s clear when we meet Paul that he doesn’t have anyone close to him. He’s recently divorced, doesn’t really have any friends at the bureau but his life is very much the FBI and taking out the dollhouse which he completely becomes obsessed with and this girl Caroline. He sees an opportunity to do some good which is kind of sign his life away to the devil, decide to work for the dollhouse to ensure Mellie’s release/November who’s released and he does that.”

The first episode puts Ballard in a tough spot. With Echo (Eliza Dushku)’s cover blown, the only way Ballard can save her is to trigger her assassin personality. He has to get violent to do so.



“That’s a heavy scene. I remember when I first read it, I was like really? Do I have to do this? I understood, especially after Joss explained it to me. It’s something that Paul realizes under duress in the heat of the moment, this is the only way. He understands what’s starting to happen to her right before. He’s one of the few people, really the only one other than her, that realizes that she’s got all of these different personalities still functioning inside of her. The dollhouse doesn’t know. They think their wipes are clean and she’s starting fresh each time. She’s actually operating with all these at once so he sees an opportunity. He realizes they’re probably going to die if he doesn’t do something and he brings it out of her.”

With his science fiction experience, Penikett has learned to look deeper into his scripts than a gut reaction. “Listen, it wasn’t easy and this is why I asked the boss about it. I’m not completely okay with it but it happened. I understand why Joss wrote it that way. I think Joss, like Ron Moore, is always trying to create in his world a more equal world than we actually live in today. Most of his female characters are very strong. Ron Moore was the same way with his characters on Battlestar Galactica.”

Upcoming engagements will test Ballard further. “Tim Minear wrote the second one and as soon as I read that, I was like, ‘You know what? We’re in such a good place this season.’ It’s one of the strongest episodes we’ve done period. I think we’re going to see early on the technology messing up again. There’s going to be some mistakes. Things aren’t going to work so well and because of that there’s going to be some really interesting consequences and the dollhouse is going to be scrambling to fix things. It has to do with that same episode with the serial killer.”

Dollhouse airs Fridays on Fox.
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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Fox
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