TNT’s Snowpiercer Season 2 has been all sorts of crazy, creepy, and cryptic.
From Wilford’s return to the unknown goings-on aboard Big Alice to the genuine possibility that the Earth is warming again, it’s been a rollercoaster filled with reversals, sudden drops, and dangerous turns.
This was also a season disrupted in real life by the COVID-19 pandemic when a lockdown order shut down production with less than ten days left to shoot, as showrunner Graeme Manson informed us back in July 2020.
But through everything that has happened before and since, an abiding presence has been the Tailie-made-good, Pike, played to opportunistic perfection by Canadian-by-birth, Los Angeleno-by-choice, Steven Ogg.
Ogg recently made the journey up from Los Angeles by car with his dog and was immediately faced with a fourteen-day quarantine before he could get down to work.
So how terrible was the quarantine?
“I don’t want to leave quarantine,” he tells TV Fanatic over the phone. “It is literally my happy place. I’m right on the ocean, so I’ve got my own backyard…
“Some people are obviously stuck in apartments, but because I’ve got a dog that I came up with, I can’t be paying someone three times a day, so I got this place, and it’s just heaven.
“I mean, literally, I see sea lions and otters. I still haven’t seen a whale, but I just went and did my ocean dip this morning. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to go to Vancouver. I just want to be here.”
Vancouver has had some beautiful weather recently, but cold by West Coast standards. It’s not something Ogg is down with anymore, although the view from where he sits is constantly delightful.
“Well, it’s funny, ’cause people say that like, ‘Oh! You’re Canadian! You love the cold,’ and I’m like, “hmm..” You don’t choose who you come out of or where you come out of.
“That’s why I moved to LA. I love the sun. I do miss.. oooo! Hummingbird! See? There’s a hummingbird. A hummingbird outside my window. In LA, I used to have them, and I didn’t realize there are so many here.”
The very thought of hummingbirds feels like the antithesis of Snowpiercer’s reality, a future where the world has entered an ice age due to a miscalculation by scientists hoping to reverse climate change.
Season 2 has introduced the idea that the Earth has begun to warm again — sooner than expected — which fires up the citizens of the train(s) with hope for the future.
On Snowpiercer Season 2 Episode 1, Pike, as always, is open to the possibilities of a better life, which leads him to become the head trafficker of Big Alice goods, trading Snowpiercer’s fresh produce for Big Alice’s weed, which then gets turned into another bartered currency.
However, when he is called on to “deal with” Terence, the head of the Janitors’ guild on Snowpiercer Season 2 Episode 5, it’s a terrible internal conflict for a man who had left that business behind him.
When asked if Pike will come back from killing Terence, Ogg was thoughtful about why it had to happen to Pike.
“That’s what I loved about that whole thing, a man who’s dragged back into a world he really doesn’t want to visit.
“I mean, good drama is conflict. So man versus man, man versus nature, man versus himself.
“So now, I think it’s a really big battle of what do I do, and hence the cleanse. You know, sort of this shaving of everything to, hopefully, leave it all there, moving forward with kind of a clean look. Like, okay, I’ve done this, but I’m leaving that behind. I did it; I had to.
“It had to do with owing someone. I’ve paid my debt, moving forward, clean. So by carrying that with him, that was sort of the whole idea of the shaving, like, ‘I’m leaving this behind, I want to be better.’
“So even just when he looks at himself, he’s someone new. You know, the Apocalypse Now thing. You’re just looking in the mirror, going, ‘I’ve changed, I can do this.’ He was sort of forced into it.”
Pike’s cleanse is an intense and dramatic reaction to his return to his killer persona. As he does it all himself, I had to ask what that was like.
“Well, I have to say, you realize how much that’s not an actor’s medium. It was one take. We set up four cameras, and that was, like, twenty minutes. You know, I almost wish I could get the entire scene of that because it was a heck of a lot of work.
“And as an actor — I’m not method, you know — I don’t want to be all self-indulgent with things, but a lot of work went into that, and a lot of literal blood, sweat, and tears. We had prep, ready, go, sat there with a shaver, and tears, sweat, snot, and blood.
“Basically, I hadn’t shaved in months; my head was cut. I was cutting my head, so blood was coming down my face. Tears, the snot… sometimes makeup would come to remove my snot coming down. No, no, no, that’s gold, that’s golden snot! (laughs)
“You always realize again that it’s not an actor’s medium, right? It gets cut down to one second and a shot in the mirror, and it’s like, what? What happened? What happened to my twenty minutes?
“I think, legit, it was still there, the impact, and they certainly wanted more. Again, it’s not called Pikepiercer; it’s called Snowpiercer. Just like all the big shows, there are so many characters and so many storylines and so much to tell within that short amount of time.
“I certainly hope they still got across the intensity of that and the emotion of someone really struggling with their deeds. I mean, it’s a huge thing. As long as it came across, it doesn’t matter whether it was ten minutes or ten seconds. As long as the audience is getting that impact of, ‘Oh my god, this is a man in pain.'”
When Layton directs Pike on this mission, we get a new reveal into their history together. Pike reminds Layton that he saved Pike in the Tail, vouching for him when he would’ve been hanged for cannibalism.
Layton and Pike’s dynamic from the very beginning of the series has been one of rivalry tinged with respect.
Ogg has thought a lot about Pike’s actions, and it hinges on the bitter reality of Snowpiercer’s crowded yet isolated environment.
“I’ve read a lot [about] isolation and what it does. You can have spiritual awakenings. You can go from Victor Frankle’s Meaning of Life to a monk living on a hill to someone serving a life sentence in solitary confinement.
“All of these cases of isolation, what it does to the mind, to what it does to the psyche, and the spirit. That’s where anything unpredictable about Pike [comes from]; anyone at that point could do anything because you’ve been together for seven years.
“And so you know, if someone — because I’m crass — if someone farts, you probably know ‘Oh, it’s Tuesday because I know that smell.’ Every Tuesday. You know everything about one another.
“It’s like Layton and Pike, but everyone, they’ve been in jail for seven years. You’re going to have ups and downs, and loves and hates, and laughter and tears, near death, and people dying. It’s wave after wave of layers. Which is fun because you can do anything and go anywhere, you know?
On Snowpiercer Season 1 Episode 10, Pike protests when Layton rouses him from his newly-acquired First Class digs to face the new threat of a second train literally biting them in the caboose.
Layton: I need everybody united together against a common enemy.
Pike: Layton, why do you gotta always ask me to be a better man?
When Layton decided to send Pike to kill Terence, the “better man” definition has shifted, and Layton no longer truly holds the moral high ground.
“Well, I think that’s what’s interesting, right? Yeah, who does, and who is right in their moral high ground? It’s like in life, right? It’s perspective. How you see it one day doesn’t necessarily make it right the next. It depends where you’re coming from.
“Obviously, I think some people are just more selfish inherently, but does that make them bad, or does that make them a survivor?
“What is the end game, right? Pike could be completely selfish in his survival and going back and forth with his alliances. But we don’t know his master plan. Maybe he’s thinking, ‘If I get this and this, then I can bring this person together with this person, and it becomes better, and more chances of all of us to survive.’
“You take bits and pieces and slices. It doesn’t always make the whole. What the whole is consists of so many layers that we don’t always get to see. So the moral high ground could be justified one day and then not be so appropriate the next.
So, does Ogg think Pike has a master plan?
“Certainly, the idea [is] to survive, right? If you’ve gone this far, and you’re continuing to do stuff, the ultimate goal is to survive.”
It’s been noted by viewers that there’s been an evolution in the series between Snowpiercer Season 1 and 2. Ogg describes his sense of it with a truly sensory comparison.
“Season 2 definitely got more intense. I think I’ve said that Season 2 reminds me of Johnny Cash with his guitar creat[ing] that sound of a train, dun du du dun, du du dun…
“So, I see Season 1 as the beginning of that song… dun du du dun... In season 2, we got Trent Reznor and Atticus pulling a little something onto the soundtrack.
“We speed it up a notch. It becomes a little more intense, a little more driving. That’s how I see Season 1 to Season 2. The train literally and figuratively gets faster, more intense, more claustrophobic, more things happening. Which is what I love because the journey becomes more interesting.”
One thing that has remained consistent throughout the seasons is the ensemble cast’s strength and how they can support each other through complex and nuanced scenes.
“Oh yeah. Everyone does – you have to give it your all. Because again, there are so many characters. It’s tough. You don’t always get what you want. You don’t always get as much time as you want, but it doesn’t mean you don’t give it your all because it only adds to the tension.
“I always admire extras and people who are standing around watching the scene and listening to the scene. There’s a great actor! It doesn’t matter if you’re an extra or number one on the call sheet. If you’re listening and reacting, that’s what the cast does. Just listen and react. That’s Acting 101.
“People are just watching and listening. What’s going on? Where are you? How cold is it? All of those things affect how you react, and that reflects on the quality.”
One of the currencies Pike deals in this season is encyclopedias. Their inherent value isn’t obvious at first.
“It’s the only history they have, and anything different is currency, right? ‘Cause they’ve been dealing with the same stuff for seven years, and they’ve been in the Tail. Everything becomes of importance, so to have those, it becomes gold.
“Encyclopedias to expand your mind, to learn about the world, you know it’s just something different. Like, chocolate cake or even weed. It’s not like Pike was a stoner; it’s just that it’s something different.
“Do the same thing every day for seven years; you’re going to, you know, react strongly to anything different. Vancouver! You get six months of rain, and the first day of sun, it’s something different. You’re like ‘Aaah!’ It’s like the angels sing, and you’re just a different person.”
The first time we spoke, back in July 2020, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the volume of literature Ogg consumes regularly. So what’s been on his must-read list lately?
“This wonderful book called Featherhood, by Charlie Gilmour. It’s a memoir of two fathers and a magpie. A Canadian book, actually.
“Hench (by Natalie Zina Walschots). It’s part of the CBC [Canada] Reads. Amanda Brugel (Snowpiercer’s Eugenia) did it last year, and she was like, ‘You’d be perfect for CBC Reads.’ She’s like,’ I would just love to hear your opinion on anything.’ [laughs]
“Because it’s not like I’m outspoken; I’m just very open and honest with emotions and feelings. So Hench is great. I put something out on Instagram that if anyone’s doing this book, I wanna play the electric eel character.”
“So Hench is like The Boys, and then, of course, I’ve got Transforming Trauma, which is a book about trauma. It keeps things balanced.”
And while he admits he doesn’t watch a lot of TV, he recently binge-watch Ted Lasso.
“I just loved it so much. I cried. I laughed. It felt like a warm hug, and everyone just does such a great job. I get all these big worlds, and you know, crazy thing. When I did The Short History of the Long Road, I’m like, I love feel-good stuff.
“Like Minari, Stephen Yeun’s Korean film. Loved it. I love crying, feeling good, warm hug.”
Heading into the filming of Snowpiercer Season 3, Ogg is constantly considering how he can use his superpowers for good.
“I like the independent bookstores. I always support those. Buy local. Support local. I’m a big fan of that. When I’m in Vancouver, I want to work with… It’s tough with the COVID and everything right now, but you know, [I’d like to] promote an indy book store, or do a podcast with an indy book, or a local writer.
Back on Snowpiercer’s set, Ogg had already seen two scripts for the new season when we spoke.
“It’s fun. There are more changes. More things happenin’. It’s gonna be a fun ride. Again, I’ve only got two right now, but there’s some fun stuff. Pike gets some different things again, which excites me. Y’know, add another layer.”
Pike’s pre-Snowpiercer history remains shrouded in mystery. We don’t know what he did, who he boarded with, or even if his name was Pike before the Tail.
Perhaps, he even had a dog?
Ogg’s open to exploring that history, maybe as a prequel mini-series.
“Like what they did with all the Star Wars stuff, the spinoff series for each character.”
With the many characters in Snowpiercer’s ensemble, we are still waiting for Pike to get his voiceover episode.
Hear that, Powers That Be? We’re. Waiting.
Snowpiercer airs Monday nights 9/8c on TNT, and you can watch Snowpiercer online to catch up.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.