Snowpiercer’s Garfield Wilson teases season 2, previews The Astronauts

Garfield Wilson. (Photo Credit: Jason Benson/Courtesy of ICON PR.)
Garfield Wilson. (Photo Credit: Jason Benson/Courtesy of ICON PR.) /

Garfield Wilson talks Snowpiercer and The Astronauts.

Garfield Wilson is recognizable to TV crime drama fans for his recurring role as Jackboot Kaffey in TNT‘s small-screen version of Snowpiercer, which captivated viewers en route to a second season coming next year. But what was it like for him to be part of the sub-zero mystery?

While audiences wait for Snowpiercer to return, Garfield also has a role in Nickelodeon’s newest series The Astronauts, which is fantastic in a completely different way. He also spoke about that show, which is currently airing Friday nights on Nickelodeon.

Plus, his own story is an adventure all its own—get to know him in our interview while you catch up on both Snowpiercer and The Astronauts.

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Precinct TV: In addition to being an actor, you used to be the lead singer in a band, so how did you get here?

Garfield Wilson: It’s been a really fun ride and a fun journey. When I was a little kid, I was rocked by the Jackson Five. I desperately wanted to be Michael Jackson, and I grew my afro to be as such. And since then, [I] just fell in love with so many different artists—from Prince, to Marvin Gaye, to Bob Marley, to Fleetwood Mac, to Van Halen, and back around again to Bobby Brown and all that. All that stuff influenced me, especially Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.

Then I have always been a movie buff. I’ve always been that kid that just escapes into movies, with the Spielberg movies and the Disney movies growing up and all of that stuff. My imagination was through the roof. As I grew older and I went to high school, I was always in the drama club.

When I went to college in Edmonton, I went through the program there, and I thought that I was going to be a professional singer. And I became one for a little while. I was in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, where I played Judas, and then the following year I was in Hair. And when I moved to Vancouver, I moved to Vancouver with a band.

We were a pretty popular band for a little while. And then as most bands have their life journey, they have an expiry date, and we imploded as many bands do implode. I got into musical theater again, and I was in the production of Dreamgirls here in Vancouver, which was one of the highlights of my musical theater ventures, thus far.

When I first moved to Vancouver, I wasn’t really aspiring to be an actor. I was mostly just looking to get into the music business. I was rooming with somebody that I went to high school with…and she said, you know, if you want extra cash there’s a lot of film productions that come into Vancouver.

So I went and looked in the classifieds at the time, and I found an agency and went to their office and told them exactly what my friend told me to tell them. And they said, well, we could do lines. Why don’t you go do a couple of on-camera acting classes? Then that lead me into the film and television industry, and here I am.

PTV: Speaking of long journeys, Snowpiercer is a complicated show based on a complex movie. There are a lot of characters and moving parts. Especially playing a role that wasn’t in every episode, how did you keep up with the moving train—literally and metaphorically?

GW: It’s a really complex show with so many different class systems, and different parts of the train will lend itself to what class you’re in. Going up to the front of the train is just dependent on how well off you are, and what class you are in. And so the storyline is super complex and it goes through so many different peaks and valleys.

So for me as a character, I was Jackboot Kaffey, who is sort of [the] police. I was indoctrinated to what it is to be on Snowpiercer, and keep order and keep the laws and keep the status quo. When I first got the script I was like, okay, I understand this character. I am a soldier. I’m military and I’m adhering to what those parameters are, and anybody that goes outside of those parameters are going to meet with a heavy hand [from] me and my team of Jackboots.

Then getting to the second season, it changes quite a bit.

Garfield Wilson. (Photo Credit: Jason Benson/Courtesy of ICON PR.) /

PTV: You’ve done a few shows that combine mystery and other genres, whether it was Level 9 or The 4400 or Almost Human. Do you have favorite other roles you’d recommend to fans who saw you in Snowpiercer?

GW: The 4400 was a really cool show…and the episode that I was in was really interesting. I remember that episode distinctly, because I was really trying to find how to handle the craft in the audition, which can be very intimidating. And that audition didn’t have any lines. It literally didn’t have any lines.

The actor in that scene [David Eigenberg] was in a park in New York…He hears a woman being assaulted by three guys, and I’m one of those three guys. And he just yells, “Leave her alone.” And I was like, what? Are you kidding me? Go home, buddy. That kind of sentiment. Me and my buddies, we’re like, let’s go get him and teach him a lesson. And he’s got these superhuman powers, as far as like speed and agility and strength, and he just kicks our asses.

But the audition was really impactful, and that was the first audition where I understood what it meant to be really present in the scene and commit to what you’re doing, because it had no lines. I used the director [Helen Shaver] as the guy that I was talking to, and I just ad-libbed the entire thing. When she said the line that the guy was supposed to say, I looked at her and I walked forward and went past the camera and she goes, cut. Okay, that scared the s–t out of me.

I left the audition thinking maybe I went too far…and then when I was on set, she said okay, Garfield, just do everything you did that scared the s–t out of me in the audition. Which was funny.

PTV: Do you ever think about any of your past roles and wonder what happened to those characters, particularly in the TV crime drama or mystery-type genre?

GW: The one I think about the most is Bates Motel. I played this DEA officer, Anthony Dixon. I was opposite one of the leads, and we start the episode just looking over at the field and it’s burning, and I say something like, I love the smell of… It’s almost like they wrote it like that Robert Duvall line, “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning.” I was that kind of guy.

I was on set for maybe three hours and that was done. If you blinked, if you went to the washroom at the beginning of the episode, you would not see me. But I was so surprised at how many people were tagging me on Facebook and Instagram and calling me, saying I just saw you on Bates Motel. I was like, what? It’s literally a 30-second scene in the beginning of the episode.

I really liked that character. I could see where the storyline goes a bit further. That was one character that I actually thought, because of the illegal activity of that town and the underbelly of drug trafficking, that character would need to come back and see what was going on and follow up on the investigation. But it never happened.

PTV: We have to talk about The Astronauts because it’s so different from Snowpiercer, being a Nickelodeon show. But it might also appeal to Snowpiercer fans because it has that sci-fi plot, and also, you were directed by Jonathan Frakes of Star Trek fame.

GW: Star Trek: The Next Generation was like, the show for me. I was all over that show for the world, for all the life lessons and the moral dilemmas. I was a Star Trek fan, but The Next Generation was it for me. And working with Jonathan Frakes for like two episodes, I was freaking out big time. He is amazing to work with. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing directors, and he’s up in the top three, for sure.

He just knows how to [direct] a scene, and he keeps it so light and funny. Even when you’re doing the heavy scenes where the stakes are really high, he finds the levity in it and he finds the lightness, and you find the humanity of it. And he just gets there so quickly, in such shorthand, it’s like, wow. Why can’t it be like this all the time?

PTV: It’s also important that we talk about your journey outside Snowpiercer, because you have a very personal journey that you’ve taken as well.

GW: I’m really motivated and fired by individuals that pay it forward, or that motivate other humans so things will be better. My heroes are Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, these types of people.

I’ve got three beautiful, beautiful children with my ex-wife who, we have this wonderful relationship. My oldest daughter is transgender. She’s 17 now; she transitioned when she was nine and that journey was really something of self-discovery for not only my daughter, but for our entire family, and my ex-wife and I individually. For me personally, I can say that it really taught me what it actually means to have unconditional love for someone.

When we had Tru, and she was Trey at the time, I was like any young father. I had a son, I’ve got all these dreams of what they’re going to be and blah, blah, blah. And what it taught me is that raising children, my only job is to love them as hard as I can, and to build a sanctuary in the home and in their lives and with everyone around them, so they can be exactly who they want to be unapologetically.

That was a really good lesson for me, that being a parent is not about my dreams and aspirations for my child. It’s about being a cheerleader to fulfill or their dreams and aspirations, as a child. That paradigm shift for me personally was so monumental. So I’ve been a real advocate for LGBTQ human rights and I’ve been on a bunch of parents’ panels, just to help other parents, especially fathers, [in] understanding what that process is, if their child evolves into being gay, lesbian, trans or queer. What their role is and how they can actually land on stable ground and be proud and be loving and be everything that they had dreamed they could be as a father and as a parent.

When I talked about my heroes, Tru [outshone] all of them, because at the age of nine, she was so eloquent and so articulate, snd so more evolved and more mature. Consequently, because we showed her that kind of support, she became somewhat of an icon in the LGBTQ community. She met the Prime Minister, met the Duchess and Prince of England.

And in Vancouver, British Columbia, they have this magazine and every year they have on their cover the 50 most influential and powerful people in British Columbia. At the age of 11, Tru was on the cover, as the youngest person to ever be one of the 50 most powerful and influential people in British Columbia. Just because of the children that she was able to advocate for with LGBTQ rights, and then by changing the policies and procedures for the Catholic school board to include gender variant and transgender rights.

Which is amazing. It’s not a perfect policy, but it gave other families that were going through what we went through, something to have in their corner to help them.

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Snowpiercer season 2 premieres on TNT in 2021; The Astronauts airs Fridays at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT on Nickelodeon.