Brian Vastag

Science Journalist

Meet Peter Outerbridge

outerbridgeOn Saturday I met the lead actor in my favorite TV show, a science drama from Canada called ReGenesis. Peter Outerbridge plays bombastic (and highly sexed) biologist David Sandstrom, who runs a biotech investigations outfit that tackles the biggies – cloning, the fallout from the discovery of a gay gene, an outbreak of a reconstructed 1918 flu virus and so on.

Now in its third season, ReGenesis has yet to make it to the U.S. airwaves. But it can be downloaded off BitTorrent, which is how I watch it. This is illegal, but the show’s creator, Christina Jennings, gave me her blessing. She’s keen to build a U.S. audience for the show, which is seen in 110 countries.

Last summer, I wrote a short piece about the show for Science magazine. In it, I quoted Jennings and the show’s scientific consultant, University of Toronto protein researcher Aled Edwards, who vets every script for scientific plausibility.

So on my trip to Toronto last week to cover the American Society for Microbiology meeting, I called up the ReGenesis folks and, coincidence, they were giving a panel talk at the Subtle Technologies Conference, which brings together artists who dabble in biology as a medium. That’s a whole ‘nother story….

Peter was great – modest and charming. I guess being a big Canadian actor goes to one’s head less than being a big Hollywood actor. I chatted with him while he chain smoked those expensive Canadian cigarettes. He has an enormous head and a slender body – I guess that’s what the camera loves.

Turns out he began college as an aeronautical engineering student before the acting bug bit him. He’s built a ton of model rockets and if he ever starts making Tom Cruise money he’ll buy a trip to the space station.

I asked him if he knew what a bioinformaticist was before he began doing the show. He said, “No, and I still have no idea.” I tried to explain how bioinformatics is all about sifting for patterns in the oceans of genomic data.

Then I asked Peter for the phone number of Mayko Nguyen, the actress who plays the smokin’ hot bioinformaticist on the show. Peter cracked up and claimed he didn’t have her number – he’s 42 and married with a kid, while she’s 26 and single. “We don’t really do the club scene after work,” said Peter.

Ah well…next time…which will be in August. I’ve been invited to watch as season 4 begins filming. I’m almost as eager to see the ReGenesis set as I am to meet Mayko – the set is tricked out with real equipment, including a half-million dollar electron microscope donated by Zeiss. Now that’s smokin’!

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