Archive for May, 2009

Ron Moore – Journey’s End

May 29, 2009
Battlestar Galactica re-imagined creator and executive producer Ron Moore. Photo by Steve Freeman and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Battlestar Galactica re-imagined creator and executive producer Ron Moore. Photo by Steve Freeman and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

It was back in 1979 that TV audiences first became aware of the futuristic war between humans and the robotic Cylons in Battlestar Galactica. While the series became a cult favorite with fans, it did not fare well in the ratings and after a year the show was cancelled. The same fate befell its short-lived sequel Galactica 1980. Twenty-three years later, writer/executive producer Ron Moore re-imagined the Galactica story with a 2003 miniseries, which led to a hugely successful weekly series. In it, Commander William Adama and his crew of the Battlestar Galactica together with President Laura Roslin fight to protect the survivors of the human race from annihilation by the Cylons. Like the original series, this one has plenty of action and drama, but it is also far darker in tone, which was deliberate on the part of its makers.

“I felt it was important to never lose sight of the basic premise of the show, which is that it was born out of an apocalypse,” explained Moore in a conference call with journalists earlier this year. “Billions of people were literally wiped out and their world taken away from them. Everything they know is gone and what they’re left with are four walls along with a ceiling and the floor, all of which are made of metal. These people are nomads in the truest sense. They’re going from place to place seeking an oasis, a home, this place called Earth.

“In that context I didn’t want to just magically say a few episodes down the line that, OK, these people got over it and life goes on. It just felt that in order to be truthful to that kind of event, the emotional reverberations of it would continue forever and that they would never really get over it. It would never be truly behind these people and always be with them in some way. However, that didn’t mean that they couldn’t laugh and tell jokes every once in a while. You could do stuff like that, but you had to maintain the reality of where they were.

“If, again, you could be truthful to their experiences as human beings in the wake of this unimaginable disaster, then that, in turn, would allow audiences to invest themselves in what we were doing. So they would go with us on this ride, deal with killer robots from outer space and whatever else we wanted as long as we dealt honestly with the human emotions of it. That sort of dictated that there had to be a dark and oppressive type of air to a lot of things. They could never really just let go and have fun again, and even when they did, it was always with this thing hovering in the background.”

Although audiences did choose to come along with the ride, Moore had no idea that his re-imagined Galactica would appeal not only to Sci-Fi fans but also the casual viewer looking for a well-crafted dramatic story. “I didn’t anticipate the critical acclaim of the show, how deeply it would penetrate out into the general audience or that it would be talked about as much as it has been and receive the awards that it has,” says the executive producer. “I just thought that it was a good show. I believed in what we were doing and felt it would be special as well as something that I could be proud of, but that was about it.

“So creatively, I’m very surprised where we ended up with the characters and mythologies. I had none of that at the start. I more or less trusted that we’d figure it out and we did, but I didn’t really have a grand master plan of how it was all going to fit together. The first season was a lot about experimentation and trying different structures in terms of storytelling and what did and did not fit the program. By the end of the season, I figured that I had the answer to that and I better understood where we were going, what it was about and the best way that Galactica could tell its stories.”

Throughout the first two-and-a-half years on Galactica, the Cylons were determined to destroy what remained of humanity. However, in the season three episode Rapture, they changed course, literally as well as figuratively, and began a race with the humans to find Earth. At the same time, a civil war amongst the humanoid Cylons began to gain momentum. By the show’s fourth year, Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) and President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) agreed to an alliance with a faction of rebel Cylons, and together in Revelations they made it to Earth. Sadly, it turned out to be a barren wasteland, and the following story, Sometimes a Great Notion, shows how this affected our heroes, including Lt. Anastasia “Dee” Dualla (Kandyse McClure) who went to pieces and then committed suicide.

“We designed this episode and structured the fourth season with the intention that our characters would get to Earth and show the impact it had on them,” notes Moore. “As far as what happened with Dee, I think it was because she always appeared to be one of the strongest characters. Dee was the one who, in many situations, had always been the voice of reason and would try to soldier on. She’d buck up [Admiral] Adama as well as his son Lee [Jamie Bamber] when either of them was down. There was this sense of her being the rock, and it was important to me that when they found Earth was a wasteland, that the psychological damage from that would be profound.

“I mean, this was everything they had hoped for since the miniseries. If you take that dream away, then there’s a consequence and a price to be paid,” continues the executive producer. “Like I was saying earlier, it didn’t seem like they should simply shrug their shoulders and move on. Given the circumstances, it felt that somebody would check out, and there was something shocking about it being Dee because they had relied on her and she had always been there.

“Just because a person has been your rock and bucking you up, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own vulnerabilities or breaking point. And that breaking point might surprise you, which is why we chose Dee because it felt like the audience would be shocked, but her response would be true. I don’t think she consciously thought about it. On a subconscious level she soldiered on, but then there came a time when she was like, ‘I don’t want to soldier on any more. I’m going to try to feel good one last time and then I’m out of here.’ And it got a huge response from viewers. Every once in a while you want to reach out and grab them by the throat and say, ‘Have a reaction, get involved. What does it mean to you that Dualla has suddenly and shockingly blown her brains out?’ I thought it was great, and people can have whatever specific reaction they want as long as they’re emotionally caught up in a show and it means something to them.”

Not everyone is pleased about the alliance with the Cylons, and in the Galactica fourth season’s A Disquiet Follows My Soul, Colonial Vice President Tom Zarek (Richard Hatch) and Felix Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani) set into motion their plans to lead a mutiny amongst the fleet. This episode marked Moore’s directorial debut on the program, which was a very positive experience for him.

“I had a tremendous amount of fun,” he enthuses. “It was great to do it [direct] on a show that had been mine for several years and one where I knew the cast as well as the crew intimately. There was a huge amount of support and a lot of people wanting me to succeed. I got plenty of extra-special attention and help figuring things out. It was an environment where I could say, ‘I don’t know what to do here,’ or, ‘I’m confused about this technology,’ and there was someone ready to help me. Things I wanted to do, they would make happen, so it was an incredibly collegial and welcoming type of atmosphere to step into.

“It was also really gratifying because I got to do something that I’d never done before. I mean, you write it [the story] and then someone else realizes it. I would subsequently edit it or be very involved in editing the pieces together. However, I was always missing that middle step, and now I had a chance to shoot the movie in my head. When I write, I write themes to a script and I’m always playing the story out in my head – where would they [the actors] stand, how would the team be blocked and choreographed, where would the camera be – and this was the first time I could actually go and make that movie. I found that extremely fulfilling as well as fun and something I will be doing again.”

At the end of Galactica‘s third season, the identities of four of the five final Cylons were revealed. It was not, however, until halfway through the fourth year in the episode Sometimes a Great Notion did audiences discover that Ellen Tigh (Kate Vernon) was the fifth Cylon. While this character was always a top contender for this coveted spot, there were other names being bandied about by Moore.

“We considered all of our regulars, including Adama and Roslin,” says the executive producer, “but we dismissed them pretty quickly because I thought that that would take something away from the show and actually hurt it. If, for example, we had said that Adama was a Cylon, it would have felt like part of the journey itself wasn’t right and wouldn’t have had the same meaning that I wanted it to have. We also talked briefly about Dualla as well as Gaeta and, while interesting characters, it didn’t feel like it heightened the stakes, but with Ellen it did.”

While choosing Ellen to be the fifth Cylon was certainly a feather in the caps of Galactica‘s creative team, there have been other not-so-popular ideas along the way. “There are always lots of blinds that you go down when you’re in the writers’ room,” says Moore, “and you either watch it in the editing room and go, ‘Ooops,’ and cut it out, or you cut it out in the script or censor it in the writers’ room. That’s part of the [creative] process, though, and one of the things I like to do with writers is to not have any bad ideas. We’ll take any idea seriously. If it doesn’t work, fine, but you’ve got to be willing to take the risk. The big ideas that have really paid off were risky ones, such as jumping ahead a year in our [story] narrative, and revealing four of the [humanoid] Cylons at once.

“There were some ideas, though, that were kicked off the chuck wagon and left by the wayside. There was a story point that I wrote for the season one finale that is now regarded within fan circles as the great stupid idea of Ron Moore,” he jokes. “I had a premise where Baltar [James Callis] finds a temple on the surface of Kobol, which was a planet we were involved with at the time. He goes inside and the Number Six [Tricia Helfer] in his head tells him, ‘Keep going, you’ll find something.’ Baltar walks into this dark room, where Dirk Benedict [who played Starbuck in the original Galactica] appears and says, ‘Hello, Gaius. I’m God,’ and shakes his hand. We were going to end on that moment.

“Now, setting aside the fact that Dirk Benedict hates everything about this show and probably would never have done it in a million years, more fundenmentally, it was just a crazy concept. Back then I was seeking to find things about breaking reality and fantasy and what is and what is not a story and what is the link between Galactica‘s world and ours. I was playing around and this was a wacky idea that I came up with and put in the script. Well, there was a pretty universal reaction that everyone hated it, and I quickly said, ‘OK, bad idea. That one’s mine; let’s kick it out and move on.’ Sometimes, though, you have to swing for the fences.”

Although Galactica may have ended this year, Moore will be exploring yet another chapter of the Battlestar saga with a new series called Caprica. Set 50 years prior to Galactica, it tells the story of two families, the Graystones and the Adamas, living on the planet Caprica, where experiments in creating an artificial intelligence ushers in a new and dangerous era for humanity.”

Caprica is getting under way,” says Moore. “We’re putting together the writers’ room as we speak. It’s a very different type of show and a very type of challenge. Galactica has set a very high bar, which makes everyone want to bring their A-game [to the table], and I think that’s the spirit in which we approach Caprica. There’s a sense of uncharted territory, and that’s exciting as well as scary. It’s daunting to have to get one of these things off the ground and hope that people will like it, especially when we know it’s going to be compared to Galactica. But that’s part of the reason why we’re in this business, to take on these types of challenges.”

Prior to Galactica, Moore worked on such other shows as Carnivale, Roswell, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. While not averse to taking on other genres, he always seems to return to the Sci-Fi and Fantasy world, and happily so. “There was a point years ago when I was doing Trek that I thought, ‘You know, I want to do something different; I want to get out of this genre.'” says Moore, “but I always seemed to find something that brought me back to it, either with an idea that was presented to me, like Galactica, or one of my own, such as the various pilots I’ve come up with over the years or movie concepts.

“I just enjoy playing in this genre, but I like other things, too, that are not Sci-Fi or Fantasy. I will, however, continue to do what I think is interesting at the time. I think I’ve learned enough not to try to predict what next great creative thing I want to get involved with. You just have to sort of wait and see.”

Steve Eramo

As stated above, the photo of Ron Moore is by Steve Freeman and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!

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Andy Mikita – The Direct Approach

May 26, 2009
Director Andy Mikita hard at work on the Stargate Atlantis season five episode "First Contact." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Director Andy Mikita hard at work on the Stargate Atlantis season five episode "First Contact." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

As a longtme member of the Stargate family, Andy Mikita has lent his creative talents to directing as well as helping produce dozens of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis stories. He kicked off the fifth season of Atlantis directing the opener, Search and Rescue, followed by The Daedalus Variations and The Shrine, in which one of our heroes almost met his maker. Mikita barely had time to catch his breath before he began prepping to direct the mid-season two-parter First Contact and The Lost Tribe, which guest-starred SG-1‘s Michael Shanks as Dr. Daniel Jackson.

“First off, I want to say how great to was to have Michael on the show,” enthuses Mikita. “He just brings so much to the table and the chemistry between his character and David Hewlett’s [Dr. Rodney McKay] was phenomenal. We shot both these episodes, which were written by [Atlantis executive producer] Martin Gero, together, and he did some of the directing as well. Martin did the lion’s share of the scenes with Michael and David, including the one where the little Asgard alien came out of the spacesuit. So it was a really sensible approach to shooting these stories. We were able to divide the schedule between Martin and myself, which kept us on track financially and time-wise. Because Martin is also a director I felt completely confident in his execution of things, and I really enjoyed all the work he did.

“Probably the biggest challenge with First Contact and The Lost Tribe was making sure that the spacesuits were going to be functional as well as believable and have the desired impact. Real kudos go to our art department and model shop for designing and constructing some incredible suits. They had qualities of a lot of different ideas in there. Also, Iron Man was just coming out at the time we were building these suits, and while we didn’t want there to be obvious comparisons to the movie, I will say that we went straight out and copied the inside-of-the-helmet shots. In The Lost Tribe, specifically, we did close-ups of Michael and David when they were wearing the suits and we literally put in an inside-the-helmet point of view using VFX [visual effects] graphics.

“The VFX team did an amazing bit of work, and I thought the effects in both these episodes were incredible, especially in First Contact where the aliens in their spacesuits came out of their ship and entered Atlantis. The whole concept that Martin came up with involving the transport bubble that allowed the aliens to move through multiple surfaces was really clever and extremely well-executed by the VFX guys. With that, you got another sense, again, of the size of Atlantis, and the concept of finding Janus’ [Gildart Jackson] secret lab was quite compelling. It was a fun episode, or episodes, to shoot and I’m very pleased with how they turned out.”

Mikita confers with Amanda Tapping (Colonel Samantha Carter) on the set of "Search and Rescue." Photo by Eile Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Mikita confers with Amanda Tapping (Colonel Samantha Carter) on the set of "Search and Rescue." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Mikita’s next episode, The Prodigal, sees the return of the human/Wraith hybrid Michael (Connor Trinneer), who comes to Atlantis to execute yet another insidious plan. “This was a tremendous action-packed story with some great fight sequences choreographed by Bam Bam [stunt coordinator James Bamford],” says the director. “The Michael/Ronon [Jason Momoa] fight was really cool and culminated with Ronon actually going over the Atlantis Gate Room balcony. Then there was the big penultimate fight on the rooftop with Michael versus Sheppard [Joe Flanigan] and Teyla [Rachel Luttrell]. That was a tough sequence to shoot. We were fairly limited as far as how large in scope we could build that [rooftop] set piece. To help sell that idea, we used a large projection screen so we could see off into the background and the moonlit sky. Then there was the big sort of helicopter shot that shows the very top spire of the city and just how high up our heroes are when they’re fighting. That was another impressive VFX sequence.

“Obviously, staging a fight on a ledge or precipice like that is pretty tricky. For instance, when Michael throws Sheppard down the ledge and he’s left dangling, the first time we shot that, the Sheppard stunt double went right over the edge of the set. If that was real life, he would have been a goner. After that, we were joking around and saying, ‘Well, that’s it. Michael wins the fight, the series is over.’ Also tricky to shoot were the scenes in which Major Lorne [Kavan Smith] and Woolsey [Robert Picardo] run afoul of Michael’s stun bubble and we had to choreograph their falls. We had a fantastic Woolsey stunt double who looked so much like Robert that at times if you were standing a little bit away from him, you couldn’t tell the difference between him and Robert. And the stunt double did such an amazing job on the fall as well. This was a real highlight episode for me to shoot and definitely one of my favorites from season five.

“Something else I thought was really cool with The Prodigal was how [Atlantis executive producer] Carl Binder, who wrote this episode, gave the character of Amelia Banks a much more significant role. We got to see her as more of an active participant in the story as opposed to just being a technician when she and Ronon take on one of the hybrid guards. The actress who plays Banks [Sharon Taylor] is quite proficient at martial arts, so she got to show off some of her skills onscreen and I think the fans picked up on that.”

The director along with the Atlantis cast and crew spent a little over a week  last August trying to keep cool while filming inside a very hot Wraith set for the fifth season episode Infection. “We had a fairly limited Wraith set, so as our characters were walking through the ship, we were basically reusing the same set over and over again,” explains Mikita. “So we had to move things around as well as relight and redress the sections in order to make it feel like we were constantly on the move and create a sense that it was a much larger space than it actually was.

David Hewlett (Dr. Rodney McKay) hangs around with Mikita during the filming of season five's "The Shrine." Photo courtesy of and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

David Hewlett (Dr. Rodney McKay) hangs around with Mikita during the filming of season five's "The Shrine." Photo courtesy of and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“Then, of course, there’s the fact that in our story, the gene therapy that Dr. Keller has been developing really isn’t working as well as we hoped, so we come across these new gruesome creatures onboard the Wraith ship. They were based somewhat on the Spoils of War [season four] creatures where we saw the birthing sequence of the Wraith warriors. In this episode, we took it a step further and, as a result of the gene therapy, the Wraith lost their ability to feed with their hands. So they basically became flesh-eating monsters and needed to eat using their hands and teeth and ingesting the way we humans do. So that was another challange to make the attacks from these monsters scary and, again, believable, and I feel we achieved both to a great extent.”

In mid-September 2008, Mikita took on the job of directing the 100th episode of Atlantis, Enemy at the Gate, which, ironically, was also the show’s season/series finale. “I was absolutely honored to be given that opportunity,” he recalls. “At the same time, it was kind of a daunting responsibility, given that the episode was shooting at the same time as Rob Cooper’s [Atlantis co-creator/executive producer] Vegas. That was a big hallmark episode as well in that it was a real departure type of story that takes place in an alternate reality, so a great deal of attention was going to that one, too.

“By the time we got around to Enemy at the Gate, we had to be very careful because we didn’t have any extra money or time to shoot it,” continues the director. “We couldn’t make it any bigger or splashier than any other story we had previously done, but we did want to make a really good, solid, conventional Atlantis episode with the stakes essentially being that the Wraith are attacking Earth. The highlight for me was having Amanda Tapping [Colonel Samantha Carter] back, which was just sensational. It was a very proud moment for the cast and crew to have made it to the 100th episode mark, but also a very bittersweet time because we’d had so much fun for five years and now the series was coming to an end.”

Director Andy Mikita. Photo courtesy of and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Director Andy Mikita. Photo courtesy of and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Although his time on Atlantis may have ended, Mikita still remains very much a part of the Stargate franchise and has already begun his involvement in the second spin-off, Stargate Universe. “I’m hoping I can take what I’ve learned from SG-1 and Atlantis and apply it to whatever new challenges I’m given on Universe,” he says. “We’re approaching that show from quite a different perspective stylistically, so that should help me grow even further as a director for sure.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, photos by Eike Schroter and courtesy of and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!

Emilie Ullerup – Growing Pains

May 22, 2009
Emilie Ullerup as Ashley Magnus in Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

Emilie Ullerup as Ashley Magnus in Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

When we were children, most of us probably spent at least one night looking for monsters under our bed or in the closet. Fortunately, they always turned out to be imaginary. As an adult, Sanctuary‘s Ashley Magnus risks her life searching for very real monsters. An expert in advanced weapons and technology as well as hand-to-hand combat, she is the daughter of Dr. Helen Magnus, head of the Sanctuary, a global network of facilities dedicated to studying and, if necessary, capturing and detaining creatures called abnormals. As if Ashley does not have enough on her plate, she takes on even more when her father, John Druitt, comes back into her life. It has been quite a head trip for our leather-clad heroine, as Emilie Ullerup, who plays Ashley, explains.

“Ashley already had a huge journey in the two-hour [Internet] pilot,” says the actress, taking time out for a chat while shooting the first season Sanctuary episode Warriors. “My character went from living her life as she had through her twentysomething years to being hit in the face with the fact that she has a dad and he is, or was, a monster.

“So overnight her whole world changes and becomes a scary place for a young woman who has never had to deal with anything, really. Emotionally, she’s cut off and focused on her lot in life, which is every day she gets up and might die because she’s going to go fight monsters. Then, all of a sudden, her dad shows up and forces her to think about what she’s doing. I think that’s what took up a lot of her time in the web pilot, but her journey has since changed with these 13 [first season] episodes that we’re doing.”

Ashley and her estranged father John Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl) have a somewhat unconventional reunion. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Ashley and her estranged father John Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl) have a somewhat unconventional reunion. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

The two-hour Internet pilot for Sanctuary was filmed in early 2007, but its creator Damian Kindler along with his fellow executive producers, Martin Wood and Amanda Tapping (Helen Magnus), began prep months before, and that included, among other things, Ullerup’s audition for the role of Ashley. “When I originally went in to read I knew nothing about the project other than the three scenes that I’d been sent,” she recalls. “I had that first audition and received a callback relatively soon afterwards. The second time around was pretty much like the first, except after I did the scenes, I think it was Martin Wood who said to me, ‘The show’s stunt coordinator Bam Bam [James Bamford] is here. We’re going to put together a little something for you and we just want to see how you do.’ I said, ‘OK, let’s go.’

“James came in and he and I did a very simple hand offensive [move] and I walked out of there feeling good. A couple of hours later I got a phone call telling me, ‘You’re good to go,’ and I was super excited. We shot the trailer that summer [of 2006] and then seven months later we began filming the web pilot. For me, that meant a whirlwind of learning the fight sequences and putting it all together. I had never had any fight training before in my life, so it was a matter of rehearsing a scene and then walking on-set dressed in leather and high-heels and trying to pull it off. I actually did everything myself, but we had a [stunt] double on-set who would also do the fights in case there was something that I couldn’t sell properly. Bam Bam brought in great stunt performers who I was able to practice with and get a feel for having five people around me that my character would have to take down. So I had all these things working in my favor.”

Along with the onscreen fights, another of the more memorable moments for Ullerup when filming the Sanctuary pilot  is where Ashley learns that John Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl) is her father. He and Helen were born in Victorian England and were part of a group of scientists called The Five. Back then, Helen discovered that an injection of a serum derived from vampire blood would give all five of them extraordinary powers. Druitt gained the ability to teleport, but the drug’s side-effects turned him into a homicidal killer. This drove him and Helen apart, but not before they had conceived a child. When Helen and Ashley next saw John it was in the present day, much to their surprise.

Ashley and John Druitt "enjoy" some father-daughter time together. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Ashley and John Druitt "enjoy" some father-daughter time together. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“I went into that scene where Ashley finds out the truth about her father having made up my mind that it wasn’t going to be something that we glossed over easily,” says Ullerup. “Once we started filming that day, the cast and crew didn’t know what to expect with that scene and we took it in a direction that was a little deeper and darker than perhaps anyone had anticipated. It made it so much better for all of us, though, because our characters really connected, and in the process it got frightening, too.

“I remember doing a scene with Chris and I was actually terrified of him that day, which worked great. The scene was quite magical and Martin Wood – I don’t know if he would want me to say this – but he had tears in his eyes. He and the other guys sat behind the cameras and they all started crying with us. We were exhausted beyond belief after 12 hours of doing all that emotional stuff, but it was just a really super day. That’s why we’re all so pleased to be back here. We knew we already had something special, and now we get to play with it more.”

The Sanctuary pilot received such a positive response from viewers that the Sci Fi Channel decided to bring it to TV. Its 13-episode first season was shot during the spring and summer of 2008 and debuted last October. The program’s new venue necessitated changes to the pilot, which was re-shot, and as the story unfolded, the characters’ lives once again experienced upheaval.

Mom and daughter team in action - Ashley and Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping). Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

Mom and daughter team in action - Ashley and Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping). Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

“Ashley’s world has been turned upside down this season, mostly just in terms of she’s been introduced to the idea of free choice and free thought,” notes Ullerup. “Yes, she’s had that in the Sanctuary, but she’s always been told what to do by her mom and never questioned it. However, with the introduction of her father, he tells Ashley that there is such a thing as choice and that she should think for herself and not simply aim, shoot and kill. So there’s a lot going on with her. I’m not sure where it’s all headed because there are so many different ways it could go, but there’s definitely a great deal of darkness in my character’s life.

“At the core of everything, Ashley loves her mom; she’s the only one who my character could trust up to now. This has provided me with plenty of [acting] challenges because I, personally, come from a very stable family, so trying to draw on not trusting your parents and not knowing who they really are is very strange to me. So I’ve had some big days with both Christopher and Amanda, lots of emotional pulls and tugs as well as a lot of anger and resistance, more than, I think, in the Internet pilot, which is really a thrill for me.”

Like the web pilot, the TV incarnation of Sanctuary uses a tremendous amount of green screen in its production, which allows its writers to set stories around the world. Also, Martin Wood, who directed the web pilot, has directed several of the TV episodes, and his presence behind the camera is much appreciated by Ullerup.

Ashley and Sanctuary's resident techno-whiz Henry (Ryan Robbins) infiltrate a facility run by a shadowy organization known as The Cabal. Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

Ashley and Sanctuary's resident techno-whiz Henry (Ryan Robbins) infiltrate a facility run by a shadowy organization known as The Cabal. Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

“Martin knows exactly what he wants all the time,” says the actress, “and that’s huge help, especially when you’re working with green screen, where we enter a world of not knowing. Even on the day of filming, we don’t know exactly what’s happening around us, but Martin is great at making sure that we at least know the broad strokes of where everything is. He’s great about taking us aside and informing us of our environment, and that helps us figure out what’s going on inside ourselves. There are days when I’ll be on-set and do something that I think works. Again, though, Martin knows what he wants and he’ll come up to you and say, ‘Listen, that was very good, but can you try it this way.’ As a result, the entire scene is transformed. Martin knows how to speak to actors, and that’s not always the case with a director.”

In the aforementioned Warriors, Helen and Ashley along with Helen’s protege, forensic psychologist Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) cross paths with The Cabal, a powerful shadowy organization that views abnormals to be a serious threat to the future of humankind. This episode also reunites Helen and Ashley with another family member.

“This story is basically about a fight club for abnormals, but it’s definitely not a voluntary one,” explains Ullerup. “It’s being run by The Cabal, who are looking to create the strongest, fiercest, scariest abnormal ever and are testing their candidates in the fight ring. We  become involved when one of Will’s friends is kidnapped, so we go looking for him and stumble upon this club. At the same time, we find Ashley’s grandfather [Gregory Magnus, played by Jim Byrnes]. My character thought he’d been dead for many years, so now grandpa gets tossed into the mix, too. This is a big episode insofar as family ties and raises the question of can Ashley trust mom? It turns out, though, that Helen had no idea that her dad was still alive either, but it’s still more confusion for her and Ashley and their relationship becomes a bit more tarnished.

Ashley and Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) on the hunt for an abnormal in the season one Sanctuary episode "Nubbins." Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

Ashley and Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) on the hunt for an abnormal in the season one Sanctuary episode "Nubbins." Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

“For me, the thing that’s been big this season is character development, which includes Ashley dealing with her own issues as well as other characters,” continues the actress. “Because she’s sort of the go-to gal who knows the town and all the contacts, I’ve been able to play opposite some really cool abnormals. I mean, I’ve had scenes with an abnormal we call ‘Squid Man,’ who’s this crazy looking guy with prosthetic tentacles hanging all over his face. So that’s been an odd sort of challenge.

“What also stands out for me acting-wise on Sanctuary is getting to do so much of the physical stuff. There are some episodes where it’s needed and others where not so much. Sometimes I wish there were more stunts and fights, but I understand there has to be a balance. It’s not a fight show and we need the story to drive the fights. So overall for me as an actor, I’ve been able to do the emotional scenes as well as physical ones. I’ve also had the chance to be in the background and watch other people play and see their characters develop. I just think it’s a very well-rounded way of telling a story.”

Ashley and Henry are caught in yet another tight spot. Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

Ashley and Henry are caught in yet another tight spot. Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

Prior to being cast on Sanctuary, Ullerup got plenty of Sci-Fi and Fantasy experience working on such shows as Battlestar Galactica, Blood Ties and the Canadian made jPod. “I was so green when I did Battlestar,” says the actress. “It was my very first audition and I was lucky enough to book it. I had never been on a [film] set before, so I had no clue where I was supposed to be or what I was supposed to do, other than I knew my lines and I was in my costume. Most of my scenes were with Katee Sackhoff [Captain Kara “Starbuck” Thrace], which was really exciting. She and I gelled very well and it was an amazing first experience. Everyone on Battlestar was terrific and it was a fantastic way for me to see how a well-oiled machine works.

“Then I went on Blood Ties. I did their pilot episode and it was a whole different type of set because it was smaller and new and you just got that sense of energetic first-time jitters. I worked with Kyle Schmid [Henry Fitzroy], who’s a fantastic actor and all-around nice guy. Our scenes together were relatively intimate and before we began shooting, Kyle said to me, ‘This could be awkward, but I don’t want it to be, so let’s just have a laugh and have fun,’ which we did.

“And just before Sanctuary I did jPod, which was originally a book written by Canadian author Douglas Coupland [executive producer] and then turned into a TV series. Unfortunately, it only lasted one season, which was a terrible shame because we went out with 15 Leo Award nominations and the series was also nominated at the Monte Carlo International Film Festival. I played a computer animator [Kaitlin Joyce] who was striving to climb the ranks, tended to ignore people and was sometimes a bit not-so-nice. It was a great show to do over the summer, and to then come to Sanctuary and be cast as yet another very different type of character is a real treat.”

Our heroine Ashley enjoys a rare moment of down-time. Photo by and courtesy of Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects

Our heroine Ashley enjoys a rare moment of down-time. Photo by and courtesy of Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects

In Sanctuary‘s first season two-part finale Revelations, Ashley is taken prisoner by The Cabal and undergoes a treatment that turns her against Helen and the others. Discovering that she has inherited her father’s teleportation power, Ashely steals a vial of vampire blood that her mother needs to cure a virus that The Cabal has unleashed on the abnormals. In the final moments of Revelations, Part 2 it looks as if she has gone over to the dark side. Like the show’s fans, Ullerup is curious to see what is next for Ashley when season two of Sanctuary premieres this fall.

“We were shocked to see where we thought our characters were going and where they ended up,” she says. “In the world of Sci-Fi anything is possible, and in the world of green screen even more is possible. We’ve gone to so many places and seen so many new things, and that makes it easier to stick with your character because nothing is ever the same. It doesn’t become routine when as an actor you’re challenged to explore new places with your character. It keeps it fresh, and I’m looking forward to more of that next season.”

Steve Eramo

As stated above, all photos copyright of Jeff Weddell or Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects and courtesy of Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects or the Sci Fi Channel, so please no copying or unauthorized duplicating of any form. Thanks!

Tyler Labine – Sock It To Me!

May 19, 2009
Tyler Labine as Bert "Sock" Wysocki in Reaper. Photo courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network

Tyler Labine as Bert "Sock" Wysocki in Reaper. Photo courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network

At the end of Reaper‘s first year, our heroes’ lives were, as usual, in a state of turmoil. Sam Oliver was targeted by the demon community and nearly buried alive along with his dad, who, it seems, has been hiding more than one secret from his son. Meanwhile, Ben Gonzalez was bemoaning the fact that his friends forgot to pick him up after he was released from serving an eight-day jail sentence for a sham marriage. As for Bert “Sock” Wysocki, well, he had the misfortune of falling for a female demon, or succubus, whose life-sucking kisses robbed him of a year of his life. When the show’s cast and crew eventually went back in front of the camera to start shooting season two, it was something that took Tyler Labine, who plays Sock, a little getting used to.

“Up to that point I’d been suffering from the one season of TV syndrome for a while,” jokes the actor. “I never actually had to come back and reprise a role for a second year of a show, so honestly, I think I tripped myself up a bit. I thought, ‘Oh, boy, what if I can’t do it. What if I don’t remember how to play Sock. I’m going to blow it,’ and all the other weird and wonderful actor neurosis that we have. Then, however, I got to work and was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember how to do this.’ And within a day you slip back into the dynamic quite easily, especially with guys like Bret Harrison [Sam], Rick Gonzalez [Ben], Missy Peregrym [Andi Prendergast], Donavon Stinson [Ted Gallagher], Ray Wise [The Devil] – the whole gang was back. It was like a family reunion as well as work.

“So everyone remembered fairly quickly how to do this, and then it was a question of, ‘OK, where do we start?’ We picked up right where we left off last year with The Devil and if he’s Sam’s father, and this season we’re still quite cryptic as to whether or not that’s true. I think, though, that it’s definitely implied more that he is his father, or at least they’re behaving like it is. We were all pretty happy with the overall concept of the season opener, but I personally felt like we maybe should have gone slightly deeper and more directly into the Satan/Sam/Father/Son thing. However, we have to fill out an entire season of TV, so you have to stretch your story out somewhat.”

In Reaper‘s second season opener Episode IV: A New Hope, Sam, Sock and Ben are homeless and jobless after returning from a road trip. They have no choice but to move back into Sock’s mother’s house, where they are looked after by Sock’s stepsister Kristen (Eriko Tamura), who Sock finds himself very attracted to. Sam is still on the outs with his girlfriend Andi, and The Devil assigns him the task of capturing 40 extremely  violent Fight Club souls. When they run out of ideas on how to do this, the boys hold a “think tank,” which involves them sitting around the kitchen table drinking beer, eating pizza and horsing around.

The Reaper Boys - Sock, Sam (Bret Harrison) and Ben (Rick Gonzalez). Photo courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network

The Reaper Boys - Sock, Sam (Bret Harrison) and Ben (Rick Gonzalez). Photo courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network

“I have to say that the stepsister/lover storyline involving Sock was a real head-trip to pull off,” says Labine, “and in hindsight I think I was right in thinking, ‘Viewers are going to find this creepy.’ I was constantly trying to make sure that it was less creepy. I didn’t want people to focus so much on the fact that my character was trying to make out with his stepsister, and tried to make it [their relationship] a bit more cute, fun and innocent as opposed to being so doggish about it, do you know what I mean?

“The scenes with the Fight Club guys were a blast to shoot. We got to blow up a lot of stuff, which is always fun. As for the drinking of the beer and the brainstorming, the director set up the camera and for 10 minutes basically let us go. Everything that you saw on the screen just kind of naturally progressed. All of a sudden, Rick’s hair was going crazy, I was wearing a beer box on my head, and before I knew it I had my shirt off. The extended version is hilarious. They sent me a copy of it, which is on the second season blooper reel, so [on the upcoming DVD release] you’ll get to see almost eight minutes of us goofing off.”

When Reaper viewers first met Sock, he was a slacker who worked with Sam, Ben, Andi and their boss Ted at a home-repair store called the Work Bench. He soon became involved with Sam’s contractual obligation with The Devil to find and capture souls that have escaped from Hell. Despite his lackadaisical attitude to most things in life, particularly work and responsibility, Sock has proven to be a loyal friend and someone who Sam can count on when soul hunting. Although his character’s overall modus operandi has not changed much, Labine has had the chance in season two to reveal some new facets of Sock’s personality.

“We’ve gotten to know a little more about Sock in the sense that you see his gentler, more nurturing side because of his relationship with Kristen,” notes the actor. “My character starts off by lusting after her and then gets to a point where he gains some morals and for the first time realizes that it’s probably a bad idea to sleep with his stepsister. Sock explores other options like chemical castration and whatnot to quell his desires for her. He subsequently discovers that he has a real connection with Kristen and tries to prove to her dad, Morris [Hiro Kanagawa], that he’s a good guy for her. But, you know, he ends up sleeping with her anyway. I hope, though, that it came across as more of a falling in love thing as opposed to Sock just out there for a [sexual] conquest.

Kristen (Eriko Tamura) and Sock make for "strange bedfellows." Photo courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network

Kristen (Eriko Tamura) and Sock make for "strange bedfellows." Photo courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network

“I don’t think we ever really saw that [emotional] range from him until this year, and then, of course, after Eriko left the show, my character went right back to being a sort of jackass again,” he laughs. “The stuff between Sock and Kristen was interesting to play, and it just goes to show that there’s never a dull moment on Reaper. Our writers are constantly throwing curveballs at us insofar as the things we [as actors] have to do. It’s not an easy show to be on; it probably appears to be because we’re having so much fun, but they definitely give us some acting challengers, which we all love.”

The actor chuckles when talking about Sock’s relationship with the other main characters on the program and how they have further grown and developed during season two. “The writers have decided this year to make Sock and Ben ‘a couple,'” says Labine. “They’ve started doing things like going grocery shopping with one another and picking out each other’s clothes. And because Sock and Ben are so not gay, the writers have been able to throw as much sort of ‘homoerotic’ material at us as they want and it’s been funny without ever actually crossing the line. I thought it was terrific because Rick and I got to have more scenes together than we ever did in season one.

“With Sam and Sock, it’s business as usual, even though Bret’s character has a lot more on his plate this season. Not only is Sam having to deal with his [demon] parents and whether or not The Devil is actually his dad, but he’s also trying to deal with Andi breaking up with him again. Despite all that, Sock is, per usual, always there to give him crap, but at the same time also be supportive and help Sam when he needs it with a dose of honesty.

“When it comes to Sam and Andi, who knows what’s going on with them,” continues the actor. “Those guys are on and off, on and off – I can’t keep up with what they’re trying to do with those two characters. Sam and Andi are the couple that could, if only there wasn’t all this other stuff in the way, and like most women, Andi is understandably worried about having a relationship with a guy who might be The Devil’s son. Then there’s Ben and Nina, who is masterfully played by Jenny Wade, and who, I think, is a great addition to the show. They’re dating, so that takes them off into their own little world, too, and sometimes it just ends up being Sock with nobody. Because of that, the writers have to come up with crazy things for him to do. In a recent episode [The Home Stretch], Sock crashed a funeral and tried to make out with some chick he met there by pretending to know her dead professor.

“So the writers have definitely tried to round out the characters slightly more this year with relationships and how much more Sock and the others relate to one another and fit into each other’s lives.”

Andi (Missy Peregrym) joins the guys on a little soul hunting. Photo courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network

Andi (Missy Peregrym) joins the guys on a little soul hunting. Photo courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network

As Labine previously mentioned, Sock’s relationship with his stepsister Kristen culminates with the two sleeping together in Underbelly, and in the following episode, The Good Soil, she packs her bags and returns to Japan. “There’s a funny scene in Underbelly where Sock and Kristen are in the hotel room and he throws the cot out the window and she calls him on it,” recalls the actor. “It was a well-acted scene, but for five minutes I felt like we were watching a very different program. I sensed the limitations of that relationship and where it could go. I don’t think anyone wanted to see Sock and Kristen get serious. It was a fun episode to do, but when I watched it all I could think was, ‘We’ve got to move away from this story line. It’s not working,’ and like I said before, it was making me feel creepy.

“Fortunately, we have very smart writers, and I think they saw that and decided, ‘OK, we can’t have this.’ Then came The Good Soil, which was another episode I enjoyed doing, especially the scenes with Sock and Kristen’s dad at the lake. When we first read that script and I saw that that was probably going to be the end of Kristen on the show I was disappointed. I would have liked to have seen Eriko stay. I just wanted the writers to change the dynamic of the relationship between her character and Sock, but I have a feeling that they were stumped and chose to wrap things up and send her back to Japan. I thought the way the two characters said goodbye was touching, and now Kristen and Sock are pen pals.”

In the season two Reaper story To Sprong, With Love, which the actor describes as “a freakin’ riot,” Sam, Sock and Andi have an unexpected reunion with someone from their past. “Michael McDonald from MAD TV was our guest-star for that episode,” says Labine. “He’s a comic genius and awesome to work with. He couldn’t be a nicer fellow, either. Michael played Mr. Sprong, an old high school biology teacher of Sam’s, Sock’s and Andi’s and a notorious hard-nosed jerk that no one liked. We think he’s the soul that we’re supposed to capture, but, in fact, there’s a soul named Jordy Boone [Charlie Weber] that’s after Mr. Sprong. Obviously nothing can go smoothly for Team Reaper, so everything is a challange and Jordy is not making it easy for us to capture him.

Sam, Ben and Sock contemplate their next move. Photo courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network

Sam, Ben and Sock contemplate their next move. Photo courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network

“In this episode, Sock decides to take on the role of Mr. Wrenchy Bench, the Work Bench’s new mascot, and I dressed up in a big foam suit shaped like a wrench. My character ends up getting into a fight with the Bargain Bench’s mascot, Brandon the Bargain Bench’s mascot, Brandon the Bargain Hammer [Doreen Ramus], and Sock ultimately realizes that he got carried away with himself and the attention he was getting. All of us, Sam, Andi, Ben and Sock are going through some heavy reflection, and at the end of the episode I have this great scene in a bar where Sock praises all of them for what they bring to the table.

“The funny thing is, although I was doing the scene in-character, I was also getting the chance to tell my fellow actors how much I thought of them and just how awesome I think they are. I got to sort of paraphrase and ab-lib quite a bit, so I tried to throw in as many little personal things as I could about the characters I was talking about. I was able to get pretty emotional and give a big shout-out to all my friends as well as the characters in the show. This stands out for me as one of my favorite scenes this season. Another one is when Sock is in a compromising position with Jenny Wade’s character during a dream sequence [in No Reaper Left Behind] when Nina is dressed in her skivvies and she shoves her hand through Sock’s chest and pulls his heart out.”

In next week’s (May 26th) episode and Reaper‘s season finale, The Devil and Sam Oliver, Sam challenges The Devil to a game that could possibly change his and his friends’ lives forever. Pending a decision by the CW Network, this could also be the series finale as well. The latter was very much in the backs of the minds of all those who work on the show as they shot this episode.

“There’s always a certain amount of emotion that comes with what could be the end of something that you’ve put so much work into and where you enjoy the people you work with as much as we do,” muses Labine. “So it got a little emotional around the set during the final days of filming this story. I don’t want to give away any details of the finale, but I can say that it won’t leave you frustrated if we don’t come back. It should leave you feeling like you could go off and imagine what the rest of Sam’s life would be like. I thought that was really clever because when they wrote this episode, the writers weren’t sure if they were writing the end of the show or the end of the season. So I thought it was a good move on their part.

“Of course, it’ll also be a good thing if we do come back because it will take Reaper into a whole other arena of storytelling.”

Sock and Ben rush off to sort out another problem of The Devil's making. Photo courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network

Sock and Ben rush off to sort out another problem of The Devil's making. Photo courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network

Along with the second season of Reaper, Labine has a lead role in the upcoming feature film A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, currently in post-production. The actor also has several new movie projects pending, the starting dates of which are dependent on his involvement in a new TV pilot he shot, Sons of Tucson, which has been picked up by the Fox Network.

“This would be a first for me as I’d be the lead of a show, which is incredibly exciting,” enthuses Labine. “I worked my buns off on that pilot and gave it everything I had, so I’m hoping it turned out well, which it sounds like it has. The director, Todd Holland, has worked on lots of shows including Malcolm in the Middle, which the producers and writers were involved in as well, and they’re all amazing. I’ve noticed a bit of a trend lately where people are once again coming up with well-written, clever and ‘clean’ comedies. With Sons of Tucson we’re not doing pee-pee-poop-poo jokes. It’s a funny, heartfelt comedy, so we’ll see what happens.”

A very happy Tyler Labine of Reaper. Photo courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network

A very happy Tyler Labine of Reaper. Photo courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network

There has been some recent Internet buzz that if Reaper is not picked up by the CW for a third year, that the show might continue in first-run syndication. If, however, this is the end of the line for Sock and his buddies, Labine will take with him many fond memories from his time on the series.

“I can’t say enough how lucky I feel to have been involved with the show,” he says. “The best thing about Reaper for me was the chemistry among the cast, and when you go off to film something else, you sometimes forget how fortunate you were to be working with people who you can genuinely connect with. That’s rarer than you might think. I know every cast says, ‘Oh, our cast is the best,’ and it probably is for them, but this for me has been the best working experience I’ve had with a cast and crew that I can ever hope for in my career.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos courtesy of and copyright of the CW Network, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!

Party Down

May 19, 2009

George Takei, who played  Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek and, more recently, Hiro Nakamura’s father in Heroes, guest-stars as himself this Friday, May 22nd @ 10:30pm EST in the season finale of the Starz! original comedy Party Down. In the all-new episode, the crew is excited to be working the extremely exclusive wedding of Hollywood super-mogul Barry Stannheiser and his 22-year-old fiance Marty Pong as it’s sure to be packed with celebrities and bigwigs. However, they are all disappointed to learn the Party Down team is working as a backup crew to the Uber-efficient and wildly good-looking Valhalla Catering team, led by Ron’s archrival and team leader Uda Bengt. With everything on the line, Ron collapses back into his former partying ways, leaving Henry to single-handedly keep the team afloat, determine his own future with Casey, and try to save Ron’s job.

Takei is a wedding guest who endures some interesting interactions with a member of the Party Down catering staff who takes his obsession with the Star Trek star to extremes. This episode also guest-stars former Heroes regular and Veronica Mars leading lady Kristin Bell, who plays Uda Bengt. Party Down regulars Ryan Hansen (Henry) and Ken Marino (Ron) also had recurring roles in Veronica Mars – as Dick Casablancas and Vinnie Van Lowe, respectively – and Marino also plays the recurring character of Tony on the CW Network series  Reaper.

Anthony Fitzgerald – Dead And…Loving It!

May 16, 2009
Anthony Fitzgerald. Photo courtesy of Anderson Group PR.

Anthony Fitzgerald. Photo courtesy of Anderson Group PR.

Everyone has dreams that they hope will one day come true. In the case of actor Anthony Fitzgerald, his dream as an actor was to die in a feature film. Lucky for him, special effects make-up creator/producer/director/writer Rob Hall made that dream come true in the recently released horror flick Laid to Rest (written and directed by Hall), and Fitzgerald could not be more grateful.

“When I was in high school I used to practice dead faces,” says the actor. “I had an expression if, for example, I was going to be thrown off a building, or if I were being choked to death. I could keep my eyes open and stare at a single spot for a long time without looking like I was breathing. It scared my Mom quite a bit when I was younger. She would walk into my room in the middle of the night and I’d have my eyes open because I’d be practicing my dead faces, so I’d always be freaking her out. I know, I know, weird,” he jokes. “Rob Hall, however, took all that to heart because he ‘kills’ people for a living. He’s either turning their characters into demons or robots or figuring out really cool ways to slash open their throats or stick knifes into their heads.

“Rob was a friend of a friend and now he’s a close best friend of mine. When we first met, he asked me what my aspirations were as an actor, and I told him I wanted to die in a film. I think that kind of stuck with Rob, because a couple of months later he sent me a script [for Laid to Rest] and said, ‘Take a look at this and let me know what you think.’ As I read it I was like, ‘This is incredible. Rob is doing things that in my wildest dreams I’ve never imagined doing.’ Then I came across this character called Anthony and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, is that me?’ In the movie there are these two obnoxious friends named Anthony and Tommy, who’s played by another friend of mine, Thomas Dekker [Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles]. When I was finished reading the script, I called Rob and asked if I was Anthony [in the script]. He said, ‘If you want it, the part is yours,’ and the rest is history.”

In Laid to Rest, a young woman (Bobbi Sue Luther) wakes up inside a locked casket with no memory of who she is or how she got there. She manages to escape, but soon finds that her life, along with those of anyone she meets, are in danger of being snuffed out by ChromeSkull, a psychopath armed with a metal skull, a shoulder-mounted video camera and a penchant for human blood. While out cruising towards a good time, Anthony and Tommy take an unexpected detour into some dangerous territory.

“I play a horny guy who’s on the way to Atlanta with his pal Tommy for an all-weekend rave,” explains Fitzgerald. “They’re in a car singing and be-bopping down the highway and almost run over two of the film’s main characters, Steven [Sean Whalen] and Tucker [Kevin Gage]. The four then end up at a convenience store. Bobbi’s character eventually arrives there, and I wouldn’t say hilarity ensues, but something ensues and Anthony and Tommy are in peril along with everyone else. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but if you’ve seen the trailer then I’m not spoiling anything. Let’s just say that my character has this ‘relationship’ with ChromeSkull and his knife as well as lots and lots of cheese puffs.”

Tommy's (Thomas Dekker) and Anthony's (Anthony Fitzgerald) joy ride turns into a fight for survival in Laid to Rest. Photo courtesy of Anderson Group PR

Tommy's (Thomas Dekker) and Anthony's (Anthony Fitzgerald) joy ride turns into a fight for survival in Laid to Rest. Photo courtesy of Anderson Group PR

Fitzgerald spent two weeks in Maryland shooting his scenes for Laid to Rest, all of which were done at night. “That required some adjusting on my part because it’s a whole different way of living,” recalls the actor. “I had to cover all the windows in my hotel room and unplug anything that displayed the time. I remember on our second day of filming we finished around seven or eight in the morning and I got back to the hotel around nine or ten. I went to bed, and at one point woke up, looked at the time and it was one o’clock. I had only been asleep for a couple of hours, but my body was like, ‘It’s one in the afternoon. Don’t be lazy. Get up.’ So on a personal level that time change was a bit of a challenge for me.

“Acting-wise, the trickiest thing for me was making sure I ate the cheese puffs in the same order in every take. Our editor, Andrew Bentler, said that he’d edited many projects and had never seen an actor with such fluid control. In each take I put those cheese balls in my mouth at almost the exact same moment, and I don’t think I’ve eaten a cheese ball, which is like a Cheeto, ever since. I probably went through an entire barrel of those things. I had orange lips, orange fingers, it was pretty funny,” he chuckles.

Despite various cheese dusted body parts and having to reset his internal clock, the actor thoroughly enjoyed himself on the Laid to Rest set.  “This was one of the most memorable experiences of my career and my life,” says Fitzgerald. “Basically I got to hang out in Maryland, which I had never been to before, with my Los Angeles family and friends. And being directed by Rob Hall is a joy. I said it earlier, but he’s a talented director and effects artist. I love his first film, Lightning Bug, which I call a masterpiece. I think it’s a beautiful film, and Laid to Rest is fantastic, too. It’s just a different genre.

“As for the cast, well, I’ve worked with Thomas Dekker a couple of times now and he’s a truly gifted actor who is going to be in this business for a very long time. He’s also a director, writer, producer, editor and musician, and he has plenty of other aspirations and goals, too. Lena Headey [Cindy] is also a writer, director and producer, not to mention an amazing actress. So to be surrounded by all these people on the set was a neat opportunity for me. I learned a great deal, was challenged, and I miss it.”

Anthony meets fans at the San Diego Comic Con. Photo courtesy of Anderson Group PR

Anthony meets fans at the San Diego Comic Con. Photo courtesy of Anderson Group PR

A few weeks ago, the actor wrapped production on another slice-em-and-dice-em movie entitled All About Evil. In it, Deborah Tennis (Natasha Lyonne) is a mousy librarian who inherits her father’s beloved but failing old movie house. In order to save the family business, she adopts a new persona, that of a serial killer, and starts to churn out a series of grisly short films. A small group of rabid gore fans become enamored of Deborah’s work, but are unaware that her onscreen murders are, in fact, all too real. Fitzgerald plays Gene, a nerd who stands in the way of Deborah’s celluloid carnage.

“Gene is a high school outcast who loves computers along with any type of gadget and only has a couple of friends, which is all he needs. He also has crushes on the popular girls and is always trying to look up their skirts,” laughs the actor. “He finds out what Deborah is up to and more or less tries to stop her.

“I actually know Darren Stein, who is a producer of the film and also the director and writer of [the 1999 film] Jawbreaker, which is one of my all-time favorite movies. With All About Evil I saw the breakdown for the character of Gene and auditioned like anyone else. I wound up getting the job and spent a month in San Francisco working on a film that is sure to become a cult classic. I got to meet people like Jack Donner, whose resume is four miles long, and Natasha Lyonne, who has been in tons of movies that I love as do lots of other people. There was such a friendly vibe on the set and everyone was so experienced that you were able to just kind of go with the flow.”

A Minnesota native, Fitzgerald appeared onstage as a child as well as in print advertising and TV commercials. Although his parents were supportive of their son’s acting aspirations, they understandably wanted him to have something else to fall back on. As a young adult, Fitzgerald enrolled at the University of Kansas, but after two years decided that college was not for him.

“I felt like the acting bug had finally taken over at that point and that I would be wasting both time and money if I carried on with school,” says the actor. “My first real acting experience was in the [2001] movie Joe Somebody starring Tim Allen and Hayden Panettierie. I played a Target customer and, although my scene was subsequently cut, it was still a cool experience. It was that, coupled with everything else I’d done when I was younger, including theater, that made me want to come out to Los Angeles and give it [acting] a go.”

Anthony Fitzgerald. Photo courtesy of Anderson Group PR

Anthony Fitzgerald. Photo courtesy of Anderson Group PR

When asked about his most demanding role to date, the actor chooses two. “Lena Headey recently directed a small film called The Sophisticates, and my character in that is a very interesting one and was a challenge for me,” notes Fitzgerald. “There’s also a movie that Thomas Dekker wrote and directed called Whore, which stars Megan Fox, Rumer Willis, Ken Bauman and [legendary porn star] Ron Jeremy. I play a character that could essentially be anyone who comes out to Los Angeles to become an actor. When this guy fell through the cracks, he turned to drugs, and that wasn’t good. It’s something I’ve never experienced and never want to experience, but I hope my performance is authentic enough.”

Audiences will have to wait until later this year to see Fitzgerald in the aforementioned All About Evil. The actor also appears in two other films, The Last Score and Dead End Falls, both of which are currently in post-production, and he recently guest-starred in two episodes of the Starz! Network comedy series Head Cases. “At the moment, I’m like most actors,” he says, “just looking for work and always honored to audition and prove that I can do what’s on the [written] page.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos are courtesy of Anderson Group PR, so please no copying or unauthorized duplicating of any form. Thanks!

And The Winner Is…

May 15, 2009

This past weekend, Canadian actors and behind-the scenes talent came together in Vancouver, British Columbia to attend the 2009 Leo Awards ceremony. Below is a partial winners’ list that focuses on genre TV personalities, shows, feature films and made-for-DVD movies. Congratulations to them and the other winners as well as all the nominees and a BIG thank for their on-going contributions to the creative process and the hours of enjoyment their work brings us on both the big and small screens. 

Best Screenwriting In a Feature Length Drama – Brad Wright – Stargate Continuum

Best Overall Sound In a Feature Length Drama – Paul Sharpe, Iain Pattison, Graeme Hughes – Stargate Continuum

Best Supporting Performance By a Female In a Feature Length Drama – Lauren Lee Smith – Helen

Best Lead Performance By a Male In a Feature Length Drama – Michael Shanks – Stargate Continuum

Best Dramatic Series – Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie, Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper, Carl Binder, Martin Gero, Alan McCullough, N. John Smith – Stargate Atlantis

Best Direction In a Dramatic Series – Robert C. Cooper – Stargate Atlantis – “Vegas”

Best Screenwriting In a Dramatic Series – Alan McCullough – Stargate Atlantis – “The Queen”

Best Cinematography In a Dramatic Series – Michael Blundell – Stargate Atlantis – “Vegas”

Best Picture Editing In a Dramatic Series – Mike Banas – Stargate Atlantis – “Vegas”

Best Overall Sound In a Dramatic Series – Kelly Cole, Patrick Ramsey, Bill Mellow, Joe Watts, Hugo De La Cerda, Kevin Belen – Stargate Atlantis – “Enemy at the Gate”

Best Sound Editing In a Dramatic Series – Steve Smith, Matthew Wilson, Kirby Jinnah, Jay Cheetham, Jason Mauza – Stargate Atlantis – “Enemy at the Gate”

Best Production Design In a Dramatic Series – James Philpott – Smallville – “Quest”

Best Costume Design In a Dramatic Series – Valerie Halverson – Stargate Atlantis – “The Queen”

Best Make-Up In a Dramatic Series – Todd Masters, Nicholas Podbrey, Sarah Pickersgill, Harlow MacFarlane – Sanctuary – “Warriors”

Best Visual Effects In a Dramatic Series – Mark Savela, Shannon Gurney, Kodie MacKenzie, Viv Jim, Dan Weir – Stargate Atlantis – “First Contact”

Best Guest Performance By a Male In a Dramatic Series – Ryan Robbins – Sanctuary – “Edward”

Best Guest Performance By a Female In a Dramatic Series – Gabrielle Rose – Sanctuary – “Edward”

Best Lead Performance By a Male In a Dramatic Series – Tyler Labine – Reaper – “Coming To Grips”

Best Lead Performance By a Female In a Dramatic Series – Amanda Tapping – Sanctuary – “Requiem”

James Bamford – Action Man!

May 13, 2009
Stargate Atlantis stunt coordinator James "Bam Bam" Bamford takes aim on the show's Vancouver, B.C. set. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Stargate Atlantis stunt coordinator James "Bam Bam" Bamford takes aim on the show's Vancouver, B.C. set. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

James Bamford is looking for a fight today on the Stargate Atlantis set. It’s OK, though, seeing that he is the show’s stunt coordinator. When it comes to one of our heroes duking it out with a bad guy, a Wraith jumping from a dizzying height, or even a guest-star taking a fall, Bamford, or “Bam Bam,” is responsible for making sure everyone knows what he or she is doing and, above all, is safe while doing it. His season five on-set “duties” began in earnest with Broken Ties, in which Ronon Dex once again goes up against his former Satedan friend Tyre, played by Mark Dacascos.

“First off, Mark Dacascos is just a master and a true martial artist,” says Bamford. “He’s not an actor who learned how to fight, but rather a fighter who learned how to act, and is a treat to work with. Having him perform my choreography is truly an honor. I began really early choreographing this particular fight in Broken Ties, and it went on for so long that they [the producers and director] actually cut out almost half of it. The episode itself was over time-wise, which is why we had to edit down the sequence. However, what’s cool is when the season five DVD comes out, you’ll see the entire fight as a special feature. Ivon Bartok [DVD special features producer] followed us around with a camera in the early choreography stages and came to all the rehearsals, so you’ll get to watch a really progressive version of the rehearsal process. And  think the fight on the DVD will be my original full-length version, which I’m excited about.

Bamford sets the stage for a stunt. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Bamford sets the stage for a stunt. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

“Insofar as the actual choreography, the first challenge was designing a new sword for the Tyre character,” continues the stunt coordinator. “Every martial artist prefers different things about his weapons so I spoke a couple of times with Mark over the phone about dimensions, handle, grip and whatnot for his sword. In the end, he said, ‘Go ahead with whatever you think will work for me, Bam Bam. I trust your opinion.’ So I played around with different swords, and James Robbins [Atlantis production designer] did the conceptual drawing for it. Our model shop then built the actual weapon, and between all of us we came up with a nice, light and yet dangerous looking blade.

“From there, I had to get a stunt double for Mark, who was still down in Los Angeles, and I stepped in as Jason Momoa’s [Ronon Dex] double. Usually what I try to do is figure out the beginning of the fight or how to get into it, and then from there the brain just flows and things unfold organically. Jason wanted to show a growing and then explosion of anger or betrayal at one point in the fight, so I left one section where he could have his own personal stamp. We worked with Jason for a few days, and then Mark flew into town and we started to teach him his side of the fight. We taught him away from Jason, and vice versa. Throughout the rehearsal process, Mark was like, ‘Thank you so much for this wonderful fight.’ He was very complimentary from beginning to end, and when he and Jason finally came together to do the fight they were absolutely perfect. They jumped right into it and it was something to see, that’s for sure.”

Bamford on-set with Jason Momoa (Ronon Dex). Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Bamford on-set with Jason Momoa (Ronon Dex). Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

In the season five Atlantis episode Tracker, Ronon and Dr. McKay (David Hewlett) must match wits with Kiryk, a Runner who has abducted Dr. Keller (Jewel Staite) while on an off-world mission. Once again, the stunt coordinator had the opportunity to work with a professional who was well-versed in the art of stunt fighting.

“We had Mike Dopud playing a character named Kiryk, and in addition to being an actor, Mike has worked as a stunt guy as well,” explains Bamford. “His character and Jason’s had two on-screen fights, but I didn’t have access to Jason – he was out of town and not available for rehearsals. I had to put everything together with Jason in mind but not physically there, so I rehearsed with Mike and he did quite well. When we subsequently started plugging Jason into the rehearsals it was just minutes here and there on-set. He didn’t even see one of the fights until the day he got to set, so I had to teach it to him bit by bit as we were shooting. As usual, Jason picked up the choreography very quickly. I showed it to him and the camera was literally rolling five minutes later.

Bamford and company are suited up for action. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Bamford and company are suited up for action. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

 

Prepping for some on-screen work. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Prepping for some on-screen work. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

After their six-week-long summer 2008 hiatus, Bamford was back on-set with the Atlantis cast and crew to start work on The Prodigal, an action-packed episode with some intense fights involving the half-human, half-Wraith Michael (Connor Trinneer). “We shot our first big fight sequence on our second day back from hiatus,” recalls Bamford. “So everyone had been traveling about and had to return to work and try to remember some fight choreography.

“I had rehearsed the fight sequences and put the footage on an instructional DVD that I gave to Jason and Connor. Yes, they had that to study, but even though you might have something in your head, it doesn’t give you the actual rehearsal time needed to build true muscle memory. So the actors had very little time to practice and sort of had to go off their memory of the DVD. It’s like learning Kung Fu from a book, which is very difficult unless you’re a master. So the hiatus ate into most of our rehearsal time, but, once again, the actors pulled things off and there are some amazing fights in this episode.

Bamford runs through a fight sequence from "The Prodigal" with Jason Momoa. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Bamford runs through a fight sequence from "The Prodigal" with Jason Momoa. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

 

Bamford gives his actors some instruction on hand-to-hand combat. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Bamford gives his actors some instruction on hand-to-hand combat. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

“Following The Prodigal, we went into Remnants, which features a well-known character [Acastas Kolya, portrayed by Robert Davi] that you’ll recognize. At the moment [mid-August 2008] we’re filming Infection as well as prepping for Identity and Vegas. James Robbins, Rob Cooper [Atlantis co-creator/executive producer] and John Smith [executive producer] are actually in Las Vegas doing location scouts for certain scenes. Part of Vegas is set in the desert and there’s some driving involved along with plenty of stunts. Then after that is the season [and series] finale Enemy at the Gate, which should be a lot of fun to do.”

While working on Atlantis, Bamford was asked by writer/director Robert C. Cooper to also serve as fight coordinator for the first made-for-DVD Stargate SG-1 feature film The Ark of Truth. “Ark was a great opportunity for me because I got to work with Robert Cooper, which I love,” says the stunt coordinator. “He writes for himself to direct, and he writes things a little bigger because he knows exactly what he wants to see, so we get to do things on a grander scale for Rob.

Jason Momoa hanging around on-set with Bamford. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Jason Momoa hanging around on-set with Bamford. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

“I think we had three days scheduled to do the main fight involving Ben Browder [Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell], which is way over and above what we usually get. I mean, we usually get four to six hours to do a fight, so three days was fantastic. Because SG-1 is such a well-oiled machine, we managed to get it done in a day-and-a-half, which was terrific. I had previously worked with Rob on [the season three Atlantis episode] Doppelganger, which had a large fight sequence. He enjoyed the choreography that I’d brought to Atlantis and wanted to extend that type of feel and look onto Ark of Truth. Needless to say I had a blast.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!

Greg Ellis -Intergalactic Mechanic

May 10, 2009
Greg Ellis treks into the future as Chief Engineer Olson of the U.S.S. Enterprise in STAR TREK. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

Greg Ellis treks into the future as Chief Engineer Olson of the U.S.S. Enterprise in STAR TREK. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

Professional jockey or attorney – those are the two careers that Greg Ellis considered pursing while growing up. Then, however, he set his sights on the entertainment industry and never looked back. Born and raised in the small town of Wigan, Lancashire, Northern England, the-then budding young actor joined a children’s drama group and, at the age of nine, made his TV debut singing for a very special individual.

“I was doing a summer season at a theater in the North of England and me and five other kids sang live on TV for Princess Diana,” recalls Ellis. “That’s my first memory of performing in front of a camera. It was around 1980 and I remember being amazed by how many cameras there were and how few people were actually in the studio. Everyone was either tucked away in some booth high up or in another room. Talk about an unforgettable experience.”

Back then, Ellis never imagined that he would one day be soaring through outer space and making his mark on an historic TV and feature film franchise. The actor portrays Yorkshire-born Chief Engineer Olson in the new Star Trek movie. Although he is one of the good guys, it almost turned out to be the exact opposite.

“I originally tried out for the part of a Romulan,” says the actor. “A couple of weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything, so I thought no more about it. At the time I was working on a TV show called The Riches, and one morning I got a call saying that J.J. Abrams [Trek director/producer] wanted to see me about the role of Chief Engineer Olson, the original engineer onboard the Enterprise. So I spoke to the director I was working with and he said it didn’t look like I was going to have a full [shooting] day and would make sure I got out on time. When I arrived at Paramount Studios I was given the pages for the scenes I was reading for and had to learn them on the spot. I auditioned and the following day found out I was up for the role.

“Not long after that I was on the Star Trek set, and what immediately struck me was how friendly everyone was. I got on really well with John Cho [Sulu] and Chris Pine [Captain James T. Kirk], who I had most of my scenes with, and Bruce Greenwood [Captain Christopher Pike]. He’s a big chess player, and my first day on-set, within an hour he had me playing a game with him. So there we were, Captain Pike and Chief Engineer Olson trying to outwit each other on the chess board,” chuckles Ellis. “It was all rather surreal. The thing is, I wasn’t a huge Star Trek fan growing up, and I’ve since become educated about as well as respectful of the massive fan base that Star Trek  has. That’s something I kept reminding myself of while we were working on the movie.”

Prior to the film’s U.S. release last Friday, Ellis had appeared, albeit briefly, in the main trailer for Star Trek, which features snippets of one of the movie’s main action sequences. “Kirk, Sulu and Olson have to go on a skydiving mission down to a Romulan orbital platform that is drilling down into the planet Vulcan, the home of Spock [Zachary Quinto],” explains the actor. “We were wearing these skydiving spacesuits with helmets, and the helmets kept steaming up, so they had to pump oxygen into them to un-steam the visors in order for us to see what we were doing.

“I had two costumes, my Enterprise uniform and the skydiving one, which was amazing, particularly the minute details. For example, the gloves we wore were personally fitted by this incredible glove maker. I’d never net a glove maker before. He measured my hands, then made a test pair of gloves, and finally added all the detail and piping to the end product. Again, the attention to detail, even down to the clip to keep our skydiving parachutes on, was so impressive. Michael Kaplan did the costumes, and I’d previously worked with him on another movie. It was as if you took [the designers] Gucci, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana, mixed them all up and then times it by 10. That’s what the spacesuits were like.”

Greg Ellis. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

Greg Ellis. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

While it may appear as if Engineer Olson and his crewmates are hurtling towards Vulcan at breakneck speed, the actual shooting of the skydiving scene was, in places, rather simple. “Surprisingly, there wasn’t too much green screen involved,” says Ellis. “J.J. Abrams and his crew were extremely creative insofar as filming. When it came to my character skydiving, they put mirrors on the ground, which reflected the sky. I was then lowered onto the mirrors, while J.J. and the camera operator stood on a raised platform with the camera pointed straight into my face. Imagine that and then invert the whole thing; it looks as if I’m flying through the sky, and it is the real sky, only reflected. So, again, very creative.

“Clearly J.J. Abrams is a talented guy. He has the Midas Touch when it comes to movies and TV. The thing is, there are so many people who work with him and for him, and they’re fans of his as well and go from project to project to project. They’re utterly loyal to J.J. and that’s a testament to just how wonderful he is. He’s a true collaborator who has a vision, and  it’s not only exciting but also fun to work with him every day.”

It may surprise some Trek fans to discover that Star Trek is not Ellis’ first time playing in this particular make-believe universe. Back in 1999, he guest-starred as a Cardassian named Ekoor in the two-hour Star Trek: Deep Space Nine finale What You Leave Behind.

“I went into that job looking forward to doing that particular incarnation of Star Trek but having no idea of the seriousness of doing the show’s finale,” notes the actor. “In one of the scenes I blasted two rebel Cardassians and, as I walked down some steps, said the classic line, ‘That’s Locarian City.’ At the time, I didn’t know where or what that was, and I later became quite educated in its history as well as what a Jem’Hadar, Bajoran, Romulan and, indeed, a Cardassian, was.

“I remember going through three hours of prosthetics every morning for this role, so when I did the Star Trek movie I was actually quite happy that I was playing a human being and not a Romulan. That said, wearing a ‘mask’ like that, I think, helps you get into character. It was the same when I did the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. It’s just a great ride to be involved with something so iconic.”

The X-Files, Bones, The Closer and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation are among Ellis’ other TV credits. The actor is probably best known, though, for his performance as international arms dealer Michael Armador in season three of 24. “I had a terrific time on that show,” he enthuses. “I had worked before with Kiefer Sutherland [Jack Bauer] in a movie called To End All Wars, which was about prisoners in a Japanese POW camp during World War II, and it was great to have the opportunity to work with him again.

“The challenge of 24 really comes down to the fact that the story is told in 24 hours. My first day of filming was a night scene on-location. It was a meeting with Nina Meyers [Sarah Clarke] on one side and Jack Bauer and the Mexicans on the other. My character was holding an auction for a biological weapon, and when it’s over, Jack was going to walk with the Mexicans to his car. However, we had to rethink the scene because it would have taken longer to do that than we had in real time.

The dashing Greg Ellis. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

The dashing Greg Ellis. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

“So it’s a matter of thinking in a different mindset, which in this case is real time, and the hurdles involved with that. However, it’s good to be challenged in that way and it makes you stay on top of your storytelling because that’s what the show’s fans expect. Kiefer is very involved and very professional about the details, and it shows.

“Originally I was only supposed to be in three episodes, and when I was given the script for my fourth episode it had a scene where my character’s throat got slit. I thought, ‘That’s OK, I had a good time.’ Then I got the rewrite and I was suddenly and miraculously alive. They [the producers/writers] had decided to kill off the Nina Meyers character instead. So you never knew from script to script and rewrite to rewrite how long you’d be alive for, and I wound up sticking around for, I believe, nine or ten episodes, which I was thrilled about.”

Besides his roles in front of the camera, Ellis is also a much sought-after voice artist. His work can be heard on various video games including  SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords and Tomb Raider: Legend, as well as such cartoons as Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Ben 10: Alien Force and Phineas and Ferb. Not surprisingly, this type of work has its own unique set of challenges, some harder than others.

“A lot of times it’s tough keeping a straight face and staying quiet when someone else is talking about because it’s so much fun,” says Ellis. “Typically, you’re in a room with other like-minded, silly individuals and you all get to act like children, depending, of course, on the project, and enjoy yourselves. Things can move fast, though, and it’s a matter of keeping up. Direction and notes are thrown at you and you have to quickly digest and incorporate them into your next take.”

Does the actor have a favorite character to have voiced? “Growing up I used to read the comic Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future, and years later that was my very first animated TV project, so I was pretty excited about that. As a child I also had an Action Man figure, who was like G.I. Joe, and I got to be the voice of that character, too. I did a few episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars as well and enjoyed being a small part of the Star Wars world. I’ve also done three of the Pirates of the Caribbean video games and, having done the films, a lot of the actors are my mates, so I’ve voiced most of their characters in the games. And I’m the voice of the Jack Sparrow doll, which I think is an interesting little piece of trivia.”

Greg Ellis. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

Greg Ellis. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

A couple of years ago, Ellis was one of the musical artists invited by Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber to perform for Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral as part of The Best of Andrew Lloyd-Webber. “I got to sing two solo songs, which was pretty neat,” he says. “First of all, singing at St.Paul’s with its acoustics, history, architecture, etc. is just incredible, and to then have the Queen and the Royal Family there to meet afterwards made for a truly unforgettable night.

“It was many years later, but my childhood TV experience of singing for Princess Diana came around full circle as well,” adds the actor. “It was, I think, the third preview of the musical Miss Saigon where I got to meet her backstage and found her to be a really lovely person.”

Currently, this verstile entertainer is keeping busy with a few new projects, including the recurring role of Simon Cochran on the TNT series Trust Me, and a guest-spot on Nip/Tuck. “I’ve been back in the prosthetics chair again for that show, but only for a couple of hours,” says Ellis. “I have a writing partner in England and we’ve written a couple of things that seem to be moving forward. So I’ve been very lucky work-wise and, touch wood, long may it continue.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!

Sonita Henry – The Doctor Is In

May 7, 2009
The smart, witty, talented and beautiful Sonita Henry. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

The smart, witty, talented and beautiful Sonita Henry. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

Most people have at one time or another received a phone call that has changed their lives, hopefully for the better. That is definitely true for actress Sonita Henry, who can be seen in U.S. movie theaters this Friday in the highly-anticipated Star Trek feature film. “About a half-hour or so before I found out that I’d be auditioning for Star Trek, I was talking on the phone with a friend of mine,” recalls Henry. “I said to my friend, ‘If I could just meet J.J. Abrams [Trek director/producer], everything would work out,’ and then I got a call telling me I had an audition for what was then known as ‘the untitled J.J. Abrams project.’

“When I arrived at Paramount Studios there were a number of people who were there to read as well – men and women, all ages, sizes and races. We were each handed exactly the same scene to read, which involved one of the ship’s crew giving out basic instructions. You had between 10 and 15 minutes to look at the material before auditioning. They put us on tape, and from there it’s usually a matter of whether or not you get a callback. If you do, then you go back and do it all over again.

“In this case, though, they [the film’s producers and casting director, April Webster] made their decisions right from the tapes and then called whoever they wanted to book. What a terrific call to get. The thing is, though, being a working actor, when you receive a call like that, you don’t really hear the words ‘Star Trek‘ at first, but just that they want to book you. You think, ‘Cool, I’ve got another job.’ Then it dawns on you weeks later, or for me it was my first day on-set that I thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is Star Trek!”’

In Star Trek, Henry plays a doctor, but not just any futuristic medical practitioner. Her character is, in fact, the physician who delivers James Tiberius Kirk (portrayed in the movie by Chris Pine, but first made famous by William Shatner) into the world. That, however, is about all the actress knows about her Trek alter ego.

“We don’t know if she’s human or alien. They didn’t really tell me,” says Henry. “I pretty much look like me, although I have freckles, which they covered with make-up. Then they drew dots on my face so that a computer could register those and play with my features [in post-production].

“The biggest challenge I had with playing this character was keeping my energy level up, because the scenes I’m in are very high-energy. Even though the set might be perfectly quiet, you had to imagine in the back of your mind that things were exploding around you and people could be dying. So you had to try your best to live that moment even thought it was deadly silent on-set.

“And the thing is, we were never given a complete script, but just the sides [dialogue] for the days that we were shooting, and every morning we had to sign them out and every evening sign them back in. So you never really knew where you were within the context of the story. That was a little bit confusing, but because J.J. Abrams is such a talented and gifted director, he’d sit with us and explain what was happening in a scene and what was going to happen right afterwards. That was a huge help as it at least gave you a sense of the timeline.” 

Sonita Henry. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

Sonita Henry. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

Looking back at Henry’s inaugural day on the Trek set, it was all-go for her. “We were shooting out at Long Beach Power Station, and there was myself, Jennifer Morrison, who plays Winona Kirk, KelvinYu, who plays one of the med techs, and another actor, whose name escapes me at the moment, I’m afraid, playing a second med tech,” says the actress. “We were basically running full-speed down a corridor, stunt people running in the opposite direction, with things exploding and sparks flying everywhere. I had so much [styling] product in my hair and all I could think was, ‘Oh, no, my first day working with J.J. Abrams and I’m going to go up in flames, I just know it,'” jokes Henry.

“We did a number of takes, and during one of them the timing was totally off. We left too late, so did the stunt people, and one of the biggest stuntmen ran full-speed right into Kelvin, who went flying into the air. Of course, there was that moment of, ‘Oh,crap,’ and everyone came running up to Kelvin to make sure that he was all right, which he was, thank goodness.

“What I remember most about the entire shoot was being nervous and wanting to do a good job. There was also the secrecy surrounding the film. We wore these over-sized trench coats and were driven around in golf carts covered with little tents so that people couldn’t see us. On the second day, the paparazzi managed to find us, which was amusing. Someone must have tipped them off because you just don’t turn up at Long Beach Power Station hoping to find actors filming a movie or whatever.”

The actress chuckles when talking about the actual “birthing” scene she shot with Jennifer Morrison. “I’m sure it’s not as uncomfortable as having to do a love scene, but it’s right up there,” muses Henry. “That was an interesting day and, I think, the same day that Leonard Nimoy [Spock] visited the set along with Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth, the Australian actor who plays Kirk’s father [George]. They hadn’t started shooting yet, but you could feel the energy and excitement about being involved in this amazing project.”

Having a mom who was a huge fan of old Hollywood movies, Henry was brought up watching Audrey Hepburn films until, according to the actress, she could quote them by the age of seven. Not surprisingly, Henry longed to one day work in the industry, but her dreams had to be postponed for a bit. “I grew up in a very small town in England, and you just didn’t do that [act] for a living,” she says. “You did community theater, and that’s fine on the weekends, but otherwise you had a ‘real’ job.

Sonita Henry. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

Sonita Henry. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

“So I put acting in the back of my mind and figured that I’d be an English teacher. Then, however, I went to college and graduated with a degree in journalism and media studies, which encompassed film, so I thought I’d try to get a job as a journalist. I moved to New York and interviewed with newspapers as well as [TV] networks, but one day I decided, ‘I really had fun doing The Fifth Element; I think I’m going to become an actor.’ Having made up my mind, I threw myself into acting school and began studying, and I’m still studying. You never stop. There’s always something to learn. So from English teacher to journalist to actor, and here I am today.”

It was while still in college that Henry made her professional debut playing the President’s Aide in the aforementioned 1997 Sci-Fi movie The Fifth Element. “I had done a tiny bit of modeling and really didn’t enjoy it,” notes the actress. “Then one day I found this ad in a magazine saying that [writer/director] Luc Besson was looking for people for his latest movie.

“I’d studied Luc Besson’s work in film class and thought he was a genius. Funnily enough, it was my Mom who sent my picture to him and I ended up getting a call from the casting director asking me to come in for an audition. So I went down to London, met with the casting director, and a couple of weeks later I was told that Luc Besson wanted to meet me. We met at Pinewood Studios and he offered me the role while I was there. Of course, that’s not how you typically get an acting job, but in my mind it was. I took two weeks off from college, shot the movie, then returned to school and finished getting my degree. I enjoyed doing the film, but didn’t think any more of it until I had moved to New York, and you know what happened next.”

Besides Star Trek, Henry is also working on a video game, the specifics of which she has to keep under wraps for the moment. “I would love to tell you all about it because it’s going to be so much fun,” she enthuses. “I get to do motion capture work, which I’ve never done before, where you wear the suit with all the weird dots on it. So my character is going to look like me, move like me and sound like me. It’s not anything to do with Star Trek, but it is Sci-Fi and a really well-known video game.”

Sonita Henry. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

Sonita Henry. Photo courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography

Although the actress is new to the Trek world, she has already received a warm response from the franchise’s many fans. “Before any details about my character were revealed, people were trying to guess who I was, and that was a neat thread to read on the [Internet] forums,” says the actress. “The overall response so far from fans about the movie seems to be 50/50. Some of them don’t think it should have been made, while others are really looking forward to it.

“So I’m sure it’s an interesting time for J.J. Abrams, but I know he’s trying to reach as broad an audience as possible. I’m hoping the fans will be happy and that they’ll be curious about my character, especially because of the fact that she’s the first one to hold, touch, whatever you want to call it, James T. Kirk. I just think that’s pretty cool in the arc of Captain Kirk and the Star Trek lore.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photographs courtesy of and copyright of JSquared Photography, so please no copying or unauthorized duplicating of any form. Thanks!