As an actor, when playing a recurring role in a TV series, the last thing you want is to receive a script and read that your character is among those trapped in a building that is collapsing on top of them. That, however, was the fate that befell Stargate Atlantis‘ Major Evan Lorne in the year four finale The Last Man. Luckily for him, he and Dr. Rodney McKay, together with Colonel John Sheppard and Ronon Dex, were discovered alive and well in the fifth season opener Search and Rescue, much to the relief of actor Kavan Smith a.k.a. Major Lorne.
“The Last Man is actually one of my favorite episodes and I was interested to see where the writers would end up taking that storyline. So when I read Search and Rescue I thought, ‘Wow, this [story] picks up from a nice place, and I don’t die in the rubble,'” recalled a smiling Smith on the Atlantis set last August. “As a minor character, when there’s a massive explosion and you don’t know who survived, you always think, ‘I’m cashing in my chips. I’d better start looking for a new job.’ Fortunately, that wasn’t true for Lorne, and he’s been carrying on ever since. I really enjoyed filming Search and Rescue, especially all the stuff down in the tunnel with David Hewlett [McKay]. Our wives are friends, so David and I will hang out together, and any time we work with one another it’s easy and fun. I get a kick out of the whole love/hate thing with the McKay character. He has that type of relationship with most of the characters on the show, but I like that Lorne gets to explore the more humorous side of him. So that episode was a treat for me.
In the aforementioned The Last Man, Smith relished the opportunity to share the stage once again with Hewlett. Both actors spent some time behind prosthetics as a portion of the story takes place in an alternate timeline where their characters have aged a number of years.
“Everybody was saying that David looked like Richard Nixon and I looked like Ronald Reagan,” chuckles the actor. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it seemed to be the running commentary on that. Doing prosthetics is always sort of tough; I’m not claustrophobic, but even if you’re slightly claustrophobic it can be quite an ordeal.
“Acting with the latex is challenging in that your face doesn’t move as much,” continues Smith. “You’re not as able to manipulate your facial muscles, but what it does, though, is really slide you into the character. You look in the mirror and you’re like, ‘I am old, there’s no question about that. I’m a 65-year-old man. That’s what they [the viewers] are going to see and I don’t have to act that way because I look it.’ I feel bad for some of the guys on Atlantis who do the full prosthetic masks when playing Wraith or other aliens. It’s four hours in make-up in the morning and then a couple of hours at night to get it all off. When you have a break you can’t really sleep because you can’t put your face down, put weight on it or things like that.
“So performing behind a mask is fun because you really look like the character, but if you have to do it all the time I think it would be somewhat of a drag. I have friends as well as acquaintances who have chosen to leave a show after a few seasons because the prosthetics became so uncomfortable. I had a blast, though, with The Last Man, I thought it was great for McKay to say, ‘I just needed one friend,’ and for Lorne to be that one friend felt good.”
Regular viewers of Atlantis as well as Stargate SG-1 know that Major Lorne first appeared in the season seven SG-1 story Enemy Mine. Two years later he made his Atlantis debut in Runner. The character has since become more involved in the action on that series and, in Smith’s eyes, he feels Lorne has grown more than ever this fifth season.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that he has been featured more in season five, but Lorne seems to have greater authority now,” muses the actor. “He has his own SG team, which he’s had for a while, and even though Sheppard [Joe Flanigan] is his superior officer, he appears to be running his own show in a way. I don’t feel that Lorne is as subservient any more. He’s proven himself and is accepted as a leader on Atlantis.
“So I’ve been exploring that avenue a bit more with my performance and making Lorne less of Sheppard’s right hand man, even thought that’s technically what he is, and more a leader among his own little group. That just seems to be the way that the writers have gone, which I’m pleased about. They’ve allowed him to grow in the military vein of what he’s doing. Oftentimes a character just plateaus. You’re Lt. Jones, or whoever, for the run of a show. So while Lorne may not always be visible to audience, I get a sense that his career is moving forward, and I truly appreciate that.”
On this particular August day, Smith is in the middle of production on the fifth season Atlantis episode Infection, in which all hell breaks loose on-board a Wraith hive ship. “Lorne is actually very much involved in this story, and he and Sheppard are together for a big part of the episode,” he notes. “That’s been a treat because Joe Flanigan has such a dry sense of humor and I love people who can make me laugh.
“Andy Mikita is directing Infection and he’s one of my favorite directors. This story has plenty of gunfire, loads of special effects and fights with the Wraith guards. We finally get to see a bit more of what they look like instead of just their masks and outfits. Best of all because they’re so confident on Atlantis on what they do, they can kind of roll with things from day to day. For instance, if an actor has an idea that they want to try, there’s a little give and take. Sometimes you get producers or writers who get too caught up in what they’re doing and there’s a disassociation or disconnect that takes place. That hasn’t happened on this show, and that makes coming to work every day a lot more enjoyable.”
Besides Atlantis, the actor’s other recent credits include guest-spots in such TV series as Supernatural, The Guard and Sanctuary as well as the role of Brett in the TV movie Nightmare at the End of the Hall. He has also carved out a niche for himself narrating documentaries. “Sometimes in this business, as in most, you tend to forget what’s going on in the world,” says Smith. “Coming from an actor this is probably going to sound a bit cheesy, but it feels good when you get to narrate a documentary about something that you care about.
“I did one called Uganda Rising, which is all about the genocide and constant civil strife in that part of the world, and as you’re doing it, you think, ‘I’d do this for free. It’s that important.’ You look at the rest of your career and, granted, people like the shows and films, at least hopefully, which is terrific, but you haven’t necessarily made the world a better place, do you know what I mean? I love the creative process of what I do; I love to play and imagine, but I also have things I strongly believe in, and as you get older those tend to take on a greater purpose. So it’s really gratifying when you get to do a documentary and put something out there that gets people thinking about a subject that needs to be thought about.”
Away from work, Smith keeps busy with his most important role, that of father to his son, who turns two years old this coming summer. “Having a child has given me much more perspective as a performer, and as a result I don’t feel the same pressures,” he says. “I don’t feel as nervous, and I don’t get worked up for auditions or on-set. Nothing really fazes me because I know at the end of the day it’s just a job. I do the best I can, but then I go home and I have a good life. That’s not always the case in this world, so I’m very grateful for that, and my little boy. People said to me, ‘You have no idea how much work it [having a child] is, and how much you’re going to love that little person.’ As cliche as it sounds, they were right,” he says proudly.
As noted above, photos by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!