Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Rodney McKay’

Q & A With Stargate Atlantis’ Paul McGillion

April 28, 2010

Paul McGillion as Dr. Carson Beckett on Stargate Atlantis. Photo copyright of the Syfy Channel

Last month, actor Paul McGillion (Stargate Atlantis‘ Dr. Carson Beckett) very kindly agreed to answer questions from the readers of SciFiAndTvTalk. We got through as many as we could, so without further delay, here are Paul’s answers. Enjoy, and thank you to everyone who sent in a question!

If Stargate Atlantis were to return, would you be in the series? (from Mischa Mipa)

PAUL McGILLION – Yes, but because Jason Momoa is now Conan the Barbarian, they’ve asked me to play Ronon. Seriously, I’d love to be part of Atlantis if they decide to come back, but it would be all up to the producers, though, and, of course, the fans.

When you look back on Stargate Atlantis, what moments/memories will always stay with you about your experiences on this wonderful show? (from Deb)

P McG – Tons of moments; the pilot, especially. Just stepping onto the Atlantis stage on the first day of filming had a real special feeling to it. One of the first people I ran into was Robert Patrick (Colonel Marshall Sumner), and I thought, “This is going to be really cool.” I was excited and I think everyone had that same sense of enthusiasm about the show and the possibility of it running for a long time, which it did.

So that was a great memory, and then just all my friends that I met through the show, David Hewlett (Dr. Rodney McKay), Joe Flanigan (Colonel John Sheppard), Jason Momoa (Ronon Dex), Torri Higginson (Dr. Elizabeth Weir) and Rachel Luttrell (Teyla), was great. We had so many laughs, it was really fun. And then there are moments that you can’t erase from your memory, one being a scene in the episode Duet where David Hewlett kissed me. I would consider that more of a nightmare than a memory – a recurring nightmare.

Honestly, there are just so many different things that we had the opportunity to do on the show. I always equate it to playing cowboys and Indians in space, and with each new script, the cast felt, “OK, what are we doing this week? Oh, I’m wearing a hazmat suit. Oh, this character is drinking a potion that makes everyone fall in love with him,’ etc.  Atlantis is just a fun show that’s full of escapism and I think that’s why fans like Stargate; it gives them an hour to escape into another world and I just think it’s fantastic.

Is there a chance you will work on other projects with some of your co-stars from Stargate Atlantis? (from Deb)

P McG – I certainly hope so. I’ve had the pleasure of working with David Hewlett on A Dog’s Breakfast, which was great. Again, I think they’re all really fine actors and hopefully our paths will cross again, if not on the Atlantis movie, maybe another TV series or film. It’s a pretty small world so I’m sure that will happen at some point in time and I look forward to it.

What is your favorite episode of Stargate Atlantis? (from Steven)

P McG – That’s a tough one. I would have to say that for me, personally, it’s the first season’s Poisoning the Well just because I think it’s the episode that kind of solidified Beckett as a regular in the series. It was a very meaty Carson story and almost a test of sorts for the character to see if he could handle that much, and thankfully it worked out really well and I was very happy with that episode. It was quite touching and it showed a lot of humanity as well as a great deal of the humor with Beckett as far as him initially going through the wormhole and walking through the tunnels on the planet and all the dialogue that went along with that. A lot of the comedic aspects of Beckett came out. And then you see the humanity of the character, especially later on when Perna (Allison Hossack) dies in his arms. So I think it was a really beautiful episode.

First of all, thank you so much for your work on Stargate Atlantis. Your character was what made it the most worthwhile to watch. I hope you will have the chance to play Beckett at least one more time in an Atlantis movie if/when it is green-lit. My question for you is, has playing Dr. Beckett affected your own personality/views as an individual? (from Rebecca S.)

P McG – Hi, Rebecca. Well, I was fortunate enough in that I was born in Scotland, so that really helped when I decided to come in and do a Scottish accent for Beckett. So I think when they chose me to play the part, they chose me with a Scottish accent, whereas a lot of other actors came in with different types of accents. But I just stuck to my guns and wanted to play him Scottish.

As an actor, you put a little piece of yourself in every role, and I think there are aspects of Beckett that I carry in my own life as well. He’s a very interesting character and I think the show’s writers gave him a number of opportunities to reveal a lot of different layers. So like I said, every character has a little bit of you in it. I’d like to hope so, anyway.

What was the most difficult Atlantis episode you did? (from Rebecca S.)

P McG – Duet, for obvious reasons, including those I previously mentioned.

Will you be doing any more Stargate Atlantis audio books? Those are just fantastic and keep the show alive for me. (from Wraithfodder)

P McG – Somebody actually mentioned the possibility of another one coming through and I’m certainly open to it. So if they were to ask me I’d be willing to do another one; they’re a lot of fun to record.

I’ve enjoyed your guest-starring role on Sanctuary; do you think it will be an ongoing thing? (from Qzee)

P McG – Well, Qzee, I appear in the first two episodes of Sanctuary‘s third season, which I just finished shooting a couple of weeks ago (mid-April), so we’ll see where it goes from there.

What is the weirdest Sci-Fi prop you’ve had to work with? (from Michelle)

P McG – The oddest Sci-Fi prop would be the Ancients drone chair in the first couple of seasons of Atlantis. The place you put your hands is made of a material similar to silicone and when you touch the silicone it reminds you of (…). All the crew would come by and put their hands on it all the time and squeeze it, and then all of a sudden in the last couple of seasons it was (changed to) hard plastic. I don’t know why they took it away, though, cheeky buggers!

You were great in A Dog’s Breakfast. Now that that’s out of the way, what was your favorite Carson Beckett moment on SGA, and your favorite scene to shoot? (from RodneyisGodney)

P McG – Thanks Rodney Is Godney for your comments about A Dog’s Breakfast. As far as favorite Carson Beckett moments, that’s another tough one because there are so many of them. It would probably have to be a McKay/Beckett moment. For example, in The Outsiders, David and I had a lot of fun trying to get into the cockpit of the Wraith dart, and McKay is telling Beckett that they both can’t squeeze into it. That was pretty funny and we were all laughing about that.

There’s another scene where Joe Flanigan punches my character in the arm and says “Buck up, Carson.” That was a really funny Carson moment, I thought. And then there’s the one where David Hewlett and I are standing outside on one of the Atlantis balconies at the end of Sunday and McKay is saying goodbye to Beckett. That was one of the saddest Carson moments.

What’s your favorite brand/flavor of chocolate? (from scaperfan)

P McG – Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.

If we had seen the inside of Carson’s room, what kind of decorations would he have had? (from scaperfan)

P McG – At one point we did see a glimpse of his quarters, but if it were up to me I’d have had a disco ball, a round bed with lots of silk sheets for the ladies, and a Martini bar. Hmm…I wish I had that life.

What action sequence would you have liked to have seen Carson in? (from scaperfan)

P McG – Our stunt coordinator, James “Bam Bam” Bamford, and I had always talked about trying to get Carson to give somebody a headbutt, or a “Glaswegian kiss” as they call it, but we never were able to fit that in. That would have been fun to do on the show. Bam Bam tried a couple of times, but the producers didn’t go for it.

Who’s your favorite superhero? (from zoewillsavetheworld)

P McG – I liked the Mighty Thor when I was a kid, and I’ve always had a thing for Wonder Woman, too!

Looking back at the SGA episodes, I noticed that you and Rachel Luttrell have great onscreen chemistry. Do you think the writers should have written in a little Beckett/Teyla romance? It definitely would have made for some deeply emotional and beautiful scenes (from Alexandria)

P McG – Thank you, Alexandria. Rachel Luttrell is just a sweetheart and a great actress and it would have been terrific to have more with Teyla and Beckett. Let’s face it, Carson needed some more lovin’.

You were awesome in A Dog’s Breakfast. The movie was absolutely hilarious. Any chance you’ll be working again with David Hewlett in the future? (from Alexandria)

P McG – David always has projects going on, so if he would like me to partake, that would be wonderful. I had a blast doing A Dog’s Breakfast and he mentioned a sequel at one point in time, and if that were to happen, it would be fun.

Last but not least, what’s your favorite movie of all time? You’re absolutely brilliant and incredibly amazing. I hope you come back to Australia sometime soon; I missed you the last time. (from Alexandria)

P McG – Thank you again, Alexandria. That’s really sweet of you and I would love to come back to Australia any time. I always have a great time there. Favorite movie of all-time, that’s tough. I’ll give you three – I love The King of Comedy, which is a dark comedy with Robert DeNiro, Jerry Lewis and Sandra Bernhard. I love The Indian Runner, which Sean Penn wrote and directed, with Viggo Mortensen, David Morse, Dennis Hopper and Patricia Arquette. And comedy-wise I love Stripes.

If you had the chance to play any movie or TV character, which would it be? (from Alena)

P McG – Bond…Pauly Bond.

You were named after Paul McCartney, so could you list five of your favorite Beatles tracks. I’m a huge fan of theirs, and yours, of course, so I would love to hear your answer to this one. (from Julia)

P McG – “Yesterday,” “Hey Jude,” “Come Together,” “Let It Be” and “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

What are your favorite Science Fiction books? (from Mara)

P McG – The Lord of the Rings books.

If you could be a superhero, which would it be? (from Zoe)

P McG – I think The Flash would be cool.

How did you feel when you found out that there would be no sixth season of Stargate Atlantis? (from Michael)

P McG – For me, having been killed off in the show and then brought back in the fifth season on a recurring basis, I was surprised to be honest. I thought the show would have gone a sixth year. I think a lot of people did and I think many of them were disappointed. But at the same time I thought, you know, in this day and age, to do 100 episodes of a television series is a huge achievement, so I think everyone should be proud of what they accomplished with the program. It was great to be a part of; it would have been nice to have seen another season, but at the same time everything happens for a reason.

First off, I wanted to tell you that I adore Carson Beckett; thank you for your wonderful performances and giving him so much heart. I also love your work in the very funny A Dog’s Breakfast, and I’m proud to be a member of your Thunk Thread on Gateworld. I’ve tried to acquire See Grace Fly as I’m very keen to see it, but the contact at the distribution company on the website said that they’re not sure they’ll be making any more copies. Do you have any say or influence in getting more DVDs made? (from dolfyn)

P McG – Thank you my lovely thunker from Down Under. I appreciate your nice comments about Carson and my characters in A Dog’s Breakfast. As far as See Grace Fly goes, it’s interesting that you mention this because right now we’re re-working the cut of the movie, so I would hopefully think within the next six months we should have a much higher-quality version available on DVD. We weren’t happy with the way the transfer-to-DVD happened, so we’re now in the process of redoing it and will be coming out with a new, modified version. Once we figure that out and the DVD is available, I’ll post the information on my website.

Will you be coming back to Australia (specifically Melbourne) for a convention any time soon? (from dolfyn)

P McG – I would love to. I had a great time in Melbourne; I adored the people and the city. It was just fantastic. So hopefully that will happen sooner than later, and rumor has it that it might.

Have you learned to embrace technology yet? (from dolfyn)

P McG – Ask Steve Eramo that because he’s the one who’s transcribing these answers for you guys (blushes Steve).

Having played a doctor and filmed operating scenes, can you handle seeing real medical procedures on TV, or do you get squeamish? (from dolfyn)

P McG – Definitely squeamish – I turn the channel immediately.

I’m the biggest fan of both Dr. Beckett and Mr. McGillion. I could never get enough of your concerned yet caring look, spiced with the charming Scottish accent. I sincerely wished for Beckett to somehow come back to his rightful post after “Sunday.” I have one simple question – why was Dr. Beckett written out of the series? (from Michael)

P McG – Thank you kindly for your great compliments, Michael. That, my friend, is a question for the producers, but the great part is Beckett came back, and for me as an actor it was great to reprise the role.

Along with answering your questions, Paul also took some time out to talk about some of the recent and upcoming projects he has been busy working on.

P McG – I just finished filming Fruition, the second to last episode of V‘s first season. I play a character named Dr. Lawrence Parker, a telemetry expert who gets himself into a sticky situation so to speak. So we’ll see where it goes from there. Most of my scenes were with Elizabeth Mitchell (Erica Evans), who is fantastic. It was a great set to work on with a terrific crew as well as cast. Prior to that, I returned to Sanctuary, and my character of Terrence Wexford comes back and opens up the first two episodes of the third season. He’s especially prevalent in the second episode, and some very dramatic stuff happens onboard the ship. The lizard is back and in full force and he’s got a lot of attitude. Terrence isn’t a very nice man and he’s got his problems. I think the word is “power-hungry.”

So it was great to be back and working with Amanda Tapping (Dr. Helen Magnus) and (executive producer) Martin Wood, who directed the episode. A lot of familiar faces from Stargate work on the show, too, so it was a real blast to be back and reprise my Wexford character. Again, we’ll see where it goes from there.

Prior to that I had a guest-starring role in a new Canadian series with Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica) called Shattered and I played a really quirky and interesting character named Victor Hugo. About the only thing I can say is he turns out to be a very bad man. I also just finished a short film called A Fine Young Man that we’re going to submit to the Toronto Film Festival. It’s directed by an up-and-coming director named Kevin Funk and co-starring a very good friend of mine, Wes Salter (Supernatural), along with Ali Liebert (Harper’s Island) and Cole Humphries. It’s a period piece circa 1962 and a bit of a political thriller.

I did an independent film as well called Hit and Strum that we’re hoping to get into the festival circuit, too. I’m a co-star in that alongside Kurt Cowat and Michelle Harrison. And I also shot another movie, a thriller called Confined in which I co-starred with Emma Caulfield (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica) and David James Elliot (JAG), and that will be coming out shortly. So it’s been a busy few months for me, which I’m really happy about. And as always, just a note to everyone who reads this blog, from my lips to you guys, Steve Eramo is the man.

Thank you again, Paul! Make sure to tune in to ABC on Tuesday, May 11th @ 10:00 p.m. EST/PST for V’s “Fruition.”

As noted above, photo copyright of the Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

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Jewel Staite To Guest-Star On Warehouse 13

March 5, 2010

Stargate Atlantis' Jewel Staite stops by Warehouse 13. Photo copyright of the Syfy Channel

FANS of Firefly and the feature film Serenity as well as Stargate Atlantis can look forward to seeing Jewel Staite in an upcoming season two episode of the Syfy Channel’s hit series Warehouse 13. In a Twitter post earlier this week, the actress, who played Kaylee Frye on Firefly/Serenity and Dr. Jennifer Keller on Atlantis, revealed, “Got offered a lovely role on Warehouse 13. Wish I could tell you more.  All I can say is, you Browncoats are gonna freak.” 

In a related “tweet,” Staite also announced that her husband, Matthew Kevin Anderson, has booked a role in an upcoming Syfy Channel movie currently shooting in Bulgaria and being directed by the actress’s former Atlantis co-star David Hewlett (Dr. Rodney McKay). The actress said, “Matty’s going to Bulgaria to work on a movie directed by some guy named David Hewlett. Hope there’s good craft service, or God help them all.” 

As noted above, photo copyright of the Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Stargate Atlantis’ David Hewlett – The Deconstructed Man

January 19, 2010

Stargate Atlantis' Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett). Photo copyright of the Syfy Channel

Stargate Atlantis‘ swan song fifth season proved to be one heck of a ride for the show’s resident genius, Dr. Rodney McKay. Having been buried alive together with some of his colleagues at the end of season four, he and his teammates were eventually found alive in Search and Rescue. Soon after in The Shrine, McKay contracted a deadly virus that temporarily robbed him of his intellect as well as memories and almost killed him, while in Tracker, the scientist wound up off-world with Ronon and trying to track down a Runner who was hellbent on eluding them. By mid-season, McKay was playing host to Stargate SG-1‘s Dr. Daniel Jackson, who visited Atlantis in the two-part First Contact and The Lost Tribe. McKay was not exactly thrilled with Jackson’s arrival, as his alter ego, actor David Hewlett, explains. 

“The dynamic between Daniel [Michael Shanks] and McKay is not a particularly friendly one,” says Hewlett. “He shows up on Atlantis to do some more research, and my character is not happy because McKay then gets stuck taking him around the city while dismissing Daniel’s theories about various things and then ending being horribly wrong on many occasions. The two of them eventually get pulled off to another planet where they meet an armor-clad race, and then get to become a bit of an armor-clad race themselves. 

“It was terrific to have Shanks on the show,” continues the actor, ‘and fun, too, as I got to sort of pick his brain because he did this [Stargate] for so long. As for our scenes together, well, we both talk incredibly fast, and I’m not used to lines being picked up so quickly and thrown back at me in such a way, because Michael adds in these cool little character-related things. The guy is amazing. I don’t know how he does it, and not only that, but he gets younger every time I see him. Actually, the whole SG-1 cast is on some kind of reverse aging process, whereas I’m on an advanced aging process. By the time we finish this conversation I’ll have aged 10 years,” he jokes. 

Not doing too good in "Search and Rescue." Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

“As I mentioned, Michael and I ended up in those armor-clad suits for a period of time. All I can say is, I now have a new respect for those people at Comic-Con who dress up as Storm Troopers [from Star Wars]; I don’t know how they stand it because you sweat buckets in an outfit like that. That’s what happened to me in that spacesuit. Of course, Michael glowed and was in a really good mood,” teases Hewlett. “Again, we had a ball. There’s some fantastic back and forth banter when Daniel and McKay get together, if I do say so myself. You’ve got that great sense of McKay being up against someone who’s as smart as he is and knows as much as he does, so there’s a lot of attitude being exchanged.” 

At the start of Atlantis‘ fourth year, Rodney McKay thought for sure he was next in line to take over command of Atlantis after the loss of Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson) to the Replicators. His ego took quite a beating when, in fact, Colonel Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) got the job. In the fifth season, he and the rest of the base personnel had to get used to yet another change in leadership when International Oversight Authority (IOA) member Richard Woolsey (Robert Picardo) replaced Carter. In Hewlett’s eyes, his character saw a number of similarities between himself and Woolsey. 

“Woolsey is a bureaucrat in the same way that McKay took a professional type of approach to the entire Stargate program,” says the actor. “Woolsey’s background is government, diplomacy, the IOA, etc., whereas McKay’s is very much academic. So in a way, Woolsey has had similar growing pains to those that my character initially had. First of all, he’s learning to like these people on Atlantis, which he never expected. Woolsey is also getting his nose out of books and regulations and into the real world. So it’s neat to watch him go through that, and, again, because McKay has been through it as well, he’s more disdainful of it than, perhaps, others are. I think you tend to jump on people for making the same mistakes as you and having the same weaknesses as you. McKay is like, ‘My God, doesn’t Woolsey realize that you can’t live your life with your nose in books.’ Of course, it’s taken my character five years to figure that out, which is rather amusing. 

Rodney McKay, helping to save the universe - again! Photo copyright of the Syfy Channel

“One of the things I really like about Atlantis and Stargate as a whole is that sense of humor. Sci-Fi can be incredibly dry and dark, and what we have here, which really helps, is that underlying sense of humor. There’s almost, not a winking at the camera, but a realistic humorous response to certain situations. I think there was a lot of that on our show, and Robert Picardo was the ideal person to bring that out. For example, our conference room scenes became hilarious because there was so much going on. I mean, Joe Flanigan [Colonel John Sheppard] had his sense of humor, I had my uptight McKay stuff, and Robert added a whole other level to it. As a result, the directors had to occasionally rein us in a bit so that it didn’t turn into an all-out comedy, like Scrubs in Space,” laughs Hewlett. “So it was definitely a pleasure to have Robert around, and he enjoyed himself, too. As new people came onto the show you got a new lease on your performance because you got caught up in their own excitement about the work.” 

After the disastrous end to his budding relationship with Katie Brown (Brenda James) in season four’s Quarantine, Dr. McKay was decidedly cautious when it came to further romantic entanglements. Lucky for him, he chose to take another chance at love and, in the fifth season, became involved with Dr. Jennifer Keller (Jewel Staite). They go on their first official date in the season five episode Brain Storm, but, naturally, things do not go quite as planned. 

“Prior to this, McKay and Jennifer had had a beer together, but this is the first time they go somewhere as a couple,” says Hewlett. “My character has to attend a presentation with all these famous astrophysicists who are basically his peers and did their doctorates at the same time as he did. Not surprisingly, McKay gets as prickly as he gets. Meanwhile, poor Keller has shown up for some champagne and a couple of little sandwiches, and all hell breaks loose. The experiment that is being shown goes horribly wrong and my character has to save the day. I think it’s a great payoff to a number of things that had already been established on the series, and to top it off, Jewel and I got to do some actual romantic stuff, which was fun. 

Trying to put on a brave face. Photo copyright of the Syfy Channel

“We had a great guest-cast in Brain Storm, which included Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was an advisor to God knows how many presidents. Not only is he a genius, but he’s hilarious, too. He and Bill Nye, the Science Guy, who’s in this episode as well, are friends and Bill is just as funny. Their banter was amazing. Nye is an improv master, except you actually learn something when he speaks. so it was like a dream come true for a nerd like me. We also had Dave Foley [Malcolm Tunney], who’s a super-nerd himself. He’s a Sci-Fi fan and knows a lot about this sort of stuff. So it was this amazing combination of some of the world’s smartest people all in the same room. As a result, I didn’t say much. I tended to keep pretty quiet and retiring in-between scenes.” 

Besides The Shrine and Brain Storm, another season five Atlantis story that the actor especially enjoyed shooting is Remnants, in which McKay and Dr. Zelenka (David Nykl) discover an alien device that uses  an unusual method to communicate with select members of the Atlantis team. 

“This is kind of a creepy episode and one that really throws people off,” says Hewlett. “David Nykl and I had a number of scenes together, and it was neat because we were playing a very different type of dynamic between Zelenka and McKay. My big joke was that Robert Picardo’s character got to see this beautiful Australian woman as his vision, while McKay got Zelenka. I was like, ‘Can he [David Nykl] at least wear some nice lip gloss or something else to sexy his character up a bit?'” says the actor with a laugh. 

McKay senses something is not quite right here. Photo copyright of the Syfy Channel

“We had fun messing with the usual dynamic of McKay’s and Zelenka’s relationship, and, of course, there was lots of bantering back and forth with the two of them. When in doubt, McKay just talks, as does Hewlett in a lot of cases. It’s that horrible mix between the two, otherwise known as McKaylett.” 

While filming season five of Atlantis, the cast and crew were told that the show would, unfortunately, not be returning for a sixth year. In the show’s finale, Enemy at the Gate, our heroes fly the entire city of Atlantis to Earth to help defend the planet against an attack by a rogue Wraith hive ship. While this was the last episode to air, it was not, in fact, the last one to be shot. That distinction goes to Vegas, an alternate universe story involving a series of Wraith killings in the city that never sleeps. 

“I’m generally not a fan of alternate reality stories because they can easily feel like a cop-out, but I really wanted Vegas to be our final episode,” notes Hewlett. “We knew that Atlantis was cancelled and I thought it would be a daring and original way to end the series. Of course, they [the producers/writers] would have had to figure out how to get Teyla [Rachel Luttrell] and Ronon [Jason Momoa] into the story. They could have had the role that I wanted – exotic dancer at a casino. That was my first suggestion for McKay, partly just so I could actually go to Las Vegas, but also to showcase my pole dancing talents,” chuckles the actor. 

Things were not looking too good for poor Rodney in "The Shrine." Photo copyright of the Syfy Channel

It was way back in season five of Stargate SG-1 that Dr. Rodney McKay first arrived on the scene in the episode 48 Hours. Little did anyone, let alone Hewlett, know that he along with the fans would become better acquainted with the character over the next eight years. 

“That was a lot of hair ago on SG-1. I don’t know if I actually lost the hair or if I’ve just expanded so that it looks like I’ve got less hair,” jokes the actor. “It’s weird because McKay seems like a different guy now. I think what happened in Atlantis is that we began to see the cracks in the character’s armor. He came into SG-1, I feel, fully protected. McKay had sort of inch-thick armor around him, which made him incredibly prickly from the very beginning. And it’s not so much that he warmed on Atlantis, but rather he cracked a bit. 

“I’ve always said that the neat thing about McKay is that he’s unlike the other characters. You’re learning about them as you go along, whereas with my character it’s as if you’re deconstructing him. We already knew what McKay was like, and later on we got figure out why he’s like that. After five seasons, we’d deconstructed him enough to roughly know what his deep dark secrets are, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there are a few more,” laughs Hewlett. “So as a character he did evolve. McKay’s own personality finally began to shine though, which was a real joy for me to play.” 

Steve Eramo 

As noted above, all photos copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Stargate Atlantis’ Jewel Staite – Doctor’s Orders

November 22, 2009

Jewel Staite as Dr. Jennifer Keller on Stargate Atlantis. Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

No matter what the job, it is never easy on someone when he or she comes in to fill the void left by a departed colleague. That was certainly true for Dr. Jennifer Keller when she, much to her surprise, was promoted to Atlantis’ chief medical officer after Dr. Carson Beckett unexpectedly died while saving a patient’s life. It was a position that she neither wanted nor felt especially qualified for, but Dr. Elizabeth Weir saw potential in Keller, and she was not mistaken. The physician has since proven to herself and her colleagues that she is more than up to the task at hand. Naturally, it took time for Keller to settle into her new role in the Pegasus Galaxy, and the same is true for the actress who plays her, Stargate Atlantis‘ Jewel Staite.

“When I first started on the show [in season three’s First Strike], I didn’t have a clear understanding of who Keller was; I don’t think anyone did,” recalls Staite. “It was more or less a case of, ‘OK, here’s the part, we begin shooting tomorrow.’ So I just started from the ground up insofar as building a character. A lot of it was about taking the material for what it was and going with that, but it was always important for me to play Keller as real as possible. She’s a city girl in this bizarre world, and she had to get used to it in a hurry. My character also felt that she had to prove herself because she knew she was replacing someone who had the whole thing under his belt. She doesn’t quite have that yet. Keller is still a little insecure, and what I liked is that they [the show’s producers] weren’t afraid to play that with her. Not everybody has to be a hero, and I liked that Keller wasn’t. She was a normal girl stuck in a place she didn’t understand.

“As the seasons passed and time went on, Keller definitely became more confident and more capable of dealing with these crazy, dire and dear situations. She gained some new skills in season five and became more aware of as well as felt more comfortable in her surroundings. At the same time, she’s still vulnerable and isn’t a heroic type of girl. When necessary, Keller steps up to the plate, but that’s not her first choice. She would much rather have someone there to protect her, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I think Keller is still a strong female, but she’s not going to be the person who fights the Wraith if she doesnt absolutely have to, and that’s OK.”

Not the most comfortable of positions for poor Dr. Keller in "The Seed." Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

Jennifer Keller had no choice but to put on a brave face early on at the start of Atlantis‘ fifth season when, in The Seed, an alien pathogen is found in her blood and Wraith tendrils begin growing out of her torso. “My initial reaction to that script was, ‘What did I do? Why are they [the producers] so angry with me?'” jokes Staite. “I was nervous, I won’t lie. It’s generally a thing here on-set about being in prosthetics – no one really likes it. It’s usually pretty uncomfortable and requires lots of early calls and long days, but they assured me that they were going to do it in such a way that it would be comfortable for me.

“Basically, it was me lying in bed and underneath a cage-like contraption,” continues the actress. “They would open the cage, I’d slip inside, they would then close the cage and put a Wraith tentacle ‘blanket’ over the top. So it wasn’t too bad to get into and out of, but then I had these face pieces that were actually part of the blanket that they would pull up and glue to my neck. Once those were on, I was there for the day, and my hands were underneath the cage, so it was this weird way of working because there was nowhere I could go. I would watch the crew running around setting up the cameras, lighting, etc., and then we could shoot a scene. As soon as we cut, they’d be busy setting up the next shot, and I just laid there watching them go off in a flurry. It was a way of observing the [filming] process that I’d never really experienced before on this show.

“Needles to say I didn’t drink a lot of fluids on the job that week because going to the bathroom was a challenge. I mean, I could do it, but it took about 15 minutes to get out of the cage, so I thought, ‘You know what, I’m just going to lay off the water and hope for the best,’ and it became very Zen-like. Of course, poor Dr. Keller was completely powerless, alone and frightened, you know? As for me, I was just so relaxed that I would doze off and catch myself starting to fall asleep in-between takes,” she chuckles. “So it was an interesting week for sure.”

Dr. Keller is ready for action! Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

Among the more challenging season five Atlantis episodes for Staite to have worked on is Tracker, in which Dr. Keller is kidnapped by a Runner named Kiryk (Mike Dopud) while off-world on an errand of mercy with Dr. McKay (David Hewlett) and Ronon (Jason Momoa). “This was another of those episodes written by [executive producer] Carl Binder, and I don’t know what the deal is, but he enjoys having Keller tied up and dragged through the woods,” jokes the actress. “No, seriously, I worked with an excellent guest-star, Mike Dopud. He’s a stuntman, but he’s an amazing actor as well and a terrific person to be around. It was just me and Mike in the woods for two weeks. Keller does a major switch in this episode and she does something that surprises the viewer.

“One of the most memorable season five episodes for me is The Shrine. It’s beautifully written, very touching and definitely different from the other stories I’ve done. It’s a team episode that shows the humanity in all the characters as opposed to giant space battles and that kind of stuff. The story focuses on who these people are and is a huge tear-jerker. When I read the script, I cried. It was great for all of us and allowed us to really stretch ourselves that little bit more as actors.”

In year four’s Quarantine, Atlantis goes into lockdown as a result of a computer glitch and traps our heroes in various parts of the city. Ronon and Dr. Keller end up in the infirmary and, for a moment, it looks as if there might be a bit of romance in the air. However, it is the geeky and egotistical Rodney McKay that ultimately gets the girl, which, in Staite’s eyes, makes sense.

Dr. Keller attempts to save Dr. McKay's (David Hewlett) life in "The Shrine." Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

“I think it was the most logical outcome,” she notes. “McKay and Keller started out as friends and she seems to mellow him out a lot and tolerates him much better than the other characters. I think, too, that my character finds his whining, crankiness and all that stuff funny, and Jennifer is charmed by Rodney and vice versa. They’re both scaredy cats and want more than anything to be in a safe spot. The two of them are also slightly dorky, but incredibly smart as well and, again, feel like they constantly have to prove themselves.

“So they have a number of things in common, and in season five their relationship developed into something stronger. David and I have the same sense of humor and way of working. So it’s easy to be around him and I think the show’s writers saw that and thought, ‘OK,’ and decided to go that [romantic] route with the two of them, which I was super happy about.”

Long before joining the Atlantis cast, Staite had acquired plenty of Sci-Fi/Fantasy experience playing such TV roles as Catalina in Space Cases and Kaylee Frye in Firefly. The actress’ fans will also know that prior to being cast as Dr. Keller, she booked the part of a young female Wraith named Ellia in the second season Atlantis episode Instinct. She had no idea that this job would lead to a regular spot on the series.

Staite as Ellia in "Instinct." Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

“I thought the [Instinct] character was so special and really wanted to do it,” says Staite. “[Director/producer] Andy Mikita and the guys tell me that when I walked into the audition room they were like, ‘That’s Kaylee from Firefly. What’s she doing here?’ It wasn’t anything unusual for me, though. I’m more than willing to audition to prove what I can, hopefully, do in a role.

“Luckily they gave me the job and I loved working on the series. I told them that I’d be happy to come back and they said, ‘We won’t forget you. One day we’ll write something new for you.’ Lo and behold, a year later they offered me a fulltime role on the show, no prosthetics required – at least for the first episode. I was like, ‘That sounds great.’ So it just kind of fell into my lap and I couldn’t have been happier,” smiles the actress.

Last fall, the Atlantis cast and crew wrapped production on what became the show’s fifth and final season. The script for a made-for-DVD movie has been written, but filming dates are still pending. In the meantime, Staite can be seen in the upcoming Syfy Channel movie Mothman, and is also slated to begin work on a horror film, P5ych. From out-of-this-world roles to more down-to-Earth ones, the actress enjoys nothing more than creating gaps between each character that she plays.

Dr. Keller and Dr. McKay share an especially tense moment. Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

“For me, it’s really important to do projects that are as different as can be from the last one I did,” she says. “And while sometimes they may be in the same genre, it’s still important to have the character challenge me and to show other aspects of what I can do as an actress. When I succeed in doing that, that’s what makes this job especially rewarding.

“It’s nice to have viewers watch me in a show and say, ‘I love what you’re doing.’ It was hard for me when I first started Atlantis; I knew what was going to happen, and it did. So whenever I hear people say positive things about Keller it makes me feel good because she’s a part of me and I love her a great deal and protect her very much.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Eureka’s Jaime Ray Newman – New Girl In Town

September 13, 2009
Dr. Tess Fontana (Jaime Ray Newman) and Sheriff Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) have an unconventional introduction to one another in the Eureka episode "Insane In The P-Brane." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Dr. Tess Fontana (Jaime Ray Newman) and Sheriff Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) have an unconventional introduction to one another in the Eureka episode "Insane in the P-Brane." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Over the past several decades, the brilliant minds working at Eureka‘s Global Dynamics have been responsible for countless scientific breakthroughs intended to benefit humankind. Unfortunately, there are certain discoveries and inventions either far too dangerous or not yet perfected and must therefore be kept under tight lock and key. Such things are confined to Section 5, the most highly-secured of areas at GD. After an incident involving “the Artifact,” the section was closed down, but this (third) season, it was reopened to deal with a new threat. GD’s managing director, Dr. Allison Blake, called in an old friend, Dr. Tess Fontana, to get Section 5 up and running again. Although she has only been in town a short time, Tess has already made quite an impression on the locals, especially Sheriff Jack Carter.

“Tess is very passionate, spirited, quirky and brilliant; of course everyone in Eureka is brilliant, Jack Carter [Colin Ferguson] being in his own way the most brilliant,” says actress Jaime Ray Newman, who plays Tess on Eureka. “She is also a very focused gal who marches to her own drumbeat. My character comes to town to work on some extraterrestrial findings that have been unearthed. Tess ends up sticking around a lot longer than she ever imagined, and along the way a romance kindles between her and Jack.

“I hadn’t really done much Sci-Fi before this, so it was a matter of getting used to helping tell a story where the town and Earth are constantly in peril and about to explode. With something like that, it’s important to keep that momentum up and keep things feeling like, ‘Oh, this time it really is going to happen.’ It’s one big adventure after another, and playing that every week is a challenge, but it’s a blast as well. It’s not hard to show Tess’ enthusiasm about the science because it mirrors my own excitement about acting and working in the arts. So it’s an easy transference for me.”

Jack and Tess have to figure out a way out of the Fifth Dimension in "Insane In The P-Brane." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Jack and Tess must figure out a way out of the Fifth Dimension in "Insane in the P-Brane." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Newman’s character is introduced in the season three Eureka episode Insane in the P-Brane. Tess barely has time to settle into her new office at GD when a scientist who has been studying paranormal activity appears to go mad. Are his condition and the ghostly happenings around town somehow connected to the reopening of Section 5? As Tess and Carter get close to finding out the answer to that, they end up in another dimension.

“The toughest part of my first episode was the language,” recalls Newman. “Because of the story, I was bogged down with a lot of technobabble, so the trick was getting those words out and somehow managing to act at the same time. So that was definitely a challenge, but from the get-go, Colin and the rest of the cast as well as the crew have been amazing. These are the nicest people I have ever worked with. Everyone has been very supportive and patient, and I honestly love the character they [the producers/writers] have created for me. Tess is funny and speaks the truth, which sometimes gets her in trouble,” chuckles the actress.

“I’ll never forget our last day of work on this episode. It was all done on-location with a second unit [film] crew and Matt Hastings [consulting producer] worked with us. We filmed the very first scene where Jack and Tess meet on the side of the road and she’s somewhat irreverent towards him. Then we also did the last scene where the two of them are lying on the ground looking up at the sky. It had rained every day of the shoot except this particular one. It was a gorgeous fall day and the leaves on the trees were beautiful. It’s hard to explain, but the scenes were the types of exchanges where my character and Colin’s just got to be two people who are finding each other.”

Jack and Tess in the Eureka episode "Ship Happens." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Jack and Tess in the Eureka episode "Ship Happens." Photo by Marcel Williams and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Although Tess is developing relationships with all the characters on the show, her main ones are with Allison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) and Jack Carter. “Allison and Tess have been friends for years,” says Newman. “The two of them went to graduate school together, so they share a long history and a real kinship. Tess considers Allison to be a great pillar of strength at GD and she has a lot of respect for her. On top of that, Allison is going to be raising two kids on her own. She’s a pretty amazing woman, and Salli plays her so beautifully. Salli is such a leader and really sets a precedent on-set. Everyone does, though. Colin, Salli, Joe Morton [Henry Deacon], they all come to work and do a bang-up job and are respected by the crew.

“As for Tess and Jack, they start out at odds with one another. She’s this pistol who kind of walks in, takes her territory and Jack is like, ‘Hey, who the heck do you think you are?’ Ultimately, they go through all these crazy things together, like getting stuck in the Fifth Dimension, which creates a bond between them and they find out they have a lot in common and really like each other. One of my favorite episodes is You Don’t Know Jack, where Allison has her baby. Along the way, we all lose our memories and Jack has to help Tess piece together how she knows him. Colin and I really got to do some acting there. It wasn’t just about the planet being in danger or some nano-technological technobabble, but rather two people connecting, and that to me is always the most fun. I know the writers like writing scenes like that, but there’s not alot of time for that sort of stuff. So when we get it, I don’t waste a second of it.”

Having appeared onstage in her first Equity professional play when she was just 12 years old, Newman went on to study acting and English literature at Boston University’s School for the Arts theatre conservatory for two years before transferring to Northwestern University in Chicago. After graduating, she spent a year-and-a-half working on the ABC daytime drama General Hospital.

Tess is helped through a life-and-death situation by an old friend, Dr. Bruce Manius (Billy Campbell), in "Shower the People." Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

Tess is helped through a life-and-death situation by an old friend, Dr. Bruce Manius (Billy Campbell), in "Shower the People." Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

“Talk about a great training ground,” notes the actress. “I come from a theater background, and onstage there’s a real freedom. You can do whatever you want, within the confines of the character you’ve created, of course. Every night can be different and you don’t have to be worried about hitting your mark, being lit in a certain way, etc.

“It’s not that theater isn’t a technical craft like films, but in my mind it’s a much less self-conscious craft. When you’re in front of a camera it’s not easy to ignore that big thing in front of your face that captures your every blink. So I still feel like I’m working on having that same freedom in front of a camera. I look at someone like Colin Ferguson, and you never feel like he’s acting because he is so easy with it. So Colin has been a good role model for me to watch, especially with comedy. There’s almost a musicality to the way he performs.”

A Line in the Sand, Catch Me If You Can and the forthcoming The Gauntlet are among Newman’s feature film credits. On the small screen, she has appeared in a number of made-for-TV movies and guest-starred on such popular series as Supernatural, Bones, Medium, Nip/Tuck and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The actress was also seen in the recurring role of Mindy O’Dell on Veronica Mars, while her first Sci-Fi experience was on Stargate Atlantis as Lt. Laura Cadman in the episode Duet.

Jaime Ray Newman at Comic-Con 2009. Photo by Evans Vestal Ward and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Jaime Ray Newman at Comic-Con 2009. Photo by Evans Vestal Ward and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Veronica Mars was awesome,” enthuses Newman. “I’m a huge fan of Rob Thomas [series creator/executive producer] and I loved working with Ed Begley Jr., who played my husband [Cyrus]. My character is a murder suspect kind of straight out of the gate, and early on I made the decision to play her in a very film noir, femme fatale, Veronica Lake-type of way. That was really different for me and I loved the challenge.

“With Stargate Atlantis, all I can say is that David Hewlett [Dr. Rodney McKay] was such a rock star. The first episode I did was sort of an homage to the movie All of Me with Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin. My character’s consciousness was trapped inside Dr. McKay’s body and David was so good at all the physical stuff that the storyline called for. You could just tell when we were shooting that it was going to be a classic episode, and it really was.”

It was back in college that the actress also discovered her love of music. While living in Chicago, she performed with her own jazz quartet along with the popular funk band Sweet, Sweet Candy. Nowadays when not acting, Newman spends part of her time performing with her cover band School Boy Crush. This fall, the actress will be playing Kat Rougemont opposite Rebecca Romijn, Lindsay Price and Paul Gross in the new ABC series Eastwick. As with all her jobs, this one is sure to be yet another learning experience.

“As an actress. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to meet people who are inspiring and aren’t afraid to creatively stretch themselves,” says Newman. “Again, it’s about being around someone like Colin Ferguson, who is that good all day long. A while back I did a play [Turnaround] with David Schwimmer, and watching him do eight shows a week was just amazing. I recently did a play that [writer/producer/director] Neil LaBute directed, which was incredible, too. So for me, the best part about this job is watching others who are really free within their craft and sharing in that creative energy.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, photos by Marcel Williams or Evans Vestal Ward and copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!