Posts Tagged ‘James Bamford’

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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Alice’s Zak Santiago – In The Cards

December 6, 2009

Actor Zak Santiago. Photo by Mitchell Parsons and courtesy of Zak Santiago and The Promotion People

In the Syfy Channel’s Alice, the title character goes through the looking glass and ends up in a world filled with quirky and colorful characters. Just like the Lewis Carroll books on which this miniseries is based, Wonderland is ruled over with an iron fist by The Queen of Hearts, an ill-tempered monarch who, for some reason, has it in for Alice. Eager to meet our heroine in-person, The Queen dispatches two of her most trusted minions to bring Alice to her. Enter the 10 of Clubs, played by Zak Santiago. 

“My character is kind of a righthand man for The Queen of Hearts [Kathy Bates], and in this story he’s rolling with Mad March [Geoff Redknap],” explains Santiago during a break in production. “They are sent to find and capture Alice [Caterina Scorsone] and bring her to The Queen, who wants this very special ring [The Stone of Wonderland] that Alice was given. Mad March and 10 of Clubs are bounty hunters, so they possess a sort of severe coldness, but because there is such a humor in [director] Nick Willing’s writing, they’re almost like Laurel and Hardy. Here are these two deadly villains who aren’t so much bumbling, but who don’t really understand one another. 

“The Mad March can be described as this reconstructed, almost half-robotic assassin, and my character, the 10 of Clubs, is usually the one in charge of this type of operation. However, when Mad March is brought back to life, I have to bow to him a little bit, and this guy is really cold. So 10 of Clubs is trying to be ruthless, while at the same time trying to develop a relationship with this machine-like assassin. And the thing is, 10 of Clubs is usually a tough guy, but there are other times where he’ll show his cowardice. 

“As an actor, the trick is to find these comedic levels with your character without being too campy, and to be part of this fantasy world without descending into caricature. You don’t want to be false; you have to be 100% committed, even if the situation gets ridiculous at times. That’s one of the hurdles, though, with this type of storytelling. It may be a children’s story, but adults are going to watch it, too, and there’s dark humor in it. So it’s much more difficult to play as opposed to a broad farce, sitcom or straightforward children’s show. So that’s a challenge, but a good one, and my character has definitely been fun for me to play.” 

The 10 of Clubs (Santiago) in the Syfy Channel's Alice. Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

Santiago had just returned to Vancouver from Los Angeles when he was sent the [audition] sides for Alice. As soon as he read them, he could not wait to try out for the 10 of Clubs role. “I was excited for a number of reasons,” says the actor. “When I was a kid, I read The Lord of the Rings series of books long before I thought they would be made into films. I also read C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and played Dungeons and Dragons and Middle Earth. I loved the idea of fantasy as well as legends and mythology and all that kind of stuff. And Alice is one of those stories you read as a kid and that just opened up your imagination. 

“I think I’m from one of the last generations of kids who didn’t learn on computers in school. There wasn’t an Internet, either, and we didn’t have cable TV, video games or a VCR. So everything existed in these books and what you could draw, paint, write, create or otherwise imagine for yourself after having read them. So Alice ties into that part of my childhood. I’ve always been drawn to otherworldly sorts of things, so I was thrilled to find out that I had a shot at helping tell this type of story. 

“Once I booked the job and before filming actually started, I found out a little more about [the production company] Reunion Pictures as well as Nick Willing and the legacy that he brings with him, which includes his work on [the 2007 Syfy Channel miniseries] Tin Man. Then there were the sets as well as the costumes – we have an Academy Award-winning costume designer [Angus Strathie] working on Alice – and, of course, the rest of the actors who had been cast. I began to get even more excited because I realized with Nick’s vision, and once I’d read the script, that this was going to be incredible.” 

The actor’s first day of work on Alice was on-location in Kamloops, British Columbia. “I had never been there before and the set they built was very surreal,” he says. “We also shot in downtown Vancouver and all over the lower mainland, but most of the filming has been at our main studio here in Aldergrove, which is about an hour-and-a-half outside of Vancouver and in the suburbs. This is where the throne room set is along with the casino set as well as where all the green screen work is done. 

Putting his imagination to good use, Santiago enthusiastically took on the role of the 10 of Clubs in Alice. Photo by Mitchell Parsons and courtesy of Zak Santiago and The Promotion People

“Kamloops was my first time being on-set and putting on my character’s costume and the make-up. The 10 of Clubs wears this long, pointy goatee-type beard, so that’s been a bit of work for the make-up women, all of whom do a fantastic job of fashioning the beard and gluing it on me every day. It’s meant a bit more time for me in the make-up chair, but otherwise the rest of my make-up is fairly standard. As for my costume, I wear an Italian suit with amazing woolen cloaks as well as bowler hats and 10 of Clubs headpieces, so I feel pretty regal. It’s almost like playing a cardinal or a cross between one of Emperor Palpatine’s men in Star Wars and some sort of evil lawyer,” jokes the actor. 

While the 10 of Clubs starts out working for the bad guys, his allegiances begin to shift as his eyes are slowly opened to who his so-called rulers truly are. “First off, I have to say that it has been incredible working with Kathy Bates and Colm Meaney who plays The King of Hearts, both of whom I’m a fan of,” says Santiago. “My character’s relationship with The Queen and King is one of fear and super-reverence. However, as things spiral out of control for them, The 10 of Clubs gets to see a weaker or less regal side of both of them, and it reaches the point where he turns his back on these two monarchs. 

“So that relationship basically disintegrates over the four hours of our story, but with Alice, it’s very much the opposite. She’s one of the good guys, and the 10 of Clubs eventually comes over to her side and ends up watching her back along with that of the Hatter[Andrew-Lee Potts] and The White Knight [Matt Frewer]. He’s not a turncoat, but rather the ultimate revolutionary. My character helps the campaign to overturn the despot, tyrannical ruler. 

“Again, my main challenge with the 10 of Clubs has been making sure I really believe in what he’s saying and doing, otherwise it’s going to be hard for people to take him seriously because he’s a pretty eccentric guy. What’s great, though, is that acting-wise everything has just been so clear to me because the scenes and dialogue all make sense and everyone in this cast is so talented and committed to the script. I’ve worked on a lot of projects and, honestly, this one has been almost a no-brainer. 

Actor, writer, musician, dancer and more - Santiago is a modern-day renaissance man. Photo by Mitchell Parsons and courtesy of Zak Santiago and The Promotion People

“Another huge plus has been Nick Willing, who is an actor’s director. He’s so specific about his vision and I can tell that he’s a real fan of the fantasy genre, too. We’ve been working some really long days, and it’s been hot and you’ve got something like 150 people in crazy outfits and all this other stuff going on, and yet Nick still finds a way to be true to this vision, you know? He doesn’t sacrifice anything because of time. Nick makes certain that he gets all the shots and is always funny and cracking jokes. There are some directors you work with who are craftsmen and are good because they make the day and keep to the schedule. When you’re doing episodic TV there’s so much you’ve got to get done and they know how to bang things out. But Nick is a true artist and this has been one of the best ever experiences I’ve had with a director. There are only two more days of work for me and I’m going to be sad when this [shoot] is over.” 

Having boxed for several years, Santiago reached a point in his life a while back where he felt a career change was necessary and decided to give acting a try. “When I was still boxing, I ran into a fighter friend of mine one day and asked him what he was doing in this part of town,” he recalls. “My friend told me, ‘I’m going on an audition.’ I asked him, ‘For what?’ and he said acting. 

“Years later I went back to that exact same part of town and looked at every doorway on that side of the street until I saw one marked ‘acting studio.’ I took a class and liked it. I eventually got an agent and slowly began chipping away at it [an acting career]. I’ve always been an artist, though. I danced when I was younger and still do, and I’ve also been a musician my entire life. But I never thought I would ever be an actor. It’s either my curse or my luck,” jokes the actor, “but I’m still doing it, so I guess it’s a good thing.” 

Santiago made his TV debut in an episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy and has since appeared in several made-for-TV movies as well as guest-starred on dozens of shows such as Da Vinci’s Inquest, The L Word, The 4400, Smallville and Eureka. He was also a series regular on Young Blades and the Canadian comedy series Robson Arms

Santiago as Hal Garcia in Robson Arms. Photo copyright of CTV

Young Blades was great fun,” enthuses the actor. “It was a sword and sorcery/period-type piece with wizard characters and other fantastical elements. I played a musketeer and got to ride horses and fight with swords. Having boxed, I like anything physical and with lots of movement, so that was terrific. I also got to write for the show. My character [Ramon Montalvo Francisco de la Cruz] was a Spaniard and a poet as well as a lover of food and wine, a lover of women and a lover of words. And as it turned out, I wrote a sort of soliloquy for my character for each episode. It was like a monologue in poetry that he read at the end of the episode that encapsulated the events of that particular story. 

“That show was a challenge because, again, it was a period piece and an action piece, but it was fairly low-budget as well. Those types of programs are hard to do unless you have the money because of the lavish costumes along with the castles and other things of that nature. It takes a lot to string everything together, so we all worked really hard and I’m still good friends with the cast. It was a wonderful time in my life. 

Robson Arms was even more of a low-budget program, and a neat one, too. Everyone did it out of love, and some of my best friends were my castmates on that show. As a young filmmaker I enjoyed it because it was such an amazing training ground for new directors. There was an incentive to hire first-time directors as well as young writers on that show, so it was exciting to be a part of. The producers had a great deal of heart, and, man, oh, man, was the show funny.” 

Santiago can be seen in upcoming episodes of the Syfy Channel series Caprica, and only a few weeks ago the actor guest-starred in the Stargate Universe episode Time. “Years ago I did a Stargate SG-1 [Evolution]; my friend Peter DeLuise directed that and he then ended up being one of my castmates for a season on Robson Arms,” notes Santiago. 

Hal (Santiago) takes charge of a slippery situation in Robson Arms. Photo copyright of CTV

“Another good friend of mine, James Bamford, who was the stunt coordinator on Stargate Atlantis and now Universe, had been trying to get me on Atlantis as a Wraith or to do some stunt work, so it was cool when I got to play a Marine [Corporal Rivers] on Universe. I got to kiss a really pretty girl as well, and that’s always fun when you’re acting. I was told that my character could be recurring; we’re all on this ship and I haven’t been killed off yet, so I’m hoping to come back and develop my character a little more because I really had a ball in the short time I was there.” 

From listening to Santiago speak it is obvious that he is a people person, and for him, that is a big part of what makes his job so enjoyable. “I’m so grateful for all the friends and relationships I’ve made, and the collaboration,” he says. “In this business you’ve really got to look at it as a whole bunch of people working really hard to come up with something that’s worthwhile. However, when any one of us forgets that we’re just a piece of the puzzle, that’s when you start to look at this as being something different. So as long as you keep in mind that you’re part of a team, then you’ll come away with these relationships and friends along with work that you’re proud of.” 

The first two hours of Alice airs Sunday, December 6th from 9:00-11:-00 p.m. EST on The Syfy Channel and concludes Monday, December 7th @ 9:oo p.m. EST. For more information on Zak please check out www.zaksantiago.com 

Steve Eramo 

As noted above, some photos by Mitchell Parsons and courtesy of Zak Santiago and The Promotion People as well as copyright of The Syfy Channel or CTV, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

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!

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!