Posts Tagged ‘Michael Shanks’

Smallville’s Wesley MacInnes – The Iceman Cometh

April 11, 2010

Actor Wes MacInnes. Photo copyright of The Promotion People

Longtime comic book fans will be more than familiar with the plethora of superheroes that have been created over the years within the pages of DC Comics. Along with these do-gooders have come several equally recognizable villains who have used their natural as well as manmade abilities to try to defeat our heroes. Most have failed, while a few have, unfortunately, triumphed. In the two-hour Smallville made-for-TV movie Absolute Justice, a cold-hearted baddie called Icicle (a.k.a. Cameron Mahkent) takes on Clark Kent and some of his super-powered allies as well as members of The Justice Society of America. Canadian-born actor Wesley MacInnes was cast to fill Icicle’s frosty shoes, although at first he was not quite sure what character he would be playing.

“Last October, my agent called me about an audition for Smallville, but it wasn’t specific, though, for Icicle,” notes the actor. “I think for this [ninth] season, what they [the show’s producers] have been trying to do is bring in a lot of classic DC characters, and they’ve also tried to keep the identity of these new characters under wraps. So when I got the audition sides they were for someone named Troy Crawford, who was in no way related to Icicle.

“I went in and read for that part. I thought it went pretty well, but after two weeks passed and I didn’t hear anything I figured I didn’t get it. Then, however, I received a call from the show’s producers, who wanted to meet with me, so I went down to the Smallville offices in Vancouver and that’s when they told me, ‘OK, we’re giving you the part of Cameron, and he’s an albino villain with ice powers.’ I said, ‘But I didn’t audition for that,’ and they went on to tell me, ‘We changed all the characters for the audition.’ I think it was the same for Stargirl [Britt Irvin]and Hawkman [Michael Shanks].None of us read for the character that we ended up being cast in, and it turned out to be a pleasant surprise when we found out.”

Cameron Mahkent is the offspring of the original Icicle, European physicist Dr. Joar Mahkent, who, after creating a gun that could instantly freeze any moisture in the air, became an archenemy of the Green Lantern in the DC Comic books. The scientist’s constant use of his freeze gun eventually altered his genetic structure, allowing him to biologically pass on his freezing ability to his son. This power also resulted in Cameron’s skin developing its albino appearance. His character’s unusual looks coupled with his special abilities meant that MacInnes had to undergo a make-up process as well as some fight choreography training prior to going in front of the camera.

“I had a ball with the fight prep. That’s my kind of thing,” he enthuses. “They have a very talented group of [stunt] folks on Smallville and they took us through things piece by piece. We started off practicing with wooden poles, and then it got a little bit tougher when they gave us the actual props we would be working with on the day of filming. I was using this four-foot long icicle spear, which was really heavy, and Britt Irvin as well as her stunt double used this long Stargirl staff with a glowing crystal on the end of it. If you happened to hit the crystal during a fight sequence it would fly off the end of the staff and we’d have to stop filming while they stuck it back on,” jokes MacInnes.

MacInnes as the frosty felon Icicle. Photo copyright of The Promotion People

“As for the make-up, that was the most extensive [make-up] process I’d ever been through. My first day there, they told me that they had to bleach my hair, which was fine. Then the episode kept expanding from one, to two, and finally to a TV movie. So I went through 11 rounds of bleaching, and during the last two weeks of shooting some of my hair started falling out. Fortunately, after we wrapped, it all grew back,” says the actor with a chuckle. “When it comes to the actual make-up, they [the make-up department] put a couple of layers of this sort of paste on my face, followed by a few layers of paint which was airbrushed on in order to give my skin a sparkle-like look. I also wore contact lenses to change the color of my eyes.”

Once he booked the Smallville role and before filming began, MacInnes made a point of finding out all he could about his character. “I did some digging around on the Internet and read any comic books I could get my hands on,” he says. “Basically, Cameron’s mother died during childbirth and he inherited his powers from his father. So he grew up without a mom, and The Justice Society of America eventually caught up with his dad, who was a villain, and more or less beat the hell out of him and put him in a coma.

“So my character had a pretty lonely life, and as far as playing him, some of the challenges stemmed from the fact that he was this super villain in a comic book-type show. There is a level of surrealism and a certain cheesiness to some of the lines that I think fit the show perfectly. At the same time, I wanted to make Cameron a guy who viewers could sympathize with. However, I knew that would be difficult because of the way he was written, given the number of characters he was killing off and the things he was saying.

“I really wanted to try, though, because I feel that he has quite a touching story. When you look at Cameron’s life you can understand why he ended up this way. My character hasn’t had a good run of luck and he blames The Justice Society of America. And they are to blame, but the thing is they were in the right. So it was a matter of trying to balance being the villain – and at times an over-the-top villain – and still being able to come back down to Earth with the more sentimental scenes, particularly those with his father, and play them convincingly.”

In Absolute Justice, Cameron Mahkent is on a mission to kill the members of The Justice Society of America, who he blames for his father’s vegetative state. MacInnes’ debut in front of the Smallville cameras is one he will not soon forget.

Icicle deals a deadly blow to Doctor Fate (Brent Stait). Photo copyright of The Promotion People

“The first scene I shot is where Cameron walks into his father’s hospital room, says one line while standing over his dad, who’s lying there in a coma, and sheds a tear,” recalls the actor. “I was so nervous. I had never worked with any of these actors and I was supposed to stand there and cry. And once I got the contact lenses in, I realized that there was a problem because they dried my eyes up so much that there was no way I’d be able to shed a tear.

“I remember walking on-set that day and thinking, ‘My God, I can say the dialogue, I can look rather upset, but I’m not going to be able to cry.’ Then I was told that they were going to add in a CG [computer-generated] tear later on because they wanted an icicle tear to come out of Cameron’s eye. So things turned out great, and I was actually glad we did that scene right off the bat as it helped set the tone for a very positive work experience.”

While Clark Kent (Tom Welling) and Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) are busy investigating the death of Sylvester Pemberton/The Star-Spangled Kid (Jim Shield), Icicle manages to find and murder Wesley Dodd/Sandman (Ken Lawson) as well. Unknown to Clark or Chloe, The Justice Society is trying to lure Icicle out into the open, and Hawkman chastises the Green Arrow (Justin Hartley) for interfering with their efforts. Before Icicle kills him and steals his helmet (along with the powers that go along with it), Doctor Fate (Brent Stait) convinces Clark that they are all on the same side. The superheroes subsequently band together to take down Icicle in a climactic battle in The Watchtower. It is Hawkman who wields the final blow that stops their enemy in his tracks, but it was not an easy feat to accomplish.

“Michael Shanks was dressed in his Hawkman costume, including these massive wings, and on wires for most of the day, ” says MacInnes. “At one point, his character is supposed to fly down, swing his mace behind Icicle’s head and knock him out. They explained to us that, ‘You’ve got to time this just right – Michael you have to swing your mace, and Wes, you’ve got to hit the crash mat so that it looks good on camera.’

“I had my contacts in and was wearing the Doctor Fate helmet which had lights inside it that directly hit my eyes, so I couldn’t see a thing. Meanwhile, Mike was on wires and wearing the big Hawkman mask with eye coverings, and for this scene they used the coverings that he couldn’t easily see through. So Mike is basically blind and flying towards me swinging a mace. They’re telling us, ‘OK, just time it right,’ and Mike and I are killing ourselves laughing because there is no way we can do this. We literally couldn’t see each other. In the end, one of the stunt guys had to call out, ‘One, two and three.’ Mike swung, and I went down.

Icicle thinks he has sealed The Justice Society of America's fate once he gets his hands on Doctor Fate's helmet. Photo by Jack Rowand and copyright of Warner Bros. Television Entertainment

“There was another scene prior to this that was just as tricky to shoot and kind of funny in the moment. It’s where Icicle stabs Doctor Fate in the back. Brent was wearing his Doctor Fate costume, which looked great on-camera, but the poor guy was walking around in this tight leather outfit and a helmet, so he could hardly move and barely see. In the scene, Doctor Fate collapses and Brent had to be helped up in-between takes because his movements were so restricted. Again, what translates to the screen can be challenging to pull off, but in both these cases good for a laugh, too, no doubt about it.”

Absolute Justice was initially slated to be two individual episodes before subsequently becoming a two-hour movie. The first half, originally titled Society, was directed by Smallville director of photography Glen Winter, while part two, which was known as Legends, was directed by the show’s leading man, Tom Welling. “I really enjoyed working with both Glen and Tom, but for completely different reasons,” explains MacInnes. “Glen comes from a cinematography background, so you would do a take and his direction would be, ‘OK, you’ve got to move your head two inches to the left, and you’ve got to swing your arm a little bit wider this way.’ He was looking at the picture and how it was going to come through on the screen, and that really shows in his half of the episode. There are some shots that took a long time to get, but look amazing.

“Because Tom comes from an acting background, he had insights from a performance standpoint. There was a point in the final fight that was giving me a great deal of trouble on the day of filming. It’s where I’m wearing the Doctor Fate helmet and I have to do a spinning jump that knocks our heroes backwards and all over the place. I had to jump into the air, do a bit of a 360, then land and have my feet hit the ground as all the other actors are pulled back on wires. What was making it tough, again, was not being able to see and wearing a restrictive costume.

“It was a real timing issue and we screwed it up a couple of times. But then Tom came over to me and said, ‘It doesn’t really matter when your feet hit the ground. Just make sure that your arms shoot out and you act like you’ve hit the ground at the right time.’ That piece of advice, which he probably picked up from doing the series for nine years, made the difference. We did the next take, got it, and wrapped. So those little tips from Tom were invaluable.

“All the guest-stars on Smallville say this and I’ve got to say it as well – they’re a well-oiled machine on that show. The cast has amazing chemistry off-screen and it’s the same type of chemistry onscreen. They’re a great bunch of folks as well as actors, and working with them was in some ways overwhelming. I first began watching the program when I was in seventh or eight grade, and to all of a sudden be stepping on that set and having to interact with these people, well, it definitely took me a second or two to adjust. It helped, though, having the other guest-stars in the episode. All of us were new to the set and trying to feel out our characters, so it made things a little less daunting.”

MacInnes as "George" in the made-for-TV movie A Dog Named Christmas. Photo copyright of The Promotion People

Although Icicle had his own agenda with regard to The Justice Society of America, he was, in fact, working for a clandestine organization called Checkmate. With the help of John Jones/Martian Manhunter (Phil Morris), Clark and the others are able to defeat Icicle and he ends up a prisoner of Checkmate. His fate is left in the hands of one of its operatives, Amanda Walker (Pam Grier), who reveals to Icicle that he was just being used by her organization. She then kills him.

“Pam Grier is quite an acting legend and I really enjoyed working with her,” says MacInnes. “My character’s death scene was especially fun to shoot. The only thing was that he’s supposed to be in restraining clamps, and when I shook the chair around, they’d break off and would have to be repaired. But no matter how much glue they used, it didn’t have time to set, so the clamps were flying all over the place.

“Tom Welling was directing us and he just let me and Pam run with it and gave us a lot of room to play with things. It’s not a big deal to those watching, but at the very end when Amanda pulls the gun on Icicle, the way it was originally written, my character withdrew and sort of cowered in the chair. Tom said, ‘I don’t think he’d do that. Wes, change it up. Do whatever you want, just add something,’ So we totally flipped things around and I leaned into the gun and said to Pam, ‘Come on, shoot me.’ And that’s what they ended up going with in the final cut, which was neat.”

A native of Calgary, Alberta, MacInnes first broke into the entertainment business playing in a band for nine years with a few of his friends. “We all moved out to Vancouver and went to school at the University of British Columbia,” says the actor. “At the same time, we played music and recorded some albums, That was my goal back then and it still is. That band isn’t together any more, but I’m still recording music and looking at that as a viable option. I got back into acting about halfway through university and started taking theater classes. It was only about a year-and-a-half ago that I began going out for movie and TV auditions. I hadn’t done any acting since high school and realized how much I missed it. And I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Prior to Smallville, the actor appeared in the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie A Dog Named Christmas. He also had a small role in the pilot for the CW Network series The Vampire Diaries. “That was pretty cool, and looking back at it now, I can’t help but be a little nostalgic,” he says. “I got to the studio and they put me in a tiny little trailer with just a chair, but it was fantastic because I’d never experience that before. When I got on-set, I literally had to walk out of a washroom, almost collide with the lead actress, say, ‘Whoa, pants down, chick,’ and then walk out of the frame. There’s nothing special about that, but I’ll never forget those words. To this day, whenever I walk out of a washroom, my friends will say, ‘Whoa, pants down, chick,'” laughs the actor.

MacInnes - Actor AND Musician. Photo copyright of The Promotion People

Currently, MacInnes is finishing up recording a solo album, which is set to be released later this year. He is also looking forward to filming a TV pilot. “A film company from Norway is expanding into the States and they’re shooting a pilot in the fall,” says the actor. “They saw my work on Smallville and want me to play the lead.

“The pilot is called The Valentines, at least that’s the title right now, and they’re selling it as a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The O.C. It’s a Sci-Fi show and I’m really excited about it. They sent me the pilot script and it’s a very interesting and mysterious story with a cliffhanger-type ending. I don’t want to throw out any names because I don’t know if they’ve officially signed on yet, but they’ve got a couple of other actors who you will have definitely heard of playing some of the bigger roles in the project.”

Unlike many jobs, acting is full of daily unexpected twists and turns for MacInnes, and he is more than happy with that. “Even if you’re working on something for a couple of months or even a year, it’s not going to be the same thing every day,” he says. “There will always be new challenges to face, and you’re playing a different person with each role. It’s like opening a whole new can of worms and I think that’s what I like most about acting, the fact that it’s never boring.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, photo by Jack Rowand and copyright of Warner Bros. Television Entertainment or courtesy of/copyright of The Promotion People, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Sanctuary’s Alan McCullough – The Write Touch

January 24, 2010

Writer/co-executive producer Alan McCullough in his Sanctuary digs. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

When Stargate Atlantis‘ TV run was brought to an end after five years, series writer/producer Alan McCullough, who had previously served as a writer/story editor on Stargate SG-1, relocated from the Pegasus Galaxy to take on a new creative challenge. He joined Sanctuary as a writer as well as co-executive producer and penned four scripts for the show’s second season. In his first one, Hero, Chris Gauthier, best known as Walter in Eureka, plays an ordinary man who is transformed into an unlikely costumed crusader against crime in the show’s fictional New City.

Hero was a really fun script to write,” says McCullough. “It’s a fast-paced and humorous episode, which I never really had the opportunity to do on Stargate. There was always humor embedded in the dialogue in Stargate, but it was rare that I got to write a comedic script. There were people who were sort of the go-to guys for that; Martin Gero and Brad Wright, in particular, and Rob Cooper also wrote a couple of great comedy scripts and Carl Binder wrote one, too. So when I came on Sanctuary there was a chance for me to do the same.

“In Hero, our people are on a mission to track down an Abnormal when all of a sudden they’re thwarted by a guy in a neoprene suit. He drops out of the sky, grabs the person we’re chasing and flies off, so we’re left wondering where the hell this guy came from and how he can fly. He’s apparently human and appears to be wearing a homemade outfit, but nevertheless seems to possess miraculous powers. Chris Gauthier played the part to a tee. He was hilarious in it and brought so much to the role.

“The actual shooting of this episode was difficult because there were a lot of stunts. We actually brought in a flying rig which, I believe, is one of the most advanced ones you can get. I’m not well-versed in the technology of it, but you sit in front of a giant computer screen and program in all the moves you want to do and draw all the vectors on the screen. The operator then turns the rig on and it flies you around in the exact way that it was programmed to. So they did a full day of shooting just with that rig and came away with some fantastic stuff, including a scene where, at one point, our superhero has to fight a monster.

“Again, it was a fun episode and Chris has a blast and we had a blast working with him. It was a nice break, too, in the season. We had just come off shooting the two-part End of Nights, which is an energetic and tension-filled story where we’re fighting for the survival of the Sanctuary, and if you saw the episodes you know that something big happens to one of our characters at the end of part two. Then in the following story, Eulogy, we’re dealing with the death of a character. It’s a very poignant episode, so it was good to then come in with episode four, which was lighter in tone and a total breath of fresh air. Personally, I think Hero is one of the best scripts I’ve ever written and one that I’m really proud of.”

There was a very specific idea in mind for McCullough’s next Sanctuary script, Veritas, but, as is often the case in the world of TV, it eventually evolved into something quite different. “We started out with marching orders to come up with a background story for Bigfoot [Christopher Heyerdahl],” explains the writer. “We pitched story after story to the Syfy Channel but there was always one thing they didn’t like, so we would go back and try to retool the script. However, by pulling out that one thing, the whole story collapsed.

“So we’d start fresh, and ultimately we came up with a story that the network loved but that had nothing to do with Bigfoot’s back story whatsoever,” chuckles McCullough. “It does, however, involve Bigfoot in a very major and pivotal way. At the very beginning of the episode, Will [Robin Dunne] arrives back from a trip and he’s frantic; he’s been told that Bigfoot has been killed. Will goes to the morgue where he finds Bigfoot lying there with two bullet holes in his chest, and we further learn that Magnus [Amanda Tapping] is the prime suspect.

“From there, it becomes a bit of a murder mystery that takes place within the context of the Sanctuary. They have specific charter rules for how they deal with situations such as this, including summoning what’s called The Triad, which is a group of telepaths that arrive on the scene and start questioning people. Within the Sanctuary network we have individuals with these incredible abilities, so why not use them to solve crimes. Will, of course, sets out to prove that Magnus had nothing to do with this, but the deeper he digs, the more evidence seems to mount that she actually did shoot Bigfoot.

“It’s a real mindbender of an episode where, quite honestly, all is not revealed until the very end. We designed it so that at every single turn you think, ‘Oh, they’re going to tell us who really did it,’ but you get no satisfaction until the story is nearly over. This was another fun episode for me to write and, coming off Hero, much more of a subdued, emotional type of potboiler. We had a great guest-cast, too, including Erica Cerra [Deputy Jo Lupo in Eureka], who did a fantastic job playing one of the telepaths. And Amanda Tapping did an incredible job directing the episode.”

The writer’s third Sanctuary script, Penance, reunites Helen Magnus with an old friend, Jimmy, played by Tapping’s former SG-1 costar Michael Shanks (Dr. Daniel Jackson). Although it would have been tempting to pair them up on the screen, Shanks actually shared the majority of his scenes with the show’s newest castmember, Agam Darshi, who plays Kate Freelander. Writing-wise, this one was a bit of a whirlwind for McCullough.

“We received notes on the outline last Friday night from Syfy,” he recalls, “so I started writing the script on Saturday and Sunday and, hopefully, I’ll finish it up today [Monday, June 1st, 2009]. It’s certainly the fastest that I’ve ever had to turn around a script. This one starts out with a really action-packed teaser where our characters are in Old City to meet an Abnormal who’s a ‘mule.’ By that I mean he has a pocket in his body that can transport hazardous or very sensitive material, and in this case he’s carrying a container for us in his belly.

“So we get there, but, of course, the bad guys are on our tail and all hell breaks loose. Our people get separated and Kate and Jimmy end up trapped in a derelict hotel room. Kate has been shot and the two of them spend a considerable amount of time together getting to know one another. In the process, Kate opens up to Jimmy and we discover a great deal about her past, including how her father was killed. With Kate being a new character this season, we felt this was a good opportunity for audiences to learn more about her. Meanwhile, Magnus and everyone else are out there looking for Kate and Jimmy, and it’s a bit of a chess match to see who’s going to arrive first and save the day.

“The neat thing about this episode is that we’re going to be doing some location shooting. We do almost all our filming downstairs in the studio, much of which is using a green screen, and we also shoot outside on the studio lot or in the nearby streets. We usually don’t have trucks to go out on-location with, but for episode eight [Next Tuesday], we’re packing up all our equipment to go film at a pool. Thanks to some scheduling magic, we have the truck for the rest of the week, so we’re taking advantage of that and going to shoot for two, possibly three days on the old Watchmen set. At least that’s the plan. We went out to look at the set, which is on Marine Way, and we’re going to use that as Old City. It’s perfect because the story has a lot of skulking around as well as gunplay and a bit of a car chase, so I’m really excited about that.”

Despite being a freshman with Sanctuary, it has not taken McCullough long to find the voices of the new characters he is writing for. “Obviously I’d worked with Amanda before, and although this is Helen Magnus and not Sam Carter, I still hear Amanda’s voice in my head, so it’s just a matter of finding the right words,” says the writer. “Ryan Robbins, who plays Henry, has a very distinctive voice, so I seem to be able to hear his voice quite easily, too.

“The character I struggled with the most was Will. I’ve since found his voice a lot more, but with my first script, Hero, I really struggled. Ultimately, I don’t think anyone picked up on that. The episode moves so quickly and there’s so much going on that I don’t think you would have the time to sit there and think, ‘Hmm, that didn’t quite sound like something Will would say.’ I noticed it, though, and when I’d write a line I’d think, ‘That doesn’t sound right,’ so I’d delete it and write another one. So it took me a while to get Will’s dialogue to sound right, but episode seven is wall-to-wall Will and I think I found his voice a little better for that one.

“It helps, too, that Damian Kindler [series creator/executive producer] is always around, and we go through the scripts with a fine-tooth comb. We’ll look at each line and if there’s one that bothers any of us, we’ll find another way to say what it is we’re trying to say.”

The writer’s fourth and final contribution to Sanctuary‘s second season is part one of the show’s two-part season ender, Kali. The germ of the idea for this episode came from a prior one, while the setting was the result of a previously discussed story that never came to be. Catching up again recently with McCullough, he was happy to talk about Kali‘s development.

“Earlier in the season we were breaking a story called Justice,” recalls the writer. “It was set in a small town, which is tough to do on our show as we don’t have suitable sets and didn’t want to go out on-location. So Martin Wood [executive producer/director] proposed setting Justice in a Mumbai slum, as that would be relatively easy to re-create. We loved that idea so much that we decided to save it for the [season] finale. Unfortunately, Justice never got produced, which is too bad because it was a great story.

“The idea for Kali came partly from Veritas, where we introduce an Abnormal called Big Bertha, who is capable of creating earthquakes. I’m pretty sure it was me who suggested that we use Big Bertha in the season finale as well. I proposed that Magnus had lied to the heads of the Sanctuary network about destroying the creature and secretly kept her alive in an enclosure at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. And then later on in the writers’ room, we came up with the idea for the Makri, the small spider that telepathically links to Big Bertha.

“We went back and forth for weeks with this story,” continues the writer. “It’s probably the toughest one I’ve ever had to break. We knew we were on to something and felt like it could be big, but we just could not find the story for the life of us. Eventually, and after numerous rewrites, we shaped the story into Kali, parts one and two. Later in the process I was reviewing part two, which Damian wrote, and went to him with a logic problem. Basically, something Will was doing made no sense. And I distinctly remember what followed next; Damian sat back in his chair, thought about it for a long time, and then said, ‘I think I know what to do – Will has to dance a Bollywood number.’

“I nearly fell off my chair. He was exactly right, of course, but I thought we’d be marched right out of the TV business for good if we tried to do a full-scale Bollywood number in a Sci-Fi show. Luckily, Mark Stern [Syfy’s Executive Vice President for Original Content ] bought into the idea and off we went.

“Also late in the game, Damian, Martin, Amanda and Robin were invited to Tokyo by Syfy Asia and decided to take advantage of the exotic locale to shoot a scene for the show. We brainstormed and felt it belonged in my episode, and it turned out to be a great way to start things off. Shooting the Mumbai sequences took place on our [studio] backlot, which is where we built a massive labyrinthine Mumbai slum, and it looked photo real. To top it off, it was over 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 Farenheit, pretty much the whole week we were filming. Everyone was dying from the heat, but it helped with the authenticity. I’m not sure how we’re going to replicate that in part three, which will likely be shot this coming February or March.”

Having thoroughly enjoyed his first year with Sanctuary, McCullough is eagerly awaiting the start of work on season three. “I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge of us doing 20 episodes and really pushing the boundary with our season [story] arcs,” he says. “And also somehow getting ourselves out of the conundrum we created at the end of Kali, Part 2.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, photo is by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions, 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!

Sanctuary’s Amanda Tapping – Bare Essentials

January 13, 2010

Amanda Tapping as Sanctuary's Dr. Helen Magnus. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Fans of Sanctuary will recall that at the end of the show’s first year, Dr. Helen Magnus and her team risked their lives to try to reverse the effects of a biological weapon unleashed by The Cabal that turned Abnormals against humans. In the process, they lost Magnus’ daughter Ashley to the enemy, who, at the start of season two, changed her and five others into Super Abnormals, whose mission was to take down the Sanctuary network. 

The second season opener End of Nights pitted mother against daughter as Sanctuaries around the globe began to fall. In the final seconds of End of Nights, Part 2, Ashley sacrificed herself to save her mother and stop The Cabal. This action-packed and emotional rollercoaster ride of an episode was one that Amanda Tapping, who stars as Helen Magnus, thoroughly embraced, but it was not without an acting challenge or two. 

“I always enjoy the physicality of the role and I’m comfortable handling a gun, so all that felt very easy to me,” says the actress. “Obviously, the end emotional scene between Magnus and Ashley [Emilie Ullerup] was really challenging. You want to give something like that the weight it deserves and make sure you’re honoring the situation without going over the top. 

Fighting side-by-side - Ashley (Emilie Ullerup) and Magnus. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“I loved the Kate Freelander [Agam Darshi] stuff and introducing that character to audiences. It was also fun shooting the scene where Magnus is in her lab and talking to the different Sanctuary heads around the world, including Cairo, Tokyo and, of course, London. That’s a big part of the show’s mythology that we’ve sort of blown open this season. I was worried at first about making things too global, and then I realized it made sense because you would need a large enough network to transport and deal with all these Abnormals. And it’s a far bigger network than people first thought. 

“Again, though, for me the hardest part of End of Nights was maintaining that heightened level of intensity and staying true to the story without becoming boring.” 

Despite having seen her daughter teleport into what supposedly is oblivion, Magnus is not totally convinced that Ashley is, in fact, gone. In the following episode, Eulogy, the scientist sets out to prove that her child is still alive. “Eulogy was a really interesting and hugely emotional episode,” notes Tapping. “Magnus is desperately trying to find answers, and I think being the scientist and kind of woman she is, she fights to the death to make sure she’s explored every avenue. 

Will's (Robin Dunne) and Magnus' relationship develops new and deeper levels this season on Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“This is the first time that Will [Robin Dunne] actually challenges Magnus. He’s mad at her and he yells at her. This season, the Will Zimmerman character has the courage to stand up for himself and what he believes. There’s a real honesty and raw emotion in the friendship now between Will and Magnus, and Eulogy kicks that off in a big way. And obviously he’s mourning, too. Will has lost Clara [Christine Chatelain], and we’re trying to figure out what happened to Ashley. She can’t be gone. What do we do? How do we find her? Can we save her? If she truly is gone, how do we deal with that? At the same time, you’ve got this other timeline going on with Kate and Henry [Ryan Robbins], and you see their relationship starting to develop as they deal with a situation involving an Abnormal. Everyone has such a sense of purpose in this episode, and the jumping back and forth between the A and B storylines keeps things moving.” 

Although difficult to accept, Helen ultimately comes to the conclusion that Ashley is dead. The loss of her daughter is not the only tragedy she has had to cope with in her long life. During the past 159 years, Magnus has experienced a great deal, and when she took over her father’s role as head of the Sanctuary, it came with a whole new set of responsibilities. All work and no play is not good, though, even for a fictional character, and Tapping hopes that season two of Sanctuary has seen the lifting of some of the weight off Helen’s shoulders. 

“What we’ve tried to do this year is lighten up Helen a bit, not that you see that in the first three episodes,” jokes the actress. “But I think what happens when you put a character in such an intense crisis and such a toxic, volatile situation is that you strip away a ton of layers of defense. So as a result, in season two, I think you’ve seen a far more honest Magnus. She still has her secrets, which is important, but she’s been stripped bare. So, again, you see an honesty about her. Helen’s sense of humor is a bit more prevalent as well, and her warmth is a bit more palpable, too. 

Season two's Helen Magnus - a little less emotionally guarded and with a burgeoning sense of humor. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“Magnus is such an amazing, eccentric character and I still need to honor that as well as the scientist in her and the adamancy with which she attacks everything because she’s so sure of herself. But there needed to be more levels of vulnerability in her, and you definitely see that. I mean, you see it in the way she deals with the whole Ashley situation, and again in an episode called Pavor Nocturnus. She’s literally stripped down and it’s scary. The first 10 minutes of the story will blow your mind. As in End of Nights, there’s this incredible level of intensity, and the trick as an actor is to find those moments of genuine warmth and humor. 

“There’s another episode, Next Tuesday, where Will and Magnus go through an incredible ordeal, and at the end you almost hear Magnus giggle. It’s partly borne out of exhaustion, fear and the situation they’re in, but there’s this real guttural laugh that comes out of her, and it’s so open, too. We weren’t sure whether or not it was going to work, but I said, ‘I want to try this,’ and in doing do we got to see more of the real Magnus bubbling to the surface.” 

Besides Magnus’ relationship with Will, those she has with Sanctuary’s technical whiz Henry Foss as well as her former lover (and Ashley’s father) John Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl) are also further explored this season. Magnus begins to establish a relationship as well with the Sanctuary’s newest team member, ex-con artist Kate Freelander. 

Magnus meets up with a future version of Will in "Pavor Nocturnus." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“We managed to get Ryan Robbins as a regular cast member this year, so you see a lot more of his character Henry’s journey and what’s happening with him,” says Tapping. “Henry is like a son to Helen and she will protect him to the ends of the Earth. She’s tough on him, like any mother is with her children, but there’s a wonderful relationship between the two of them and it’s developing beautifully and organically as well. 

“With Druitt, there’s an episode we did called Haunted where you get a glimpse into why Druitt is the way he is, and it’s not necessarily the teleporting that’s making him that way. It’s something else and we find out about that. We also get a glimpse of the real John Druitt, which helps explain why Helen would have fallen in love with him. So many people ask, ‘How can she be in love with Jack the Ripper [Druitt]?’ The thing is, they didn’t know him before he became Jack the Ripper, and that John Druitt was an incredible man. Suddenly, his and Helen’s relationship makes total sense, and it’s quite heartbreaking. 

“As for Kate, the relationship with her and Magnus is developing nicely as well, and there’s a healthy and logical distrust with it. Again, I’d hear from people, ‘Um, I’m not sure if we like Kate.’ The thing is, you’re not supposed to like her off the top. You’re supposed to mistrust her and think, ‘Hmm, I don’t know about this character. Are we going to invest in her? She’s a bit rough around the edges. She’s a bit too cocky; she’s a bit too this, she’s a bit too that.’ There’s an episode that Michael Shanks guest-stars in [Penance] where we find out a great deal about Kate’s back story. My character is the first to actually start to trust her and welcome her in, but in a very perfunctory way as opposed to a lovey-dovey one.” 

Will and Kate (Agam Darshi) search for Magnus in "Veritas." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

As Tapping just mentioned, she had the opportunity to be reunited with her former Stargate SG-1 costar Michael Shanks when he shot the season two episode Penance. For both actors, it was like old home week when getting back together, but it was agreed that the onscreen time they shared would be limited. 

“There’s a moment where Helen and Jimmy – the character that Michael plays – see each other for the first time, and the smile on both their faces is so beautiful,” says the actress. “When we were watching the edit, I said to Martin Wood [executive producer/director], ‘But that’s Amanda and Micheal looking at each other,’ and he said, ‘But it doesn’t matter, it’s beautiful chemistry.’ 

“It was really sweet, but we decided, and this was very conscious on our parts, that there would not be a lot of interaction between the two characters. We didn’t want to bring Michael on and make it the Michael and Amanda show, you know? Instead, we wanted to utilize a very talented actor and someone who we love, so it became a Kate and Jimmy episode and it’s a phenomenal one. I’d have loved to have done more with Michael, but I also understood and was completely onboard with developing the story the way we did, and I think the fans will appreciate it for what it is.” 

Behind-the-scenes during season one of Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Back in June 2009, the actress made her Sanctuary directorial debut when stepping behind the cameras to shoot the second season’s Veritas. “It was fantastic,” she enthuses. “I wanted to direct, but when it began getting closer to the time, I didn’t want to because we’d already had such an intense season. By the time we got to episode seven, I didn’t think I could physically direct,” chuckles Tapping. “I’m so glad I did, though. I love directing; I love the whole physical concept of it, and the prep. 

“For me, especially because I’m in this episode, it was all about the prep. It was about totally understanding my shot list and how I wanted to edit the episode. I practically edited it in my head before I shot it, so I knew exactly how much coverage I needed and didn’t need. I’m going to toot my own horn here because I’m really proud of some of the shots I came up with. There were some beautiful green screen shots that I talked with [visual effects supervisor] Lee [Wilson] and [visual effects producer] Lisa [Sepp-Wilson] about. I explained to them, ‘I have this concept for a shot, can you do it?’ And I was so excited to see how things turned out. I chose my moments, though, because you can’t always go for the cool shot. You have to stick to the story, and this one is such a nice one.” 

Amanda Tapping on-set directing "Veritas." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Discussing a scene. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Lining up the next shot. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Working with guest-star Erica Cerra...Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

...and series co-star Robin Dunne. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

It does not matter if she is acting or directing, as one of Sanctuary‘s executive producers, alongside Martin Wood and series creator Damian Kindler, Tapping always wears her exec producer hat at work. This time around, though, that task has seemed somewhat easier than last year. 

“During the first season, Martin, Damian and I were trying so hard to do everything, and what we realized later on is that we don’t have to do everything,” says the actress. “There are things I can take care of, things that Martin can take care of, and things that Damian can take care of. We don’t all have to be doing everything. This season we found a groove, and I have to say that the three of us are such a good team and so good for each other. 

“Because I’m on the floor shooting the actual TV show, I don’t get to step up to the plate [producing-wise] as much until post-production, and that’s where I truly enjoy it. I love doing sound mixes, film corrects and all the other piecing together after the fact. That includes editing, of course, and I run up to the editing suite every chance I get. It’s also my responsibility, because I’m down on the floor all the time, to make sure everything is running smoothly.” 

From season one - Magnus, Will and Ashley. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Prior to wrapping Sanctuary‘s second season, Tapping, Kindler, Wood and Robin Dunne took advantage of a quick prearranged press conference to Tokyo to shoot two scenes for the show’s year two finale, Kali. “We flew out on a Thursday, landed on a Friday night, did a location scout all day on a Saturday, and shot on Sunday,” she recalls. “We found this great location, and because it was on a Sunday everyone was out walking around, so we had thousands of extras on this street where we were filming. It was fantastic. 

“We also got to work with Tatsuya Ishii. He’s a singer, artist, sculptor, philanthropist and just this incredible Renaissance man who played the head of the Tokyo Sanctuary for us. The best word I could use is that it was an honor to have him on the show. 

“So we filmed all day Sunday at Tokyo Harbor, then did the press conference on the Monday, drove back to the hotel, picked up our bags and flew home. Because of the time difference it was like a 40-hour day for us. We were on the plane and I said, ‘Hey, in Tokyo time we’d just be starting the press conference now,'” jokes Tapping. “I then had to be at work at six the next morning, so it was a whirlwind, but so worth it.” 

Casting an eye to the future. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

It is not long now before Tapping and the rest of the Sanctuary cast and crew will start production on the show’s third season. Everyone involved is looking forward to taking all their hard work from the past year and building upon that. “The second season, for all of us, felt so much richer and deeper, if that makes sense,” says the actress. “I think we were all far more confident in our roles not only as characters but also producers. 

“Season one felt like we were gearing up and figuring it all out, and then this year it was like, wow, now we have this massive and beautiful playground that, again, we’re all really confident in. I was nervous, though. I get nervous all the time, but that’s good. I think it’s healthy to be scared a little bit, but as soon as we started shooting it was like, ‘Hey, this is a really good show.’ So it’s been wonderful, it really has.” 

Steve Eramo

As noted above, photos by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

This Week On Sanctuary – 12 – 11 – 09

December 10, 2009

Former Stargate SG-1 castmates Michael Shanks and Amanda Tapping join forces yet again this week on Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

SPOILER ALERT!! – Magnus (Amanda Tapping) is reunited with an old friend, Jimmy (Michael Shanks) who is transporting a valuable elemental Abnormal to the Sanctuary for safety. But an underground mob accustomed to cashing in on the Abnormal black market, tracks down Jimmy and his valuable cargo before the delivery is complete. Magnus and Jimmy find themselves in a dangerous shootout, determined to save the Abnormal. Will (Robin Dunne), Kate (Agam Darshi) and Henry (Ryan Robbins) are quick on the scene as backup. Kate proves her worth when she manages to get Jimmy and the Abnormal to safety. But not before taking a shot from one of the mobsters herself. 

Kate (Agam Darshi) helps Magnus (Amanda Tapping) determine how to best deal with members of a mob who are out to capture an Abnormal. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Will (Robin Dunne) and Magnus are on the move, but are they too late? Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Hiding out in an abandoned, derelict motel room until the immediate danger of the mob passes, Jimmy tends to Kate’s gunshot wound. With little to do but talk and wait for Magnus to find them, Jimmy and Kate discover an unexpected common history. Penance airs Friday, December 11th @ 10:00 p.m. EST on The Syfy Channel

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

This Week On Stargate Universe – 10 – 02 – 09

October 2, 2009

The faces of Stargate Universe - Jamil Walker Smith (Sgt. Ronald Greer), Ming-Na (Camille Wray), Louis Ferreira (Colonel Everett Young), Elyse Levesque (Chloe Armstrong), Robert Carlyle (Dr. Nicholas Rush), Brian J, Smith (Lt. Matthew Scott), Alaina Huffman (Lt. Tamara Johansen), David Blue (Eli Wallace) and Lou Diamond Phillips (Colonel Telford). Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

SPOILER ALERT!! – In Air: Part 1, Senator Armstrong (Christopher McDonald), his assistant and daughter Chloe (Elyse Levesque) and Eli Wallace (David Blue), a recently recruited gaming genius, are on an official visit to Icarus, a secret off-world military base, when the facility falls under attack by the Lucien Alliance, leaving Colonel Everett Young (Louis Ferreira) with no choice but to retreat. He orders an evacuation to Earth. However, a last minute maneuver by scientist Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle) thrusts the escapees headlong into his experiment, which transports everyone to deep space.

The survivors arrive on an uninhabited ship floating billions of light years away from Earth. Panic spreads throughout the group and Colonel Young, who was severely injured during the escape, transfers command to Lt. Matthew Scott (Brian J. Smith), before lapsing into unconsciousness. Teams led by Dr Rush and Sergeant Greer (Jamil Walker Smith)try to make sense of the situation, while Lt. Tamara Johansen (Alaina Huffman), a medic who was days away from leaving the program, is thrust into the role of chief medical officer.

After secretly contacting the Home World Command using communications stones – an Ancients device which allows the swapping of consciousness between bodies across vast distances – Dr. Rush claims that he has been placed in charge by General Jack O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) and there is no hope of returning to Earth. When the ship’s air supply systems begin to fail, his theories are challenged by Eli. As the crisis deepens, divisions emerge between those who want to attempt a return to Earth, including human resources executive Camille Wray (Ming-Na), and those who want to remain aboard the Destiny. The 2-hour Air: Part 1 also guest-stars Amanda Tapping (Colonel Samantha Carter), Michael Shanks (Dr. Daniel Jackson) and Gary Jones (Chief Master Sergeant Walter Harriman) and premieres Friday, October 2nd @ 9 p.m. EST on The Syfy Channel.

Click the following links to view preview clips from the episode –

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

The Syfy Channel Annouces Its Fall Line-Up

July 20, 2009

ON the heels of its successful summer series launches, Syfy will continue its tradition of imagination-fueled original entertainment this fall with a strong line-up of series and season premieres, along with new episodes of some of its most popular returning shows. Syfy’s fall 2009 line-up includes:

Stargate Universe – New Series Premieres October 2nd @ 9 p.m. (2-hour premiere). Airs Fridays @ 9 p.m. beginning October 9th.

Syfy’s upcoming one-hour series, Stargate Universe, follows a band of soldiers, scientists and civilians who must fend for themselves as they are forced through a Stargate when their hidden base comes under attack. The desperate survivors emerge aboard an ancient ship, which is locked on an unknown course and unable to return to Earth. Faced with meeting the most basic needs of food, water and air, the group must unlock the secrets of the ship’s Stargate to survive. The danger, adventure and hope they find on-board the Destiny will reveal the heroes and villains among them.

Set to premire in October 2009 with a two-hur special, the series stars Robert Carlyle (Transpotting, The Full Monty), Lou Diamond Phillips (Che, La Bamba), Ming-Na (ER, Vanished), Alaina Huffman, Louis Ferreira, David Blue, Jamil Walker Smith and Brian J. Smith with special guest-stars, Grammy nominated artist Janelle Monae, Amanda Tapping, Michael Shanks, Gary Jones and Carlo Rota.

Edgier and younger in tone, Stargate Universe will take the franchise in a dynamic new direction, appealing to longtime Stargate fans and first-time viewers alike. The two-part premiere is directed by Andy Mikita (Stargate Atlantis, Stargate SG-1) and lensed by Ronn Schmidt (The Shield, The Mist). Robert C. Cooper and Brad Wright (Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis) serve as executive producers and writers on the new series. Stargate Universe is distributed by MGM Worldwide Television Distribution.

Destination Truth – Season Three Premieres September 9th @ 9 p.m.

This fall, Syfy will premiere the third season of its reality hit, Destination Truth. World traveler and intrepid explorer Josh Gates will return to host nine all-new episodes – each an off-the-map adventure in search of the answers to some of the world’s most intriguing unexplained mysteries. This season on Destination Truth, Josh will travel to some of the most extreme locations on Earth, including the isolated Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and the heart of the worlds worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl. Viewers will also ride along on unprecedented investigations, including the world’s first overnight exploration of King Tut’s cursed tomb and pitch-black dives in ancient Caribbean caves.

A graduate of Boston’s renowned Tufts University, Josh holds degrees in archaeology and drama, and was recently inducted into The Explorers Club, a prestigious global organization dedicated to the advancement of exploration and field research. An avid scuba diver, he has participated in sub-sea archaeological excavations in the Mediterranean and his work as a photographer has taken him from sweltering African villages to the icy heights of the Himalayas. In addition, he has scaled “the roof of Africa” on Mt. Kilimanjaro, climbed Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Americas, and set foot in more than 75 countries around the world.

Destination Truth is executive producer by Brad Kuhlman for Ping Pong Productions (1,000 Places to See Before You Die, Celebrity Rehab, FM Nation). Bechara Gholam will serves as co-executive producer.

Sanctuary – Season Two Premieres Friday, October 9th @ 10 p.m.

Syfy’s groundbreaking hit original series Sanctuary, the first TV show based on an online series to be picked up for a second season, will return to Syfy in October. Sanctuary follows the adventures of the beautiful, enigmatic and always surprising Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping), a brilliant scientist who holds the secrets of a clandestine population – a group of strange and sometimes terrifying beings that hide among humans. Along with forensic psychiatrist Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) and her fearless daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup), Magnus seeks to protect those threatened phenomena as well as unlock the mysteries behind their existence. Joining the cast in season two is Agam Darshi as Kate Freelander, a con artist and thief who finds herself in an uneasy alliance with Dr. Magnus. Sanctuary also starts Ryan Robbins as tech whiz Henry and Christopher Heyerdahl as the sinister John Druitt.

Special guest-stars this season include Christopher Gauthier (Eureka) and Michael Shanks (Stargate SG-1). Created by Damian Kindler (Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis), Sanctuary is produced in association with Syfy and distributed by Tricon Films and Television. Season Two of the series is executive produced by Damian Kindler, Amanda Tapping, Martin Wood and Keith Beedie.

Scare Tactics – Season Three Episodes Return Tuesday, October 6th @ 9 p.m.

Syfy’s hidden camera reality show Scare Tactics is hosted by famed comedian Tracy Morgan. The hit series captures its frightened victims who have been set up by friends and loved ones. Unsuspecting victims are placed into elaborately staged scary situations involving movie-style special effects and make-up. The horror hoaxes are skillfully designed to tap into the wildest fears of the prank’s prey. Viewers laugh along to the hilarious reactions of the show’s “stars” as they are caught off-guard and on camera. Scott Hallock and Kevin Healey of Hallock Healey Entertainment are the executive producers and creators of Scare Tactics.

Ghost Hunters – All-New Episodes Throughout The Fall – Wednesdays @ 9 p.m. Featuring special guest-investigators Meatloaf and Josh Gates.

This fall, Syfy presents all-new episodes of Ghost Hunters every Wednesday @ 9 p.m. Get in the spirit with Jason, Grant and the rest of the TAPS team as they embark on chilling new investigations including a host of historic haunts as well as some of the most daunting locales featured on the show yet, such as the massive long-abandoned Essex County Hospital in New Jersey. In October, music superstar and longtime Ghost Hunter fan Meatloaf will join the team as a guest-investigator in a special episode featuring a home in Thousand Islands, NY, one of last year’s finalist locales in the Great American Ghost Hunters contest.

Ghost Hunters is produced in association with Craig Piligian’s Pilgrim Films and Television (Dirty Jobs, The Ultimate Fighter, My Fair Wedding). Piligian and Thomas Thayer, along with Rob Katz and Alan David, serve as executive producers.

Warehouse 13 – All-New Episodes Throughout September – Tuesdays @ 9 p.m.

Syfy’s newest one-hour hit dramedy series Warehouse 13 continues through September 2nd with a host of special guest-stars including Battlestar Galactica’s Micheal Hogan; Eureka‘s Joe Morton, Erica Cerra and Niall Matter and Stargate Atlantis‘ Joe Flanigan. Warehouse 13 follows two Secret Service agents who find themselves abruptly transferred to a massive, top-secret storage facility in windswept South Dakota, which houses every strange artifact, mysterious relic, fantastical object and supernatural souvenir ever collected by the U.S. government. The Warehouse’s caretaker Artie (Saul Rubinek) charges Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly) with chasing down reports of supernatural and paranormal activity in search of new objects to cache at the Warehouse, as well as helping to control the warehouse itself. Warehouse 13 also stars Allison Scagliotti as Claudia Donovan and CCH Pounder guest-stars as Artie’s boss, Mrs. Frederic.

The series is produced for Syfy by Universal Cable Productions. It is executive produced by Jack Kenny (The Book of Daniel), who also serves as showrunner. David Simkins (Dresden Files) is executive producer and Stephen Surjik (Monk, Burn Notice) is producer/director of the show.

Jody Thompson – Role Play

June 18, 2009
Actress/writer/director and filmmaker Jody Thompson. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

Actress, writer, director and filmmaker Jody Thompson. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

When I was younger I used to look forward to Saturday afternoons when certain local TV stations would run those sometimes cheesy but always entertaining black-and-white Horror and Science Fiction B-movies from the 50s. The recently released feature film Alien Trespass, which made its debut at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, pays homage to those classic movies that many of us grew up with. One of the film’s heroines is Lana Lewis, played by Canadian actress and Leo Award nominee Jody Thompson. Having previously appeared in a number of Sci-Fi/Fantasy-based TV shows, she was already familiar with what the genre called for insofar as performance. However, the actress needed to tweak some of her acting muscles in order to step into Lana’s shoes.

“During the audition I had the chance to meet [one of the film’s producers and its director] Bob Goodwin of X-Files fame, which was really exciting,” recalls Thompson, “and in our first read-through he knew precisely what he wanted to do with each of our characters. Bob is a legend when it comes to the genre and he knows what he’s talking about. He was really specific about wanting me to watch movies such as War of the Worlds, It Came From Outer Space and a bunch of others. The thing is, you don’t often get to do a sort of ‘period piece’ like Alien Trespass. I consider my acting in the film to be a heightened form of realism. It’s not your regular, more contemporary way of communicating that you and I would use, but rather a more elevated approach, if you know what I mean.

“So Bob gave me these DVDs, I went home and watched them and the next time we met, I figured when he said it [her character rendition] was right, it was right, and I went from there. Again, because Bob knows what he’s talking about and is really specific with his direction, I felt very much at ease exploring the range of something that was somewhat out of my comfort zone at the time. I guess all us actors are afraid of being what we call over-the-top, and yet this role called for a bit of over-the-top acting. That’s why Bob was so incredible; he made us feel totally safe in the [acting] choices we made. Looking back now I think, my goodness, I was really gutsy taking this [role] on because it could have really backfired, but happily that wasn’t the case at all.”

Jody Thompson. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

Jody Thompson. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

In Alien Trespass, noted astronomer Ted Lewis (Eric McCormack) is preparing for a special wedding anniversary dinner with his beautiful wife Lana (Thompson). Unfortunately, their plans are interrupted when a spaceship crash-lands across town and a dangerous creature known as the Ghota emerges. It is intent on destroying the entire human race unless a benevolent alien called Urp can stop it. In order to do so, however, he must temporarily commandeer Ted’s body. With the help of Tammi (Jenni Baird), a local waitress, Urp sets out on his self-appointed task. When asked about her favorite scene in the film, Thompson is hard-pressed to choose between two.

“I loved working with Dan Lauria [Chief Dawson],” she says. “As an actor, he genuinely surprised me every time we did the scene. My character of Lana is supposed to act surprised, and sometimes a scene can get a little tired after you’ve done it a dozen times, but Dan always responded in such a way that kept it interesting, so it was wonderful to work with him.

“At the same time, there’s the scene in the kitchen where Eric’s character of Ted is taken over by Urp, and Eric was just so funny to play off of. It’s too bad you haven’t seen the outtakes, but the improv stuff he did was hilarious. The film is a serious one in a lot of respects, but when we were filming it, it was hard not to laugh. The chemistry with Eric was just effortless. Besides being super cute in real life, he’s also very easy-going and so friendly. Eric doesn’t have any Hollywood airs at all. The dialogue felt, not clunky, but, again, elevated, so I was worried about how it was going to come across because you usually play off the other actor. I needn’t have worried, though, because Eric has the best timing. He just delivers the line like it’s no big deal and you listen and respond and it comes out just right.

Jody Thompson (as Lana Lewis) and Eric McCormack (as Ted Lewis) in Alien Trespass. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

Jody Thompson (as Lana Lewis) and Eric McCormack (as Ted Lewis) in Alien Trespass. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

“And Bob Goodwin was there was our guide to bring us back if we got too big or if we were playing it too melodramatic. We were supposed to be earnest but not parodying the work of the period. This wasn’t a Naked Gun 33 1/3-type thing. We were trying to do an accurate re-creation of something that would have been done in the 50s. So Eric and I just did our thing and, on occasion, it was way too much and other times it was far too contemporary, and Bob did a terrific job of keeping our performances on the straight and narrow as well as flowing from scene to scene.

“Sometimes when you’re on TV and not the star of a show, you end up sort of directing yourself in a sense because the director doesn’t always have time to worry about every day player every day. So it was nice to have a director who was really dedicated to his actors and focused on keeping our performances in line so we didn’t have to worry about them. That’s a big part of what made our time on Alien Trespass so enjoyable and fun.”

An avid horse loved, Thompson originally thought she was going to be a veterinarian and planned to study veterinary medicine in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. However, she ran out of money just before finishing her Bachelor of Science degree, so someone suggested that she try booking some TV commercial work in order to raise the necessary funds. Instead, Thompson ended up booking the lead in a made-for-TV movie.

To help pay for her schooling, Jody Thompson tried her hand at acting, and then never looked back. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

To help pay for her schooling, Jody Thompson tried her hand at acting, and then never looked back. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

“That’s when I thought, ‘OK, I’d better take some acting classes,” notes the actress, “and wow, there was just something so cool about using your mind and body in such a way and I was bitten by the acting bug. After that, there was no going back for me. Much to my surprise, my parents weren’t even that disappointed when I decided to become an actor instead of a vet. Now I get to play dress-up for a living. How can you beat that? I have my very scientific, linear side and my creative side, and I guess the latter won out.”

Having played a variety of characters in a wide range of  TV and film projects, the actress is especially well-known to TV Sci-Fi audiences. Perhaps her most recognizable role is that of Devon Moore, an employee at the 4400 center and one of Jordan Collier’s (Billy Campbell) lovers in The 4400.

“Devon was actually never intended to be a recurring character,” says Thompson. “After my first appearance, I got a call from the producers asking if I would like to bring her back for another small bit in the next episode, and I said, ‘Yes, I’d love it.’ A few episodes later I had some discussions with the writers as far as her back-story and what could possibly be motivating Devon. She always secretly had a thing for Shawn [Patrick Flueger], even though she worshipped Jordan. My character originally went to the 4400 center because she was looking for a father figure. As the series went on, I feel like Devon came into her own in that she developed a bit more confidence in her own decisions. They weren’t necessarily the right ones – injecting yourself with a strange toxin is probably not a good idea – but she became more confident and went from being a vulnerable child to a naive teenager, I guess you could say.

Jody Thompson's character of Devon Moore on The 4400 was, sadly, looking for love in all the wrong places. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

Jody Thompson's character of Devon Moore on The 4400 was, sadly, looking for love in all the wrong places. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

“Having this character become a recurring one on The 4400 was one of the nicest surprises I’ve had so far in my career,” continues the actress. “A lot of times when you know a part is going to be recurring you have big expectations, which are not always met. Here, however, the writers never told me what was going to happen with Devon, so I was always surprised to read from script to script what was happening to her. The scene where she has the aneurysm [after injecting herself with promicin in the hopes of acquiring a 4400 ability] was challenging as well as memorable for me. Had that scene gone into Devon’s life flashing before her eyes, that’s the moment when she would have realized that she was looking for a father figure in Jordan and trying to find acceptance by gaining a power rather than trusting in herself. Had Devon just followed her true gut instinct, she would have known that she was OK as she was and that she actually cared for Shawn. So it was an unexpected joy to find out that a small character like this was going to be reinvented and taken along on a journey for a few seasons.”

Thompson’s other Sci-Fi credits include the warrior queen Azura in Flash Gordon, a sexy and toothy vampire named Glynnis in Blade: The Series and a bounty hunter in Stargate SG-1. “In Flash Gordon I was blue, really blue,” she says with a laugh. “I was painted blue with an airbrush from head to toe, while the top of my outfit was a pair of coconuts and some string, and my character wore a small dog’s skull on her head. The make-up artist and I had a good relationship by the end of the filming because I’d spend about four hours in make-up every day before filming began. All that really helped me get into that creepy witch mindset, which I think it would have for most people. I had fun with the role and it was a blast to have a whole bunch of extras cheer every time you said something.

Blade was awesome because I got to do all my own stunts. I was on wires, hanging from the ceiling and flipping off the walls. They had a stunt person there as well as we spent two days learning the fight. It was a lot like a dance routine in the way they taught it to us, and then we got to rehearse with the wires before putting it all together on the set. In the final cut they used my stunt-person a couple of times, but otherwise it’s me, even for the roundhouse kick. I was like, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m a bad-ass vampire.’ The teeth were a lot of fun, too. I still have them and I wear them on Halloween and scare the kids when the come to the door,” chuckles Thompson. “They’re not the cheesy plastic ones either, but beautiful porcelain. So I got a nice pair of fangs out of the deal as well.

The beautiful Jody Thompson gives us a striking pose. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

The beautiful Jody Thompson gives us a striking pose. Photo courtesy of The Promotion People

“With Stargate SG-1 I especially enjoyed working with Michael Shanks [Dr. Daniel Jackson]. I’d known him for a while but had never gotten to act with him. The scene where my character is hit by a bus was interesting to do. They had a stunt coordinator there, and when I finished my line, he would push me and I’d fall onto a crash pad. The bus was then [digitally] put in later [during post-production]. The first time we did it I wasn’t ready and landed on my face. Fortunately, there were no broken bones thanks to a nice squishy pillow.”

Along with her acting credentials, Thompson is also an accomplished filmmaker and president of The International Filmmakers Institute, a production company dedicated to the creation of movie and video artworks that endeavor to relieve social injustice and promote a message of hope, mercy and reconciliation. She made her debut as a documentary filmmaker with the 40-minute Montana de Luz, which is the heartfelt story about an Honduran orphanage that cares for children living with the HIV virus.

“Working on that film really put things in perspective, and I can’t begin to describe the wisdom of those seven and nine year olds,” says the actress. “I’m really proud of that particular piece and it’s done quite well in the festival circuit. At the moment, I’m working as a writer/director on a series of webisodes that deal with how cancer affects the entire family unit and not just the person who is struggling with the disease. The project has been commissioned by the International Psycho-Oncology Society [IPOS] and it’s basically for doctors to log in, watch these webisodes and then discuss the various ways that they should be taking cancer patients’ and cancer survivors’ families into consideration as well in the treatment process. Festival circuits are terrific, but if you can also find a practical application for your project that’s a bonus, and it fits the mandate of our company, too, so it’s all good,” she enthuses.

For more information about Jody please check out her website –

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos courtesy of The Promotion People, and while there are no specific copyrights on any of the photos, please refrain from any unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!

And The Winner Is…

May 15, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ever-Growing Universe

April 15, 2009

This morning, the Sci Fi Channel announced some additional guest-stars set to appear in Stargate Universe, which premieres this fall. Joining former Stargate SG-1 regulars Richard Dean Anderson (General Jack O’Neill), Amanda Tapping (Colonel Samantha Carter), Michael Shanks (Dr. Daniel Jackson) and Gary Jones (Chief Master Sergeant Walter Harriman), all of whom will be reprising their SG-1 roles, are Christopher McDonald, Carlo Rota and Grammy nominated recording artist Janelle Monae.

Christopher McDonald (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Medium, Family Law) stars as Senator Alan Armstrong, the U.S. senator and head of the International Oversight Committee that governs the Stargate program. He is the father of Chloe Armstrong.

Carlo Rota (24, La Femme Nikita, Queer As Folk) stars as Carl Strom, head of the International Oversight Advisory (IOA), the civilian oversight committee that heads up the Atlantis Expedition and all funding.

Janelle Monae (Bad Boy/Atlantic Records), the Grammy nominated artist plays herself in an upcoming episode. Janelle and her band will perform “Many Moons” and “Sincerely,” two songs featured from her latest album entitled Metropolis.