Posts Tagged ‘Paul McGillion’

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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Rachel Luttrell – Working Mom

July 4, 2009
Rachel Luttrell as Stargate Atlantis' Teyla Emmagan. Photo by Matthias Clamer and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Rachel Luttrell as Stargate Atlantis' Teyla Emmagan. Photo by Matthias Clamer and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Things are hot, really hot on the Stargate Atlantis set – literally. It is an unusually warm August (2008) day in Vancouver, which is not exactly ideal if you have to spend the day inside a Wraith spaceship, whose walls are made of latex. The Atlantis cast, including actress Rachel Luttrell, who plays Teyla, are doing their best to keep cool as they film the fifth season story Infection.

“Essentially, the premise of this episode is that the retrovirus gene, which Dr. Beckett [Paul McGillion] originally created and Dr. Keller [Jewel Staite] then modified and implemented, has been unleashed on a hive ship that is being run by Todd [Christopher Heyerdahl],” explains Luttrell. “The retrovirus has gone awry and created a disease amongst him and his crew, so great numbers of them have died. The survivors have put themselves into hibernation pods and sent out a signal to Atlantis because we’re the only ones who can help them. So we go to the hive to see what we can do, and it becomes a question of do we help the Wraith or not.

Teyla and Major Lorne (Kavan Smith) defend themselves against some especially nasty Wraith in the season five Atlantis episode "Infection." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Teyla and Major Lorne (Kavan Smith) defend themselves against some especially nasty Wraith in the season five Atlantis episode "Infection." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“The retrovirus is successful on the one hand in that the feeding opening on the Wraiths’ hand disappears, so they are forced to eat using their teeth and mouths. As a result, several of our Marines are attacked, taken away and eaten. Not only that, but because the Wraith hives are organic, this ship has also been infected. The hibernation pods are linked into the ship, and minerals and whatnot from the bodies of the diseased Wraith are transferred into the hive. So tunnels are appearing where walls used to be, walls are appearing where halls used to be, and huge caverns are forming because entire rooms are disintegrating. Our people are trapped onboard this ship, which is going out of control and heading into the atmosphere of a planet. Next to Rodney McKay [David Hewlett], who’s a genius, Teyla is the only one who knows how to operate the hive ship, and she does her best in terms of trying to land it safely. So it’s a pretty dark and exciting episode.”

Five years ago, handling the controls of a Wraith ship, let alone being onboard one, was the farthest thing from Teyla Emmagan’s mind. Her life has taken a very different path since she decided to leave her people, the Athosians, and join the Atlantis team in its battle against the Wraith. Along the way, she has also helped save the Pegasus Galaxy from a variety of other alien threats. In year four, Teyla fell in love with Kanaan (Patrick Sabongui), a fellow Athosian, and in the season five Atlantis opener Search and Rescue, she gave birth to their child. The experience has further changed her, and given Luttrell more to play with in her performance as well.

“If it’s possible, Teyla seems to me more grounded and there’s a deeper strength within her,” muses the actress. “And that, I think, is due to the fact that she’s a mother now. So all her subsequent missions have taken on that added concern of if she doesn’t come back, then she’s leaving behind somebody who’s not only very dear to her, but who is also this incredibly special being, which was hinted at last season. Because of what I’ve recently gone through in my life, and the fact that I, too, am a new Mom, I really do draw a great deal on who I am when it comes to playing certain aspects of Teyla. This has been a very challenging year for me, personally, just because I’m juggling a whole heck of a lot. However, it gives me a greater sensitivity to what’s going on in Teyla’s life in that’s it’s pretty much the same thing. There’s no downtime for either of us. She’s out there saving the world and then comes back to take care of her wee one, and I’m shooting a TV show and then I go home and take care of my wee one,” smiles Luttrell.

Teyla gives Dr. Zelenka (David Nykl) a helping hand in season five's "First Contact." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Teyla gives Dr. Zelenka (David Nykl) a helping hand in season five's "First Contact." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“In portraying a character for so long there’s an ease that comes with it because you really get to know how she will respond in any given situation, and that’s something quite wonderful for an actor to take on. You become protective of that character, too, because you’re their voice and eyes, which is lovely and fun as well. At the same time, you don’t want to become complacent; you have to try to keep your performance fresh. That’s always in the back of my mind because i genuinely care about this character so much. So how do I keep her fresh? I don’t want to sound silly, but I think it’s something that comes naturally to me. As I’ve come to know Teyla more and more, there are various textures and nuances that I’ve been able to add to her, and I guess that keeps her fresh. As the audience learns more about her, I’m continuing to grow into her as a person.”

Towards the end of Atlantis‘ fourth season, the half-human/half-Wraith Michael (Connor Trinneer) kidnapped Teyla with an eye towards harnessing the unique abilities of her as-yet unborn baby. Fortunately for mother and child, they were saved in Search and Rescue, but Michael was not about to give up. In year five’s The Prodigal, he invades Atlantis and threatens to destroy the city unless Teyla and her baby Torren come away with him.

Teyla and her child face Michael's (Connor Trinneer) wrath in "The Prodigal." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Teyla and her child face Michael's (Connor Trinneer) wrath in "The Prodigal." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“Once and for all we decisively take care of Michael, and with the help of Colonel Sheppard [Joe Flanigan], my character gets to deliver the final blow that sends him to his demise,” enthuses Luttrell. “When it came to filming the actual fight with Sheppard, Teyla and Michael, we were around 15 feet off the ground and standing on a portion of stage that was supposed to be the top of the Atlantis tower. I don’t like heights that much, but I had no idea how much I didn’t like heights until after I got up on this little ledge and [director] Andy Mikita yelled, ‘Action!’

“Prior to that, they said there would be a little bit of wind, but when I heard, ‘Action,’ there was this blast of wind that almost sent me flying over the ledge. At one point, Connor’s stunt double Simon told him to hang onto Joe’s jacket as an anchor because there’s a moment when, God bless him, Michael has to flail backwards. So he’s pretty much teetering on the brink of falling off the ledge. That was tough from an acting standpoint, but, of course, from a story standpoint it’s a wonderful moment and a very heroic one for Sheppard as well as Teyla. It’s also the last kind of desperate cling for Michael to his power, not to mention his life, and there’s absolutely no mercy whatsoever in Teyla towards him.”

Ronon (Jason Momoa), Dr. McKay (David Hewlett), Teyla and Colonel Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) end up trapped atop of a nearly submerged Stargate in "The Shrine." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Ronon (Jason Momoa), Dr. McKay (David Hewlett), Teyla and Colonel Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) end up trapped atop a nearly submerged Stargate in "The Shrine." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Not long after filming wrapped on the aforementioned Infection, it was announced that Atlantis would not be renewed for a sixth season. A few weeks later the series finale, Enemy at the Gate, was filmed, and Luttrell graciously takes time to look back at the experience.

“Well, unlike a lot of shows that get cancelled, we had the good fortune to know in advance that what we were doing we’d be doing for the last time,” notes the actress.  “So the whole mood of the set took on a very nostalgic feel. We truly had a wonderful sense of camaraderie on our show and the crew was very much a part of that, so we all felt the weight of the occasion. We continued to have a lot of laughs, but we also had the opportunity to say good-bye to all the amazing people whom we’d worked with day in and day out for five years, and still very much liked!”

Teyla in season five's "Ghost in the Machine." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Teyla in season five's "Ghost in the Machine." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

As Luttrell mentioned earlier, her life has become considerably busier since the birth of her and husband Loyd Bateman’s son Caden Dar on October 12th, 2007, and the actress is enjoying every moment of being a Mom. “It’s just great,” she enthuses. “My Mom once told me that your children will take you to places you never thought you would go, and you’ll meet people who you would have never met if it weren’t for your children. She was so right. Something else that both my parents always said is that with the birth of your child, you come to truly understand love. I mean, everyone talks about love and they say that love isn’t really love unless it’s an unconditional love. If it’s a judgemental kind of love, then really what is that? Can it truly be love or is it just ego, but there is no ego involved in taking care of your own child. Regardless of what this person does, I will forever love him, which is amazing.

“I’ll share this one moment – during our last hiatus I was going to visit my husband, who was shooting a movie in Germany, and I was happily travelling in business class. I was waiting in the lounge, and no offense to those people who travel business all the time, but it can sometimes be a little bit reserved in there. Everyone is sitting back, drinking their cocktails and preparing for, in this case, a nine-and-a-half hour flight. And there’s usually this one woman with a baby, and I was sitting there thinking, ‘Oh, my God, here I am. I’m that woman.’ Well, my little guy just wanted to talk, so he hopped down from his seat, walked up to everyone in that lounge and melted the hearts of the sternest of businesspeople. Each and every person started opening up, and it was an encapsulated moment of what my Mother had told me. All of a sudden I was listening to stories from people who I probably wouldn’t have interacted with had it not been for my son’s spirit. He’s gorgeous and I absolutely love being his Mom.”

Steve Eramo

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

Robert Picardo – Learning Curve

June 2, 2009
Robert Picardo as Stargate Atlantis' Richard Woolsey. Photo by F. Scott Schafer and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Robert Picardo as Stargate Atlantis' Richard Woolsey. Photo by F. Scott Schafer and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

From Coach Cutlip on The Wonder Years to Dr. Richard on China Beach and Star Trek: Voyager‘s Holographic Doctor, Robert Picardo has carved out a niche for himself playing a host of diverse, interesting and believable characters on TV as well as in feature film and the theater. The actor’s small screen credits also include Richard Woolsey, a bureaucrat who made his debut in the Stargate SG-1 story Heroes, Part 2. His negative report on Stargate Command made him some enemies at the SGC, but Woolsey subsequently redeemed himself by following his conscience and not protocol. Still, our heroes on Stargate Atlantis were apprehensive when in the fifth season he was placed in charge of the Ancients city. Once again, though, Woolsey made some decisions that eventually earned him the respect and trust of those around him.

“My character started out on Atlantis as the jerk we remembered him being, but he quickly realized that he needed to toss out the rulebook,” notes Picardo. “There’s a story early on in season five called Ghost in the Machine, which is Woolsey’s first really heroic episode involving a Cuban Missile Crisis-type scenario where he stares down the enemy, and the enemy blinks first when calling his bluff. It’s a really nice, charged scene, and what I enjoyed about it when we shot it is that even though he’s completely poker-faced in this time of crisis, when it’s over you can see that Woolsey had nearly pooped his pants,” jokes the actor. “That huge exhalation of relief after the fact is what helps define him. This is the first time he has succeeded in pulling something like this off, and that, to me, is what made his development far more interesting because you see him brick by brick build himself into a leader.

Mr. Woolsey stares down the enemy in "Ghost in the Machine." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Mr. Woolsey stares down the enemy in "Ghost in the Machine." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“The real acting challenge with a character like this is just to keep the integrity of what you’ve done before. Every actor likes to be liked. It’s easier to try to be liked as a human being as opposed to keep that mask up that puts some people off. I’ve played characters that, as an actor, you initially don’t like, but then grow to like despite that first impression. Whatever led to them having that sort of arrogant or officious and intimidating veneer, you come to see cracks in it and realize that there is some kind of neurotic motivating force that makes them act in such a way. Then you will learn to ‘laugh’ at that and enjoy the dramatic tension between their behavior and what’s behind it.

“I think that’s what appeals to the viewers about someone like Woolsey. He’s not just the completely well-adjusted ass he wants to be, do you know what I mean? My character has a certain desire to relate better to people, and, ultimately, his most redeeming quality is that he passionately believes in being a good leader. He wants that more than anything else, but he doesn’t know how to do it. Woolsey is learning, however, and as I’ve said, viewers see him wanting to grow into a leader, which I feel really redeems him. I can’t suddenly turn my character into this intrepid, steely guy; it wouldn’t make sense. I can, though, turn him into someone who can fool the enemy into thinking he’s intrepid and steely, and that’s the cool part of this job.”

Teyla (Rachel Luttrell) and Woolsey in the season five episode "The Seed." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Teyla (Rachel Luttrell) and Woolsey in the season five episode "The Seed." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Of all the people who Woolsey is now responsible for, the first one to befriend him is Teyla (Rachel Luttrell). “The confession by my character to her in Broken Ties of how much he loved his dog is a really sweet moment,” says Picardo. “It actually reminds me a little bit of The Doctor and Kes [Jennifer Lien] early on in Voyager where he was sort of a puffed up, closed off guy making small confessions of his burgeoning humanity to his coworker. That’s something he would never do with the rest of the crew,but he seems to be able to let Kes in on these little things and take her in as his confidant.

“That scene in Atlantis reminded me of that because it’s a whole trust issue,” continues the actor. “Teyla could have gone off and ridiculed him to the others. She could have said, ‘This idiot told me how much he loved his dog, and that he not only lost his wife [in a divorce], but he couldn’t even hold onto a dog.’ However, I think Woolsey senses immediately in Teyla that she’s the most open and what-you-see-is-what-you-get of all the crew, so he chooses to confide in her. Later, when she has to rush off on a mission, she entrusts her baby to him to hand off to her husband, and he’s never held a baby before. That was very adept of the writers to kind of open the door to the audience getting to know Woolsey in a different way and accept him together with the fact that he’s occasionally going to rub people the wrong way because that kind of conflict is fun. It’s also common [dramatic] fodder and has ongoing story possibilities.”

Like his predecessors, Woolsey occasionally strays beyond the Atlantis city limits to offer off-world support to his people. In the Atlantis mid-year two-parter First Contact and The Lost Tribe, he ends up in a tight spot when the Daedalus is commandeered by Todd the Wraith (Christopher Heyerdahl), who believes that he and his people have been betrayed by the humans. For Picardo, this resulted in some additional, and welcome, acting challenges.

Colonel Steven Caldwell (Mitch Pileggi) and Woolsey assess the situation onboard the Daedalus in "First Contact." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Colonel Steven Caldwell (Mitch Pileggi) and Woolsey assess the situation onboard the Daedalus in "First Contact." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“In this instance, Woolsey faces another life-and-death situation where once again I tried to keep the integrity of the character intact,” he says. “There’s a point where it looks as though he’s about to be fed upon by the Wraith, and I did my best to create some genuine fear of being in that moment, rather than the sort of unwavering resolve that we might see from Colonel Sheppard [Joe Flanigan]. I don’t know how the scene was cut together in the episode, but I thought it was both scary and funny at the same time.

“With this two-parter there are some other amusing moments where my character, who also wants to build himself up into a great Barack Obama-style elocutionist, looks for a way to raise everyone’s spirits by saying here’s what’s important about what we’re doing right now. So Woolsey is trying to learn how to recognize the moment and rally the troops through these inspiring speeches, which, of course, he can’t do. If you remember, when he first arrives in Atlantis, he doesn’t make any type of speech, and Sheppard [jokingly] says, ‘Good speech, very inspiring.’ The show’s writers play upon that a couple of other times later on in the season where Woolsey recognizes that public speaking isn’t one of his gifts and he’s trying to learn how to do it. However, it doesn’t happen overnight. And in The Lost Tribe it’s not even that he fails, but rather that he’s cut off by Todd, who’s like, ‘Shut up and let’s get down to business.’

Woolsey and Dr. Keller (Jewel Staite) take up arms to help Ronon (Jason Momoa) take on Todd and his fellow Wraith in "The Lost Tribe." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Woolsey and Dr. Keller (Jewel Staite) take up arms to help Ronon (Jason Momoa) take on Todd and his fellow Wraith in "The Lost Tribe." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“So I think the writers definitely kept weaving the threads of Woolsey’s growth as a leader throughout season five of Atlantis. Another episode I think was a nice surprise for viewers was our clip show – and I hate to call it that –  Inquisition, because Woolsey’s legal skills end up saving the day. If you saw the episode, you know that our main group are held against their will and put on trial for supposed war crimes. When my character finds out that this is more or less a kangaroo court and his people have no possibility of getting a fair trial, he goes in and uses his legal skills to outwit the lawmakers on this planet. But he can’t do it by playing fair. Woolsey basically has to play as dirty as they did, so I thought that was a great story.”

On Voyager, Picardo’s holographic alter ego had more than one chance to engage in a romantic encounter. Woolsey is given the same opportunity in the season five Atlantis episode Remnants, but as is often the case on the show, all is not as it seems.

Richard Woolsey prepares himself for court in "Inquistion." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Richard Woolsey prepares himself for court in "Inquisition." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“My character meets an attractive woman, Dr. Vanessa Conrad, who seems very interested in him, which I think throws him a bit because he’s been divorced for some time and leading a very work-oriented life,” explains Picardo. “His initial response to her is that of a man who hasn’t been flirted with by a woman for so long that he doesn’t even recognize it when it happens. Anna Galvin, the actress who played Dr. Conrad, was absolutely delightful, and it turns out that there’s a surprise about her character, who also has a secret agenda. As a result, the story ends up being about something else, but it gave me the opportunity for some humorous moments because of another plot twist where it looks like Woolsey has an imaginary friend. So there’s a certain amount of concern that he’s losing his marbles,” chuckles the actor.

“The other interesting aspect of my character’s involvement in this story is that he is having his leadership evaluated in the same way that has evaluated others. A representative from the IOA [International Oversight Authority] has been sent to evaluate his leadership of Atlantis thus far, so the shoe is on the other foot and he appears to be having some kind of mental breakdown at the same time. Woolsey’s story line is one of three unfolding in this particular episode. There’s a whole different plot involving Sheppard that is very dark and dramatic, and another with Dr. McKay [David Hewlett] and Dr. Zelenka [David Nykl]. And what’s really wonderful about this story is that at the end, the three separate plots that seem totally unrelated are suddenly linked in an unusual way.

Ronon (Jason Momoa) and Woolsey in a scene from the fifth season story "The Prodigal." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Ronon (Jason Momoa) and Woolsey in a scene from the fifth season story "The Prodigal." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“So there’s a lot going on, and this episode was terrific fun to shoot. [Executive producer] Joe Mallozzi wrote a really good script, and it’s wonderful for my character because the audience sees stuff with him that they haven’t as yet seen. It’s also great to see a middle-aged bald guy hit on by an attractive woman. This woman clearly looks beyond Woolsey’s soul, which she finds very attractive. It’s one of those hey-this-might-still-happen-to-me-type fantasies with guys everywhere,” he says smiling.

Unfortunately, Richard Woolsey’s TV tenure was cut short when Atlantis was not renewed for a sixth season. A made-for-DVD Atlantis movie is in the works, and in the meantime Picardo’s schedule has been as busy as ever. Along with guest-spots on Chuck, Pushing Daises and Castle, the actor has completed work on four feature films, Chasing the Green, Confined, Trail of Blood and Sensored. He has also been collaborating with noted writer/director Travis Oates, who also runs the Acme Theatre, on a new Internet venture.

Robert Picardo and Paul McGillion (Dr. Carson Beckett) during the closing scene of Atlantis' finale "Enemy at the Gate." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Robert Picardo and Paul McGillion (Dr. Carson Beckett) during the closing scene of Atlantis' finale "Enemy at the Gate." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“It’s called The B Team, which is basically about CSI forensic examiners who aren’t quite as good,” jokes Picardo. “We’re going to be shooting vignettes and put them up on the Acme Comedy Theatre website in the hopes we can sell a semi-improvised comedy show. I love the character we’ve developed for me in our little staff of investigators, so I would watch for The B Team to start showing up in the not-so-distant future.”

Steve Eramo

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