Posts Tagged ‘Ronon Dex’

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!


Stargate Atlantis’ Jewel Staite – Doctor’s Orders

November 22, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Eramo

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

James Bamford – Action Man!

May 13, 2009
Stargate Atlantis stunt coordinator James "Bam Bam" Bamford takes aim on the show's Vancouver, B.C. set. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Stargate Atlantis stunt coordinator James "Bam Bam" Bamford takes aim on the show's Vancouver, B.C. set. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

James Bamford is looking for a fight today on the Stargate Atlantis set. It’s OK, though, seeing that he is the show’s stunt coordinator. When it comes to one of our heroes duking it out with a bad guy, a Wraith jumping from a dizzying height, or even a guest-star taking a fall, Bamford, or “Bam Bam,” is responsible for making sure everyone knows what he or she is doing and, above all, is safe while doing it. His season five on-set “duties” began in earnest with Broken Ties, in which Ronon Dex once again goes up against his former Satedan friend Tyre, played by Mark Dacascos.

“First off, Mark Dacascos is just a master and a true martial artist,” says Bamford. “He’s not an actor who learned how to fight, but rather a fighter who learned how to act, and is a treat to work with. Having him perform my choreography is truly an honor. I began really early choreographing this particular fight in Broken Ties, and it went on for so long that they [the producers and director] actually cut out almost half of it. The episode itself was over time-wise, which is why we had to edit down the sequence. However, what’s cool is when the season five DVD comes out, you’ll see the entire fight as a special feature. Ivon Bartok [DVD special features producer] followed us around with a camera in the early choreography stages and came to all the rehearsals, so you’ll get to watch a really progressive version of the rehearsal process. And  think the fight on the DVD will be my original full-length version, which I’m excited about.

Bamford sets the stage for a stunt. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Bamford sets the stage for a stunt. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

“Insofar as the actual choreography, the first challenge was designing a new sword for the Tyre character,” continues the stunt coordinator. “Every martial artist prefers different things about his weapons so I spoke a couple of times with Mark over the phone about dimensions, handle, grip and whatnot for his sword. In the end, he said, ‘Go ahead with whatever you think will work for me, Bam Bam. I trust your opinion.’ So I played around with different swords, and James Robbins [Atlantis production designer] did the conceptual drawing for it. Our model shop then built the actual weapon, and between all of us we came up with a nice, light and yet dangerous looking blade.

“From there, I had to get a stunt double for Mark, who was still down in Los Angeles, and I stepped in as Jason Momoa’s [Ronon Dex] double. Usually what I try to do is figure out the beginning of the fight or how to get into it, and then from there the brain just flows and things unfold organically. Jason wanted to show a growing and then explosion of anger or betrayal at one point in the fight, so I left one section where he could have his own personal stamp. We worked with Jason for a few days, and then Mark flew into town and we started to teach him his side of the fight. We taught him away from Jason, and vice versa. Throughout the rehearsal process, Mark was like, ‘Thank you so much for this wonderful fight.’ He was very complimentary from beginning to end, and when he and Jason finally came together to do the fight they were absolutely perfect. They jumped right into it and it was something to see, that’s for sure.”

Bamford on-set with Jason Momoa (Ronon Dex). Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Bamford on-set with Jason Momoa (Ronon Dex). Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

In the season five Atlantis episode Tracker, Ronon and Dr. McKay (David Hewlett) must match wits with Kiryk, a Runner who has abducted Dr. Keller (Jewel Staite) while on an off-world mission. Once again, the stunt coordinator had the opportunity to work with a professional who was well-versed in the art of stunt fighting.

“We had Mike Dopud playing a character named Kiryk, and in addition to being an actor, Mike has worked as a stunt guy as well,” explains Bamford. “His character and Jason’s had two on-screen fights, but I didn’t have access to Jason – he was out of town and not available for rehearsals. I had to put everything together with Jason in mind but not physically there, so I rehearsed with Mike and he did quite well. When we subsequently started plugging Jason into the rehearsals it was just minutes here and there on-set. He didn’t even see one of the fights until the day he got to set, so I had to teach it to him bit by bit as we were shooting. As usual, Jason picked up the choreography very quickly. I showed it to him and the camera was literally rolling five minutes later.

Bamford and company are suited up for action. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Bamford and company are suited up for action. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios


Prepping for some on-screen work. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Prepping for some on-screen work. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

After their six-week-long summer 2008 hiatus, Bamford was back on-set with the Atlantis cast and crew to start work on The Prodigal, an action-packed episode with some intense fights involving the half-human, half-Wraith Michael (Connor Trinneer). “We shot our first big fight sequence on our second day back from hiatus,” recalls Bamford. “So everyone had been traveling about and had to return to work and try to remember some fight choreography.

“I had rehearsed the fight sequences and put the footage on an instructional DVD that I gave to Jason and Connor. Yes, they had that to study, but even though you might have something in your head, it doesn’t give you the actual rehearsal time needed to build true muscle memory. So the actors had very little time to practice and sort of had to go off their memory of the DVD. It’s like learning Kung Fu from a book, which is very difficult unless you’re a master. So the hiatus ate into most of our rehearsal time, but, once again, the actors pulled things off and there are some amazing fights in this episode.

Bamford runs through a fight sequence from "The Prodigal" with Jason Momoa. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Bamford runs through a fight sequence from "The Prodigal" with Jason Momoa. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios


Bamford gives his actors some instruction on hand-to-hand combat. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Bamford gives his actors some instruction on hand-to-hand combat. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

“Following The Prodigal, we went into Remnants, which features a well-known character [Acastas Kolya, portrayed by Robert Davi] that you’ll recognize. At the moment [mid-August 2008] we’re filming Infection as well as prepping for Identity and Vegas. James Robbins, Rob Cooper [Atlantis co-creator/executive producer] and John Smith [executive producer] are actually in Las Vegas doing location scouts for certain scenes. Part of Vegas is set in the desert and there’s some driving involved along with plenty of stunts. Then after that is the season [and series] finale Enemy at the Gate, which should be a lot of fun to do.”

While working on Atlantis, Bamford was asked by writer/director Robert C. Cooper to also serve as fight coordinator for the first made-for-DVD Stargate SG-1 feature film The Ark of Truth. “Ark was a great opportunity for me because I got to work with Robert Cooper, which I love,” says the stunt coordinator. “He writes for himself to direct, and he writes things a little bigger because he knows exactly what he wants to see, so we get to do things on a grander scale for Rob.

Jason Momoa hanging around on-set with Bamford. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

Jason Momoa hanging around on-set with Bamford. Photo courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios

“I think we had three days scheduled to do the main fight involving Ben Browder [Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell], which is way over and above what we usually get. I mean, we usually get four to six hours to do a fight, so three days was fantastic. Because SG-1 is such a well-oiled machine, we managed to get it done in a day-and-a-half, which was terrific. I had previously worked with Rob on [the season three Atlantis episode] Doppelganger, which had a large fight sequence. He enjoyed the choreography that I’d brought to Atlantis and wanted to extend that type of feel and look onto Ark of Truth. Needless to say I had a blast.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos courtesy of and copyright of MGM Studios, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!


Jason Momoa – At Home On Atlantis

April 14, 2009
Jason Momoa as Ronon Dex on Stargate Atlantis. Photo by Matthias Clamer and copyright The Sci Fi Channel

Jason Momoa as Ronon Dex on Stargate Atlantis. Photo by Matthias Clamer and copyright The Sci Fi Channel

Some people say it’s the clothes that make the man. In the case of actor Jason Momoa, his dreadlocks are what first come to mind when you think of his Stargate Atlantis alter ego of Ronon Dex. After seven years, he was longing to shed his dreads, especially after they started to become a pain in the neck, quite literally. Unfortunately, because of his work on Atlantis, that was not an option, so a compromise was struck. The actor had his hair cut, but that meant wearing a wig as Ronon, which still had its drawbacks.

“My dreads were giving me neck problems, so I wanted to cut them off,” says Momoa, sitting down in the Atlantis make-up trailer, having finished his working day. “The writers were going to write it into the episode, but one of the gentleman at the network didn’t want me to lose the dreads because he didn’t think I could be Ronon without them. I’m an actor, and I don’t need my hair in order to do my job as an actor. So this [fifth] year I’m wearing a wig,” referring to the man-made hairpiece being removed from the top of his head. “Of course, these fake dreads weigh five or six pounds; they’re heavier than my real ones. What are you going to do,” he jokes.

It was in the Atlantis second season episode Runner that Ronon Dex, and his dreads, became a part of the Stargate universe. In it, he was befriended by Colonel John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) and Teyla (Rachel Luttrell), who offered him a safe haven in Atlantis. A former military officer in the Satedan army, Ronon’s home world had been invaded by the Wraith. Captured during battle, he was fitted with a tracking device and spent the next seven years being hunted as sport by the enemy. Ronon was forced to keep his distance from other people or risk their planets being culled by the Wraith. So he had his doubts that his time in Atlantis and as a member of Sheppard’s off-world team would last long. Well, he was wrong.

“Each year it just becomes more and more obvious to Ronon that Atlantis is his home and that he’s comfortable being there,” notes Momoa. “That became even clearer to him after the story this year [Broken Ties] where he experiences that huge change. Relationship-wise, this season we picked up on my character kind of liking Dr. Keller [Jewel Staite], and you get a glimpse into his jealous side because McKay [David Hewlett] feels the same way about her. And as we know, Ronon doesn’t like to lose. We don’t get to touch on that too much, though, which is a bummer because it would have been nice to see him rub it in McKay’s nose just a little bit,” chuckles the actor. “We have one tiny scene in the episode we’re currently shooting [Infection], but that’s it.

“At least we get to see the softer side, I guess you could call it, of my character,” he continues, “just like we saw his darker side in Broken Ties. Now I would have liked to have seen that continue a little longer. I wanted him to stay evil for maybe a couple of episodes, but they [the producers] decided to resolve the issue by the end of the story, which didn’t leave time for a great deal of angst. You did, however, get to see a lot of his vulnerability and him having raw power. That was probably the strongest Ronon has ever been, being all cracked out on that [Wraith] enzyme. Then his friends took that away from him, and he subsequently begs to be killed.

“As an actor, I had the opportunity to go to a couple of places I’d never been before, and that was so much fun. You don’t get to do something like that on most TV shows, or for that matter in real life. For Ronon, it was like being on heroin times 10, and since it’s a make-believe drug, you can really go with it because who knows what it does to you. That was neat. So there’s been plenty of stuff and a lot of new colors for me to play this year as far as Ronon is concerned.”

When Ronon first came to Atlantis, Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson) was in charge of the expedition from Earth. When she became a prisoner of the Replicators, Stargate SG-1‘s Colonel Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) took over those responsibilities. In Atlantis‘ fifth season, the colonel was reassigned by Earth Command, and International Oversight Authority (IOA) representative Richard Woolsey (Robert Picardo) arrived in the Pegasus galaxy to take his turn in the responsibility seat.

“Woolsey has been good for my character in a shake-up sort of way,” says Momoa. “I mean, Ronon has a problem with authority in general. The reason he and Sheppard get along so well is because of mutual respect. He’ll loosely do what the colonel asks just because he trusts him and knows that Sheppard will watch his back. As for any outside authority, Ronon isn’t thrilled with it. He’s treated Woolsey like he treated Weir and Carter when he initially met them, and I think episode after episode they’ve become friendlier and friendlier. Woolsey treats Ronon with a lot of respect and their relationship is one of boss and employee. He doesn’t really understand Woolsey, but that’s OK because it’s what makes things interesting between them.”

Ronon pitches in to help save his colleague Rodney McKay's life in season five's "The Shrine." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright The Sci Fi Channel

Ronon pitches in to help save his colleague Rodney McKay's life in season five's "The Shrine." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright The Sci Fi Channel

Speaking of relationships, is Momoa pleased with how the one between his character and Jewel Staite’s has been written? “Absolutely,” he says. “I like that he’s fighting over someone who he might not necessarily like in a romantic sort of way. It’s not clear if he likes her because McKay likes her. It’s left to the audience to figure things out. Again, it’s nice, but I don’t think he should be with Keller. It was fun to have a couple of stories this season where there could have been something with them, but ultimately, no one wants to see Ronon with a woman. It’s like Samson losing his hair, you know? Once Ronon gets involved in a relationship he’ll lose his ‘powers’ if you will. That’s the way I’ve always thought of it. Having said that, there’s an episode towards the end of the season where you see another potential love interest for my character.”

One of the season five episodes that has both Ronon and Dr. McKay “competing” for Dr. Keller’s attentions is Tracker. In it, the physician is kidnapped while off-world by Kiryk (Mike Dopud), who, like Ronon, was turned into a runner by the Wraith. He needs Keller’s help to save the life of a little girl who was injured during a Wraith culling of her village and is not about to let either Ronon or McKay get in his way.

Tracker was fun because it was just me and David Hewlett, and working with him is always a pleasure as well as laughs and good times,” enthuses Momoa. “Our two characters are good together because they’re obviously brains and brawn, and now this year they’re fighting over Keller and it’s been great to feed off of that.

“I have to say, too, that Mike Dopud, who played Kiryk, does a terrific job in the episode. He’s a fantastic actor and we had such a good time working with him. Like Mike’s character, Ronon brought death upon an entire village because of the Wraith, so my character is able to relate to him on that level. However, they’re two testosterone-driven don’t-show-any-emotion guys, but they do share one tiny moment of understanding in the episode. I’m really pleased our writers did something like that, rather than having Ronon put the blinders on and have him just seeing red because this Runner took someone who he loves and respects. It would have been neat if they were able to bring back Mike’s character and have him and Ronon take on some Wraith together.”

Ronon and his teammates could have used someone like Kiryk to help them in the aforementioned Infection, where our heroes board a Wraith hive ship that, along with its crew, is suffering from a strange sickness. “In this episode, the Wraith we’re dealing with no longer have feeding openings on their hands,” explains Momoa. “So they have to eat using their mouths, and they have these really nasty, ugly faces and teeth, which we get to see. Ronon and the others are stuck on a hive ship with a bunch of freakin’ hulking eating machines, one of whom bites my character and gets his head blasted off. Our guys have to team up with Todd the Wraith [Christopher Heyerdahl]; they unfreeze him from stasis and he helps us.

“Andy Mikita is directing Infection and he’s one of my favorite directors. It’s very much a collaborative process with him. Sometimes it can be difficult to convey your ideas to a director, and Andy is really cool about it. I’ve always found him to be like a father figure. You can shoot the breeze with him. He’s very down-to-earth and that’s what I like about him.”

"Go ahead, make my day!" Ronon sets his sights on yet another bad guy in the season five episode "The Lost Tribe." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright The Sci Fi Channel

"Go ahead, make my day!" Ronon sets his sights on yet another bad guy in the season five episode "The Lost Tribe." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright The Sci Fi Channel

No stranger to series TV, Momoa was a regular on Baywatch Hawaii and North Shore before being cast on Atlantis. It seems, though, that his time playing Ronon Dex has had the most impact on him and allowed him to further stretch himself as an actor.

“I’ve been with this role for four seasons, and at the end of my first year playing him I really began to grasp the character, so much so that now it’s easy to slip into,” he says. “As far as the action goes, it’s a lot easier than it used to be. I mean, I’ve been walking in these shoes for a long time, and I’m going to be a little sad when this show ends and I’m not playing Ronon. I’ve never really felt that way before. This is the hardest role I’ve ever had. There’s no way that I relate to most of the stuff he does, but I really like Ronon and I think the writers have done a good job with him. Sometimes it’s hard not having much to say as my character, but, hey, that’s Ronon, so I’ve had to let go of that.

“When it comes to the acting, I’ve learned a great deal on Atlantis. I get really nervous on-camera, so I’ve tried to relax and slow down. This season I’ve had the chance to go much deeper into this character and really experiment with him. Broken Ties was a huge breakthrough for me, especially when it came to the scenes where I cried. I find it very difficult to cry, and as an actor you have to look inside yourself as much as possible and be aware of your emotions. Thank God I got to work with [director] Ken Girotti on Broken Ties, who’s incredible. He got me to relax and would say to me, ‘You know you can do this.’ When you’re on-set and, for example, the lighting people are doing their thing, the camera guys are moving the camera into place, and someone from make-up is powdering your face, it’s hard to channel your emotions. It takes a lot of practice, and I’m not good at getting all emotional and crying.  Ken just came up to me and said, ‘Jason, you know what you want to do. You’re there, just relax.’

“When I heard Ken tell me to relax I thought, ‘OK, just breathe into your stomach and listen for a second to what he’s saying.’ When that one word [relax] hit me, it was just awesome. That’s where you think, ‘This is why I do what I do.’ I’ve had times in my career where I’ve been able to stretch myself acting-wise doing those types of scenes. Action helps that entire process because it throws you into that particular moment. As far as the acting, though, when you get to just perform and do your thing, that’s when you truly realize why you love your job so much.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos are copyright The Sci Fi Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any fashion. Thanks!