Posts Tagged ‘Stargate SG-1’

Sanctuary Begins Production On Season 3

March 18, 2010

Amanda Tapping and the rest of the Sanctuary cast return for season three! Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

THE Syfy Channel’s groundbreaking hit original series Sanctuary, commenced production on its third season in Vancouver on March 15th. The one-hour drama’s 20-episode season is slated to return to Syfy this fall.

Sanctuary is one of television’s most groundbreaking series, shooting almost entirely on green screen. The series was the first in North America to use the RED camera exclusively, and its stunning visual effects were nominated for a 2008 Emmy Award. Season three picks up from the adrenaline-fueled action of season two, which raised the stakes for the brilliant scientist Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping) and her team, who use their unique combination of instinct, medicine and cutting-edge science and technology to find and aid a clandestine population of beings that the world refuses to believe exist. Sanctuary also stars Robin Dunne as forensic psychiatrist Dr. Will Zimmerman, Agam Darshi as the quick-witted Kate Freelander, Ryan Robbins and tech wiz Henry Foss and Christopher Heyerdahl as the sinister John Druitt.

Created by Damian Kinder (Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis), Sanctuary is produced in association with Syfy and is distributed by Tricon Films and Television. Season three of the series will be executive produced by Damian Kindler, Amanda Tapping, Martin Wood, Keith Beedie and Tricon Films.

As noted above, photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions, so please no unauthorized copying or duplciating 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!

Corin Nemec and Charisma Carpenter In Syfy’s House Of Bones

January 16, 2010

Surprises galore are in store for Charisma Carpenter's character in House of Bones. Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

A group of ghost hunters from a nationally syndicated TV show arrive for their latest assignment – the mysterious “Wicker House” in New Orleans, which has been the site of some of the most grisly murders in history. While the house has remained uninhabited since the 1950’s, locals know to stay away. When one of the ghost hunters’ team members is sucked into the walls by a supernatural  force, the team has to work together to find their missing colleague.  

Corin Nemec welcomes you into the House of Bones. Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

Of course, they get more than they bargained for, as they begin to unravel the secret of the house – it’s alive and its foundation made of bone. As other team members start falling victim to the house’s visual trickery and ghost-like manifestations, they soon realize what the house ultimately wants is a new owner – someone who’s just as twisted and ruthless as the house itself and can continually lure fresh meat to the slaughter. Will they make it out alive or will this be the last and greatest episode of their ghostly TV series.  

Something is not quite right for Charisma Carpenter's character in House of Bones. Copyright of The Syfy Channel

House of Bones starring Corin Nemec (Stargate SG-1) and Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) airs Saturday, January 16th @ 9:00 p.m. EST on The Syfy Channel.  

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

The Collector’s Ellen Dubin – The Devil You Know

October 15, 2009
On the job with Ellen Dubin as Jeri Slate in The Collector. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

On the job with Ellen Dubin as Jeri Slate in The Collector. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

She has helped expose alien conspiracies, risked her life to battle forest fires and even reigned as the Pope, all fictionally, of course. So who better than actress Ellen Dubin to take on the forces of darkness in the Canadian-made supernatural TV drama The Collector. As reporter Jeri Slate, she takes a keen interest in Morgan Pym, a onetime German monk who, centuries ago, made a deal with The Devil to collect the souls of others in exchange for 10 years with his one true love. In the present day, he spends 48 hours with each of his employer’s intended “victims,” helping them seek redemption. If they fail to do so, that person’s soul ends up going to Hell. Coincidentally, it was Dubin’s work in another Sci-Fi/Fantasy series that helped her get the role of Jeri Slate.

“I’d done a guest-spot on an episode of a show called First Wave, and the producer of that, Larry Sugar, also produced The Collector,” says the actress. “He remembered my ‘quiet strength,’ I think is what he said, from that episode, so when I read for The Collector I sort of had a leg up already because of that performance. You never know when one Sci-Fi show will lead to another one. I was doing a TV movie-of-the-week playing a firefighter and I auditioned for the Jeri Slate role during my lunch hour. I went in with soot and dirt all over my face and wearing a firefighter-type outfit. Larry asked me to do a crying scene for him, so I did, and then I left and subsequently ended up booking the job.

“Sometimes I guess it helps when you’re working on one project and you audition for another one because you don’t have time to think or get nervous or stressed out. My only worry was about making it back on time to shoot my first scene for this movie-of-the-week.”

Behind-the-scenes with The Collector's Chris Kramer (Morgan Pym) and Ellen Dubin. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

Behind-the-scenes with The Collector's Chris Kramer (Morgan Pym) and Ellen Dubin. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

The actress makes her debut in The Collector in the first season opener, The Rapper, in which Morgan (Chris Kramer) must convince his client, a rap star (Adrian Holmes), that his past 10 years of success carries a steep price tag. Besides being a print journalist, Jeri Slate is also a widow and the single parent of an autistic son, Gabriel (Aidan Drummond). Juggling her character’s personal and professional lives provided Dubin with a variety of acting challenges.

“A number of my character’s scenes were done talking on the telephone, and those are always challenging when you have to do a lot of solo acting,” she notes. “I also worked a great deal with Aidan Drummond, a wonderful young actor who played Jeri’s son. I watched him grow from six years old to eight, and while I obviously couldn’t replace his real mom, I became his on-set mom. I’m not a parent in real life, but I am quite maternal, so I always felt very protective of Aidan and I think it came across in our work. He has a great sense of humor and the two of us humored each other,” jokes Dubin.

“In our first episode there was so much excitement with the cast and crew as far as starting something fresh. There’s the rush of adrenaline that carries you through the work of meeting new people and creating onscreen chemistry as well as relationships with characters, some that you’ve supposedly known for a long time. The first scene we shot was outside and it was one of those walks and talks that you see on many TV shows. I just recall being so nervous about making sure I could remember my lines and walk and talk at the same time,” laughs the actress.

A family portrait - Jeri and her son Gabriel (Aiden Drummond). Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

A family portrait - Jeri and her son Gabriel (Aiden Drummond). Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

“If I’m not mistaken, we didn’t actually shoot the episode that aired first. We did, I believe, either episode three or six, and by doing that, you get to create a certain tone. So by the time you shoot episode one, viewers watch it and go, ‘Oh, OK, they [the characters] sort of have their sea-legs already.’ So I think that was such a smart thing for the producers to do.”

Having been around for a while, Morgan knows how to handle himself when people start asking questions about him and his otherworldly dealings. At the same time, Jeri Slate is certainly no cub reporter and is determined to unravel the mystery surrounding him. This creates an interesting dynamic between the two.

“My character and Chris Kramer’s are caught up in a game of cat and mouse,” explains Dubin. “The audience doesn’t know exactly what their relationship is, and I still get letters asking, ‘Were they lovers, or did they hate one another?’ They weren’t lovers, but sometimes in a show where your characters are adversarial, it comes across as sensual and sexual because of the tension between them. In The Collector, though, it wasn’t meant to be that way at all because there were other women in the show that were Morgan’s love interests.

Ellen Dubin, Aidan Drummond and Chris Kramer. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

Ellen Dubin, Aidan Drummond and Chris Kramer. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

“Having said that, I find playing adversarial roles fascinating, and it just sort of happened with me and Chris. We both have a mischievous quality to our acting, which sparked our onscreen chemistry, and I think audiences responded to that. They seemed to enjoy watching our characters hitting that [proverbial] ball back and forth over the net. There’s a mystery to that relationship, and one that is intrinsic to the show’s overall plot. What’s with these two? Are they linked to the past? Is she reading his mind? Is he reading her mind? What do they truly know about each other? The fact that it wasn’t black and white between Jeri and Morgan is what really contributed to the viewers liking to see them together.”

When asked if she has a favorite episode from the first season of The Collector, one immediately comes to Dubin’s mind. “It’s The Medium, directed by Holly Dale and guest-starring Teryl Rothery [Dr. Janet Fraiser] from Stargate SG-1,” she says. “Teryl plays a medium and the story focuses a lot on peoples’ deaths and connections to the past. I thought it was really well-done, especially with regard to what other people yearned for and their lost loves as well as Jeri’s dead husband Danny’s relationship with their child. You actually saw some of my character’s vulnerability when she’s looking at old pictures of her husband, played by Andrew Jackson, and, again, the audience is wondering what’s up with him and Gabriel. Chris Kramer and I also have a neat confrontational scene about the supernatural in that episode, so it’s definitely my favorite.”

After months of trying to figure out just who Morgan Pym is, Jeri Slate’s curiosity about him intensifies, and understandably so, in the second season of The Collector. “Every time Morgan is in the room something weird happens,” notes Dubin, “so the hairs on the back of my character’s neck are on end and you begin to see the relationship between the two of them further develop. She’s starting to get close to the truth that something is not right with him and that we’re dealing with darker issues in terms of the supernatural. Jeri doesn’t know if it’s The Devil, Hell or what exactly; she can’t put her finger on it.

Jeri Slate follows up another lead on just who Morgan Pym really is. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

Jeri Slate follows up another lead on just who Morgan Pym really is. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

“The relationship between Jeri and her little boy changes as well in the second season. Gabriel is becoming a little bit undone. He’s autistic, but that doesn’t have anything to do with it. You see him spending a lot of time alone looking thorough his mother’s papers and old newspaper clippings. Gabriel is doing some odd things that most kids wouldn’t be doing, unless they were ‘possessed.’ As a result of all this, Jeri is becoming undone, too. She’s a strong woman in terms of knowing what she wants and going after it, but she begins acting a little nutty. Jeri starts to neglect her motherly duties and becomes possessed – excuse the pun – pretty much 24/7 by what’s going on with Morgan.”

The game of cat and mouse between Jeri and Morgan takes on a new dimension in season two’s The Campaign Manager, which presented Dubin with the opportunity to really sink her teeth into the story. “First of all, the episode was challenging because a good portion of it was filmed outside and we were dealing with weather issues,” recalls the actress.

“In this story I’m constantly chasing Chris Kramer’s character and getting very close to the fact that there’s something really not right with this man. Jeri is starting to realize that Morgan may have ties to The Devil, and the two of them have this long and slippery chase scene during a cold and rainy Vancouver day. It’s a very interesting story about politics as well as religion and what people will do to make that deal with The Devil and have a fabulous life for 10 years before things start to become undone.

A shot from "The Campaign Manager." Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

A shot from "The Campaign Manager." Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

“So everyone is going a little crazy, and the episode was an important one for me because I was nominated for a Canadian Gemini award, which is the equivalent of a U.S. Emmy. My character has a big emotional story arc from absolute sorrow to, ‘I’ve got to get to the bottom of this.’ Jeri becomes very driven and will stop at nothing to get to the truth that she’s been searching for.”

Although her character’s story arc came to an end in season two of The Collector, Dubin went on to appear in the show’s third and final year. “You see me playing versions of my character in a kind of virtual reality flashback episode,” she says. “Then I play another major character in season three. It’s actually quite brilliant on the parts of Jon Cooksey and Ali Matheson [series creators/writers/executive producers] as well as the other producers of the show when it comes to what they wrote for me in season three. Just when you think it’s all over, it’s not.

“I like eclectic, offbeat types of stories and in this case they made really good use of my talents. I mean, yes, this is a supernatural drama, but there is also a Law & Order quality to my character in terms of her being real. Jeri is not whacked-out and over-the-top. This is a very real woman experiencing real situations and being a single mother in a real world, even though supernatural things are occurring. But in season three you see a different edge to her and in some cases a more comedic side, too.”

Jeri and her son Gabriel share a quiet moment. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

Jeri and her son Gabriel share a quiet moment. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

The Collector may have ended production, but thanks to it being aired in 65 countries, Dubin still receives fan mail about her work in it. “I hear from fans in places like Serbia, China, Japan, there’s even a Russian fan club for the show,” enthuses the actress. “Some people don’t know it was cancelled, so they ask me about season four and what’s going on with my character. I like having fans in other countries because it reminds you of the power of television. It’s not just a North American thing. It’s wonderful to hear different viewpoints, and yet there are a lot of universal aspects of the show that appeal to everyone.”

Like her Jeri Slate character, Dubin does not like to sit still for very long when it comes to her work. The actress recently completed shooting another TV movie-of-the-week, Second Chances (a.k.a. Lesson of Fear), starring opposite Melissa George (Alias), and is about to start filming a new web-based series called The Resolve. Dubin also just finished doing voiceovers for a major video war game in which she plays multiple roles.

“There are some great women characters in this game, and I modelled two of mine after Eartha Kitt and Julie Newmar [Catwoman] in the old Batman TV series and gave them a purr-like quality,” she says. “They’re members of this tribe, and the other voice I did was closer to Cate Blanchett’s character [Galadriel] from The Lord of the Rings. So I went from a sort of dark and sexy purr to more of an ethereal, dreamy, mysterious type of character.

Ellen Dubin is all decked out for the Gemini Awards. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

Ellen Dubin is all decked out for the Gemini Awards. Photo copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc.

“It was a real privilege to work on something like this. It’s a big game and my first foray into the world of voiceovers for video games. It’s a very tough market to break into in Los Angeles, so I was thrilled to be a part of it and I look forward to being able to talk about the game when it comes out in 2011. So I’ve recently had the chance to play three very different women, all of whom are strong ladies in their own right, which is pretty cool.”

Season two of The Collector was released earlier this week in Canada (Region 1 – US compatible) and can be ordered on-line from It can also be purchased at the Canadian branches of the following retail outlets – Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Future Shop, HMV, Indigo and London Drugs.

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos courtesy of and copyright of Wanstrom and Assoc., 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!

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!

Andy Mikita – The Direct Approach

May 26, 2009
Director Andy Mikita hard at work on the Stargate Atlantis season five episode "First Contact." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Director Andy Mikita hard at work on the Stargate Atlantis season five episode "First Contact." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

As a longtme member of the Stargate family, Andy Mikita has lent his creative talents to directing as well as helping produce dozens of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis stories. He kicked off the fifth season of Atlantis directing the opener, Search and Rescue, followed by The Daedalus Variations and The Shrine, in which one of our heroes almost met his maker. Mikita barely had time to catch his breath before he began prepping to direct the mid-season two-parter First Contact and The Lost Tribe, which guest-starred SG-1‘s Michael Shanks as Dr. Daniel Jackson.

“First off, I want to say how great to was to have Michael on the show,” enthuses Mikita. “He just brings so much to the table and the chemistry between his character and David Hewlett’s [Dr. Rodney McKay] was phenomenal. We shot both these episodes, which were written by [Atlantis executive producer] Martin Gero, together, and he did some of the directing as well. Martin did the lion’s share of the scenes with Michael and David, including the one where the little Asgard alien came out of the spacesuit. So it was a really sensible approach to shooting these stories. We were able to divide the schedule between Martin and myself, which kept us on track financially and time-wise. Because Martin is also a director I felt completely confident in his execution of things, and I really enjoyed all the work he did.

“Probably the biggest challenge with First Contact and The Lost Tribe was making sure that the spacesuits were going to be functional as well as believable and have the desired impact. Real kudos go to our art department and model shop for designing and constructing some incredible suits. They had qualities of a lot of different ideas in there. Also, Iron Man was just coming out at the time we were building these suits, and while we didn’t want there to be obvious comparisons to the movie, I will say that we went straight out and copied the inside-of-the-helmet shots. In The Lost Tribe, specifically, we did close-ups of Michael and David when they were wearing the suits and we literally put in an inside-the-helmet point of view using VFX [visual effects] graphics.

“The VFX team did an amazing bit of work, and I thought the effects in both these episodes were incredible, especially in First Contact where the aliens in their spacesuits came out of their ship and entered Atlantis. The whole concept that Martin came up with involving the transport bubble that allowed the aliens to move through multiple surfaces was really clever and extremely well-executed by the VFX guys. With that, you got another sense, again, of the size of Atlantis, and the concept of finding Janus’ [Gildart Jackson] secret lab was quite compelling. It was a fun episode, or episodes, to shoot and I’m very pleased with how they turned out.”

Mikita confers with Amanda Tapping (Colonel Samantha Carter) on the set of "Search and Rescue." Photo by Eile Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Mikita confers with Amanda Tapping (Colonel Samantha Carter) on the set of "Search and Rescue." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Mikita’s next episode, The Prodigal, sees the return of the human/Wraith hybrid Michael (Connor Trinneer), who comes to Atlantis to execute yet another insidious plan. “This was a tremendous action-packed story with some great fight sequences choreographed by Bam Bam [stunt coordinator James Bamford],” says the director. “The Michael/Ronon [Jason Momoa] fight was really cool and culminated with Ronon actually going over the Atlantis Gate Room balcony. Then there was the big penultimate fight on the rooftop with Michael versus Sheppard [Joe Flanigan] and Teyla [Rachel Luttrell]. That was a tough sequence to shoot. We were fairly limited as far as how large in scope we could build that [rooftop] set piece. To help sell that idea, we used a large projection screen so we could see off into the background and the moonlit sky. Then there was the big sort of helicopter shot that shows the very top spire of the city and just how high up our heroes are when they’re fighting. That was another impressive VFX sequence.

“Obviously, staging a fight on a ledge or precipice like that is pretty tricky. For instance, when Michael throws Sheppard down the ledge and he’s left dangling, the first time we shot that, the Sheppard stunt double went right over the edge of the set. If that was real life, he would have been a goner. After that, we were joking around and saying, ‘Well, that’s it. Michael wins the fight, the series is over.’ Also tricky to shoot were the scenes in which Major Lorne [Kavan Smith] and Woolsey [Robert Picardo] run afoul of Michael’s stun bubble and we had to choreograph their falls. We had a fantastic Woolsey stunt double who looked so much like Robert that at times if you were standing a little bit away from him, you couldn’t tell the difference between him and Robert. And the stunt double did such an amazing job on the fall as well. This was a real highlight episode for me to shoot and definitely one of my favorites from season five.

“Something else I thought was really cool with The Prodigal was how [Atlantis executive producer] Carl Binder, who wrote this episode, gave the character of Amelia Banks a much more significant role. We got to see her as more of an active participant in the story as opposed to just being a technician when she and Ronon take on one of the hybrid guards. The actress who plays Banks [Sharon Taylor] is quite proficient at martial arts, so she got to show off some of her skills onscreen and I think the fans picked up on that.”

The director along with the Atlantis cast and crew spent a little over a week  last August trying to keep cool while filming inside a very hot Wraith set for the fifth season episode Infection. “We had a fairly limited Wraith set, so as our characters were walking through the ship, we were basically reusing the same set over and over again,” explains Mikita. “So we had to move things around as well as relight and redress the sections in order to make it feel like we were constantly on the move and create a sense that it was a much larger space than it actually was.

David Hewlett (Dr. Rodney McKay) hangs around with Mikita during the filming of season five's "The Shrine." Photo courtesy of and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

David Hewlett (Dr. Rodney McKay) hangs around with Mikita during the filming of season five's "The Shrine." Photo courtesy of and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“Then, of course, there’s the fact that in our story, the gene therapy that Dr. Keller has been developing really isn’t working as well as we hoped, so we come across these new gruesome creatures onboard the Wraith ship. They were based somewhat on the Spoils of War [season four] creatures where we saw the birthing sequence of the Wraith warriors. In this episode, we took it a step further and, as a result of the gene therapy, the Wraith lost their ability to feed with their hands. So they basically became flesh-eating monsters and needed to eat using their hands and teeth and ingesting the way we humans do. So that was another challange to make the attacks from these monsters scary and, again, believable, and I feel we achieved both to a great extent.”

In mid-September 2008, Mikita took on the job of directing the 100th episode of Atlantis, Enemy at the Gate, which, ironically, was also the show’s season/series finale. “I was absolutely honored to be given that opportunity,” he recalls. “At the same time, it was kind of a daunting responsibility, given that the episode was shooting at the same time as Rob Cooper’s [Atlantis co-creator/executive producer] Vegas. That was a big hallmark episode as well in that it was a real departure type of story that takes place in an alternate reality, so a great deal of attention was going to that one, too.

“By the time we got around to Enemy at the Gate, we had to be very careful because we didn’t have any extra money or time to shoot it,” continues the director. “We couldn’t make it any bigger or splashier than any other story we had previously done, but we did want to make a really good, solid, conventional Atlantis episode with the stakes essentially being that the Wraith are attacking Earth. The highlight for me was having Amanda Tapping [Colonel Samantha Carter] back, which was just sensational. It was a very proud moment for the cast and crew to have made it to the 100th episode mark, but also a very bittersweet time because we’d had so much fun for five years and now the series was coming to an end.”

Director Andy Mikita. Photo courtesy of and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Director Andy Mikita. Photo courtesy of and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Although his time on Atlantis may have ended, Mikita still remains very much a part of the Stargate franchise and has already begun his involvement in the second spin-off, Stargate Universe. “I’m hoping I can take what I’ve learned from SG-1 and Atlantis and apply it to whatever new challenges I’m given on Universe,” he says. “We’re approaching that show from quite a different perspective stylistically, so that should help me grow even further as a director for sure.”

Steve Eramo

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

James Bamford – Action Man!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Eramo

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