We’ve reached a kind of fork in the road in our trip down memory lane: Stargate SG-1 and the new spin-off Stargate Atlantis ran concurrently during SG-1‘s eighth season! So, we’ve got a treat here: two articles in our Thirteen Weeks for Thirteen Years (13-4-13) series this week, and this will be true for three weeks since both shows ran concurrently for three seasons! (Visit the SG-1 article for Season Eight for that side of the journey.)
SG-1 stars Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks helped start the adventure that Atlantis had to offer by appearing in the new show’s premiere “Rising.” Shanks shared in an interview, “That was, for me, a flashing back to when we first started doing our series. Here was this new group of people who were very excited about what lies ahead and also interested in any advice Rick and I might have to pass on to them. The main thing I tried to focus on telling the actors that I talked to was ‘Just relax. Concentrate on the work as well as the big picture and let all the little things take care of themselves.’ The Atlantis cast has a great deal going for it in terms of acting and scripts. I’m sure things will be just fine.”
In order to set the stage, SG-1‘s Season Eight premiere, “New Order,” followed Dr. Elizabeth Weir’s trek from being the commander of Stargate Command in Colorado to becoming the leader of an international investigative team at the new Ancient Outpost in Antarctica that SG-1 discovered at the tail end of Season Seven in “Lost City.” So, if you’re starting from the beginning and are wondering at what point you should pick up Atlantis, make sure to watch SG-1‘s “Lost City” and “New Order” first. To be fair, if you’re interested in the entire saga of the search for the Lost City of the Ancients, you should start at SG-1‘s Season Six finale “Full Circle,” or visit our article in the Stargate Wiki for the summary. 😉
Faced with having to produce 40 episodes of television in a regular 20-episode production schedule, Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper split the responsibilities: Cooper stayed on as showrunner for SG-1, while Wright took the reins for Atlantis.
Atlantis Season One
Make sure to return here and vote in our poll below once you’ve finished watching Season One’s episodes:
From “New Order” at RDAnderson.com (2004):
“SG-1 has become a little bit more mainstream now than it was, say, in season one or two. And Atlantis isn’t so far out there either. It’s not going to be steeped in such mythology that if you miss an episode you think, ‘I don’t know what’s going on!’ We’re trying to tell slightly more mainstream stories and just good solid science fiction stories.
“Here’s the thing about any television show: As much as we like to think it’s the writing, and a lot of it is, what it is in terms of ratings numbers is, do people want to invite these characters into their homes every week? If they like these characters, if they want to spend an hour with them, care about what’s going to happen to them, that’s a successful show. I mean, what’s the plot of Friends? They’re friends! But you would love to spend a half an hour with them every week. You just love that friend. A science fiction show is that plus the worlds we take them to, the imagination that we bring to it on top of that.
“It is a different show [from SG-1]. I mean, it’s set in a different milieu, it’s got different characters. It’s got the same writers, though, with our sensibilities of storytelling.
“We wanted to set up the human Replicators as a potential villain for Atlantis, but with us doing Atlantis and SG-1 at the same time, which we really never planned to do, we had to come up with another villain for Atlantis.
“Right now, for the whole season, we’re cut off. But we’re going to make it home at least once at the end of the season, or connect with people from Earth at least once, to touch base, to provide the opportunity for the Stargate universe to occasionally cross over. After this season it will become much more possible for any one of the SG team members to appear.”
From “Sheppard’s Try” in TV Zone #180 (Sept. 2004):
“At one point in college I was so shy that I’d drop out of a class if asked to speak in front of other people. After graduating from college I worked at a variety of jobs, from banking to politics. I enjoyed whatever I was doing at the time but I didn’t love my work. That changed, though, after I was fired from Interview magazine. I was living in New York City and flat broke. My next door neighbour was an actor and he always seemed to be having more fun than I was. He convinced me to give acting a shot, but because of my shyness I was sure it would be a lost cause. Even so, I went to the New York Neighborhood Playhouse, began to study the craft, and after a while realized, ‘This might just work.’ So I went out to Los Angeles and was lucky enough to start getting jobs right away.
“My manager was at the Golden Globe Awards with one of his clients, who won an award. MGM TV President Hank Cohen also happened to be there and he came over to my manager to congratulate him. He also said, ‘By the way, we’re making this TV show and we’re desperate to find a leading man. Do you have anyone?’ My manager said, ‘Actually, yes.’ The next day I met with Hank and within 48 hours the deal was done. It wasn’t one of those long painful audition processes, which I’ve been through before.
“So all the pieces fit together right away and I couldn’t have been more pleased. Of course, I love my character. There’s a level of self-deprecation with Sheppard that I feel is critical, especially with this type of genre. Shows that take themselves too seriously are ones I tend not to watch. The exception being a programme such as Cops, which deals with serious real-life events. However, on Atlantis, we’re facing situations that are in some ways incomprehensible, and in the real world you’d need to be able to laugh a bit in order to survive.”
From “Gating Away From It All” in Cult Times Special #31 (Sept. 2004):
“[Shooting Colonel Sumner] was the ultimate crux for my character in [‘Rising’]. I mean, he had to kill his commanding officer and that made for an odd emotional tug of war. On one hand there was appal at what Sheppard had done, and conversely there was a level of celebration in that his actions saved the lives of everyone else. It was an odd balance to strike. However, having a guy like Robert Patrick there made it easier. When you’re working with such a great actor everything just seems to fall into place.
“Funnily enough, ‘Rising’ was my first real foray into the world of Sci-Fi. Before that, I was used to doing more tightly-knit dramas. With a programme like Atlantis you have to be a little bit more expressive and extroverted because that’s the genre. So that was the transition I had to make and it was an interesting one for me.
“Then, of course, there are the SFX, which at times were bewildering to me simply because there were so many. Although you’re reading something on paper you don’t really know what’s going on. For instance, we’d be choreographing a fight scene and it was like, ‘The Wraith are over there. OK, now there’s one over there, and another to your left.’ That took a little getting used to. On the whole, though, shooting the Atlantis pilot was a very exciting and enjoyable experience. Again, it was especially fun to have Robert Patrick with us. He was quite helpful in explaining what to expect from the sci-fi world because he’s been in it before.”
From “Chicago 2009: Joe Flanigan, Man of Action” at WormholeRiders (Aug. 2009):
“Probably that bug episode [‘Thirty-Eight Minutes’] with the bug on me [was my least favorite episode]. We had not built the sets properly. For some reason we built the space ships as though they were really space ships, and we couldn’t get in them. We’re like, ‘But this is for TV. We need to get a film crew in there!’ So we were all shoved in there. It was like the fourth or fifth episode, and it was hot and sweaty and they wouldn’t pay for the air conditioning because they weren’t sure whether we were going to last, I think. They went, ‘I ain’t paying for air conditioning!’ It was hot, and sweaty, and miserable. And Rainbow [Sun Francks]—who I love to death—kept messing up all of his lines and my bug was stuck on my neck, and I was like, ‘Come on! Come on! Get me outta here!’ And it was frustrating. But I learned.”
From “In Sheppard’s Care” in Stargate SG-1: The Official Magazine, issue #2 (Jan./Feb. 2005):
“My favorite episode to shoot was a show called ‘The Defiant One.’ We’re marooned on this island and the Wraith and I are at each other. That’s just complete action, and it’s a lot of fun because I love doing action stuff.
“I think the most interesting episode we’ve done so far is the [two-parter] ‘The Storm’ and ‘The Eye.’ I haven’t seen the cut yet but I think it’ll cut together pretty well.
“We also have a show called ‘Underground’ with Colm Meaney, and that one is particularly good. That’s one of the first times we’ve really hit all of our targets. My issue is [always] ‘Are the characters getting the right storylines?’ It continually gets better, and I thought it worked well in ‘Underground,’ so I was really happy. It’s been great. Things are a lot easier now than they were in the first six to eight weeks.
“‘Home’ definitely explores [the loneliness of being stranded away from Earth]. I think that when one is idle, one will certainly want to get home. However, the amount of threats that are coming in our direction at all times—and we know there is an imminent attack—are all very frightening. It’s leading towards a climatic place where we have to prepare ourselves for something intensely serious. So we’re not really finding that we have time to reminisce and wax nostalgic over Earth. We’ve become a fairly self-sustained group.
“There are characters I have played where I’ve dreaded the idea of a long run. This is a character that I think would get continually more interesting, so I look forward to hopefully doing this role for a long time and seeing where he ends up in five years’ time. It would be fantastic if we can explore that.”
From “Sheppard’s Try” in TV Zone #180 (Sept. 2004):
“I’m hoping that my character retains his sense of humour as well as that level of self-deprecation, both of which are what drew me to the role. Yes, John Sheppard is in many ways a hero, but he’s not always certain that he’s going to end up the hero, do you know what I mean? He’s not one of those stereotypical sure-footed types of guys who can save the whole world without blinking an eye. Call me crazy, but I like the potential uncertainty of the outcome where the major is concerned.
“The relationship between Sheppard and Dr. Weir tends to be slightly combative because she has to act as an administrator. She’s driven primarily by her intellect whereas my character is driven primarily by his instinct. They’ll handle a situation differently and have the occasional clash of opinions, but the two definitely respect one another.
“As the season unfolds, I think you will see a greater level of confidence with Sheppard. There’s also a little more playfulness within the group because they’re not under as strict a leadership as before. For example, Sheppard has developed a certain repartee with Dr. McKay, which I don’t think was expected. McKay was originally conceived as a very different character, but the writers decided to go in another direction after David Hewlett was cast. He brings a neat comedic element to the stories and one that plays nicely off the military aspects of our characters.
“There’s a solid camaraderie between the major and Lt. Ford. He’s a young guy who likes to have fun, which is essentially who Sheppard is. He doesn’t really want responsibility; he just ended up with it. Paul McGillion’s character of Dr. Beckett is great. He’s the medical whiz kid. Then, of course, there’s this attractive young alien woman named Teyla, but I can’t tell you anything more about the major’s relationship with her. [smiles]
“Everyone on Sheppard’s team has his or her own expertise and together they get the job done.
“Collaboration [is what I find the most rewarding about my job]. I don’t like doing things solo. I’ve tried writing, but I hate being alone in a room. I’d rather be around people and that’s especially true here on Atlantis. Everyone is open to ideas and making things work, and I’m betting that’s what’s going to make this show a success.”
From “Doctor on Call” in TV Zone #181 (Oct. 2004):
“On Traders I played this very strange fellow who lived in a broom closet. Apparently, Robert [Cooper] liked the idea of someone like that on Stargate. Originally I was supposed to play a very similar character in an episode. However at the time I was working on a project in Los Angeles, so things didn’t pan out. However the part of McKay in ’48 Hours’ then came along and they just offered me the job, which was great. As a guest star you really have the hardest job on TV shows because you’re coming into a totally new environment where everyone knows each other. I’d watched Stargate a few times but I didn’t know anyone on the programme. Fortunately, my first few scenes were with Amanda Tapping. She is just so lovely and we immediately got along. Amanda has the same sense of humour as I do and that allowed us to get a nice on-screen banter going. From that point on I was able to relax and have fun with the role.
“I’m always pleasantly surprised when I get invited back to someone’s house for dinner. My dad always said that the testament to a relationship is if someone is willing to pay you to come back. Chances are you weren’t mistaken in believing your first visit went well. It was marvellous to be asked back to Stargate. As before, the problem was timing. The producers would call and I’d be like ‘I just got another job.’ Thank God we were eventually able to work out the scheduling because doing that second story was even more of a treat. Let that be a lesson to all young actors—be as obnoxious as you can in the role and chances are good that as long as you don’t offend anybody you’ll be back. It also helps if your character dodges bullets and any other dangers that comes his or her way.
“Originally the producers were looking to bring me into the series and then decided to go a different way. They created a new character called Dr Ingram and were casting for that. So I was both flattered and disappointed. However one day I received a phone call saying they had re-thought their approach and would I like to come in and read for the part of Ingram. I said ‘Sure.’ I think I have an advantage in this genre because I’m such a big Sci-Fi fan anyway. The technical jargon doesn’t seem like jargon to me. Half the fun is figuring out why you’re saying what you’re saying. The most important thing is to get the information out to the audience and still keep some personality to your character.
“So I did the audition, had some laughs with the material and before I knew it they had changed the characters name back to McKay and offered me the role. Filming had already begun on the pilot by the time I was flown up to Vancouver. My first day on the job, Brad Wright took me on a tour of the Atlantis set. There were all sorts of people putting things together, standing on ladders and painting walls, etc.; I was stunned. This is such a huge undertaking. Two days later we were shooting on the set and it was just incredible. The set is designed in a very modular fashion so that sections can be pulled out and that allows you to extend spaces. It’s like a new room every day, so invariably I always get lost while wandering about trying to find where the food is. I’m like a rat in a maze. They keep changing things around so I can’t get a snack. As you can probably tell, food is very important to me and McKay.”
From “The Man from Atlantis” in Dreamwatch #122 (Nov. 2004):
“For me, there was never any question of wanting to do this show. And it’s been amazing. The time, energy and money they’ve spent on this thing is incredible—there’s something about walking on set and seeing this 30-foot tall Stargate and this massive Frank Lloyd Wright-style set. It’s just perfect for people like me. I get a kick out of it!
“From the pilot episode [‘Rising’] on, the thing that I’ve really noticed—and I was quite surprised by it—is that the episodes are really quite dark. We do some very questionable things. SG-1 is a military operation, so there are rules and regulations and checks and balances as to how they approach things. We don’t have the benefit of that. Because this is a research trip, with the military obviously a big part of that, we make some huge political mistakes and we make a lot of enemies because of that. We’re out here floundering around in a galaxy we know nothing about with technology we know nothing about.
“I’ve always liked the darker aspects of the sci-fi genre. Part of science fiction to me is the ability to explore both the positive and the negative sides of the future. What I like about this is there are enough loose ends to debate about. There’s nothing worse than pat, black and white answers in sci-fi, because technology invariably doesn’t solve the problem for people.
“Speaking of making mistakes, [‘Underground’] is an episode about us really nudging a race into the atomic age, simply so that we can get food. If you looked not too far into the future, you would see that perhaps that’s not a good idea. And as it turns out, it’s not! But it’s all about survival and I think that’s quite a topical theme. We are forced to use technology we don’t understand and there are repercussions to making those choices. So that’s the stuff I’m loving.
“There have been so many things that I’ve worked on where it’s just been so obvious that it’s just been a matter of ‘OK, whatever. Let’s just get through the day.’ The thing that I loved about Stargate SG-1 and that I love about Atlantis, is that people love being on the show, and they love working on it. The whole crew is behind it—and there’s nothing more surprising than when there’s some huge guy standing behind a lamp holding your lines up for you! You know you’re getting through when people you wouldn’t think care at all about the dynamics of the character are throwing back lines to help you.”
From BBC Cult interview (Feb. 4, 2005):
“[Dr. Weir] had been introduced before and [I had to] make decisions about how much I researched the actor that played this character before and how much do I just go from here and make it my own. I didn’t really worry too much about it. I discovered that she’d been introduced already after I was offered the job, which was great, because if I’d known that it might have been a more intimidating process, I might have second-guessed my instincts in the audition room wondering what it was they liked about the other actor.
“I just made my own choices based on my instincts and the scripts they gave me. When I discovered that she had been introduced already I decided to see her episodes, to get the backstory, but every actor is so dramatically different, it’s apples and oranges no matter what you do. I think Jessica Steen made some very interesting choices. I liked what she did and I allowed it to sit in the back of my head, [feeling], maybe that can add some texture somewhere, but I can’t be her, and if they wanted me to be her, it would be her here doing it.
“I love conflict and insecurity in people; that’s my love affair with human nature, and I get frustrated that I can’t explore that side of her more. I can’t explore her loneliness or her fear, her insecurity; she has to just be powerful because she’s responsible for a large number of people who are not military, who haven’t been trained to take care of themselves. They’re there just as researchers and scientists and she feels very responsible for those people, very mother lion-like.
“What I like about her strength is she doesn’t have the ego to be scared to say, ‘I don’t know what to do here right now.’ That is a great sign of strength, which I don’t know that I have. When you are insecure you cover that with bravado, and I like she doesn’t do that.”
From interview with Stargate Alpha during Level 3 convention (Nov. 2004):
“I have a few [favourite episodes] for different reasons. I loved ‘The Eye’ cos that was just fun, that was just hard. … We had wind towers and rain towers and literally I was shaking and shivering for two days and soaking wet…and you couldn’t see because water was in your eyes and you were screaming every line. But it was just fun, it was very sort of—it was that thing of no action required.
“Then I did ‘Before I Sleep’ and it was a really great one for me to do because I had to age ten thousand years and play opposite myself. That was really challenging because I think I got three hours sleep in two weeks. It took four hours to put the make-up on and then you’d shoot my half of the scene as an old lady and then take the make-up off and shoot half my scene as myself younger and I was having to act with video tape of what I’d done that morning. So it was really challenging and really fun, so probably they’re my two favourite episodes.”
From interview with iF Magazine (Aug. 11, 2006):
“You know what was one of the coolest things about that episode [‘Before I Sleep’] is I lost my grandmother about three years ago, and she was my favorite person in the world bar none. She still is, she was just an amazing human being. When Todd Masters did all the make-up and I saw myself in the mirror, I saw my grandmother. I went to him almost in tears and I said, ‘I can’t believe you’re that good,’ he had aged me in the way that my family would age. He’s amazing and does extraordinary work.
“I am such a non-business actor, I really am. I’m one of those actors that on a whole, hates talking about it, I hate the business part of it, but I like doing it. Guys will come in every Monday and list the numbers and the ratings, and I just say, ‘Do I still have a job next week, am I still coming in to work?’ I really am not aware of it. I was aware of the huge buzz the first year, because we were all scared about our fate. We were the spin-off of a spin-off; we’re spinning off of a show that has a loyal fan following of ten years that will probably hate us. They’ll think we’re coming in to take over. We were so nervous, but people loved us. There were rumors that they were going to cancel Stargate and we were going to take over, and I’m glad that didn’t happen. I think had it happened we would’ve been faced with a lot of animosity.”
From interview with Darren Rea archived at Review Graveyard (early 2005):
“We’ve been much too sincere in the first season, but it’s something that we talk about. Every thing is still being established on Atlantis. I think that’s one of the elements that makes SG-1 so successful: that absolute irreverence and that wonderful fine balance they have of exploring things seriously and having great ideas, but at the same time stand on the side and take the piss.
“Richard Dean Anderson’s character does that so beautifully. It’s a very hard balance to achieve and I think with Joe [Flanigan]’s dry sense of humour and [David] Hewlett’s very manic and self-deprecating character, we have the ability to explore that more. I think that it’s a very important thing to do and the more we do that, the more successful we’ll be.
“I think we have laid more on the sincere side this season and I truly believe that they will lighten up a little more next year [laughs].”
From BBC Cult interview (Feb. 4, 2005):
“[I’m] very excited [about the renewal for Season Two]. As a medium television is not very loyal, and as an actor I’ve learnt to live as a pessimist, as that allows me to always be pleasantly surprised instead of continually disappointed. I feel very very lucky and very grateful.”
From interview with Joel Murphy at Hobo Trashcan (April 2007):
“Initially, way back in the audition process, [Teyla] was described to me as a leader of her people. I remember someone saying, ‘Just think of her as a sweet little islander taking care of her island tribe,’ which is a much more tepid description than I would ever endeavor to use for my character but that’s kind of how it was posed. There was no real talk about the fact that she was going to be a fighter, warrior, any of that kind of an aspect. Obviously, there was a sense that she had to have a knack for leadership and that kind of a weight to her.
“And the audition process was initially not so different from any of the other auditions that one goes through during pilot season. You go in, you meet with casting agents. Then, if the casting agent likes you, you go back and you might meet with one producer. Then you go back and you meet with a director. It’s like several, several stages before you actually get to do the screen test, which is done in front of a committee of people, suits as well as people who are creative. The producer and the creators of the Stargate franchise were there.
“And I remember it going incredibly well, except for the fact that I had to sit outside in the waiting room for two hours. It was painful waiting for my turn to go in there and do my job. I took my best friend with me to keep me calm. But it went great. I stepped outside and everybody was congratulating me including some network executives and it just seemed like, okay, I guess this is meant to be.
“A few days went by, a few days turned into a week and we hadn’t heard anything and finally my agent put a call in and I found out I did not get the part. There was somebody at the network who just couldn’t quite wrap their head around me being the right choice. And so, I moved on and started to audition for other things and it wasn’t I think until, oh my goodness, it might have been even like three weeks after that screen test that I got a phone call from my agent saying that they had finally made up their mind and I got the job and I needed to be on a plane the next morning and I think it was 5 p.m. the night before that I found out I had to be on a plane and we were going to start shooting the pilot in three days and I hadn’t read the script. It was really quite a whirlwind. So that’s the incredibly long-winded story, I hope you are still awake.”
From interview with Gilles Nuytens at The SciFi World (Jan. 25, 2006):
“[M]ost of my physical training in the past has been dancing, and no, I had never done any martial arts whatsoever. When I got up here, our stunt coordinator, whose name is James Bamford, I was introduced to him, and he saw I had an athletic form, so he decided he would start teaching me the basics of a martial art, called Kali, which is a martial art out of the Philippines. That was my very first introduction to it. When he showed it to me originally, I was quite concerned because it looked like something I would never be able to do, but I practice, and practice, and practice. I think because of my dance training, it’s a little bit easier for me to pick up the choreography. I break it down as if it were a dance when we are doing fight sequences, and that is how I learn it. I’m learning more, but I was a novice when I started.
“I’m a physical person, I like to be physical, and I like to keep my body strong, and any other physical activity that I can do, I always embrace. It’s been very very interesting, I’ve gotten to meet quite a few interesting people, and learn about different martial arts disciplines, their background, their history, and philosophy. It’s been quite fascinating. I do enjoy it quite a bit.”
From interview with Sci Fi Brain (Mar. 2006):
“Obviously I’m learning how to make it look a little more convincing—more like a fighter, and less like a dancer. That was something that, in the first season actually, our stunt coordinator every once in a while would try to get me to bend my knees a little bit and that kind of thing. But, I think, what has happened is we’ve developed a style that is uniquely me. It makes Teyla look a little more… I don’t know… ethereal? It’s different, and my dance background has definitely helped with that.
“…I knew that SG-1 was incredibly popular, and that we were in the hands of the same people so there was potential, but I was just here taking it one step at a time. The truth of the matter is, I thought that I probably was going to be up here for like six months, and I was like, ‘Okay this is going to be cool. Go up there, get to explore this new character, check out the city and then go back to Los Angeles.’
“We did start with a bang, but that’s because we’re in good hands. Our guys upstairs—Brad and Robert and all of our writers—they’ve got a handle on what works, and they did a great job with season one…”
From interview with Gilles Nuytens at The SciFi World (Jan. 25, 2006):
“What I love is her mystery, her untold story and depth. I think she has so much depth, whether it be compassion, or, I love that there is so much yet to be discovered about her, and that she is just brimming with possibility and intrigue and that makes me very excited. When I auditioned for her, that is what drew me to her. That there is so much sadness in her life, and so much that is different (in her) from our own sensibility. And that makes me excited about playing her.”
Rainbow Sun Francks
From interview conducted at Polaris 22 in Toronto for “Ramble with Russell” Podcast (Jul. 2008):
“I was actually living here in Toronto at the time. I was a MuchMusic VJ—which is like MTV—about three years and I decided to stop that and go back to acting, which is what I had done since I was four years old. I started on Sesame Street—American—I’m a dual citizen. So, I had stopped that job and I actually have a hip-hop group called The Oddities and I toured the country twice: once with solo members, once with Blackalicious. When I got back, I decided I wanted to get back into the audition room. So, the first audition I had—I called my agent and was like, ‘OK, I’m off my contract…I’m allowed to act again, put me in a room!’
“The first thing she handed me about two days later was a Stargate Atlantis audition. She said, ‘Stargate spin-off, you know, here you go; here’s a script.’ So I got this pretty much blank script that had nothing on it. I went in, I read, I ended up auditioning maybe five…six times that week and then went back. I had to do a live stream audition to Vancouver and Los Angeles, and I did two that day. I hadn’t slept because I had a radio show that I hosted called Circle Research here in Toronto and so it went till six in the morning, so I ended up going—I had the audition at nine…so I called my agent. ‘I can’t do the audition! I can’t do the audition!’ She said, ‘Do you want the job?’ And I said, ‘Well, yeah, I want the job!’ And she said, ‘Well, then, you better get your ass over there!’
“So I went over, did the audition—tired. They said, ‘Wait here a minute.’ I found out that Brad Wright wrote a small piece that was just for the audition—I found this out later—but, it was this story that the Ford character would have to tell about Sheppard and I did it…I did it…did it again…went out of the room…did it again…all streaming. I did about twelve auditions in a like a three-day period and then finally I went home. They called me and they said, ‘You’ve got to get on a plane in twelve hours or fourteen hours and fly to Vancouver and they’re shooting the pilot.’ One of the craziest weeks in my life to—really fun, though—it was really cool. Next thing I knew, I was shooting the pilot.”
From “The Diary of Rainbow Sun Francks” in the Season One DVD Set (2005):
“It was more than a whirlwind for me; it was a hurricane, a tornado, and a tsunami crashing in on me all at once. It was incredible; it was a good feeling, but overwhelming all together. I’ve only been here a couple of hours ’cause it was an interesting time at home in Toronto. This is overwhelming!
“So I got the script in my hands, started shooting the pilot with Martin Wood and had no idea who Ford was, had no idea who Rainbow was at that point. I was just a body walking around talking. No friends, no family, no nothing, but I had some of the most fun times in my life during the pilot. Got to work with Robert Patrick and almost the entire cast of SG-1 and then right away got into the mix on Atlantis. I had no idea what I was in for!
“Everyone kind of became friends quickly, I think, right after the pilot. We hung out a bunch of times. It also helps being a part of something like the Stargate family. When I got there all the directors that we have in-house are wonderful and they’ve done it for so many years that they’ll show you the ropes. It’s not like they’re coming into it fresh as well, and so I think that has a lot to do with it, too. We’re getting into such a big cushion coming in that all you gotta do is lay down and feel comfortable and we all did that and so…it worked.
“‘Thirty-Eight Minutes’ was a big episode for Ford. It was so intense to do that episode and it was early on in the season. So for me, it was like I wish I could have shot it now.
“The mid-season two-parter, ‘The Eye’ and ‘The Storm,’ is one of my favorites, mostly because for Ford, it gave him a chance to lead his own team for the first time. Sheppard’s in trouble and they have to get back as soon as possible and he got to lead his team once he got back. It was like, ‘OK, you guys, now we’re in a military situation and I’m the leader, so listen to me and we’ll get things done.’ And we did.
“‘The Siege’ two-parter: that is ridiculous! I never thought I’d be doing some of the stuff that I’ve been doing as far as, you know, getting on a huge rail gun that shoots at four times the speed of sound and ripping around with the team. The Wraith are trying to take over the city and get back to Earth and there are so many things that go right and go wrong. So, it’s definitely one of my most memorable episodes.
“It’s a brand new show; we’re all working together for the first time and it’s been a long year. I’m just getting to know Ford now and we’re at the end of the season [laughs].
“But now that it’s over, I don’t really remember when we started…seems like it’s always been a close-knit family. We’re all such good friends now, but throughout the season, I mean, there’s been some good times…there’s been some good times.”
Even though Paul McGillion wasn’t in the opening credits as a regular cast member until Season Two, he appeared in enough episodes of Season One that it would be a shame not to include him here, providing some of his impressions of how he got the part and what he was allowed to do with the character that led up to his becoming the “beloved” Dr. Carson Beckett.
From The Gateroom Interview (Jan. 28, 2005):
“Well, firstly, the script, the pilot, for ‘Rising,’ was just phenomenal, and when I got that passed to me, I was very excited about reading for the character of Beckett. And following up the great success of SG-1, any chance to work on a franchise like that was a great opportunity. Of course, the character of Beckett originally was a recurring character, with an international flavour, and I, being born in Scotland, I decided to bring the Scottish accent to the table and I thought it was really appropriate for the character and luckily it seemed to work out for me. So I would have to say that the wonderful script was what originally grabbed my attention.
“I initially had a lot of input, because they didn’t know what the character was going to be—he was very open ended. Beckett was, as I mentioned earlier, a character with an international flavour, so they were reading actors, I believe, both men and women, for it, primarily men though, I believe, anywhere from about 25 to about 55. There were characters going with Russian, German, Czechoslovakian, English accents, and I came in as Scottish. So I guess I had a great input in making him Scottish initially.
“So Brad Wright and Robert Cooper…are the creators of the project, and they give you a lot of liberty as far as playing with the Scottish dialect. As the character started developing, they started writing more for the character, and they’re very open to suggestions—it’s a very open set like that. Of course, when you’re getting great scripts to begin with, it’s just a matter of tweaking it, and throwing suggestions up, but they’re very open to that, which is a great benefit to have. The atmosphere is just wonderful, and right from the get-go, from the pilot, it was just a great feeling—we knew we were doing something special.
“I think that every character an actor plays is an extension of yourself to a certain degree, and I think the well-rounded character that the writers have developed for Beckett is a great pleasure to be able to play. I think I bring my sense of humour to the character, and, when given the opportunity, which I have been in the first season, there a sense of drama that also comes into the character—Beckett could be the cowardly lion as well as the reluctant hero at times. And, so, it’s a really nice opportunity to play a character like that. As far as me, Paul, I think there’s a lot of me in Beckett! I think I’m a little more confident, though, than the character is with the ladies, being honest with you! Or I’d like to think I am, anyway!
“I think when you are dealing with human lives and bio-ethics, you have a moral dilemma to deal with. It’s a very interesting plot to deal with. It’s something that’s not easy, and the character struggled with that. It’s a wonderful aspect that Damian Kindler wrote into ‘Poisoning The Well,’ this internal struggle that Beckett has with Perna, and it really develops the humanity of the character. I think, for me, that was the episode that fans bought into Beckett. Prior to that, he was more of a comedic character, and you saw the real human side of Beckett in ‘Poisoning The Well.’ When I got the script for that, I was overwhelmed—six episodes in, and a fairly large Beckett episode! It was such a pleasure, as an actor, to chew into that. I really, really loved it—I was grateful to have that kind of script.
“It had a very different tone to the rest of the scripts in the season—it was very dramatic, and it wasn’t heavily action-orientated. It was a real pleasure for me to be able to work with Allison Hossack, who played Perna, and Alan Scarfe, who played the Chancellor. They did a terrific job, as did the director for that episode, Brad Turner. When we were shooting the pilot, Martin Wood said to me ‘Damian Kindler wants to have a word with you. He’s shooting a heavy Beckett episode.’ When he said that to me while shooting the pilot, he wanted me to jump in the office, so I went up, and I really felt like I was part of the team. Right after Martin said that to me, I felt this was going to go great places. I just make sure I’m prepared, and do my job, and I just have the time of my life out there. What a great place for an actor to be in!
“I was fortunate enough to do an episode of SG-1 a while back, called ‘Torment of Tantalus,’ and my character in that episode was called Ernest Littlefield, and that was my first taste of the Stargate world. I really enjoyed that process, and to become a regular on Atlantis, well, all actors strive for something like that—the security on the job, and, not only that, the atmosphere on the set. It’s like playing cops and robbers as a kid—you go onto a set every where there’s a new adventure in every episode, and it’s just a delight for me to play that. Not only that, but the scripts can be comedic, they can be dramatic, and I think that Brad Wright, Robert Cooper, Martin Gero, Damian Kindler and all the many other writers have just been so gracious in developing the character. That gives you, as an actor, such a wide opportunity, and I really couldn’t be happier.
“I know where Beckett lies, and I’m a piece of a very large puzzle. I was very happy with the way he developed in the first season, and I was in 17 of the 20 episodes, so I was pretty regular anyway. If he does a bit more [in the second season], that’s fantastic—I’m totally game for whatever happens. More importantly, I’d just like to see the series develop, and, if that involves a bit more Beckett—great! If it doesn’t, then that’s okay too. I have no problem taking a back seat to a great script, and we have lots of great actors who can do the job, so if I can do my piece, then I’m happy. Hopefully, the fans are happy.
“I’m really enjoying the character, I’ll be honest with you. He’s grown into such a fully rounded character that he’s just a pleasure to play. I look forward to it every day. I’m blessed that I had an opportunity to play this character.”
[Thanks to Alison for her help in putting together the Joe Flanigan section.]