The wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thatâ€™s what the new series ”Stargate Universe” is about. The character driven series brings together people from a variety of backgrounds that were never meant to be where they are. Something went terribly wrong and they were hurled aboard the Ancient star ship Destiny where they remain trapped and isolated.
If youâ€™ve never seen an episode of ”Stargate” before this newest instalment in the franchise may interest you. ”Stargate” creators Brad Wright and Robert Cooper are quick to suggest that Stargate Universe will appeal to those who have never seen Stargate before but at the same time, there will be plenty to keep existing fans happy. Cooper says, â€œFans of Stargate have been with us for a long time and we respect them and know the reason weâ€™re here is because of them.â€ Thereâ€™s no doubt that the new series is still Stargate, â€œWeâ€™ve worked really really hard to keep the franchise going,â€ Cooper said, â€œAnd make sure that people who love Stargate have something to watch.â€
Wright said that while it is still ”Stargate” it has a different feel and a different energy about it, â€œWe are shooting it in a slightly different way than we have in the first two series, itâ€™s much more hand held, much more dynamic.â€ He also said â€œMy inspiration came from other shows as well, things like Firefly and on a dramatic level shows like The Shield.â€
The announcement of the new late last year was met with much scepticism among fans of the franchise. The negative reaction was in part due to the simultaneous cancellation of the successful series ”Stargate Atlantis”. The initial casting call raised further concern with indications that the series may become â€œ90210 in spaceâ€, a series about spoilt teenagers but what ”Stargate Universe” has become is something far different and something that left the 5000 fans packed into the Universe panel at the San Diego Comic Con with very high expectations.
Moviehole caught up with the cast following the Comic Con panel to discuss the new series. We started by asking the cast about their characters.
Dr. Nicholas Rush
[Since the loss of his wife, Rush's dedication to science and his desire to explore the mysteries of the ninth chevron have overridden all else, at any cost. He alone is to blame for the situation that has flung everyone to the far reaches of the universe, without a way home. Even in his solitude - he is without remorse. -MGM]
Robert Carlyle: I’ve made a career out of playing complex characters I guess and that’s what I love about the guy, he’s mega complex this one. He’s had a bad time in his personal life, with his wife, his wife died and he hasn’t been there for her and this is maybe the part, the beginning of his problems, the deconstruction of this man. But having said that he goes up there, why does he not want to go home? Why is he happy out there? Well he’s got nothing to go back to for start, but number two probably more importantly, is the exploration of the universe to him is the greatest thing that anyone could ever do, the greatest gift you could give to your fellow human beings is to go out there and tell them what is actually out there. So you can look at Rush as being quite heroic in that sense or in the other way you know, why can’t you just get these people home? He wants to keep exploring, he doesn’t want to get home at all. I guess with Young, they would just stick him in an airlock haul him out into space, but they need him. They need him, they can’t get back without him and they’re hoping that he will relent and take them home
1st Lt. Tamara Johansen
[Unable to afford medical school, this strong willed medic was days away from leaving the program when she found herself the only one with any medical training on board the Destiny. She has to contend with a difficult and secret history with someone who is also on board- MGM]
Alania Huffman: TJ had an affair with her colonel so that’s kind of a very icky subject because he’s her senior and that relationship is sort of dealt with and it’s a little bit of an elephant in the room. You’re military and then you’re stuck on a ship in the middle of space with a guy you had an affair with, that’s weird.
I think she’s got a lot vulnerability, I think there’s a lot of opportunity. There’s a story line coming up that she has to deal with a lot of her inner feelings and it’s going to be a stressful situation for her. I think voyeuristically watching those human moments unfold and how she deals with it and the bonds that develop because of that is what I’m looking forward to. If it’s anything like the other two shows it’s going to be five years down the road or ten years down the road and we really don’t know what the resolution will be so I like the process of developing the character.
[Human resources executive Wray finds herself the highest ranking member of the International Oversight Committee (IOA) onboard the Destiny. Like many of those stranded on the ship, she is devastated by the separation from loved ones back on earth. -MGM]
Ming-Na: For me Camile Wray wasn’t really quite fleshed out in the pilot episode and I was kind of concerned about her role and what she could contribute in the story line and when I spoke with Robert (Cooper) he was very excited about the character and he basically explained to me what his vision of her role would be and that’s what drew me. She has a lot of strength, she has ambitions but it all comes from the heart, it all comes from caring about the people that are trapped in this situation so that was important for me, that there was a good reason for what she was going to do.
Msgt. Ronald Greer
[A military man with a short fuse and no apologies, Greer has a mysterious past that has yet to be revealed. -MGM]
Jamil Walker Smith: What drew me to Master Sergeant Ronald Greer, first of all, he didn’t have a name, his name was Stasinski and I don’t know if I look like a Stasinski (laughs). The thing that’s great about when you’re on board with something and they’re not quite completely clear of who he is it gives you an opportunity to find it, to find who you are as you go, as you begin to live in these situations that are in the episodes, you in time you get to figure out who you are in relation to everyone else, how you’re reacting, how you feel…
[A total slacker, who just happens to be an utter genius with anything he puts his mind to - mathematics, computers, video games. A lack of confidence has left him with an acerbic sense of humor. - MGM]
David Blue: Even the characters amongst us who are maybe a little bit more light hearted, like Eli is, finding the wit in it, there’s something below there that caused that and I think that’s where the hero and villain comes in for Eli, he tries to be the good guy but there’s this laziness amongst him, almost an indifference which in situations may not be the most helpful thing but for the most part I’m lucky in that my character means well so I get to kind of err on the side of the hero but my villainy lies mostly in my unwillingness to be the hero I think for myself anyway.
[Chloe is both the daughter of and aid to U.S. Senator Alan Armstrong, the head of an organization that exists to oversee funding for the Stargate program. She was responsible for influencing the decision to continue financial support for research into the ninth chevron. She has a wild streak and is closer to her father than to her mother. - MGM]
Elyse Levesque: Chloe is a strong, in the physical sense, intelligent young woman. She is still a young woman and she’s still confused and discovering who she is and how she is going to survive in this new life. You know what I think is great about all these characters? They’re all human, they’re all flawed but it’s how they band together that makes them who they are and it’s an honour to continue playing these characters that so many women all over the world look up to.
1st Lt. Matthew Scott,
[Scott is a new member to the Stargate team with a troubled past. He is completely unprepared when he is thrust into a leadership role at a time of crisis. Scott struggles to maintain accord between those who have different agendas. - MGM]
Brian Jacob Smith: Try and imagine someone who doesn’t have aunts or uncles who has no family, his past s absolutely full of loss. He find himself in a situation where he can, I think, re-write the history of his life, he’s got a chance to really really help people, to really make a mark as a young man and make a man of himself and find some kind of respectability. There’s a lot of his back story that’ll come out but I think for him it’s a great sense of loss and kind of a sadness about him that makes him incredibly earnest and incredibly driven to do good by his past and by his family on the ship.
Robert, you’ve had a lot of experience with both television and film do you find the sci-fi aspect of the show a challenge?
Robert Carlyle: It’s certainly different from anything I’ve done before. What’s interesting is that sometimes you’re playing a scene and in the corner of your eye they’ve got a lighting effect called FTL (faster than light) and I’ll see this out of the corner of my eye and think we’re going a million miles an hour in a space ship and you’ve got to go ok, ok, and you think should that change anything or not? And in reality no, it shouldn’t at all, you shouldn’t be aware of that it should be about getting to the end of the journey, you know? There is a difference in it but it’s something I’m enjoying to be honest, I’m enjoying the genre, I’ve been surprised at the possibilities that crop up in the show. It might be in episode one or two that you can place something in there and in episode ten it suddenly becomes a big thing. That’s something that doesn’t happen too often in normal straight kind of dramas that are generally kind of linear and you can predict what’s going to happen, but you don’t know. There could be something attached to the side of the ship that you don’t know is there, which actually has happened, by episode six you think: we’ve been followed for the last six hours, they’re on our tail… I like that.
Science Fiction has the ability to challenge people about issues within society without being “in your face” about it, how do you feel about that?
Alania Huffman: That’s my favourite thing about the genre of sci fi. It think we have an ability to reach a huge audience and take these questions that we could experience; race, religion, cultural boundaries and it won’t offend anybody because we’re talking about aliens and we’re not talking about specific religions. We do have an episode coming up called Faith and it explores the idea of faith and possibly the Ancients as saviours. We’re not talking about a Messiah of one particular religion, we’re speaking about the idea of believing that something greater than us exists and I think that’s a really great topic to talk about and not to go over to war over. So yeah, it’s absolutely my favourite part of the genre. We are military based as well and we’ve got to watch yourself in that regard, but I think it’s safe to say that you can sort of challenge that and I think we see a little bit of that too, again in Faith when some of us are like “what are we doing?” you know, “why are we here?” and you kind of go back and forth, you then have the realisation that we need a ruler we can’t have a majority vote, it’s not going to work that way, but does it? And I think that transcends to a lot of the issues that we have going on in the world right now.
There has been some concern among fans of the two previous series that because Universe is set on a ship they won’t be using the Stargate, can you reassure fans on this issue?
Brad Wright: In either SG1 or Atlantis, not every show was a “going through the stargate adventure”, it just wasn’t. I would argue that the balance of episodes when we go through a Stargate on an adventure is probably the same as the other two series. It’s too cool a story telling device not to use.
Robert Cooper: And this stargate in my opinion the coolest one.
Wright: Yes, it’s not a new stargate it is in fact a very old stargate, it’s the prototype.
Cooper: And a rotary dial version (laughs).
Wright: It has a limited range, a far more limited range than the Milky Way or Pegasus Galaxy stargates. For example, if the Destiny is travelling through a galaxy it can’t go anywhere in that galaxy, it can only go within a limited range, that’s why they put it on a ship, so as it moves through the galaxy it can move across it and explore stargates that have been seeded by other ships prior to the launch of the Destiny who knows how many hundreds of years before.
Will Universe be more like Battlestar Galactica with a darker tone and more religious themes?
Wright: No, because what it is, is still Stargate and while it’s darker in some ways, SG1 and Atlantis were often quite dark.
Cooper: I think “dark” is the wrong word, I think it’s more realistic. I think Stargate can’t really get more contemporary, it always was contemporary I think what we struggled with often, was because it was taking place on alien planets, we had people speaking in alien sort of speech, and in this case we’re dealing more with characters from earth who get to speak in more contemporary ways and maybe their issues and flaws and challenges are hopefully more relatable and more contemporary to a broader audience.
Wright: I was a big fan of Battlestar but there’s no question that SG:U will have a much more of a sense of humour among the characters and just in the show in general, maybe not as much as we’ve done in some SG1 episodes.
Cooper: Battlestar was incredibly well received critically and we would be very grateful and flattered to receive even a percentage of that critical acclaim. And I think for me, my inspiration came from other shows as well, things like Firefly and on a dramatic level shows like The Shield. Ron Schmitt who was our DP on the first three episodes shot The Shield, they shot in a very documentary style trying to give you a sense of being dropped into a South east LA police station to give you that sense of realism so I think “realistic” is more the right word than “dark” or “edgy”.
There are a number of you using social media to interact with the fans before the show even airs, what made you decided to interact in that way?
David Blue: It’s very hard, especially when you do TV and movies, it’s very hard to connect to the fans because you’re very far removed, you kind of do the product you put it out there and you wait to see what the response is, but Twitter, Facebook, thinks like that allow you to not only connect and to see what they thought and get immediate response but on top of that to hear the voices and hear the support which really gives you a confidence going into the project. And on top of that from a completely selfish perspective, when you’re on set between scenes and maybe you’re off for a little bit in your trailer it’s nice to have something to do because there’s only so much a man can nap. So it’s nice to Twitter and then stir up some of the excitement with the occasional picture here or there and I mean, we’re dorks, we even Twitter each other when we’re on set, it’s ridiculous. It’s a fun thing to do but at the same time it allows you to connect with a base that you only get to do in situations like this, like at Comic Con where you don’t get to meet everyone until then.
Brian J Smith: I started realising that on some of the blogs I was reading about the show, I thought there was a lot of misinformation and a lot of premature judgements being made that, and I’ll be honest that really kind of ticked me off and the Twittering and the Facebook was an attempt on my part to try and put a face to who we are and trying to just give little titbits when we could about the work that we’re doing which I thought was really important to do. I’m not the kind of guy…I have a problem trying to bite my tongue with stuff like that and so it was important to me to just kind of put a face on some of the cast, that’s why I loved it.
Stargate Universe which premiers on Syfy USA October 2nd also stars Louis Ferreira and Lou Diamond Philips and has guest appearances by Richard Dean Anderson, Amanda Tapping and Michael Shanks.
- ELLYSSA HARRIS