Are there any Stargate stunts you didn’t get to do but would have liked to do?
“No. I did a lot of my own stunts, much to my great injury, so I was able to do most of the ones that I wanted to do. Others that were really dangerous I should never have… yeah! The one that I probably shouldn’t have done but did was when this house blows up behind us and we get flung. Things like that, or when you’re running and there are bombs going off behind you and you feel the heat of those. But no, I did all the stunts I wanted to do.”
How did you prepare to play Helen in Sanctuary?
“Actually, a lot of it was just a lot of research into Victorian England and what was going on at the time, because that informs a huge amount of who this character is, her history and her growing up in a particular era and thinking outside the box within that era. Victorian England is such a unique and distinct period within history, and women were actually quite forward-thinking at the time, but to break out of the box and actually act upon it was kind of a big deal. So a lot of the research was about the ideology and politics of the time. And of course, Jack the Ripper research, medical research, and reading up about every known monster out there! But a lot of it is actually finding her voice, which is huge for me, so I’ve been doing a lot of work with dialect coaches and looking at different versions of the accent, because she’s Victorian England, but it’s 157 years later and she’s travelled the world, but I didn’t want it to be mid-Atlantic. So that’s the hardest part for me, her voice.”
What about the specifics of playing a physician?
Hope Springs (cont’d)
“That’s easy for me – it’s not a big leap from scientist to physician. It’s a way of thinking, and I think that way anyway – I’m very detail-oriented, and Helen is too.”
How difficult is it to play to a green screen?
“You get used to it. The first few days on Sanctuary, because it’s full green screen, you have the chroma-key green headache, as I call it. You’re just looking at bright green. But for the webisodes we had an amazing DP, Jim Menard, who did a lot of work on Stargate, and for the series we have a gentleman by the name of David Geddes, and they’re both incredible DPs. They’ll cut light in such a way that you feel like there’s a window there when there isn’t. So you get used to visualising the space because of the way they’ve lit it, and that’s a huge help!”
How different will the Sanctuary pilot be from what we saw in the webisodes?
“Quite different, actually. First of all, we’ve got way more time to run, and the computer graphics will be far more polished. The story’s a lot broader, the back story on the characters has changed – for example, I think Helen is more accessible in the series than she was in the webisodes; she’s not as austere. We find out more about her history and Will’s history. Physically, it’s going to be a lot brighter because it’s broadcast quality – the networks have all asked us to brighten things up a little bit! It’ll still have that edgy, almost photo-real feel to it, a sort of a gamey, graphic novel look, but it’ll be brighter.”
What do you think would be Sam’s dream retirement plan: growing old with Pete on a farm with lots of animals, ruling galaxies with Fifth in the shiny Replicator ship, or fishing with a grey-haired General in Minnesota?
“Can I combine two of them? (sure – SFX) I would like to grow old with the grey-haired General in Minnesota, with lots of farm animals! How’s that? (laughs) I like his cabin, it’s quite nice, but I would like to have more animals around.”
Did you worry that you were taking a big risk with Sanctuary only being shown online?
“Yes. It was a huge risk, a massive risk. Our intention – and I still stand by this – our intention was so pure, to really go to the fans where they live, and to present something really high-quality on the internet, and to have the fans truly involved in it, in all aspects. That was our intention, and it just didn’t work out the way that we wanted it to. It was a big risk financially for all of us, and a big risk emotionally, to be honest. To just put something out there that’s so unheard of and hadn’t been done, and it was really expensive and difficult and… beautiful, ultimately, but it was a big, huge risk, and I think the risk was that we got the fans so involved that when it didn’t quite work out the way we wanted it to, and it changed to becoming this TV series, we didn’t want the fans to think that we’d shut them out, but suddenly we have to close ranks and make the show, so now we’re finding ourselves in the position of reaching out again and going, ‘okay, now we’ve figured this out, the animal that we created didn’t work, but here’s what we’re going to present, and we still want the fans involved, and will they come back?’ So it’s a massive risk, because it’s never been done before.”
Have you had any strange experiences with fans?
“Yeah, a couple. For the most part, I have to say those Stargate fans – and I’m not saying this disingenuously – are really an intelligent and thoughtful bunch. The fans that I’ve come across in particular are really generous and really intelligent. So I haven’t had any uber-weird experiences. Sometimes fans get very emotional, and for some reason a lot of people feel very comfortable telling me about their lives, which is a huge gift for me – people will just tell me their life story, which is amazing. There’s a lot of adversity in the world and I’ve heard some amazing things that people have been through to get to where they are, so it’s really inspirational. But… I had a fan show up at my house, which was a bit awkward, but beyond that, no, there’ve not been any weird intrusions. I’ve had a couple of people who I’ve had to be a bit more careful with than I normally would, and I find that now I have Olivia I’m even more careful. But, you know, like the other day in the grocery store a man came up and said ‘I’m a huge fan, and I love the show, and you did a great job, thanks so much!’, and he was just really sweet. We’re not big, huge stars, like a big network show or big film stars. We’ve had the luxury of being able to do what we love to do, for as long as we’ve been able to do it, and have a certain amount of notoriety without an intrusion into our lives. I don’t have paparazzi following me or anything – that would make me nuts! So I get the best of both worlds – I get to do what I love to do, and have a certain amount of fan interaction, but I’m not a huge star, and my life isn’t impacted in a negative way.”
How do you feel about the treatment Carter got in Atlantis compared to SG-1?
“I think she was under-utilised a bit in Atlantis. That was partly my own fault – I said to the guys that I didn’t want her to be too in-your-face, and I wanted her initial foray to be a bit more gentle. It wasn’t my show, so I had to make sure that I tread very gently on those boards, and that made sense off the top, but I felt that she maybe could have done more. I felt that there were times where Carter would have said something about the science behind certain things, or she would have trodden on McKay’s toes a bit more than she did. But we had some great episodes for that, like ‘Trio’ and ‘Quarantine’, where you got to see that other side. But it’s hard for Carter to not go through the Gate – that’s the hardest thing.”
Looking back over the entirety of SG-1, is there anything that makes you think, a) “I’m really proud of that”, and b) “I can’t believe they made me do that!”?
“Yes, and yes! I’m really proud of the fact that we endured as long as we did, and that I can now watch early episodes and not be totally freaked out. But there is a great chemistry right off the top, and I’m proud that we were able to foster that and maintain that for ten years. The only things I look back on… I saw the episode ‘Seth’ a while ago, and I was sitting there polishing this guy’s throne, and it just seemed really dorky. There are things like that where I just go, ‘urggghhhh, don’t like that one!’ So there are only a few episodes that are cringeworthy for me, for the most part it was a great ride.”
What do you like most about Carter and Helen, and is there anything about each character that you’d change if you could?
“Carter, I love her loyalty, and I love that she’s so dedicated, and will sacrifice anything for what she believes in, and is so loyal to her friends and her team. I don’t think there’s a lot about her that I’d change now, having played her for ten years – I think she really came into her own as a woman and is fully-realised. Earlier on I would have changed things, but they changed anyway. I’d like to see her laugh out loud more, let herself go just a little bit more, but that’s not really who she is. As for Helen, we’re still discovering her. I think sometimes she has a bit of a stick up her bum and she needs to relax a bit. But what I love about her is that she’s unapologetic. She’s been around for 157 years, she’s eccentric, she’s fun, she’s uber-intelligent, she’s sexy, and she doesn’t have to apologise for it. And she’s so set in her ways, and she’s seen so much of life, and so much of our history… she’ll see things and tag them right away. ‘Oh, well, this is like what happened when Hoover was president’… you know what I mean? So she’s seen enough that she doesn’t have to apologise, and I like that about her. It’s interesting for me, because I’m constantly apologising, but Helen never does. So I like that.”
What are your favourite episodes of SG-1 and Atlantis?
“Oh, boy! I think my favourite SG-1 episode is ‘Heroes’. I still think that that told a story with all the best aspects of SG-1. As tragic as it was, it was some of the best storytelling that we’d done, and it showcased everyone really beautifully, and showed how much we cared about each other and had all the elements… and forced us to shine a light on ourselves, which was something that we’d never done before. So that was my favourite. For Atlantis, for me… I really loved shooting ‘Trio’. I think a lot of the character stuff ended up on the cutting room floor because the show was so long, but the shooting of it was a blast, we had so much fun, and I would do that again. Even though it was a terrible set, on a gimble with dirt! Saying that, we had such a blast.”
Had you seen any of Farscape, or were you a fan, before Ben Browder and Claudia Black joined the show?
“I’d seen Farscape before. Not a lot – I don’t really watch much television, considering I’ve made my living doing it!”
How did the cast dynamic change when they joined?
“It was actually interesting for us, because we’d lost Rick, so Ben came in and… if anything, it brought us closer together, because when you bring a new element into a team, the team has to look at each other and go, ‘how do we all fit in now, what’s the dynamic, how does it all work?’, so it actually brought us closer together. And then Claudia brought this element of zany fun. For me it was weird because I had my baby when Claudia came onto the show, so I was off for the first three or four episodes of that season. So when I came back in I felt really weird, I felt like I’d lost my footing for a bit because she was in, and suddenly Carter had to find her way back in, as did Amanda as a new mum, trying to come to work with a tiny baby, going ‘agghhh, I don’t know how I fit into this whole scheme!’. So it was good, again, because it sort of rocked us off our centre and added new blood to the show, and added a freshness for all of us playing our characters because you’re suddenly interacting with people that you’re not comfortable with. Well, not that you’re not comfortable, but you don’t have the same level of comfort as, you know, like I have with Michael and Chris where it’s so easy, suddenly it’s ‘ooh, how does my character react to this woman? How does she react to this guy?’ It was actually really good for the show, I think.”
Were there ever times where you wished Carter’s boyfriends wouldn’t keep dying, or even wished they’d been killed off sooner?
“Yes! (laughs) Not to both though. I became the Black Widow of Stargate. I finally went up to the writers and said ‘why? What is wrong with this woman that all the men die? Why does that happen? This is bad!’ I mean, either I’m killing them because they’ve gone nutty, or I’m running away while their planet’s blowing up, it was just… it wasn’t good. I’m glad they gave her Pete, in as much as the fans got very upset by that whole dynamic, I’m glad they gave her a fully-realised, functioning, sexual, adult relationship that was fun and different and had nothing to do with work. I’m glad that they gave her that. I’m equally glad that it didn’t work out because that’s not who she’s meant to be with, but I’m glad that she had that. And that he didn’t die for a change!”
Do you think that Carter was a big step in the portrayal of female characters in sci-fi?
“It’s been quite a long path of female characters in sci-fi, and I think that sci-fi’s one of those genres that has perhaps paid a bit more homage to its female characters than some other genres. Sometimes in a very linear way, like the characters are either very bitchy or uber-sexy, but there’s also been this strong middle ground of really strong, smart female characters in sci-fi, and I think Carter’s a part of that evolution. In some ways, I keep forgetting she’s been around for as long as she has. Or that I’ve been around for as long as I have! You kinda forget, ‘oh yeah, that was the first time a woman did that’. I’d never read a character like her. When I auditioned, I was like, ‘I’ve never auditioned for a character like this, this is amazing’.”
Did the technobabble ever cause you trouble with learning your lines?
“No, surprisingly! That’s the scary truth about me! I did a ton of research on all the technobabble that I spoke, so I understood – I broke it down into layman’s terms so I could explain it to anyone. Sometimes the gobbledygook – the literal, physical trying to wrap your tongue around some of the words got a bit silly, especially late on a Friday, at the end of the day, when everyone’s exhausted, and it’s your close-up, and you have to explain wormhole physics for the umpteenth time, but for the most part I, sadly, did not have a problem with it. I don’t know what that says about me!”
When you were a little’un, were you a fan of sci-fi or fantasy? If so, what sort of things did you watch or read?
“I really was a Little House on the Prairie girl! Not so much sci-fi. I liked Next Generation and Babylon 5, but I really wasn’t a huge sci-fi fan. My brothers were sci-fi fans. I liked drama, I liked Little House on the Prairie. (in a Manchester accent) That was my thing! I wanted to be Laura Ingalls, really! Now I’m Laura Ingalls in space!”
What do you prefer to do on vacation?
“I like to get away away. I like kayaking and camping and physically getting away from it all. Although Hawaii is very nice! I have to say, every once in a while, a beach…! But I have a three-year-old, so your vacations are… suddenly it’s not about you anymore, it’s about finding things that will entertain a three year old, so my vacations have changed a bit. But I think we’re going to get her into camping and kayaking.”
Do you have any funny or interesting anecdotes about working on SG-1 that you’ve never yet spoken about in an interview?
“I think I’ve aired all our dirty laundry! It’s hard, because I look back and I just see a group of people who really had fun together, and very easily took the mick out of each other constantly. And that’s anecdotally… you know, like there’s the time Christopher taped us to the chairs with duct tape, or the time that Christopher and Michael made me laugh so hard off-camera that I cried in the middle of my close-up – which happened a lot! Teryl and her laugh – she has the best laugh in history, it’s so infectious. Don Davis forgetting his lines… but all of that, I’ve told. It’s the overall wash of that camaraderie that resonates for me.”
Will we see Paul McGillion in a recurring role in Sanctuary?
“Ooh, I’d love to! I’d love to see Paul! The Pilot’s been rewritten so Wexford’s not actually in it anymore, but yeah, we’ll find somewhere for him. I’d love to find a place for him, I’d love to find a place for Teryl… I’d love to bring everyone back in. I think it would be harder with people like Michael or Chris in the first season, because they’re still so connected to Stargate, but eventually, yeah.”
Would you ever consider doing a comedic TV series?
(quickly) “Yes. Yes. And yes. Why, are you offering? Get me on The Catherine Tate Show! That’s how I started, I co-founded a comedy troupe long before I got heavily into television, so comedy is where my heart is at. So yeah, I’d love to do a comedic TV show. I’d probably be the really serious one backstage instead of the goofy one like I am when I do drama, but yeah, absolutely!”
What question do you never get asked in these interviews but wish you were?
“I think in all the time I’ve been doing the show, I’ve been asked everything possible! About my personal life, about my history, about the show, what flavour ice cream, do I like orange juice, everything. I can’t think of anything I haven’t been asked! I guess the one thing I’ve never been asked is, ‘you’re not really as old as it says on the internet, are you?’!”
What colour of hair do you prefer, blonde or black?
“Well, I’m still getting used to this – I just dyed my hair on Thursday, and I quite like it, but I keep looking in the mirror and going, ‘who is that?’. My biggest fear was Olivia not liking it, but she did. I actually quite like this, and you know what’s interesting? More women talk to me since I became a brunette! Men, not too much, but that’s okay. But more women actually come up and have conversations with me in the gym – I’ve been going to the same little gym for years, and four or five women came up to me last week right after I’d gotten it done and talked to me, and I was like, ‘you haven’t said boo to me in five years, and now all of a sudden?! Weird! Oh, it’s my hair.’ It’s really interesting – I’m more accessible to women somehow. I think. I don’t know.”
What’s your favourite cheese?
“My favourite cheese? Ooh… I’m off cheese right now, cos I’m trying to do the no-dairy thing, but I have to say I like the soft cheeses. Brie, melted, mmm… is it lunch yet? I like a bit of brie, me! What’s your favourite cheese? (uhhh – SFX) See? It’s a hard question to ask somebody! Peter DeLuise, when my nephew came to set, he was a little dude, and Peter DeLuise went, like, fired off all these questions at Ryan, one after another: ‘what grade are you in? How old are you? Do you have a girlfriend?’, and then all of a sudden he said, ‘what’s your favourite cheese?’, and Ryan, without missing a beat, went ‘Cheddar!’. And I was like, ‘good on you, buddy!’, cos that’s a question that you never hear. So this is the second time I’ve heard it. Right now it’s brie, but that could change. Gouda! I’m a fan of Gouda, too! Oh, stop me with the cheeses…!”