Transcription by Katrina King. Don’t tell Arnold, but Katrina knows what Willis is talkin’ ’bout.
David Blue was already well known to TV viewers as Cliff St. Paul on Ugly Betty and Logan Griffen on Moonlight before joining Stargate Universe as Eli Wallace. In the first half of its first season, Stargate Universe has established itself as not just a continuation of the Stargate franchise, but a unique show unto itself. David’s Eli Wallace has grown from an underachieving gamer to a brilliant scientist thrown into a situation that is way beyond anything he’s ever encountered before. Like all SGU characters, Eli is an imperfect character doing his best to cope in an impossible situation. Recently, I had the chance to speak with David by phone while he was driving back to Vancouver, BC to begin work on the second season of Stargate Universe.
POP CULTURE ZOO: So you’re heading back up to Vancouver to start Season 2 of Stargate Universe. Congratulations on that!
DAVID BLUE: Thank you! It’s a little weird. I know time flies as you get older, but I swear we finished season 1 like 5 minutes ago, and now I’m already heading back for season 2. It’s kind of a little weird.
PCZ: Is it also kind of unusual, that only half the season has aired and you’re already starting work on the second season?
DB: Yeah, it’s a little strange. I gotta say though, it’s been great, for the show’s shooting schedule in general. It’s not something I’ve ever really done before. We had shot a good number of episodes before we ever showed the trailer at Comic-Con and before we ever premiered we were at least halfway through shooting our season. It always feels as if we have this huge head start for the audience. It’s kinda cool, because it makes me feel that what we do isn’t really affected by ratings, or by people liking this or people liking that. Instead, we just kind of make the show that we think is a good show, or that they think is a good show. But at the same time it’s kind of weird, because I’ve seen the first 20 episodes. Not only having done them, but I’ve actually seen them. So it’s weird to think that people out there haven’t. Sometimes when I talk to people I have to remind myself they haven’t, and not spoil anything for them, and not give anything away, because when I watched it, it was very exciting for me, so I want them to experience that.
PCZ: It definitely has the feel that it’s not just an episodic television series, that it’s a twenty part story, literally, that it continues like that.
DB: Yeah, I was talking to my friend, Alex O’Loughlin, he and I did Moonlight together, we just had lunch a couple days ago, and we were talking about that. He was not even aware we were a full 20. He just assumed we were like HBO, where we do 10 or 12 episodes and then we go off for a while. So as a fan, I understand frustration with splitting it up, but as somebody who doesn’t have anything to do with those choices I think that we left in the place where people are going to be curious what happens. I was taken aback by episodes 11 and 12 specifically, about how much it sucks you right back in and even more than that, 11 and 12 have become two of my favorite, they’ve joined a couple from the first half, of being my favorite episodes. It’s sort of crazy, not just things pick up, but how you really start getting engrossed in it now that you’ve gotten to know these characters.
PCZ: I actually literally got episodes 11 and 12 yesterday from FedEx and sat down and watched them last night. Personally, I felt the first 10 were pretty great, and these two just… I mean, if someone starts watching with these, they’re going to be amazed and really want to just be hooked into the show.
DB: It’s always a tough situation, especially when you have an ensemble drama that also has these weird fantasy, sci-fi elements, like, I hate to relate it to it, but Lost or what have you, because you really take some time to get to know the characters. That’s something that the past fans of the series may not have really expected or wanted, but people in television these days, y’know you learn little pieces as you go, and that’s a hard thing to swallow. Now that we’ve kind of started getting to know these characters, we can really delve into some other stuff that’s going on, and then the icing on the cake is what’s going on with the character stuff, and it’s really exciting to get into that, plus having seen 11 and 12, as you know, that what starts happening, really makes you want to watch the next episode because of what’s going on. It’s not just “Oh, what’s that guy up to?” now it’s “Holy crap! what’s gonna happen?!”
PCZ: It seems like up until Young leaving Rush behind on the planet things had kind of plateaued and come to a boiling point. Then you realize, it’s not done yet. Things are still going crazy!
DB: Exactly! There are a few lines I think later on in the season, or I know there were in one of the Kino episodes, where it might’ve been me, it all blends together after you shoot a lot, somebody says, “What kind of crazy are we dealing with today?” It’s just that, it’s just like you think, “Ok, it can’t get worse than this…” and then it does, or something else more complicated happens, or these people decide to do this and it just becomes where you get used to life being this ridiculous unexpected mess. And I love that! (laughs)
PCZ: (laughs) In the return, now that we’ve got aliens showing up and attacking the ship, it’s kind of boiling from both sides. We’ve got internal strife, we’ve got external strife. Something’s gotta give at some point!
DB: I’ve always loved in shows where it’s not just the matter of good versus evil, we don’t have the white hat and the black hat cowboys anymore. There are shows like Lost, which I love. I hate to keep referencing it, but I love it. I was reading an article, an interview with Michael Emerson recently and I just loved how he talked about his approach to the character, and it made me think very much of Rush in that when I read Rush on paper, from the beginning, I always wanted to know what was up with him. But I didn’t trust him, not for a second. I was like, “This guy is trying to kill everyone. Screw him.” Then I show up on set and Robert Carlyle acts and about halfway through the scene I find myself sympathizing for him, and wondering if he’s actually there to help us. Then I watch it and I see it even more and I realize that that makes such a more interesting character. When, you think someone has the capability to kill you or not care if you die, but at the same time sometimes convinces you that well, okay, maybe he’s not all that bad. It’s great. Then you add in other stuff like, food, water, external influences or what have you, it just kinda raises the stakes so much that for me it makes it exciting. I’m glad other people watch, because as far as I’m concerned I will sit at home and watch every episode as I get it and I’ll be happy! I watch it myself, I’m glad other people watch it, but really I just make the show for myself (laughs).
PCZ: (laughing) So if you’re the only one that’s going to watch it, you’ll still make it, right?
DB: Yeah, I will, because I have all that money to fund the show, I’m sure! (laughter) By the way, be sure to explain that I’m joking, because I do do this for the fans, but I love it, I love watching it, I really do.
PCZ: That duality about the characters even extends to Eli, because I find it interesting there are times where he seems to be really into what Rush is doing, really into exploring the ship, and naming things on the ship, and then he’s reminded of their precarious position and he feels almost chagrined or embarrassed at that point.
DB: It’s kind of something we’ve dealt with almost from the beginning and is one of my favorite things about playing the character is that when he got sucked up into this world, he did not live up to his potential. He had dropped out of MIT to take care of his mom, had all this other stuff going on, so pushing himself to do things was never really a priority. I love the moments on the ship where he’s reminded that you have to know. It’s not a matter of do you want to help out, it’s like you need to do this so we can all survive. Then, even more so, as you see later in the season, it starts to become not just a matter of good and evil anymore, it’s a matter of “Who am I siding with? Who am I gonna trust? Who do I believe is really working in our best interest?” And that’s when things start getting more complicated.
PCZ: As far as the characters, some of my favorite scenes are actually becoming the scenes where Rush is either missing or has gone rogue and Eli has to figure out raising shields or the weapons. He has almost the angel and devil over his shoulder, he’s got Young telling him he can do this, but you know Young just wants him to do it, and then he has Scott that is kind of like, “Hey dude, you can do this, just take care of it.”
DB: Going back to what I said before, it’s kind of the same thing, where in a way Eli showed up and there was this guy, this great guy Young, who was there to protect him, to make sure he worked hard, but at the same time was there to make sure he was not overloaded. Then all of a sudden he starts to realize that this guy, maybe all the military for that matter, may not be his best protector and may not really have what he considers priorities in mind as well. So I think it becomes this case by case struggle of do I follow any of you people or do I learn to lead myself.
PCZ: Then of course, Eli has this sort of the unrequited love in Chloe, although she doesn’t necessarily go out of her way to discourage it. Is that something that will continue to kind of simmer and boil as the season goes on?
DB: Yes and no. We talked about this while we were shooting. Eli’s not a virgin. He didn’t live in his garage, and he’s not like a Gollum that hasn’t seen the light of day. He’s had other interests and what have you, he’s not 12 years old. But when he finds this woman that he connects with, it’s hard to let go and overlook that. When you really boil it down to the basic level, the reason he connected to her is that they have a lot in common, their personalities, their attitudes, there is a chemistry there. I think after becoming friends with Scott, and more important things kind of coming to the forefront, I think it grows into a definite friendship. I’m not gonna lie and say that those sparks don’t still exist, but there comes a point when you have to kind of make the decision of “Am I going to be a puppy dog in love for the rest of my life? Or am I gonna kinda take what I can get, meaning friendship-wise?” and that’s definitely something that’s explored in the second half of the season for sure.
PCZ: Without giving too much away, as far as some of the internal siding and communication with Earth and things like that, are these things that will have some sort of resolution toward the end of the season, or is this going to continue on through until the next season?
DB: Without giving too much away, I think it will continue building. There are some really, really interesting episodes [coming up]. I think some of the fans right now are starting to realize we’re not any of the old shows. We’re not Battlestar, we’re not Lost, we’re not SG-1, we’re not Atlantis; we’re our own creature. With that comes differences in tone and approach. We’re still gonna learn some stuff about the characters and what made people who they are and why, but these influences that you talk about are really going to amp things up and raise the stakes a bit. And then everything that we’ve set up until now, it’ll come to a head but I wouldn’t expect any cups of tea where everyone talks about how they’re friends now. It’s hard when you’re stuck in the closet with people, it’s hard enough to trust them and to get along with them, but when you add in to that, that they’re just not trustworthy people? It makes things much more complicated, and it kind of bleeds over into all the other situations.
PCZ: I think that’s one of the things that makes this a unique show, all the different reactions to the situation. It’s not, “All right everybody! We have to band together and we’ll get through this!” Everybody’s reacting differently, and that’s really cool, seeing that play out.
DB: Yeah! It’d be one thing if everyone was in the military. Which is why I love this cast, and I love the way they’ve written it, not everyone is a Stargate Lieutenant, the commanding officer that says, “This is the way we’re gonna do it.” They all go, “Ok, yessir!” We have scientists, we have civilians, myself included, going, “Uh, okay, that’s all well and good, y’know, but who the heck are you? And why is your sacrificing decision actually the best option right now?” And I think that’s, again, that’s really what informs the second half of the season, is people kind of saying, “Okay, who do we really trust now?”
PCZ: Had you watched the other Stargate series prior to going for this show, just as a fan?
DB: Every single episode, and the movie as well. The only things I haven’t seen still, because I’ve been too busy, is Continuum and Ark of Truth. I hadn’t seen them when I started the show and they were very nice to give me the DVDs. I’ve just been so freaking busy with the show I haven’t even popped them in. Plus my girlfriend, she hadn’t seen the show before, and I wanted her to watch all of the episodes, before we saw the movies, meaning Ark of Truth and Continuum. I’ve just been waiting for her to get through all 15 seasons before we watch it. I keep looking at the DVDs and wanting to watch them.
PCZ: That first scene you shot with Richard Dean Anderson must’ve been pretty cool then?
DB: Oh, it was awesome! I lied my ass off, well, I didn’t lie- I omitted. When I talked to him, I was like, “Oh hi, oh nice to meet you Richard! How long you been workin’ on this? Blah blah blah.” But yeah, I knew. I knew everything about him. I watched MacGuyver, I watched SG-1. It was really cool meeting him and Amanda Tapping. I knew Lexa Doig through a friend, through Claudia Black, who actually ended up on SG-1. Claudia was a friend of mine, and she introduced me to Lexa, so kind of had a history there. But meeting anyone from the past shows has just been a blast. Chris Judge stopped by just to say hi one day and it was really cool meeting him, and he was so sweet. It felt good, cause it showed me that these people don’t look at us as trying to reinvent or take over anything. They really do realize that this is an evolution of the series and of the story. Them coming back to do guest spots on this and coming back to support it in any way, I think shows everything. That they respect what we’re trying to do here. Even David Hewlett, he’s been great. I haven’t actually seen him in person, but we’ve spoken a lot online. He’s been really cool. I keep joking with him that I want Eli and Rodney to have a face to face.
PCZ: That seems only natural. (laughs)
DB: I think it would be really cool, the two of them just going at it, like just arguing.
PCZ: They definitely need to have Rodney McKay on the Destiny, you’re right. You guys would just have a blast. It would be a nice episode to see.
DB: I think one of my favorite things about this, and keep in mind like I said I have watched all of the previous shows, is after awhile they started becoming so good at what they do. McKay, he’s a genius and he’s experienced, so he could figure out a solution to almost everything. There comes a point where you, as much as you’re rooting for the good guys, you almost want to see them struggle. You don’t want to have a solution so easily. I think that’s where part of the evolution comes from, bringing people who aren’t supposed to be there to the ship. Then you don’t know if they’re gonna figure out. Having watched episodes 11 and 12, you see that the excitement lies in not knowing how the heck they’re gonna get out of the situation.
PCZ: Right. Occassionally, something has to go drastically wrong otherwise, it’s like you said, it gets kind of boring. It’s like, “Oh, they’ll get out of this one this one, y’know, no big deal.”
DB: Yeah, exactly. Like I said, I loved SG-1, but at the beginning it was kind of problem of the day. It was like something happened, and we’d figure it out, and there’d be a solution by the end. It was great for single shot of episodes. Even on that show toward the end it started being about the Ori and it spread out throughout the season, searching for this and that lasts a few episodes. The more it draws out, the more invested you can become as a fan. Not solving things right away kind of brings you into it. I’d love for Eli to be a superspy. I’d love for him to be Daniel Jackson, just running around as a scientist and a ninja, but he’s not there yet. He’s a young inexperienced guy who’s brand-new to this world.
PCZ: Right (laughs) and the other stigma for a sci-fi show is what’s called techno-babble, talking about the various science that doesn’t exist. But the cool thing about your character is you get to kind of name it. You’ve named the Kinos and things like that. That’s gotta be kind of fun.
DB: Actually even more than that, because if you really boil it down. The writers named the Kino, so I can’t really take credit for that, but I was very excited, because when it came time to pilot the Kinos the props department came up to me and said, “You’re going to be using this a lot, so how do you wanna do it?” I kind of came up with the system of how the Kinos work. They handed me the Kino remote and they were like, “How do you wanna do this?” It was cool, because having watched shows like Star Trek: the Next Generation, and even Galaxy Quest for that matter, I always loved the idea that I could figure out how the technology works. Then maybe one day an alien culture could come and make it and base it off of what I figured out!
So it was cool to sit down and literally decide “How do you fly the Kino? What does this button do, what does that button do? What if you wanted to do this?” It’s one of my favorite parts of the first episode. As we progress and we discover newer technologies or other parts of the ship or whatever, it’s kind of fun to really feel that you are discovering this, because you are lending so much to the lore of how it’s going to work from now on, y’know?
PCZ: Now also going into the second season, are there any ambitions for you to write or direct any episodes?
DB: Oh, I would love to! I think we’ve, there’s a few of us, myself, Brian, Robert Carlyle, who’ve all come from training where we’ve directed. We’ve all kind of spoken about it before. I would love to, if they’d have me. I would absolutely love to direct an episode. Writing? It’s the same thing. It so happens that during the hiatus I had this weird itch of an idea, and I kind of wrote it, and it turned into a two-part episode. I sent it to the guys, I’m not expecting anything of it, but it was fun to write in that world. If they’d ever have me and invited me, I would welcome the opportunity.
PCZ: They’ve seemed to be, on the other series at least, very open to input from the cast and several cast members have written and directed for the other shows, so I think you’ve got a good shot!
DB: Yeah! In general the guys are great. Everyone, Brad, Robert, Carl, Joe, everybody is so open and cool that you can go to them and say “Y’know I had this idea” or “About this one thing, I was wondering if maybe it was more like this” and we don’t have to do that all that often, because they give us such great material. But when you do they’re really open about it, either they’ll tell you it doesn’t work because of this – usually something you missed – or they’ll take it into consideration and a lot of stuff will change along the way for it. If they like any of my ideas, or they can put up with my ridiculously curious personality, I’d love to direct.
PCZ: Another show that you were involved with before this is coming to an end this year. Is there any chance that you might show up towards the end of Ugly Betty?
DB: You know, I’d love to. I loved the character and I loved the cast so much that the minute they call me and say could you do this, I would work on the schedule with SGU to try to find the time. It’s really kind of in their court. I was talking to Chris Gorham about this recently too, because we’d love to come back and reprise our roles and contribute to the show in any way we can, and as a fan of the show I’d just love to come back for a little bit. It’s really up to them. I don’t know, there’s been little rumblings here and there about possible returns that have just never really worked out. I hope so. Michael Yuri’s still a friend of mine. America and Becki, I’d love to work with them again. It’s just a matter of waiting to hear the phone call.
PCZ: Cool! Would that be the same also with another project you have many fans on, Moonlight? There were rumors for a while there was going to be a theatrical film for that. Have you heard any rumblings on that?
DB: I haven’t heard anything official. I ran into Jason Dohring at the Sundance Film Festival, and like I said, I just had lunch with Alex a couple days ago, and we were talking about it, and how fun it’d be working together again. I think at this point, and I’m saying this from a removed position as a person who hasn’t heard anything official, I think it’s a matter of finding both the time, the script, and getting everyone’s schedule together. I don’t think anybody’s adverse to it, I think we all had a lot of fun on the show. We all enjoyed the characters and the stories. So, I for one, speaking personally, would love to do it. Logan was a blast to play, and I’m still bummed I never got to vamp out or never got to show my fangs.
PCZ: Yeah, see that’s kind of a perk of the show, and you never got to do it, that’s too bad!
DB: It’d be cool though, it’d be a lot of fun. In the original season finale, there was talk of Logan vamping out before he went running, but it didn’t happen. I heard rumors and a few things here and there about what season two was gonna be like, and it was really exciting. So if they could somehow turn that into a film, I would love to do it.
PCZ: Cool, well looking forward to the rest of the season of SGU and season two, of course. I thank you very much for taking part of your drive to talk to me today!
DB: Thanks for keeping me awake on this leg! I appreciate it!
‘Stargate Universe’ returns to Syfy on Friday, April 2nd at 9:00 PM!