Tag: Stargate

SDCC 08: ‘Stargate Atlantis’ Conversations

At this year’s San Diego Comic Con we caught up with Stargate Atlantis cast members Joe Flanigan, Robert Picardo and Jewel Staite in the press room for a brief chat.

We first spoke with Joe Flanigan (Lt. Colonel John Sheppard) who started things off by asking about the device I was recording with, my Creative Zen (look for my review of the Zen soon). He’s into gadgets and thought it was pretty cool. I asked him what he thought of the con, but he said that he just got there and was told he wasn’t allowed to go to the floor, but if he did he would buy out his own action figures. He recently received two boxes of his own action figure and one of the most satisfying things in his career so far has been to send his action figure to his friends and god-daughters. He joked that is what everyone gets from him for Christmas. “I can’t think of a more beautifully self-involved gift then to send someone your own action figure.”

I asked him if he had any idea what he was getting into when he signed up for Atlantis a few years ago. He answered, “Vaguely, not really…no. I didn’t expect it to run as long and as strong, having done a lot of TV and seeing the nature of the television industry. It’s rare when an audience comes out with so much passion. It’s doesn’t seem to happen in the television business all that often. It’s been a really nice surprise.”

Prior to Atlantis Joe had done eleven pilots in a row. He was on a show called First Monday, which was about the Supreme Court with Joe Montegna and James Garner. It only lasted 13 episodes. Then he was stuck under a contract at Universal for a very long time due to the pilot movie Thoughtcrimes and he wasn’t allowed to work on anything else. He says it was a very complicated situation, but about a week or two after he was released from that contract he was tapped for the Stargate gig. “It’s more a series of what TV shows didn’t make it would be the more appropriate question.”

I mentioned that we had previously spoken to Paul McGillion and Joe said it has been great having him back and that they are really good friends. If he could, he would have Paul back full time. “I give him crap all the time and he takes it. He’s got a fan-base, too. If we had a lot more money we’d probably have him on the show all the time.”

When asked for any spoilers for the new season, Joe deadpanned: “I sleep with everyone. And then I hate everybody. And then I sleep with them again. That’s pretty much the way that one goes. But stay tuned, because it’s how you sleep with people that’s really interesting.”

On the subject of new villains in the series, Flanigan replied: “That’s what we need, a really good villain-ess. You know what, that’s a good idea, I’m going to go pitch that story in about 5 minutes to Brad [Wright] (laughter).” Joe pitches stories all the time, previously to Wright but now to Paul Mullie and Joe Mallozzi. He has written a few episodes, but none for the current season. He finds himself overwhelmed with traveling from Vancouver to LA every weekend to raise his three boys. “My goal is to not get totally worn down.”

Getting a little more serious, Flanigan stated he would love to direct Atlantis at some point. He says one the few discouraging things this possibility is that he is getting stonewalled by the Canadian unions not letting Americans direct. Being the star of a show that’s been running for five years, and an American owned show, and he believes there should be some considerations for Americans to be able to direct. It’s a situation that he is not happy about.

Next we spoke with Robert Picardo (Richard Woolsey), who was familiar with Pop Culture Zoo! We have been endeavoring to schedule an interview with him for a few weeks prior to SDCC and we will continue to do so as the series progresses. It’s very apparent that Robert relishes playing the character of Richard Woolsey as he greatly enjoys talking about him. About his character, he said he starts to get sucked into the action. He described Woolsey as a man who is used to being in a business suit in his leather chair in an air-conditioned conference room. Now he will find himself racing down the corridor in a new uniform and holding a big gun, falling down an entire flight of stairs as he hits a stun field.

Over the coming season of Atlantis, Woolsey will have emerging relationships with crew members and gain their respect as they realize there are more sides to Atlantis’ new commander than seen at first glance. “This guy puts his worse foot forward when he’s in a new situation and he’s nervous about his new job. That brings out the worst qualities in him. As he gets to know them he opens up and shows new sides. He has other qualities and he’s really trying to turn himself into a good leader. His most redeeming quality is that he really, really cares about doing the best job that he can. It’s just that he’s not good at showing things really well as he’s not good inter-personally. He’s not a warm guy.”

He goes on the say how intimidation is a tool that can be used when someone is put into a command situation. “When you’re sent in to evaluate someone, you don’t want to buddy up to them – because they’re under your microscope. It’s been a career strength for him that he’s not a cuddly guy. He’s the one who has come in, gathered the data, done the interviews and written a report that assigns blame, points the finger at someone. Now, he’s the one who is going to have the finger pointed at him. Now he’s the guy who’s in the hot seat. That’s inherently the irony of that situation. And inherently cool and interesting for me as an actor. Now I am on the playing field and I cannot simply sit in my armchair and watch the game.”

Asked if there will be new villains, Picardo says yes, but that he’s not good remembering their names. “Remember, I come from Star Trek where we had a different rubber forehead every week, so I’m not necessarily good at remembering the names.” He can do equivalence examples, such as Borg + Replicator = Wraith. There are certain conversion equations from Star Trek to Stargate. But there are definitely some cool new villains coming up.

Earlier, in the Stargate Atlantis panel there were comments made about the ‘softening’ of Woolsey. I was a little concerned about that and brought it up to Robert. He said that it wasn’t so much of a softening, but when you meet a character you don’t initially like but eventually grow accustomed to, it’s because you discover little hints and insights into what makes that person the way they are. “The writers are building in enough revealing moments, often when I’m alone, and they’ve been very anxious to hear my input. I had a suggestion that was put into the end of the third episode. I thought it would be fun if when Woolsey goes back to his room to relax he puts on a business suit and a tie and sits and listens to music and has a glass of wine. But he dresses up to relax. That to me would say there is a part of his old life that he misses, the civility. Many men that live in a business suit hate it, but I think there is something about him that that is his old uniform of 35 years and he misses it. He likes the new job, but he misses the civilized nature of having a crisp shirt on, a tie, a perfectly groomed suit and relaxing that way. We play on that maybe two times so far. It’s referenced a third time, but now to show that he really feels comfortable in his new uniform. That shows a man who is growing into his new job… or filling Amanda Tapping’s shoes.”

I was curious what, after Voyager, made him decide to jump back into another sci-fi show. He said that enough time had gone by and he likes the routine of being on a television series, the sense of family. It gives you great freedom to do other things. “In your time off, if you want to go do a play, you have the money to go do that. You don’t have to make decisions based on financial concerns because that part is taken care of. So, it gives you all kinds of freedom to do creative and different things, whether it’s travel, take time off, write a book or do something with my children or go on an extended college tour. I have the freedom to do all this other stuff because I’m now working steadily for seven months of the year. But more than that, Star Trek has given me a dedicated group of fans who like to watch me and they watch me in any other show I pop up in. They’re particularly gratified to see me pop up in another science fiction show that they like anyway. It’s been a win-win for me. And I also think I’m the first actor to play a regular part in both of the major science fiction franchises. Straddling two studio franchises like a colossus!”

Then is was time to talk to the lovely Jewel Staite (Dr. Jennifer Keller). When asked about her experiences this year as opposed to being the new member of the cast last year, she said that she feels more at home. She doesn’t feel like the newbie, more like one the gang. The cast has been very welcoming. “They tease me and pull my hair and I think that’s ’cause they love me. Like on the schoolyard when you’re kids.”

I asked if she had any trepidation going from Firefly to another popular show. She said the only trepidation she had was that she was coming in after a very well-loved character (Dr. Carson Beckett) was leaving. “That’s the only thing that stressed me out. I knew that no matter what, people were going to be sad about it. I had huge shoes to fill. I just kinda had to let go of that and get it out of my head and do my own thing. I feel better about it now, especially since Paul McGillion is coming back.”

Speaking of Firefly she looks at it as being bitter sweet. “It was such an amazing time and all of our lives. We were so very close, but at the same time it’s so nice to be with a show that has their groove and it’s a well-oiled machine. Everybody keeps saying that. but it’s true. It’s nice coming on to something where everybody knows exactly what they’re doing and it’s a very relaxed environment.”

I speculated that perhaps since Jewel had played Kaylee (in Firefly) it enabled fans to be more accepting of her in a different sci-fi show and she agreed. “Kaylee was such a lovable character and I was really lucky to play that character. That’s all Joss (Whedon). I hoped that since people accepted her that they would give me a chance a little bit and I think they did. Last year at the Comic Con panel I notice people wearing the Jayne hat and being there in the audience to support me and that made me feel really good.” I pointed out that at this year’s Atlantis panel when Firefly was brought up, the entire room when nuts. “Yeah, the little engine that could I guess. Who knew. We thought no one was watching us.”

Concerning the development of her character, Dr. Jennifer Keller, Jewel said she was really excited about this year so far. Last year they didn’t really know what the character was about. This year, the writers are coming up with more comedy. “She’s quirkier and very loving. More friendships this year and more warmth. And Possibly romance.” On the romance front, I asked if she could confirm whether Keller chooses to another character to become involved with. “Romance makes the characters more real and shows tend to shy away from that.” We both agreed that Stargate is probably at its best when it focuses on the character moments.

Jewel said she is not interested in directing because there’s so much pressure and the actors that direct always end up looking stressed out. Writing perhaps, but she would like a professional writer working with her. Again, less pressure. She’s very willing to pitch ideas and help in the writing process, but no directing.

That was the end of our time with the actors. I want to thank Joe Flanigan, Robert Picardo and Jewel Staite for taking the time to talk to us and also the folks at SCI FI for making it all possible.

SDCC 08: The Stargate Panels

First up for Stargate fans on Friday morning was the “Continuum” panel. “Present at the panel were Brad Wright, Richard Dean Anderson, Amanda Tapping, Martin Wood, Michael Shanks, Ben Browder, Christopher Judge and Beau Bridges. The highlight of the panel was a moving video montage to the fallen general, Don S. Davis. It was evident that Davis was very much missed by the cast and crew of the show and the video was a very touching tribute to a very wonderful man. The big news of the panel was from Executive Producer Brad Wright, who announced that MGM has given the word to start on a story for next SG-1 movie. He added to this elation by revealing that a new spin-off series Stargate Universe is nearly a done deal. The rest of the panel was devoted to answering fan questions and also the very funny antics of Richard Dean Anderson. Anderson was very happy to be up in front of a Stargate crowd once again. Don’t forget to check out our coverage the the “Stargate Continuum” premiere by clicking here and check back Tuesday for our review of the DVD.

Next was the Stargate Worlds panel. We’ll have more about the upcoming MMORPG tomorrow as we’re getting a preview of the game with the developers where we’ll be able to get a lot more details. From the demo footage that was shown, it looks to be shaping up into a terrific game. One thing of note is that while the developers certainly plan on feeding off of characters and situations from the TV series, the producers of the show would also like events that are triggered in the game to pay off in episodes and/or DVD movies.

Lastly was the Stargate Atlantis panel. Taking the stage were Martin Gero, Jewel Staite, Robert Picardo, Joe Flanigan and Brad Wright. After the promotional reel for the new season of the show, the panel mainly consisted of a Question and Answer session. Jewel Staite revealed that her character, Dr. Keller will choose between Ronan and McKay as far as a steady love interest in an upcoming interest. Also, Robert Picardo talked about the possibility of his character, Woolsey, softening up a little during the course of the first few episodes of the fifth season. We were able to talk further about these two points with both of the actors after the panel as well have a chat with Joe Flanigan. Look for these conversations in the next few days. Also talked about was the fact that Atlantis has a lot of life left in it and won’t be going away anytime soon.

That’s all the big Stargate news out of San Diego. As mentioned, stayed tuned for our conversations with the Atlantis cast that were here as well as our interviews with Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne about their new show Sanctuary. Thanks to Bob Alpi for his assistance on this story.

Sci Fi Announces Summer Premieres

The SCI FI Channel has announced the summer premiere dates of four returning series, Sci Fi Wire reported today. The shows include Stargate Atlantis, Eureka, Ghost Hunters International and a new version of Scare Tactics.

Stargate Atlantis– a 20-episode fifth season begins July 11 at 10 p.m. Not only will this season introduce a powerful new race and feature the show’s 100th episode, but in an interesting twist Robert Picardo (as Richard Woolsey) will be taking command. As well, Paul McGillion (Dr. Carson Beckett) returns for five episodes, while Amanda Tapping (Col. Samantha Carter) and Michael Shanks (“Stargate SG-1″‘s Daniel Jackson) will also appear as special guest stars this season.

Eureka – the show’s third season premieres July 29 at 9 p.m. This season digs deeper into the inner workings of Global Dynamics and will feature new characters, including Eva Thorne, aka “The Fixer” (Frances Fisher), whose mission will be to clean up Global Dynamics.

Ghost Hunters International – is returning with seven new episodes beginning July 9 at 9 p.m.

Scare Tactics – kicks off its third season on July 9 at 10 p.m. with two back-to-back episodes. This season Tracy Morgan (NBC’s 30 Rock) joins the show as host.

Stargate Atlantis: Cast Changes in the Pegasus Galaxy

As the SciFi Channels gets ready to launch the the 5th season of the original series Stargate Atlantis, the Sci Fi Wire is reporting a number of cast changes are on the event horizon.

On the Way Out

Col. Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) shall be stepping down from the command of the Atlantis expedition and concentrating on her new SciFi Channel show “Sanctuary“. Premiering later this year, Ms. Tapping will be both star and executive producer of the new series.

A face that won’t be seen this season is Tori Higginson (Dr. Elizabeth Weir). Atlantis’ producers had thought to bring Dr. Weir back for several episodes, but the Higginson declined returning.

On the Way Up

The SG1 and Atlantis veteran Robert Picardo, as Richard Woolsey, will become a regular cast member this season. In an interesting twist, his roll will be to replace Carter as the commander of the of the Atlantis expedition.

Also being upgraded in status is Jewel Staite, who plays Dr. Jennifer Keller. She will be going from “recurring cast member” to “regular cast member”. Staite says fans can expect more from her character this season. “She steps up to the plate a little bit more,” Staite told Sci Fi Wire. “She’s becoming more courageous.”

The Doctor is Back

Paul McGillion, the former cast member and a favorite of fans, will be returning to play Dr. Carson Beckett (or at least his clone) in several episodes.

Currently six episodes of Stargate: Atlantis’ upcoming fifth season have already been produced, and filming is underway on the remainder. The fifth season begins this summer.

Exclusive Interview With Action Figure Sculptor Jean St. Jean

If you dig action figures, chances are you own something that was created by Jean St. Jean Studios. The sculpting house, founded by St. Jean himself, has grown since its creation in 2005 and now boasts clients such as NECA, Diamond Select and DC Direct. Jean began his career making dolls and preschool toys for Appollo-Juno, Inc but soon moved to McFarlane Toys, where he eventually rose through the ranks to become Sculpting Supervisor. A few years later, Jean ventured out on his own and eventually founded Jean St. Jean Studios, which has become one of the most popular and highly-regarded sculpting houses in the industry.

Jean was kind enough to answer a few questions about his career, what influences him and what may lie on the horizon for Jean St. Jean Studios.

PCZ: You’ve been in the sculpting industry for a number of years. After all the work you have done, what stands out as your favorite, or the project that you are most proud of?

Jean: There are two actually; The Tomb of Dracula Marvel Milestones for Diamond Select Toys and the 18” Pumpkinhead for SOTA. The Dracula in particular was something I had wanted for someone to make, let alone get the chance to design and sculpt it myself. The Marvel Dracula had been ignored for years and I’m very glad it was me that got to do the first statue. I put a lot of time into rereading the whole series and studying Gene Colan’s art, especially the face and body language.

Production issues aside, I love the Pumpkinhead; partly because I never thought any company would be nuts enough to do an 18″ action figure. Also because typically, I’m not the guy folks come to with monster jobs. Generally, I’ve been typecast as a realism and portrait sculptor, so when something like Pumpkinhead or the Day of the Dead figures for Amok Time come up, it’s a nice change.

PCZ: In the Diamond Select Stargate series, you were able to incorporate ‘build-a-figures’ such as the Stargate and MALP. How does your approach to sculpting these large-scale devices/accessories differ from a standard action figure? Do you prefer working on action figures or accessories?

Jean: The ‘build-an-accessory’ idea was Diamond’s and I think it is awesome. From a fan standpoint it allows us to make oversize accessories that are iconic elements of the shows. It also adds a buying incentive for collector’s to pick up the whole set. Having said that, they have to be sized and decorated within certain cost parameters to make them a reasonable addition to each of the blisters. These things are very expensive to produce so in order to get them out to fans, compromises have to be made.

There are plenty of examples of companies promising the moon on some insanely expensive product and then having it slip below the radar because of unrealistic costing for production. Within my team of artists I have guys that specialize in fabrication (or, a more mechanical form of sculpting) for vehicles, weapons and architectural elements. I’ve begun doing more of it myself, for instance the (DC Direct) World of Warcraft Gnome Mechanostryder as well as the weapons for my Warcraft figures. Figural and accessory sculpting each have elements which I enjoy doing, again because I prefer to have variety in my workload.

PCZ: Has there been an instance where the final packaged product has drastically differed from your original sculpt? What is your reaction to this and how much control do you have over the finished product?

Jean: Rarely does a final PVC toy look like a hand painted prototype. In fact, never does the final product nail the prototype. Concessions have to be made for cost and for practicality of reproduction. Because I understand this, I generally expect to be underwhelmed, though I’m mostly pleasantly surprised. That’s not negativity, it’s just practicality. However, McFarlane has made some amazing innovations in the production process that have completely changed the look of the average action figure. They have forced everyone else to pick up their game. The average collector is much more discriminating and savvy of the production process.

PCZ: Not many fans know that you are also an accomplished musician with a degree in classical piano. To what extent does music influence your sculpting work (or vice versa)?

Jean: Over the last ten years I’ve traded one obsession for another. Where I used to practice (music) 16 hours a day, now I work those hours making toys and statues. I’ve gotten to sculpt a few of the musicians I listened to like the Kiss Alive Gene Simmons, Alice Cooper and the ‘Roid Rage’ Ozzy Osbourne for McFarlane. I also worked on the (Iron Maiden) Phantom of the Opera Eddie and Freddie Mercury in the yellow jacket. Both of these were for NECA.

PCZ: Can you tell us a little about what some of your upcoming projects are? Anything new with Diamond Select or are you working with other companies?

Jean: As far as I know (Diamond Select) is still rolling ahead with Stargate: SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis and Battlestar Galactica. On other fronts I’m working on Mezco’s Cinema of Fear (wave three was my first line), DC Direct AmiComi (Poison Ivy was the first) and Day of the Dead and other cool properties coming up for Amok Time.

PCZ: Have you ever worked on a project that required you to work with source material that you were unfamiliar with? Have any of your projects made turned you into a fan of a show/book/movie that you were previously unexposed to?

Jean: Actually, Stargate was a property I had only passing knowledge of before the Diamond gig came up. I started cramming to become immersed in the show, and thank God I ending up really liking it. I’m more of a horror guy than a sci-fi enthusiast but (Stargate) is a fun show with really well written characters and great casts. Plus… there are some cool aliens!

PCZ: You have mentioned in previous interviews that you got started in this business as a toy collector. What new toys keep you hunting shelves to add new items to your collection?

Jean: Indeed. An addiction worse than crack, I’d wager. Super Powers started it for me in my ‘20’s and I just can’t get clean! Right now I collect mostly anime figures and PVC statues. Just this weekend I picked up two of the Hasbro Iron Man movie figures and two of the Gentle Giant Hellboy figures.

PCZ: Have you ever worked on a line that didn’t make it though final approval with the licensor (for whatever reason)? Anything that you wish you had a second chance with?

Jean: The only thing that comes to mind is Samara from The Ring for NECA, but that had nothing to do with the sculpt; it was an issue of international versus domestic licensing rights. I’d love to attack that and other Japanese horror properties at some point.

PCZ: What’s on your short-list of musicians that you would want to turn into an action figure?

Jean: I think a Diamond Dogs, Aladdin Sane and Ziggy Stardust Bowie would be cool. Also, guitarists like Ritchie Blackmore and Michael Schenker or a line of metal screamers like Rob Halford, Tate Dickinson… and especially Ronnie James Dio.

PCZ: What are your long term goals in the sculpting industry? You are already the owner of your own company… where do you see yourself a few years down the road?

Jean: More of the same but with more capacity and efficiency. I’m constantly trying to improve on my own abilities. Maybe, eventually doing some of my own manufacturing.

PCZ: We here at PCZ are big fans of your work on NECA’s Highlander box set. What future do you see in kilted action figures? Do you think that it’s high time that Scotsmen were given their due in the toy industry?

Jean: I think the irrepressible engineer Scotty from Star Trek and Connor MacLeod are forced to carry the banner of the Scots alone. However, the kilted action figure allows for more range of motion for the ball joints (Nyuk! Nyuk!) and easy access for long wedgie-prone car rides. Personally, it took me eons to get out of black jeans and into shorts , so unless I’m an immortal like MacLeod and his ilk, it’s unlikely I’ll ever make the bold fashion statement of the kilt, where junk roams free and wedgies are a thing of the dark and distant past.

We want to thank Jean St. Jean for the time and patience (especially with that last question) he took in this interview. You can see more of Jean’s work over on his MySpace page. Or, run down to your local toy shop and pick up one of the many amazing figures sculpted by Jean St. Jean Studios!