An Hour with the Stargate Cast

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The “Supergate: Beyond the Gate” (Stargate Multiverse, Sunday, 2:30 PM, Hyatt Centennial II and III) panel started out on a humorous note that persisted through the hour.  Moderator Karen Smith Henson asked the actors, Peter Williams, Ona Grauer, Joe Flanigan, David Blue, and Alexis Cruz, to tell the audience about their first acting jobs, amateur or professional. Cruz responded first, indicating that his first acting job, when he was nine years old, was a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese commercial for Spanish language television. As he described wanting to taste the product, which he never had, and never being allowed to, his gestures and facial expressions had the audience laughing.

Blue said his first acting job was playing a rat in The Nutcracker when he was in second grade.  He described his role as less acting and more “put on a tail and run onstage.” Flanigan described his first job as a joint Pepsi-Blockbuster commercial in which he got to ask Cindy Crawford whether she wanted a Pepsi.” He wryly lamented that Cindy did not remember him when he encountered her later.

Ona Grauer’s first role was as Debra on the television show Sliders. Williams’s first role was unpaid, as an orderly in a stage production of Whose Life Is It Anyway?  His first paid job was portraying Harry Belafonte in the made-for-television miniseries Hoover vs. The Kennedys: The Second Civil War.

Henson asked the panel how they got the call for Stargate and what their auditions were like. Grauer said she thought her role as Ayiana in the Stargate SG-1 episode “Frozen” would be easy because she had only three words of dialogue, but she discovered that reacting to other actors all the time was actually fairly difficult.  She laughingly described being in makeup for the episode when Martin Wood came in and told her he hadn’t liked anything she’d done, but they would “just play around on the set.”  The audience laughed with her.

Williams indicated that he originally auditioned for Teal’c but got the callback for Apophis.  Because he wasn’t in the Stargate movie, he had to research it. Chuckling, he said he had a vague resemblance—dark skin and long dreadlocks—to Jaye Davidson, who played Ra in the movie, and that may have entered into his casting. During his audition, he reported Michael Greenberg once exclaimed, “Yes!” so Williams left feeling good about it. But he added that his work on the series started with a haircut.

Blue said he was working on Ugly Betty when he got the chance to audition for both SGU Stargate Universe and Defying Gravity. He almost turned down the Stargate audition because the character, Eli, seemed so like McKay on Stargate: Atlantis. Admiring David Hewlett’s portrayal of McKay, Blue felt he couldn’t fill those shoes. At that point, Flanigan, patting Blue on the shoulder and smiling, interjected, “Yes, you can,” to laughter and applause from the audience.

Blue went on to describe the audition scripts, or sides, as having Eli hitting on Amanda Tapping’s character, Samantha Carter.  Grinning, he said he might have done the audition “just to hit on Amanda,” a comment that also drew laughter.

Cruz’s audition for the movie that launched the franchise, Stargate, came just after his graduation from a New York high school for performing arts. He said he felt his “chops were fresh” for that reason, but his “sanity was at an all-time low” due to having worked all his life until a dry spell started 18 months previously. He said his agent advised against doing the film because it was a “low budget, indie science fiction film” and the character had only three lines, none of them in English. Cruz said he responded, “Screw that. There are no small roles, only small actors. I’m going for it.”

At the actual audition, he mimed the lighter and chicken man scenes. For his callback, he was flown to Los Angeles for a screen test.  He noted this seemed inconsistent with “low budget.” He met Dean (Devlin) and Roland (Emmerich) and was shown around the studio, a tour that included the art department. The art on the walls and the bustling activity, to him, were also inconsistent with “low budget.” Then, he said, Devlin told him, “I know you haven’t been cast yet, but look, this is your action figure.” At which point, Cruz said to roaring laughter, “My brain just melted.”

The moderator asked the panel which crossovers they would like to see between various incarnations of Stargate. Williams responded that he was living his crossover because of an asteroid named Apophis.  “If that’s not a crossover,” he asked, “what is?”

Blue said that at San Diego Comic-Con, he had mentioned wanting an Eli-McKay crossover, which later happened. Flanigan started by noting that Rick (Richard Dean Anderson) envied the actors on Atlantis because their sound stages were air-conditioned and then reported that he had pushed for a crossover with Claudia Black’s character, but it never happened.

Blue suggested, “You could type that up yourself.”

Grinning and riffling through some papers, Flanigan responded, “I just got the rewrites.”

As the audience laughed and cheered, Blue said he had done his own crossover by taking selfies on the Stargate: Atlantis sets and with their gate.

Cruz said he had done a crossover on Stargate: Atlantis “as a guy named Jason Momoa, playing Ronon.”  More laughter and applause ensued .

Flanigan added, “You went from three words to zero.”  He went on to describe the frustrations of going back to the hotel where he and Momoa lived , after a long day, to learn lines.  Momoa, he said, leafed through his script and was ready to go party while Flanigan had actual lines to learn.

Grauer said, “Crossover? No, I’m a Stargate slut. I’ve done them all.”

The last question in the formal portion of the panel inquired about what the actors had done lately.  Grauer reported that her eight-year-old daughter had recently gotten her first acting job, on The Whispers. Grauer was delighted to then be cast as her mother. They enjoy going to work together.

Williams recently did a Lifetime movie, Apple Mortgage Cake, about a woman who bakes her way out of financial trouble so she can keep her home. Williams plays her not-so-nice ex. Smiling, he added, “I have a habit now of playing not-so-nice exes.”

Flanigan said he had just shot The Bandit Hound, a movie with Paul Sorvino, Catherine Bell, and Lou Ferrigno. The movie is about a dog trained by criminals. It ends up in the dog pound, which Flanigan’s character runs, and is adopted by Bell’s character and her son. When the dog goes on a crime spree, Flanigan’s character helps them reeducate the dog.

Blue finished a movie called The Concessionaires Must Die, which will be out this fall. He has also done voiceover work for a game and does a podcast called Out of the Blue. He added that he had done Moonlight with Claudia Black and that when he was cast in SGU, she gave him an action figure—hers.  The audience laughed and cheered.

Cruz said he had done a science fiction/horror thriller, Altergeist, that’s due out in 2015. He described the movie as being about ghost hunters who are “not too competent.” They find a haunted winery, and “all hell breaks loose.” He wrote and co-produced a graphic novel, The Unprofessionals, which he said is “a sociopathic bromance.” He is pleased that comic artist Bill Sienkiewicz did the cover. Cruz plans to relaunch it with subsequent chapters. He added that he loves comics, loves writing, and is working on a Stargate graphic novel.

“I’ll buy one,” Williams said.

An audience member asked the actors which particular episodes or scenes meant the most to them.  Williams said, “You saw Children of the Gods, right?” As everyone laughed, he said his favorite episode was “Serpent’s Song” because he was in almost every scene, something that hadn’t happened in any other episode.

Flanigan said he had “a deeply impaired memory.” As everyone chuckled, he added that fans often look at shows as a whole while actors see moments, many of them off-screen. He enjoyed ad-libbing on the show. As an example, he mentioned running into a room with Momoa to grab something before something else blew up. As Momoa grabbed the object, Flanigan said, “Easy, Chewie,” which seemed to fit well in the moment.

Blue cited the SGU episode “Time.” He enjoyed it because he wore a camera rig and got to fire guns that appeared to be shooting from the below the camera. He’d wanted to fire the weapons but had been told the cameraman would do it. When he persisted in asking, he was given the helmet camera and rig.  So anything from Eli’s perspective, he probably shot.

Flanigan interjected, “I noticed a lot of close-ups of Amanda,” and everyone laughed.

Cruz said, “Twenty years of moments?  Where do we choose?”

Flanigan suggested, “Those three non-English words might work.”

Cruz replied, “I don’t remember what they were.”

Gesturing to the audience, Flanigan quipped, “I’ll bet they do.”

To laughter and applause, and with help from the audience, Cruz repeated the words in question.  He went on to say that his favorite episode to work on was SG1’s “Pretense,” in which he went back and forth between the Goa’uld parasite Klorel and its unwilling host, Skaara. His favorite moment in the entire series, though, was the death of Apophis. The Goa’uld parasite died first, leaving its ancient, Egyptian host. Cruz said that “when the human came through, there was this moment of peace” and the “authenticity of this ancient, tired soul,” which found peace and release.

The panel ended a few minutes later, with the audience giving the actors a standing ovation.

About the author

Nancy Northcott is a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction, fantasy, and history. She's the author of the Boar King's Honor historical fantasy trilogy, which launched this year with The Herald of Day, and the Light Mage Wars paranormal romantic suspense series. Collaborating with Jeanne Adams, she just launched the Outcast Station space opera series with a two-novella anthology, Welcome to Outcast Station.

Website: http://www.nancynorthcott.com

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