A Rollicking Hour of ‘Stargate’

Photo by Steve Diaz
Photo by Steve Diaz

On Saturday at 4PM in the Westin Peachtree ballroom, Stargate actors Christopher Judge, Joe Flanigan, Rachel Luttrell, and Jewel Staite met to razz each other, answer questions, and joke with their fans. Moderator Karen Henson explained that Saturday traffic had delayed Judge, Luttrell, and Staite. She brought Flanigan out, and he set the tone for the panel by saying, “When they get here, let’s pretend it all goes flat.” The other actors arrived, Judge asked what had been going on. A fan told him Flanigan’s suggestion, and Judge quipped, “After 15 minutes of boring introduction, the entertainment is here.” The room roared with laughter.

Henson asked the actors how they were doing that day. Jerking his thumb toward the outside, Judge noted, “The guy on the corner thinks we’re all sinners. If you want a ride, come with me.”

Photo by Steve Diaz
Photo by Steve Diaz

Henson then started an interesting discussion by asking the actors how they got into Stargate and why they’d decided to “stay with this crazy, lovely fandom.”

Luttrell said she loved the character when she auditioned. She felt the audition and her subsequent test with Joe Flanigan both went well. Then she found out she didn’t get the role. While she was disappointed, she moved on, only to get a call a couple of weeks later tell her she’d gotten the job. She then had three days to move to Vancouver for shooting.

Staite auditioned for the part of a wraith girl. When she arrived at the audition, the producers were surprised that “Kaylee from Firefly” was auditioning, and gave her the part. She was then surprised to find that she had a 3AM call to have makeup applied and was the last actor to leave because removing it took so long. She was asked to return in the role but refused because of the uncomfortable makeup. A few months later, she was offered the role of Dr. Keller.

Photo by Steve Diaz
Photo by Steve Diaz

“We were the kings of getting people who were popular on other shows,” Judge noted, citing Morena Baccarin, who also appeared on both Firefly and Stargate: SG-1.

Staite asked Judge how the actors on their show started. Noting that they auditioned on tape before having a screen test, he said that the auditions were followed by a long period of hearing nothing. Then he got a day’s notice for the screen test. At the test, there were three Daniel Jacksons, three General Hammonds, three Captain Carters, and 10 Teal’cs. The first tests shot were for MGM, and then the person in charge called, in front of everyone, the names of everyone who would not be testing further. That left two of everyone else, but only one Teal’c.

When Flanigan’s manager asked him about auditioning for Stargate, his response was, “What’s Stargate?” He didn’t think he knew how to act in science fiction. He recalled a quote, which he thought came from William Shatner, to the effect that acting in science fiction is much like acting to a box of cereal. Flanigan didn’t watch any Stargate until after his audition so he wouldn’t be influenced. He seconded Judge’s statement about the names of eliminated actors being called in front of everyone. “It can be painful,” he said.

Photo by Steve Diaz
Photo by Steve Diaz

When the question-and-answer period started, fans stood up and formed a line. “Oh, you’re getting in line,” Judge quipped. “I thought you were leaving.” Flanigan looked at Judge and shook his head. “You’ve done it again,” he said, and everyone laughed.

The first questioner asked about behind-the-scenes “antics and shenanigans” on Stargate: Atlantis. Luttrell felt that she was the brunt of a lot of antics. When she was pregnant, the guys put together a “pregnancy book” for her, with photos of Paul McGillion and Jason Momoa wearing her costumes and eating in her trailer.

Flanigan admitted to being one of the main people playing pranks. When Momoa, who was his roommate, joined the show, that “brought a level of professionalism” to the pranks. David Hewlett was a favorite target. While shooting an outside scene in which Hewlett and Flanigan were carrying an extra on a stretcher while Flanigan scouted ahead, the two with the stretcher complained frequently. Every time there was a break between takes, Flanigan added a rock to each of their backpacks, so they were seriously heavy by the time the scene was complete.

Staite said she wasn’t part of any pranks and thought Hewlett was glad when she arrived to take some of the heat.

The actors then discussed the ability to take creative liberties in their performances. Flanigan felt that possibility had been over-hyped. Judge agreed as far as Stargate: Atlantis was concerned, noting that Richard Dean Anderson’s presence on Stargate: SG-1 had led to almost complete freedom for the actors, and Judge thought the producers wanted to avoid that with Atlantis.

After shooting the Atlantis pilot, Flanigan was told he needed to be more serious. He’d been microdirected many times, though, and felt he had to be confident in his acting choices, so he refused to change. He believed he was in danger of being fired, and Judge confirmed that he’d been asked to talk to Flanigan. He’d declined, contrasting Flanigan’s approach with Richard Dean Anderson’s more freewheeling one.

Staite said fans have told her they liked the show’s lighter and fantastical approach. Judge pointed out that SG-1 was pretty light, too. “With Rick, you didn’t have a choice,” he said. The actors then discussed the lack of shows that appeal to an entire family, citing the dark tone of many science fiction programs.

The conversation shifted to the challenges of acting with a greenscreen, reacting to things that aren’t there, and the difficulties of dealing with “technobabble.” Judge noted Amanda Tapping’s facility with that jargon as incredible. It can’t be paraphrased because it’s based on science, and it has to be word for word. One of their guest actors described the jargon as harder than Shakespeare. Judge said he gave her a typical Teal’c look and said, “Indeed.”

Author of the article

Nancy Northcott is the Comics Track Director for ConTinual. She's also a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction, fantasy, and history. Her published works include the Boar King's Honor historical fantasy trilogy and the Arachnid Files romantic suspense series. Collaborating with Jeanne Adams, she also writes the Outcast Station science fiction mystery series.