David Nykl, known to science fiction fans as Radek Zelenka, the foil to David Hewlett‘s Rodney McKay on Stargate Atlantis, was gracious enough to sit down with us on the next to last day of Dragon*Con 2008.
Daily Dragon (DD): We know you speak fluent Czech, so do the writers tell you what they want you to say, or do you wing it?
David Nykl (DN): A little of both but mostly I wing it. The writers often write something like “mutters in Czech,” “mumbles in Czech,” “curses in Czech,” “swears in Czech,” or some phrase that indicates what they would like there, and the rest is all me.
DD: How many times have you said impolite words in Czech on the show?
DN: I don’t think the show could ever sell in the Czech Republic because it wouldn’t pass the censors, let’s put it that way. Almost…well not every episode I’m in, but I put it back in season five.
DD: We’ve only gotten to see a glimpse of Zelenka’s background and that was in Critical Mass where he mentions his sister’s child. What do you think about Zelenka’s background?
DN: You know, what I think could be completely different from what the producers think and the producers write, whether he’s married or is single, whether he has a large family, whether he comes from a small family. Most of what I get in terms of backstory is what the writers come up with. It literally is what the writers come up with, what their ideas are. What I think it is [is] almost irrelevant because I don’t want to lead anyone down the garden path. I think there’s still time for backstory development, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the movies.
DD: What’s the one thing that Zelenka could say to Rodney but never would?
DN: I’ve said plenty to him that I probably shouldn’t. Well it’s difficult because you’re running into a thing where there’s a lot of competition between the two of them. I think to concede any kind of a point to him might be something he wouldn’t do, particularly when it comes to the work. I don’t think he’d ever concede that he’s a nice guy. I don’t think he’d concede that he’s amiable or fun to work with, because he’s not. I think that’s the draw of Zelenka and that’s the way I enjoy playing him that way.
DD: Over the past 5 seasons, what has been your favorite moment either on set or in an episode?
DN: Well, just on the set in general all the time; seriously, it’s a lot of fun. I mean everything from the jokes that we play to hanging out with the other actors. Just being on set is a treat. I mean, I’m not there every single day. I’m there, you know, anywhere from two to 12 times a month, so I could be there once a week or four days a week or however it sort of happens. But I drive down to the studio, because I live close to it, and I come on set, and the cast and crew are just warm and welcoming.
As far as the episodes, I really enjoyed “Adrift” and doing all the [visual effects] for that. That was really cool. And I really enjoy the scenes I have with Rodney. Those are a lot of fun, and they don’t happen as often as they did in seasons one and two, so I really relish them a lot. David [Hewlett] is fun to work with.
DD: If you had been asked, would you have done the scene from “Duet”?
DN: Oh my God…if I’d been asked. Well I think you should know that both Paul McGillion and David Hewlett were tricked into doing that so I would imagine that if I was tricked the same way, I would probably fall for it. But it’s hard to say. If they’d come up to me and said “Hewlett said it was okay,” I’d be like, “I don’t know.” I would find it a really odd choice. I mean that picture would be out all over the place. So in some ways, I’m glad I’d never have to face that.
DD: How do you think Radek has changed over the course of the series?
DN: I think he’s like everyone on the series; he’s matured. He’s settled into the role and has become more comfortable in his role as department head on Atlantis. The most obvious change is [the fact that] we’ve all matured. We’ve all gotten to where putting on the roles is like putting on a comfortable sweater. At first, it was like we were all going “is this right?”, “am I doing it okay?”, but now we’ve matured and settled into our roles, which is really quite nice.
DD: What’s next on the horizon for you now that Stargate Atlantis has been cancelled?
DN: Hopefully more work? I’ve been auditioning a lot, and there are some really promising bites I don’t want to jinx that I’m really looking forward to. The release of The Beast of the Bottomless Lake is coming up. I’ve seen a working copy of that, and it’s incredible, and we’re hoping to premiere it at South by Southwest or Toronto [Film Festival]. It should be a couple more months before that one, and that’s not one to miss.