The popular Sci Fi series Stargate Atlantis is about to return with a new season this Friday night. We had the opportunity to sit in on a conference call with Stargate executive producer Joseph Mallozzi and actor Robert Picardo. They were kind enough to answer questions about the series, fan reactions, the characters and the upcoming season.
Since the interview’s pretty long, we cut it up into parts. Here’s the fourth and final part. (Click here for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). As they talk about the new season, consider yourself spoiler-warned!
Season 5 of Stargate Atlantis will premiere on Friday, July 11, 2008 at 10:00 p.m. on the SciFi Channel
Who from Stargate Atlantis is going to be appearing [at Comic Con]?
Michele Rosenblatt (NBC Universal): We have the lovely Robert Picardo. We have Joe Flannigan, Jewel Staite, Brad Wright and Martin Guerra will be the moderator.
Bob mentioned challenges being presented to Woolsey in Atlantis. So Joe, my question for you would be tell us some of the challenges you faced with eminent threat on Atlantis with (now an infant)?
Joseph Mallozzi: Well, I’m trying to think about how best to field this question because the real threat - like - there’s an instance where the infant is threatened but it only comes later on in the season - the back half of the season. Up until then, it’s really more of a struggle. We’re kind of exploring the struggle that I guess Teyla has to go through as sort of a mother and an off world adventurer. Bob mentioned the fact that Teyla is one of the first members of the team to actually open up to him and really approach him, and there’s a really nice scene in “Broken Ties.” The B story or one of the B stories, or I guess B or the C story, involves her as sort of a new mother having to come to a decision regarding her future with the team.
The person she actually goes to talk to, to discuss the situation with is Woolsey. And Woolsey ends up being surprisingly sympathetic and kind of opens up a bit to her as well and in kind of a surprising little scene that I thought worked very nicely. And we also get to see a little bit of Woolsey’s baby handling skills in that episode as well. With regard to a specific threat to the baby, not until the back half.
Not necessarily to the baby, but just as an overall threat to Atlantis under attack or something - that type of challenge.
Joseph Mallozzi: Yeah, it’s always there and that’s something that basically Teyla has to sort of address very early on. Not only is it a threat to her child on Atlantis, but the fact that every time she heads off world there’s a chance she may not come back. And really, as a responsible parent, does she have a right to be going off world when, she’s got a child depending on her.
What’s both your most favorite part of working on the show and your least favorite part?
Robert Picardo: Oh, all right. Let me see, I don’t mean to sound like a Pollyanna. I haven’t encountered my least favorite part yet. I would say, as I said, I’m now back in a jumpsuit so I find myself secretly comparing the Star Trek outfit to the Stargate outfit.
Star Trek, for years, I had no pockets which was very difficult to deal with. There was more than one take where I had to eat a phone number right before because there was no place to put it. I almost sent a pencil into one of my castmate’s eyeballs by hiding it up my sleeve and then gesturing during the scene, and it flew out and hit them in the head. So there were all sorts of things that I hated about wearing that suit.
Apparently, zippers don’t exist in the 23rd Century or 22nd Century. They’re all hidden. They all have hidden heads. So if we had a zipper head appear, we had to re-shoot the scene. Now, I’m working in the present and we’re allowed to have zippers. I’m even allowed to have pockets. So that’s one of my favorite things about my new job.
Joseph Mallozzi: Zippers and pockets, that’s great.
Robert Picardo: I can hide my script pages right on my body which is great and as I said, I haven’t really - I haven’t found the thing that I hate the most yet but give me time.
Joseph Mallozzi: Yeah for me, I’ve often said it may sound like a cliché, but it’s always the people. These individuals I work with, I spend more time with than my wife. I’m in early. I leave late and by the time I get home I spend maybe three, four hours with my wife before I’m off to bed and back with my extended family on Stargate. Over the course of the years you go year to year and it’s been nine years. And you develop friendships. I think more than anything that, you know, is the best thing about working on this show.
It’s a well oiled machine. People get along and I think that’s really important. As for the thing I least like about the [show], it’s hard to say. I would’ve said last season when I was off in Widgeon Park where I’d have to wake up at 4:30 to get down to Widgeon Park to - as sort of an on set presence for the episode, “Harmony.” That was kind of unpleasant initially. But then after awhile, I kind of grew to enjoy it. And this is something I’m talking about with a guy on the conference call who I’m sure gets up at 4:30, what is it every day? What time do you wake up, Bob?
Robert Picardo: You mean every day when I’m shooting?
Joseph Mallozzi: Yeah, when you’re shooting.
Robert Picardo: Oh, it’s not that bad. It’s much worse when you have to wear a rubber head in science fiction. But no I mean, on a Monday you might have to get up at 4:30 or 5:00.
Joseph Mallozzi: Right.
Robert Picardo: But that’s as bad as it gets. It tends to get later as the week goes on. I forgot to say - I don’t mean to interrupt, but I wanted to mention one other significant difference in my new job versus my old science fiction job.
It’s not a secret, I think that the Star Trek producers were kind of ivory tower producers who rarely came down to the set to see the actors. In fact, if the producers came to the set, the actors’ response was normally uh-oh, what did we do wrong. But the Stargate producers visit the set all the time and there’s a very relaxed kind of easygoing atmosphere. They’ll pop down and say hello to us. They’re not located on the other side of the lot the way the Star Trek ones were at the other end of the Paramount lot, as far away from the sets as they could possibly get.
They’re just upstairs in our main stage, the production office. So I really like that what Joe described is the extended family thing is much more apparent to me here because they really do - mom and dad really do come down to visit the kids on the set. And that makes it a very relaxed atmosphere.
Can you tell me who your favorite people to work with are since you’re mentioning that?
Robert Picardo: I get along very well with all the cast members and they’re very unique personalities, so getting to know each of them has had its own joys already. But as I said, David really cracks me up. David makes me laugh a great deal, so it’s always a pleasure to work with him. And Jason has his own very unique, bizarre sense of humor so he makes me laugh a great deal as well. But Joe and Jewel, and the other - the recurring players that - David Nigel is also a treat to work with. So it’s really been fun to get to know everyone and I really enjoy playing scenes with all the other characters.
What about you, Joe? Who are your favorite people?
Joseph Mallozzi: You know, I have to say - I really can’t take favorites. And to be honest with you, I mean, the first couple years I was on Stargate, I really didn’t go down on set just because, as sort of the new guys we wanted to look busy and we were actually very busy because Paul and I would average about, you know, seven scripts out of the 22 we would write every season. So I mean, we were in our office either spinning, writing or re-writing. And it wasn’t until, I mean, you know, in later years that I actually went down to the set. And, you know, here was a guy who had been working on the show for so many years, you know, finally getting to come down and meet the crew. And, you know, just - you know, the writer/producers, everyone in the office is great, the actors, you know, a pleasure to work with. But I mean, and particularly the crew who are always the unsung heroes. There are a lot of, you know, great personalities on the crew and these are guys who have been with the show, guys and gals who have been with the show for sometimes there’s almost like 12 years.
They’re also a real pleasure to work with. I don’t think I could actually specifically choose, you know, any particular individual that I enjoy working with.