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 third part. (Click here for Part 1 and Part 2). 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
You mentioned that there was going to be a horror episode. And generally, Sci-Fi and horror just produces really awful results sometimes. Were you worried about that or how are you guys going to break that curse?
Joseph Mallozzi: No. To be honest with you, I have always been a horror fan first before I’m a Sci-Fi fan. And actually, my (writing), Paul, was always more the Sci-Fi guy and then we came onto Stargate and we’ve been working on Stargate what feels like forever but it’s only been nine short years.
So as a fan of horror personally I always find that what’s scarier is what you don’t see as opposed to what you do see. And so that’s kind of what we were playing with - kind of the hidden. We use a lot of fog elements in this particular episode so there’s a lot of figures in the fog and there’s a lot of - I like to call them sort of pure, kind of like I guess, jump sequences, classic horror movie style.
Something jumps out at you and I think there are like a good dozen of those instances in this particular episode and Will Waring, our director, does a terrific job. From what I’ve seen of the director’s cut, it’s going to be a lot of fun. And I think horror fans actually will enjoy it as well.
Is there going to be some aliens versus predators and things like that?
Joseph Mallozzi: No, no. It won’t be - like I said, we’ve done monster kind of movie in the past. Vengeance actually comes to mind and it’s not a monster movie in that respect. I, you know, I think it’s closer to the horror genre than the Sci-Fi genre.
And Robert, how do you feel about doing something of that style?
Robert Picardo: Doing a horror episode?
Robert Picardo: Well my character is not featured in the one that we’ve just - that was just mentioned, that particular one, “Whispers.” ButI love doing that. One of my favorite Voyager episodes was called “The Darkling” where my - it was a Jekyll and Hyde episode for my character and I got to play the sort of pure evil version of my regular program. That’s always a lot of fun for an actor to do. And especially as I worked weeks on the Sensored horror film earlier in the year, I think my dark side is very close to the surface. So I’m longing to bring it out in the Pegasus Galaxy.
Joseph Mallozzi: You and horror have a very rich tradition, Bob.
Robert Picardo: Yes I do. I was going back to Joe Dante’s The Howling. I’m one of very few actors who has pulled a bullet out of his brain on camera.
Now do you wish you had been able to do the episode?
Robert Picardo: I beg your pardon? Do I wish I’d been able to be in it?
Robert Picardo: Well sure because it was off - it was away from the base and traditionally Woolsey is minding the store at home. That particular one wouldn’t have made sense had I been along. As an actor, it would’ve been fun to be working with the fog machine for seven days, choking and gasping along with everyone else scraping the black crud off the top of your slice of tomato while you’re eating a bagel.
What has been your favorite, either episode or scene to work on so far in either SG-1 or Atlantis?
Robert Picardo: I think my favorite moment for the character prior to this season, prior to joining the cast as a regular, was an episode - it was a crossover episode between SG-1 and SG-1 (sic) where they went to the Pegasus - it’s called “The Scourge.” Now wasn’t that - that was a crossover?
Joseph Mallozzi: No, the crossover was Return 1 and 2 with (Rick).
Robert Picardo: Oh, forgive me then. “The Scourge” was the one with all the giant - with the - it was the...
Joseph Mallozzi: The bug...
Robert Picardo:...it was the Starship Trooper episode?
Joseph Mallozzi: Yes.
Robert Picardo: With the bug attacks.
Joseph Mallozzi: Yeah.
Robert Picardo: And it does feature Richard Woolsey running away from an attack of the bugs and seeing me run at a pace that I’m not aware that I could run. To see me on camera running faster than I can actually run was a funny moment for me and it gratified me to see that. Now, to make an emission as a new leader, my favorite moment is when he’s running away from danger, it’s probably a risky thing to start out with. Having said that, I think that my favorite moment that we have filmed thus far is in Joe’s episode, “Broken Ties” - one of the comic moments that I’d rather not give away.
Joseph Mallozzi: So did you say episode or moment?
Joseph Mallozzi: I guess for SG-1 it was definitely, “ Ripple Effect,” the episode with the countless SG-1 alternate universe team that basically visited the base. It was just a lot of fun trying to keep track and having fun with the different variations of personas. For this season or on Atlantis so far, I’d say over the past couple of seasons, I’d say it’s “Broken Ties” again, the episode that Bob mentioned. Just because it has a lot of nice character moments for Ronon, for Teyla, but also for Woolsey. And, like I said, this is the first episode where Bob really demonstrates his comic ability and he reveals himself quite nicely.
Are there any guest stars that we should be watching out for this season?
Joseph Mallozzi: In terms of big guest stars, the big guest stars are going to be Daniel Jackson in the midseason two-parter, Michael Shanks of course. And then during the latter half of the season, we’ve been talking about potential guest stars for 19 and 20 but we don’t have anything solid yet. We still have to sort of sit down and actually break the episodes. So I’d say stay tuned.
You mentioned earlier, new races. You mentioned new alien races might be coming to Atlantis?
Joseph Mallozzi: Yes. In fact, actually they’ll be coming in a big way in the midseason two-parter. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but what happens is Daniel Jackson comes to Atlantis because he is basically following a lead and he - David needs McKay’s assistance. And the two of them put their heads together and they make a discovery. And by making this discovery, they alert an alien race that also happens to be looking or have been in the midst of seeking out this device that they end up discovering. This alien race ends up coming to Atlantis and it’s not a, I guess, a friendly house call you would say.
Again, I don’t want to give too much away about the race but they’re kind of an interesting player that we introduce in the midseason two-parter. We introduce kind of another new look alien this season in Episode 4, an episode called Daedalus Variations. Actually, I love the look of this race and we only used them in Episode 4, but they are a race that I would love to bring back. And in fact, we’re already discussing the possibility of bringing them back as well.
So I mean, two new looks and then other than that, it’s really more sort of a dynamic shift with regard to the status quo in the Pegasus Galaxy. In an episode call “Inquisition,” the various civilizations that have been depressed by the race for so many years has finally come together to create almost a United Nation of the Pegasus Galaxy. And, one of their first orders of business is calling Atlantis to task for the trouble they’ve caused in the Pegasus Galaxy. (Chief) is amongst the issues being decided.
Sheppard’s done a lot of character development already that I’m seeing. I want to know more about his character. Are we going to delve more into the demons of his past? I know there was a big surprise and is any of that going to be coming back this year?
Joseph Mallozzi: Yeah, in fact, like I said, in season four we wanted to do an episode where we shined the spotlight on each character. We did pretty much the same thing in season five and the episode I’m writing now, Remnants, is like I mentioned, kind of a dark episode with three different elements. And the Sheppard element kind of delves into his character and kind of asks the question - here’s a guy who basically comes to the Pegasus Galaxy to protect people, and comes all the way over to another galaxy and risks his life sort of protecting people. There are instances where he’s not successful. I mean, he lost Ford and he lost Weir. And you could argue whether it’s really his fault or not.
But at the end of the day, what drives a guy like that and frankly is it a healthy thing that drives the guy? And that’s one of the questions that is positive in “Remnants” that is kind of thrown in Sheppard’s face that we kind of explore.
A question for Rob: What was it like to put on the commander outfit? How did you feel in it?
Robert Picardo: Well, I caught myself looking in the mirror at myself in my new togs. You know, Woolsey has always been in a business suit and some pretty good looking business suits. And I think that he’s a guy who has probably spent the last 35 years of his career in a business suit. So it’s a big change for him to suddenly be in the command uniform. But I think I look all right in it. It’s a little - it’s kind of like a jogging suit. I do feel like I should break out into a run down the hallway. But I do like it. And it also has some slight leisure suit tendencies, too. I feel al little bit like an escapee from a, you know, from a late Seventies, early Eighties movie.
Joseph Mallozzi: You’re styling...
Robert Picardo: But I look okay in it and, you know, I’m - it’s very good to have a trim butt in science fiction. I’ll leave it at that.
And finally, just Woolsey - who was the first punch against (the pull)? Are you going to throw any fisticuffs with any of the other character at Atlantis?
Robert Picardo: Oh that’s a great question. I haven’t punched anyone in the face yet, but I’d like to now that you’ve mentioned it. And mention it - the right guy to mention it to is on the line. So I haven’t punched anyone yet but I will...
Joseph Mallozzi: I’ve taken note - Woolsey punches someone.
You got to make it happen. Punch an alien. That’d be fun.
Robert Picardo: No wait, that’s not true. I did hit somebody. I think I hit somebody with the back of my hand or something. I do remember hitting someone either by mistake or - maybe that was on the - you know, that was at the craft service table so maybe it’s not...
Joseph Mallozzi: Yeah, that's what I was going to say. It was behind the camera.
Robert Picardo: Actually someone got between me and my donut now that I think about it.
I have a quick question myself. Joe, am I allowed to mention - I have a friend who has recently been cast in an upcoming episode. Am I allowed to mention that? He’s a man. Are we allowed? Is that a surprise, Joe? .
Joseph Mallozzi: Has he been cast? Which episode?
Robert Picardo: I believe it’s the one where they are visiting scientists or there are other visiting scientists. Do you know who I’m speaking of?
Joseph Mallozzi: Oh, has he been cast? I don’t know. Actually... If the deal has been closed, then sure.
Robert Picardo: Oh, I believe - as far as I know, it’s been - he’s been cast. But I believe that Bill Nye, the Science Guy will be making an appearance. And he’s one of my closest friends, so I think that - but according to him, he’s...
Joseph Mallozzi: Yeah, well I spoke to (Carl Weber) our LA guy and basically he did seem interested. So yeah, it’s great.
Robert Picardo: Yeah, as far as I know he wants to do it so that’ll be - even though I’m not too certain we’re in the scene together.
And he plays a scientist?
Joseph Mallozzi: Oh no, yeah. Yeah, he’ll be playing a scientist and hopefully there’ll be a couple of other cameos as well in that particular episode that we’re working on.
I was looking at your sheet and I realized you’ve been on a number of regular series for about - for over 20 years now. And I was wondering if there’s any element of your other characters that you played on Voyager or Wonder Years, or China Beach, or even Home Improvement that are in Commander Woolsey?
Robert Picardo: Well let’s put it this way. I think one of my characteristics or my stock in trade as an actor is to play a character that you would - when you initially meet him, you don’t think you’re going to like him and then you grow to like him in spite of that first impression.
Whether it’s China Beach where I’m pinching all the women on the butt in the first episode until Chloe Webb knees me in the crotch, and then I learn my first lesson about inter gender relationships - or the character I played on the Wonder Years who was so - on the surface, so annoyingly stupid and close-minded. But there was something appealing about him as well and I think it’s normally because of the sort of hints of neurosis that are just beneath the surface that endears the character to you anyway.
So I think that respect there is a commonality, perhaps that Woolsey does not have, as I said earlier, the best people skills but that you can see that he really wants to do a good job and he really wants to change himself or to grow in any way he can to fulfill his new role as commander. But the interpersonal skills don’t come easily to him. He’s more comfortable intimidating someone than necessarily working side by side in a - kind of a cooperative way because he’s had to come into so many situations where he is the outsider who comes in to examine everyone else’s performance.
So he could not buddy up to people. That would’ve weakened his position. So that he comes with a certain kind of baggage from his former role that now he has to set that aside and try to really develop friendships and working relationships with people that he normally would want to have kept them at arm’s length in his previous identity as the evaluator.
To answer your original question, yes, there’s a commonality in that he’s not a cuddly guy up front. But if you give him the time and you get to know him, I think that he’s the kind - that he does grow on you and you see his struggle, and that you sympathize and enjoy him.