For two veteran actors like Lou Diamond Phillips and Ming-Na Wen, being on the cast of Stargate Universe is an opportunity to flex their skills by tackling mind and body swaps, being brainwashed, exploring their sexuality, being tossed into gun fights, coping with disabilities, and of course being neck deep in good old human drama.
Syfy Channel’s Stargate Universe is the latest television series addition to the Stargate franchise (Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis). It tells the story of a group of civilians and military personnel who accidentally get stuck on the spaceship Destiny without any way of getting back to Earth as the ship has been pre-programmed to travel across the universe.
When we last left the crew of the Destiny, their fate seemed to be up in the air after being attacked by the Lucian Alliance, an interstellar gang of smugglers and mercenaries.
We learn that Colonel Telford (Phillips) had been brainwashed into spying for the enemy but regains control of himself after being killed then revived by Colonel Young, played by Louis Ferreira. The season ended with the military personnel about to be executed.
Poptimal had a chance to participate in a recent interview where both actors were careful not to reveal any spoilers to the detriment of the writers. But Phillips assures us that we will see a lot more of him in season two and that audiences will get to know a whole different side of his character.
“What’s been interesting is that we get to know him a little bit better. We sense the dynamic between himself and (Rush) and Young and Camille Wray how he operates with them become slightly different. But what we haven’t discovered about Telford yet, and I don’t think I’m spoiling anything, is we haven’t gotten a lot of details about his personal life just yet so that I find that very intriguing,â€ he said.
Wen explains the challenges her character Camille Wray faces in season two.
“She has to come to terms with her situation. I think for season one her ultimate goal was to get everybody back home including herself back to earth and back to a world that she’s comfortable in, she’s familiar with. And now I think with season two it’s the realization that perhaps there is something else that is going to take over as the more important mission in her life and to just start moving forward and embracing that as her world for a while.â€
She also elaborates more on this new mission not just for her character, but also for the rest of the Destiny crew as now they have to protect Earth from a Lucian Alliance attack.
One of the biggest challenges that faced Wen’s character last season was being inside a paraplegic body. To prepare for it she did research and went on YouTube to observe actor Christopher Reeve, who became quadriplegic in an equestrian related accident.
“But ultimately I think for me the challenge was to portray someone who’s not used to that body. That was the hardest thing and to be able to kind of not bring the sense of doom and gloom into being a paraplegic,â€ she said.
When asked what their favorite episode of this season was so far, both actors were still careful to not give any specific details. Phillips did comment that there would be a lot more action coming up.
“I think that there’s a definite membership out there in the fandom that will appreciate the action adventure aspect of some of the episodes coming up. We blow a lot of stuff up. And, yes, get into major firefights,â€ he said.
They also talked about some of the challenges that came with working on a digital effects heavy show, primarily what it’s like to act with a green screen. Wen felt that on the one hand, her inner five-year-old came out to play by pretending to be in outer space and then at the same time really believing in the circumstances to be able to sell it to the audience. Phillips added that you had to fully commit to what you were supposed to be seeing or else viewers wouldn’t buy it.
“Everything has to go to that place of completeness and utter believability,â€ he said.
Most of the time descriptive explanations are given to help set up scenes as well as art and effects departments providing renderings. Still in some instances the actors are just staring at nothing with the director yelling at them.
“He’ll be like okay you see something light up and now it’s coming at you really fast. And now it zooms up overhead!â€ Wen said.
Both actors agreed that they never knew what exactly they were going to get whenever they got a new script. Phillips comments that it was both fun and a little daunting while Wen recalls trying to understand the mind-swapping component of the communication stones (the stones allowed people on the Destiny to switch bodies with counterparts on Earth) and laughs at how confused she first was.
“By the third time of doing it I was still thoroughly confused. I was really like wait, wait, wait. Now who…â€ she explains in amusement.
While Colonel Telford is only slated as a recurring character there’s no denying the big impact he has made to the storyline and it will be interesting to see his evolution and Wen’s Wray in the upcoming new episodes.
Season two of Stargate Universe premieres on September 28, 2010 at 9/8c on Syfy.