As far as Stargate Atlantis’ stunt coordinator James Bamford is concerned, Ronon and Teal’c’s confrontation in ‘Midway’ has been inevitable for quite some time.
“This fight has been building up since season two, when the Ronon character was introduced,â€ he says with a laugh, “because fans have been writing in continually, asking me, ‘Who would win in a fight between Ronon and Teal’c? I’d always say, ‘I designed the way Ronon fights and what he does so I only know what he does. With Teal’c, I don’t really know – I can’t say.’ So I said I’d ask Brad Wright, and both he and Robert Cooper told me it would be a tie. No matter what, it would be a tie. It’s got to be!â€
For season four, it was decided that it was about time the fans got to see just what would happen if the two alien tough guys from Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis happened to meet. It might end up being a tie, but in the course of events, sparks would have to fly!
“It was really for the fans, 100%, I think,â€ says Bamford of the two character’s joint adventure. “I was talking to Joe Mallozzi way before the script was written, he pulled me aside and told me that Teal’c and Ronon would finally meet. I said, ‘Really? I’ve been waiting for that for years!’â€
There was a lot for the stunt coordinator to plan in the run-up to the episode going before camera, in particular for the pivotal ‘sparring scene’ where the two characters slug it out. For example, Ronon has a very specific fighting style, which viewers had seen for two years. Teal’c’s, on the other hand, needed some refinement if it was going to match Ronon’s for coherence on screen. “Whenever we do sparring sequences on Atlantis, I always recommend that they use their weapon from their planets, the weapon that they would use out on the combat field, otherwise what are you training for?â€ Bamford explains. “You train for what you’re going to use practically. So I suggested that Teal’c use his staff weapon, a practice wooden staff, and Ronon would have a sword. Just that detail itself, sword against staff, contributed to the difference in style, because you do things completely differently with both weapons. That accentuated the style difference right there, and then there was also the obvious difference in the way Chris moves as to the way Jason moves.â€
Despite these basic differences, Bamford still wanted to establish distinctive movements for Teal’c so that the audience would be able to see the contrast between the two fighters. It was a process that the stunt coordinator had started when he choreographed the fight sequences for Judge in season ten’s ‘Talion’, and something he could expand on with ‘Midway’.
“On Stargate SG-1, quite frankly you just never had the opportunity to do that,â€ says Bamford. “‘Talion,’ I think that was the first time I got to design the way Chris fights. Because up to then they’d just given him one punch here, one punch there, this kind of thing. He hadn’t really had the opportunity to develop his own style. Chris would say, ‘Hey, I haven’t done much of this stuff,’ and I’d say ‘Don’t worry, we’ll make you into a killer!’ He really pulled it off and in ‘Midway,’ he just loved every minute of it. When he wants to look good he puts in all the effort, and really listens. It was a pleasure – the Stargate Atlantis crew is different, of course, than the Stargate SG-1 crew, but when Judge walks on to set, everyone just starts laughing immediately. He’s just a pleasure to have around.â€
Bamford also had other experiences with the Jaffa to draw on in creating Teal’c’s fight scenes. Viewers may be surprised to learn that in Stargate SG-1’s seasons prior to the launch of Stargate Atlantis, he was stunt double to Tony Amendola’s Master Bra’tac.
“All the stuff you see with them training together in the early episodes, the fancy staff work and all that stuff with Bra’tac, was me. There’s one episode where we’re in the forest and there’s an invisible ‘something’ throwing Bra’tac around – that’s my head going through the trees! That’s Peter DeLuise going, ‘BamBam! Attack the tree with your head!’â€ he says, laughing at the memory.
“I went back there for myself, mentally. As a double I was asked to create little vignettes of training sequences back then as well, so I tried to figure out, ‘Okay, this is how he was trained before, so this is how he would fight.’ Then I looked at his stature and the way Chris moves himself, as opposed to way Jason Momoa moves. Jason is very dynamic and explosive, and I make use of his long limbs and his ability to jump. They’re both powerful, it goes without saying, but Chris is more grounded, he’s not quite as tall. Even the hair – we use Jason’s hair in his fights, to really accentuate his movements, which is part of his character. I really try to pay attention to the individual characters, how they’re built and how they move naturally in the first place. In ‘Midway,’ I think we really pulled off seeing the two different styles.â€
With both actors fully committed to making the sparring sequence look as good as it possibly could, Bamford knew it was going to be exceptional.
“Those two guys just love working together,â€ he says. “Through that time period, we were rehearsing and Chris would drop by set when he wasn’t working and we’d come out into the parking lot and rehearse when Jason was between shots. Then we’d all go out to dinner, and talk about it and laugh. Half the stuff [filmed] didn’t make it to the screen, but it was pretty hilarious. Those guys were trying to one-up each other all the time. Chris would stand there and try not to laugh while Jason was screaming at him! In the middle of takes the crew would start laughing and we’d have to stop. It was hilarious. Those two together are just funny in the first place!â€