Since Kate Hewlett began playing the recurring character of Jeannie Miller on Stargate Atlantis, she’s had to deal with a lot. And we don’t just mean as the on-screen sister of Rodney McKay (not to mention the real-life sister of David Hewlett). Best known in her native Canada as a comedy actress, her visits to Atlantis have seen the actress dealing with everything from action to green-screen. And with “The Shrineâ€, Kate found herself dealing with something new yet again.
“I’m not going to lie,â€ she laughs. “It was very nerve wracking, actually. Just because I’ve never had to do that before – I’ve never had to do any kind of crying or anything like that before on film, so that was pretty scary. It’s definitely not my comfort zone – I’m definitely more comfortable doing comedy. So it was a really good experience.â€ It was very different,â€ she says of the episode, “and I think part of that is that Martin Gero wrote the first two and this one was Brad [Wright], so there was less banter and less witty dialogue. But I really enjoyed seeing the other side of the character and exploring that a little bit, and also trying to find ways to get that in there, to keep that humour.â€
The actress felt that keeping the lighter side of the McKay brother and sister relationship was important for the consistency of the characters. But she also confesses that the emotion at the heart of the episode affected her too. It wasn’t something that she and David discussed prior to her arrival on set.
“He phoned me and said ‘There’s an episode, you’re in it, and it’s brilliantly written,’â€ she recalls. “And he said, ‘I hope you’re ready, because you’ve got some serious acting to do’,â€ she laughs. “So that was all we talked about – he terrified me and then abandoned me! But it was actually good, because we never really went through the scenes together until we were in there, and I think that really helped. When I read the script, I was in floods of tears. I just thought it was so beautiful, and I could picture David in the part and had an idea of how he might approach it, and I thought that added to the emotional nature of the script. Then, when I actually got into the studio shoot, we did the rehearsal and I was sobbing. It was really difficult to see someone that you are related to in that state – and David’s such a good actor that it was very believable. After that, I wasn’t as emotionally connected. Once we started shooting, it felt more like acting, in a funny sense. But I was very, very affected by the script and by David’s performance.â€
Besides enjoying the way in which she was able to examine another part of Jeannie, the actress also appreciated the change that was wrought by the end of the episode.
“I think the relationship between the brother and sister changed a bit more – I think it deepened a little bit. You see the love between them, and not in a mushy, huggy way,â€ Kate laughs. “They were still consistent in their ‘hatred’ of each other! But I just liked seeing that other layer of how much they do actually care about each other. I think Jeannie was the same – I feel like I know who the character is pretty well now, and each time I go back I get to learn something knew about her. And the relationship between McKay and Jeannie keeps growing, I think.â€
And quite apart from the acting challenges that “The Shrineâ€ presented, the actress hopes that the episode will give the audience food for thought, which was definitely her own experience.
“I just like the way that it looks at bigger issues,â€ she says simply. “It made me think about my grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s, and of what it would be like for someone to be in an accident and turn into a different person. And also, what to do with somebody that’s in that state – that choice of whether or not to let McKay have those few moments of being himself again and then he dies. Is that better, or worse? It was really exciting that this program was taking on all those issues.â€
Sadly, Kate reports that so far, she hasn’t had another call back for Stargate Atlantis fifth season, and with the news that the show will not be returning for a sixth season, “The Shrineâ€ may prove to be the last time we see Jeannie. Fingers crossed that she’ll turn up in the finale – or maybe even sooner!
Interview courtesy of the Official Stargate Website