Close Up On The Prodigal

Teyla’s conflict with Michael began way back in season three, and has been growing towards a huge showdown since then. Finally, in season five’s ‘The Prodigal’, the Athosian gets to throw down with the evil former Wraith once and for all.

“I thought it was a perfect ending,” says actress Rachel Luttrell. “And you know, had the show continued, I wouldn’t have discounted the fact that maybe Michael would have come back,” she laughs. “But I thought it was interesting – after everything he’s put her through, their relationship has kind of come full circle. She had absolutely no sympathy left for him whatsoever, and I’m glad that I was the one that was able to deliver the final blow. I thought it was great. Once the baby got into the picture, there was just no keeping Michael around. I understand that, being a mom. Anyone threatens your child, and that’s it. And we all knew that was what he wanted, so I think that his reappearance could only end with one or both of them dying.”

That “final blow” came during Teyla’s biggest fight scene of the show’s final year. Rather appropriately, it was also the most difficult to film, and involved a rather unconventional style of set. The culmination of Michael’s struggle against the Atlantis crew required something particularly memorable, and so production designer James Robbins came up with a new section of the City.

“I remember James Bamford, our stunt coordinator, coming into my trailer about a week prior to filming that scene, and saying, ‘Hey Rachel ¬ ¬– are you frightened of heights? Do they scare you in any way?’ And I said… ‘Umm… No, I’m pretty good with heights.’ Then I showed up on the day, and the set must have been at least 15 feet off the ground, on a ledge that was probably about a meter wide,” she laughs, remembering her shock.

Though Bamford had talked the actress through the choreography, they hadn’t rehearsed on the ledge. “I showed up and I was told what I was going to be doing, and that was that,” she says. “I think that by the end of [Stargate Atlantis], everyone was like ‘Oh, Rachel can handle it. We’ll just show her the choreography, and it’ll be fine!’ And I guess, ultimately, it was fine, but oh la, la!” she laughs again, remembering filming. “There was no other way to get on to the ledge except from the platform above, which I think was about another 9 feet above. You had to slide down, hoping that you landed on the platform and didn’t bounce over!”

Having reached the ledge, where her co-stars Joe Flanigan and Connor Trinneer were already waiting, Luttrell discovered another challenge that she’d have to overcome.

“They had already filmed a little of the fight sequence, because Sheppard takes on Michael prior to Teyla getting there,” she explains. “So they said, ‘Okay Rachel, don’t worry – what we’re going to do is turn on the fan…’ So I had dealt with the fact that I was on this tiny little ledge and wasn’t very happy with that. And they said something about wind, and I thought ‘Okay, well, I can handle the wind’,” she shakes her head with another laugh. “But I hadn’t noticed that they had set up this enormous fan – and it was huge! They yelled ‘action’ and ‘wind’. They turned this thing on and I just about flew off the side of that ledge!” She laughs. “My hair was everywhere, I couldn’t see anyone, my clothes were flapping… I thought I was just going to be blown off the edge, and I’m not exaggerating! So they had to turn the speed of the fan down considerably in order for me to balance and concentrate on what I had to do. It was pretty terrifying for me,” Luttrell confesses, “But listen – the good thing about our experience on Stargate Atlantis has always been that at least those of us performing have pretty good laughs. We’ve had a lot of fun ¬– and we laughed at that!”

It wasn’t long after the filming of ‘The Prodigal’ that Luttrell and her fellow cast mates discovered that season five was to be Stargate Atlantis’ final year. The news came out of the blue for Luttrell, and she reveals that she would have been more than happy to continue playing Teyla for at least one more year.

“Without a doubt what I’ll remember is the camaraderie,” she adds about her experiences on the Stargate Atlantis set over the past five years. “We had so much fun – it’s really rare to find a group of people who are so different, because we are, but got along so well and complemented each other in such a positive way. We had a lot of fun, and that’s what I’ll remember.”

Interview courtesy of the Official Stargate Website