Close Up With Andee Frizzell

Andee Frizzell first appeared in the Stargate Atlantis’ pilot, ‘Rising’ as the Wraith queen, and has since played numerous incarnations of the alien matriarchs. Having worked in prosthetics before, Frizzell was a perfect choice for the role, and has become an invaluable part of the cast.

‘Spoils Of War’ gave viewers a big insight into the Wraith – particularly regarding how they reproduce. It also featured a significant role for Frizzell. One of the most striking aspects of the Wraith queens – besides their physical appearance – are their costumes. For ‘Spoils Of War’, the queen’s outfit would have to link directly into the surrounding set pieces, and costume designer Valerie Halverson worked closely with production designer James Robbins to create the finished article.

“The wardrobe was unbelievable,” says the actress. “When I was in the chair they were basically draping these rubber connections from me to the chair. It was an elaborate web, and I was underneath it. It wasn’t cumbersome at all, it just hung over the top of me. But the whole look of it was so incredible, with the special effects and the set design, the wardrobe – how it was all created. I became part of the set. So it was fine – I basically sat in the chair for an hour while they did this whole thing! Then everything goes back into the chair and I have complete mobility. It was really amazing to see how all those ideas come together and create this overall look.”

Each individual Wraith matriarch that Frizzell has played over the years has had her own unique personality, aided not only by the words, costumes and make-up she is given but also by how the actress herself thinks about that particular character. For ‘Spoils Of War’, which features a key scene where Teyla must confront the creature, the actress had a very definite feeling about the sort of personality this queen had.

“I drew a lot from the Hannibal Lecter character [from Silence of the Lambs],” she explains. “Very mind-controlling, yet powerful and sinister. I thought that was a very cool avenue to take the Wraith down, to show that darkness.”

Teyla’s mental confrontation with Frizzell’s character forms the very crux of the episode, and is one of the most intense encounters that any of the Atlantis crew have had with one of their adversaries. Yet Frizzell reports that thanks to her long relationship with the show’s cast, it wasn’t necessary for she and fellow actress Rachel Luttrell to spend much time in preparation before going into film.

“We’ve worked together now for four years as different characters,” Frizzell explains, “and she’s such an amazing actor that we go in and we just play with the scene and the dialogue. The scripts are written so tightly and so well that you’ve really just got to go in and let your character say what’s been written. And having such a receptive actor, the two of us just played off each other’s energy, and that’s what you see. There’s really not a lot of need to talk about it because it’s so organic.”

A similar process took place with the director, Will Waring. Instead of giving the two actresses specific instructions about what he wanted to see, Frizzell explains that Waring’s way of directing is to see what the actors themselves feel about the scene.

“He’s such an amazing director,” says the actress. “He trusts solely in his actors to do what they’re supposed to do. So when we walked in it’s like, ‘Okay, here’s the scene, here’s where the camera’s going to be, go to it.’ For me that was drawing from that Hannibal Lecter side-to-side mind torment, and Will allowed the camera to just swivel from side to side to pick me up. He gave me all the artistic freedom to do it how I had envisioned. And Rachel [was] so receptive and reacted physically to my voice – so Will’s direction was just to allow it to keep being organic.”

The finished result was a particularly unsettling scene that Frizzell is happy to have been a part of. “I think for the Wraith fans, it’s an episode that really answers a lot of questions about who they are and how they came to be. It’s an important episode.”

Now that pre-production on season five is underway, the actress hopes that she’ll soon find out whether or not she’ll be called back again as a Wraith queen – or perhaps as someone entirely different. After all, viewers have never seen her face on screen without make-up, so she could conceivably perform a different role.

“I would be very interested if a role came up that they thought I could do justice,” she says, “and I’d be very open to coming on as myself. Each season I really keep my fingers crossed that there are going to be more wonderful and challenging episodes ahead but I, like the fans, wait to see what’s going to happen.”

However, there’s no chance of Frizzell ever getting bored of playing different versions of the Wraith queens.

“I love it!” says the actress, with enthusiasm. “I think sci-fi is such an amazing genre, it’s the only genre that I’ve been able to work in that I get direct contact with fans and direct feedback. And I can watch it and not see myself! I’m completely unrecognizable even to myself, so as an artist it blows all those conventional doors open. And I absolutely love it. I love the team: the directors, the cast, the crew. It’s quite a little family they’ve created out here in Vancouver.”

Interview  courtesy of the Official Stargate Website