Close Up With Brenda James

When screen romantic leads spring to mind, Doctor McKay of Stargate Atlantis isn’t necessarily top of the list. He can be difficult, arrogant and insensitive – and yet it seems, there’s someone for everyone, even in the Pegasus Galaxy. That ‘someone’ for Rodney has, for the past three years, been the city’s quiet botanist, Doctor Katie Brown. Actress Brenda James reveals that even right at the start, she and Katie Brown seemed to be a perfect fit.

“It was one of those auditions that seemed ‘meant to be’,” she recalls, of the scene from ‘Duet’ that she auditioned with. “Rodney and Katie were having a first date. It was a funny episode – they were probably looking for chemistry and comedy and it was really fun.”

Though the chemistry between the characters would be a very important part of her appearances on the show, the actress didn’t actually meet David Hewlett until she secured the part and arrived in Vancouver for filming.

“I auditioned with the casting director and I didn’t meet him [David] until I was on set. I didn’t have a problem with [that] because Katie’s character was so specific. I think it was more about timing and more about someone who’s looking for someone else. I think part of the chemistry between Rodney and Katie isn’t so much each other as opposed to what they need in their lives. I think Katie is really looking for something and I believe Rodney is as well. So I think we were able to do that without being in the same room.”

As viewers, we haven’t had too much time to get to know Katie Brown. We know that she obviously loves plants enough to abandon life on Earth to learn about them in another galaxy. And we know she must have the patience of a saint to consider life with Rodney! James’ feeling is that Katie is far more complicated than we may have yet learned.

“She’s a botanist, so she’s around plants all the time,” says the actress. “I think she’s very isolated from the rest of the crew and spends a lot of time by herself with her plants. And that’s an interesting scenario for someone who’s not a kid, [but] who doesn’t have a family, and finds themselves kind of lonely. To find some compatibility with someone else in that environment is not so easy. I don’t think it’s easy for Rodney or Katie.”

The difficulties between them have never been clearer than in ‘Quarantine’, which sees the pair stuck in Katie’s lab when Atlantis locks down after a mistaken pathogen alert. It’s the most we’ve seen of Katie, and it brings things to a head between the couple.

“I was really excited,” James remembers, of reading the script. “I kept hoping that Rodney or Katie would get together or have a romantic moment. I think that was Katie! I think Katie was really hoping that here they are, they’ve got some time together, maybe they would become a little closer. And I kept reading, hoping that would happen. It was an interesting script. I hope Rodney’s character learned a lot from it.”

Instead of romance, ‘Quarantine’ in fact has a particularly poignant ending. Fans will have to wait and see what the future has in store for Rodney and Katie, and James certainly hopes that there will be one – of some sort.

“It was intentional to leave it open, I believe, for the possibility,” says the actress of that final ‘goodbye’. “But it couldn’t go back to where it was. I think the goodbye, is ‘if’, as well. It’s ‘if we make some changes’ or ‘if something happens’. But otherwise, it’s not going to work. And it’s kind of sad.”

Filming that scene was particularly important, to both the actors and also writer Carl Binder.

“Even Carl was on set for the last scene. They wanted to make sure that it was clear that there was strength in the scene, for both characters. That it ended with some kind of dignity. That there was some feeling in the ending. I think it was important that we still really cared for each other by the end.”

James herself would certainly like to see Katie again, and hopes that there is still a future for the botanist and her difficult scientist.

“It’s been really fun,” she says, of her experience in the role. “The crew is great. The cast has been really warm to me and it’s a fun show to do. The writers probably have something in their heads that I’m not aware of. I would love to see Rodney warm up, maybe not in the outside world, but it would be nice to see him relax and soften up. For Katie to be able to bring that out in him I think would be really lovely. I would love them to actually have a bit of a romantic relationship, because it would be really good for Rodney,” James laughs. “I just think it would make him more complete. But we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Interview  courtesy of the Official Stargate Website