Close Up With Kavan Smith

He has presented a solid, quiet and reassuring presence in Stargate Atlantis since the show’s second season. But what many viewers may not know is that Evan Lorne’s history with Stargate Command – and that of actor Kavan Smith – goes back far further than that. Way back, in fact, to before even Stargate SG-1 had hit the screen.

“Going way, way back, I was actually up for Michael Shanks’ role in the original series,” Smith explains, speaking, rather ironically, from a seat inside the disused Stargate SG-1 gateroom set. “So I knew some of the producers, and particularly Richard Dean Anderson’s partner Michael Greenburg. He was always looking for a way to get me on the show.”

Smith had a bit of a wait before that happened – seven years, in fact, until an episode of Stargate SG-1 entitled “Enemy Mine”, appeared which called for a geologist named… Evan Lorne.

“I went in and read for it, and didn’t have the best audition. I was quite surprised when they said at the end of the day, ‘Yeah, we want you to do this.’ I think they were just looking for an excuse to get me on the show so that Greenburg didn’t feel bad about saying ‘I want to get you on the show’ and never getting me on,” laughs the actor. “‘Enemy Mine” was just a one off, as far as I knew. Peter DeLuise directed that one, and I subsequently got to know him – it’s a very tight little world. Everyone gets to know everybody.”

When Stargate Atlantis came around, it was no surprise that Smith went up for another audition on the same lot, since as a Vancouver-based Canadian actor the show is right on his doorstep. As the show went for a second season, the producers decided that the series needed another visible military man besides Joe Flanigan’s John Sheppard, particularly given the departure of Aiden Ford (Rainbow Sun Francks).

“I actually went back to audition for a new character,” Smith explains. “I did a much better audition! Martin Wood directed that one [“Runner”], and he said, ‘Well, let’s just make it Lorne.’ So Lorne went military instead of survey.”

Making this character into Lorne meant that Smith had to readjust his thinking on the character – and he reports that at least at first, it was a bit of a struggle to work out exactly how the Major should act.

“It started as such a minor character, even though they used him a fair bit, so I got to play. For the first season or two, he was really just whatever I decided he was going to be. Then, as they used him more, they started adding little things – the painting thing came out of nowhere,” he laughs, “and I hadn’t put in there anywhere in my character breakdown. Coming out of drama school, you have all these weird quirky things they teach you to do to come up with characters. And as lame as it sounds, they do help you form a general feeling or energy of the character.”

Taking this method of role building – in which an actor likens the character to a particular type of tree, or dog, for example, and uses the qualities conjured by those associations, Smith began to work on extending his idea of Lorne. If Lorne was a tree, the actor thought he’d likely be an oak: solid, dependable, strong. If he was a dog, he’d have been a German Sheppard, and so on.

“So I was thinking things like he’s loyal and smart, but he knows his place,” Smith continues. “He’s a bit of a career guy, so he’s playing the game a little bit and not being obnoxious. But because he started out as a geology surveyor on “Enemy Mine”, I had to somehow throw that into the mix too. So although he was a solider, he was more a survey soldier to begin with, and then he ended up in this other galaxy. It was kind of difficult to formulate on my own when they didn’t give me a ton to work with, but they’re adding more and more. They’ve given me a pretty decent sense of humour, especially when I get to work with either of the David’s. They like to clash Zelenka and I together, and Lorne definitely has a bit of a love/hate relationship with Rodney!”

Despite his very apparent talents as a military man, however, it’s clear that Lorne isn’t the straight-laced sort. He does his job, and he does it well, but he also remains approachable, the sort of guy you’d be perfectly happy to share a drink with in a bar. Smith reports that this was deliberate on his part. He also points out that there’s a fine history of similarly relaxed military officers in the show – Richard Dean Anderson’s Jack O’Neill, for example.

“I have a funny feeling – and I’ve never been in the Army or the Air Force or the Marines, but I would imagine that on a day-to-day level, there’s a lot more humanity than we see. You take your orders and you stand to attention and you do all your drills, but I’m sure in your off hours you have a certain relaxed rapport with your fellow officers. So I think it’s a bit more a realistic approach, instead of being just a one-dimensional soldier boy. That gets really boring after a while.”

Viewers have seen more and more of the character as the series has progressed – and he even turned up in another episode of Stargate SG-1‘s tenth season, “The Road Not Taken”.

“It was a surprise, because I was doing an episode of Atlantis on either end of that one. And they said ‘So we’ve got you on this new episode in between’.” Smith recalls, “I was just like, ‘Really? Because I’ve read that episode, and I’m not in it.’ And they said ‘Oh no – it’s SG-1‘!

“I had never worked with Amanda at that point because the previous SG-1 I did she wasn’t in my scenes. It was an absolute pleasure to work with her, and all those guys, for that matter. It was kind of neat to go to the same place, park in the same lot, talk to the same people, but be in a different show. It was really an interesting experience. And the idea of Lorne running the SGC I was like, ‘Yeah! I don’t see why Lorne couldn’t, god damn it! Write that into the next script,” he laughs. “I really enjoyed that one. I think of all the ones I’ve done, that’s probably one of my favorites.”

As Stargate Atlantis has continued, viewers have seen more and more of Lorne. Season four’s “Tabula Rasa” even managed to showcase what a scary character the soldier could be if he wanted – certainly an eye opener!

“I found him a bit scary too,” admits the actor. “I think that was the one episode where he sort of went military, straight-up soldier boy. I guess trying to combat whatever it is wiping everybody’s minds would be a really nerve-wracking thing. You wipe the slate clean and you have no idea who you are or where you are. The one thing that he does know is that he’s a soldier. Even if he doesn’t remember his training or how he got there, he identifies that he’s in this outfit and he’s got a gun, so that gives him a bit of a crutch. It would be terrifying to not know who you are all of a sudden. So this guy is not going to have a sense of humor, he’s going to be very paranoid, he’s going to be very sketchy and uppity.”

Thankfully, Lorne was soon returned to normal – ready to continue protecting Atlantis and her occupants into season five.

Interview courtesy of the official Stargate Website