Inside The 34th Edition Of The Stargate Magazine With Julia Benson

Tough, compassionate, loyal, determined and, at times, like most human beings, a little too emotional —those are just some of the qualities belonging to Stargate Universe‘s Lt. Vanessa James. She and several fellow soldiers —as well as dozens of scientists and civilians —found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Through no fault of their own they’ve ended up on a journey across the stars.

Along for the ride is actress Julia Benson, who happily put on James’ military fatigues and combat boots for a chance to help tell their story. Unlike the lieutenant, however, this is not the actress’ first trip through the Stargate.

“I’m a local actor from Vancouver and Stargate is a huge part of our film industry here and the [film and TV] community.

“I actually did an episode of Stargate Atlantis called Irresistible,” says Benson. “I’d auditioned quite a bit for the show before finally being cast as Richard Kind’s (playing Lucius Lavin) head wife, Willa. I just remember stepping onto the set and instantly feeling what an incredibly well-oiled machine it was. Everyone was so friendly and it was a very family-oriented place. That’s all been reaffirmed for me since coming to work on Universe. They’re amazing people here.

Triple Threat

Having that Atlantis episode under her belt, Benson subsequently tried out for not one but three parts in Universe. “My first audition was for a character named Andrea Palmer,” she recalls. “Then I came back and found out that they [the producers] were considering me for a character named Riley, who is now played by the wonderful Haig Sutherland. Then I got to read for Vanessa James, and as soon as I read the sides [script pages] I immediately knew that I wanted to play her. We didn’t know much about the characters at the beginning. It was literally just a one-page breakdown on each of them, but I loved the way that Vanessa was written, with a lot of fire and life.

Uncertain Future

In Universe‘s first season three-episode opening story Air, an attack by the Lucian Alliance on the off-world Icarus Base, sends Lt. James and all other base personnel through the Icarus Stargate and on a one-way trip to the Ancient starship Destiny. Separated from their loved ones and all else familiar to them by billions of miles, they quickly learn to survive on their own and, along the way, must try to find a way home to Earth. While their characters faced an uncertain future, Benson and her fellow castmates were carefully guided through the shooting of this three-part story by longtime Stargate producer/director Andy Mikita.

“Andy is the best,” says the actress with a smile.   “Air was epic —it felt like we were doing a feature film. This cast is huge and we were all here, all the time, for some long days. When we went on to do other episodes, there were scenes where it might be just you and one or two other people, and those stories felt a little different to shoot. So it’s nice whenever we get back to doing ensemble-based episodes like Air. As actors, this show has been a dream as well as a gift, and the cast is phenomenal. Every day we all come to set with big smiles on our faces and it’s because of who we’re working with, so it’s pretty special.”

Read the full interview in issue 34 of The Official Stargate SG-1/Atlantis/SGU Magazine – on newsstands now!

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