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Pulling Strings

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GW: He may break.

MC: Yeah, so they were really scared about doing that. So I never ended up doing any big, over-seas conventions with the puppet because it was just too risky to do. But it was fun. There was, actually, at one point, they had decided, "OK. So, we canít send him in a big box. We canít ship him ahead." They thought maybe we could drive him around in a truck and do like North America and stuff.

And then they said, "But itís so much faster to fly." One woman who was representing me for conventions said, "This is what weíre gonna do. Weíre going to buy the puppet a first class seat and heíll sit in the seat beside you. And you can just take care of him that way." [Laughter] And that was really funny. I kept on envisioning me trying to walk through customs.

GW: With a Roswell Grey. [Laughter]

MC: Yeah, exactly. So, yeah, some funny stories. That all never ended up materializing, but it made for funny stories on our end.

From left: A Season Seven digital Asgard and a Season Three physical puppet.
GW: So, it was just like a latex update every couple of years? Because I thought ... I mean obviously you guys ... compared to the ones that came before you, the sophistication of the puppet has always been improving over the course of the years.

MC: Yeah, that was the goal. I mean, originally, when I first started working on him, he had much different controls. He had a lot more cables attached. He had, sort of, a hand rod action that would turn his head. It was a very slow, laborious kind of thing just to get Thor to turn.

Because of the limitations on the type of controls he had, that helped to impart the mannerisms that Thor had, which was very ... I mean, he was very regale and omniscient and powerful anyways, but all of his moves had to be slow. Because that's the only way that he could move.

And then eventually, with development and our addition of new servos and receivers and additional mechanical elements, we ended up getting a much more flexible ... just the kind of movement with Hermiod in Atlantis because he was able to do that.

GW: But when Thor came in, you kept the mannerisms consistent.

MC: Yes. Yeah.

GW: That's really cool.

MC: Yeah, it's fun.

GW: I do remember Kvasir just being absolutely Ė and you voiced Kvasir, I believe Ė be absolutely off the wall and annoying and buzzing all over the place. I would love that when he was working on a laptop and he would turn and do something else. And then the camera would pan away as he was coming back to the laptop. And then you'd hear keys typing. [Laughter] I love it!

MC: We did some great tricks. It was wonderful to do that. The funny thing -- rehearsing all those scenes was the cast Ė like with Amanda or with RDA and whatnot Ė often what would happen is I would go in, because I would be doing the lines, and I would get a little pad and sit on my knees. And Iím bald anyway, so they would just play to me before we brought the puppet on. And, yeah, it was funny to do that.

GW: Now, for "200," I also imagine that you took care of the Furlings.

MC: Yes, we did do the Furlings, as well. That was pretty cool.

GW: Was that a whole different ballgame? Tell us about that experience. "200" had a lot of stuff in it.

MC: It definitely had a lot of stuff in it. I mean, I wasnít personally responsible for the Furlings. We all worked together on getting to be what they had to be. But it was fun, A, to have the Asgard playing different characters in the different scenarios, as well. Sometimes in different little outfits. The one where he had that Fu Manchu mustache.

GW: Yes.

"Rygel" Thor in the landmark 200th episode of SG-1
MC: And we also did some fun stuff with SyFy, as well, where Ė and I think there are clips of it on YouTube still Ė where we just improvised, sort of, behind the scenes interviews where the actor Asgard was sort of complaining about not getting enough screen time and all of that. I donít know if youíve ever seen that, but it played before commercial breaks and whatnot when the 200th was playing. That was so funny. People really loved that.

GW: Wow. Now did you also take care of the puppeteer sequence that was a rip-off of Team America?

MC: I didnít care of that. That was all shot in Los Angeles.

GW: Oh, thatís right! OK.

MC: Yeah. But we did spend some time with those marionettes when they came up here, making sure they were strung properly and using them a little bit. And then we had ... there was a huge party up here [in Vancouver]. We have an amazing marionette artist up here. And so I had brought him in. He had worked with Thor in the past as well, but his big strength was marionette work.

And so he had to make sure that they arrived. And we pulled them out of the boxes and had them all restrung and put them on display. The Richard Dean Anderson one I think is in John Lenicís office. Itís a cool little puppet.

GW: So, Tenat was a recurring character for you. Heavy ... was that just a whole mask, or was that like a bunch of different pieces of prosthetic?

MC: Itís actually two pieces, if I remember correctly. Itís a cowl, which is like a hooded piece with a big neck on it that would get glued onto my chest and back. And then the entire face piece would be put on and then there were teeth, as well. It was a heavy, hefty, hot thing to wear.

The very first time I played Tenat we were shooting in the sand dunes South of Vancouver. And it was about Ė I donít know Ė 90 degrees outside. And, yeah, it was crazy, crazy hot. But he was so much fun to do. Because heís kind of a dork really, you know? A real strong guy with exciting ideas, but he ...

GW: He doesnít have a clue.

MC: No, didnít seem to have a clue. The Lucian Alliance couldíve poked fun at him. And I think he thought he was a lot more than he was. He was a great character to play.

GW: Was it easy to see out of that headpiece?

MC: No. Very difficult to see. There were maybe three small holes underneath where his plastic eyeballs were that I could see out of. And in order to get my eye-lines correctly Ė so that the eyes were looking at the actors I was working with Ė I actually had to look at the ground. So, Iíd look at peopleís feet so that my eyes lined were up with theirs.

Whenever I was on set ... itís the same playing a Prior. When you have those lenses in you canít seen anything. Itís like these smoky-white lenses. You need somebody, whether itís make-up or costumes or a [production assistant]., wandering with you the whole time.

GW: Oh, really? The priors were blind?

MC: Oh, yeah. Playing a prior, youíre basically blind.

"[Tenat] was so much fun to do. Because heís kind of a dork really, you know?"
GW: Wow.

MC: Yeah. You could barely see anything. I remember the very first time I did a Prior, too. I was doing a scene where I was walking on this ledge way up on a hill. And Peter DeLuise was directing and he had a megaphone and he was down below. And he was like, "Just keep walking. Keep walking." And the sun was shining. They were wanting to get this shot. It was a perfect time of day. But, yeah, I almost fell off this precipice. [Laughter]

GW: [Laughter] Oh, jeez!

MC: Yeah, it was funny. Yeah. The perils of playing an alien Ė there are many.

GW: [Laughter] I bet. What are you doing with Stargate Universe? Whatís going on there?

MC: You know what? Iíve not even worked on Stargate Universe at all yet.

I donít know that I will. I know all the producers and directors and the cast quite well. A lot of them are good friends. But because itís such a real character-driven drama ... I just saw the pilot Ė I donít know if I mentioned that to you Ė on the flight to ... I canít remember where it was ... one of the flights I took with John. And it's so spectacular.

But it's very different from the other Stargate stuff. I mean, itís still got all those exciting elements that are going on. And itís got some alien elements in it. But right now itís really about this group of people that are trapped on this Ancient ship billions of light years from Earth. So itís a real character-driven drama. Really a departure from anything theyíve done in the past.

I would imagine that as things progress that thereís certainly potential for me to do other aliens on the show. I donít know. I said to John on this last trip. I said what I'd love to do is play a human being.

It's been great fun and I, sort of, fell into this niche. I play aliens on several other shows, as well. Or, because of the puppeteering background, lots of crazy, fun, little characters. But, yeah. Itís always fresh to play a human being.
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