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Staite of Change
With a new season of Stargate Atlantis about to get under way, GateWorld sent our own newcomer, Chad Colvin, to sit down with the show's newest recurring cast member, Jewel Staite. A veteran of the science fiction genre thanks to her year as Firefly's darling engineer Kaylee, Jewel joins the Atlantis expedition as Dr. Jennifer Keller.

It's actually not her first time in the Stargate universe: Back in Atlantis's second season, Jewel played the Wraith girl Ellia ("Instinct"). The producers were hesitant to waste such a great actress on a one-off, but quickly realized they could bring her back without the heavy prosthetics.

In the interview Jewel discusses her sci-fi roots, filling the place of a beloved character (Dr. Carson Beckett), and her favorite episodes from the upcoming season. She also talks about working with her new cast mates, notably Amanda Tapping and Rachel Luttrell.

Beware of minor spoilers for Season Four of Atlantis in this interview, as well as a big one for Season Three's "Sunday" -- and for last May's third season finale of LOST. The fourth season of Stargate Atlantis premieres Friday, September 28 at 10 p.m. (Eastern/Pacific) on SCI FI Channel!

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GateWorld: For, I'm Chad Colvin. Today, I have the unique and distinct pleasure to chat up Ms. Jewel Staite. Jewel, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us.

Jewel Staite: No problem! Thanks for having me.

GW: The series Firefly was a major coup for you, and definitely raised your visibility in the public eye as an actress. How was that experience?

JS: Seriously, Firefly was one of the very best experiences of my life, both personally and professionally. The cast just clicked right from the very beginning. We became an instant family, complete with game night and Sunday dinners. And I'm not just saying that -- these people were a part of my wedding party!

Staite as Kaylee Frye (left) in the feature film "Serenity."
And Joss Whedon is just brilliant. He's one of those writers that can make me laugh and make me cry in the very same sentence. Honestly, once a year I sit down and watch the whole series and reminisce about that time of my life. But don't tell the Stargate Atlantis cast that. They already ask me who's the better-looking cast enough as it is.

GW: Has the Firefly and "Serenity" experience given you anything you can take with you? Be it something like confidence in different roles as an actress -- or in terms of things like interaction with fans?

JS: It's definitely given me some practice with the sci-fi fans! It introduced me to the world of sci-fi conventions, which are an absolute trip and totally worth going to. Especially if you have a thing for Wookies, which I do. Sci-fi fans are scary, because they are incredibly smart. Much smarter than me. And it can be a bit intimidating answering those lengthy, in-depth questions!

When Firefly was cancelled, it broke my heart a bit. And when I did my first convention I was so absolutely shocked and surprised that there were people out there who loved it, supported it, and understood it, and that made me feel so much better. Nothing makes an out of work actor feel better than being at a sci-fi convention!

But honestly, the biggest lesson I learned from Firefly and "Serenity" was to remember to stop and take a moment to enjoy the wonderful thing you're working on. Because it can be taken away from you as fast as you got it. When I'm working on a great set now and loving the particular project, I really take the time to soak it up, so to speak.

GW: Do you plan on attending any Stargate conventions in the near future?

JS: If I'm invited and I'm available, I would love to. Especially if people actually like my character.

GW: Are you a fan of sci-fi?

JS: I'm a fan of good projects, whether they're sci-fi based or not. I usually watch things for the performances, but I don't eliminate anything from my TV and movie diet based on its genre.

GW: Let's talk about "Instinct" in Season Two and your role as Ellia. Tell us a little bit about the production of that episode, and how you came to be a part of it.

Jewel made her first Atlantis appearance under layers of prosthetics in "Instinct."
JS: I had never seen an episode of Stargate Atlantis when I got the script for "Instinct." So I wasn't sure what a Wraith was. All I knew was that I loved the character and her personal struggles, how badly she wanted to be accepted, and the range of emotions she seemed to go through. I wasn't aware of any heavy-duty prosthetics -- it actually just said "some prosthetics required," which I thought meant something fun like a little forehead doo-dad or whatever.

And then they informed me that I would have to get my entire head, arms, and hands cast. That's when I started to clue in, and I went on the Internet and Googled "Wraiths" -- and kind of went, "Uh, whoa!"

But it seemed like a fun challenge and I was up for it. Silly girl.

GW: Was that your first time wearing prosthetic make-up? Do you feel it affected your performance?

JS: It was my first time wearing that many prosthetic pieces on my face. As well as having to deal with very large contact lenses and talk with fake pointy teeth. I was really worried that my performance would be affected, and I was definitely distracted during the whole thing.

But in a way, putting on that much of a disguise really helps you get into character sometimes. It was interesting to be completely unrecognizable. My mom came by the set to visit me and actually gave me a dirty look and avoided me! I guess when you're an ugly looking alien, you don't have many friends. But in a way, I thought she was sort of beautiful. Maybe it was her personality that made her that way. Maybe not beautiful, but endearing. Cute, even.
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