Interview with Paul McGillion
WEDNESDAY - DECEMBER 22, 2004
He's Dr. Carson Beckett on the hit SCI FI series Stargate Atlantis, and it's safe to say a favorite character among fans. Actor Paul McGillion recently sat down for a chat with Tobias Mauer at this year's Wolf Gate Days convention in Frankfurt, Germany!
In the interview, McGillion talks about the show's great success, learning to play a medical doctor, and shares his personal thoughts about the fans after having finished his very first Stargate convention.
Tobias Mauer: How would you describe Stargate Atlantis to people who have no knowledge about Stargate at all?
Paul McGillion: I think Stargate Atlantis is a show that people will be entertained by, because you get to go to a different galaxy, called Pegasus, and you go through a wormhole to different planets within that galaxy. And I think everybody knows the story of the lost city of Atlantis. As a child, you know, I really thought that was fascinating and it's interesting to be based on a television show.
So, the show takes place in Atlantis. And I think that itself is a very interesting aspect of the show. I was talking earlier today and mentioned that the set is spectacular. And it's a great opportunity to work on a show with that type of set design, you know.
And the characters, I think, are shall we call it "television friendly." The audience will get to know all the different characters in the show. They have a lot of humanity in the characters of the show, and I think that is an interesting aspect to it.
TM: If you had the opportunity to pick one of the six main characters -- I'll include Beckett here -- which one would you prefer to play?
PM: Thank you for including me! So -- as an actor, I love my character, so I'm really happy playing my character. In the beginning my character wasn't a Scottish character. And as I came in I gave him this Scottish background. And I developed the character into Carson Beckett, which was a great opportunity.
So I'm very happy were I am at. And although the character of McKay is a great character, it is a great character because David Hewlett plays the character. You know, and Sheppard is great, because Joe Flanigan plays this character. So I think -- I wouldn't be very good in playing Teyla! [Laughs]
TM: How did you learn to play a doctor? Did you ask Teryl [Rothery, "Janet Fraiser"] ...
Dr. Beckett faces a tragic illness on the planet Hoff, as a result of his own studies into an anti-Wraith vaccine. From "Poisoning the Well."
PM: Teryl is a nightmare, you know. [Laughs] Sorry, what was the question? Could you please repeat it?
TM: How did you learn to play a doctor? Did you ask Teryl for advice or did you take lessons, or how did you learn it? Maybe you even looked at ER or Scrubs ...
PM: [Laughs] No, I fortunately have a brother who is doing his PhD in medicine, which is a very handy thing. I do have a bit of a science background but by no means of my doctor.
I think as an actor, you have to be an active participant in your career, and I think being aware of most people having been exposed to doctors in television shows like ER and that type of thing. But I think one dealing with such a technical dialog that affects the character a lot, you have to have a comprehensive understanding of what you are saying. And I think that is necessary, and it gives validity to the character.
And I do study on the Internet, I talk to the producers and the writers and see what their thoughts are about the character. Luckily, it's just not an information vessel. I just don't spurt the medical jargon all the time. I feel the writers have given me the opportunity to work a very well-rounded character, and including the human side of the character. And fortunately I get to do a lot of dramatic and comedic stuff -- so that's a great opportunity.
TM: In the panel you told us that you were pleased if they gave you a 5-year contract. But isn't it dangerous for an actor playing one role for such a long time? There could be a lot of opportunities you would maybe give away for having a long-running contract?
PM: It's a good question. It is a risk to a certain degree. You know, they are playing around with the numbers, and I don't know where it is going to lie then.
You know, I would be honored and thrilled to have a long-running contract. As an actor there is a certain amount of stability in that situation, which is a great thing. And with this character -- as long as the writing is continuing in the vain that it is already, it's a great job. You know, I love the character. I love playing a Scottish character. It's a great honour, you know, to represent so to speak.
And you know, I love all the other actors I work with. So if that could continue, it'll be fun. If it continues being fun, I'm happy. I don't need more, you know. I'm very fortunate to have this opportunity to work on Stargate Atlantis, and if that continues I would be a happy camper.
I just completed an independent film I co-produced, and I will always do independent features when I get a chance. Or, you know, theatre, plays on the off-season -- that's something that I want to do and continue to do. And there is no reason why I couldn't. So you have the off-season to prepare for something and hopefully we will shoot a film in the off-season. If you want to.
Teyla, Ford, and Beckett must evacuate the Athosians before a massive hurricane strikes the continent near Atlantis. From "The Storm."
Our film comes out in Canada this month, called "See Grace Fly." And, if the fans have an opportunity to see that, it's a whole new style of work for "Dr. Carson Beckett" to play in. It's a different character. I play a missionary in that character. So, I do like to do other things beside that one character. I've had a nice career so far and this is just making it better.
TM: Oh, I would have come to your external projects later, asking you what you are doing at the moment besides Stargate Atlantis.
PM: [Laughs] I'm sitting in Germany talking to you! You're charming, my friend.
You know, in the off time you can either go on holiday -- well, that is great -- you can do a promotional tour like this. See the fans that watch the show. I mean, that is great. I had such a great time here in Germany. I had a lot of fun.
TM: You're now going with Stargate Atlantis right behind Stargate SG-1. You are having the highest ratings The SCI FI Channel ever had in an original series. Do you think that Stargate Atlantis could hold these high ratings alone, too?
PM: You know, we're definitely very fortunate to have Stargate SG-1 right before us. I mean that is the mothership [Laughs], so to speak. You know, it's so great to follow on the tail of such a successful series and I definitely think that some of our success has to do with that extremely loyal, large fan base that they have.
Whether the show can stand on its own needs to be seen. I think the shows are similar in format, but different sensibilities as well. Although I think both are good shows and you know, it's great that both of our shows are doing so well. I hope it does, but I think Stargate SG-1 never has had so high of ratings either. They're obviously doing something right.
Brad Wright and Robert Cooper know what they are doing and they are very smart men, and I think they make a really good product. So hopefully they will continue for a long time, and if we get to piggy back on them for a while, that's great. Everyone there has been so supportive to me as an actor -- including the rest of the cast, Richard Dean Anderson, Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge, and Michael Shanks, and the lovely Teryl Rothery here in Germany. So it has been great.
TM: Your first convention now is over. So what have you expected and what was the worst question somebody could have asked you?
PM: You know, to be honest with you I was a little bit nervous coming into it because I didn't really know what to expect. I have spoken with Gary Jones ["Sergeant Harriman"] who, you know, works on Stargate SG-1, because he has done a number of conventions. And I talked to Teryl, so she taught me a little bit. Prior to that I had no knowledge about it.
Beckett is challenged to find a cure for a nanocite virus that infects the city. From "Hot Zone."
It was extremely well done. Brian and the rest of the staff did a fantastic job -- very organized, very respectful. The fans were very respectful. The questions don't bother me at all. I hopefully just can answer them in a way which is educating and entertaining at the same time. I feel like they were very respectful with me out there, and I don't mind having a little bit of fun with people when they want -- as you can see!
TM: And what could have been the worst question somebody could have asked you? Were there any themes you wouldn't have wanted to talk about?
PM: You know, I'm a very personal, private person. Very personal. So personal questions about my private life -- so I prefer to keep that separate if I can. But where I grew up and everything, that doesn't bother me at all.
You know, I think that there is a line that people cross. Nobody crossed it here, I didn't think. Do there weren't any inappropriate questions. I think people used their common sense and were respectful of the guests. It's a great thing, so we can have a good time. So, no questions so far.
It is my first convention, after all -- let's see what happens in Scotland and London. Everything was great, the German fans were fantastic and a lot of fun, and I really think they enjoyed this weekend. So I thank them for having me here.
TM: So, to end the interview, which was a pleasure to me: Do you have anything to say about the show or something you wanted to say to the fans out there in Germany or the rest of the world?
PM: I think the fans here -- if this is any indication how the fans here in Germany are, I'm thrilled. Because they were enthusiastic, educated, and a hell of a lot of fun. So if we can continue to entertain the German fans I will be thrilled with that, because they have been so great to me, so welcoming. I really enjoyed having them here. There are some really really nice people.
You know, I think, hopefully they will be very entertained by the show. I think Stargate Atlantis has a lot of -- the characters I think are fully developed. There is a lot of comedy within the drama and action as well. So I think you get a great flavor in every episode, and I think they will be truly entertained with Stargate Atlantis. And I think it is something they should look forward to.
(Special thank you to Moni, Guy, and Sib for helping with the interview!)
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