While many actors may call Los Angeles home, the city of Vancouver in beautiful British Columbia has become almost a second home for many of them — and you can count Stargate SG-1 veteran Tony Amendola, who played “Bra’tac” on the series in a recurring fashion for the entirety of its run, among them. After SG-1 wrapped six years ago, the actor kept busy with many other projects but is now making his Vancouver presence known again in full force as he juggles concurrent gigs on two very different genre series.
GateWorld had the pleasure of catching up with Tony Amendola a couple times in recent months, most notably when he was a guest at Creation Entertainment‘s Official Stargate Convention. In our latest chat with Amendola, he discusses how busy his life has gotten, how his casting as “Gepetto” in ABC’s Once Upon A Time came about, the political parallels that mirror his other current series Continuum, and more!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, I’m Chad Colvin and I’m speaking today with Tony Amendola, who was so kind as to take time out of a very busy schedule to talk with us. How are you, Tony?
Tony Amendola: I’m very well, Chad, and it’s a pleasure to talk to you.
GW: How has life been in general? It’s been a couple of years since I had the chance to talk with you on-the-record.
TA: You know, life has been … I almost hesitate to say this, but life has been amazingly good! I’ve been busy with Once Upon A Time where I’ve had a recurring role, and I’ve also been busy with Continuum. It’s just been busy, and I’m very grateful for it. I also got to spend three weeks at Sundance last year. So it’s been a nice little blend of commercial work with little pops of independent projects.
GW: Stargate fans are still adjusting to a television landscape where there isn’t some form of the franchise producing new content. What are your feelings about where the franchise is sitting right now, compared to where it was just a few years ago?
TA: To be honest, I have always looked at it in terms of the longevity of the run that they had, which was unheard of, for the most part. I think the only thing that would be truly comparable would be Doctor Who, and even that wasn’t consistent, year in and year out. I mean, three shows. Seventeen seasons. Plus the movies they did and … there was an animated thing, too?
GW: There was … although I don’t know how many people count it. [Laughter]
TA: I know I was grateful for it. And hopefully Brad [Wright] will write something again. I think it’s an interesting testament to how powerful and good a series was, that when the creators are done with it, they pause when trying to create their next project. It’s hard. Because everything they do will be judged in comparison to Stargate. Hopefully, he’ll find something that really sort of turns him on and excites him, because he’s really a terrific writer.
GW: You were perfectly casted for Once Upon A Time as Gepetto …
TA: Thank you so much!
Amendola as ‘Gepetto’ in a scene from ABC’s Once Upon A Time.
GW: How did your involvement in the show come about?
TA: The way they all do. I got a call from my agent, and he says “I’ve got a script for a show. It deals with classic fairy tales.” And I thought “Okay, that’s fine.” And then I read the script and I went “Wow..this is more than that. This is quite good!” So I did a little bit of research and the guys that created it were two of the guys who wrote Lost …
GW: And that comes with its own pedigree.
TA: Oh, absolutely! And you know that they really love to weave a tale. So I’ve done several episodes of that. It’s been a wonderful experience. The very first two episodes kind of established the character a bit, and then the episode in Season One called “The Stranger” was the one where they began weaving all the backstory in. It couldn’t have been more fun. I worked in a [water] tank, I worked on a beach, I got to work up in the mountains. And then all of the green screen stuff. It was an exhausting, yet exhilarating time. For an actor in a recurring role, to get used that strongly was just wonderful.
GW: Have you been surprised at all by how strongly audiences have responded to it? If memory serves me correctly, I don’t believe ABC went into it expecting it to perform nearly as well as it has.
TA: Forgive the pun, but there was just something sort of magical about it. I knew it was special when they started comparing it to Grimm. People who hadn’t seen or read for both series were making comparisons to them. And having read both series, it’s a night and day difference. One is an 8:00 p.m. show, a family show. And the other is a much darker series. Much more akin to almost like an Angel or a Buffy. And having grown up on that time slot with Disney, I knew it was a cherished time slot. There was a time when that was sort of “must-see TV”.
It was primarily the quality of the writing. And then going up and seeing what they were doing with the look of it. Because in this day and age, green screen looks phenomenal. In the past, you may not have had any idea what it was going to look like when you’re shooting it. And now, they can give you an idea of what it’s going to be a like.
GW: A pre-visualization … something to work with.
TA: Yeah! Exactly! And the people were wonderful to work with. Josh [Dallas] and Jennifer [Morrison] and Ginnifer [Goodwin]. They’re just really good actors. And of course, [Robert] Carlyle and Raphael Sbarge who plays Jiminy Cricket, who’s an old, old friend of mine. So, I must say, I was quite impressed from the time I arrived.
The other thing that was kind of strange … it was sort of a strange, kismet-y sort of thing. It’s that the series is shot at Bridge Studios. And when I first arrived on set the first time, I went to meet with the producers and the other people to take care of the business aspects of everything. And literally, the business offices of Once Upon A Time are the exact same offices Stargate used. And I thought “Well … may it only run as long as Stargate has.” So it‘s exciting! [Laughter]
GW: It’s funny you mention that, because the last time I was at Bridge, I went to visit Martin [Wood] and Amanda [Tapping] about the fate of Sanctuary and their work on Primeval: New World.
TA: That’s right!
GW: And the day I was there, you were shooting some scenes for Continuum in the soundstage directly across from Primeval’s offices.
TA: You should have stopped in!
GW: I was going to. Their publicist was going to find you, but I opted not to … I didn’t want to bother you without setting something up properly.
TA: You really should have! Next time! But I spent all winter there, between Once Upon A Time and Continuum. And Continuum has been a wonderful gift with wonderful people. There’s Lexa [Doig] and Roger Cross. And a lot of people I recognize from Stargate and that world like Jen Spence and Mike [Dopud].
I love Continuum. You know, sci-fi very often is a mirror into contemporary society. There’s very rarely no message that comes with it. The similarity between the “Occupy” movements in the U.S. and the “Liber8” group on the show is rather striking.
NEXT: Continuum and what the future holds