Mel Harris is probably the most recognized in the role of thirtysomething‘s Hope Murdoch Steadman. Over in the science fiction realm, however, she is known for the wise and glowy Oma Desala, ascended mentor to Shifu and Daniel Jackson.
Always great to have in a sticky situation, Oma Desala first showed herself in Season Three’s “Maternal Instinct,” (then played by Carla Boudreau). When a touching episode was called upon to end Daniel Jackson’s corporeal travels, the producers had the soft-spoken Mel Harris in mind. She takes time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.
GateWorld: Mel, thanks for joining GateWorld for this interview!
Mel Harris: My pleasure! Thanks for asking me.
GW: How aware were you of Stargate before you accepted the role of Oma Desala?
MH: I was very aware of Stargate before I accepted the role, because my teenage son Byron was, and is, a big Stargate fan and introduced me to the series. I had met Richard Dean [Anderson] in L.A. and when Byron and I were in Vancouver working, I arranged for us to visit the set and say hi. We had an amazing time.
GW: What, initially, were you told of the character?
MH: As I remember, I think I was told just to read the script and see what I thought. Being a long-time fan of the show, I was delighted to be asked to be a part of it and loved Oma Desala.
GW: Though Oma leads Daniel into ascension, were you aware of her mission and codes of conduct?
MH: That is a pretty deep question. Although I would answer that I believe Oma Desala was aware of her mission, I am sure I was not aware of it. As for her “codes of conduct,” those are still a mystery to me!
GW: What direction did you receive in playing this almost “omniscient” character?
MH: The best direction was that she was not like others and was a “being” of her own.
GW: How was it working alongside Michael Shanks and the rest of the cast and crew during this turning point in the series?
MH: Michael and the entire cast and crew of Stargate were fabulous. I knew them from my previous visits to the set with my son. They are as friendly and hospitable people as they are creative actors and human beings!
GW: How would you rate the professionalism and quality put into the show?
MH: As a long time fan, I was well aware of the professionalism and extremely high level of commitment of the Stargate group. Once again I was delighted to be a part of it. Needless to say, my son was over the moon that I was actually going to be on the show!
GW: Though Oma’s mission in “Meridian” is straight-forward, were you able find depth in the role?
MH: I guess Oma would ask if her mission was truly straightforward. I think for me as an actor, the challenge and reward of playing Oma Desala was that she is not of a world I know. That enabled my creativity and focus to expand in a way I never had before with other characters.
GW: It is perhaps one of the more burning questions in Stargate lore. “If you immediately know the candlelight is fire, the meal was cooked a long time ago.” What does this mean?
MH: I have no idea … but I imagine the food may not taste very good!
GW: Though not seen since “Meridian,” Oma has been mentioned countless times and has become an integral part of the saga. Would you be inclined to play her again?
MH: Playing Oma, especially with the wonderful Stargate crew, was very rewarding and I would do it again in a second.
GW: What would you like to see done with the character?
MH: I think an interesting exploration with Oma would be the differentials between the real world and other realms.
GW: Have you considered attending any Stargate conventions?
MH: No, I haven’t. But I think that would be a fun and interesting experience.
GW: Are you currently involved in any projects?
MH: I am currently developing two projects, one a film and one for television. And “Hangman’s Curse,” the film, was just released on DVD.
GW: What are your plans for the future?
MH: Enjoying life, whatever it hands me!
GW: Mel, thanks again for taking time out to talk with the fans at GateWorld!
MH: Thanks for letting me write on. And thanks to all the Stargate fans for keeping a great show going for all these years!