Beware of SPOILERS for Stargate SG-1‘s seventh season episode “Fragile Balance” in this interview!
He wowed us in Star Trek: Insurrection as the young Ba’ku, Artim. Not six years later, Michael Welch has scratched himself into the surface of Stargate SG-1 as none other than a young Jack O’Neill, in Season Seven’s “Fragile Balance.”
Appearing in such shows as the The X-Files and Malcolm in the Middle, the actor is fast making a name for himself in the entertainment world. Now, at the overwhelming request of Stargate fans, GateWorld brings you an exclusive interview with this up-and-coming young actor.
Michael updates us on his latest success as Luke Girardi on the hit CBS series Joan of Arcadia, and shares his feelings regarding “Kids With a Cause,” a young-actor-supported program for less fortunate children. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Michael also takes us back to his experience with the cast and crew of Stargate, as well as channeling Richard Dean Anderson in his first episode.
This interview is available in MP3 audio format for easy listening, as well as transcribed below! The audio version is about 26 minutes long. Be sure to take time to check out Michael’s Web site at MichaelWelchFanClub.com!
GateWorld: This is David Read for GateWorld.net talking with Michael Welch. How are you doing, Michael?
Michael Welch: Hey! Good, man. How are you doing?
GW: I’m not too bad. Terrific to have you with us.
MW: Oh, yeah! Thank you very much!
GW: You were voted very high in the GateWorld Forum for folks who wanted to hear from you, so this really is a pleasure.
MW: Yeah, I heard about that — and I heard that I was actually number two, which raises the question: Who beat me? Who was number one?
GW: Number one was Tom McBeath: Maybourne.
MW: OK, cool. So that’s fine — I can live with that.
GW: Yes. Yeah, he’s been in several shows, but it’s pretty incredible. You’ve only been in one thus far and you have really struck a chord with the Stargate fan community.
MW: You know what? It’s unbelievable because I was lucky enough to get Joan of Arcadia after Stargate, and I’ve got to tell you: between that one episode of Stargate, and then I’ve done 23 episodes of Joan of Arcadia, I’ve probably gotten just as much recognition from Stargate. It’s just been unbelievable. The fans are incredible.
GW: They really are, yes. What was it like stepping into the shoes of an American icon like Jack O’Neill?
MW: Well, you know, Stargate fans aren’t gonna want to hear this, but unfortunately, I did not know how big of an icon he was. I didn’t realize how huge Stargate really was. So that put a lot less pressure on me. You know what I mean? I didn’t realize he was like the Michael Jordan of sci-fi. (Laughter) So that really helped out. So, to answer your question, I wouldn’t know because at the time I didn’t know.
GW: So you just sort of went in there and it was like you unearthed this huge thing.
MW: Yeah, I kind of treated it like another job. I mean, it was a cool part. I loved the part. But I had no clue what would come out of it. And I’m actually really grateful. I didn’t realize the fan base was so hardcore.
GW: Yeah, they really are. Most sci-fi fans remember you as Artim in “Star Trek: Insurrection.” Did that performance reshape your career in any way?
MW: Oh yeah, it did, because that was my first movie. Before that I did a lot of guest spots and things like that, but that was my first film. Now, put yourself in my shoes. I mean, I was like 11 years old at that time. And a Star Trek film as your first film? Absolutely, it reshaped my career. It opened a lot of doors for me, especially in the sci-fi world.
GW: How did you get the role of Young Jack?
MW: It was just a regular audition process, pretty much. I went in and they shoot Stargate in Vancouver, Canada, so they put me on tape and sent the tape to all the people, and I got it. And like I said before, I hadn’t seen any Stargate episodes before getting the job, so I just kind of played the part as I interpreted it, which was kind of this dry, sarcastic, very in-charge and in control of himself kind of guy. I just played it like it was written. It turned out to be very similar to Richard Dean Anderson. Of course, I didn’t realize just how far Richard Dean Anderson goes until I actually saw the tapes.
GW: So at the audition process you had not studied up on Richard Dean Anderson yet.
MW: No, and they knew that. So they kind of put a lot of trust in me that I could get down his mannerisms, his attitude and the way he carried himself and all that stuff, just by watching some tapes when I got up there. I guess I did. I don’t know. Like you said before, the response has just been unbelievable.
GW: What episodes were you given to study?
MW: I was given, I believe, “Revelations,” I think, to kind of give me a history of the Asgard, because the Asgard was a major part of “Fragile Balance,” which was the episode that I was in. They wanted me to kind of understand who the Asgard were. And then other than that, there were two episodes. There were three episodes altogether and I don’t remember what they were.
But those few episodes, I rewound them a hundred times, and I was up all night studying this guy. Because, I’ve got to tell you, that was very challenging. Richard Dean Anderson — he is so original. I don’t think there’s ever been an actor quite like him before. So it was really challenging, but a lot of fun.
GW: What did you do to get him down?
MW: I don’t know. That’s kind of been one of the things that I’ve always been able to do. In fact, my impressions when I was a little kid — that’s kind of what got me into acting. This was a little different than an impression. This was like a portrayal of a character, had to be a little bit more than an impression. That’s just kind of something that I’ve always been able to do, just kind of watch and listen to an accent, and then the next day be able to do the accent. So, I don’t know, I just really studied him.
GW: So you were just able to pick up on the fine details and it got you where you needed to go.
MW: Yeah, yeah, pretty much. And then also Peter DeLuise, who was the director of that particular episode — he really helped me out, because he’s been working on the show for years. So he really helped me out to really get specific things down.
GW: So he took you aside and said, “OK, this is what he looks like when he’s angry,” or like that.
MW: Yeah, in a way. And he broke it down kind of line-to-line, moment-to-moment. And it was like, “OK, Richard would do it this way, so you do it that way, too.” It was fun.
GW: Did you find it constricting on your acting that you were trying to mimic Richard but still were trying to bring your performance into it?
MW: You know, it’s funny. I actually found it more freeing that way.
MW: Yeah, and I can’t really explain why. I guess because you study the character and you do all those things. But when it comes down to it, it’s still my performance, it’s still my interpretation. I’m not going to, you know, be a clone — well, I was a clone of Richard Dean Anderson! I don’t know.
It was more freeing, mainly because he’s so free anyway. He just is in his performance. So to mimic someone doing a free performance, well, that’s pretty freeing within itself. You know what I mean?
GW: OK, yeah, I get you.
GW: Were you wearing contacts to make your eyes darker, like Rick’s?
MW: Yeah, my eyes are light blue. And that’s not going to work playing Richard Dean Anderson, so they had to put some contacts in me.
GW: What else was done to alter your appearance?
MW: Well, my hair was cut, which I was fine about. I like my hair shorter, actually. And they spiked it, I guess. And then, actually — this had nothing to do with making me look like Richard — but I had some acne going up there that week. And Peter DeLuise, being the sick genius that he is, was like, “No, let’s keep it! It’s great, because it emphasizes the fact that he’s a teenager.” And it did, and he’s right. I had no problem with that.
So not only did he keep it, he had make-up emphasize it. If you watch there’s big, red marks on my face, which were there anyway. But he just kind of added to them. It was really funny. And that really has nothing to do with making me look more like him, but, you know.
GW: Well, it emphasizes your age verses this 50-year-old man.
MW: Yeah, and it worked. That’s kind of one of the things you have to do an an actor is kind of put your own ego aside and do what’s right for the role. I’ve always been willing to do that. I really don’t care what I look like as long as it fits with the thing I’m working on.
GW: So even if that makes you look a little strange, it’s for the team.
MW: Yeah, exactly. I don’t know, a great example of that is Kathy Bates in “About Schmidt.” She was able to just kind of put her own ego aside and go full-frontal on camera. It was great. It was good for her. Robert DeNiro has gained and lost weight a million times. I could go on. I’m not comparing myself to any of these people — quite yet. We’ll see in the future! No, I really don’t care, as long as … well, you get the point.
GW: How are things with Joan of Arcadia?
MW: Oh, man. It’s the best job ever. I really do think that I’m probably the luckiest 16-year-old in Hollywood. I don’t think there’s a better 16-year-old part on television. I’m absolutely loving it. The cast is just awesome. They’re great.
GW: For folks who have not seen the show, tell us about your role.
MW: Well, I play Luke Girardi, who’s Joan’s younger brother. And I am a science genius on the show. I kind of represent — because it is kind of a metaphysical show — I kind of represent the physics aspect of that because the creator, Barbara Hall, believes that physics and metaphysics are all one. There’s no difference; they intertwine. I’m there to represent that part of it. And also it adds to the family dynamic, which is always a good thing. It’s a fun part, it really is. I don’t feel that I’m playing it like a nerd. I’ve never liked to play stereotypes. I did my own thing with it and they liked what I did.
GW: So Luke has a voice that’s not only this science geek, but he’s also got heart and soul.
MW: Yeah, he is a three-dimensional character. He’s not the comic relief, younger brother science geek who uses big words. I mean, I do use big words on the show and I am a science geek, but I’m saying there’s more to it than that. If you’ve seen the first season, he’s gone through quite a roller coaster this year.
GW: So you’re on hiatus for Season Two.
MW: Yes, that’s right.
GW: And when does that start?
MW: Season Two starts shooting up — I’m sorry, let me say that again! Season Two starts shooting in July. I think July 15 is when we start. And then it’s going to start airing, I believe, in September. But don’t quote me on that.
GW: Well, we’ll definitely be looking for it.
MW: OK, thank you!
GW: What network is it airing on?
MW: It’s on CBS, Friday nights.
GW: OK. Have you been pleased with the ratings from Season One?
MW: Oh, absolutely. I mean, Friday night, Top 30 show, you can’t ask for more than that. And the fact that it’s on Friday night is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a bad thing because it’s the least-watched night on television. But it’s a good thing because out of the people watching, we’re getting a big majority of those people — because a lot of times it’s the amount of time of people watching television and the amount of people watching your show versus the actual numbers. I don’t need to get into that. Yes, I’m very pleased with them.
GW: Well, good. Is it true Stargate‘s production timing helped you win the role?
MW: You know, maybe. I’m not sure, because the episode aired at the very end of what’s called pilot season. Now let me explain this to every non-actor listening right now. Basically, what a pilot is that they shoot — the first episode of every series is a pilot, and then based on the strength of that pilot, the network decides if they want to turn it into a series. If you’ve seen “Pulp Fiction,” Samuel L. Jackson explains it much more eloquently than I do.
So, basically, what happened is that this was at the tail-end of pilot season, so a lot of, I guess, most really good actors already got pilots, most young actors, so there weren’t that many left and I didn’t get anything at that point. I was up for a couple pilots, but the role of Stargate — again, I just can’t say this enough, it was such a cool role, I loved it so much that I just had to take it and risk it. And it turned out to be a good thing because, first of all, with Stargate, it’s been one of the coolest experiences ever. And then right after that I was lucky enough to get Joan of Arcadia. So it worked out really well.
GW: Do you think that if you hadn’t taken the Stargate role you would’ve missed Joan of Arcadia?
MW: You know, it’s possible. I don’t know. Maybe I would’ve gotten another pilot and then I wouldn’t have gotten Stargate or Joan of Arcadia, which have been the two greatest roles ever for me. So it’s really amazing how things work out, and I just kind of go with the moment and if I get a job, take it, and not mess around with any of that stuff. And then whatever happens, happens. This worked out better than I could’ve ever planned.
GW: Tell us about your experiences on set in Vancouver.
MW: It was really cool, because they’ve all been working together for like seven years now. It’s been a while. So it was such a comfortable set to work on. It felt like I was visiting really cool cousins. You know what I mean? They were all so great. A particular experience: I loved the moment — if you’ve seen the episode — I loved the moment when I’m floating in the space ship. They put the harness on me and they put a bunch of strings attached to me, and I love that kind of stuff. I’m still a 16-year-old kid. It was cool. I was floating in a space ship. It was great. Just all that kind of stuff. It was a lot of fun.
GW: One of the things I couldn’t understand was that if you were supposed to be immobile from the Asgard beam, or whatever it is, how were you able to move you arm to fire the zat gun?
MW: Oh, boy! Well, because I don’t think I was immobile. I think that I was, like, in a little forcefield. So being in the forcefield — it’s like you’re in a cage. You can’t get out of the cage, but you can move within the cage. So that’s how I looked at it. I mean, you can take that up with one of the producers to give you a more Stargate-esque answer, but that’s how I see it.
GW: Cool. How was it working with Michael [Shanks], Amanda [Tapping], and Christopher [Judge]?
MW: Oh, they were awesome. I mean, Christopher, he was a trouble maker. He gave me a hard time. It was all out of fun, I mean I had a great time with him. As an example, at the end of one day, he yelled, “That’s a wrap on Cory Feldman!” referring to me. Just stuff like that. Like I said, it was such a fun set to work on. And Amanda — she’s such a sweet person, and she has such an amazing work ethic. Michael’s a great guy. They were all really great — not just those three, but every single one of them was just really amazing. Without one exception, literally. And, yeah, I cannot say enough about the experience. It was just so much fun.
GW: They’re a very fine-tuned machine after seven years.
MW: Oh yeah, they had it down. I mean, I even said at one point — and this was like the first day that we were shooting. They did all the coverage on everybody else and they were going to do all the — oh, no, I’m sorry, wait a minute. Let me say that again. They did the coverage on me, then they were about to do the coverage on Michael and Christopher, and then I said to them, “Alright, guys, make sure you don’t steal the scenes from me.” And they were like, “After seven years we’re giving scenes away!” So, yeah, they’ve got it down.
GW: What did you think of the sets?
MW: Oh, it was great! Sci-fi sets are the coolest because there’s all that — it’s basically a bunch of cool toys to play with. You can’t really play with them because they’re props. But it was amazing. Just the ships and the alien stuff. I don’t know. It was cool! It was basically like when I was eight and I used my imagination about all that kind of stuff … or actually now, and I still do that.
GW: Except it’s actually there now.
MW: Yeah, it was actually there, but on a sound stage. It’s trippy, man. It’s really weird, but it was fun. It was cool.
GW: How do you feel about the possibility of Young Jack returning?
MW: Well, it definitely is a possibility. I mean, of course there’s Joan of Arcadia now and that kind of conflicts with it. But I don’t know. I mean how they work at Stargate is that they just kind of leave it up in the air and then bring people back if it’s convenient to the storyline, or whenever. But it’s definitely a possibility. There’s no guarantees but that’s mainly because of the Joan of Arcadia schedule. I don’t know if they’ll be able to work that out. But if they are I’d love to come back.
GW: What would you like to see happen to the character if you did come back?
MW: A lot of space stuff. I don’t care what. I’d maybe like to fly a ship and blow stuff up, possibly. You know, I mean, because this would be the perfect opportunity to do that stuff. I’m not complaining about “Fragile Balance” — it was one of the best experiences ever. But a lot of it was just like fishing scenes, going to a liquor store. This is a sci-fi show. I want to be in space! I want to be fighting aliens. I want to be doing stuff like that. And again, I’m not picky. I’ll do whatever they tell me to do. If they want to put acne on me I’m going to go ahead and let ’em! That’s kind of what I’d like to do. Some kind of fight. I don’t know. I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore.
GW: Michael Greenburg proposed a story where you came back with Colonel Maybourne who is basically Jack’s nemesis but partner in crime. He didn’t explain the story too much except that the title was “You Ain’t Jack,” and didn’t go into it much. But we all thought it was a pretty cool story and wished it would be executed.
MW: Yeah, that’d be cool. I think, based on the end of “Fragile Balance,” which was basically my character saying, “Well, from here on out we’re not the same person anymore” — so, yeah, that would definitely make sense. But, yeah, that’d be fun. I’ll come back and mop the floor if they want me to. I just love doing it. Yeah, I’m really happy with anything. But that sounds really cool.
GW: Have you thought of attending any Stargate conventions?
MW: Yeah, actually I am attending, not necessarily Stargate, but a sci-fi convention, which is going to be mostly because of Stargate, in July — I think 9th, 10th, and 11th in Maryland, called Shore Leave. I’m going to go and do that, and yeah! I mean, why not? It’s right by Washington D.C. and I’ve never been there before. So basically I’m ultimately getting paid to go to Washington. You can’t pass that up. And I always thought it’d be fun to go to a sci-fi convention, watch a bunch of Klingons walking around, all of that kind of stuff.
So, yeah! And beyond that, no immediate plans right now. But yeah, I’d love to do more down the road.
GW: So is this your first sci-fi convention?
MW: Yeah, this’ll be my first one.
GW: Well, you’ll also be appearing with Teryl Rothery, who is Dr. Fraiser on Stargate.
MW: Oh, that’s right. Yeah.
GW: So be sure to tell her “Hello” for all of us.
MW: Oh, yeah, I definitely will. Hey! They’ll probably sit us next to each other to plan it out that way.
GW: She’s a character. You will have a great time with her on stage.
MW: Oh, good, because I didn’t really get to spend too much time with her, because we were only in one scene together. But yeah, that’ll be a lot of fun.
GW: What’s your advice to aspiring young actors?
MW: Oh, good question. That would be to not pay attention to the statistics of it.
MW: Because people are constantly telling me the statistics of me making it, and giving me stories of young actors that didn’t turn out well. Just don’t listen to it! Because I’m going to tell you something: If you are talented and persistent and you work hard — that’s the most important thing, that you work hard — and you’re patient, and you enjoy the process, it’s impossible not to be successful. It might take 10 years, as it has in the case of some of the greatest, most famous actors today. But just keep truckin’.
And enjoy the process, that’s the most important thing. Because if you don’t enjoy the process you’re not going to enjoy the destination. And there is no destination anyway, so … just one continuous process.
I’m going to be honest with you. I’m having just as much fun now as I did when I was 10 and barely doing anything. And I’m going to go even farther than that and say I’m having just as much fun now as I did when I was nine and I first started taking acting classes. Just have fun. It’s fun; that’s why I’m doing it. It’s hard. It takes a lot of sacrifice, but it’s a good time. I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t a good time.
GW: You’ve been working with Kids For a Cause, I understand.
GW: Tell us about that.
MW: That’s basically an organization in which young actors — Hillary Duff is involved in the organization — I think we have like a hundred by now. And basically what it is is that we go to foster homes and hospitals and basically just give kids that have been less fortunate up to this point a good day, give them presents or give them food or whatever they want — play with them for the day. Because I’m so blessed it’s just sick. It’s just unbelievable.
I’ve gotta give something back. I don’t even feel like I’m doing enough. I definitely want to do more down the road. It’s a really great organization. If any young actors listen to this, I would highly recommend checking it out because it’s really cool.
GW: What are your plans for the future, other than conventions and Kids With A Cause and Joan of Arcadia?
MW: Right, right. Well, my plan is Joan of Arcadia will go forever. But when that ends, you know, I don’t know — just as long as I keep working. I love to work. I love doing stuff. So maybe — I’d love to do some plays, I’d love to break into movies if that’s possible, maybe another series down the road. I don’t know! No one really knows where their career is headed. No one is really in control of their career until you get to a certain point — and that’s like Tom Hanks level. Maybe I can be one of those cool independent actors that do 10 independents a year. That’d be cool. I don’t care. It really doesn’t matter.
And maybe some more conventions down the road. Definitely I’m going to finish school and do all that. Just kind of play it by ear, take it day by day. Right now I’m enjoying Joan of Arcadia and still enjoying the ride from Stargate, because that’s still going on, you know, with stuff like this — these kinds of interviews.
GW: Is it true you’ve written a one-man show?
MW: (Laughter) Oh, man. I’m going to clear this up now. That was from a bio that my mom wrote a couple of years ago. I was writing a one-man show and maybe I’ll continue it down the road, I don’t know. But it’s kind of on hold right now, the one-man-show project. But I was writing that, there is truth to that. But that’s probably not going to happen at this point, because that was kind of written for a 15-year old to do, and if I started working on it again, by the time I’m done I’m not going to be 15 any more. And I’m not now. I’m 16. Yeah, I was writing a one-man show, but I got too busy with Joan of Arcadia and school, so I just stopped that.
GW: So it’s on the back-burner.
MW: But yeah, it was OK, though. I don’t regret doing that and spending all of my time doing that, because it was good for me for my writing, because I’m definitely interested in writing down the road, and directing, and all that stuff, too.
GW: Let’s hope those doors open up for you.
MW: Yeah, definitely! Thanks!
GW: Well, Michael thanks for taking some time to answer the questions, and truly, best wishes for continued success on Joan of Arcadia!
MW: Oh, thank you man. I appreciate that. And, yeah, I just hope I was interesting for the past half an hour and didn’t waste anyone’s time!