With theater as his primary background Courtenay J. Stevens broke into television months after his first appearances in movies. He was cast in Stargate SG-1 as Elliot, a driven young Lieutenant eager to become an officer in the S.G.C.
Little did Courtenay realize that, when he accepted the role, he’d be offered two more episodes shortly after the end of Season Five’s “Proving Ground”, his premiere episode. He then appeared in “Summit” and “Last Stand” where we, the viewers, were made to believe he was killed with the Tok’ra Lantash in an attempt to destroy Zipacna’s armada on the planet Revanna.
Now, Courtenay is back! This time it’s on Stargate Atlantis, playing a young character by the name of Keras in the recent episode “Childhood’s End.” Beware of spoilers for this episode!
While in Vancouver, GateWorld’s David Read took camera assistant Denise (“Skydiver”) to Granville Island, a former industrial district converted into a family attraction center. Courtenay met us outside the Arts Club Theatre, where he later explained just what he was doing there, and updated us on his latest Stargate appearance.
GateWorld’s video interview with Courtenay runs about 18 minutes, and is also available in an audio-only version for your convenience. It’s also transcribed below!
GateWorld: This is David Read for GateWorld.net, proud and privileged to present an interview with Courtenay J. Stevens. Courtenay, thanks for being with us!
Courtenay J. Stevens: Alright!
GW: How aware were you of Stargate before you became Elliot?
CS: Not that aware, actually. I mean, I knew that the show was going on and I knew some people who were involved. I’d seen a few episodes but I wasn’t following it closely. And then once I got in I realized what a good show, what a good family it actually is.
GW: So it was really cool to immerse yourself into this lore that had been established for five years?
CS: Yeah, absolutely! Yeah, I mean five years is quite a long time for any show. Yeah. It was a wonderful opportunity to get involved, and then go back and see a lot of the episodes and the character development that I was unaware of.
GW: Because you were working with Elizabeth Rosen did you have to watch “Prodigy?” Did they ask you to watch that or did you just jump into it?
CS: Yeah, I just jumped into it, actually. I didn’t see it, which I guess makes sense anyway, because Elliot, the character, would’ve been aware that she was involved but wouldn’t have seen anything of her involvement.
GW: What was the original concept for this young and enthusiastic character? He was inexperienced, driven, had something to prove. What did you find made him tick?
CS: One of the original ideas was that they were sort of shopping around for a spin-off series, which became Atlantis. So they were looking for a team to mirror the team that was already involved. So Elliot was at least written as somewhat of a young O’Neill, and that’s kind of why he gets under O’Neill’s skin a bit — but obviously a bit different. More ambitious, just really wanting to do the right thing and, I mean I guess he was really selfish. He really wanted to get to the top, get to the top at all costs. And the change being in “Proving Ground” when they pulled the rug out. He had to save Hailey, and unbeknownst to him it was another trick.
GW: So you say that at that point, they were of course shopping around, they were getting ready for Stargate Atlantis. Was there any possibility that this team would have anything to do with the other series or was this just — because a lot of Stargate fans were thinking, “OK, the old team’s wearing out. These are the guys that are going to replace them.” Was there any of that?
CS: I think there was speculation. I think they were just spending time looking at options. So I mean, nothing was in the works, per se, but there was sort of general talk about it. I know they were looking at it. But the four of us, our team, as actors, ended up doing other things. I left the city shortly after “Last Stand,” so I was out of the loop for about three years.
GW: Did that have anything to do with Elliot meeting his maker? You were taking off?
CS: I don’t know, actually. I think they coincided. They left his ending somewhat ambiguous. And I think that maybe were I still around there would have been potential for some more Elliot, but I was booked and busy doing other things.
GW: Were you aware of the 3-episode arc from the get-go at that point when you started?
CS: No, actually, I wasn’t. Yeah, it was a nice surprise. I think originally Hailey was supposed to continue as well. We were supposed to move on, maybe — I’m not sure what happened. But yeah, I’m not sure how they’re writing these things. They don’t necessarily give characters knowledge of future events. But I think if you have a solid foundation, which I think we had in “Proving Ground,” it was easy for them to write something else, which they did.
GW: Originally for “Summit” and “Last Stand” JR Bourne was going to return as Martouf and Lantash, and JR couldn’t meet the schedule. And so it was kind of quickly brought up that, “OK, let’s bring back Elliot and see if we can carry on his character, see if we can merge him with Lantash.” Was that surprising that that popped up, or was that like, “Oh, great! Whatever. Let’s do it.”
CS: Sure! I mean, they made the offer and I was happy to accept it. So they didn’t really think too much about it. Yeah.
GW: In “Proving Ground,” you were obviously the leader. Did you do anything, as an actor, to meld with Elizabeth, David, and — I forgot Satterfield’s actual name — Hailey, Grogan and Satterfield. Did you do anything to get it so that on camera it looked like you guys had a lot of time in training together?
CS: Not specifically. Shooting TV is really quick. So luckily enough we were able to gel on set. And also we were doing 13-hour days, just the four of us primarily in the show. If you remember the episode there was some other footage of the main characters, but a lot of the team figuring things out. So a lot of this sort of developed on set — and just in between takes, and we’re around the same age, and kind of got on, hung out. And we became good friends afterward — went out for a few beers, and celebrated the end of our mission.
GW: Was there anything rewarding about playing Elliot?
CS: Was there anything rewarding about it? Absolutely, yeah! I thought it was a really well-crafted role. I though it was well written and it was a nice character arc, in his journey. We get to see him deliberate and get his wings, basically, and make a few errors, and then come up big in the end. It’s a bit of a hero role. It’s kind of nice.
GW: For a series like Stargate, not all of these characters really get to have a complete arc. I mean, he started off from A and ended up at F. You really got a full circle case to it. He started off as naïve and ended up sacrificing himself.
CS: Yeah, I mean that’s always rewarding when you can have a character that has a complete journey. That’s rewarding as an actor.
GW: Who of the principal cast did you most enjoy working with? You worked extensively with Amanda in “Summit” and “Last Stand,” and O’Neill, Richard Dean Anderson, in “Proving Ground.”
CS: Well, everyone was great. I think Amanda and I really hit it off. She’s just a joy on set, and really buoyant, fun, and funny. She’s a gas. And she’s from Toronto and she was involved with the theater scene there, and I had a theater background so we were able to work through that. We knew some of the same people. So, yeah, that always helps.
GW: So you pretty much kicked it off with Amanda.
CS: Well, everyone as well. Rick’s a good guy as well. He’s the star of the show. That’s always a good energy to be around. What he says goes, and he has some power. He’s a good guy.
GW: Did you become acquainted with Lantash and his past before taking on the symbiote at the end of “Summit?” Did you have a background of Lantash, where he’d come from and his love affairs, and et cetera, et cetera?
CS: Yeah, it’s backstory, so we had to talk about that.
GW: What did you find appealing about Lantash?
CS: I guess the love affairs that you mentioned, the romance. That’s kind of appealing.
GW: So after you blended with Lantash it was like, “Oh, Major Carter!”
CS: Yeah, maybe that’s why we got on so well! (Laughter)
GW: Did you regret the journey — so far, as far as we know — did you regret the journey had to end in “Last Stand,” despite the fact that you had to move away?
CS: Sure! Like I said, it’s a really good group, and a good family. I would’ve loved to spend some more time with the crew. It’s good work, and an enjoyable show. Those two things, like good people and a good show — absolutely, yeah.
GW: Do you think we’ve seen the last of Elliot and Lantash?
CS: I have no idea! I mean, who knows when this show will stop. They have to stop shooting some time! So I don’t think there’s a lot of time left to bring Elliot back. But I’ve certainly forgot about it, being a few years now, but yeah! Should they want to, absolutely! I’d be game.
GW: What can you tell us about Keras and Stargate Atlantis? At this point the episode will have already aired, so kind of a rehash.
CS: It’s actually, again, another nice role. I’ve been really pleased with what Stargate has offered me. Again, another full journey. This one, I suppose in comparing Keras and Elliot, like I mentioned before, Elliot being more selfish and kind of find some — he has this revelation. Keras already has a great deal of responsibility on his shoulders. He’s the leader of a society that, at 25, they kill themselves. And it’s been going on for 400 years.
GW: 400? Wow.
CS: Yeah. So it’s their religion, basically. It’s the way things happen. And then he gets some information from the Stargate team that says, “This might not be the way you have to do it.”
GW: Probably rocked his world a little.
CS: Well, exactly! Exactly. So that’s one of the exciting things. I’m going, “Oh, my God! But it’s been this way forever. You can’t be seriously telling me that that’s not true.” And then he goes through that journey and realizes by the end of it that that doesn’t have to be the way.
What also has to weigh in, not just himself, but the responsibility of the society. Because he’s not just thinking about his own well-being. He’s thinking about several hundred people. So yeah, if he doesn’t kill himself and the new information is wrong, then everyone suffers, and he’s basically obliterated a society. So that’s weighing on his shoulders.
GW: So at this point — so you’re saying he’s like 25 in the episode? So he’s ready to terminate himself, I imagine. OK. And is he going to appoint another leader?
CS: Well, the way it works — actually it’s on the eve of his 25th birthday. So when he turns 25, or when anyone in the society turns 25, they make a sacrifice, killing themselves. It’s been going on forever. And if they don’t do it, the society does it for them.
GW: So to keep the Wraith at bay, they do that?
CS: Yeah. And then whoever is next in line, whoever is the eldest, becomes the leader.
GW: If you had the chance to play either character in another Stargate episode, which would you chose?
CS: Of Keras or Elliot? Oh, wow. Can I do both? I don’t know! I mean — Keras, maybe, because he’s fresher.
GW: A little less explored.
CS: Yeah, I mean that’s just been a few months ago that we shot the episode, whereas like I said Elliot has been a few years. But it’d be interesting to go back a few years later and explore a character.
GW: Well, considering their track record with bringing a people back that’s a pretty good possibility. Would you be up for that?
CS: Absolutely! Yeah, yeah.
GW: Do you believe Atlantis has potential?
CS: I think so, yeah. I think so. One of the nice things about being on that set was that there’s just an ease and a calm in the show. Sometimes a new show can have that kind of frantic energy; but this show is smooth and running. It’s a well-oiled machine. But I think it’s because they’ve had the history that’s a lot of the same people from SG-1, and same writers. And I think that they’ll have a lot of the fan base, a lot of them will be interested to check it out. And I think with good writing, good actors, I think it’ll be a good show.
GW: From the actor’s point of view, how are the two shows similar and different? You’ve had the great opportunity of being a part of both. Obviously it’s probably more oiled now than it was even in year five. What are the similarities and differences about working on each program?
CS: The nice thing about it [Atlantis] is that it is new. When I went into SG-1 it was year five, and it’s been around for a while. But it knows what it’s doing — whereas Atlantis is still exploring, but it’s in a good way. Like I said, it’s not crazy energy and scattered. It’s young.
GW: That had to be more freeing as an actor.
CS: Absolutely! There’s a lot of energy. People aren’t necessarily: “Do you want to try?” “Yeah, sure, let’s try that!” And open to exploring, and always leaving storylines open. And they’re not sure, as you say — who knows how long it will go. I’m sure Stargate didn’t know it was going to go for so many seasons.
GW: You’ve brought us to Granville Island, the Arts Club Theater. Can you tell us what you’re up to here?
CS: Ah, yes! I’m opening a play this evening, actually. We have a matinee in a couple hours, then we’re opening tonight. It’s a play called The Number 14. It’s based on a bus. It doesn’t run anymore. This plays’ been going on for about 12 years, on and off. I’ve been a part of it for two weeks. It was a bus that ran from the skids to the posh part of town. It’s a broad physical comedy, completely different from Stargate! But it’s full of characters — lots of mask work, very theatrical, and it’s just laugh-a-minute. The reason it’s so popular is people just come and bust a gut. It’s really quite funny. It’s a joy to be a part of.
GW: Are you working on anything else right now, or is that your priority?
CS: That’s it, for now. Then I have — I do quite a bit of theater, so I’m doing another play. I just got back from Norway with a play. Actually just after shooting Atlantis I went to Norway with this play that I’ve been doing for a while. That comes in and out of my life. It’s another movement piece. We were in London, Australia, New Zealand this year.
GW: My goodness!
GW: So you went touring!
CS: Yeah! It’s been getting me around.
GW: Well, best of luck to your theater productions and acting. And we sure hope to see you again in the future of Stargate!
GW: Thanks a lot!
CS: A pleasure!
The Arts Club Theatre