Like its sister show, part of what makes Stargate Atlantis a hit is its strong cast of characters — both series regulars and the all-important weekly guest stars. In the upcoming Atlantis episode “The Brotherhood”, viewers will meet actress Jana Mitsoula, who plays the beautiful archaeologist Allina.
Jana has also made guest appearances on such series as Tru Calling, The Twilight Zone, and Days of Our Lives, and plays young Elektra’s mother in the new comic book action movie Elektra.
With her first Stargate episode only days away in the U.S., Jana talks exclusively to GateWorld about her experience filming, what she thinks about her character, and working with the cast and crew — particularly David Hewlett (“Dr. McKay”). “The Brotherhood” makes its U.S. debut on The SCI FI Channel on Friday, February 25!
GateWorld: How aware were you of Stargate, and Atlantis in particular, before being cast in “The Brotherhood?”
Jana Mitsoula: I personally love sci-fi, so I had seen Stargate the movie and the series SG-1. When I heard about Atlantis I thought the concept was great. I feel there’s a fine line between truth and fiction, and these shows give us the freedom to explore and discover answers to the unknown.
GW: Had you done any science fiction work before? Do you have a particular genre or type of roll that you look for?
JM: Other than a short film called “Apocalypse Soon,” this was my first televised sci-fi experience.
As far as a particular roll or genre goes I do prefer the more mystical, sci-fi stories. I think for an actor these types of roles give me more freedom to play.
GW: So tell us about your character and her impact on the storyline in this episode.
JM: Allina is an archeologist from the planet Dagan. She’s searching for a “Potentia” that was put into hiding ten thousand years ago. The Atlantis team approaches her in hopes of uncovering the power source which Atlantis is in need of. Allina is their first real lead to finally finding a Z.P.M.
GW: Now all of your shooting days on this episode were on location, correct? Where in Vancouver was the episode shot? Have you been to The Bridge Studios, and seen the show’s standing sets?
JM: We did the exterior shots about an hour out of Vancouver at a place called High Point, in Surrey. It’s a sandy desert with tons of wasps.
We shot the interior scenes in Bridge Studios; I was extremely excited to see all the Atlantis sets. I asked Rainbow, who plays Lieutenant Ford on the show, to give me a tour. It was pretty high-tech and alien looking. And I was surprised how big the Stargate really is!
GW: Can you characterize Allina for us with a single word?
GW: What do you think her motivations are? Does she come across in “The Brotherhood” as a black-and-white character, or do you think she maybe has some shades of grey?
JM: She has a deep purpose and nothing will detour her from accomplishing it. “Colorful” is the word I would use.
GW: Do you like playing either antagonists or protagonists any more than the other?
JM: I have to admit playing the antagonist can be a lot more exiting, because I get to be someone I’m normally not. But overall I have no preference to either.
GW: What do you think the producers were looking for that distinguished you for this role?
JM: Beauty and brains.
GW: And you seem to have these in abundance! Tell us a little about the casting process that you went through.
JM: It’s pretty simple: prepare, prepare, prepare. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the director Martin [Wood] and the writer Martin [Gero] were both in the room, which is always a plus. (Sometimes it’s just me, the reader, and a camera.)
I asked a few questions in regards to the direction of Allina’s feelings towards Dr. McKay (seeing how I didn’t have access to the script) and then I just did my thing. In this case, there were no call-backs and I found out later that day I had the part.
GW: Allina apparently does develop quite a crush on Dr. McKay. What were your first thoughts of David Hewlett when you were first introduced?
JM: Oh my god, he’s so cute. [Laughter]
David was extremely engaging and a lot of fun to work with. He was always cracking jokes and had me in stitches.
GW: Was it difficult at all for you to play up the infatuation with McKay, or is “genius” your type?
JM: I actually love smart guys with a little nerd in them. I find them sexy, interesting, and much more open to change than the “cool” guys who are pretty much set in their macho ways.
GW: Well then, David is your man. We had a chance to interview him last year, and he’s anything if not smart and sexy. And I say that in the manliest way possible. He’s so unlike the arrogant and self-absorbed character he plays.
JM: Yes, he’s very down to earth and funny.
GW: How do the Genii impact your character and her people?
JM: How they always do … they’ve always gotta crash the party.
GW: What is the “Brotherhood” to which the episode’s title refers?
JM: The “Brotherhood,” also known as the “Quindoism,” is an inner circle of 15 monks whose sole job was to keep the Potentia safe — one master handler, five protectors, and nine stone carriers.
GW: Did the script reveal anything about the Daganian’s religious or cultural history that led to the development of the Brotherhood and the revering of an Ancient device like the Z.P.M.?
JM: Absolutely. The Daganians are a humble race who respect and preserve history. They believe the Atlanteans will return one day.
GW: Are these the kind of details that you as an actor might want to fill in your own mind during the production, if they haven’t been fleshed out by the writer? Or do you just work more straight from the page?
JM: All of the above. I always like to have my own backstory regardless of how straight off the page something is. I try my best to be unique while staying true to the story and tone of the show. Martin, once again, was great to work with because he was open to collaborating with the actors over these details.
GW: What do you think is the most appealing aspect about working on Atlantis?
JM: Cool sets, cool costumes, and the feeling of adventure. I felt like Indiana Jones searching for a lost treasure.
GW: And what was the most stressful part of it?
JM: During one of the excavating scenes, I was attacked by a swarm of wasps. They continued to land on me during scenes which forced me to keep cool and not freak out. Very stressful!
GW: What are your impressions of the show’s regular cast?
JM: Absolutely lovely — everyone on the show was a pleasure to work with. There is a family-like feeling on set between them all.
GW: That has to be better than an “all work, no play” atmosphere, or worse still a set with hostilities. But do you think it’s in any way a challenge for a guest actor to come onto a show with a tight-knit group like that for a one-shot episode?
JM: Sure, it can happen if you’re sensitive, I guess. I’m there to do a job and I do it whether someone is nice to me or not. It’s always great to get along with everyone on set, but it’s not always like that. So I really just focus on my work and don’t allow that kind of stuff to bother me.
GW: What are your impressions of the crew? How did the experience compare with other work you have done?
JM: The crew was awesome and the director / producer, Martin Wood, was a blast to work with. He is very personable and always joined in on the jokes. In my experience, the director sets the tone on set, and when you’ve got a down to earth person running the show you’ll have a happy and creative crew to work with.
I’ve been on sets where it’s like walking on egg shells … not a lot of fun.
GW: Is there anything in the episode that fans should keep an eye out for?
JM: “Things aren’t always what they seem.”
GW: I know it’s been several months now since you were actually working on Atlantis. What sorts of things from the experience have stuck with you the most?
JM: Really, just how much fun I had.
GW: How do you hope fans will remember Allina? As a heroine? Sympathetic? A manipulator?
JM: I’ll let you decide!
GW: Does the episode’s ending open an opportunity for your return?
JM: Like most episodes of SG-1, if you don’t die chances are “you’ll be back.”
GW: Well, if you could return to the series in another capacity, perhaps as another character, how would you prefer it be?
JM: An Atlantean goddess who’s risen from the depths to evolve the human race.
GW: Do you think you might like to attend a Stargate fan convention one of these days? Sign autographs, talk on stage in front of hundreds of fans with cameras — many actors, especially when they aren’t series regulars, have described the experience as kind of surreal.
JM: Are you kidding? I would love to experience that — the costumes, the glam, and the commitment to the sci-fi community. Bring it on!
GW: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Do you have any upcoming work that fans can keep an eye out for?
JM: You can check me out in Elektra playing young Elektra’s mom and Tru Calling playing Detective Gomez, if and when Season Two gets released.
I’m also up for a role in a cool independent film called The Walking Man. I love the character: she’s the rebellious daughter of an Illuminati family and has the power to shape-shift into any man’s fantasy.