Beware of SPOILERS up through Atlantis‘s Season Two episode “Runner” in this interview!
Shortly after the announcement that a new character named Ronon Dex would be added to the ensemble cast of Stargate Atlantis, GateWorld reported that Rainbow Sun Francks (Aiden Ford) would reduced to recurring character status. As anticipated, this disturbed many fans who felt that the character, and the actor, never had a sufficient chance to prove himself in the freshman series. Consequently several campaigns have arisen.
In this very special, very candid interview, Rainbow shares his full range of feelings for the most recent developments, from reworking Ford’s psyche to pumping iron for the new direction he will be taking in the show’s second season.
Please note: This chat was originally not intended for GateWorld’s typical Q&A interview format. Consequently large portions of GateWorld’s own dialogue have not been transcribed, save for the questions that are asked. The audio version contains the full conversation, and is about 33 minutes long.
Now you can listen to the chat here at GateWorld, or download it to your MP3 player and take it with you!
GateWorld: What was your first thought when you found out you wouldn’t be a regular in Season Two?
Rainbow Sun Francks: Actually it wasn’t really such a blow. It was something that we, myself and Brad [Wright, executive producer], had spoken about. It wasn’t a bad thing taken by me at all.
[In] Season One my character didn’t have the development that we though it would. It didn’t get the chance because there weren’t enough episodes. It was something that happened, and it wasn’t a bad thing. We took it as now I have the chance to be there, and when I’m there I actually have a purpose. My character is going on a great story arc that’s going to help with the season, and it’s going to be a big part of it. It’s going to be a part of the story, finally. And that’s something that I think I waited for. So less episodes but more actual work. That’s more important to all of us, I think.
I think it’s all for the good of the series, and having me there as a “Yes man” or a “No man” isn’t as important as having me there as a monumental character. I didn’t really have any bad feelings. The only bad feeling was financial. But other than that, as an artist, I think it’s one of the greatest things that could have happened.
We’re both extremely happy with what’s been written so far. Martin Gero has definitely written a great first script. And we’re really just excited to see where this character is going to go. It’s going to be very different.
There was no hard feelings. It wasn’t like I felt bad about it. I felt very good because I knew that I was going to get to work. And I was going to get to do good work and they were going to write some really cool stuff for me.
The minute we found it out, in the same meeting it was like, “Alright, we’re going to bring you back as recurring.” We instantly were coming up with great ideas. It was like, “Alright, this is where this character can go now.” And that was really cool, in the same meeting. It wasn’t like, “Oh, no. I need a week to figure out life …” It was like, “OK, so what are we going to do?” It was really cool. So it’s definitely going to be a better thing than a worse thing.
GW: How many episodes of Season Two are you presently appearing in, that you know for sure?
RF: It’s undetermined as of yet. I’m not sure how many it’s going to go. I’ll definitely be there for at least three.
GW: Do you think that there is a chance that Ford will return to the team full-time, depending on what direction he’s going to go in? Do you think there’s a chance that it’ll be better for your character to return as a full-time character?
RF: I think that one of the things that’s so beautiful about sci-fi and so beautiful about Rob [Cooper, executive producer] and Brad, who have been doing this for such a long time, is that they are masters of creating great stories that give them a way in or a way out. And that’s what great writing is all about. I think they’re masters of that, and so I think that the way the character is going is going to build a lot of interest. The fans are going to really like Ford now. And if they don’t like him, they’ll still like him for that reason — they will be interested in him.
So that’s really important. And as far as coming back, I personally would love to come back on the show as a regular. I love doing the show. It’s my favorite thing to do and it still will be this year. So, as far as coming back, I think it’s always an option. I’m not dying and as long as I’m alive they can bring me back. That’s sort of the world that we’re playing in, which is the great thing about sci-fi. It’s not a soap opera.
GW: Exactly. Well, there’s a little bit of that.
RF: Yeah, but it’s not a soap opera, and that’s the great thing! [Laughter]
GW: I keep thinking of the Daniel Jackson analogy that everyone’s been throwing at this. It got to a point where it was better for that character to return because of the things that were happening to him. His ascension brought in a whole new dimension of realism for the character and a whole new set of options for his return.
RF: Completely! And I think that’s exactly what it is. Ford was supposed to be this thing and it turned out that he couldn’t be written to the fullest extent of what that was, and so let’s rework him. That was sort of the idea — let’s take some time off and rework him. And I think that’s what is happening, and I think that’s what is going to make him great. Now you get a chance to have a character that people already know. Now he’s going to take a little turn, for better or for worse, but he’ll be interesting.
And I think that’s the thing that we all really needed for Ford. People like Ford because he’s a great guy, and he is. But let’s show some background. Now we can create background in the forefront, which is kind of cool. We can write what his background will be right now, because it’s brand new. Right now, everything you know, the turn that Ford is going to take — it’s like we’re creating a new character, but people are already associated with him. So it’s going to be great. I’m really excited.
GW: In your honest opinion, do you feel the Powers That Be could’ve given both you and Aiden more than a single season to prove yourself and your importance to the series as a permanent fixture? As a regular?
RF: I think, yes. I think, yes — there could’ve been more time given. I think in Season Two they could’ve made him more interesting. But I think, more than that, they want to make sure that a hit show has lots of twists and lots of this and that. Something had to happen and I just happened to be the one, and that’s cool because now I’m getting something good out of it.
GW: This is going to make this character more dynamic.
RF: Yes. And for me, as an actor, to be truthful, I would rather have what’s happening now happen to my character because I love the way the story arc is going. The character arc is much cooler than trying to make Ford interesting in Season Two. So I think it’s definitely going to work out for the best.
But I think that’s just the way it goes. They thought something was missing from the show, and that it was — hopefully, if it happens the right way, we’ll see this season — but that was the character of Ronon. And we’ll figure out whether that works. I have no idea as far as that. But as far as Ford, someone had to go and no one knew anything about me, so I had the most opportunity to be changed or be shifted around.
GW: Well I remember sitting in bed watching “Thirty Eight Minutes” air the first time on The SCI FI Channel. And after you slam into the wall of the Jumper and try and nudge it through the Stargate, you turn to David [Hewlett] with your hat crooked and yell, “What are we gonna do?” And at that moment I knew that I wanted to see this character develop.
RF: Oh, thank you.
GW: We know that there are some big changes in store for the character, but will he still essentially be Ford? Will his personality be altered or will he evolve in some other way?
RF: As far as the first episode — the first episode that you see, “The Siege, Part 3,” that’s going to be the beginnings of a slight change. He is going to be changed. It’s more like he’s going to have two voices now than one. He’s going to be the same Ford but you’re going to see some of maybe what you wanted to see the first season. If he’s supposed to be this crazy military weapons master and secret black-ops fighter, you’re going to get to see more of that in his personality than him just saying, “Hey, I’d love for you to take me for a ride in that Puddle Jumper!”
That’s basically what it is. There’s not going to be as much “cute Ford,” is the way to put it. But he’ll still be Ford. He’s not going to be turning into a Wraith. It’s not going to be any of that stuff. He turns into a bit of a rogue and he’s very confused. So in that confusion, I’m sure he’s confused a bit about who he is because of what he’s going through.
So, yeah, there is going to be some change. But at the root of it all there’s still definitely the kid with the smile that everyone knows and loves. He’s still there.
GW: That directly relates to a question that a friend of mine asked me to ask you. Are we going to see more of buff Ford?
RF: Me, I’m a skinny guy, so it’s hard to see a lot. Maybe not Season One, but I think throughout the season you’ll definitely see a change. And I’ve made that a mental point to get a little bigger because it’s really going to help with my character, but I can’t do it for the first one because that’s the beginning of the change.
I’d say working out and all that stuff, it’ll take me about four or five months to get really, noticeably bigger without juicing, and I’m not doing that! [Laughter] I’m not hitting the cycle for Stargate! So it’ll take me a bit, plus I’m skinny so it’s hard for me to gain weight.
But I definitely have been thinking that for a while. As soon as we’re done with this first episode I want to get in. It’ll be good for the character. It’s cool, because I am going to be a lot stronger and I’d like for that to be visible. I think, even if it doesn’t call for it, it will be a welcome addition if it is there. And plus I can do shots with my shirt off — and everyone loves that.
GW: I know very little about the plot of “Runner,” but what I do know is that Dex is going to come in, and Beckett’s going to take care of him somehow, and he’s going to be integrated into the team in some way. The question that I’ve been asking myself: Is Ford going to take his place as a “runner?”
RF: Oh, that’s a great question. I never even thought of that. No, he’s not, but that would be really cool. That’d be a great idea. Ford’s definitely going in a different direction than everybody else. Ford is really confused. He needs some time to find himself.
GW: Basically he’s going to be the young Indian boy going off into the wilderness.
RF: Yeah, he’s going on a journey. Not a peyote journey! He’s not going to find himself that way!
He’s not going to be taking Ronon’s place. But “Runner” is an interesting conundrum, so to speak, for Ford. It’s one of Ford’s episodes that he’s in, but it’s also an introduction to Dex.
So the hard part for me is a script where you introduce a new character — that’s going to be more than an A-story. That’s going to be an A-B-story, which leaves me (with my very few episodes) with a C-story. For me that’s tough. It’s tough that definitely the edit is going to be geared towards him no matter what. I just hope that I do get to do my part. I’ll find out once I read it.
That’s just the natural reaction. Let’s say I’m guaranteed these three, and now one of them is the beginning of the season, so I’m a B-story in that. And then the other one is an introduction of a new character. So I’m left with one out of three that may or may not be me as an A-story.
So that’s tough. But I look forward to it at the same time because that means one of my stories in the season is going to be one of the most watched, guaranteed, because it’s the introduction of this new character. So there’s plus and minus on that side. I’m very interested in exploring where this character is going. It’s pretty cool, what’s happening. I’ve got some physical changes and some stuff that’s going to be very cool.
GW: Completely on the record — I don’t care how limiting that is, it’s fine — but how do these two stories … obviously you just said that Ford is not going to take the place of Dex. How do these two stories intertwine? What happens to Dex that changes Ford, or do they have anything to do with each other?
RF: Ford and Ronon Dex have a run-in. We run into each other. That’s funny: In the story “Runner,” we run into each other. Very fitting. I think that’s the cross right there. That’s the catalyst for everything. We have a meeting. It’s off-world. It’s not on Atlantis. He’s a runner, so you can obviously figure out that he’s running somewhere. We run into each other completely independently.
Ford’s going to be changing in the first episode in the first scene. The first thing you’re going to see is something happening to Ford. Ford gets hurt. Ford gets injured — that’s all I can say.
GW: I’d like to double back a little bit. Are there any scenes from year one that you’re just very attached to?
RF: Yeah, there’s a couple that I really like. Definitely the first one that comes to mind was when McKay thinks he’s going to die in “Hot Zone.” He says, “Say goodbye to my sister,” and everything. That was just a really well-edited scene.
It was a really tough day for David. I remember he had nine pages of dialogue he had to remember — just a ridiculous day for him. And it was at the end of the day, and he nailed it. It was just great to be a part of. Big sigh of relief when they closed that shot — I was just really happy. And when I watched it, it was just as good as when I was there. And I really loved that — I thought that was a really great scene.
Other than that, in the pilot, in “Rising,” when Ford and Sheppard first get into the Puddle Jumper, and he starts the joke of “We’ll name it later.” That was really big for me because that turned into something that the writers thought was funny enough that they used it again. Later on I was like, “Life-signs detector?” “Yeah, we’ll name it later.” And yet again in another episode it’s like, “Oh, transporter?” “We’ll name it later.” So that was a monumental scene just because it was something that worked and I got to be a part of that, so that was really cool.
For my particular character in “Childhood’s End,” when they learn that there’s a great little camaraderie that McKay, Ford, and Teyla go through in the circle when we find out that they kill themselves at that age — and especially since Ford would’ve died one year previously. So that was a cool moment. That’s all in the writing, though. I just thought that was a great little piece of writing.
One of my other favorite lines: In “The Siege” we are looking for a place to leave Atlantis because we’re going to be attacked by the Wraith. And Bates has just finished being suspicious, as usual, of Teyla. He’s with Weir. “We’re getting gate activity. It’s Sheppard’s team. They’re in trouble. They’re coming back.” So we come through shooting guns, through the Stargate backwards, shooting. They close the gate. We turn around and Bates just lays into Teyla. “I knew you were bad for the team! The Wraith seem to always come whenever you’re there!”
And, my favorite part: Sheppard goes, “Wraith? We weren’t attacked by the Wraith. We were attacked by — what was that again?” And he looks over at me, and I go, “Looked an awful lot like a T-Rex, sir.” He’s like, “Yeah, it’s a T-Rex!” That was one of my favorites shows to do. That was just great. In the original script, Martin had written a huge scene where we actually fight a T-Rex, like all CG. And he brought it to them and they were, like, “Are you kidding me?” That’s what was on the other side of the gate.
And I just think it’s funny because it leaves to the imagination that we went to discover a new world and it was supposed to be uninhabited and safe, and we run into dinosaurs and we end up running for our lives! He’s like, “That wasn’t the Wraith? What’d that look like?” And I’m all out of breath. “Looked an awful lot like a T-Rex, sir.” That’s a pretty good line — it’s real quick, but I like that one.
GW: Another good one here that I did not write, someone else did for me: What advice would you, now, give to yourself one year ago? That’s more philosophical, I imagine, but I really like that.
RF: I think … I think I would have spent more time making myself happy than making other people happy. That’s the truth of the matter. I think that if there was any advice to myself I would’ve said, “You’ve been in this industry since you were four and you know what it’s about, so don’t be so nice and such a pushover sometimes.”
I love working, and I’ve worked hard and I’ve got the bumps and bruises to prove it. And I’ve got the mental scarring to prove it. And I think I would’ve told myself to be more selfish sometimes.
GW: In terms of working, has this been the toughest year of your life?
RF: No. No, because it’s been fun at the same time. I think it’s been the toughest work, the most amount. It was hard for me to get used to the hours and how quickly we go through episodes and how quickly we shoot. We shoot quicker than almost any other show. The amount of work and how quick it goes and how prepared you have to be.
And I think that’s another thing that I would’ve given advice to myself, too: More preparation. Spend more time in preparation.
GW: I can’t count the number of people who have said, “If there wasn’t laughter, we would have died.”
RF: Yeah, definitely. And if we didn’t get along, all of us as cast members — and not only that. We’ve got Brad, who is one of the kindest creator / executive producers that you could ever have. And John Smith is a great executive producer and really cares about the cast and helps us in everything that we do.
That’s a part of it. And then having the SG-1 cast welcome me and really love me. Michael Shanks and Chris Judge to be exact, really took me as their little brother. They really loved me and I love them for it. They helped me so much just with their kindness. I think they’re some of the kindest gentleman that I’ve ever met. I’m so happy to have them as friends and mentors and everything else on this show. Perfect.
GW: The fan response since the announcement that you were not going to be coming back as a regular? How do you feel about that — the reaction?
RF: What do you think it’s been?
GW: I think it’s pretty powerful, personally. I think it’s been expected that people would react this way — I mean the “Bring Ford Back” campaign.
RF: I’ll tell you what — I absolutely adore that it’s like that now. I think it’s incredible that now people are speaking up now that they’re saying I’m going to be gone. It’s hard for me, because on one hand I visited the message boards while we were in Season One and there wasn’t as much interest in Ford. So it’s one of those things that it’s human nature where you don’t miss something until it’s gone. And now they want to see, “Oh, you could’ve built him up!” I wish they would’ve done that before. It would help.
And nothing is in vain that the audience gives, especially on a show like Stargate, more than any other. We do this show for our fans and that’s the feeling around all of the production and around all the writers, and around everyone. Everything that every fan writes — and everyone in the office checks the message boards all the time because these people are so smart and watch with such detail and care. That’s something that the fans do.
And that’s why I love being a part of Stargate, is that something like the “Save Ford Campaign” can happen, and that there is a board on GateWorld that can facilitate that. I think that’s the thing that’s wonderful. Whether it’s in vain or whether it’s whatever, I think that the thing that’s important is there is a way for me to know that people care. And I thank them so much for it, really.
I know that this is a long-winded answer. I’ve never really thought of it. I think it’s wonderful. I’m overwhelmed. When I first went online — I didn’t have Internet in my house for a long time. I got it and I just went on GateWorld because I hadn’t been on for our whole hiatus. This was after the announcement and after all that. And I went on and I just read all the posts about Ford and stuff, and it was amazing. It almost brought me to tears that people were actually caring because I didn’t feel like people did care about Ford, so it was nice to read that. It’s incredible.
And to see people sign up, and then some people that have their own opinions about Ford come in defense. I thought that was great. I felt that I never got that before. In reading the boards I really haven’t had a problem with people having negative opinions about Ford, because there wasn’t enough to be negative about. There wasn’t anything for them to say bad things about, really.
So I’ve been very excited. And my friends all said, “Oh, God, we went on this board and they’ve got this thing and you can sign it.” And all my friends signed it!
GW: One of the petitions?
RF Yeah, I love it. It’s great. For me as an actor it’s like, “My God, these people care about my well-being and my career.”
GW: You were saying that the producers, the Powers That Be, they read the boards. I’ve got one of Thomasina Gibson’s books here and I’ve got a quote by Brad in it. The question was: “Why don’t you listen to the fans more?” And he says, “We do listen, and then we make the show the way we think it should be made. There’s just no other way to make television.”
RF: You know what? And that’s the truth. That is the truth of how they do it. But I think the fact that they actually do listen — it’s a huge thing, and you’d be surprised at how many times it’s come up where they remember something that was on the boards. I’ve sat there and heard them say, “Yeah, but remember …” And it was something that a fan had said that brought something to light, or brought an option because they mistook something from how it was actually written. Tons of times. All the time it happens.
That’s the power of your Web site, and having all these opinions. Even though there’s a bunch of knuckleheads on there sometimes there’s a lot of great people on there who have some valid ideas. One of them is the “Save Ford Campaign!”
GW: The “F.O.R.D.?”
RF: Yeah. That’s hilarious.
GW: Another question: Have you finished your solo album yet?
RF: No. Still working on it. I will let you guys know. I’ll send out a bunch of copies that you guys could give to people. How cool is that that you asked me that question? That shows what kind of fans that we have and what kind of people we have that watch the show. How great is that? For me it’s the coolest thing ever.
When I go to a convention or when I go meet our fans or anyone that’s out there on the street that’s not a Rainbow fan as much as a Stargate fan, I love it that they have such an in-depth look. But it’s not a creepy in-depth look into our lives. It’s all the interesting stuff. “These are your hobbies. What’s up? Are you still doing this?” For me it’s cool because it shows interest more than just, “So, is Ford going to die?” It’s nice. It makes you work harder and it makes you like the people that you’re talking to, instead of thinking they’re asses.
GW: Can you fill me in as to what kind of type of an album it is?
RF: This one’s going to run the gauntlet a little bit. I guess it’s sort of like really jazzy hip-hop, rapping and stuff. There’s nothing bad. It’s all just very truthful and emotional. It’s female-friendly. That’s a big thing actually. We’re not disrespectful to anyone. My group is totally multi-cultural. We’ve got almost one of everything. And it works out really well. We’re really passionate about our music. We’ve been doing it, I guess 12 years now.
It’s going to be a while, because I just got another movie and I’m doing this show. I’ve got to keep food on the table with acting because music doesn’t pay the bills!