Beware of SPOILERS for all of Season Two and up through Stargate Atlantis‘s third season episode “Irresistible!”
While visiting the sets of Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis, GateWorld took time to sit down with two of our favorites: Jason Momoa and Paul McGillion — Specialist Ronon Dex and Dr. Carson Beckett, respectively. Both are Atlantis co-stars GateWorld has never had the privilege of interviewing.
Jason’s time with us was unfortunately brief, as the actor had to return to the effects stage to continue shooting “Irresistible.” But McGillion was able to stay with us for much longer.
In this interview, the actors reflect on Season Two’s popularity then cross into the third year, expounding on a diverse array of stories. Jason spends most of his time telling us about Robert C. Cooper’s highly anticipated “Sateda.” Paul discusses reaction to the forbidden romance in “Duet” as well as the medical ethics of “Michael.” He also puts out a request to the writing staff in the hopes that the young Scotsman will get more action — in both forms.
GateWorld’s interview with Paul and Jason is available in MP3 audio format for easy listening, and is about 23 minutes long. It is also transcribed below. You can also download the interview to your MP3 player and take GateWorld with you!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, I’m David Read, and I’m with Darren Sumner. We are here with Mr. Jason Momoa, and Paul McGillion.
Paul McGillion: Double trouble.
GW: Yes! Ronon Dex and Dr. Carson Beckett, respectively, on Stargate Atlantis.
Jason Momoa: Dr. B! ‘Sup?!
GW: Gentlemen, how is Season Three treating you thus far?
PM: Fantastic. We’re having a blast. We really are. It’s great. Right now we’re working on an episode called “Irresistible.” It’s a lot of fun. Richard Kind is our guest star. He has a storied past of Mad About You and Spin City, just to name a couple of his accolades.
GW: And the original Stargate.
PM: The original Stargate, sorry. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Really, really fun episode that we’re doing right now. Really fun for all of our characters. It’s a departure from our regular personalities, so to speak, and I think the fans will get a real kick out of it. It’s a lot of fun. I think you’ll see all the main characters in a different light. Absolutely.
GW: And you’re “Mr. Movie Man” this year with this big epic episode that you just shot.
JM: That’s right. [I’m] used to shooting on film. It’s kind of weird going back to HD. [Laughter]
PM: It’s funny because Jason gets to shoot a feature while we’re just doing TV.
GW: Rob has been talking about that like crazy.
JM: Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s such an honor, when he wrote it. Working on it was just amazing. I’ve never done anything like it. It was a fun, fun shoot.
Even this one, “Irresistible.” Like he was saying, different personalities. We never see Ronon laugh. We just take on different characteristics. We get to explore, which is a lot of fun right now.
PM: Back to “Sateda” for a second. I’ve got to tell you. I saw some of the dailies on that. Jason just did just a fantastic job. He’s been such a great asset to the show, coming in after Season Two. He’s just been a pleasure to work with. We have a really great time, and I think we have a great chemistry on the show.
This episode really elaborates on the history of his character, which is fantastic. And interspersed between the action hero — being him in this episode — you get the comedy juxtaposed to that. I think David Hewlett and I have a lot of comedy in the episode. It’s a lot of fun. I’ll tell you right now. I’ve worked with him on a lot of scenes. The kid’s got chops. The kid can act.
JM: Thanks, Paulie! Thanks, Paulie.
GW: Perhaps a more tender side of Ronon?
JM: Oh yeah, yeah, definitely. It goes back into my past. It’s with my wife and my friends dying, and my whole planet. So it’s a lot of tapping into a lot of things that we didn’t get to touch on in the second season. Good stuff for sure.
GW: You also get to do a lot of action work on the show. This episode’s the epitome of it.
JM: Yeah, I’m beat up. Still bruised up. So yeah, it was a good — lot of action. We pulled out everything for it.
PM: I doubled for him a couple of days. I figured, what the heck, right? We look a lot a like, so …
JM: Put the wig on him.
PM: Toss the wig and we just let her rip. Most of the difficult stuff that you see, it’s me.
JM: Most of the slow-mo stuff, jump in there.
PM: Is that — no, it’s Ronon! [Laughter] Shot out of a canon and stuff.
GW: Joe Flanigan has called Ronon his “Chewbacca.” Is this a fair description?
JM: Yeah, that ***hole, he stole it.
PM: From me.
JM: He stole it from me. I’s like, “I’m the Chewbacca!”
PM: I called Jason “Chewbacca meets Marmaduke.” [Laughter]
JM: But yeah, I am. [Laughter] I am definitely Chewbacca. Hewlett’s C-3PO. I don’t know what you are. [Laughter]
GW: Ronon and his character, do you think he’s still the kind of guy who would pull a gun on Sheppard if it suited him?
JM: … Yeah. Well, you know. We’re doing this episode right now. In altered states, yes.
[Jason departs for the set.]
GW: Switching gears here. Looking back on Season Two, how did becoming a regular change your job as an actor?
PM: Well to be honest with you, I always felt like a regular on the series. A few episodes into Season One, the producers had mentioned that they would be interested in having me as a regular, but they couldn’t do it that year. I was in 17 episodes of the first season, so I really felt like part of the team anyway. It changed in the sense of the opening credits, which is great. It was kind of fun for the family and everything.
I think they did elaborate on Beckett’s storylines in the second season a little bit more than the first season, and started writing for Beckett more. So it’s been a great transition, but a very smooth transition at the same time.
GW: The episode “Michael” raised some very interesting moral questions about the treatment of your enemies, particularly concerning medical experimentation. What do you think about that episode, looking back on it?
PM: I think it’s a fantastic episode. I was really excited when I read it. Carl Binder’s such a great writer, and he has a real flare for the humanity and the characters. That’s what I really like in acting. Especially with this character, Dr. Beckett, because I think this character has a lot of humanity. And he does deal with bio-ethical and moral issues that present themselves in that episode. I think it weighs heavily on Beckett. The second season weighs heavily on Beckett.
I think Weir’s character, both of them have a lot of … the Geneva convention is sometimes tossed out the window in space so to speak, and I think that’s something that Carson has a problem with. I think he’s dealing with it slowly in understanding that you are at war with a species. I think that comes into play a lot in that episode.
Also looking back at “Duet” when Carson pulls the gun out. [He] drops his gun and says “I’m a doctor. I can help.” His first instinct is to help. And so this is a struggle for him constantly, which I think makes for interesting character development.
As far as the moral issues, I think it’s a very interesting problem. I think the storyline is further developed in the third season. I think it still weighs heavily on him, whether we’re doing the right thing. Whether you can reverse a Wraith, so to speak. The Wraith originate from the iratus bug. And you look at reversing something, is that moralistic-ly and ethically right to do? I think it’s a very large question, and I don’t think it’s fully answered yet. Did that make any sense at all.
PM: OK, good. [Laughter]
GW: What was the most joyous moment of all of Season Two for you personally, either on screen or off, behind the scenes?
PM: Once David Hewlett stopped kissing me in “Duet.”
PM: Yeah. [Laughter]
GW: How many takes was that?
PM: Too many. Yeah, exactly. He’s still calling me. It’s creepy. The most joyous moment from Season Two? On or off set? Honestly, I just have a blast doing it all. The culmination of the whole season. I feel like the show’s really gaining its legs. I think all the actors, I think the directors, are really gaining an understanding of all the characters and where they’re at, and the relationships are starting to really flourish. To me it’s just such a great experience to come and have a fully flushed-out character. I think Beckett’s a very multi-dimensional character, and I think it’s a great opportunity for any actor to get to play a role like that, so I can’t really pinpoint one particular thing.
There’s so many episodes that I look back and think — like “Duet,” for example. I think David Hewlett was a tour de force in that episode, and it was a pleasure to play his straight man in that episode. And then you go into episodes like “Instinct” and “Michael,” where it’s a darker side of Beckett and a darker side of the character, and an emotional side, which is really nice. I really enjoy the range of the character, so I can’t really pinpoint one thing. But the whole thing’s just been a fantastic ride, and I hope it continues for a while.
GW: What about the most stressful moment for you? Were there any moments? Either the long hours or a grueling scene, or perhaps a moral conundrum that you were facing with reading this script and saying, “You know, I don’t know if Beckett would do that.”
PM: “Michael” is a tricky one, in that case. You talked about a “moral conundrum.” When you look at “Michael,” you think, “How do you approach this as an actor and still keep the integrity that we’ve worked so hard to fight for that character in the writing, and develop this character who has a lot of humanity, comes across the screen with a lot of humanity, and a lot of integrity? At the same time do you want to see him to go too far to the dark side?” I think it’s a very fine line. I spoke to Martin Wood when we were playing that, [were] working that episode. I said “I want to make sure that you don’t lose what we’ve already developed with the character.” And I don’t think we did.
I think you see the internal struggle within the character and I think that’s really apparent, and very important to keep, because I think that’s something the audience can relate to. I think in lots of ways Beckett’s the eyes of the audience on Atlantis. I think he’s the everyman in many ways, and people look at the situation how he might. When it’s crazy, he’s the first one to say it is.
I think he has grown, because I think in the first season, there’s a — I’ve said it before — a very Cowardly Lion aspect to Beckett, and I think he’s growing up with his surroundings. I like that. That’s something I spoke to Brad and Robert about, saying “I’d like the character to grow with his environment. He’s been there for a few years. It makes it more interesting. If you get the same joke over and over again it becomes old after a while.”
But I think we’ve managed to grow with the character, and he’s become more accustomed to flying a Puddle Jumper, going through the gate. Things like that. He gets to go off-world more, and so becomes accustomed to that. I think there still will always be a bit of trepidation in the character but I think that also makes for good comedy.
GW: Alright. Can we go back to “Duet” for a moment?
GW: Have you received any fan mail about the Beckett-McKay kiss, and what has been the overall tone of that? The response.
PM: Any? [Laughter] Yes, a lot. A lot of fan mail. You get teased about it a lot with the fans. They’re very interested.
I think everybody took it like it is. It’s a very lighthearted episode. I think the response was fantastic. I think people really enjoyed it. As far as I know I think it’s the first guy-and-guy kiss in sci fi. As far as I know. Somebody told me that. But you guys would probably know more than I would.
GW: Just about, yeah.
PM: Yeah, somebody mentioned something about that at the time. It was fun to do. I’m glad it was David because we’re really good friends outside of the Atlantis world. We’re both professionals and we knew it was kind of a landmark moment. The crew, of course, really razzes us like crazy. It’s all been very positive, the fan response to the episode. When I talk to people at the convention I went to last year in Australia and England and Paris, they seemed to really enjoy that episode. I heard nothing but good things. That’s always a good sign.
GW: Any chance of Beckett continuing his relationship with Cadman this year, or seeing signs of that in the dialogue even if she doesn’t show up?
PM: I don’t know, as of yet. I don’t know. It would be nice, that’s for sure. And if it’s not Cadman, let’s get somebody else. Come on, for God sakes. [Laughter]
GW: As an actor, is there anything you want to accomplish this year that you have never done before in your career?
PM: In this show.
GW: Yeah. Even if it’s firing a weapon?
PM: Yeah, I’ve been acting for a while, so I’ve done a lot of those things. Actually, you know what? BAMBAM talked about this — the stunt coordinator — but it’d be fun if Beckett gave somebody a head-butt at some point in time. [Laughter] As far as a stunt — a Glaswegian Kiss, they call it. That would be fun if we did that this year some time. That would be kind of a neat thing to do.
GW: Gets desperate enough, he may just have to.
PM: He might have to. But also, the direction the character’s going in right now, I’m very pleased with it. So far I’ve had some great stuff to do in the first few episodes we’ve had, and hopefully it will continue. I just know I’m part of a very large puzzle, and each episode can’t be centered around your character. You know your place and you hope that the writers see the good in your character, and they continue writing good dialogue for you. That’s all I can really hope for.
GW: Well since becoming a series regular, your fans are still waiting for you to have the A-story all to yourself. We haven’t seen that. Is there any chance of that happening this season?
PM: I would certainly hope so. That would be great. I had it in “Poisoning the Well” in the first season. That was, I think, what primarily made me a regular. And the fans. The fans are a huge part. I tell that to every convention I go to that they made me become a regular, and for that I’m eternally grateful.
The response was really tremendous for the character, and that’s just a testament to the fan base. I’ll never forget that. They’re the ones that emailed and wrote in, and went through GateWorld, and said “More Beckett, more Beckett, more Beckett.” And they listened. And that was great. I’m [train approaches] — gonna get hit by a train. [Laughter]. I’m really pleased about that. I hope for that to happen.
“Irresistible,” it’s Richard Kind’s episode, but I have, I think the biggest part with him in the episode. It’s a very good journey for my character. I’m in every day and I’m shooting a lot. I think, out of all the main characters I’ve the most interaction with the guest star in this episode. That’s kind of a Beckett episode. I wont’ say it’s as big as “Poisoning the Well.” I hope that happens, but I’m really happy with where it’s going right now. All you can do is your best, and hopefully they have story lines that can hopefully show off your skills.
GW: We see, like with the kiss in “Duet,” and with Aiden in “The Siege, Part 3” Beckett’s very non-confrontational. He’s not going to push someone away, even if he gets a kiss right on the mouth. Do you see that as a character flaw or part of his innocence?
PM: I think there is an innocence in Beckett. I really do. I think that he didn’t pull away from Rodney in the kiss because he was in a state of shock, so he couldn’t really move. I think Beckett does have an edge to him. He doesn’t mind speaking his mind. I think that’s apparent in several episodes in the past couple of years. But at the same time there is an innocence about the character. He’s not a fighter. He’s a softy at heart. He’s got a big heart, and he wears his heart on his sleeve, and I think that’s what’s nice about the character.
GW: Does he have any flaws besides wearing his heart on his sleeve?
PM: Of course he does. Flawed characters are the most interesting ones.
GW: Lemme ask you, Paul: Looking at Atlantis Season Three as a whole, do you think the show is evolving? How does it compare to Season Two.
PM: We’re fairly new into the season. We’re in episode four of twenty. I’m really happy with where it’s going. Like we mentioned earlier, Jason’s character — the episode “Sateda” is just a monster episode. I think the fans are going to absolutely love it.
The two-parter, the start of the seasons is great. It really tails off nicely from “Allies.” It’s always great. [It’s] hard to continue those to make them make sense and to be entertaining at the same time. I think we’re off to a fantastic start. I’m really excited for the fans to start seeing the episodes in July because I think it’s a great way to start the year.
When we get into “Irresistible,” I think it’s hilarious. I think “Irresistible,” so far, is the “Duet” of Season Two. As far as comedy goes. And Richard Kind is doing a bang-up job. The script is hilarious. Not often when you read a script you’re just laughing — nonstop laughing. It’s so much fun to play. Like I said, everyone’s just a little bit outside of where they normally are, which makes it really, really funny. Hopefully it all cuts together well. And I’m really happy with where it’s going.
As far as in the big picture, it’s too early to know. If it was mid-season and you asked me that question I could probably give you a more astute answer, but as of right now I feel like it’s going in a great direction.
GW: You recently had another acting job playing a science fiction soap opera star.
GW: Tell us a little bit about A Dog’s Breakfast.
PM: A Dog’s Breakfast. David Hewlett in “A Dog’s Breakfast.” Great experience. It’s so much fun to be able to work with David. I think we have a lot of chemistry on the show and we’re really great friends. He approached me last year with a script that he had written and wanted to direct and be one of the stars in, and asked me to be the co-star in it as well. I was really honored. It’s just a fantastic script. I loved it. I just couldn’t put it down when I was reading it. It is hilarious. I don’t mind saying that because it really is. Hopefully the finished product is. I haven’t looked at anything. He has a rough cut already. It was just a lot of fun.
I play Ryan. I’m in a soap opera called Star Crossed, a sci fi soap opera. My hair is blonde in it, highlighted, and I also play a couple different roles in it as well besides that — I won’t give that away though. And I think the audiences of the Stargate shows are going to crack up when we see this. [Laughter] [You’re] going to see a completely different side to all of our characters. David does a fantastic job in it, and Kate Hewlett, David’s sister who plays my fiancée in the film, that’s terrific. And of course, Christopher Judge is in there for a nice cameo, and Rachel Luttrell’s doing a cameo as well. It’s great.
John Lenic produced it with Jane Loughman, David’s girlfriend, so it was really in-house. Almost all the crew from SG-1 were doing it with us. All the keys … What a smooth transition before we start going through the season. It was a great warm-up for that.
It rained almost every single day we shot which was a little tough, but the spirit on set was fantastic, and apparently the finished product is looking really good. I’m going to wait until they have sound and all that kind of stuff. I like to be surprised, because I’ve already done it. There’s not much I can do now. We still have second unit. We’re going to shoot in two weeks, I think, to finish some insert stuff, but it was a great experience.
GW: A lot of viewers often think the actor in real life is very-much like the character he plays. A lot of sci fi fans in particular. In their imagination, this character and this actor are one in the same. If you could make one distinction between your character and yourself, what would it be.
PM: I probably get lucky more than Beckett does. [Laughter] Is that OK? [Laughter] I think every character is an extension of the actor, to a certain degree, and I think that’s a good thing about acting. I think you have to bring a bit of yourself to every role, whether it’s the dark side or the comedic side or the sensitive side. I think that makes for honest performances. That’s something I try to do.
I’m not going to say Beckett’s exactly like me, but there’s parts of me that are definitely like that character, for sure. I think that hopefully rings true when it comes across on screen.
GW: What are your hopes this season for Beckett the character and McGillion the actor?
PM: Beckett the character — I’d like to see him go offworld even more. It’s a lot of fun. I think he really enjoys it. I’ll speak as Beckett right now. I’ll speak with a Scottish accent. [Switches to Beckett] I think that Beckett enjoys that, enjoys going offworld. It’s absolutely fantastic. He likes the adventure. He’d like to meet some more ladies, I’m sure. He’d like to get in a few tussles, a few scraps now and then would not be bad. Develop some new medicines for mankind, and find a planet with some good Guiness. [Laughter]
[Switches to McGillion] Paul the actor would like to continue going in the same vein. I think things are going along swimmingly and I’m really happy with the direction of the character and the direction the writers are bringing the character in. Like you said earlier, sure, it would be nice to find out a bit more about the history of the character, about Beckett’s history. We really haven’t seen his quarters ever in Atlantis. I think he’s the only character where we haven’t seen where he lives.
GW: He sleeps in his office!
PM: Yeah, exactly! Sometimes he does. But I think that would be kind of neat to see that side. A little bit of history on the character would be nice. But, you know, hopefully we’ll go for a number of seasons and then eventually, maybe we’ll get to that storyline. Who knows. I’m really content with where he’s going right now.
Of course, I think any actor that has any sort of aspirations would like to have more to do sometimes, and have the storyline about their character. A meaty storyline. Of course you wish for that and hope that happens. At the same time you also have to do the best with what you get all the time. I get some great stuff to work with — when we do see Beckett he’s usually right in the thick of things and I think that’s a great thing.
GW: How often do you get recognized in public for Beckett?
PM: Lately more than before. Because the show started airing recently in Canada — the first season. So fairly often. The thing is I dress completely different. You’re not in your Stargate uniform. But once somebody comes up to you, in the weirdest spots.
I was in a restaurant the other day. The waiter is this young guy, like twenty, totally hip, earrings hanging out, he came to the table and goes “Beckett!” I’m like, “Yeah,” and I’m with a friend of mine. He goes, “Awesome! Dude! Beckett! Can I call my friend?” I’m like, “Oh, what are you going to tell him?” “Tell him to come down!” I said, “Well, I’m, you know.” And he’s so happy to meet you. It’s all flattering. I’m always still blown away when people recognize me. It’s very flattering. I just hope that I don’t lose that feeling.
It’s always nice when someone recognizes you and they actually likes what you do, which is always better. At first when I went to the conventions I thought, “Oh my God, what are they going to ask me? I can’t remember what I did in that episode!” But when the fans come to see you they’re happy to see you, and they ask you nice things. It’s very easy.
I really like going to the conventions because the fans are great. How can you not like going some place where everyone’s really happy to see you? It’s a nice thing. I hope you guys have a great time this weekend. Tell them I said “Hi,” from Beckett. For sure. From Paul.
GW: Last question for you.
GW: What has Dr. Beckett taught you about yourself?
PM: Yeah. Keep having integrity. It’s very important.
The Official Paul McGillion Web Site