Now in his third year on Stargate Atlantis, California-born Joe Flanigan is a certified science fiction veteran. His character, Lt. Colonel John Sheppard, has been shot at, tortured, captured by Wraith, turned into a bug, attacked by an invisible monster, possessed by an alien consciousness, and pined over by alien women. And, of course, he’s flown a whole lot of space ships.
GateWorld caught up with Joe on the set of this season’s “Irresistible,” and spoke with him about what is different in the show’s brand new season. Joe also talks about character backstory, getting back into the swing of long production days, and speaks frankly about where he thought Season Two didn’t live up to expectations.
GateWorld’s interview with Joe Flanigan is available in MP3 audio format for easy listening, and is 8 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 Darren Sumner. I’m here with Mr. Joe Flanigan. Joe, thanks for welcoming us onto your stage today!
Joe Flanigan: Thank you for coming!
GW: Tell us a little bit about Sheppard as he finishes off Season Two, once again in mortal danger. What were your thoughts on how Season Two wrapped up?
JF: Typical cliffhanger, hopefully designed to drag you into the third season. And it gets really interesting. The conclusion of that is very interesting. And it was an interesting thing to come back to. You know we have four months off in between, so I virtually forgot everything. They had to remind me: “So you flew a 302 and latched on to the hull of a hive …”
I’m like, “Oh, I did? OK.”
GW: Is it kind of tough after such a long hiatus to get back into things?
JF: Well, it can be. It certainly can be, there’s no doubt about it. But no, it also feels very natural. The whole schedule is a reawakening, or I should say the opposite of that! It’s a difficult thing to hardwire yourself again for the 5 a.m. alarm bells and the 12- to 14-hour days and stuff. But that’s the way it works, you know.
GW: Do you start to feel like Sheppard again when you’re getting up at 5 a.m. and sitting in the make-up chair? There’s no way around it?
JF: Actually, no — I don’t really feel like I start to get ahold of that material [until] I’m actually with my fellow castmates. And then I fall back into it.
GW: Speaking of your fellow castmates: The show’s writers have said that one of their goals for Season Three is to improve the team dynamic, your relationships with one another. Is that something you are seeing coming out so far?
JF: This season? They’re making a pointed effort to write more material where there are moments of greater intimacy, greater bonding, things like that. They feel that perhaps there wasn’t enough in the last two years. And they’ve got to write them, [and] we do them. And I guess that’s what they’re going to do — start writing more of them.
And yeah, you see it — actually I’ve watched a number of the scenes that they have written. I’ve watched the dailies. And they’re nice. It’s nice to see the characters that you’re familiar with get to know each other [in] more intimate moments and stuff. They’re nice. I like them. As an actor, I enjoy it quite a bit because we have very few mano a mano scenes.
It was interesting, because someone was cutting together a reel for me and we couldn’t find a scene that lasted longer than 15 seconds, really. Because the show is an action show, and it’s “Boom boom boom boom.” Cut back and forth, intercuts, intercuts! And getting a whole scene that has an emotional arc, where two people arrive, they speak, and they then leave two pages later, slightly transformed — that’s traditional, dramatic style that I hope they inject more of that stuff into the show. Because as an actor it’s a lot of fun to do.
JF: I have yet to see the big Sheppard episodes that are apparently coming down the pipe. So far, for my character, the few episodes we’ve done are not necessarily Sheppard episodes. There are team episodes, and then we have a big Ronon episode that we just finished shooting.
Then we get back into a team episode. Then next we’ll be doing a Torri episode. I mention it that way, because really when I say that, that particular character will be driving the story. Ronon drove the story in “Sateda,” Torri [Weir] will drive the story in “Real World.”
So when you say, “What’s in it for my character?” — I’m not exactly sure that I can say anything has been filmed yet. But I know what we plan on doing. From my impression we’re going to get into some backstory issues that should be pretty interesting. We’ve said this before and not done it, which is a source of great frustration. Because at the last minute they’re like, “Well, we don’t have room to do this!”
Backstory is one of those things that if it works for the story, great. But I don’t think it’s worth creating an episode just for backstory. So you have to be flexible enough. These stories come along — these guys are working really hard upstairs to create 40 hours of original programming. And they have to have the flexibility of saying, “We’re not going to do the backstory this time. We’re going to do backstory in a few episodes.”
GW: Do you think that that was the case with “Epiphany” last year?
JF: “Epiphany” had … [Laughter]
Listen to me. I’m not much for being censored in these interviews. I’ll be frank. We had a lot of problems with “Epiphany” on a lot of different levels. And I don’t think Brad [Wright] or I were really happy with the end result of “Epiphany.”
JF: No, we had much higher hopes for “Epiphany.” From concept to reality there was a drop-off. [Laughter]
But it’s a learning process. And I think Brad and I would probably agree, we both — there were a series of problems. Not to mention one of them was a two-and-a-half-week hiatus in the middle of that episode. But yeah, we had a different idea for “Epiphany.” And in the end we didn’t do it.
You know, not all episodes are great. Some are less good than others. I know I’m supposed to be sitting here and plugging this, but I’m also a viewer. I’m a regular part of the TV audience world, and I know that I like shows that I would watch. And this is a series that I definitely would watch. And some episodes are better than others.
The good thing is this season, though — each season, the first season, second season got better. This season has had the most marked improvements in terms of storylines, character development, lighting, you name it. We’re actually getting some really interesting stuff.
The show looks better than ever, if you want to know the truth. I’m pretty excited about the third season.