In three seasons of Stargate Atlantis she has played three different roles within the Wraith, but it may come as a surprise to some that Andee Frizzell has been the only actress responsible for all the adult females from the pilot episode of “Rising” until now. A seasoned Yoga instructor, her heightened awareness of her physicality made her the ideal candidate for this role.
GateWorld invited Miss Frizzell to sit down with us earlier this year in Vancouver, where Stargate Atlantis is filmed. In Part One of our interview, she explains some of the reasons for her enjoyment of SG-1 as a viewer, her personal feelings for the Wraith as a species, and the emotion of being on set for the pilot episode of the next incarnation in the Stargate franchise.
Part 1 of our interview with Andee runs 17 minutes, and is also transcribed in full below. The audio version of this interview includes both parts together, and is available for your listening convenience!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, I am David Read, and I’m here with the lovely Miss Andee Frizzell, and I’m also with Darren Sumner. Andee, welcome!
Andee Frizzell: Thank you!
GW: Thank you for coming so far.
AF: Thank you so much for inviting me.
GW: Are you a fan of science fiction?
AF: Absolutely! Yes. I really was so excited when I was able to even audition for the show. I was like, “I love this stuff!” So sci fi is definitely my favorite. Star Trekkie I am.
GW: Star Trek?
AF: Yes, yes.
GW: Any other sci fi shows?
AF: You know, actually I read a lot more. A lot of stuff when I was younger. So I enjoy it very much.
GW: Issac Asimov? Frank Herbert?
AF: Is it Piers Anthony, is that the name I’m thinking of? More spidery stuff? He likes spider aliens. [Laughter] Yeah, Piers Anthony. I liked him a lot.
GW: How did you first get involved with Atlantis?
AF: With Atlantis? Through an audition. I auditioned for the Wraith, and that’s how I got brought on board. Because it had yet been born, right? So, yeah. It was awesome. Whole new set of characters, whole new set of ideas and stories. So, yeah.
GW: Had you seen SG-1?
AF: Yes! Oh, absolutely. I was a “The Movie” fanatic in the beginning, and then went on to watch the show for a number of years. Yeah, love the show.
GW: What were your favorite aspects of that series?
AF: What I loved about it was when they traveled through the gate that you got to see so many different worlds. I think that’s what’s so awesome about sci-fi, is that we have this one perspective of reality, and they get to step through a gate and explore. Even Star Trek, they go to these whole different worlds where they can challenge every concept that we have. Challenge eating, physicality, sexual rituals. Whatever it is, right?
AF: Everything! One of the things I enjoyed the most about that element of Stargate is the religious aspect. Like when you would go on to other planets, or go into another worlds, is there is a constant thread of spirituality, even though it was a different god, or something was worshipped that maybe we don’t have that worship here. I really enjoyed that aspect. Very much so.
GW: We were talking with Brad Wright the other day and he said that religion wasn’t supposed to be a central — it was supposed to be a feature of the show but how so many spiritual people get into the show because of the spiritual sides of it.
AF: Absolutely. As sci fi as we could — [Laughter in the background]. It’s all good. [To the laughter] Sounds like somebody had a good time. You must’ve been at the convention! [Laughter] Yeah, as much as our imagination has its limits, you can’t make up an entire other religion, so even though one thing may be featured it’s definitely part of a spirituality that we have here. Say, like the god Ra. That came from the Egyptian belief. Et cetera, et cetera. So I think that people will watch the show that have whatever kind of spirituality to them can pick. “Hey, that’s sort of like my philosophy, or my personal spirituality,” or something like that, so.
GW: Or even “Maybe I can learn something from that.”
AF: Absolutely! Absolutely. I know from myself, reading a lot of Clive Barker. Even though Clive Barker isn’t exactly up there with monks, he has a lot of spirituality that he writes about.
GW: Do the Wraith have a spirituality?
AF: I think they’re beginning to, which I think is really exciting. And that’s what’s wonderful about playing the same race, but different characters of that race — [Pretends to switch masks] “Hi, I’m somebody else” — is that you get to go on that journey with them. Because in the first episode, in the pilot, we were just unleashed. We were a nemesis unleashed. And you didn’t know if we were going to be like the moths, just sort of annoying pests, but as you can start to see the wraith developing and developing, they have a consciousness. It’s based on their own hunger or whatever, but they have a consciousness, which I think is really exciting.
As each season starts coming out, [and] more episodes come up, you can start seeing them develop. One of the episodes that I just shot was sitting across from food. I’m having a conversation with humans. This is a very interesting aspect of the Wraith. We eat these things! So imagine having a conversation with an apple before you’re about to eat it. [Laughter] So I think it’s really interesting. I think they do, and I’m very excited to see where they go with this character. This whole race.
GW: What did the breakdown originally say about the Wraith? What was your first information about them?
AF: The first information was more physicality. Just “This is what we want them to look like,” which is an amazing thing about being able to play a character that has yet been seen. Going on to SG-1 would also be very incredible. You’ve explored so many planets. But they have exhausted aliens in the sense that they’ve had so many different kinds. I don’t mean they exhausted them. You know what I’m saying. And in the sense this was a whole other creature. “This is what we want you to sort of look like. This is what you’re going to be doing. Now go to it.” There’s nothing that you have limitation on other than your imagination. You can just play this race. So that was basically the most information was very much the physicality. How we wanted them to move.
GW: Tell us when you first started filming the Atlantis pilot, how does the look of your character when you’re there in full makeup and costume and the physicality of what this woman is, how does that affect your performance on the day?
AF: I am walking at six foot one already. But as you slide into the costume, and you begin to see the limitations of the costume — not the costume itself, but the limitations of the Wraith, right? They can see this way or that way, or their breathing. The teeth. You start to really begin to feel what it would to have this physicality, and then you adapt — my character was the Keeper. So you begin to adapt that into and then have this high status that comes out of it. It’s really interesting to be able to play with those characteristics. Versus, say, playing with language as an actor. Or playing with your situation. “I’m a doctor, so I’m going to use the room to emphasize I’m a doctor.” [With the Wraith,] you have it right on your physical body. It allows you to be not of this space. And I love playing within that. So I guess that would be a really long answer to your short question.
GW: Do you find the Wraith to be beautiful?
AF: I do.
AF: I do. When I first cast for the Wraith I had been given a beautiful painting —
GW: — James Robbins. His work.
AF: It’s beautiful. And I have it framed at home. He painted that prior to me being cast for it, so as I looked at it I didn’t see my character. I saw the beauty of the Wraith as he sees them. And I’m picturing it right now as I’m talking. I find them very, very beautiful. Now, of course, there’s aspects. Just like humans. Humans can be beautiful and then have these aspects about them that are less beautiful.
GW: In contrast to that, do you believe that they are evil?
AF: No. I don’t.
GW: You don’t?
AF: Nope! They’re hungry. They feed. I don’t believe that it’s evil, and I don’t play it as an evil intention. There’s manipulation to get the things that I want, but this is my race. A snake bites. Is the snake bad because it bit? Well that’s what the snake does. So I don’t believe they’re evil. I don’t want to be evil! I’m not! [Laughter] I’m sure there’s evil amongst the Wraith, for sure. But as we would have that peppered within humans as well.
GW: Interesting. How many makeup passes were made on your face before they arrived at the product that Brad and Rob were satisfied with?
AF: Makeup passes … One, really.
GW: Oh so they knew what they were going to do when they brought you on.
AF: They knew exactly what they wanted. I mean, since day one it has evolved. Instead of using silicon we use foam now. It has just a different texture to it. It’s much softer. You can move it around a bit more. And they’re just adapting the prosthetics to the needs. If you watch the show you can see that — am I allowed to tell the secrets? We no longer wear hands. We originally had very big gloves with very long, extended fingers, and those have gone to the wayside now. Just for the purpose that the hand, all the stuff —
GW: — the suckers.
AF: Do you know what we call them?
GW: No. Oh, is it dirty? [Laughter] Probably.
AF: It’s not “dirty.”
GW: [Laughter] “The Wraith aren’t evil!”
AF: “They’re not evil! They have a sense of humor.” Yes, anyway, so it seems that it works much easier without these large gloves with long fingernails. So things have adapted, but the Wraith look the way that they looked in that original painting.
GW: I’d like to go in a similar vein with that for a moment. You have very unusual rings on your fingers, and one extends, I believe.
AF: Yeah. The pieces [are] like finger armor. Now you would imagine that you protect the vital parts of your body that you’d want to wear protective gear. You would wear a harness over your heart. Well this is where we feed. This is what we use to kill. So you want to protect, with the armor if someone severs the fingers off or cuts the wrist off you’ve just lost — I mean, we have guns and other things as well, but this is [how] we feed. This is how we take care of ourselves. Especially the Queen. I’ve never had a gun. If you notice, in any of the episodes, I’ve never had a weapon — save this [holds out her palm]. Every one of my prisoners, that’s how I threaten them. So we protect it with the armor.
GW: So when the hand closes —
AF: — you have protection. You don’t want to get your fingers cut off. Am I letting out secrets? You’re all like [mimics writing down notes] “Ha ha ha, we got her.”
GW: No, this is very fascinating. Tell us about the typical makeup process for you from start to finish, if you could. What time do you arrive for application initially?
AF: It depends, of course, in the shot list. Where we’re shooting in the day. So if I’m shooting later in the day I’m allotted to come later, but usually I’ve not been there past six a.m. I’m usually four thirty, five a.m., five thirty. But the prosthetics team that we have there are ever-so dear to my heart. They’re incredible human beings, that at four thirty in the morning, we share donuts and Starbucks, if they’re open. They’re so fast and so efficient. We get those masks on. If we’re the first shot in the day we get those masks on within two hours. And that’s fully airbrushed, wigs, costume. It’s completely ready to go in two hours. They’re amazing.
GW: How much input do you have on what goes on, like the color of the hair?
AF: Myself? None. Yeah. No, I just get to watch how the characters develop. My input comes in, “This is where we’re going, and you get to be you. You get to be the Wraith, and where do you want to go?” My artistic speech comes in how I differentiate the level of authority of these characters with the same stuff. The same costumes. I’m not with the artistic development of it, more of the character development of it. Yeah.
GW: The Wraith Keeper appears at the climax of the pilot episode of Atlantis, so she is very much foundational to this entire series and to the Wraith as a species. Take us back to the set when you were shooting these scenes with actors like Joe Flanigan and Robert Patrick. What do you remember about filming that epsidoe?
AF: I remember the days were very, very long. We had full prosthetics on and we were on set for seventeen … I think for the most I was there for seventeen hours. And it’s a new set. There was a lot of dust. I remember that. But what I remember the most is from minute one to hour seventeen, the humor. Everyone keeping right on track with everyone else.
It’s an incredible set. I love working with everyone that’s there. Robert Patrick’s cracking jokes. That’s what keeps you going through the whole process of it, and then you see the product. Shooting when they say action to cut is such a small segment of what action goes on on set. So I remember just the camaraderie of everyone. Everyone’s excitement about it. We were discovering a new world. A brand new show! It could go anywhere and everywhere.
And the talent. The abundance of talent in all the actors that are there — it was really a feeling of excitement. A really amazing feeling of excitement. Even though the hours were so, so very long. Yeah.
GW: What was your original reaction to seeing yourself behind the Keeper’s face?
AF: You know, it’s interesting, because when I see myself play a human character, you see an aspect of yourself. When you get to really completely remove yourself from, visually, making that bond with your character, you get to see the character. And when the feedback first came back about the Keeper, how scary she was, and I thought “I’m not scary.” Then I saw the Keeper. And she is very scary. Just that this is a whole new race. We knew nothing about them at this point. It’s scary. It’s scary. And because I couldn’t make that connection with my physical self, it was easier, in a way, to see the character. To actually see the Keeper.
GW: So a little bit of a detachment there. “I’m no longer Andee. I’m the Keeper.”
AF: Absolutely! You can play the Keeper, and yet still recognize — I wouldn’t say the Keeper, but you can play other characters, [and] still recognize yourself in the character. Physical parts of yourself. When you don’t have that you actually get to see the character, which was really interesting.