GateWorld continues our video interview with Andee Frizzell, the actress behind all the adult female Wraith seen thus far on Stargate Atlantis!
In Part 2 of our interview, Andee goes into greater detail about the makeup process that aides her in becoming the Wraith personality. She takes time to differentiate the roles of the Wraith females in their society, from the Queens to the Keepers.
Andee also discusses the added dimensions to the Wraith culture from Season Two — Wraith worshipers, and the “Flying Dutchman” Michael Kenmore — and takes time to share her feelings regarding fellow Wraith actor James Lafazanos.
Part 2 of our interview runs 20 minutes, and is also transcribed below. The audio version includes both parts of the interview together for your convenience!
GateWorld: What part of the Wraith makeup do you find the most unpleasant?
Andee Frizzell: The most unpleasant? It’s so funny because I was just on set. I find the neck piece [to be]. Because the mask goes around — it’s a full neck. It goes right down to the collar bone and then over the head. I tend to be sort of a chatty jokester. And when I laugh or do whatever I do, small back hairs get torn off because of this thing. [Laughter] That’s the strangest aspect. Because it’s all glued down. When you frown, and parts of your shoulders — [Laughter]
GW: — “Am I coming undone?”
AF: Yeah, because it’s all glued together so it all moves together. That’s an interesting aspect there. If Todd Masters could make it any more comfortable, he would. I wear contact lenses — corrective lenses — myself. So putting the second pair of lenses on, sometimes, can be irritating. But I don’t find any parts of the costume to be unbearable.
GW: The teeth?
AF: You know what, I find them pretty fun. Talking to me sounds pretty funny. Again, those have morphed as well. Those have evolved. The teeth originally were very, I want to use the expression “Ferengi-style.” Really heavy and big. Once they’re in your mouth they just fit on your teeth. But there was the cumbersome [Talks as if with a mouthpiece]. But those have evolved now as well. And they’re much thinner. Much lighter.
GW: We learned in “Allies” that there were actually multiple Keepers, which was something that not many fans imagined. There was probably one Queen, probably one Keeper. But that’s not the case. What sets them apart from the Queens, both in terms of duty and personality? I get the feeling that to a certain degree they’re a “dead man switch” for the hive ships.
AF: Yeah. I think that what differentiates the Keepers from the Queens is that the Queens have more of the … The Keeper protects, the Keeper takes care of, nurtures the hive itself, whereas the Queen is in control of it. The Queen is more based on taking care of the country versus taking care of her hive, and moving them where they need to go, based on what they need — to feed, to relocate, whatever it is.
Whereas the Keeper was much more of that intern. “I designate you to watch us while we all sleep, and then you wake us up when it’s time for me to be the boss, when I need to rule.” It’s more of a sovereign, and her role is to really move the hive in whichever direction they’re choosing. Whereas the Keeper was more just about protecting them while they slept. Making sure nothing happened to them. Making sure that they woke up on time. That kind of thing. “Time to be bossy! Everybody up!” Something like that. That was my take on that.
GW: Martin Gero told us that some groups of Wraith had awakened and realized that there isn’t enough food and are going back to sleep, actually. What is the Keeper’s purpose after the Wraith are awake? Do they become obsolete until the next hibernation cycle, or do they continue to monitor the hive ship like homeland security would a nation?
AF: Yeah. I think it depends. My understanding of it, too, is depending on whether the hive moves. This is the hive and the hive just goes where the food is, the whole ship. Because they are organic. Then the Keeper’s place would be within on that ship. Now if you have hives moving, “me and my ten warriors are going to go out and find food and come back,” then the Keeper’s place is again, to watch what’s happening there. Keep, just in the name. Keep the place. Like you said. Watch the country while the other parts of the Wraith are out searching for food to bring back.
Depending on how they’re going to develop that, and I would assume that as diverse as each of the Wraith hives have been, then those roles are going to be different once they get there. Like you said, the Keeper will be looking after ones that are sleeping. If that’s what that hive has chosen to do, or is going to play a different role on a hive if the Queen designates that that’s what the Keeper should do.
GW: The Wraith have a psychic communication network with each other. Do the Keepers have their own little level? When Sheppard came and knocked on their door, when she was killed, apparently all the other Keepers woke their hives up. Do the keepers have their own connection?
AF: Using the telepathy between the Wraith, that connection that they have is like, I would think, like a phone. So there’s a signal. If I yell out “Help,” that’s going to alert other humans to come and save me. So if something happens to a Keeper, she lets out that one word, or the key word or the code —
GW: — “More food found!”
AF: More food! Or “Time to wake up.” or whatever it is. Or even wakes up the hive when she’s being killed. “Oh, you think this is funny? Well guess what I’m going to do.”
GW: “You told me there’s more food elsewhere, I’m going to let others know!”
AF: Yeah! Well that’s not what happened, right? Basically she got killed. We don’t know what she said.
GW: Well to the extent that they were aware of enough to wake up. Because she had learned that there was enough food for them to do so.
AF: But that’s what I’m saying. She sent the message basically to her hive to wake up. Whether that alerted the other Keepers, “Oh, well this hive’s waking up. ‘Keeper B’ just told me. Maybe we could wake up our guys too.” I wouldn’t say that there’s a special language between them. Perhaps a signal. That’s what they have entrusted with. So this is your secret to let out.
GW: Have you been instructed to make each of these female Wraith distinctive, or do the producers let you approach it your own way?
AF: They’ve completely let me approach it my own way. That’s what I was saying before. I don’t have a lot of say, aesthetically, how the character’s changing. But it’s “Here you go. [These are] your lines. Go to her.” And so I’ve been able to play with each one of the characters. Which has been really exciting. To be able to get killed and come back and again and again. You get to be the same but not. So that’s been really awesome.
GW: What distinctions shave you made from the Keeper in “The Hive” to the Keeper in “Allies?” Obviously their color was extremely different.
AF: Yeah. The one in the original pilot?
GW: That was the Keeper.
AF: Yeah. The Keeper. And then there was the Queens. The two Queens.
GW: Did I say the Keeper?
AF: Yeah. I was like … What are you talking about? The difference between the two Queens, the one with the white hair. I based her more militant. More military. She’s got a mission. “I’m not talking to you. You are a fly in the ointment of where I’m going.” There was no talking. Whereas the second Queen, even in the color. She was much more pumpkin.
And this was something that we were kind of joking about, is that she eats better than everybody else. That’s why she looks so good. [Laughter] Getting a tan and eating better. So I took her approach to be, how I wanted to present her, was much more behind the scenes. Trying to figure out. More manipulative. Almost more feminine. And you see the character’s physicalities have changed. She’s much more feminine. And I wanted to play it that way. That kind of “Come here sweet child.” Versus the first Queen, was very militant, “Let’s get her done. I know what I want. Shut it.” So that’s how I played them differently.
GW: With the Queen in “Allies,” it kind of touched on one of the things that I’m looking forward to in the species, in terms of the females. The Wraith females you’ve played have been very straight-forward in their malevolence, save for this last one. We really haven’t seen them take advantage of their beauty. At some point do you think we might see the Queen or a Keeper use seduction to achieve their objectives?
AF: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think when we originally sat down and started talking, that’s part of the development of this Wraith. We are introduced to them as a nemesis. They could be a plague. For all anybody knows, you’ve just woken up a plague. And now we’re starting to see “Well, no. They have military thoughts, and they have evasive patterns of getting things.” Where the second Queen played. You can see that they’re a little bit more developed. And then in this one, you see “Wow.” There’s more facets to them. They’re manipulative. They can lie. They get what they want. Right? They’re starting to develop, and develop and develop. So, absolutely. Love and war, right?
AF: So there’s a seduction in that itself.
GW: There’s a very interesting new element that was introduced in Season Two’s “The Hive,” where we see there are worshipers of the Wraith. Not just food, but humans that they allow to live because they serve them in other ways. Tell us about that addition to the Wraith culture and your perspective on it.
AF: I think in any culture that’s dominating, you’re going to have persons that want to be saved of that. They have a quality of, “Well, you’re god, I can’t fight you. You can come and find me. You can get into my head. You can pretty-much make me do anything. Again, we play with this spirituality, right? Well then you’re a god. Even though you have, within those gods, their wars and fights and all their little things that happen amongst them. But underneath you’re still superior to these humans. And they’re like, “I want to be saved by you. Not to save my life. But saved for you. I worship you because you are higher than me.”
So I think, again, it plays on that aspect of that kind of god-like Wraith. They really are all-empowering until these earthlings come that are, “Wait, we’ve evolved in conscience.” The followers, I think, is really an interesting aspect. And I’d like to see how that play in “Allies.” Now that there’s going to be human Wraith? I’m very excited to see how that might work, as human followers — human Wraith. Because then their gods have been brought down.
GW: That could have a great impact on the Wraith. “These are their food, and these are the Wraith — what’s this?”
AF: “What’s this?” Exactly! Who’s Michael? Right? He’s like a demi-god. A semi-god. And he doesn’t fit. I think the storyline is taking a really interesting turn. I think it’s a really neat way they’re going. For sure. What does that do to the followers? Where’s there line of [defining], “you are here and I am here?” I think it would be a really interesting place to go.
GW: He has no home, because he’s not accepted amongst humans, and the Wraith aren’t going to give him a second thought. So what is he going to do?
AF: And the followers. He’s going to be a really interesting character, Michael, I think.
GW: How well have you gotten to know James Lafazanos?
AF: Oh, he’s awesome! [Laughter] Amazing, amazing individual. As the whole cast is. It’s been a really great experience. James, him and I there four thirty in the morning. There’s a different bond, obviously, with that. And when I say “I think I just tore off an eyelid,” he can say “Yes, I think I did too!” There’s the camaraderie within just that. But an amazing individual. Absolutely amazing human being. A vegetarian as well. We share the same likes in music. So yeah, it was really interesting. I have a funny story about meeting him. When we first got our contacts fitted — have you met James?
AF: No? I’ve been living in Vancouver for five years. [I] walked into this eyeglass place and there stood a man who was one degree my brother by every shape, way and form. We look identical. We both were like “Where have you been?” I’ve never seen him in Vancouver, and yet we have the same height, facial structures. It was really, really interesting to think “My God, where have you been? You look so freakily like me! I need to talk to my mom! What’s wrong with this picture?” We look very, very similar. Similar bone structure. A good cast, obviously, the two of us to play these two characters. But freaky for us! We were like, “Wow!”
GW: I understand you’re a Yoga instructor?
AF: I am.
GW: Does any of your training complement or inform the movement of a female Wraith?
AF: Absolutely. Everything. When you start to change the physicalities for the body, then the alignment of the body, the anatomy, starts to change. It played a stronger role when I had really cumbersome hands, because your center of reach, these things change. With Yoga, being able to ground and being able to find that place and then move the body from that core spot, yeah, has definitely played. And I can set in meditation for a long, long time, while they play on my face. Yeah, you can sit and be quiet. I know it seems difficult that I could be quiet for any amount of time, but yes.
GW: Well in meditation, you’re also composing yourself as well for this character.
AF: Yeah! And you’re just chilling out in that space. For me, it certainly plays a bit part of the patience that goes along with prosthetics. And being able to sit for that many hours and have people playing around you. You’re just not in a space of being bothered by it.
A lot of alien shows have a lot of aliens that are very humanistic. And I think that, by keeping everyone very much the same, or all the race the same, it’s differentiating that race. We don’t have names. We don’t need names. No one talks to us. We are superior to everyone. So we don’t need a name. So I think it’s a way of differentiating the rules of that society, or the way that that society works versus, say, a human society where we’re very individual.
These hives are moving around in course of finding food for the hive. The Queen’s not looking out for herself. This person’s not looking out for [themselves]. So I think that all of us looking alike is a way to differentiate that race. That this is a different race.
GW: Have you auditioned for any other roles on either Stargate show? Would you like to get out there without all the makeup and prosthetics?
AF: I would! I would. I think it would be very interesting to play a scientist that’s dissecting myself. Or maybe a psychologist that’s getting behind the Wraith mind. I think that would be fun.
GW: Freud would have a few things to say about that.
AF: Exactly! I think it would be really fun. I think it would be very interesting. And then in getting to play different roles — human roles — and fighting the Wraith, It think, would be a neat concept for me.
GW: Do you have a message to viewers who are going to be watching you for, hopefully, potentially, seasons to come?
AF: Keep watching! Yeah! Love the show. Just love it. It’s an amazing show.
GW: We need to be seeing you at conventions!
AF: That would be fun! I’d like to get out and meet a lot of the people that watch the show and get feedback. Even just sitting here with the two of you, I’m getting to see what people are picking from the show. I said “What do I like about sci fi?” What do people like about our show? Why is Stargate on for nine years? Why [has] SG-1 lasted that long?