Beware of spoilers for “McKay and Mrs. Miller” in this interview!
In Season One’s “Hot Zone,” a brief suggestion by David Hewlett changed the possibilities for a future. Commenting to the producers that he had a sister who acted and might potentially be involved in the series at a later point, the script was changed from referencing Rodney’s brother to a sister: Jeannie. Ever since, the character has been highly anticipated, and fans have been waiting for her to be unleashed.
Now in Season Three of Atlantis, in comes Kate Hewlett, the real-life sister of David, and now the fictional sister of Rodney. Divine inspiration, or just common sense? If you’ve seen the episode you’ve decided for yourself.
In our interview, Kate spends a generous amount of time with us covering her freshman episode in the franchise, from sapping feelings for tennis balls to sharing an emotional moment in the arms of her brother. She brings us up to speed regarding her stage performances and writing, and also takes time to discuss her role as Marilyn in A Dog’s Breakfast.
GateWorld’s interview with Kate is available in MP3 audio format for easy listening, and is 37 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 on the telephone with the lovely Kate Hewlett. Kate, thanks for taking some time with us this afternoon.
Kate Hewlett: No problem. Thank you!
GW: I’m going to get this right out of the way, if you don’t mind, because it’s so significant, and because everyone within earshot is thinking about it. You’re David Hewlett’s sister. What the heck is that like?
KH: [Laughter] It’s terrible! [Laughter] What’s it like? Well, it’s wonderful. He’s fantastic. He’s very silly. He’s wonderful to work with, and he’s great to grow up with. He’s very mean to me. But I dish it back at him, I think.
GW: Now is he the older brother?
KH: Yes! Yeah, he’s nine years older.
GW: Nine years older?
GW: Oooh-kay. So it’s not, like, one or two where you guys were at each other’s throats.
KH: Not at all. No. He’s the eldest and I’m the youngest, so he focused his cruel intentions on my other sisters, and then they focused theirs on me. Yeah, we’ve always been OK.
GW: Good. Great. How long have you wanted to have a shot on Atlantis?
KH: I never even considered it to be a possibility, because his career has always been very separate from mine. I guess it was about a year ago that he first mentioned the possibility to me, because [writer] Martin Gero had seen a play that I was in, and had said to David that we were very similar in the way we moved our hands and the way we spoke and that sort of thing, and so he got the idea. And that’s when I first heard about it, and I still thought “That’s very nice, but there’s no way …” I just didn’t imagine that it would actually happen. So it was really exciting that it actually did.
GW: OK. Martin has spoken with us on several occasions but he has never talked about this play that Brendan [Gall] directed that is responsible for pulling you into Atlantis. Can you tell us about it?
KH: It’s actually very funny because the show that he came to see, it was during the Fringe Festival. There are shows in the morning, and eleven o’clock at night, and all different show times. And this particular show that he saw, the play was called “Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump,” and Brendan had directed it, and that particular show, I don’t know what happened, but I was extra nervous or something. I was really stuttering a lot!
And I said that to Brendan afterwards. I was like, “I feel like I had a different kind of show tonight.” And apparently Martin Gero had said to him how similar David and I were. It’s so funny because David tends to do the stuttery acting as well. So it actually helped me out on that occasion, I think.
GW: So not only were you playing a Hewlett that night, you were kind of playing a McKay!
KH: I was! A little bit! I was having a McKay show! [Laughter]
GW: Now did you know that they were in the audience?
KH: I didn’t! No. I met with them afterwards. I didn’t plan it.
GW: So David first mentioned to you about a year ago that there was a possibility that they could bring the character in at some point. Was that the first time you found out that the character existed, because it was actually two years ago it was his fault for switching it from a brother to a sister.
KH: You know what, he did tell me that. I just though it was a cute story. I didn’t think it would amount to anything, but I do remember him telling me that he was supposed to have a brother and he said “Is it OK if I change that to ‘sister’?” And they were fine with that. I just thought it was cute, but I didn’t think that it would actually happen.
GW: OK. Do you watch the show?
KH: I do now! [Laughter]
GW: That’s an honest answer!
KH: We don’t get the current season here.
GW: You’re in Toronto.
KH: Yeah, I’m in Toronto. So it was difficult enough to see this episode! But when I went to Vancouver for the first time to do A Dog’s Breakfast I watched a few episodes then. I think I’ve probably seen maybe about five episodes in total, but I really like it. I actually do!
GW: What are your particular favorites? In terms of episodes you saw. Which stand out as being your favorites?
KH: I loved — was it “Duet?” Is that the name of it? The one with the —
GW: — multiple personalities?
KH: Yes! I adored that one. And I just saw the one where he was trapped in the Puddle Jumper.
KH: I thought that was amazing. I think that was my favorite one.
GW: He did a good job with that.
KH: Yeah. And I think Amanda and David are so fantastic to watch together. So I really enjoy that dynamic a lot.
GW: And then you go thrown in the mix of it!
KH: I did, yeah! [Laughter]
GW: Starting out as a novice in techno babble-ese, with two of the biggest pros in Stargate. That must’ve been a challenge.
KH: Well it was hilarious, because really there was just one scene that had a ton of techno babble. I got the schedule ahead of time and I thought, “Oh, it’s fine. It’s on the second or third day.” And then I got there, and they changed the schedule. The very first scene was the scary techno babble scene.
I hadn’t slept. I took the red-eye and flew to Vancouver. So it was very challenging, but really fun. And Amanda and David, I’m so glad it was them that were the first two people I worked with, because they were so at ease with each other. She joined in making fun of me. [Laughter] Like old times.
GW: Isn’t she great?
KH: Oh, she’s lovely. Yeah. She really is.
GW: From your take, as her portrayer, who is Jeannie Miller?
KH: Who is Jeannie Miller? I think that Jean is an incredibly smart woman who had the opportunity to be, probably, a very famous scientist. And she chose a normal life. She chose to raise a family and be in love and live a normal life. Not the life that McKay is living. And I think that’s a very strong choice. I also think that she’s very, very smart and I think that her relationship with her brother — I think she’s a bit bitter about how things turned out. I think that’s where some of the teasing comes from, and that sort of thing.
They clearly do get along well, even though there is a lot of banter, but I think they really love each other. And I think that she’s very bitter about the fact that he abandoned her, essentially, because of one of her life choices.
GW: [He] hadn’t spoken with her in four years.
KH: Yeah. So I think she’s pretty hurt, but she’s not the type of person that wants to show that. She likes to show the tough side instead.
GW: Yeah. Exactly. I think I read somewhere, or I had an interview somewhere, where McKay actually felt that she had the potential to be even smarter than he was, and he, uncharacteristic of McKay, he wasn’t jealous of that as much as he was eager to get that strength to be able to serve mankind. To get that strength out there to help humanity, and when she made her choice he was taken completely aback. I think that’s where that comes from.
What was your reaction when you found out Brendan would be playing your husband?
KH: [Laughter] I was thrilled.
KH: Yeah. I was so excited. It added to the dreamlike nature of the entire experience, because we got to enjoy that together. We got to be in Vancouver, just thinking “What is going on?” Everyone else is in their element and we just were so confused. And [he] was so much fun to work with. I’ve worked with him, I guess two or three times, in theater. And we work together really well. It was nice to work with someone that I could really relax with, and there’s none of that ‘getting to know him.’ I was already meeting so many new people and working with so many new people. So it was really nice to have him there.
GW: It’s nice the person that you were having to be in bed with, in the bedroom with, was someone that you knew relatively well.
KH: Right, yeah.
GW: If you could change anything about that episode, would you?
KH: No, I thought it was a great episode. I think, in a way, it would be — this sounds terrible, but I wish it was longer! [Laughter] It would be fun if it could’ve been a two-parter, because I think all the stuff with the alternate universe Rod was really interesting, and gave a lot of insight into Rodney’s character — Meredith’s character. But it would’ve been interesting, I think, to see more of how Jeannie affected Rodney and how Jeannie’s presence on Atlantis made a change in him.
I think both things were nice, but it was almost an episode with three McKays, instead of two. Yeah, I think there was room there for even more development with those two. But I think that Rod was definitely necessary, and I really liked that element of the episode. There needed to be the sci fi side of it. It couldn’t just be a story about brothers and sisters.
GW: Right. He was a plot device.
KH: Right. I really liked that. But I really would’ve loved to see more of the relationship between Jeannie and Rodney.
GW: You say you can’t get Season Three yet. Have you managed to see the episode completed?
KH: Yes. I actually did get a copy of the episode. From Martin Gero.
GW: Does anything from that production, either on or off screen, stand out in your mind in particular?
KH: From the entire experience of the episode?
GW: Right. From the whole thing.
KH: I have to say that Hermiod made it real special. [Laughter] People have been commenting on my expression when I was looking at him, but I think it was real. That was all a part of the first day. The first day was just a whirlwind. It was crazy. The set was incredible, and so you feel you’re actually on the Daedalus, in Atlantis. It was just a crazy day, but that was part of it. Yeah, he blew my mind. I couldn’t believe it. He has a little pulse.
GW: He has a pulse!
KH: He has a pulse! And veins! Amazing! It was amazing.
GW: Well, for someone who hasn’t watched Stargate from the beginning, to be standing in front of this little silicon alien — that must’ve been a trip.
KH: I’m in “E.T.!” [Laughter] Every child’s dream! Yeah, and also, the entire experience. I came away with so many different stories and memories and all that, but the cast and the crew are remarkable. They have so much fun, and everyone was so nice. That’s actually something else that would’ve been nice, to work with the other cast members more. Because the episode was so focused on David and I. I did get to work with David Nykl quite a bit, and he was great. Very funny. But I didn’t get to work with Paul at all.
GW: Right. He wasn’t in the episode.
KH: [But] with Rachel and Joe and Torri, and Jason, I think it was just one day. So I didn’t get to know those characters too much. But they were really fun to work with. We had a very silly day.
GW: Well there’s already an effort to get you back, which I’d like to talk about in a few moments. This episode had to have been a very personal one. In what ways did the script hit you?
KH: The scene near the end, where I watched the video of David.
GW: Yes! From “Letters From Pegasus.”
KH: Yeah. Even just reading the script, that was a really powerful scene. I really liked the ending. The way that they came together again. But actually filming that scene was interesting because I had never seen that episode before, and Martin [Wood] saved the video specifically so I wouldn’t have seen it before they shot it. So the first time I saw it I almost lost it. They were shooting the scene and I was watching the video. Everything just started to make sense to me in a whole different way.
I was just watching David and I was thinking, ‘God, my brother is on this amazing television series. He’s a regular, and he’s so successful. He made it. I’m actually here with him, and I get to be a part of it for a week.’ It just all started really hitting me. And also he just acted that scene so beautifully. So I was trying not to cry, because I didn’t think I should in the scene. And then when David came in, and we were supposed to hug, I just stared balling my eyes out. My incredible instinct calls me to actually drop out of frame. I was so embarrassed.
So David had a lot of fun with me after that, because every time I did good work he said “Yeah, Kate, now you should just drop out of frame.” So they can’t use it. But I think they did end up using a lot of that take.
[That was] a really smart wood, I think, on Martin Wood’s part.
GW: Have you seen the rest of that episode?
KH: No, I haven’t. I want to now. I need to get a copy of it from David.
GW: You should. Because really, that one scene in particular, was very different from the McKay for the rest of the episode. He had all these broad strokes of, if they were going to die, this tape was going to get published, and he was going to talk about leadership and, as McKay is, he thinks he’s the best in all this stuff.
And in the end, he finally just said, “You know what? Forget all that other stuff. If they don’t send anything else out, I want this to go out to my sister.” So that was a really strong scene. You’ve got to see the whole thing.
KH: I definitely will. Yeah.
GW: Martin described you as having Hewlettisms?
KH: [Laughter] I worked for years to get rid of them! [Laughter] It’s not my fault!!
GW: How often could you go with your family’s mannerisms, and how often did you have to adopt behaviors that David specifically made for the McKay character?
KH: I would say that I’d like to take credit for my choices, but I think that a lot of the mannerisms are already there, and I think that because Martin wrote the part for me in mind, it was so great to play her because I just understood the character and could have fun with it. She speaks relatively quickly, and the way they have banter and all of that stuff, I think that just comes really naturally to both of us.
GW: Just fit like a glove then.
GW: Was it challenging working with two McKays, both from an effects standpoint and from Jeannie’s emotional side?
KH: I think from Jeannie’s emotional side, it made it more difficult because she could see the way that her brother could’ve turned out. I think just the way that Rodney sees that Jeannie could’ve been this amazing physicist, and he’s upset about her decision, she got to see the side of Rodney that was a more nurturing, more open, more laid back, version of her brother. I think that must’ve been difficult for the character, but also it meant that there was somebody else for her to side with against Rodney. Which is always a bonus.
GW: He understood where she was coming from!
GW: This alternate McKay even had pictures of her kids in his wallet. And she turns and sees her actual brother, and it’s like “Uggh!” [Laughter]
KH: From a special effects standpoint it was really difficult. But much more for David. There were certain scenes where we were acting with no one, so we had to make sure we were looking in exactly the same place. That’s fine if there’s a tennis ball or something that you can talk to, but when you’re moving — so a lot of the time we would just do it over and over, and over, and over again until we were exactly looking in the right place. For me it was really interesting because it was only a couple of scenes, but David had to do that a lot that week. I think that was very challenging. He was so specific.
GW: Yeah, you must’ve been asking yourself, “OK, when is he going to come unglued?” [Laughter] I don’t think he’d ever done that before in terms of having a duplicate of himself.
KH: No. I don’t think he had either.
GW: And that is not an easy thing to do.
KH: It is not easy. And then we had a guy who was his double, who had to learn all the lines, as well, for both parts. He was someone who hadn’t acted before. He just looked a lot like David from the back. [Laughter] Poor guy. So I think that was a good challenge for him as well, having to learn tons and tons of text. I think by the end of the week he was like, “I want to be an actor!” But sometimes we had him, and then sometimes we were working with a tennis ball on a stand, and trying to pretend that we felt something for it. [Laughter] So that was very interesting.
GW: The characters kept on referencing their Dad. Is he alive? Is he dead? Where is this guy? What was the back-story to that?
KH: Their Dad — I don’t know! I assume their Dad obviously died. I think so, yeah. That’s what I got from the script. Because when they’re fighting in the kitchen, David … David … oops! McKay says “It’s not what Dad would’ve wanted” or that sort of thing. So I definitely go the impression that their Dad had died. We never talked about that, about how or when or anything like that.
GW: It seems like he knew their potential, and knew there was trouble between them.
KH: I guess they’re so similar that it’s inevitable that there would be —
GW: — tension.
KH: Some clashes. Yeah.
GW: What do you think of the success of “McKay and Mrs. Miller?” Eighty-nine percent of GateWorld readers rated it with an eight out of ten or above.
KH: Oh that’s great!
KH: That’s fantastic. I didn’t know that.
GW: I couldn’t believe it. Actually, the episode got more poll hits than the SG-1 for that week did, which has never happened before.
KH: I read that. I read that. That’s very exciting. I’m so glad that people liked it, because I felt the script was incredible, and I thought it was a great episode, but I knew that a lot of the fans had opinions about what it should be, and the character had been talked about for so long, what she should be like, and what the story should be like, and all that. So I’m really happy that people liked it, and that their expectations were met.
GW: Right. Which only fuels the chances that you’ll be back. Martin has told us that he’s already working on a way to have you back.
KH: That would be fantastic. [Laughter] Hopefully not two Jeannies! [Laughter] No more tennis ball!
GW: You never know! [Laughter]
KH: I’d love to go back. It was a blast.
GW: You have your own blog.
KH: I do! It’s deadly!
GW: Well you come across as funny, intelligent, personable and warm. Some of us were wondering if you got inundated with strange comments and lots of people reading it after the episode had aired.
KH: I got inundated with strange comments before the episode aired! It was hilarious, actually, because the only reason I started a blog was so that I could post a mean comment on David’s! You couldn’t be anonymous! I went in to make fun of David, and then I was like, “I know! I’ll start a blog that’s about my loft. Because it’s a crazy place to live.”
And so I started it, and then for about two days I had a comment from my boyfriend. One comment from my friend Lisa. And then on the third day it was, like, 85 comments. And I think maybe David created a link to it on his blog, so all of a sudden I had all these comments. I am just hooked now. In all different languages. I spent an entire day translating.
I speak a little bit of French, and a little bit of Italian. People are occasionally writing in French and that’s great, because I’m getting to practice. There is one day when I asked for as many languages as possible. In-sane. People are really nice, and really supportive. It did spike a little bit after the episode. And it’s slowing down a bit now. But I was posting every day for a while. Now I’ve had to slow down. My eyes hurt.
GW: We never would’ve guessed that you did it just to smite your brother at the beginning, because it really is good.
KH: I know! It’s like he got his revenge! [Laughter] Because I’m just wasting hours of every day now.
GW: Well that character is an insanely popular one, and it has garnered him a lot of interest. So I think it’s only natural that that would spew over to you a little bit, also playing a McKay.
KH: Yeah. Definitely.
GW: Do you see yourself attending Stargate conventions at some point in the future?
KH: I would love to! Actually, on the blog a couple people suggested I go to the one in London. Wolf Pegasus II, I think? And that would be really cool. I’d love to do that. Because my sister’s going to be moving to London, and I think David’s going. So I’m very interested in going to a convention. I think that would be a lot of fun. I don’t have any word on that yet.
GW: Rumor has it you’re writing your own play?
KH: Yes! I am. I finished my first play in the summer, and had that produced at the French festival here. And I’ve written, I think, four plays. But I sort of abandoned them when I’m three quarters of the way through. The one in the summer was a big deal for me because I actually finished it and it went really well. It was lots of fun.
GW: So it was performed!
KH: Yeah! It was performed, and then we got extended. We got an extended run at another theater.
GW: Oh wow! Good for you!
KH: It was a fantastic experience. And it was a comedy. I thought it was funny. I didn’t know if people would react that way.
GW: Well if it got extended …
KH: Yeah it had a really fantastic reaction. I gave myself a little part. I didn’t want to be an idiot and do too much. I was on stage the whole time and didn’t’ speak until about halfway through. Which is actually terrifying. And the first night the play started, and the audience is laughing their heads off. It was amazing. The one I’m doing right now is definitely not funny, but it’s a combination of a few different Shakespearean tragedies and adapting into a story about violence against young people today. So that’s my new project.
GW: Well good! I hope you post some more stuff on it! For those of us who can’t get up there to see it!
KH: Oh, I definitely will.
GW: Tell us about working on A Dog’s Breakfast. How enjoyable an experience was that?
KH: That was completely different from Stargate but also a great experience. That was hilarious, because David told me — I don’t know if he didn’t want me to have high expectations or something — but he told me we were going to shoot it in his house with a video camera. No budget. And it was going to be Me and Mars and Paul McGillion. And I got there, and it was this insane, huge thing with all these amazing people working for free, and locations, and trailers. It was amazing.
And again, the script was phenomenal. David’s really funny. He was not only acting in it, but directing. And he wrote it, and all that. It was very different from Atlantis because we weren’t just working together as actors. But it was wonderful. A really fun character. He also wrote that part with me in mind. I think she was more of a stretch for me than Jeannie.
GW: Tell us about that character.
KH: She’s lots of fun. She’s a makeup artist. Somebody else just asked me to describe the character, and I said she’s me with better clothes. Me with a better fashion sense. And nice makeup. But she’s a little silly, sillier character than Jeannie. Very similar type of relationship between the brother rand sister And, again, a lot of banter. A lot of hitting, which I enjoyed. I get to slap him in the forehead, which I do in real life when I run out of words. That’s how I win the argument. That was great. And it was the biggest role I’ve ever had in a movie. It was a huge learning experience for me. Yeah, really fantastic.
GW: What was the source of angst between the brother and sister in this production? I know that Paul’s character provides some tension.
KH: Yes. In “Dog’s Breakfast” David’s character is a recluse. He decides that he doesn’t want me to have a fiancé. And absolutely loathes the guy that I’ve decided to marry. That’s a lot of where the tension comes from, but it seems like the brother sister relationship where they’ve always had tension. This is day-to-day tension. It’s not like they haven’t spoken in four years or anything like that. They’re certainly in contact with each other. But they have a difficult relationship. And he just decides that he hates this actor. He’s a stunt man. With a yellow tan. And he just decides to do nasty things to him. And I’ll leave it at that!
GW: Well we’re hoping to see it later on this year.
KH: Yeah, I hope so! I’ve seen a rough cut and it looks really great.
GW: OK, great. What else do you have going on in your career right now?
KH: At the moment I am just writing, and blogging. Religiously. I’m auditioning a lot. I do a lot of voiceover stuff to pay the bills, which is really fun. And I’ve got a play coming up in March which is called Noble Parasites.
GW: Noble Parasites? OK!
KH: Which is actually a sci fi play. Do you know Julian Richings?
GW: Doesn’t ring any bells.
KH: No? You would definitely recognize his face. He was actually in “X-Men 3” and he was in “Cube” with David and he was in “Treed Murray” with David. He’s in the play as well, and a woman by the name of Amy Rutherford, who is fantastic. And it’s a really great, wonderful script.
GW: So this is next March?
KH: Yep. We begin rehearsals in March, and it goes up in April at the Theater Passe Muraille.
GW: Do you prefer the theater over the sound stages?
KH: They’re incredibly different. I’ve done theater my whole life, so that’s where I’m most comfortable. But I have to say, I’m rally leaning towards TV and film right now. I really enjoy it. There’s something about the intimacy of it, and the fact that the characters are closer to home. With theater, I find that what I love about it is I can play a million different things because you’re not limited to the way that you look, whereas with film often you end up playing someone that’s a lot like yourself.
But what I’m realizing more and more is that there’s still really subtle differences between the characters, and I enjoy finding those. I also have terrible nerves. I have terrible stage fright, so it’s great to discover a medium where that doesn’t happen. Where I get to do the same work but not be so nervous about it.
GW: One of the big differences I’ve seen from doing both theater and some private film stuff is, for theater, everything is over exaggerated to reach that audience, who is sitting fifty feet away, from the makeup to the acting to the expression. Whereas television and film is much more personal. It can be more true to life in terms of the performance.
KH: Yeah, I really enjoy that side of it.
GW: Now, as kids, were you all raised in the theater? How did that work?
KH: Not at all! We were discouraged from it!
KH: Yeah. My brother started acting quite young, and I think my Dad was worried about it. He was worried that we wouldn’t be able to make a living at that. Which is true in a lot of cases. Talk to me three years ago, living off cans of beans. So we were encouraged to do the arts in school, but not professionally. It was the hardest for David, because he was the first one to make that choice. And then my sister actually did modeling for a little whole. So when I made the decision to get into film and TV and theater I think my Dad realized that it’s possible to make a living that way.
GW: Well if you love what you’re doing — as long as you’re happy!
KH: Absolutely. Yeah. And we all like doing other things as well, so that makes for a much more interesting life, I think, when you’re an actor but you also like to do other things like writing or writing music of whatever it is that keeps you going. When you can make your own work it’s so great because you’re not waiting for the phone to ring.