Beware of SPOILERS below for Season Three and Four of Stargate Atlantis in this interview!
She has lighted a path as Atlantis’s caretaker for three years. Now, in the season to come, Dr. Elizabeth Weir will make the greatest sacrifice of all. GateWorld spoke with the woman who could tell us all about it. It is our privilege to bring you another interview with Torri Higginson.
Much like McGillion as Dr. Carson Beckett, the news of Higginson’s departure from series regular was a shock to many fans. In this candid interview, Torri tells GateWorld why she feels this has happened, and why she refuses to put all the blame on the show runners. She talks about highlight episodes from Season Three, teases us of what’s to come, and wholeheartedly expresses her love to her fans.
GateWorld’s interview with Torri Higginson has been made available to you in MP3 format for easy listening. It is over 23 minutes long. Prefer not to listen? We’ve also transcribed it below!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, I’m David Read, and I’m once again on the phone with the lovely Torri Higginson. Torri, a huge welcome to you and thank you for taking some time with us!
Torri Higginson: Oh, my pleasure, and thank you for ‘lovely.’ [Laughter]
GW: Torri, I’m going to be honest with you here. The new season hasn’t started airing yet and I’m already missing you.
TH: Aw, bless your heart. [Laughter]
GW: At the end total, how many episodes in Season Four did you appear in?
TH: Technically four, but it kind of stretches it. Really two, but technically four.
TH: Yeah, I think the first one of that I’m pretty much asleep through most of it. Some of my finest acting, let me tell you.
GW: I was on set earlier this year and there was a scene of you and Rachel in an isolation ward, and she was in the hazmat outfit. So I guess that was from “Lifeline?’
TH: Yes, that must’ve been. From the second part of the two-parter, yeah.
GW: Oh, OK. What is the flavor of these shows like compared to other episodes in which you played a major role?
TH: I think this next season is going to shift quite a bit with the different energies and different characters and different actors. But for me the first one felt very similar to what we’d been doing in the last two years. The tone hadn’t really changed yet. I think it’s probably going to start changing after the second episode.
But I think it’s pretty similar. Obviously the tone was different. It’s strange for all of us because we all knew there were more shifts that were happening, and we were all adjusting to that on our own as actors. As characters it was pretty straight-forward.
GW: Were these changes some good ones? Basically improving the integrity of the show in any way?
TH: Yeah — television is very difficult, and Stargate is an anomaly. To have a show to run for ten years is really rare, and very difficult and challenging. There has to be a lot of changes to keep things fresh. [SG-1] is remarkable because they managed to do it for ten years. I know Daniel died and came back and one point. But on the whole it was the same group. I think that’s quite an achievement for them. I understand why they did a lot of changes and I think, hopefully, it did give a nice, fresh breath of air into the show.
GW: Has season four presented you with any acting challenges?
TH: A little bit. There was a bit. There was really one episode that I felt really engaged with. She had some interesting emotional sacrifices to make. It was lovely to show that sense of her willingness to sacrifice for everybody. That was nice. But it didn’t feel like a huge challenge to portray because it was something very natural to her.
All those characters have put themselves into situations where they would die for each other. So I think it wasn’t a huge stretch, but it was wonderful to have her show that in one of her last moments.
GW: So basically it’s her turn to step up to the plate and take the bullet?
TH: Yeah, for once maybe giving Rodney and Sheppard a break. [Laughter]
GW: With some of the spoilers floating around and about it’s fairly evident you’ll have a good deal of Replicator involvement. What are you willing to tell us about that?
TH: Well the Replicators are such an interesting concept. I guess they were first introduced in [SG-1] . We’ve had them, a few times, show up. They’re quite wonderful for the sci fi world too because it always means endless possibilities. There is never an end to a story, because if one teeny, micro-Replicator at all existed … everything’s going to be recreated. And that’s quite fun and playful, and allows people to have all kinds of hopes.
I think it’s really great. I enjoyed that concept a lot. But she definitely plays a lot with them. That was interesting because she had that experience with them the previous year, in “The Real World.” So she has a very emotional reaction to them to begin with, and she has to grow and evolve and learn to accept them on a different level. And that’s interesting to do.
GW: Did you get to work with David Ogden Stiers at all this year?
TH: Yes, we had a fantastic scene! A whole pool of light. Yes, I remember it well now. But yes, I did have that joy, and he was such a joy to work with. I felt very pleasantly surprised.
GW: What can you tell us about the circumstances that led to the decision to have you recurring?
TH: I can tell you nothing. [Laughter] I wasn’t a part of the decision, so I can tell you nothing about what their process was. I can hypothesize. To be honest, to be frank — and I don’t judge them for it — I believe that there is a loyalty to the [SG-1] people and when they knew that show was ending they tried to find a way to keep the people they’d been loyal to for ten years alive, and I absolutely admire that. There is a lot of loyalty to this business. I think that’s very great, and very gracious of them.
I think that my character — we never found a place for her. I think everybody can take a bit of responsibility for that, obviously myself included. So yeah, I imagine that was it. They thought “here’s this woman character that we’re not really able to explore to her full right.”
So many of the episodes I was just there in the background, which wasn’t challenging for me. And I think they’re going “Why are we paying this chick when she’s only in for a couple of scenes?” You know what I mean? It made a lot of sense, I thought. That’s how I hypothesize it. It makes a lot of sense for me.
GW: Well, not a whole lot to those of us who have enjoyed those nuggets of opportunity for you to really let your light shine on the show. Obviously not every cast is going to be perfectly compatible. Just look at Rainbow [Sun Francks]. Great actor there. But in twenty episodes there wasn’t any room for him to get his own story.
TH: Yeah. Atlantis is very challenging because they have a lot of regular characters. [SG-1] was really four main characters, and we had so many characters, and it was very challenging. Not only are they writing for two different shows now, and doing 40 shows a year, but one of these shows has eight regular characters. How do you honor all those stories? I think it did prove a little bit too much to chew off.
For me, I miss it. Obviously I miss it. It was such a wonderful place to work, and a wonderful environment, and beautiful actors. The crew was extraordinary. And the fan stuff, I’m still blown away by the amount of support.
For me, it’s a good move because I would rather be somewhere and be working than dipping my toes in every once in a while. That’s what I meant by it. It all worked out for the best. I think out of all the other characters as well it might’ve been a bit harder for them. Everybody understood that that would be the least painful.
GW: Well, everyone has to feel needed and utilized. You’re there to act, you’re not there to hold up a scene as an authority figure. You have to be able to shine a little bit. Now this change in Weir’s character. Let’s just put reality aside for a second. Has this offered the character some significant responsibility in terms of story?
TH: Well, a little bit. There’s definitely a little bit. A situation happens that, really, she’s the only one that can solve it. The solution of that takes great courage, and a great sense of sacrifice. But I think again, that was inside of her. She’s had a sense of sacrifice from Day One. They all have. Give up their lives and move to the [Pegasus Galaxy] and be willing to risk their lives on a weekly basis.
So I think that’s it’s in her, but she’s always surrounded with people who are more capable in that exact moment of what that crisis is. And in this moment, she’s the only one capable of actually solving it. So it was nice to explore that. To show the show that it wasn’t that much of a hard thing to do… it’s easy. No-brainer.
GW: So basically there was no hesitation on her part? “This is the only way to save my people and I’m going to do it?”
GW: Last time I talked with you, you said the next time we chatted I should ask you about “Sunday.” Now it’s very obvious why you were hesitant last time, basically because everyone had to sign NDAs to get the scripts. But I’d to punch in that conversation now, if I may. Have you seen the aired episode?
TH: I have.
GW: What do you think?
TH: It was a hard one, as an actor. We were all very sad to see Paul go, and it was very difficult, and it was confusing because that was the beginning of sensing there’s all the kinds of shifts and changes going on. The other show’s been cancelled, so everyone was feeling sad and compassionate towards Paul, but I think everyone was also feeling a little bit insecure. “What does this mean? Where are we headed?”
At the same time, we all enjoyed the shooting of it so much. It was one of the first episodes that it was us off the clock, and allowing to see the friendships — the not formal friendships — that have been allowed to nurture. So I enjoyed it. I enjoyed a lot of aspects of it. And I was sad of the last scene when he was being carried out with the bagpipes.
GW: Was that difficult to shoot?
TH: In a weird way, it wasn’t difficult to shoot — there is a fine line between … you’re doing the characters every day and the other actors are doing their characters, so the line between the actors and the characters, when you’re working, gets very thin, which is great. And so it didn’t take a lot of acting, because we were truly mourning the loss of Paul. So it wasn’t difficult to act, but it was emotionally difficult, certainly. Does that make sense?
GW: Oh, yes, absolutely! But even past the loss, we really had a chance to see your character grow some as well!
TH: I know, I liked that! I liked her being all giddy with Rachel, with Teyla. We just never seen her like that at all. I just decided to go for it and be really awkward. And that was great fun to do. And he was a wonderful actor. They told me at first he was a younger actor, and I was really upset about that. I said “Don’t make her go for young boys.” [Laughter]
GW: Yeah, that’s not the right message to send about a leader.
TH: Yeah, not at all. She wants somebody smarter than her and strong. So it was a bit weird. But he walked in with energy, and grounded. Yeah, it made sense to why she was attracted to him. And I did like the line about “When Harry Met Sally.”
GW: Do you think Weir’s relationship with Mike would’ve had a chance, or do you think she was just dame of the week to him?
TH: I think that was thrown in that episode to be a little red herring, to take away from what was actually the episode, about losing Paul. I think if they knew at that point that Weir was going to continue, they also made it clear it was in that episode, of her saying “I can’t do it.” She has no extra spare time, or emotion, or spare parts of her brain to get in a tizzy about somebody. So if you’re not emotionally engaged with them then it’s physical and she’s not going to do that.
I think it wouldn’t have worked anyway, but think that it would’ve just been laid to rest and we wouldn’t have seen him again.
GW: Do you think someone like Weir is just destined to live her life alone? During her time of service there’s just no chance for it?
TH: I think I mentioned in a few interviews, I kept hoping for those planets with lots of cute male aliens that Rachel and Weir could get off on. Because in that scene I was outside of the base, just a one-off, and don’t have to worry about future repercussions. All of these planets with cute girls, and no cute boys.
GW: What about Richard Kind?
TH: Oh, heart-throb. [Laughter] Just a mention. I’ve got all sweaty palms now. I don’t think so. I think she’s got a great capacity for love. If she survives this experience and finds herself back on Earth, she would engage in a relationship. Yeah, I think she’s got a lot of love to give, that woman. I don’t want to think of her as being alone for the rest of her life.
GW: Right. Well I think one of the telling scenes was with “The Return.” Near the end of “The Return, Part 1” she was so isolated. Beckett was just pushing to get her out of her apartment, you know?
TH: That’s true.
GW: She wanted to write a book that no one could ever read, and that had to have been frustrating!
TH: I loved that line of Paul’s when he says that to her. Beckett’s like “And who’s going to read this?” She was just completely in her own bubble. And it was so frustrating because it wasn’t if Atlantis had disappeared. It was still there. That’s why I think they couldn’t let go of it, just this idea of “It’s still there, and the Ancients are there, and that’s why we went there to begin with. I want them to understand more about our culture. I want to understand about their race.
So because all of that was going on, and she was sent to her corner in the room, it made it much more difficult to let go. I think she would have the ability to let go if … I don’t know.
GW: I’m a writer myself, and after such an experience as that you would have to expel some of that onto paper or onto a computer. Even for yourself. Because what you experienced over the course of those two years was more than most people experience in a lifetime.
TH: Yeah, I think that’s very true. You would have to process it on some level. And you can’t go to a therapist and process it! [Laughter] But I agree with you. And she obviously does a lot of writing. She comes from an academic world, so I think it made a lot sense that that’s how she was trying to process everything.
GW: Yeah, exactly. What are some of your other favorite episodes from last year? When we last talked “The Real World” was just about to air.
TH: Well that one definitely was one of my favorites, for various reasons. One, I got to work with Richard Dean, which was always a pleasure.
But “The Real World” was a great challenge. Because of Richard Dean, obviously. Also to see this character vulnerable was wonderful. To see her vulnerable, and then fight. And to see her give up. I liked that at one point she gives up. She goes “You know what, this fighting thing, it’s too …” because we all feel that way. We all have days where we go “Oh, I’m just too tired. I’m too tired to fight it.” And I thought it was very human that they let her give up and then fight again. And have to be re-inspired, had to get the connection. It was a challenging episode to do. It was nice to read the script and go, “Can I do this?” That’s nice to feel.
GW: Now Weir was involved in a pretty heavy stunt in “First Strike.” Shattering, you might say. Was any part of you interested in doing that stunt yourself or was it just too dangerous that they would never have let you?
TH: They would’ve never let me. I always say “Oh, I’ll do it! Oh, I’ll do it!” I love that kind of stuff. I really do. I love harness work. I love that stuff. But there’s no way in hell they would’ve let me do that one. It was a very dangerous one and she was amazing. She did such a good job, that woman. She was great. I worked with her on “The Real World” and got to know her a bit then. Just was wonderful.
And it was so shocking. Once I saw her do it, because I was crouched behind, watching it when the shot it. And I just went, “No, I’m glad I didn’t do that.” They never would’ve let me, ever, ever, ever. But after I saw it I had to admit that “No, they’re right never to let me. That I couldn’t have done. It was very intense.”
GW: Yeah, exactly. What do you think Weir’s lasting legacy on the Stargate universe will be?
TH: Aw. What do I think [is] Weir’s lasting legacy … That’s an interesting question. I like that question. I don’t know if I have an answer for it.
GW: Presuming there’s no Season Five. We just don’t know at this point, you know?
TH: Yeah. No, we don’t, right? What would her lasting legacy be? I’m not sure. I hope it would be … if they continue on and she’s never back, that they recall her desire to really listen to every side. To not act offensively first. Really the diplomat. I hope that that is continued in whatever negotiations they have, and that she inspired them. Occasionally they recall and go “Gosh, Weir, she would’ve listened to those crazy aliens on that planet before we shot ’em.” Just that little bit of female nurturing compassion and diplomacy.
GW: Yeah, a voice of peace and of reason.
TH: Yeah. That’s a much more poetic way to say it. [Laughter]
GW: Alright! Torri, do you have any conventions on your radar right now?
TH: Yeah, I’ve got a few, actually. I just missed one in London I was so sad about. Another one in London I was thinking of doing in October but I think I’m going to say no to that because I’ve got work here, but there’s one in Conneticut, I believe. End of October, beginning of November, I’m doing.
I’m also doing a charity one here in L.A. and then there’s one, hopefully, fingers crossed, on Reunion Island at Christmas time. So looking forward to that. But I think I’m going to do one late January in London. Because I missed going to see my family last month.
GW: Oh, OK. They’re in London?
TH: Well my family is mostly in Wales, but some of my cousins are in London.
GW: OK. Which charity?
TH: It’s the Motion Picture Charity Alliance. They do it every year. It benefits uusually one Canadian and one American charity. Canada’s Actors Equity Fund and down here I think it’s the American Heart and Stroke Foundation.
GW: What other shows can fans expect to find you in the next few months?
TH: Well I just shot an episode of NCIS, which was really enjoyable. And I just came back. I cancelled our talk this morning because I had an audition for a new series called The Journeyman, which is very exciting series. I’m going to go back to Vancouver this weekend to re-shoot a couple of scenes from those gorgeous “Smile of April” girls. Bless their heart. So I’m keeping myself busy, which is nice.
GW: Alright. And one little one we can’t get by without asking about — how’s Sedgewick doing?
TH: Oh, bless your heart. She’s doing great. To be honest, she’s been sick down in the dumps the last two days and I’m not quite sure. I think she knows I’m going to Vancouver this weekend. As soon as I bring out my suitcase she gets really sad.
GW: Does someone take care of her?
TH: Yeah, no she’s got a large support group around her. So she’s good.
GW: Well, Torri, we really wish you all the best in your new adventures. A lot of us are sorry to see you go.
TH: I’d like to say quickly to you, because I have been blown away by so much support from the fans, from GateWorld stuff and some people found my MySpace page. I’m not a big Internet person, but I’ve jumped on every once in a while. Some of the letters I’ve got … I just want to send such a huge Thank You and crazy, huge hug, to all those people. It really is wonderful.
It’s a very strange business to be in work and out of work. It just meant so much to get resounding support from people. Please let them know how much I appreciate it.
GW: Yes, definitely. You go in for horrendous hours and words on a page that you have to pour life into, but somehow you manage to change a lot of people’s lives. And I can’t imagine. That’s got to be just so humbling.
TH: I think it’s wonderful people find something in you that inspires them. And that’s what I find amazing about all the science fiction fans, is how creative they are. They don’t just sit back and watch a show and love the actors. They get inspired. They create artwork and write plays and write scripts. And it’s so inspiring. I find that inspiring. It’s this wonderful little circle that goes around.