Beware of SPOILERS for Season Four of Stargate Atlantis in the report below!
From Atlantis‘s “The Brotherhood” to the latest episodes of Season Four, Chuck Campbell has played the role of the Gate Technician with push-button diligence and a boy-from-next-door smile.
In last season’s finale, “First Strike,” the actor finally got a name for his character — his own! A coincidence? Not really. Chuck gives GateWorld the inside scoop on this and multiple other issues, from the cast changes in Season Four to what’s in store for Atlantis viewers in the weeks and months to come.
GateWorld’s interview with Chuck is available in MP3 audio format for easy listening, and is about 30 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 Chuck Campbell —
Chuck Campbell: — That’s me —
GW: — Yes, that’s him! The technician on Stargate Atlantis, or as I prefer to call him, Chucknician. [Laughter] Have you heard that term before?
CC: Are you kidding?! I will give you the inside scoop. One of the buddies I work with gave me a shirt with “Chucknician” on the back. [Laughter] I swear! Yeah, it’s written right on the back of the shirt.
GW: Too bad you can’t wear that during shooting.
CC: Yeah, wouldn’t that be something? Just drop the coat. “Oh by the way, let me show you this!”
GW: What about the uniform? Do you find that uncomfortable, or is it comfortable to wear? The two-piece …
CC: Absolutely not. I love actually having the jacket and get to flash the old [Canadian] flag if I can. I like doing that.
GW: Yes, exactly.
CC: And I like the old coats better than the new coats.
GW: Oh really?
CC: That’s just me. I don’t wear one of the new coats. You see McKay and I think even Zelenka still wears the old coat.
GW: Oh that’s right, they changed the stripes on them and everything.
CC: Yeah, and in the back it kind of opens. I think it’s better. They seem to like it. It’s just my own personal opinion.
GW: Any idea why they changed it?
CC: Oh, I think they’re just trying to mix it up a little bit. They went other routes before when they go off world and they wear all the black. I think they’re just trying to mix it up a bit. Atlantis is moving on and the seasons are going. I think it was more eye-candy than anything else.
GW: Right. You get a little bit flashier than usual.
CC: I think so, maybe. They’re saving the world a couple of times so give them new jackets!
GW: Alright, great. I think the question on the top of everyone’s lists, at least anyone who hasn’t had a chance to see you at a convention and ask you this themselves, was it an accident that you got named Chuck on screen or do the writers really think that you look like a Chuck?
CC: It was kind of in the script in the sense that sometimes when they have stage directions, and it’ll say “McKay walks over to the terminal,” and duh-duh-duh, one of these stage directions was “Chuck walks over to his duh-duh and hits a button,” or something like that. So where everybody kind of knew me as Chuck, we didn’t really know if the writer was just “Oh, that’s just Chuck,” so he just types that in. And then Torri, in the scene, when I come into her office, at the end of it says, “Thank you, Chuck.”
GW: OK, so that was just a spur-of-the-moment happening.
CC: I think it was kind of, yeah. Martin [Wood] was there and he was like, “Yeah, it’s there and there, and … Yeah! Keep it!” And it just kind of stuck. The big guys upstairs, they didn’t really seem to mind, and they had written it into the stage directions already, so, yeah.
GW: Well you know, if the day players stick around long enough, they really deserve to get named.
CC: Hey! I’ll take it. I’m just glad it wasn’t Clarence …
GW: … or Walter!
CC: Yes! [Laughter] If they start making me wear glasses, yep. I’m out. That’s it. I’m just going to call up Gary and say “Come on over, man.” [Laughter] Go into the other studio. You’re needed.
GW: That’s right. Did you have any expectations that the role would be as recurring as it has been?
CC: To be honest with you, no. No I didn’t. I’m so glad that it was, but as you know it’s one of those characters that is used for just announcing the incoming wormholes and that kind of stuff.
GW: Right. Yeah, you don’t have a “Chevron one encoded,” that sort of thing, on Atlantis.
CC: Yeah. You have a couple of taglines that you’re known for. So to be honest with you I’m just glad I fit that jacket, man. That’s all. Gotta watch the donuts.
GW: Are you a fan of science fiction?
CC: Sort of. I’ll be honest with you, I became more of a fan of it since working on the show.
GW: Is it just the Stargates that you look into or have you checked out other genres?
CC: I think, especially with episodic television, where I was there so much getting to watch and see how it was done, effects-wise and the whole bit. So now when I watch television in the science fiction genre I guess I just look at it with a different eye. “I wonder how they did that, and I wonder if that was CGI.” And that got me hooked in that sense.
GW: OK. What got you hooked into acting?
CC: I started off working on the stage and doing theater and such, and kind of fell ass backwards into doing the film and television by just branching out and going that route. Hey, like anybody will tell you, want to work one day or work a week? It’s the same money. “Oh, OK.” So it changes in that way.
So yeah. That’s how it kind of happened and it just snowballed from there on. Just got hooked and kept getting hooked and that was it.
GW: You said you’ve done some theater. What are some of your favorite roles that you’ve done?
CC: It sounds cliché for an actor to say, but I did like doing Shakespeare. It was fun. That guy can write. And if you do it right, which I think I did it twice right, it just flows. It works. You know when you’re on a first date and it’s just clicking? Sometimes that happens with Shakespeare. And then the other 98% of it? “Ugh, I wish I knew how to do this properly.”
So I got an appreciation for good text, and it survives so long. “That comma’s there for a reason,” and et cetera et cetera.
GW: I’ve read a lot of his work in school, but I’ve never had a chance to perform it, and once you get accustomed to the way he communicates, you’re just in it.
CC: You ever watch Kenneth Branagh do it and how you just see him do it and you’re like, “Yeah. It just works.” So I guess I appreciate it more than I can do it. Then of course someday I really hope I get the chance to do “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Because I’m a big [David] Mamet fan. I love his writing. I would love to do that.
I did some Sam Shepard plays, and that was good. That guy, he’s a poet. He knows how to put a pen to paper. Great with characters.
GW: Now you said you weren’t extremely familiar with sci fi before you joined up with Stargate. How familiar were you with Stargate before you got the role?
CC: I was, probably out of all the shows, more familiar with all the shows more familiar with Stargate just because of the fact that it was done in Vancouver, and I had had friends who had shot it. So I would catch it and try to watch their episode. That kind of thing. Yeah, I think Stargate probably. And then as far as the Star Treks or the Battlestar. When I watch Battlestar, that’s a very well-shot show. It’s crisp. You look at it and it’s “Oof! That’s good!” I’m getting more of an appreciation for it, that’s for sure. And then watching our show and watching to see how it’s done.
Because as you know — I’m sure you’ve been on set — and you see when it’s done and then you see the final product, and you go “Wow, those guys are good, because that was just green.”
GW: Well there’s so many intricate pieces that have to be moving in the right direction and at the same time all the time. It’s intense. I’ve been on set, and I’m terrified that I’m going to sneeze and screw something up.
CC: Oh, well, get in line, pal. [Laughter]
GW: How would you contrast yourself from the technician Gary Jones has played on SG-1 for ten years now?
CC: I know. I know. Well, when I started playing the technician, everybody on set was like, “Hey, you’re the Gary Jones of Atlantis!” And I was like, “I don’t want to take anything away from Gary. What happens if I do this and it sucks?”
Gary pulled me to the side and said “Hey, try this.” I just did it on my own as far as what I would try to do to create the character. But I tried to do it in the vein that if Gary was doing it for ten years, Gary was doing something right. And there was a reason that he was there for that long in that chair doing it.
I take the appreciation that he makes you believe that all the dials and all the things that are there are real. You know what I mean? That’s the magic that he does, because he has to, as you know, do the same thing over and over again.
So for an actor, it can probably get boring or just a little stagnant for that kind of thing, but he never does. He always brings it to the table and makes it fresh. That’s what I picked up from watching Gary Jones, going “OK, I get you.” You got to make this work every time in that sense. You just can’t fax it in. They don’t believe in the Stargate, well, switch the channel.
GW: Like the base leader, like with Weir and now with Carter, there’s something about the technician that allows — because he doesn’t really go anywhere — but you get the sense that this place is real
CC: That’s what I try to do. Absolutely.
GW: Some jobs may be monotonous. Some jobs may be a “Chevron one encoded,” or what have you. That’s one of the problems that I have. You see all these extras and you see these people constantly flowing through, but it’s nice to have a couple of mainstays because there would be. Especially if you’re trapped in the Pegasus Galaxy.
CC: Yes, exactly. And you’ve eaten all the chips in the vending machine. There’s nowhere else to go! “I’m going to go back and sit down and push some buttons.”
GW: Has Gary every shared with you any inside secrets over dinner? Have you guys ever talked about the role?
CC: We just chatted as friends passing each other by in the set. You know, Gary, he’s a consummate professional, so he’ll just walk by and go “How’s it going?” And you’ll go “Fine,” give you the wink.
There’s nothing he hasn’t seen after ten seasons. Like any of the main cast there he knows the score. I think that was the big thing for him. He really likes doing it. He enjoys it, and everybody likes Gary, so it’s nice on that part. If you enjoy your job after ten years, you can’t ask for much more than that.
GW: No, a steady thing like that. A steady gig. And still allowing you to do other things as well!
CC: Yes, yep. So very lucky. Very lucky.
GW: Now Edmond Wong seemed to be in the running for this role of the main tech until the episode “Home,” and then there was a gap of gate technicians until you made your appearance in “The Brotherhood.” And then he hasn’t been seen since. So I guess it just didn’t work out, or something.
CC: You know, I don’t know what as far as Edward is concerned. I don’t even know — was he in town for a little bit, and then he had to go? From my personal position, where it was, Martin Wood was the guy who gave me my break.
GW: Oh really?
CC: Oh yes. He was directing and he actually came up to me and said “Hey, Chuck, would you like to try the technician role?” And I was, “Absolutely!” I had no idea — it was just like you said, for “The Brotherhood.” And we were going to do that and bang it off, had a little scene there with Zelenka and that was cool, and to be honest, David, I did it and it just kind of stuck for a little bit.
GW: So he actually approached you and asked if you wanted to come back as a recurring technician.
CC: Yes. Martin was the guy who basically was in my corner for that, said, “No, you try it. Try it.” And then they let me try it and then of course, later on, they tried integrating the control room, making it more culturally diversified. I think that’s the word — politically correct. That’s cool, I understand that. And then I got to come back again.
I don’t obviously know if it was a little push from the fans, because they’ve been so supportive, or they just are looking for a certain type of rhythm in that control room and I just fortunately match that. I don’t know. I wish I could be egotistical and say “Yes, I am the technician and I always will be!” I could be working at the gas station Thursday. Who knows?
GW: Well with SG-1 there are certain expectations, and with one of them comes a friendly, familiar face for the base that you don’t always get to talk with, but is always there. And I think you filled that. And you even did in “The Pegasus Project” as well on SG-1, which was really cool too.
CC: That was a treat.
GW: Did you not expect to be doing that?
CC: No, David, I honestly didn’t. Nope. It might’ve been Brad. He said “Gotta throw the coat on you, bud. I was like, Yeah!”
GW: How cool is that? Same set, different show.
CC: Yeah, it was great. That was a treat, that’s what that was.
GW: Great. Now you’ve appeared in over 30 of the 60 episodes — 80 episodes now, excuse me.
CC: That’s crazy. Did we crack 30?
GW: You have, yes.
CC: Phew. Nice! Like it-like it.
GW: Now you’ve witnessed a lot of the work done on Atlantis, both in front of and behind the scenes. What are some of your favorite memories from this journey so far?
CC: Wow. Good question. Some of my favorites … I remember the introduction of Ronon Dex. We were outside shooting and it was night. I didn’t know who Jason was. I didn’t get to know him prior to him doing his stuff on set. I don’t know if you’ve ever met Momoa in real life, but he looks like he could eat a small dog.
GW: He’s a very big man.
CC: Very big man. And he’s blasting through the woods in this scene in the dark in this big coat. I think he was being chased. Maybe it was a Wraith runner/ship, I don’t know.
But anyway, I remember seeing him blast by and go, “How are you ever going to control this guy?” He looked like a warrior in that sense, and I remember “This is going to be a good twist.” He was joining the show, and I thought “What are they going to do?” Then when they amped it up and made him and Sheppard buddies, the Han Solo/Chewbacca banter back and forth, and it worked. I like that because that was my first instinct of this new character that joined up, and then it took off.
I always love watching David Hewlett. I think he’s a robot. [Laughter] I know many people will tell you he’s a new dad, and he’s a real kind guy and always trying to help people, but he’s a robot. No way anybody can memorize that many lines and not make mistakes. That’s my conclusion.
GW: Yeah, he’s really good at what he does.
CC: He definitely is.
GW: I’ve watched him on set and from what I’ve seen it’s rare that he slips up. He really is able to maintain that. That’s a lot of technical jargon!
CC: Oh, come on, I’m there with the sides in my hand! Off camera with it! I’m like “Oh, I’m so glad this is not me.” There’s a difference, I guess, if you can just squeak it out and do it once. He does his, and then he does his coverage, and then he does it off-camera for other people, and you’re like, “You sleep? How do you memorize all that stuff?”
GW: Yeah, it’s a mouthful.
CC: Yeah. It’s impressive to watch people of that caliber. And I don’t know if you know, but Teyla could probably whup half the cast and the crew.
GW: She’s tough.
CC: You give her two sticks and she’ll put you in Emergency if she has to. That’s not fake.
GW: Which of the permanent cast are some of your favorites to work with?
CC: Ah, good one. Always love doing scenes with [David] Nykl. I get along with Nykl outside set as well, so we always have a good laugh. Used to love doing scenes with Torri. I really liked working with Torri. She was so much fun to work with. She was such a professional, but yet loved to have a good belly laugh. Makes the day go by so much nicer.
I was intimidated by Amanda when I first met her.
CC: Yeah, I was, because Amanda’s so good and she’s been with it from the beginning. You ever meet those people that are just generally nice. “She’s going to flip out or going to get pissed.” She doesn’t. She’s just a generally nice woman. She’d treat you the same way on set as she would if you were in the grocery store, because she’s just a nice woman.
GW: I’d never met an actress before that her first instinct when she first meets you is to hug you.
CC: You see what I mean? That’s just the way she is. She’s just generally kind. Not that I’m saying most actresses aren’t, but for someone of her status … it’s not the norm, I guess, for someone of her level. Very approachable.
GW: Was that difficult or was it an easy transition from Torri to Amanda?
CC: It was pretty smooth. I think it was more difficult outside of doing the scenes, just because “Ah, she’s gone. Now Torri will be off and she’ll be very successful in whatever she does but you still miss her because there was a chemistry there.”
And when Amanda came in she kept her character the same as she did with Samantha Carter, but yet she almost played it like it would be the position that she was in of “I don’t want to step on toes here. I have to be the new leader, but let’s respect what these people have done in the past.”
It just worked that way. I don’t know if it would’ve worked with another alpha male character. I don’t know if it would have been as an easy transition as it was. She’s just a born leader. It works that way.
GW: It’s interesting because it’s the same character you know, but in a lot of ways it’s not the same character because it’s not the same role.
CC: That’s right. She works that. That’s the great thing. I think that’s probably what attracted her to coming on with us. “Well, I’ve got to do something different.” Well believe me, the Pegasus Galaxy is a little different.
GW: Right. Just a bit. Life-sucking aliens, yeah.
CC: Yeah. “You want different? We can give you a little different.”
GW: Any chance we’re going to see Chuck go off-world this new season?
CC: Oh bro, on one side of it I really hope so and on the other side I’m like, “Don’t put the red shirt on me. I don’t want to go to a planet.” I don’t know. I would love to go. It would be a great experience to get to be involved with that, but I think they like him hanging out by the control room. We’ll have to see. I’m up for it if they do it, and if they don’t, well, I can understand that.
GW: Did you appear in [“Quarantine?”]
CC: Yes I was in that one. Zelenka and Carter get caught in an elevator. Hewlett and his old flame get caught in the room with all the plants.
Yeah, the botany lab.
CC: That’s it. Yeah, man, I was in that one. And I got to work with another technician girl. She had a couple of lines in that one as well.
GW: That was my next question. Where did Chuck get stuck?
CC: Yeah — this is surprising that you would ask this, because I forgot about this, David — we actually got to go downstairs. We were out of the control room.
CC: Yeah! [Laughter] We got to go, and I remember joking. I was like, “Oh my God, I’m downstairs! I’m downstairs!” So we were in one of the rooms downstairs trying to get them out of the elevator when they were stuck in it.
GW: Oh sweet.
CC: That was cool. I forgot about that.
GW: Nice to break it up a little bit.
CC: It was. That was a really fun day. I remember that.
GW: Alright. What have been some of your favorite shows from Season Four from a story standpoint? What’s really attracted you?
CC: Let’s see here. I have a list.
GW: We’re up to … “The Seer” just aired.
CC: Oh, “The Seer,” OK. Yeah, “The Seer,” I got to be in that one. That was fun because Andy got to direct that one. I like working with Andy.
GW: Andy Mikita, yeah. He’s a good guy.
CC: Yeah he is, yeah. Funny guy, too. “The Seer,” I was in that one. I remember, yeah, that was a little bit of a run. I think it was “The Seer,” “[This’] Mortal Coil,” and then “[Be] All My Sins Remember’d,” I think it was. Now I forgot what you asked me from the beginning.
GW: What are some of your favorite episodes from this year?
CC: OK. “The Seer” actually is one of ’em. That was a good one. I think later on there was one called “Quarantine.” That was kind of cool.
GW: That’s the one that I was just referring to, I believe. That’s “Quarantine.” I’m sorry. Not “Lockdown.” What am I thinking? That’s my bad.
CC: That’s cool. That was a cool one. I remember that one. Then of course the two-parter, “The Kindred.” I think having Connor [Trinneer] on the set is cool. I love that character that he plays, and Connor’s such a good guy.
GW: Yes, he is a good guy.
CC: I like watching him do his stuff. He’s one of those, as I was saying, one of those guys from the top level when you watch and you go “Yep, you’re going to be working after this.”
GW: And then we’ve got the finale’s “The Last Man.” Very interesting idea behind that.
CC: It’s very interesting. I won’t give any spoilers out, but it does … where it was last year. What was the one, “Final Strike?”
GW: “First Strike.”
CC: “First Strike,” we were all in the control room when it hit the fan, basically. And at the end of this one it comes out that there are separate groups again. We’re not all in one place. So when they have it in separate rooms or someone is off on a planet or whatever, but there are different groups that are scattered.
It leaves it with “Uh oh.” You know what I mean? There’s more. “First Strike” was “Is the whole thing going to blow up? Are they all going to die in one shot? What’s going to happen?” So all of us are kind of like, “What’s going to happen now?”
GW: I’m not a huge spoiler fan. I like the one-line idea of an episode before it comes out, and all I know is that Sheppard comes back to Atlantis and finds Atlantis in a desert. And that concept was like “OK, this is interesting.” And he’s the only one there.
CC: It was cool, too. I will say this: When they shot it, the sand, I think they used a cornmeal kind of thing. It looks just like sand. It’s amazing.
GW: And it’s edible?
CC: It better be!
GW: [Laughter] You ate it!
CC: I tried to put some milk in a bowl and that was that. This isn’t spoiling anything: They had a windstorm.
GW: So they actually got sand into the set?
GW: Oh, boy.
CC: It looks wild! I know they will do the CGI stuff but Flanigan is walking through this crazy cornmeal being whipped at him. It looks just like sand, it’s awesome. It looked real good on the monitors. [Laughter]
GW: Are you scheduled to make a return to Sanctuary any time soon?
CC: I’m not sure what’s going on with Sanctuary as far as in front of the camera. I did do a very, very small wipe of one of the characters when they’re down in the sanctuary itself, and you saw the two-faced man, that character that I got to play.
When I was talking to Damian [Kindler] he was like, “You know, we want to introduce all of these people, these different characters, and then we want to see what will happen with them. That’s pretty much the nicest way a writer can say “We don’t know yet!”
Damian’s [a] very shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy. He’ll let you know what’s going on. But I’ll probably work on it behind the camera. I might help stand in with them or set them up, because I’m a good height for —
GW: — Robin. —
CC: — Yeah, Mr. Dunne there. We have the same features. A bunch of green-screen stuff, et cetera, it helps to have someone you can set it up and be more technical. Let the man do his magic and then away we go. We’ll have to see. It is up in the air, and I would like to work on it.
GW: Alright! Well hopefully we’ll see you in that. Can we expect to be seeing you at any conventions in the coming months?
CC: You know, I just came back from Hanover, Germany. What was it called — “Crossoroads?” It was one of those Wolf conventions.
GW: Oh, OK, it was a Wolf event.
CC: Yeah, it was a very good time. We really enjoyed ourselves. It was a little different for me because it was a smaller one. It was a smaller convention. It was about 150.
GW: Isn’t that nice?
CC: It was so great to be able to get one-on-one, because usually, as you know, there’s just a larger audience so you don’t get to shake everyone’s hand and get to talk with them. But you can with 150 over a weekend.
You get to talk to so many of them and listen to what they have to say about the show, because I don’t know what it’s like on other shows, but our producers that work on our shows, they do read blogs. They do read what the fans have to say. They do put it into contention in the show. So that’s a nice thing. If you can pick up something that they want and pass it along to them straight from the fans they’ll listen, which is nice.
And I had a great time in Germany. They’re super fans there.
GW: But nothing planned on the horizon yet for next year, you think?
CC: I’m hoping, but I’m just hoping. I would love to go. I went to Pegasus II last year in London, and I would love to go to Pegasus III, because we had such a good time. And I think Paul’s going to be there, so I always love hanging out … That would be a blast. That wouldn’t feel like work at all. It would be a nice little homecoming.
GW: Last question for you here. What do you think is Stargate‘s enduring quality? Why has the show continued to be on the air for so long?
CC: I think it’s the characters. I know that’s probably awful for the visual effects guys reading this. They’re probably shaking their hands at me, but I think what makes it work are the characters. If you have that in the writing — there’s so much now to watch — the viewer can feel like they’re attached to the character in some way. They either relate to them or whatever, but somehow they have a magic with doing characters, and making them interact with other characters.
I think that’s just my opinion. They’re very good. I know they want to, as writers, delve more into their backstories, and go into that stuff. But that takes time, right? That’s television. You don’t get that luxury until you’re on for a certain amount of time, and then you can start pumping that in, like they did in Season Four.
I think that’s probably the magic. And then also there is the effects, but that changes so rapidly now. The technology is just advancing so quick, but these guys know how to write television, and that’s good. That’s not an easy thing to do, man, pump out 20 scripts.
GW: And formally 40!
CC: Yeah! That’s right, when they were doing SG-1 and Atlantis. That’s 40!
GW: It takes a special kind of team to handle that load.
CC: Can you imagine? Seriously, being brought up to the office and go “OK, write five scripts. Oh yeah, and we’ve been on for nine years, so don’t repeat it.” Oh man, that’ huge.
GW: And any time you bring anyone back, the amount of homework that you have to go through to make sure that you get it right so that fans like me won’t complain.
CC: Absolutely! Absolutely, and they have to do that. I’ve dialed gate addresses, and they watch it! Just watch it man, if it’s on camera!
GW: They watch the buttons you push?!
CC: They watch the buttons, and there’s a running gag on-set because “Don’t hit the buttons, man, I’ve got to make sure I get the buttons right.” Cast and crew always walk by my desk and slap the buttons on me. “Oh, Grr!” Because they light up and I have to reprogram them.
GW: Oh, jeez. The Pegasus buttons, at least the Earth ones, they look like constellations, but the Pegasus ones are so random!
CC: Yeah! They do have the constellations. Sometimes they’ll shoot the board and [have] me hitting them, and other times they won’t. They’ll use a light effect. But I’ve got to make sure I know that code, man!
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