The Stargate franchise is at a critical crossroads. Atlantis is now in full-swing for its first movie, with promises for SG-1 movies to continue, and a brand new TV series is on the horizon. GateWorld felt it was high time to get the thoughts and opinions of staple Stargate director Andy Mikita!
His time with the franchise going all the way back to “Children of the Gods,” Andy is moving full speed ahead with plans to direct the first Atlantis movie, and hopes to participate in Stargate Universe as well. In the first segment of this extra-long interview, we talk at length about his decade-long journey through the series, discuss favorite episodes like the “Heroes” two-parter, director gags, and more!
Part One of GateWorld’s interview with Andy runs over 25 minutes. Listen online at your leisure, download it to your MP3 player, or subscribe now to the iTunes podcast. The interview is also transcribed below.
Continue to Part Two here!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net I’m David Read and I’m on the phone with one of Stargate’s mainstay directors, Mr. Andy Mikita. Andy, thanks a lot for taking some time to talk with us on New Years Eve!
Andy Mikita: Yeah! Hey, my pleasure. It’s great to talk to you, finally.
GW: My recollection, there are now 314 episodes, 312 of which have aired, and 51 of those you directed. So 22 of those were of Atlantis, so at least a fifth of the show is yours, but in terms of the franchise you have directed 16 percent of the entire franchise. That’s quite an accomplishment, sir.
AM: Yeah, it is! Well thank you. I’ve never really thought about it in those terms, and I never actually really tallied up the numbers before. So 51, wow. The elusive number 50 has been met and broken. That’s pretty exciting! That’s quite an achievement. If I might say so [I’m] very proud of myself. [Laughter]
GW: Well that’s a lot of television! A lot of shows are lucky to get a second and third season, and obviously Stargate has been going strong for over 12 years now. All the way back to “Foothold,” I think “Foothold” was your first episode. What kind of got you roped in with these guys to become a mainstay in terms of your involvement with the shows?
AM: Well I don’t know if you’re aware, but I’ve been part of the franchise right from day one. I was the first assistant director on “Children of the Gods” with Mario Azzopardi. So I’ve been part of the group right since its inception. It was actually Jonathan Glassner who was the person directly responsible for having me come on board. I’d worked with him in the past. I had worked as an assistant director on a TV series called 21 Jump Street, which of course Mr. Peter DeLuise was a big part of.
It was Jonathan who made the initial contact with me. From there I worked as a First [Assistant Director] for the first season and then worked as a production manager and second unit director after that. I was doing so much second unit work that basically everybody supported the notion of having me direct an entire episode and felt that I was ready to do so. So “Foothold” was that first opportunity for me.
It worked out really well. I thought it was a pretty strong episode, and it certainly led to other opportunities for me within the franchise, which was great. That was what really got the ball rolling for me, doing the second unit work as I was working as a production manager on the show. I was just spending so much time on set. That was kind of my comfort zone anyway. I was never really good at the numbers part of things as much as I was with the daily operations out on the set. That was more where I grew up.
GW: So when you jumped into the drivers seat for “Foothold” what kind of a support structure did you have at Stargate? I mean, everyone wants you to succeed.
AM: Oh absolutely everybody was onboard. There was absolutely no way I was going to fail in that situation. I had the cast a hundred percent behind me. Brad [Wright] of course was a hundred percent behind me. John Smith, Michael Greenburg. Everybody was a huge support for me at that time. The crew of course was behind me all the way.
So it was just destined to work out really well, and I have literally every one of those individuals to thank for it. There was no way I was going to fail. Every one of them made me really look good. I am deeply indebted to all of them for that. It was really a wonderful experience for me. It really was. I couldn’t think of a better way to jump into that situation.
AM: Oh, yeah! She was fantastic. Yeah, that was a great script Joe and Paul wrote. There was “The Curse” and “2010” which is still, to this day, one of my all-time favorite episodes. So I had two absolutely incredible scripts to be able to play with and, yeah, as you say, Osiris was just sensational. She was such a fantastic character.
GW: And the actress who portrayed her!
AM: Yeah! [Laughter] That was me the whole time! I looked pretty good, don’t I? My voice is a little deeper than you might expect, but yeah, that was me the whole time. … [Laughter] But yeah, that was a great experience, both “The Curse” and “2010” were just incredible scripts and wonderful experiences for me.
GW: As a fan — I know you’re a fan of the show itself. It’s not just a day job for you. A lot of us have seen your final episode already, “Enemy at the Gate,” but I think it’s really interesting that as we approach the year 2010 — we saw, in that episode, an ideal version of the future — until we realize the Aschen are basically exterminating us.
But I think it’s interesting that as the franchise gets older, and as we move closer to what would have been that original episode, that “2010” the episode is becoming more and more idealic all the time. General Hammond would have lived longer, Dr. Janet Fraiser would have lived longer, had that timeline been allowed to maintain itself, and we’re really seeing how precious life can be in this timeline. So it’s kind of ironic. Even though we changed the future in “2010” we have friends who are near and dear to us who would still be with us had we gone with that timeline.
AM: That’s an interesting point. I hadn’t even really considered it in those terms before but you’re absolutely right. It is really quite something, the parallels there and the irony of it. And honestly I haven’t even seen that episode since it was finished. I don’t think I’ve ever actually revisited watching “2010” in many, many years. It’s probably been close to 10 years since I’ve seen it!
GW: Got to sit down and do it, Andy. That was a marvelous piece of work.
AM: Yeah, thank you. It was an extraordinary script by Brad Wright. He’s mentioned a few times that it’s been a favorite of his as well. It’s so true with Janet Fraiser and General Hammond, yeah.
GW: What about Don S. Davis? He’s been gone a few months now and he was definitely dear to many fans hearts. What about you?
AM: He was very, very dear to me. I can’t say enough great things about Don Davis. He was an extraordinary man. I have nothing but the fondest memories of Don. I’d known him for many, many years. He was always just a a sweet, kind hearted, gentle but strong man.
Every day he would ask about my wife and my children and was genuinely asking. It wasn’t just a formality. He really wanted to know, and he had nothing but time for everybody. He was larger than life in his presence and he gave so much to the show.
Some of my fondest memories of Don were during the production of “Heroes, Parts 1 and 2,” where even in blocking rehearsals Don would break down with emotion over the subject matter. It was so near and dear to him with his experience in the military.
It was a very moving experience. Knowing how emotional Don was and how fragile, really, he was in that situation, we kind of had to tread a little bit carefully with him. It really allowed us all to see, again, a different side of Don.
GW: Well Robert wrote a fantastic script, and to have Don’s approval — I don’t think you can have any higher praise.
AM: No, absolutely. No, Don was very vocal about that script when it had come out about just how extraordinary it really was, and how close it hit him. How close to home it was to him and it really resonated. For those of us in Canada who didn’t have to experience the things that the American military service people experienced we couldn’t make that connection the same way that Don could.
GW: Well, if I may interject, even though you’re Canadian and I’m American we are both still members of the free world, and we both have servicemen and women in both our nations who do put their lives on the line, so I think you hit it on the head.
To do an episode like “Heroes,” I think we all really knew that it was only a matter of time that Stargate really tackled something like that because whether or not they’re going into Iraq or whether they’re going into Chulak, these are people who are putting their lives on the line for our country, for our planet, for our way of life, and it was just a matter of time before Stargate really hit it.
Man, it could have sucked, but it did it in such an articulate fashion and in such a caring way that it really — I mean, heroes is one of my favorites to this day and so many of the cast it’s still their favorite.
AM: Yeah, and I have to give kudos, obviously, to Mr. Saul Rubinek who did an absolutely extraordinary job as Emmett Bregman. It was just phenomenal and he brought so much to the table. He and Rob spoke at length about the story and how we could make such a wonderful script even better.
He really did bring an awful lot to the table through his wealth of experience as an actor, and as a director too. He’s done it all. He was the right guy for the job and I think he was one of the unsung heroes of that episodes. I mean, he kind of played the bad guy but he saw the whole thing. It was a wonderful experience working with somebody with the tantamount of experience and integrity of Saul. It was just incredible.
And all of our cast. I don’t think any of them had really pulled out all the stops the way they did on “Heroes,” and it was interesting because I’m sure you know the whole story of how it started off as a single one-hour episode and we were shooting a lot of it second-unit. It was done over quite a long period of time. Several months.
It was almost like catch as catch can. If Amanda was available I’d try to grab her and shoot some scenes for “Heroes” while we were doing a different episode. That was how the whole thing was structured. It was a second unit crew that was assembled, and once we got the first hour finished Rob and I realized very quickly that it was going to be very difficult to get cut down to time. We had well over 60 minutes worth of material.
It was at that point where we really realized we had something special in our hands, and that’s when he went back and continued to write more scenes and subsequently flesh it out into a full two-parter.
GW: I wouldn’t have been able to tell! Being a big fan of the episode I wouldn’t have been able to tell that was a one-hour show that you guys expanded into two. A lot of times you can kind of tell that the scenes are slower, but everything in that show is very key, in my opinion, and couldn’t have been left out. Amanda, God love her, she is not a big fan of her own work. I remember her saying when “Heroes” came out, even she was, “That’s an episode that I can’t balk at in terms of my performance.” She really hit it home.
AM: Yeah, everybody reacted the same way. In all my experience in the franchise over all these years I’ve never had so many of the actual cast members come up and just say, “My God, I had no idea.” That was really, really something special. You’re quite right. They do mention that as being one of their favorite episodes of all time.
It’s funny too, because of the fact, I think it worked in our favor that we were doing it second unit, kind of under the radar. It didn’t really receive that much attention during the time that we were shooting it. A lot of times when we were doing it, for instance some of the interview sequences with the cast members, again we were grabbing them from whatever episodes they were doing at the time.
If they had a few extra hours before their day was done we’d get ahold of them. it’s almost as though they didn’t really have the opportunity to think about it very much, and a lot of it became more spontaneous.
Even Michael Shanks, I remember, said “My God, had I known it was kind of like this I would’ve treated the way I handled things a little differently.” I said, “Well, obviously it’s a good thing you didn’t because it turned out so strong.” Each and every one of their performances turned out extraordinary. And of course none more than Teryl Rothery.
GW: Oh I know.
AM: It was a heartbreaking thing to do, I have to say. [Laughter]
GW: You killed Teryl, Andy!
AM: Yeah I did! My God. I’ll never live it down. It was so moving, even at the time when we were shooting the sequence out in the field with a little handheld camcorder, not really seeing it but hearing it. It was quite something. It was a very moving experience that day.
GW: And that’s one of the things about a handheld. The perspective of the camera doesn’t always get everything, and Teryl told me Michael held her hand. We don’t see that on film. After she’s shot and after she’s going he’s embracing her. That’s cool. It’s too bad we didn’t get to catch that, but you can only get so much.
AM: That’s right. It’s true. Some of the best things are sometimes best left unseen, I suppose. But “Heroes” is definitely one of my proudest achievements. I think I can very easily make that statement.
GW: I would completely agree. What are your thoughts on the cancellation of Atlantis? Some fans have been very vocal about losing the show and feel like it’s being exchanged for a new car.
AM: Yeah, I can understand an appreciate where they’re coming from. I really can. We were all saddened by the cancellation. There was no question about it. We were really starting to feel like it was really finding its legs.
I know a lot of the fan base, there was a split amongst the fans somewhere really feeling the last couple of seasons were the strongest. But others I’d read were feeling the other way, that it was going the other direction. So I suppose for that side of the camp perhaps it’s a good thing.
From a personal perspective I was really enjoying myself on Atlantis, and I though it had a lot of potential to continue. So I was personally saddened by its cancellation, but at the same time I understand the way the business works. We’re really proud of the five years and 100 episodes that we were able to achieve.
So I’d rather have the more positive spin on it that it was an accomplishment that we’re all really proud of. Yes, we’re sad but at the same time hopefully everybody will stay on board for the next chapter of the Stargate franchise, which is going to be incredibly exciting for everybody.
GW: So you’re going to be directing episodes for Universe, you’d imagine?
AM: Yes, I’m hoping to be able to do so. I’m here. I’m a “lifer” with Stargate. As long as they’re happy to keep having me I will continue to show up to work. There’s no other place I’d rather be. It’s such a wonderful group of people to work with. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else or wanting to be anywhere else, quite frankly.
GW: Have you heard of any slots open to you for Universe yet?
AM: We’re putting together the schedule now. That’s all getting put into place. We’re hoping to have all the familiar faces back and perhaps some new ones as well. That’s still a work in progress and the network will be involved to a certain extent with approving the director’s list. Brad and Rob of course will be taking a stab at that. So we’ll see.
Hopefully in the very, very near future we’ll have the line-up in place and we’ll be able to let that cat out of the bag. I’m sure it’s going to be most of the people that we’re familiar in seeing in the franchise.
GW: Yeah, you don’t need to fix anything that’s not broken, Andy.
AM: Yeah, exactly. I think we’re all on the same page in that respect. We are hoping to give the new show a little bit of a new flavor visually, not that we feel badly about anything we’ve done in the past. We’re of course very proud of everything that we’ve done in the past.
GW: Oh of course, but you still need to shake it up.
AM: We still need to shake it up a little bit. I think this is a good opportunity to do just that. I think in an effort to help expand upon our current fan base, I think mixing things up a little bit will be a healthy thing to do.
GW: So the big news for you that we’ve been eluding to, you’ve been tapped to direct the first Atlantis movie. What can you tell us about that? Not like the story or anything … You’ve been tapped, Andy! Tell us about it! [Laughter]
AM: It was Paul Mullie who had originally mentioned to me that they were still uncertain as to whether or not there was going to be a Season Six of Atlantis. At that time even when it was up in the air he knew that they were going to be writing a long form.
So that was a very exciting opportunity that he’s presented to me and I’m super excited to be able to do that. I can’t wait to see or hear of any news about it. I haven’t seen any kind of a script at this point. I think the guys are still at the outline stage.
So I don’t even know much at all about the story.
GW: Do you know what it’s called?
AM: I don’t. There’s not even a working title to my knowledge. Joe and Paul are, like I say, actively working on it now. I know at the last I’d heard it was at outline stage. Perhaps during the holidays here the guys have actually been starting to write. I’m not too sure to be honest with you. All I can say is I just cannot wait to have a look at it. It’s so exciting for me because it allows me to keep my life with Atlantis alive.
GW: Exactly. And I do not envy Joe and Paul. Let’s face it. They were planning a sixth season. They were in the middle of shooting “Identity” when the hammer came down.
AM: It was actually in the middle of “Infection” that the hammer came down. It was right on set. We were right in the middle of shooting “Infection.” Joe came down to the set and broke the news to all of us. It was devastating.
They had been obviously actively planning on a Season Six. I think we all were. I mean, there was a lot of speculation honestly, but we really honestly thought it was going to continue on. But yeah, I don’t envy those guys as all.
GW: We’ve got all this story. We’ve killed Michael, and Todd’s either dead or not. We’ve got this new alien race, so what do we do? Which one do we pick?
AM: Exactly. I think it wouldn’t have been hard for them to create 20 more stories for a Season Six.
GW: Now this is an elephant in the room for some of us who are fans of your work in particular, but I feel I need to ask it anyway.
You directed “Enemy at the Gate,” which was the final episode of Atlantis, and generally those kinds of episodes went to Martin Wood, with notable exceptions like “New Order” and “Heroes,” and Martin and Rob got to direct the first SG-1 movies, but now you’re finally getting to direct one. Now was it at all frustrating as an artist that your colleagues always seemed to be getting the cool stuff?
AM: You know what? Not at all. It honestly wasn’t. I was always super excited to get the episodes that I was lucky enough to get. Martin is a fantastic director. Robert’s a fantastic director. Those guys deserve to do the episodes that they’re doing, and there was never for a moment any jealousies or bitterness or anything.
We’re a huge family. We’re all friends socially as well. There were honestly, a hundred percent honesty, there’s never been any animosities or jealousies at all.
Martin was just here the other night. We had a little Christmas get-together. Martin was here, and Peter was here and their families. Damian Kindler was over. There was a bunch of people over at the house. We’re still very much friends socially, not just at work. No, I’ve always been real happy with the opportunities that I’ve had on the show doing mid-season two-parters and season openers and such. I’ve absolutely nothing to complain about.
GW: Well I appreciate your honesty, but still as a fan of your work may I say it’s about time! [Laughter]
AM: Well thank you, David, I appreciate it.
GW: Now Martin and David usually had cameos in their episodes. Martin specifically with his over-sized wrench. What have been some of your favorite gags on the shows over the years?
AM: Well I’ve never done any of those myself. I think the only time I’ve ever actually personally been in an episode was in “100” and “200” where basically everyone was in those, anyway. I don’t even know if I have given it that much thought, to be honest with you, in terms of those special, fun moments.
GW: Was it just not something that occurred to you? “I really don’t want to worry about a cameo for every one of my episodes.” Was it not something that was a priority for you?
AM: It wasn’t a priority for me at all. I’ve always been the quieter guy in back. Martin’s great. He’s larger than life. He and Peter. Obviously Peter spent a hue part of their career in front of the camera. And quite frankly if Martin wasn’t a director he could spend a lot of time in front of the camera himself.
GW: Yeah, he started off as an actor!
AM: The guy’s a ham, come on. How could he not be? He’s great. I love those guys. No, it’s just never been anything for me. I like to stay on the other side so it hasn’t been something that’s been of interest to me. I haven’t thought about it to be honest.
Continue to Part Two >>