As Lt. Colonel John Sheppard, Joe Flanigan had led the Stargate Atlantis team through the gate for the past five years. With January’s series finale, his Stargate journey has seemingly come to an end — at least until Stargate: Extinction, the first Atlantis movie!
GateWorld caught up with Joe during 2009’s Official Stargate SG-1 / Atlantis Convention in Vancouver, hosted by Creation Entertainment! We had just a few fleeting minutes in between events, during which Flanigan talked about the show’s cancellation, Season Five’s “Vegas,” and Sheppard’s journey over the course of the series. He also shares his enthusiasm about shooting an Atlantis movie.
This interview runs six and a half minutes, and is available in video or audio formats. It’s also transcribed below!
GW: Joe, good to see you again!
JF: How are you doing? Good to see you.
GW: We don’t have a lot of time. I know you’re busy here with the convention in Vancouver, so I’ll get right to the meat ‘n potatoes. Where were you when you first heard about the cancellation news, and how did it hit you?
JF: The producer came to my trailer right when I was trying to eat the pork and apple sauce — whatever it is that we were eating that day — which was already hard enough to eat. And then they told [me] we were cancelled … [mimic loud swallow]
Yeah, it was a relatively banal, unceremonious moment.
But I’m glad they told me. I’m glad they told me. They could have waited. I think there might have been a debate there for a while about telling us after the show was finished versus while the show was there. And I’m glad we were told beforehand. For one, it’s the respectful thing to do. But two, it allowed us to kind of sew up the relationships with the cast and crew when we knew we weren’t going to come back.
GW: One of those last episodes that you shot was “Vegas,” which was an awesome —
JF: It was the last episode, technically.
GW: The last episode that you shot, second-to-last aired. Awesome, awesome episode. [It was] so stylistically different for this show. When you first saw that script, what did you think?
JF: I was psyched. I just thought it was a good, bold, creative place to go to. I wish we had gone there before, because I think it opened up a whole new dimension of possible storylines.
GW: The alternate universe Sheppard gives you the opportunity to not only play the character in a really different way, but get a death scene. How did you approach the death scene?
JF: I died?
GW: There’s a little debate. Does Sheppard die at the end?
JF: I think he’s pretty dead. It’s a good way to die, with Johnny Cash singing.
GW: I love that moment. That camera pull-up.
JF: It was a dusty moment.
GW: Yeah, that look on your face …
JF: It was a dusty moment. I really, really enjoyed working with Robert [C. Cooper]. I was sad. And it was kind of weird, because we were spending a lot of time and energy on that show and we really felt like, “Oh God. God, if we could just do this one more season, we could do these types of storylines and everything else.”
So, it was a great read. [And] it was a great shoot. I’m really happy with the result of it.
GW: It’s really interesting. The last show that you shot, Sheppard dies in it … but an alternate Sheppard.
JF: It was kind of weird.
GW: Metaphorical …
JF: It was the last thing we shot.
GW: It was?
JF: Well, wait a minute. No, we actually went to Las Vegas and shot a few more scenes. But it was essentially the last thing we shot.
GW: From Antarctica to a Sheppard’s death, this is quite a 5-year journey for the character. Where did you think the character was after five years? Was he the same guy? Had he changed?
JF: I don’t think he was the same guy. I think that he was a bit of a solo player. I don’t think that he really was thinking about what his potential was, or what he could contribute to things. I think he was just gliding along. He got caught up in an extraordinary circumstance.
Ordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances that made him realize that he had a lot to offer. And then he had a lot of intense relationships. As sometimes sarcastic as he may be, I don’t think anybody ever second-guessed his loyalty and sincerity toward the other characters.
GW: Those were relationships and friendships that were very important — significant to him.
JF: Yeah, I think that he tried to hide it. I think that that was —
GW: Afraid of attachment.
JF: Oh yeah, for sure. And I think it was interesting because we had a number of meetings in the producers’ office about that. And my angle was always avoidance. The most interesting choice is hiding something as opposed to showing it.
So, there was a little bit of a struggle sometimes where they wanted me to show more. And I thought it was more interesting because you still see it, it’s just hidden. And I think that it became harder and harder over the seasons because you saw that he became familiar with the other characters.
GW: How about this Atlantis movie? Do you think it’s going to happen this year?
JF: I got to tell you, ask Brad [Wright] and Robert [C. Cooper] tomorrow and see if you can get an answer. They may not have the answer. It may be [an] MGM thing. I know that I was at SCI FI [Channel] last week meeting about something else and they were under the impression that we were going to shoot it.
GW: So you’re waiting for the call?
JF: So to speak.
GW: Are you excited about doing it?
JF: I would love to get back together with my cast and crew and have a good time. I actually think it would be a lot more fun in that circumstance than the grind of putting out an episode every single week.
It’s taxing, incredibly taxing. What I know now, I wish I had known that going into the show. I could have been more mentally and physically prepared to handle it. But it took me two or three years to calibrate and find reserve energy and people-management skills where I could actually do things better.
Interview by Darren Sumner. Transcript by Kerenza Harris.