It’s been the better part of two years now since the last time GateWorld had a full sit-down with Stargate Universe actor Brian J. Smith — in fact, Season Two hadn’t even begun to air yet. Since then, the series (and for the time being, the franchise) was placed in mothballs and the cast has moved on to other projects. And with multiple projects that have aired both during SGU‘s final season run and significantly after, Smith has been one of the busiest.
GateWorld recently had the chance to catch up extensively with the actor, when Smith was gracious enough to burn up the phone lines with us on the eve of his thirtieth birthday. In this super-sized chat, Brian J. Smith talks to GateWorld about and deconstructs the biggest character moments in Season Two for Matthew Scott, explains the joys of shooting on location and his love for the Dallas Cowboys, talks about why he almost didn’t take his latest network television role, and much more!
GateWorld’s interview with Brian J. Smith runs just over 48 minutes. Listen online at your leisure, download it to your MP3 player, or subscribe now to the iTunes Podcast! The full interview is also transcribed below.
GateWorld: How are you doing?
Brian J. Smith: I’m doing pretty good. I really can’t complain, I guess.
GW: Tomorrow is your birthday. Happy birthday to you.
BJS: Thank you. We’re spending the dying hours of my twenties together.
GW: Are you a little scared for the big three-o?
BJS: No, I’m ready for it. Everyone always says the thirties are the best, the best time of your life. I mean, twenties are cool. You’re still figuring a lot of stuff out, you’re not a teenager any more. It’s kind of a really in-between time, so I’m like, “Bring the thirties on. Now!” I’m ready to kick 30’s ass.
GW: How’s Cassie doing?
BJS: She’s doing good. She needs a haircut. She’s adjusted to New York quite nicely. The cool thing about it is I get to take her to work. If I’m working on something here in the city, I’ll take her to set with me and she loves that. She’s a veteran set pet.
GW: SGU was a pretty pet-friendly set too, wasn’t it?
BJS: Oh, yeah. Everybody had their dogs there. The crew had their dogs there, all the people in VFX had dogs, Louis [Ferriera] brought Giancarlo and Charley up all the time. Yeah, everybody had dogs and Cassie just fell right into the mix. She’s not an interactive kind of dog, she would normally just hang out in the trailer and wait for me to spill something, get hair all over that black uniform, which was always an issue. They had to have one of those hair-roller tape things.
GW: I bet the wardrobe department hated you.
BJS: Yeah, yeah. Any time we came in from a break, I had this white King Charles Cavalier fur all over my Stargate uniform. Maybe I was like a Furling or something like that! Maybe that was something we were supposed to find out in Season Three.
GW: First question, probably the biggest one and probably the one that’s on most people’s minds — who are you rooting for, for the Super Bowl this year? As a Texan, if you say Dallas the interview’s over!
BJS: Listen, the interview’s going to have to be over, man! I’m a Cowboys fan, it’s as pure as that. I don’t know if I’d ever be able to really ever root for anybody else. If it’s not the Cowboys playing if I turn on a football game, I usually root for the team who’s losing.
GW: You have to respect Green Bay, come on.
BJS: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. I have my football scope pretty much limited to the Cowboys. If it’s not the Cowboys, it’s that “other” team. I don’t know what they’re doing or what they’re about. But I haven’t seen any football this year. The Cowboys aren’t doing good, are they? They’ve lost quite a few games already.
GW: Yeah, they have. Actually, the biggest surprise for me this season has got to be Detroit. They’re undefeated. Green Bay and Detroit are the only ones left. [Editor’s note: Stats were accurate at interview time. Go Pack Go!]
BJS: You know, when I grew up it was the Cowboys, they were America’s team. There was Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. I’ll always have a place in my heart for the Cowboys no matter who’s in it, but that was a really special time to be a Cowboys fan. I know Rob Cooper is a really big Cowboys fan. I wonder if he is this year.
GW: Well, if he has any taste, probably not. [laughter]
BJS: Hey! Be nice! [laughter]
GW: Sorry, sorry. All right, I suppose we should get serious here. Let’s talk a little bit about Scott’s arc in Season Two. For me, it truly began with “Aftermath” when Riley was killed and Young, his confidence is kind of shaken by the whole thing. We see him deteriorate into this shell and Scott’s forced to assume a little bit heavier of a leadership role in the interim. What was that like in terms of the scenes you played and taking that extra on?
BJS: Well, it was great. I think it all came to a head for Scott in “Trial and Error”. That was really when Colonel Young went off the deep end and Scott, really for the first time, had to step up and make a few calls and try to bring people together. They were facing at that point what they thought was going to be an imminent attempt by the blue aliens for the ship.
There’s just a lot of stuff going on. I thought he did a really good job of stepping up to the plate and I thought he showed the possibility of being a good leader on down the road. It was always a process with Scott and we never wanted to “arrive” anywhere with the characters. The idea was to always keep them changing, keep them a little bit off-balance.
GW: I think one of the key things with Scott was that you could see these leadership skills within him but he was never, ever quite sure of himself.
BJS: No, he wasn’t. And I think it was a very constant and conscious choice by the writers. I know that was something that Brad Wright believed in a lot. Especially in the beginning he would tell me, “Hey, look. Don’t let him get too confident, too good, too smooth right away. Let’s give him somewhere to go over the course of the show.” Of course, they had a very specific plan of how the show was going to move forward in Season Three and beyond.
I think they had a four or five year plan for the show. It’s just one of the things that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. There was still so much more territory to cover with the characters that we didn’t really get to get into, of course because the show was ended so early.
At this point, at the end of Season Two, you got a kind of a hint that Scott could be a good leader, but of course with the chain of command. But the defining relationship, to me, of the show seemed to be Young and Rush and the butting heads between those two. There’s a lot going on with Eli and Rush, and Eli and Young too.
But the real focus seemed to be on those two and building their relationship that I think would have moved Season Three more into the territory of now we’ve got a team, now we’ve got a group of people who are together and now let’s go out and figure out what this background radiation is, maybe continue to find a way home.
But of course, as we saw in “Twin Destinies”, you’ve seen a group of people here who have kind of resigned themselves to their fate and have accepted that this ship might be home and this is now their family. I think going into Season Three and beyond, that that was definitely going to be a core part of the show.
GW: One of the things, Matt goes and he talks to Young towards the end, I think of “Trial and Error”, he goes and he says, “A leader leads for the sake of others, not for themselves.” Something I thought actually rang very true over the course of the entire show, especially with Scott. I know I keep bringing up the leadership thing, but it’s something that I saw so much growth in over the course. That was one of the big arcs for me for the character over the course of the season. The little things like Scott finally snapping Everett out of the funk that he was in. The little things like the way he handled Rush when he came back through the ‘gate after he killed Simeon.
BJS: Right, yeah. And I think it was a really smart choice on the writers’ part because that actually happens in life. I mean, sometimes we sit back on our heels when someone else is putting the food on the table and keeping the streets safe. You know what I mean? In Scott’s case, he was forced to find his place as a leader, he was forced to grow a pair. He was the logical next step in the chain of command and that happens in life.
It’s like the mother who has one of her kids trapped underneath the car and all of a sudden she’s got super-human strength and lifts the car up and saves her kid. People are pretty amazing things and you can get characters that you think initially are kind of weak or pretty unsure of themselves. You put them in the right kind of crisis situation and their going to discover qualities in themselves that they didn’t even know that they had.
I thought was a really great piece of writing we got there, especially in that episode. I look back, that scene between Young and Scott, certainly from my end, I thought that was the best writing I’ve gotten. I remember thanking Paul [Mullie] over and over for that scene because it was one of the very few times I felt that Scott really had something that he had to achieve. The stakes were very, very high. That to me is the most compelling kind of storytelling, those are always the moments we remember in characters’ lives.
GW: That specific scene was electric. I mean, I remember getting those tension goose bumps you get sometimes when you’ve got two characters that are butting heads. The dynamic from the beginning that Young and Rush had, that intensity within the scene, that’s the way that you and Louis were playing it together. Like I said, that was a stand-out scene for me.
BJS: I thought it was the best work I’d done on the show and I think the reason it was is because there was just something very powerful to play. It was all there in the writing. When the writing is that good, you just kind of show up and let it happen. You don’t have to work too hard at it. So it was a real gift.
I’m watching these shows like Breaking Bad and I’m watching Mad Men, every single scene is like that in these shows. That’s what makes them such amazing television shows and it makes me appreciate what they’re able to achieve in shows like that. They’re able to sustain that kind of intensity, episode after episode, scene after scene after scene. That’s a very, very difficult thing to do.
NEXT: “Cloverdale,” “Epilogue,” location shooting and SGU‘s end