GateWorld: So, did you end up seeing that season five episode, “Ghost in the Machine”?
Torri Higginson: No. I heard about it, but I didn’t see it. But, you know, I heard that it was … yeah, they hired somebody else to play Weir.
GW: It was a very uncanny interpretation and impression of you. The actress who stepped in, Michelle Morgan, knocked it out of the park as far as your speech patterns and stuff like that. I mean, it was a good job. But it wasn’t you. And, I think in the end, it suffered for it.
TH: Well, the other side of it’s kind of funny. I mean, I thought, “Well, how many actors can they get to play Weir? Maybe they can just bring her back every few years with a different actor.”
TH: And that can be the next thing about Weir is that she was played by more actors than any other character on television.
GW: And, I think too, a lot of fans too wish over the course of all the years that there was just more done with the character.
You have episodes like “The Real World” in the third year, which was like a tour-de-force for you. You know? Where you’re really having to draw on certain things emotionally. And it’s more difficult to find and figure out where the truth is in how you want to play it. And you take that material and just go to town with it and make it this amazingly fulfilling episode. As opposed to the ones that were much more frequent toward the end where you’re just kind of standing there in the background saying “OK, Sheppard. Send the team through. Good luck.”
TH: Yeah. I mean, that’s what I think I said last time we had an interview was I was talking about understanding. Because I felt, that I don’t know … they didn’t like what I was doing so they weren’t inspired to write for her or if they just sort of didn’t know how to write for this … the woman leader. Because it is a very male-based world. And I’m not sure what the deal was.
But it did feel that she became an administrator. And that wasn’t what excited me about the character. And it wasn’t what I think excited them about the character either. And in Season Two and Three she became just sort of this paper pusher. And, yeah…
So, I understood on that level why they maybe thought this isn’t such an exciting person to write for.
GW: You’ve kept pretty busy since, but unlike a lot of other Canadian actors, it seems most of what you’ve done since Atlantis has been more contemporary work as opposed to genre. Do you have a preference between the two? I mean, even going back to the earlier days, you were doing projrcts like the TekWar films with Greg Evigan and William Shatner up through a certain point … but it seems like a vast majority of what you’re doing now isn’t necessarily so much in that realm where it’s so prevalent as far as what films …
TH: Yeah. I always joke and say, “I’m actor. I’ll take whatever they offer me.”
I know when I left Stargate, I kinda felt … I’ve always been surprised that it … and it’s changed now, but even six years ago, when I was still doing Stargate, I couldn’t get a good agent in Los Angeles. Like, there was kind of this division within Hollywood about sci-fi and the primetime “regular” stuff. And people didn’t give it as much respect, I think, as they do now or as it was due.
I think I was … it was suggested to me when I was no longer doing Stargate and I was back in L.A. to try to do stuff that it was not sci-fi. Just to not get pigeonholed into one thing.
I mean, I sort of … it’s been quite thin – the jobs for me the last few years. I’ve been doing theater. And I’ve been doing more writing than anything else. So, at this point, I mean, I would love to do either. I had a really great, fun job doing Stonehenge Apocalypse, which was – and I’m sorry to Syfy and Paul Ziller, who I adore, adore – was not a great show. But it was fun. It was a lot of fun. And I kind of like doing those things. I have a history of doing a lot of bad action B-movies in Toronto. And at the time, there’d be a part of me going, “Oh, this isn’t exactly Shakespeare. What am I doing? Why am I doing this?” But mostly you just feel, “This is really great fun and we’re not saving the world so why not just enjoy it?” And when people are working on those shows, they’re just doing it for fun, which is refreshing.
GW: Do you have a preference as far as screen work to stage?
TH: Not really. I used to. I used to say, you know, “I do stage for my heart and television to feed my belly.” But I …
GW: Was part of it the immediate gratification? Having an audience right there?
TH: I think there’s that. I think there’s also usually a bit more … you have more to do. Like, in theater, there’s less characters. You’re there for a very specific reason. Your muscles are worked a little bit more intensely. There’s, you know, the writing, the character is clearer. You’re very clear of your purpose. And so that gives you more places to go, I used to feel.
I think now, in an ideal world, I would do one of each every year. Do one play, one television show, one film. Because each one is asking for different muscles. And each one gives you a different experience. And there’s a spontaneity and a playfulness to television and film which I love. I really love. And sometimes it’s really hard with theater, going, “Really? I’ve gotta rehearse this scene again? There’s nothing else to find here. We’ve mined it to death.” And so I think, yeah … the balance would be all of them.
GW: What do you think … in terms of legacy, what do you think Weir left behind? In terms of the show and maybe even Stargate itself if it’s over for good as we’ve known it. What do you think the franchise’s legacy is within entertainment?
TH: Legacy? What is the legacy? I’m not sure. I mean, I feel sort of like I don’t have a right to speak of Weir’s legacy. I feel too “Canadian” to speak in those terms. [laughter]
But, I mean, I do … I’m always amazed and amazed now. I mean, I’ve been out of that job for five years and I’m at a convention and there’s people that want to meet because of that character. That in and of itself is impressive and gratifying and most of all humbling all at the same time.
I think she brought a lot of heart and a lot of integrity to Atlantis. And I think people recognize that. And I love the fact that I used to get jealous that Rachel [Luttrell] would get letters from, you know, sexy men and men in prison. [Laughter]
But I’d get letters from young girls. And I still have young women writing me … they are the majority of my fanbase. And I look at that now and I feel really grateful to be part of that. And I don’t think that was me. I think that was, you know, hopefully a bit of what I brought to Weir. But I think her character just inspired that. And I guess that’s her legacy: her heart and her integrity.
And as far as the show goes, I think Stargate brought a lot. I mean, I used to say I wasn’t a fan of sci-fi. And Stargate made me fall in love with the genre.
I think the beauty of it is … and I look now and I do recognize that all good writers throughout time have used that genre. It’s such a wonderful place to explore real ideas and big ideas without worrying about it ending in fisticuffs. Actually a place to have a philosophical conversation. And I think what Stargate did wonderfully was explore that, but with a wonderful irreverence. So it made it very … I always say, “Theater should do one of three things: Give answers to those who enter with questions, inspire questions to those people who have none, or offer comfort to the drunk that stumbles in by mistake.”
TH: And I think Stargate kind of does that. If you’re coming at it from a heady place, it’s going to give you some answers or discussions to questions or it’s going to inspire questions within you. Or if you just want to laugh and enjoy the cheekiness of it, then you’ve got that as well.
GW: Any message that you’d like to send to fans that haven’t been able to see you at conventions or follow …
TH: Oh, gosh.
GW: Not just Stargate, but your entire body of work.
TH: Oh. Well, thank you. I mean, thank you. It’s an interesting life as an actor and it goes through waves and ebbs and flows. And my last few years have been challenging, which have been wonderful because they’re pushing me in other directions, which are challenging me in a great way. But I am continually humbled that I come here and there are people appreciating the work that I’ve done. And it means a lot, not only to my energy to move forward, but … yeah. It just means a lot. So thank you.
GW: I’ll tell you this now. A good chunk of people at this convention this year are here because you’re here.
TH: Aww. Really?
GW: Mm-hmm. A sizeable chunk.
TH: Oh, that makes me almost weepy. Because I sort of feel like, “What am I gonna say?” I mean, I’ve been out of work for a year, so that’s really sweet to hear. Thank you for sharing that.
GW: Be prepared for a warm reception.
TH: Aww. Adorable. Thank you.
Interview by Chad Colvin. Transcription by UngoauldedUnas.