Interview: Robert Picardo & Joseph Mallozzi from Stargate Atlantis

We had the honor of sitting down with Robert Picardo (Star) and Joseph Mallozzi (Executive Producer) to talk about the upcoming season five, where “Stargate Atlantis” has been and where its going. Here’s what they had to say:

I’m anticipating this hotly discussed script, Whispers.

Joseph Mallozzi: Oh yeah.

It’s got a horror tinge and I was wondering if you could elaborate?

Joseph Mallozzi: Okay. You know, I’ve always been a big fan of horror and one of the things that – you know, one of the great things about Stargate is that we can do, you know, such a variety of different types of stories.

I mean, we do our funny episodes. We do our serious episodes, the off world episodes, the, you know, ship based episode. And, you know, I just realized that we’ve never really done a horror episode.

And we’ve done monster movies but never really kind of a scare fest. So I mean, you know, I – you know, I pitched stuff to the guys and they really liked the idea.

And, you know, I spoke to Will about it and he’s like yeah – Will Waring, who is, you know, our Director who directed the episode and he’s also a big fan of horror movies.

So, you know, we actually did a little mini horror movie for the episode, Whispers. What we did, you know, Joe Flannigan and Paul McGillion — two of our regulars — joined a team of – an all female team on an off world adventure.

I mean, one of the things about just, you know, TV, (office) episodic television in general is, you know, at the end of the day you kind of know that your heroes are going to come out of it in one piece, more or less, unless you happen to be, you know, Carson Beckett (and trend A) or, you know, what have you.

So I thought I was important to add this all female team for kind of two reasons. One, with Amanda leaving, I thought there was kind of a gender imbalance in the show that I kind of wanted to address by bringing in, or at least introducing some potentially recurring female characters.

And two, you know, have the audience invest in characters that, you know, you don’t really know whether they’re going to survive or not. And, you know, it was just really a fun episode.

I mean, right now – I mean, I went by a couple of days ago and Mark Savelo, our VFX Supervisor, he was just showing me some of the temps on the visual effects and, you know, I’m – you know, gosh I hope it’s not one of these episodes that angry parents, you know, write the network about.

But, you know, I – you know, hopefully, you know, it’ll be an atypical episode and, you know, I’m hoping that people will enjoy it – especially fans of the horror genre.

Can you tell us kind of – I know you can’t reveal everything, but kind of in general what’s coming up story wise and for the teams this new season, and how it’s going to be different from previous seasons?

Joseph Mallozzi: Well it – this is Joe again. You know, in previous seasons – I mean, you know, season one was set up and season two was (telling). And season three, I think, you know, we’re stepping out and exploring more, you know, sort of a variety of stories.

Throughout those first three seasons, though, we were always I guess securing resources with, you know, SG-1 – be it a series or the movies and, you know, as a result I guess it taught you – because of the time constriction, we weren’t able to really sit back and I think plan out the season quite as concisely as we could have which is what we did in season four.

We realized okay, you know, there is – there was an imbalance in, you know, some of the stories being told. I mean, there were a lot of McKay stories but one of the things we set out to do in season four that we did in season five as well was, you know, give each character a story and then, you know, a spotlight and really focus on them, and give them a chance to really step up.

And, you know, we did that again – you know, we did that once again in season five. And where in season four we wanted to deal with some of the, you know, our standing villains.

We kicked off the Wraith/Replicator war. We got rid of the Replicators. We weakened the Wraith and now season five is kind of a step forward in a couple of ways.

One, in a big picture way we are introducing a couple of new races. We’re suggesting that with the Wraith weakened in the Pegasus Galaxy, there are a number of civilizations that are basically standing up and assuming power.

So I mean, in a big, you know, big picture way that’s what we’re doing. In another big picture way we get a – we have a new commander on the Atlantis expedition with Carter leaving.

You know, what we said in season four was, you know, with the threats that Atlantis is facing — especially with regard to Wraith — you know, the military essentially flexed their muscles and wanted to exert some influence over the Atlantis expedition.

So Carter was appointed as a compromised candidate. In season five, with — as we said — the Wraith, you know, back on their heels the (IOA) in turn flexed its muscles and they appoint Richard Woolsey as the new interim leader of the Atlantis expedition.

And that will be a big and – you know, a big change and frankly, it’s been a great change. You know, we’ve been big Bob Picardo fans for years and, you know, what started off as a – as, you know, a couple of episodes in Heroes and through a recurring role which eventually when the opportunity presented itself, I mean, there was no hesitation.

We said, you know, if Bob can do it, you know, we would love to have him on the show and Bob was kind enough to, you know, make time for us I guess.

Robert Picardo: This is very interesting for me to listen to as well because I find out, you know, all the secret things that the Executive Producer has in store. I was a little worried momentarily when he mentioned – when he made reference to a bit of a gender imbalance.

I thought that by Episode 20 perhaps he’d be given full reign to (pull) the feminine side – at least that he’d be, you know, cross-dressing on the base. But I’m happy to hear that that’s not in the planning.

Robert, how did you get mixed up with these guys on this level? Was it as simple as them asking and you saying yes?

Robert Picardo: Yes, they – I think they have a tradition of using actors from the other franchise, the name of which I dare not speak, as some casting. Many of my colleagues from the different Star Trek shows have been guest stars.

And I think that they either last from one to four episodes. In fact, I think around the fourth time they asked me back, I was flipping to the end of the script to see if I was killed yet.

But I managed to outlast them all and, you know, it’s been a lot of fun working with both casts, and with the Writer/Producers. They’ve really built the character from his initial impression of being kind of a hardnosed, you know, a vicious blame layer.

I call the characters that are coming to find out who has screwed up and whose head is going to roll in his initial appearance. And in Heroes: Part 2, they really fleshed him out.

And although he still has kind of insufficient people skills perhaps to be a leader, he’s developing them now that he’s assumed command. I think there’s something inherently interesting in the Monday morning quarterback, the guy who, you know, sits in the – at one end of the briefing room and tells everyone, you know, what they should’ve done and how they’ve screwed up.

Now that he’s suddenly making the decisions himself, it’s a very interesting dynamic that has its own kind of built in dramatic tension. He’s not used to – you know, he’s used to evaluating others but not to having that responsibility rest solely on his own shoulders.

And in fact, we have an upcoming episode where his own new command will be evaluated by someone who’s taken over his old position. So there’s a lot of, I think, fun layers to explore this year.

Are you drawn to Sci-Fi? Is there something about the genre that pulls you in or is this almost also sort of like all of the people that make Sci-Fi, they watch Sci-Fi and that puts you on their radar, and they know to reach out to you? Is it – or is it some combination of both?

Robert Picardo: I think it’s a combination of both. I’ve – working on Star Trek for — there I said it — for seven years, I really came to appreciate what it was about that kind of storytelling that developed such a loyal fan base – that, you know, the regular viewer of science fiction has the interest and the capacity to really imagine the future, to dream of a better one and to kind – and I think even to project themselves into the future in a certain way, that that’s part of their psyche and personal passion.

That’s why they watch this kind of program. And once I appreciated what it was about the storytelling that made it special and that made the fans so loyal, I really began to enjoy it and I think to flourish in it as an actor.

I really used my own imagination a lot and made a number of suggestions during my tenure on Star Trek. And – but also, I – because the fan base is so loyal, they like seeing an actor that they know from one show take on another role in another of their favorite shows.

So it does work both was. I can’t honestly say that I set out at the beginning of my career to spend, you know, ten years in a jumpsuit.

But that’s – you know, it does keep you – it keeps you in the gym regularly as well.

One of the challenges that you had in Star Trek was making a holograph – a hologram real to people but it occurred to me this morning when I was thinking about this – isn’t that the challenge that you always face more or less with any character you do, just like right now?

Robert Picardo: Of course. You – every – when an actor gets a role, especially in series television where the – where he really is the part. He’s the – the audience never thinks of another actor playing that role. If they accept you in the role, then you are – they can’t separate the actor from the character.

But we always have to devote a lot of attention and imagination to what the character’s back-story is, where he comes from, what his education is, previous work experiences and his personal life, and all of that stuff that’s off camera that will help inform the part that’s on camera.

With Woolsey, his back-story was sort of slowly revealed through various guest appearances. It’s not like when I set out at Star Trek, I made all the decisions and just – and set on my journey with what I understood the writers wanted from that character.

And of course, it was different from any other character I played because when you’re playing a new technology that’s basically booted in the first – booted up in the first episode, you have no back-story.

So that was the challenge of that role because there was not – there was really nothing to depend on. It was starting, you know, with a clean slate and building it – building the character piece by piece.

So the – I have to tell you though after seven years as a hologram, I’m happy to be back playing human beings. It’s – I was afraid of getting out of practice. So I’m glad to be flesh and blood again, and to have the ability to, you know, to change and even to age.

Nobody wants to play – I’ve talked to Brent Spiner about this. You don’t want to play a character indefinitely who’s not supposed to age.

With the first half of season five already on film, what would you say will be the turning point for viewers and ratings while continuing the second half and potentially a sixth season?

Joseph Mallozzi: The turning point? You know, I’m kind of hoping – it’s not so much a turning point but a build from last year’s strong finish. You know, I don’t recall off the top of my head what the numbers were but, you know, I know that, you know, Last Man — our season finale — finished very strongly.

And hopefully that’s something we can continue with the premiere: Search and Rescue. You know, and I’m sure some of you may have seen it along with the few thousand who happened to be cruising You Tube over the weekend or a couple of – last weekend.

And the reaction is – you know, was overwhelming, positive from what I saw. I think it’s awfully indicative of what’s to come this season, you know, a variety of, you know, action, character development, just, you know, hopefully what the fans have grown to love and really desire from the show.

In terms of standout episodes, you know, off the top of my head I mean, there are, I think – you know, I’m very happy with the first half. But of course, you know, one of the, you know, big episodes — sort of like last year — Be All My sins was a big midseason two-parter – the second part of the midseason two-parter.

In a similar way, the midseason two-parter is going to be very big this year. It’s First Contact and The Lost Tribe. And of course, Daniel Jackson will be dropping in for an appearance and that’s going to be huge for a lot of the SG-1 fans who, you know, I’m sure have missed him and, you know, have been asking, you know, what the hell is taking so long for Daniel to come on over to, you know, the Pegasus Galaxy.

Well they get the chance in the midseason two-parter. And, you know, like last year’s Be All My Sins Remembered, it’s got – you know, it’s full of surprises and action, and, you know, spectacular visual effects and some really nice character moments, particularly with regard to McKay and Daniel Jackson who are two characters that really haven’t had a chance to sort of play off each other.

And they play off each other really, really well. I mean, you know, one of the things I said was these two guys — Hewlett and Shanks — are the fastest talking actors in Sci-Fi, you know, bar none.

And as a result I mean, Martin Gero wrote both scripts and they were almost like 60-page scripts which is – there are usually, you know, a 60-page script is usually long.

And I think First Contact was exactly to (top) and I’m not sure what Lost Tribe was – maybe a minute over. So, you know, a lot of rapid fire talk between the two. And you know, hopefully, you know, it’ll be an episode that the fans will love just as much as last year’s midseason two-parter.

Robert, You talk about character development and we’re going back to Woolsey – what adjustments will we see as Woolsey takes over as the new leader of the Atlantis expedition versus previous appearances where he was a little indecisive or trying to take control, et cetera? What adjustments will we see?

Robert Picardo: Well, the – Woolsey appears briefly at the end of the season opener, Search and Rescue, which is a very exciting, action-oriented episode. He comes in and rather abruptly relieves Carter of command with his – you know, with the – with his characteristic gruffness and lack, I think, of interpersonal skills.

So that’s your first experience of him. In the very next episode, which is called The Seed, he faces the first major crisis at his new command. It’s a very dramatic outing for the character. It’s – there’s not really much humor in that first one.

And he learns the lesson that he can’t simply follow the rulebook and do this job. I mean, he – by his own estimation, he’s broken protocol about five times in his first crisis.

And that puts him — at the end of the show — in a personal crisis because he’s always sort of defined himself as someone who knows the rulebook, evaluates others ability to live by it and now in his first series of, you know, crisis command decisions he’s broken his own, you know, his own commitment to protocol and – in order to save a beloved member of the crew.

So he learns and in so doing – and so having that conflict, I think he earns the respect or the beginning respect from Colonel Sheppard because he demonstrates a capacity that he hasn’t shown thus far.

The very next episode of Broken Ties, although there’s plenty of adventure in the A story, there’s also kind of a B story of Woolsey getting used to the technology of the base.

And he’s – you know, he’s the kind of guy who will end a briefing room meeting and tell everybody what to do. And then because they are – he’s a little late following everyone out the door, it’s because he’s collecting his notes.

Then he doesn’t know how to get out – he doesn’t know how to open the door. I mean, he’s running the base but he doesn’t know how to use the technology yet and literally can’t get out the door.

And there are two or three quite humorous moments, I think, throughout that episode. So that – and what was gratifying for me as the performer is that I shows right off the bat that the character has the gravity in the dramatic situations but they can also use, you know, his settling in and his own character (foils) to get some, you know, some comic moments as well.

Joseph Mallozzi: One thing I want to add with regard to those three comic beats – well the last one I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a last scene were we find Woolsey in his quarters.

It was actually pitched out by Bob at the beginning of the season and he said you know what I think would be great for the character? I would love to do this and, you know, we thought about it. I pitched it out in the room. I said, you know, Bob pitched this and everybody loved it, and we worked it into Broken Ties.

So, you know, when you watch that moment just keep in mind that that was Bob’s idea.

Robert, are you worried at all about the shoes that you have to fill with Amanda being such a loved part of Stargate?

Robert Picardo: Of course. In the same way that when I got my role on Voyager as the artificial intelligence character in that cast, I was concerned that I would be measured against Brent Spiner’s character because he’d been the android on the Next Generation and now I was the hologram on Voyager.

But nonetheless, there were – we were going to mime some of the same issues and storylines. And I thought he had done that so successfully and was so popular that I would inevitably be measured against him.

Fortunately in that case, I was defined by the writers and as much as I could by my own work as differently as I could be from him, and it turned out to be a non-issue, I think.

And I am – I not only am a fan of Amanda as a character on the show — I think her work is wonderful — I’m a huge fan of her personally. She is one of the loveliest people you will ever meet and work with.

So there’s a lot – both as an actor and as a character, there’s a lot – it’s a loaded situation to walk into. Fortunately, the rest of the cast has been very welcoming to me and also Amanda left, of course, for a spectacularly successful reason and that is to star in and produce her own new series for the Sci-Fi Channel.

So it was a very – although it’s daunting to replace such a popular character, I like to think that I’m not replacing her, that I’m simply – you know, that she’s moved on.

There’s always the hope that she’ll come back and make guest appearances on the show and that the, you know, that the audience will not only enjoy watching me in the role and develop it – to see a character who’s not really cut out to be a leader try to build himself into one.

Joe, I was wondering if you could talk about your favorite memory of Don Davis?

Joseph Mallozzi: You know, I – you know, it’s – you know, I’m sure you guys all heard the very – the heartbreaking news that Don passed away on Sunday and I just heard about it yesterday morning.

And last night I just stayed up and I wrote up a special blog entry for him, in his memory. You know, I don’t know if there’s a specific memory. I just – in this business – I mean, I’m sure all you guys know better than anyone that, you know, people come across great in sort of a public persona but when you actually sit down to meet them face-to-face, a lot of the time they’re not quite as, I guess, likeable and their on-screen personas.

With Don, you know, he was, you know – I think, you know, even – he had a bigger heart, was even nicer than the Hammond character that he played. You know, he was one of the first, you know, actors to warmly welcome me to the set way back in season four.

You know, we became friends. You know, I – over the course of my nine years of working on the show, I’d say that, you know, I’ve enjoyed working with a lot of, you know, prime people but I – but in all honesty, there are only three that I would be bold enough to call my friends at this point.

One was Chris Judge. The second is the guy who’s on the conference call with me today, Bob Picardo, and the third was Don. You know, he just – he was a very easygoing guy and, you know, I just – I guess one of the best memories I have of him is that the occasional (calm) that I attended.

And, you know, I’d see kind of the fans approach him with a certain amount of trepidation. You know, some fans were somewhat reticent to, I guess, come across as, you know, I guess fans and really impose on him.

But I mean, he was always incredibly welcoming and always very charmed, and charming to the fans. And, you know, when – you know, as I said in my blog, whenever fans would approach him, they would approach him as sort of, you know, being – in a sense that he was – you know, they were approaching General Hammond.

But once they got know him, they got to know really Don Davis who would be, you know, a very warm-hearted, incredibly self-deprecating man who, you know, sadly, you know, will be incredibly missed by, you know, not just obviously the fans but any and all – anybody who ever worked with him.

Robert, with SG-1, obviously it was very successful. It was on the air for ten years. Now with Atlantis, I mean, you guys are going to mark your 100th episode this season. To what do you attribute the success of the Stargate universe?

Robert Picardo: Well, I think – it’s hard for me to separate my feelings from – I’m a guy who came from seven years on the competing franchise so when I look at what Stargate does well in comparison to where I’ve been before, I think Star Trek does some things very well.

They’re – it’s very philosophical and cerebral. But it’s a – its formula is very different from, I think, the success formula that Atlantis does. Atlantis has – I think, does action adventure extremely well but most importantly, to me, it has this sort of breezy humor, this ability to wink at the genre that Star Trek cannot have.

Star Trek just has to be – has to take itself very seriously. That’s the mold. And Stargate Atlantis and certainly Stargate SG-1, you know, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that Richard Dean Anderson was the first Stargate star on television and his characteristic humor.

It has the ability to really let the audience in on the good humor, the joke of the fact that we know we’re going to save the world every week and that, you know, we can wink at that a little bit and have that kind of fun with it.

So I – to me, the offhanded humor of the show is what I’m enjoying the most and what I find most exciting having come from sort of a more rigid formula background.

Not to take anything away from my former employer and what it does – what it did well and continues to do well, but I think that that combination of action adventure and humor that, you know, that’s very much in the – sort of the Indiana Jones style is what I find the most fun.

You know, with Stargate, obviously there’s so much back-story, there’s so much really good mythology. I’m wondering about attracting new fans. What is it about the series that would make it attractive to someone who’s never seen it, who wants to start picking it up in season five?

Joseph Mallozzi: Well one of the, you know, nice things about the show is that the, you know, despite the fact that it does have a significant amount of mythology, you know, it’s not really serialized.

I mean, there’s an overall, you know, season to season arc but once – it’s a very easy show to get into just because we do so many standalone episodes like, for instance, you know, the – you know, Whispers that we were referring to or, you know, last year, Harmony.

I mean, you’ll always have a little connection to the past, you know, past episodes. But it’s not really a show – you know, a serialized show where basically you really have to have watched the previous seasons or even the previous couple of episodes to know what’s going on.

You know, like I said, one of the great things about the show is the variety of the types of stories we tell. You know, serialized versus standalone is one, you know, example of that.

Robert, I was wondering how do you reinvent yourself as an actor after such notable roles?

Robert Picardo: Well that’s – I think that that’s what attracts – attracted me to become an actor is exactly that challenge, that every time out you’re creating, you know, you’re creating someone different.

So it’s not so much how. It’s – I’m chomping at the bit to do that all the time. And what’s wonderful is when you get the opportunity to do it. So I don’t look at that as – that is the fun part. So that’s never a chore.

And what I – I’m also hoping – this is sort of a reference to the previous question as well. I’m hoping – I’m certainly hoping to bring whatever Star Trek fans are out there that haven’t sampled Stargate, you know.

And I don’t think there are that many of them because there’s a lot of crossover in the fan bases. But I’m hoping that if they were fans of mine from Voyager that they will – and they don’t know Stargate, that they’ll come and sample the show, you know, because of – because it’s a great time to get into the series because they’re going to follow my character’s – my character is starting out this year – really starting out as the commander.

So it’s – that’s a great window into the series if you haven’t watched it before because you’re going to experience it, you know, from the beginning of my tenure and my journey will kind of be linked to yours as a new fan.

So I’m hoping that those 77 Star Trek fans out there that haven’t watched yet are all going to join – you know, are all going to be sitting in front of the TV on July 11.

Right on. Now in terms of Woolsey, how can leadership evolve out of someone who’s not a leader?

Robert Picardo: Well again, that’s the fun part. When I – when Joe first called me last November and said how would you like to assume the command, my initial response — which I don’t think I said out loud — was you’re kidding because I don’t – I didn’t think of the guy as the leader.

He’s the theorist. He’s the briefing – you know, he’s a briefing room guy and not a real event guy. He’s not the guy who’s used to being in the fray. In fact, we had a certain amount of comic mileage on Atlantis by having him put in dangerous circumstances, and he’s not a very heroic guy.

So I think that my initial surprise at the offer turned out – sort of then transformed itself into the most fun part of the challenge. Again, it’s – you know, we’re in a world now were everybody changes careers several times during their lifetime and supposedly our children’s generation will change them as many as a dozen times throughout their lifetime.

So to see a guy in, you know, in middle life or, you know, or even a little behind middle life going – this is – you know, I now have to put aside everything I’ve done thus far and done successfully thus far, and try to reinvent myself.

It’s an interesting challenge and a fun one, both as an actor and a character. So I’m really having a ball. And it’s exactly because he’s an unexpected choice for this job, and that’s what I think is going to – you know, that the viewers hopefully will respond to as I have.

Did you like Woolsey from the (start)?

Robert Picardo: Did I like Woolsey?

Yeah, did you like him or did he have to grow on you?

Robert Picardo: No, when I first met him – when I first made my convention appearance – his personal appearances that of course, all the science fiction actors make, after two or three appearances as Woolsey and the – this character – I would be asked questions about working on Stargate and they’d say I really like your character.

And I would say you’re kidding because he was – I thought of him as, you know, as kind of a jerk early on. But again, the – his very second appearance which I think was called Inauguration, you saw that even though he rubbed people the wrong way and was seen as the – you know, someone who came in only to find out who’d screwed up and as I said, assign blame – that at least he was driven by a personal passion that was quite positive and ethical.

He really believed in the importance of civilian oversight of a secret military operation so that it wasn’t – so that a rogue element did not come in and take it over, and would no longer serve the interest of, you know, of the public.

So that – the fact that he really – the audience responded, I think, right away to the fact that Woolsey meant well even though he – you know, even though he annoyed people.

And in subsequent appearances, the writers fleshed him out, gave him some foibles and made him, you know, I think gave him his own kind of weird charm so that I think that – and that journey hopefully will – is continuing right now in season five.

So I think that it was a bold thing for the producers to do, to pick a guy like this who did not – you know, doesn’t seem to be necessarily the first choice for a leader, but to have him try to make himself into one, I think, is the really interesting and creative choice.

Is the character, Woolsey – is he going to be – it’s great to see that Bob’s natural humor is going to – is coming out in his – in the portrayal, but is Woolsey going to be loosening up as this character arc and be less by the book as the season goes on?

Robert Picardo: Well I – Joe, do you want to take a crack at that first?

Joseph Mallozzi: Well I mean, you kind of answered that question with regard to Episode 2 where – I mean, he comes in and he’s essentially appointed because he is a by the book guy and someone who the IOA feels they can trust to follow protocol.

And in his very first, you know, crisis situation in Episode 2 called The Seed, he throws the, you know, playbook out the window and quickly realizes that in the Pegasus Galaxy, you know, you can’t just follow protocol in order to save lives and really make the right decision.

You know, you really have to react as, you know, as a situation dictates. You just kind of, you know, play it by ear and it’s a little – it’s like a little mini crisis for Woolsey at the episode’s end where he realizes he’s – you know, he – rather than following protocol, he, you know, he went against protocol.

And even though the situation worked out, you know, that’s not the point because I mean, that – you know, he was not sent to the Pegasus Galaxy to just kind of play the cowboy.

And then over the course of the ensuing episodes, he – you know, he – you know, the lesson becomes even more obvious, you know, when Roman goes missing. And then it’ll eventually culminate in an episode call Remnants – Episode 16 — we’re not yet up to 15 now — where, you know, over the course of most of the season, I mean, he did come in as an interim leader.

And, you know, over the course of the scenes they begin to just kind of accept his as a new commander of the base. But then come Episode 15, he’s suddenly up for review and the IOA is not exactly pleased with his performance because he was sent in to, just in a sense, be a pit bull but, you know, he wasn’t following procedure and his job is at stake.

And I mean, I kind of liken it to that first – the second episode that Bob referred to, Inauguration, where he played Kinsey’s pit bull and Kinsey, you know, sicked him on SG-1.

And he was more than happy to do his job so long as he thought he was doing the right thing. And then near the end of the episode, he realized, you know, my gosh, I mean, I’m not doing the right thing.

And rather than just, you know, play along with Kinsey, he actually goes to see the President and comes clean with him. And that was our first step towards, I guess, rehabilitating the character and making him a character that ultimately the audience could sympathize with and grow to like. And I mean, you know, you can argue back and forth whether he’s leadership material, but I mean, I think, over the course of season five you’ll come to, you know, realize that he is leadership material even though maybe he doesn’t realize it himself.

Robert, have you seen any of the animation of Quantum Quest yet?

Robert Picardo: I had seen not the full animation. I’ve seen drawings and stuff, and I have recorded my part, and I’m proud to be in something that’s not only a great, I think, educational tool for kids but it’s a – it stands alone as an entertainment as well and with an A-list of voice talents like Samuel Jackson and gosh, I can’t even remember.

John Travolta, yeah.

Robert Picardo: John Travolta, you know, it’s got a really good list and I play one of the principles. I play the, you know, the sort of crusty, old resistance leader, I guess you’d describe him. So I think it’s a really good project.

It’ll teach kids something about quantum physics while they’re watching a really cool I-MAX animated film.

And can you talk about Sensored coming out, too?

Robert Picardo: Sensored is a pretty creepy horror movie which I play the principle role in. My character seems to be, you know, your neighbor down the block who dresses like Mister Rogers in little sweater vest and keeps to himself.

But, you know, he seems to be – upon further examination, he is torturing one or more people in the basement and may be a CIA special, you know, special coercive techniques expert or he might just think that he is.

So it’s a very interesting, layered and slightly crazy guy I’m playing and you’ll be seeing it hopefully – I’d hoped the movie would be completed in time for this Halloween, but the post production schedule is taking a little longer. So you’ll hopefully see it early next year.

Robert, I wanted to find out if maybe you could talk a little bit about how Woolsey’s relationships with the other Atlantis characters has sort of developed further this year and is there one character you’re especially enjoying seeing Woolsey interact with in season five so far?

Robert Picardo: That’s a great question, Steve, because to me ultimately that’s what – you know, that’s what really makes the character interesting to the loyal viewer is how the new guys fits in and reacts uniquely with each of the other principle characters.

Off the top of my head, when Woolsey arrives, in a way he’s kind of – not intentionally, but in a way he’s coldest to Rachel’s – to Teyla’s character — Rachel Luttrell’s character — because her husband – the father of her child is basically being kept in a refugee camp and he’s quite insensitive to that, I think, personally and choosing, you know, security over looking, you know, really with an open heart at her specific situation.

And what’s interesting is that her character is the first one to reach out to him and really be kind to him even though he is, perhaps, least sensitive to her which says something about her character.

But also, I think, that that disarms him all the more, that she makes the first real gesture toward him. In the episode that we have already talked about — The Seed — at the end of that, I think he takes a major step in the relationship with Joe Flannigan’s Colonel Sheppard by admitting to him tat he doesn’t know if he’s the right guy to run the base because he’s already broken his own rules so many times.

But Joe basically says that’s, you know, that’s the only way to do it here and kind of gives him a, you know, a pat on the shoulder and says, you know, you’re learning and you’re – perhaps you’re going to do better than we all thought – is the intimation of that moment.

I haven’t really had – there’s been no particular kind of breakthrough moment, I think, with David Hewlitt’s character, Dr. McKay. I am a huge fan of David’s and he cracks me up all the time on the set.

In fact, it’s very rare that I work with an actor where I’m afraid I’m going to, you know, I’m going to break out laughing during a take. But he is as close as I get to making me lose it.

He is an extraordinarily funny guy, not only in the show but with these wonderful characterizations that he sort of breaks into in between takes. I haven’t had a – I don’t think I’ve had like a – sort of a – necessarily a single pivotal moment with his character that leaps to mind.

But I think that there is a – I don’t remember the number of it. Joe will have – I’m sorry, Joe Mallozzi will have to help me out with it. But there is a – oh, I think I did get it. I think it’s Ghost in the Machine where Woolsey has to basically play his first poker hand.

When the chips are down and the danger is very high, he calls the bluff of the enemy and he’s clearly – we’ve never seen Woolsey be that kind of controlled and confident before.

And I think that that moment, I think, kind of catches Dr. McKay’s attention as boy, this guy has something that we didn’t expect him to have. And who else? Jason – what’s fun about relating to Jason as a character is because Ronon is set up as the man of few words and, you know, pure action.

He’s a natural contrast to Woolsey who is set up as a guy who can’t stop talking and is not very experienced in the real situations. So I’m looking forward to, you know, to – in fact, in one of the – I think the first show after the break, I have some very amusing scenes with Ronon where I’m trying to get him to file reports the way he’s supposed to and he hates to do that.

He hates to – obviously hates to write. He doesn’t even want to dictate the reports, you know. So I think that there are unique relationships developing between Woolsey and all the other principle characters that I think have a lot of room there for future growth.

Joe, writing-wise, what do you think has been toughest — because I’ve been keeping track of your blog as well — what maybe has been the toughest episode so far for you to write this season, would you say?

Joseph Mallozzi: Right now, the one I’m working on now, Remnants… which really is three different stories. I mean, there’s a story involving Sheppard no the mainland. There’s a story involving Woolsey and a potential love interest, you know, in the midst of this probationary review that he’s undergoing that clearly is not – looks like it’s not going to go very well.

And then there’s a third story involving McKay and Zelenka that kind of explores a bit of their friendship or, you know, some would say non-existent friendship. But I mean, there’s still that mutual respect between the two.

When the – and it involves them discovering a device at the bottom of the ocean, just maybe a couple of hundred miles, you know, way from the city. And, you know, this – it’s a script that jumps kind of back and forth between the three stories.

And, you know, as things progress, they inevitably come together and you realize that the three seemingly unrelated stories are in fact connected in a very big way.

And, you know, it’s – there are a couple of instances that- particularly with regard to Sheppard – I mean, I can’t – you know, I don’t want to give too much away.

Because, you know, I’m not – I don’t even know what’s going to make it to screen. But it’s very dark with regard to the Sheppard story and there are a couple of instances that a couple of the writers, my fellow writers, balked at but a couple of other writers loved as well.

And I thought were very important to keep in the script that, you know, I’ll be interested to see what the network says when they read the script. You know, it’s – you know, of all the scripts – I mean, every script is a challenge but I think this one in particular has been particularly challenging.

And, you know, we’ll see what the network has to say and what the rewrite will look like.

I know that earlier, I think yesterday, that, you know, the Screen Actors Guild said that they don’t seem to pursuing a strike, but if there was a strike, you know, would Stargate be as immune to it as they were with the Writers Strike or is this something that might actually affect it if this were to happen?

Joseph Mallozzi: Oh no, it will definitely affect the show. I mean, I think, you know – the majority of our, you know, our regulars are SAG. I believe we could do the show with Zelenka and Lorn which I’m sure, you know, a lot of the fans would like but after two or three episodes, I think they will get a hankering to see our regulars.

So I mean, in response to your question – yes, I mean, a SAG strike will affect production.

Because I mean, how far are you guys into – how far are you into fifth season? Is it just the first ten or are you guys actually working on the back ten now?

Joseph Mallozzi: Now, we’re actually working on the back five. We prep Episode 15 when we come back, hopefully on schedule we’ll shoot 15 and then we’ll, you know, we’ll finish up those last four along with our big 100th episode which will fall 20 this year.

And so like – I mean, but – so there was no like any special preparations or anything to maybe accelerate a shooting schedule before a strike?

Joseph Mallozzi: No. I mean, our shooting schedule — I’m sure Bob can attest to this fact — is fairly accelerated as it is. I mean, we shoot fairly quickly and we’re always pulling up days. And, you know, I believe actually we were kind of scheduled to finish 13, but we managed to pull up an episode and get 14 in the can before the start of hiatus.

So, you know, we did the best we can. Hopefully, like I said, we’ll come back and, you know, on schedule and shoot, and finish up the rest of the season, you know, on time.

With Amanda Tapping departing the show, when actually did you guys know that that was happening? I mean, how far were you in planning or maybe even breaking stories for the fifth season? Did you know that or was there always kind of a plan to maybe move away from having the Samantha Carter character in the fifth season?

Joseph Mallozzi: No, no. There wasn’t really a plan to move away. But I mean, I believe at the time we were – it’s not exactly – you know, we were at the point where we’re breaking stories I believe, but we were certainly spinning them when Amanda gave us the call.

And, you know, there was talk of maybe her bouncing back and forth between the two productions and thought it was just, you know, at the end of the day, totally unfeasible.

And we said look, you know, we love your character but you have to make the call and she made the call. I know it was a hard decision for Amanda and, you know, and, you know, we were sorry to see her go.

But I mean, as I said, it – you know, her departure also presented us with a great opportunity to bring Bob over and, you know, it’s one thing I’ve said over and over again, you know, once, you know, Amanda made her decision clear and we knew that we weren’t going to have her back for season five, there really was no short list of candidates to consider.

It was, you know, Bob Picardo. I – you know, I talked about it with Paul and, you know, he basically came to the same conclusion so I just picked up the phone and gave Bob a call in LA.

And I asked, you know, hey, what would you think about coming over and, you know, being a regular? And, you know, I was solely prepared for him to say are you kidding? You know, I’ve got a family here and, you know, in California, you know, spend a year with you guys.

But, you know, I’m happy to say that he was more than amenable.

Robert Picardo: You know what it is? It’s that my children are old enough and my wife and I have been married long enough that they’re happy to see me out of the house.

Joe, you were kind of talking about it just a little bit here in that last question but how do you try and maintain stability in the overall story you want to tell and the direction you want to take the show with the – so much change in the cast over the last couple of seasons?

Joseph Mallozzi: Well I mean, we go season by season really. You know, it’s not like a, I guess, a bigger game plan in terms of several seasons down the line. We – at the end of every season, you know, we leave with usually our season cliffhanger and we kind of have more or less an idea of where we want to pick things up with the first episode.

We’re really not that much beyond that. And then, you know, hopefully we get the, you know, the call from the network that tells us we’re coming back for another season.

And after taking maybe a couple weeks off, we come back together and, you know, we spin out ideas and we say okay, this is what we’d like to do for the season.

Sometimes it’s, you know, a very clear idea of what we want to do, you know, in terms of sort of a broad picture. In the case of season five, for instance, we wanted to open things up in the Pegasus Galaxy and that’s the game plan we went into for the season and, you know, as well, you know, introduce Richard Woolsey as the new commander, and deal with Teyla’s role as a mother and adventure. That’s another thing we wanted to deal with along with some various other smaller stories.

Season four was a little different in that we came in and we knew we wanted to give the spotlight to each character and have them have their, you know, own separate storyline.

So we started on kind of a micro-scale and worked our way to the macro where we came in and we pitched up story ideas and those story ideas kind of dictated what the general theme of season four would be.

You know, the Wraith/Replicator war being a big one and sort of the weakening of the Wraith over the course of the season. And of course, one of the storylines that was dictated to us was the Teyla pregnancy that – you know, Rachel came in at the beginning of the season and we had planned to sort of go a little dark side with her character, and, you know, make her a little more colorful.

And, you know, when she announced her pregnancy we thought okay, well I mean, we could either continue with the storyline and shoot around the pregnancy — which frankly, you know, always – never really works in television — or we could just embrace it and make her character pregnant which is what we did.

And I think, you know, the storyline worked out very well. It dovetailed nicely with missing Ethosian storyline and ultimately Michael’s designs on Teyla and the baby.

So, you know, we go from season to season. You know, I – hopefully, you know, the cast that we have now is a cast that we’re going to keep for many seasons to come. But, you know, who knows?

And I put out a question to – a request to readers and the one question that came back they wanted to know was what is the future possibility of ever seeing Tori Higginson back as Dr. Weir again?

Joseph Mallozzi: To be honest, I think it’s highly unlikely. I mean, you know, I kind of outlined sort of the situation where, you know, last season, you know, she came in and did a couple of guest spots for us and she was terrific, and she seemed very excited about the prospect of coming back.

And, you know, we pitched out the idea of the possibility of, you know, her coming back in and continuing the Replicator storyline which she was, you know, fairly – seemed very excited about.

And so, you know, Carl went off and, you know, he wrote the script and ultimately we contacted her about doing it. And, you know, initially she was a little reluctant and, you know, perhaps maybe thinking about her fans she was wondering if maybe there was a way to sort of create some sort of closure for her character.

And although I mean, we kind of wanted to keep the character alive, if basically she wanted closure then we would be willing to give her closure. And we told her, and then she was still reluctant so we ended up sending her a script to review, and ultimately she passed.

I mean, it’s too bad. I mean, we would’ve loved to have her come back and, you know, and see her no the show but I – you know, I think at this point kind of she’s moved beyond, you know, this show and is, you know, looking elsewhere. So, you know, we wish her the best of luck.

And like I said, she did a terrific job for us when she was here doing her three guest spots last season. And, you know, it’s unfortunately we won’t see her again in season five. But, you know, again, you know, it was her choice and we respect her decision.

Robert – you mentioned earlier a, you know, breaking up on set with working with David Hewlett. Is there any anecdotes or funny stories that you could share from your time on the set so far?

Robert Picardo: Well, I – the problem is that he does this sort of slacker character, sort of a nerd, technology geek character that makes me laugh. But I can’t quite do it myself. I suppose after I’ve been around him a little longer, I’ll have my own version of it.

But it’s just – he just riffs as this character and it just makes me laugh. So I’m sorry I can’t gratify you with my impression yet, but I need more time.

Joe, as one of the brain children behind the awesome 200th episode of SG-1…

Joseph Mallozzi: Yes?

Can you tell us what you have in store for the epic 100th episode of Atlantis?

Joseph Mallozzi: Well I mean, I’ll be totally honest. You know, we all wrote our, you know, different segments in 200 but the overall idea for 200 came from Robert C. Cooper. And when he pitched it out in the room, I thought he was joking.

And then I thought it was crazy. But as it turned out, it was an episode that really worked out well and the fans loved it. I mean, in the case of SG-1, though, the 200th episode fell, I believe Episode 6 of the season.

And so, you know, we could do it a little more comedic, much along the same lines as we did for Episode 100 of SG-1 which I think fell Episode, I think 5 or 6 of season – I believe season four.

In the case of Atlantis, though, the 100th episode falls in the 20 slot and, you know, as much as, you know, the temptation is there to make it kind of an off-the-wall kind of, you know, weird, fun episode, you know, we really feel that because it is the, you know, season finale and hopefully not a series finale — but you never know — we want to go big and we want to go a little more serious.

So, you know, don’t expect another 200 romp but expect a – I guess something big along the lines of – again, you know, I refer back to our season premiere, for back to last year’s season finale and I refer back to Be All My Sins Remembered last year as, you know, the second part of last year’s midseason two-parter.

So, not so funny but, you know, something that the fans will, I’m sure, really enjoy.

Right. And are you guys – do you plan on shooting an alternative ending then for the season finale just in case, god forbid, it gets canceled?

Joseph Mallozzi: No, no, no, no. We’re feeling positive.

Question: Good. That’s what I like to hear. Since I have a giant Stargate tattoo on my back, I figure, you know, keep the show alive forever.

Joseph Mallozzi: Tattoo.

And also, since most of the earthly (flecks) are gone from our Galaxy, why hasn’t Dr. Jackson made a permanent transition to Atlantis since we worked so hard on finding the city?

Joseph Mallozzi: Well that’s a very good question and hopefully that’s something that will be addressed in the midseason two-parter. But I mean, Jackson is a busy guy and I mean, he – you know, in our minds over the course of the many years that SG-1 has been going off world together, a ton of alien technology a lot of it is Atlantian origin or ancient origin.

You know, and as much as Daniel’s first choice would be to go to Atlantis, at the end of the day, you know, it’s going to be a notice in rising – it’s not really his call. And so long as the powers that be, you know, dictate where he can go and, you know, for research purposes where he’s needed more like – is a more apt response, you know, he’s kind of stuck in the Milky Way.

But I mean, you know, if we get a sixth season pick up, who knows what the future holds?

Robert, does Woolsey see a lot of action in the field this season?

Robert Picardo: I see quite a bit of action, yes and I won’t say that most of it’s in the field. I would say that it’s in the times when the action comes to Atlantis.

In fact, I’ve got – as soon as we’re back, I won’t say what it is but I think I have quite a bit of action one of our first days back.

You’re thrown into the thick of it?

Robert Picardo: Yeah.

Joe, do you plan on bringing Jill Wagner’s character back?

Joseph Mallozzi: You know, we wanted to bring Jill Wagner’s character back for the midseason two-parter, but she was unavailable because she was working on, I think it was Wipeout on ABC.

I mean, you know, we haven’t killed her off and frankly, I mean, even if we had killed her off that, you know, from our track record, you know, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s gone for good.

So I mean, no, she’s still out there. And, you know, again, hopefully if there is a season six there’s the potential to bring her back. So sure, yeah, why not?

Earlier, you guys mentioned – you mentioned that there was going to be a, sorry, a horror episode. And generally, Sci-Fi and horror just produces really awful results sometimes. Were you worried about that or how are you guys going to break that curse?

Joseph Mallozzi: No. To be honest with you, I have always been a horror fan first before I’m, you know, a Sci-Fi fan. And actually, my (writing), Paul, was always more the Sci-Fi guy and then, you know, we came onto Stargate and we’ve been working on Stargate what feels like forever but it’s only been nine short years.

So I mean, you know, as a fan of horror personally I always find that what’s scarier is what you don’t see as opposed to what you do see. And so that’s kind of what we were, you know, playing with – kind of the hidden.

We use a lot of fog elements in this particular episode so there’s a lot of, you know, figures in the fog and there’s a lot of – I like to call them sort of pure, kind of like I guess, jump sequences where, you know, it sort of, it, you know, classic horror movie style.

You know, something jumps out at you and I think there are like a good dozen of those instances in this particular episode and, you know, Will Waring, our director, does a terrific job.

And, you know, from what I’ve seen of the director’s cut, it’s going to be a lot of fun. And I think horror fans actually will enjoy it as well.

Yes. Is there going to be some aliens versus predators and things like that?

Joseph Mallozzi: No, no. It won’t be – like I said, we’ve done monster kind of movie in the past. Vengeance actually comes to mind and it’s not a monster movie in that respect. I, you know, I think it’s closer to the horror genre than the Sci-Fi genre.

Oh awesome. And Robert, how do you feel about doing something of that style?

Robert Picardo: Well my character is not featured in the one that we’ve just – that was just mentioned, that particular one, Whispers. But I am – I love doing that. I did – one of my favorite Voyager episodes was called The Darkling where my – it was a Jekyll and Hyde, you know, episode for my character and I got to play the sort of pure evil version of my regular program.

So that was – that’s always a lot of fun for an actor to do. And especially since I – as I worked weeks on the Sensored horror film earlier in the year, I think my dark side is very close to the surface. So I’m longing to bring it out in the Pegasus Galaxy.

Joseph Mallozzi: You and horror have a very rich tradition, Bob.

Robert Picardo: Yes I do. I was going back to Joe Dante’s The Howling. You know, I’m one of very few actors who has pulled a bullet out of his brain on camera.

Now do you wish you had been able to do the episode?

Robert Picardo: Well sure because – but I – because it, you know, it was off – it was away from the base and, you know, traditionally Woolsey, you know, is minding the store at home, it – that particular one wouldn’t have made sense had I been along.

But I certainly – you know, I – as an actor, it would’ve been fun to be, you know, working with the fog machine for seven days, choking and gasping along with everyone else, you know, scraping the black crud off the top of your slice of tomato while you’re eating a bagel.

What has been your favorite, either episode or scene to work on so far in either SG-1 or Atlantis?

Joseph Mallozzi: Bob, go ahead, if you want to. Yeah.

Robert Picardo: I think my favorite moment for the character prior to this season, prior to joining the cast as a regular, was an episode – it was a crossover episode between SG-1 and SG-1 (sic) where they went to the Pegasus – it’s called The Scourge. Now wasn’t that – that was a crossover?

Joseph Mallozzi: No, the crossover was Return 1 and 2 with (Rick).

Robert Picardo: Oh, forgive me then. The Scourge was the one with all the giant – with the – it was the…

Joseph Mallozzi: The bug…

Robert Picardo: …it was the Starship Trooper episode?

Joseph Mallozzi: Yes.

Robert Picardo: With the bug attacks.

Joseph Mallozzi: Yeah.

Robert Picardo: And it does feature Richard Woolsey running away from an attack of the bugs and seeing me run at a pace that I’m not aware that I could run (seemed right). To see me on camera running faster than I can actually run was a funny moment for me and it gratified me to see that.

Now, to make an emission as a new leader, my favorite moment is when he’s running away from danger, it’s probably a risky thing to start out with. Having said that, I think that my favorite moment that we have filmed thus far is in Joe’s episode, Broken Ties – one of the comic moments that I’d rather not give away.

Joseph Mallozzi: I guess, you know, I – for SG-1 it was definitely, I think, Ripple Effect, the episode with the countless SG-1 alternate universe team that basically visited the base.

It was just a lot of fun, you know, sort of trying to keep track and, you know, having fun with the different, you know, variations of personas. For this season or on Atlantis so far, I’d say over the past couple of seasons, I’d say it’s Broken Ties again, the episode that Bob mentioned.

It’s called what?

Joseph Mallozzi: Broken Ties. And, you know, just because it has a lot of nice character moments for Ronon, for Teyla, but also for Woolsey. And, you know, like I said, this is the first episode where Bob really demonstrates his comic ability and he reveals himself quite nicely.

Are there any guest stars that we should be watching out for this season?

Joseph Mallozzi: In terms of big guest stars, I mean, it’s – the big guest stars are going to be Daniel Jackson in the midseason two-parter, Michael Shanks of course. And then during the latter half of the season, I mean, we’ve been talking about potential guest stars for 19 and 20 but we don’t have anything solid yet.

I mean, we still have to sort of sit down and actually break the episodes. So I’d say stay tuned.

Joe, you mentioned earlier new races. Would you care to elaborate at all? If I heard you correctly, you mentioned new alien races might be coming to Atlantis?

Joseph Mallozzi: Yes. In fact, actually they’ll be coming in a big way in the midseason two-parter. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but what happens is Daniel Jackson comes to Atlantis because he is, you know, basically he’s following a lead and he – David needs McKay’s assistance.

And basically the two of them put their heads together and they make a discovery. And by making this discovery, they alert an alien race that also happens to be looking or has been, you know, in the midst of seeking out this device that they end up discovering.

And this alien race ends up coming to Atlantis and it’s not a, I guess, a friendly house call you would say.

And again, I don’t want to give too much away about the race but, you know, they’re kind of an interesting player that we introduce in the midseason two-parter. We introduce kind of another new look alien this season in Episode 4, an episode called Daedalus Variations.

And there – actually, I love the look of this race and we only used them in Episode 4, but they are a race that I would love to bring back. And in fact, we’re – you know, we’re already discussing the possibility of bringing them back as well.

So I mean, two new looks and then other than that, it’s really more sort of a dynamic shift with regard to the status quo in the Pegasus Galaxy. In an episode call Inquisition, the various civilizations that have been depressed by the race for so many years has finally come together to create almost a, I guess, a United Nation of the Pegasus Galaxy.

And, you know, one of their first orders of business is calling Atlantis to task for, you know, the trouble they’ve caused in the Pegasus Galaxy. (Chief) is amongst the issues being decided. The (wrote) the Wraiths way back in season one.

Sheppard’s done a lot of character development already that I’m seeing. I want to know more about his character. Are we going to delve more into the demons of his past? I know there was a big surprise and is any of that going to be coming back this year?

Joseph Mallozzi: Yeah, in fact, actually – I mean, like I said, in season four we wanted to do an episode where we spotlighted – you know, we shined the spotlight on each character.

We did pretty much the same thing in season five and the episode I’m writing now, Remnants, is like I mentioned, kind of a dark episode with three different elements.

And the Sheppard element kind of delves into his character and kind of asks the question – here’s a guy who, you know, he – basically he comes to the Pegasus Galaxy to protect people, you know – comes all the way over to another galaxy and, you know, risks his life sort of protecting people.

And, you know, there are instances where, you know, he’s not successful. I mean, he, you know, he lost, you know, Ford and he lost Weir. And you could argue whether, you know, it’s really his fault or not.

But at the end of the day, what drives a guy like that and, you know, he – and, you know, frankly is it a healthy thing that drives the guy? And that’s, you know, one of the questions that is positive in Remnants that is kind of thrown in Sheppard’s face that we kind of explore.

Robert, I personally wanted to ask you what was it like to put on the commander outfit? How did you feel in it?

Robert Picardo: Well, I did – I caught myself lookin


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