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Feature: Stargate Atlantis

Article opening pages

Executive producer N John Smith discusses the upcoming storylines in the fifth season, as Teyla goes undercover and Woolsey takes charge…

It’s a Friday afternoon in May at Bridge Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia and the weekend getaway is looming, but there is still work to be done on the Stargate Atlantis set before the cast and crew can head home for a quick break – or some line learning, just as likely. Christopher Heyerdahl, who portrays the show’s resident Wraith Todd, heads back to Stage 2 for his next scene, along with another actor who is making his début as Atlantis’s first bald Wraith commander. Close behind them is Rachel Luttrell, looking quite unlike her usual style as Teyla. It is all in aid of the fifth season episode The Queen, where she disguises herself as a Queen Wraith to gain the confidence of the enemy and, in doing so, carry out a plan that could change the Wraith’s feeding habits and help save Humankind.

“When the idea for this story first came up quite early in the season and we knew we were going to write it, I went to Rachel and spoke with her,” recalls Atlantis executive producer John Smith. “She’s nursing her baby and he’s at an age now where he recognizes mom, so Rachel was understandably concerned about the Wraith make-up. I, however, wasn’t too worried because I have four kids as well as grandchildren and they kind of see through all that, and it’s really about the sound of your voice and various other things. But Rachel went to the trouble of wearing an avocado mixture on her face for weeks prior in order to achieve that green Wraith look and sort of break her baby in. I thought that was a smart idea and one I’d never have thought of. Happily, though, there haven’t been any problems at all; her son is absolutely fine with it and life goes on.

“Rachel’s mom is here visiting at the same time and it was interesting talking with her because, naturally, she’d never seen Rachel in Wraith make-up before. Talk about a contrast from such a beautiful looking gal to what is not the most beautiful make-up with the teeth and everything else, but Rachel is doing a terrific job. We have two more days of second unit filming and then we’ll be done. Brenton Spencer is directing and he was a DoP [Director of Photography] on Atlantis, so he knows the cast pretty well and is enjoying himself.

“Brenton has directed a lot of stuff and is no novice as a director, which is good because this is kind of an ambitious episode. Scheduling around the Wraith is always a bit more difficult only because of the prosthetics. Our actors start getting into make-up at three in the morning, we shoot until seven or eight at night, and then it takes them another hour to get out of everything. So it can get pretty tiring, especially for Rachel, who has to look after her baby, but, again, it’s almost over. These seven-day episodes go by pretty quickly. At first you wonder, ‘What’s going to be hard about this one?’ but then all of sudden it’s done and you’re like, ‘What the heck were we worried about?’ It’s a pretty polished machine around here and our crew doesn’t waver at anything you might throw at them. Whatever, it is, if you think it’s a potential problem, they’re like, ‘We’ll show you,’ which they do, and things go smoothly.”

by Steven Eramo

Read the full interview in
TV Zone #229

Stargate Atlantis © The Sci-Fi Channel
Feature © Visual Imagination 2008. Not for reproduction

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TV Zone #229
June 2008
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