Woot! The wifi finally let me back online! Sitting in the 9 panel right now – news to come from that later.
Secured excellent seats in Ballroom 20 at the San Diego Convention Center, which is the second largest convention hall at Comic-Con (seating 4,000+ people). The wifi is still being extremely temperamental – allowing me to log on to the ‘net and then blocking me five minutes later, and not letting some people connect at all – but overall this morning has been much, much easier than the entirety of Thursday. Enjoy the summary of the Stargate Universe panel below!
Trailer was shown – General Jack O’Neil (Richard Dean Anderson) and Dr. Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle) recruit Eli Wallace (David Blue), who's SGU's computer geek/genius character. Angsty Peter Gabriel-ish tune playing during the trailer. Trailer definitely continues that darker feel for this series and has a new tagline that this series "reinvents the wheel" over a shot of SGU's new stargate. In one clip, Wallace cracks a Star Wars joke saying something they're about to do is “like we’re going to the Hoth system,” and his joke is met with dead silence. Trailer ends with a scene in which O’Neil says, “Surprise!”
Showrunners Brad Wright and Robert Cooper led the panel, which included SGU cast members Jamil Walker Smith, Alaina Huffman, David Blue, Robert Carlyle, Ming-Na, Brian J. Smith and Elyse Levesque.
One comment that was made before they started answering questions is that there is more handheld camerawork in SGU than SG1 and SGA, giving it a bit rougher, more raw feel.Two questions from Zap2It visitors had been selected and given to Brad for he and the rest of the panel to answer.
1. Can I watch SGU if I’ve never watched SG1 or SGA? Yes, you can (per Brad Wright). It’s quite a different feel, give you a difference sense of what Stargate is for those who haven’t watched, but will reward existing fans. Pointed out that Richard Dean Anderson and Amanda Tapping will apppear.
Per Robert Cooper, "We looked at what we love about Stargate and what you love." Robert specifically wanted to address some of the fan fears, saying that even if it looks darker and grittier, it’s still Stargate. The show is still helmed by Brad and Robert, who have guided the feel of the franchise all these years. They wanted to get away from everyone in the series being a good guy, in SGU they didn’t want everyone to be a “superhero” or “genius”; they wanted the characters to be identifiable while putting them in a situation where the crew is facing challenges and exploring while maintaining that sense of humor SG is known for.
2. Will SGU still have the sense of humor that the other series have had? Yes, and Robert just answered that so they didn't need to go into more detail to address this question. Instead, Robert speaks to the fans’ love of the SG teams and characters and says that it’s been weirdly great with this cast because they’re 12 eps in filming-wise and the whole cast “still likes each other.” Says the cast gets along great and has great chemistry that’s translating onto the screen.
The panel begins taking questions from the audience.
Why is SGU not airing on NBC for those who don’t have cable or don't know about the Syfy channel? Brad: we’d love to air on ALL the major networks – it works for Obama! He gets plenty of eyeballs by doing that! But SG is at home on Syfy and there’s “always DVD and your friend’s house!”Will there be behind the scenes materials for the fans to enjoy? Ivon Bartok (special features guru for Stargate) is shooting 40 behind-the-scenes pieces that will be used for the web and DVDs features this year. There will be tons of behind the scenes stuff for fans to enjoy, especially in the run-up to the show's premiere in the fall.
Question for Robert Carlyle: why did he chose to switch from movies to a television franchise? It’s not about which medium he’s acting in, it’s about the project and the people you get to work with. And he’s really enjoying himself so far. Robert Cooper elaborates on the showrunners' decision to pursue Robert Carlyle. They wanted a more "flawed and complex lead who’s not a hero, but also not a villain."
[bxA]Are we ever going to find anything out about the Furlings and the 9th Chevron? The resounding answer from Brad: NO! Robert said yes, but he wouldn’t elaborate and sounded a bit teasing. [From what I've read online, it seems like the ninth chevron might play into how the crew gets stuck on the Destiny in the pilot.]
The first two Stargate shows featured a lot of strong, intelligent women. What was Brad and Robert's criteria for casting the women in SGU? The showrunners and cast both proudly and emphatically declared the women of SGU to be strong, intelligent women also and each female cast member took a moment to describe their characters. Brad also added that the men on the cast are strong and intelligent too!
Did any of the actors feel any trepidation about joining a long-running franchise that has a strong fan following? David Blue spoke to this – described himself as a huge scifi fan and so he was very aware of what he was getting into. But even though he was nervous, he was also "excited to contribute" to a franchise he'd followed for all these years.
How did you prepare for your SGU roles? Brian fielded this question. You have to be interested in the material and then you just prep from there. For Brian, his character being a solider was more important than the scifi aspect, so he’s spent a lot of time researching the military aspect of his character.
Stargate Atlantis ended prematurely -- which show would Brad and Robert like to work on more? Robert said that he would flip a coin. While he does feel that they still had stories left to tell with Atlantis, he countered that the show had gotten five seasons when so many shows get just one, and they're very grateful to have had SGA run for that long.
Will SGU will be more episodic like SGU & SGA or more serialized? Brad said that SGU has a “broader story,” but the serialized part is more about the character stories. A viewer should be able to tune in at any time and enjoy an episode. None of these characters are supposed to be in their situation so it let them throw together characters who wouldn’t be together in a standard Stargate situation. Robert said things – huge things – happen very quickly in this show, so if you do miss an ep you might miss some huge changes.
What drew Robert Carlyle to this project specifically? He came to LA and was struggling a bit and looking for a new challenge. SGU was “completely out of left field for him” – he didn’t really know much about Stargate originally. Brad told him they were looking for someone “who could make dislikeable things likeable” and Carlyle thought, “Well, I’m your man for that!”
Will we finally see a non-English-speaking alien? Per Robert and Brad, their goal is to make the aliens the teams run into realistic. There was an explanation/reason why the SG1 and SGU teams encountered humans and English-speaking aliens on their adventues -- that reason was part of those shows' mytharc. There are some “very alien aliens” in the first season of SGU that are completely CGI.
Question for Jamil: what’s it like to be a third generation working African-American film star? (Questioner thought Jamil was the son of actor Phillip Morris and son of Greg Morris.) Jamil fielded this with much grace, responding that one of the things that happens when you become a "film star" is that incorrect information starts circulating. He is not the son or grandson of either of those Mission: Impossible actors.
What was it like working with the SG1 actors who have guested on SGU? David Blue said it was great because he got to shoot one of his first scenes with Richard Dean Anderson -- a scene we saw in the trailer with Richard Dean Anderson and Robert Carlyle knocking on his door and recruiting him. Ming-Na said that is was great working with RDA because he's such an old hand at this that it helped make her less nervous. For her, starting on SGU was such a big deal with the move to Vancouver and everything, but for RDA "it was like peeling an orange." Brian gave a shout-out to the crew, many of whom have worked on SG1 and/or SGA; they're veterans and amazing. He hasn't worked with RDA or Amanda Tapping, but he wanted to give credit to the crew, describing them as skilled, dedicated and laid back.
Will they continue the tradition of building up likeable doctors and then killing them off? Per Robert, "Nope, we kill the doctor off right away!" and Brad said they really do.
What’s it like working with CGI explosions and stuff? David says it’s so much more mind-blowing than you expect. It’s an acting challenge and it makes you want to do a better acting job when you're on set. Ming-Na says the effects are so good that it’s made her a fan of the show. Since she's not there to see every scene that's shot, when she sees final footage it's really exciting.
Will they come back to Comic-Con next year to celebrate the anniversary of the first season of the show? They hope so!