A strange cylinder is discovered on the ocean floor beneath Atlantis by Dr. Rodney McKay and Dr. Radek Zelenka in the fifth season Stargate Atlantis episode Remnants. While base commander Richard Woolsey decides what to do with the cylinder, he must also deal with I.O.A. (International Oversight Authority) representative Shen Xiaoyi, who is on an official visit to the Pegasus Galaxy. He is, however, being distracted by the beautiful Dr. Vanessa Conrad, a scientist who has recently arrived in Atlantis. For Robert Picardo, who played Woolsey, it was a joy for his character to have so much on his plate, especially a potential romance.
"Of all the fifth season Atlantis episodes, Remnants was probably the most fun for me to shoot because I don't get too many scripts with romantic sparks any more," jokes Picardo. "We had already established that Richard Woolsey was a loner. His marriage had ended years ago. There were no children and, in fact, his wife got the dog, which I loved.
"So my character has no emotional attachments and kind of keeps to himself. We even see at the end of, I think, Broken Ties, when he goes back to his quarters to relax; he takes his uniform off, puts on a tie and suit, and then sits down to listen to music and drink a glass of wine. That [the suit] was the only suggestion I made to the [Stargate] producers," he says with a chuckle. "When I first got the part, I said to them wouldn't it be great if he [Woolsey] missed his old uniform. After 35 years in a business suit, he missed it and occasionally he would relax by getting back into it.
"They liked that and did it in Broken Ties. We then played that joke briefly again in Remnants, where Tamlyn Tomita's character [Shen Xiaoyi] comes to Atlantis to assess my character's job performance. There's a moment when Woolsey thinks he's going to be fired and stands in front of a mirror and holds his suit and tie up next to his uniform. It's almost as if he likes his new uniform better than the old one. I enjoyed that moment because in my mind, my character was showing that he had finally grown into his new role and new uniform and was loath to give it up. So he was going to fight to hold onto it.
"Again, though, what was most fun for me about this episode was to play the flirtatious scenes with the Dr. Conrad [Anna Galvin] character, who turned out to be a hologram or projection of an artificial intelligence. Because Woolsey was so inept at flirting, it really was a little like a guy in high school who didn't know how to work up the courage to ask a girl out on a date. With his marriage as well as divorce and now living alone, it was like that part of him had been asleep for so long that he didn't quite know how to respond to a woman who seemed romantically interested in him.
"There were also the comic possibilities of Woolsey seeing and hearing someone in a room who no one else can see or hear, which has been done before in some pretty classic plays and movies. So I got to schtick it up a bit," jokes the actor, "which I had great fun doing. What was really nice about the Atlantis writers/producers is that they trusted my instincts enough that if I wanted to try a piece of comic business and add a little ad-lib line here and there, they were very welcoming as well as trusting to that and gave me that freedom."
It was announced this week at Comic-Con 2010 that both Robert Picardo and David Hewlett will reprise their roles of Richard Woolsey and Dr. Rodney McKay, respectively, in an upcoming episode of Stargate Universe.
Photo above copyright of MGM Entertainment, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!