Have you ever had an uninvited guest show up at your front door and had no choice but to let them in. That is pretty much what happens to our heroes on Stargate Universe in the two-part first season finale Incursion. Several members of the Lucian Alliance use their Stargate to get onboard the Destiny, taking hostages in the process. Eli Wallace and Chloe Armstrong manage to escape, but not before Chloe is shot.
As the final five minutes of Incursion, Part 2 tick by, Eli is forced to leave the injured Chloe in order to try to save Lt. Scott and Sergeant Greer, who are trapped outside Destiny and facing certain death. It was a heart-pounding experience for Eli, while the actor who plays him, David Blue, could not have enjoyed himself more.
"Any time I get to work with Elyse Levesque [Chloe] is a lot of fun because of the dynamic between our two characters," says Blue, dressed in his familiar Eli attire - jeans and T-Shirt- and sitting in his trailer on SGU's Vancouver set. “It was kind of strange, though, when we were filming the season one finale. It felt like we were on a different show because Eli and Chloe were separated from the others. Everyone else was fighting the Lucian Alliance, while Eli was carrying Chloe around the ship. It was cool, though, because although it wasn’t quite a resolution, it was a build up to everything that had been going on, even under the surface, for so long with Eli and Chloe. So I thought it was nice that they both got to say things to each other that had been on their minds.
"The final scenes of Incursion, Part 2 were pretty much shot in the order that you saw them. I spent my last day of work running through various corridors and jumping up on things. I had an idea of what it was all going to look like when we shot it, but it wasn’t until I watched those last few minutes of that episode for the first time that it really blew me away. I went up to [director] Andy Mikita immediately afterward and was like, ‘I bow down to you,’ because it was all so powerful - everything from Eli’s slow motion running to Chloe passing out or dying or who knows, and then the final shot of Colonel Young [Louis Ferreira], which is so beautiful and touching.
"I'm very proud of SGU’s first season, but it’s funny how when you’re working on a show, there are episodes that stand out. Even while shooting season one, I loved everything about it, but I’d tell fans, ‘Oh, Time is going to be great, Justice is going to be great, so is Human, and then there’s the finale.’ Again, there are certain ones that stand out, but here we are, a little more than halfway through filming season two, and I just think every episode we’ve shot so far is equally freakin’ amazing. I can’t choose one that I’m the proudest of, and that’s because I’m proud of them all. I haven’t even seen them yet, but just in shooting them, I think they're all great."
The cameras began rolling on the second season of SGU with an episode entitled Pathogen. Airing fourth this year, it was directed by Robert Carlyle (Dr. Nicholas Rush). “It’s a relatively Eli-heavy story,” notes Blue, “so after having had a few months off and spending it back in Los Angeles living my life, my first episode of the season was being directed by someone who I really respect and it’s quite a significant one character-wise for Eli. So for me it was a combination of, OK, who exactly is Eli again, and it being a very intense episode for him.
“I knew the basics of the story going into it,” continues the actor. “They [the producers/writers] had given me a heads-up that we would be doing a story like this one in season two. I had a lot of expectations when I first read the script, and it exceeded them. As an actor it was challenging because it explored so many aspects of Eli that you don’t normally get to see, as well as a relationship that we only briefly touched upon in the [first season] episode Earth.
“Each of our characters has a relationship back on Earth – Camille [Ming-Na] has Sharon [Reiko Aylesworth], Scott [Brian J. Smith] has his son, Chloe has her mom – and these are the anchors that have helped keep them going and given them a reason to fight to get home. In Pathogen, Eli comes to realize that he’s here for a reason, and possibly what that is, and along with that, he has to solidify his life back home in order for him to move forward.
"That was a really important thing for my character because right from the start he was sucked into this world not by choice, and since then he’s slowly had to find his way. Unlike everyone else who doesn’t really want to be here, I think Eli does. This is his fantasy of what he always wanted to be true, but there’s always been something itching in the back of his mind telling him that he needed to get back to Earth. So this story is important for him in dealing with and possibly overcoming that.”
Pathogen puts Eli through the emotional wringer, and Blue was there every step of the way with his character. "it was some of the more raw stuff that I've had to do as an actor, at least since doing theater years ago," he says. "It was really neat and cathartic, but draining as well.
"At the time I'd just moved back to Vancouver from LA and was living in a hotel while trying to find an apartment. I remember a few days when I would get back to the hotel, having worked for something like 14 hours, and being absolutely exhausted, emotionally and physically, and literally having to choose between eating dinner or going to bed. It was also a dialogue-heavy episode for me, so it was a challenge all around. Looking back now I can say it was fun," says Blue with a smile, "and I'm curious to watch it. I think i'm going to be proud of it, if that makes sense, just from feeling it on the day [during filming] and working with Glynis Davies, who plays Eli's mom. She's such a great actress and so much fun to work with as well."
The actor also has nothing but positive things to say about being directed by Robert Carlyle. "I'm a director myself and I sort of view myself as an actor's director. I love pulling performances out of people, so it was terrific being directed by somebody like Robert, who views everything the same way," he enthuses. "He's a very gentle, supportive director, and if you have an idea, Robert will let you go with it and then work with you so that your idea comes to life in the way you both want it to.
"I have to admit that it's incredibly intimidating, too, being directed by an actor who you respect so much. You don't want to let the program or the producers down, and you don't want to let your character down, either. And on top of all that, you're working with someone who you work with every day and who you really want to impress and make look good. So it truly was a flawless experience from beginning to end."
Once they had completed work on Pathogen, the SGU cast and crew began shooting the season two opener, Intervention, in which the mounting tensions between our heroes and the Lucian Alliance come to a head.
"I couldn't wait to get the script and find out how everything got resolved, how the characters overcame challenges, or didn't, and how our story then continued," says Blue. "I feel as if season one focused a great deal on introducing our characters and the viewers getting to know them. The story then started picking up speed when different things happened, specifically us meeting the aliens as well as the outside threat of the Lucian Alliance. This year, we've just continued picking up more and more speed. As I said to some fans at the end of season one, 'It's like you're strapping in for the roller coaster ride now,' and so far I feel like all of this year has been the actual roller coaster ride.
"As for Eli, I thought the first season was a lot about him growing up and into this new role, and if you were to compare my character from the SGU pilot to the Eli now - in episode 11 of season two - you would see that he's very different, physically and emotionally. Part of that is because I've lost weight. I've probably lost 35 pounds since filming began last year, and that was actually my idea. I went to the producers and said that I had gained a lot of weight for Ugly Betty, and I not only wanted to lose some of that weight for myself, but also in the situation that Eli is in, it would just make sense that he'd lose weight, too.
"So physically, my character is definitely becoming more active. He's not just sitting around because he can't afford to; Eli is fighting for his life. And then emotionally, here was someone who looked at Dr. Rush and Colonel Young, probably more so Young, and thought, 'These guys will save my life. I don't have to fight very hard.' However, throughout season one, Eli began realizing more and more that he couldn't necessarily trust these people for his well-being. He had to take responsibility for himself. And then I feel like at the beginning of season two and up to now, Eli has been trying to find ways not to just pitch in, but actually make a difference. He's trying to be somebody who can be counted on and who is coming up with his own ideas to help himself and the others.
"Besides all that, he's maturing as a human being as well. Instead of being the guy who, not necessarily had a crush on but was interested in a girl who was unrequited, Eli has accepted that he has a friend in Chloe. He's looking at all his relationships in a more adult way. This year, Eli's and Chloe's relationship definitely becomes further defined for what it is. My character's relationship with Lt. Scott further grows and becomes more of a real friendship. With Eli and Sergeant Greer [Jamil Walker Smith], they've had a very timid relationship of mutual respect and disdain, but things are finally getting to the point where they're realizing each other's worth. In fact, there are some Eli/Greer moments in the first half of season two that I wasn't expecting and that are awesome.
"Of course, relationship-wise, the most fun for me continues to be the one between Eli and Rush, which really did start out with the both of them disliking one another. I love the Amadeus [Mozart] and [Antonio] Salieri dynamic with those two characters, and that it's grown to a place where they're not fighting any more, but understanding that they have to work together, and in doing so, can learn something from each other. That's been a cool change, and we're actually shooting more scenes either tomorrow or the next day along those lines. Eli still doesn't completely trust Rush, but he's also realizing the scientist's worth. I think a lot of this season is about these characters discovering each other's worth as well as their own purpose in the scheme of things."
While he might have a tough time choosing a favorite season two SGU episode, there are memorable ones that immediately spring to the actor's mind. "Cloverdale is a neat story for everyone because it's just so different from anything we've done so far on SGU," he says. "The episode was written in such a way that we got to show our characters in a totally new light, and shooting-wise it was a nice break because we went on-location for some of it. Again, I'm dying to see this episode, and after doing ADR [Automated Dialogue Replacement] for certain scenes, it made me want to watch it even more.
"So Cloverdale stands out for me, and so does one called The Greater Good. I'm guessing fans are going to flip out when they watch it as well as Trial and Error."
Blue goes on to talk about Deliverance, the current (early July) episode being shot. "In this one we're getting to do stuff that none of us as actors have really done before. That's actually one of the cool things about this show that a number of people have come to realize. We can have an episode like Life, which is very character-heavy, and then we'll have something like Space, with these insane space battles.
"So we go back and forth, and Deliverance is one of those stories where there's plenty of explosions and other really, really neat stuff going on. Again, talking about acting challenges, this episode involves a whole other side of that. Not only are you playing with your imagination way more and still doing all your character moments, but there's all sorts of action talking place, so you have to try to focus on multiple things at once."
Thanks to his down-to-Earth and friendly nature, Blue is an easy person to like, and the same can be said of his SGU character. However, while both the actor and Eli have fast become fan favorites, it has taken a bit of time for some loyal Stargate viewers to warm up to SGU as a whole.
"I think a lot of people have come to realize that SGU is what it is," he says. "It's a different take on an existing franchise, and many of those who have accepted that have also come to like the show along with its characters.
"And I'm so incredibly flattered and humbled by fans who like the Eli character. I can't thank them enough for appreciating what I do because for me it's just a lot of fun. It's cool when people come up to me and say that they connect with Eli, which has always been the goal, to kind of feel like he's them in that situation. So it seems to be working, and that's a real testament to the writers and the directors more than it is me. I just show up here and play, and I love that people are enjoying it."
As noted above, photo by Carole Segal and copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!