Hello readers of SciFiAndTvTalk! It's my great pleasure to post Andrew Airlie's answers to your questions. Thanks to all of you who took the time to ask a question, and a BIG thank you to Andrew for taking some time out of his very busy schedule to provide us with such interesting and thoughtful answers. Enjoy!
Hello, Andrew, Brian Reynolds, the voice of SDG-FB here. Did your role in Defying Gravity improve your opportunities for future projects in movies and television? Thanks for your response (from Brian)
ANDREW AIRLIE - Hi Brian, nice to hear from you. I can’t point to a particular job and say that my role in DG prompted the producers to cast me in their current production. Having said that, on a recent made-for-TV movie both the director and one of the producers described the character they wanted me to play as, “ You know, he’s pretty much your guy on Defying Gravity.”
I have a question about Defying Gravity following a rumor I heard that Mike Goss was not entirely to blame regarding the Mars mission. Do you think other entities/corporations were behind the move? (from bobbyjoe88)
AA - My understanding was always that Mike was following orders on the Mars mission and directed Donner and Ted to lift off without Walker and Lewis because he determined that the entity on the planet was not going to let itself be recovered by those 2 astronauts. He was trying to save Donner and Ted but could not yet let them in on the reasons/motives behind the real purpose of the Mars mission.
On Defying Gravity, Goss wasn’t exactly the most likeable character. What are some of the challenges, and what’s the most fun about playing the character everyone loves to hate? (from Dann)
AA - Great question, Dann. I think the biggest challenge around playing ‘a less likable’ character is making sure that you don’t slip into caricature and make the character too broad and cliched. (Great writing always helps you avoid this pitfall.) When I have the opportunity to play such characters, I always prepare them with an eye to having some motives and agendas that are perhaps less obvious than what one would expect from that character. Not crazy or obscure alternative motives, just something I think may not be readily apparent; something in addition to the motives suggested by the writer. I hope that comes across with my ‘less likable’ characters. With Goss, I always felt that despite his obvious conflicts with Donner, Mike didn’t dislike Donner. Just the opposite. He knew how good Donner was and wanted to push him to be better, and push Donner’s buttons from time to time (to be seen in flashback scenes) to illuminate Donner’s weaknesses for him. I also believed Goss envied Donner’s abilities and approach even though it differed from his own. And by far the most fun about playing characters ‘people love to hate,’ is the fact that you are free from the tyranny of feeling like you (the character - and the actor, too) have to be liked, or nice, or worried about what other’s think; you can get away with a lot more provocative, convention defying behavior in those types of roles. That is great fun, as an actor and as a character.
What inspired you to become an actor? What was your very first professional acting role like? (from Annie S)
AA - I suppose I inherited my parents love of films at an early age. I can remember quite vividly how often they and their friends would talk about films, the stories and the actors in them and I guess it was a little by osmosis that I fell in love with films and the idea of them. It’s not far from there to feel the need or want to be an actor. Like many actors I suppose, I can remember going to the cinema and thinking, “I want to do that...up there. A cowboy one week; an astronaut the next...” But the one experience that pushed me to actually try to be an actor was watching the Peter Weir film, Gallipoli. I watched a preview in a virtually empty theatre in Glasgow, Scotland in 1981. When the last frame faded I said to myself, “I am going to do that. I promise myself. I don’t know how, but I am going to try.” It took another couple of years but I finally made the leap. As for my first professional role - it was a beer commercial. So were the next 10 or 12 jobs ( everything from Crisco, to breakfast cereals, to cars, to airlines....) but they were a lot of fun and I learned a lot on the fly. If I remember correctly, my first speaking roles were in a film by Al Waxman, White Light, and a TV series, Hidden Room. I don’t remember being nervous - I was just deliriously happy I had lines!!
What was the audition process like for Mike Goss in Defying Gravity? (from Donna De)
AA - I came to the process quite late. I think all of the other characters had been cast at that point and I came in at the last minute for a round of callbacks. I wasn’t up for the role originally because I was still involved with Reaper but when it became clear that the Dad role there had probably run it’s course, the casting directors brought me in for ‘Mike Goss’. I read once, had a quick chat with Jim and Michael and things worked out nicely.
What did you enjoy most about playing Mr. Oliver on Reaper? What was it like to work with the cast of that series? (from Joe)
AA - I loved my role on Reaper. I loved the ambiguity of the character, his being a little off-centered, a little ‘not quite right’! I loved the story line Michelle and Tara (writer/creators) originally had planned for Mr. Oliver - one we sadly never got to pursue.I really enjoyed working with Bret Harrison - a great guy and a great actor. I could never have had enough scenes with Ty Labine, an old friend and a human ‘funny machine’. I never had the chance to work on camera with the wonderful Ray Wise but table reads alone with him were a joy to attend. It was a great cast and crew. Our crew was just fantastic. Our Execs at the top put together a really great bunch and treated everyone really well.
Out of all the acting roles you’ve had – stage, movies and TV – is there one you found especially challenging or thought for a moment that you might not pull off? (from Gail M)
AA - I can’t say that I remember a role to date that I was worried I couldn’t pull off. Some days more than others one struggles with a particular character but I haven’t felt overwhelmed by one to this point. (That’s not to say there haven’t been characters that I’ve played and watched later and thought...”Oh,...you didn’t really nail that one...” We’ve all had those.)
What do you consider to be Mike Goss’s main relationship/friendship with another character on Defying Gravity and were you pleased with how that relationship played out onscreen? (from Jim)
AA - To the point where we finished with Season One, I would have to say the primary on-screen relationship Mike Goss had was with Eve. There was a lot to set up for the future on DG and more intricately developed character relationships were on the agenda for Seasons Two and beyond. I know Jim Parriott had wonderful story arcs and relationships planned for all of us. I was very pleased with my experience with Karen LeBlanc (Eve) and I think we laid some pretty good ground work to follow up on for our characters. Karen was a pure joy to work with and to be around.
Is there a particular character or type of character that you’ve yet to play in your career but would really love the opportunity to one day take on? (from SusieQ)
AA - A hockey player. Kidding...sort of. I jumped through hoops to get on Mystery Alaska and a few other hockey films or TV films. I was always a little too young or a little too old in each case, or not quite ‘charactery’ enough for the role - or didn’t look like the character/person in some cases.But there are other characters/types that would be appealing to me. I most often play lawyers, doctors, professionals, businessmen - mostly people who have their act together. But I would love to play a real down on his luck, screwed up mess of a guy type. The more problems, the merrier...
You played a number of roles in The Outer Limits TV series; out of all those characters, do you have a favorite or even most challenging one to have played? (from Natalie)
AA - Probably my favourite was the first, A Stitch in Time, because Michelle Forbes was so sublimely wonderful to work with. I also really enjoyed Summit with Marcia Cross and John Spencer and Dark Child with the hilarious and talented Nora Dunn.
What advice would you give to aspiring actors or those thinking about trying to break into the business? Thanks! (from Johnnie)
AA - Know your lines, know your lines, know your lines. And prepare yourself for frustratingly equal measures of joy and heartache. Persevere. And know your lines.
What was it like working with James Parriott and Michael Edelstein as exec producers on DG? (from Celeste)
AA - I can’t possibly say enough positive things about Jim and Michael. They were a dream to work for and with. They are wildly talented in complimentary ways, great leaders and generous collaborators. They ask a lot of themselves and of you. They brought in wonderful Directors every episode which counts for so much with actors. They were really, truly passionate about DG - it showed every day and it inspired all of us in the cast. It was a joy and privilege to work with them.
Do you have a favorite Mike Goss moment from Defying Gravity? (from David G)
AA - I have many. If forced to single out just one... Maybe the scene from our pilot when Mike chews out Donner after his Press scuffle. We shot that scene so quick and dirty - it was fast and furious but it helped me find and set a tone for Goss. I also loved the scenes in Eve Ate The Apple when Eve and Goss reveal the Mission’s true purpose. But my favourite off-screen moment came near the end of shooting. Zahf Paroo (Ajay) improvised the dialogue in a scene where he yells at Will Vaughn (Arnel) that maybe the funniest thing I have been party to on a set. We all laughed so hard we cried! It was genius funny - but not for network TV. (Any moment or scene set in Major Tom’s was a highlight, too, for the camaraderie it engendered.)
I really enjoyed your work on The 4400. What was it like playing that character, and how about working with the show’s cast? (from Barbara S)
AA - Thanks, Barbara. The 4400 was another favourite experience of mine. Again, it starts at the top where the show’s creator and showrunner, Scott Peters, just makes it a wonderful and supportive place to come to work. He sets his characters with great challenges to play and overcome. Most of my work there was with the wonderful Laura Allen. She was a very generous acting partner and lovely person. I really liked The 4400 and only wish I had a little more to do on it!
You’ve done quite a bit of work in Sci-Fi – what do you enjoy most about working in genre TV? (from Lou PD)
AA - In the Sci-Fi genre at least, the thing I probably enjoy the most is the challenge presented by the nature of most of the material - they are usually very big ‘what-ifs’ or even ‘as-ifs’, which are even more challenging. You have to work and prepare things, I think anyway, with an eye to “ how do I make this feel real” to me and, hopefully, the audience. And can I find a way to come at it that is a little unique or not cliched. I may not always be successful but it is challenge within the genre that I enjoy.
What was a typical day like for you on the set of Defying Gravity? (from Graham)
AA - It depended on whether we were in studio or on location. I loved them both. Most days would be 12-14 hours. Studio days were a little more manageable for everyone - the sets at Mission Control were set and lit so we could bang off a lot of Mission Control scenes in just 2 days. I loved that set, brilliantly designed and executed by the genius Steve Geaghan. Half your job was done for you just stepping on the set; you didn’t have to imagine yourself in a Mission Control Centre, you felt like you were there. We could shoot more pages in a day than you normally would on a TV show at Mission Control because it was a controlled environment. I loved it because you stayed engaged, busy and working all day - no long breaks between scenes or set ups. For me, at least, the days flew by.
When did you move from Scotland to Canada? What do you miss most about Scotland? Do you get back there much to visit? (from Louisa C)
AA - I moved when I was very young - 3 or 4. We did keep moving back and forth a lot for a number of years as my mother would get homesick. I moved back on my own for a year - I had planned it to be longer - when I was 19. I haven’t been back recently. I miss Scotland dearly. I have booked 3 times in the past few years to go back only to have a job offer come in and scuttle those plans. It is on my agenda; I want to show my wife and children Scotland and my family there.
What do you remember most about your work in the two episodes of Stargate SG-1 that you guest-starred in? What was it like to be directed by Martin Wood in both those episodes? (from Jacqueline)
AA - Hi Jacqueline. I remember it was a fun set to be on!! The core cast were wonderful and they had a smooth running operation that was fun to come in to. Martin Wood is just great! He is energetic, direct and clear with his notes - you feel you are in good hands. Just a great guy!
I remember seeing you a long time ago in an episode of Earth: Final Conflict. What was it like to work on that series? (from Dave)
AA - I had a great time on EFC -Atavus High, in particular. It was one of Rachel McAdams first professional jobs.I played her father and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this girl is gooood!’ The director there, Brenton Spencer, is one of my favourite people in this business.
Can you tell us a bit about your experiences shooting the two X-Files episodes that you were in? (from Marie)
AA - I only played a small part in that show - albeit twice. It was thrilling experience because the show was such a big hit at the time. They had very heavy shooting days - at least the days I worked! You felt like you were part of something really big. I remember that Gillian Anderson, in particular, was very kind. So, too, was JP Finn one of their producers who would later be instrumental in bringing me on to Reaper. And working with the late but great Kim Manners was always a treat.
What did your parents say when you told them you wanted to become an actor? (from Jeannie56)
AA - They never flinched. They encouraged me from a young age to do something I loved; whatever I chose was going to be supported by them. I owe them a lot.
Do you ever hear from/keep in touch with other members of the Defying Gravity cast? (from Katie)
AA - Yes, most of us keep in touch with email and the occasional phone call.This past summer I met up with Karen LeBlanc and Dylan Taylor. I see Zahf Paroo from time to time and the crazy-great Peter Howitt.
What projects are you currently working on, and what can we look forward to seeing you in next? (from Andy)
AA - I have been doing a little sometime recurring character on Hellcats for the CW - and the brilliant Kevin Murphy. I will be in Live With It in 2011, a feature from Jonathan Levine with Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anjelica Huston. I have two or three cable tv movies coming out this year - but no details yet. I am also writing and collaborating on a couple of projects - one a film the other a pilot for TV. I will update things at andrewairlie.com
What sets Defying Gravity apart from other TV shows you’ve worked on? (from Bruno55)
AA - Quite a few things from my perspective. The level of real commitment, dedication and collaboration from the top, a large cast and crew that genuinely not only got along well but really loved one another. A really great story - though we only told a fraction of it. Outstanding CGI that flawlessly supported the story telling. It was a great experience. I still believe it deserved a better fate.
Thanks to Steve Eramo and all of you.
As noted above, photo copyright of Defying Gravity Productions and ABC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!