Stargate SG-1's Jonas Quinn (Corin Nemec).
Once again, I have decided to open up the interview vault and revisit some of the many interviews I have had the pleasure of writing over the years and that just appeared in-print and not on-line. In today's interview, actor Corin Nemec talks about playing Jonas Quinn and being "the new kid on the block" in season six of Stargate SG-1. Enjoy, and keep coming back for more familiar faces and shows!
With acting, as in life, it pays to be in the right place at the right time. Just ask Corin Nemec, who plays Jonas Quinn, the newest member of the SG-1 team on Stargate SG-1. The actor was sitting one day in the courtyard at MGM’s Santa Monica offices preparing to audition for a feature film. Little did he know that his career was about to take an unexpected and exciting turn.
“The casting people from the Sci-Fi Channel just happened to be walking through the courtyard,” recalls Nemec, relaxing in-between takes during the filming of the Stargate SG-1 episode The Cure. “I’d worked on two projects last year for the USA Network. They own the Sci-Fi Channel, which now airs Stargate. Apparently, the Sci-Fi people were looking for an actor to play Jonas Quinn, a new character being introduced into the show to fill the void being left by the departing Daniel Jackson [Michael Shanks]. So they came over to me and introduced themselves. We started talking and they briefly mentioned something to me about Stargate. I didn’t give it a second thought. That afternoon my manager called and told me that they were interested in me for Stargate.
“I met with Hank Cohen [President of MGM Television Entertainment] along with several other people to find out a bit more the part because I’d never seen the show. I was familiar with the Stargate film but not the TV program. They picked out videotapes of four episodes that they liked and gave them to me to watch. I remember enjoying the movie a great deal but obviously I didn’t know what to expect from a spin-off series. Well, I was blown away,” he says smiling. “The production design, the cinematography, the acting, etc., were all top notch. That truly impressed me as I love Sci-Fi and action-adventure types of shows. I was also fascinated with the mythology they’d come up with. I thought it was neat how it weaves right in with our Earth mythology and supports Stargate’s overall story arc.
“Having watched the tapes I called MGM and said, ‘This is definitely a project I’d like to become involved in.’ After a couple of more meetings I was cast as Jonas Quinn in the episode Meridian. As far as my long-term involvement with the program, we agreed to wait and see how the character looked on film and how everybody worked together in that one episode. Once the final edit had been done on Meridian and it looked like everything had turned out OK I got a call from MGM saying, ‘We’re very pleased. If you are, too, then let’s more forward.’ So we did and here I am."
Nicknamed “Corky” by his grandmother, Joseph Charles Nemec IV was born on November 5th 1971 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The actor’s mother was a graphic artist as well as a painter, writer and poet, while his architect father eventually became involved in the film industry as a set designer and worked his way up to production designer. “My mom would take me to plays and musicals and afterwards we’d go backstage to meet the actors or musicians. Meanwhile, my dad used to take me on the sets of all the movies he was working on,” says the actor. “I was surrounded by the arts, so deep down I knew that one day I’d probably be involved with them in some way.
“When I was 11 years old I saw The Goonies, one of the films my dad worked on. I was the same age as the characters being played by Sean Astin and the rest of the cast, so I could relate directly to them and the adventure they became involved in. I knew they were acting and what that entailed. They had to learn lines, go to the set, rehearse, etc. However, once it was all shot and edited together it became this actual adventure that they got to experience. I knew right then and there as I was watching the film, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
Nemec began training with the Centre Stage LA theatre company, and after performing in one of their talent showcases signed with an agent. A week later, the actor went on his first audition for a Suzuki car commercial and booked the job. “Stepping onto a set felt really natural to me. I don’t recall being nervous at all, just excited about what I was doing,” he enthuses.
“From that point on I started to work pretty steadily. I did a few more commercials and then a guest-spot on the TV show Sidekicks with Ernie Reyes, Jr. who has remained my friend to this day. My first major film role was in Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Suddenly, I was working with actors the likes of Jeff Bridges, Martin Landau, Frederic Forrest and Joan Allen. That was a big deal. The experience did so much for me in terms of helping me learn my craft.”
Drop Zone, Operation Dumbo Drop, Foreign Correspondents and Free are just a few of the actor’s other big screen credits. On TV, Nemec has appeared in a number of made-for-TV movies as well as the Stephen King mini-series The Stand. He has also guest-starred on such popular shows as NYPD Blue, Beverly Hills 90210 and Smallville. The actor made his series debut as the star of the quirky hit Parker Lewis Can’t Lose.
“My favorite part of working on Parker Lewis was the sheer freedom of it,” notes Nemec. “The show had no boundaries, and it wasn’t afraid to push the ones it thought it had. It was really groundbreaking in that we were doing things that other shows were afraid to do because they thought it would never work. The programme had a wonderful following. It was a big success in Europe as well as Asia and for a while it was the number one show in Israel. In fact, I did a 22-day publicity tour there. I got the opportunity to visit some wonderful places including Spain, Germany, France and even the Philippines. I’ll always be grateful to Parker Lewis for that.”
As Nemec mentioned, he was first seen as Stargate SG-1’s Jonas Quinn in the penultimate fifth-season episode Meridian. In it, the people of the planet Callonia discover an ancient Goa’uld temple containing a new radioactive form of Naquadah – Naquadria. They plan to create a weapon of mass destruction using the Naquadria as a power source. However, the experiment goes horribly wrong. Daniel Jackson succeeds in saving the planet from annihilation but is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. When his people blame Daniel for the accident, Jonas must decide whether or not to go public with the true story.
“Meridian was somewhat of a difficult shoot,” explains the actor. “It was Michael Shanks’s last episode, so emotions were running pretty high. Also, it was the end of the season. The cast and crew had worked their butts off all year long and were ready for a break. Needless to say there was a lot of energy on the set. So I basically kept a low profile, focused on the job, and tried my best to gel with the group. It was definitely interesting being introduced in the same episode that Michael was leaving in. I have to tell you, though, I had a great time working with him in the scenes we had together.”
How would the actor describe the dynamic between Jonas and Daniel? “I’d watched a few episodes before we shot Meridian so I knew that Daniel was an expert in his field, assertive in his opinion, and calculated in his way of thinking,” he says. “So my character had to be able to compete on that same level. Jonas definitely didn’t have the same knowledge base as Daniel did on the topics they discussed. However, he is well-versed on his areas of expertise and isn’t afraid to offer his opinion. So I made sure to keep my character’s energy level up along with his confidence. I wanted him to be able to ‘play ball’ regardless of who knows more about what.”
In the second half of Meridian, Jonas makes the brave decision to clear Daniel’s name. The Callonians, however, are more interested in returning to work on their weapon. Jonas steals a supply of Naquadria and heads for Earth, where he hopes it can be used to make weapons and defense shields. If and when that day comes he would like to take the defense technology back to his world. In the meantime, Jonas has little choice but to remain on Earth. By the end of the story, Daniel succumbs to the radiation, but instead of dying he ascends to a higher plane of existence with the help of Oma Desala (Mel Harris). With their friend and colleague gone, this leaves SG-1 short a team member. In the sixth-season opener Redemption, Jonas suggests to Colonel O’Neill, Major Carter and Teal’c that he would make a suitable replacement. Not surprisingly, they are somewhat reticent to agree.
“Redemption is a two-partner and those two episodes are meant to establish that my character is trying to contribute and be a team player,” says Nemec. “It’s really kind of an exposé on what this guy has to offer. This is not only to help the audiences but also the SG-1 team figure out what Jonas is all about. O’Neill and the others can’t just say to Jonas, ‘OK, come on aboard.’ It wouldn’t make sense. He must first prove that he’s worthy of being given a chance to be one of them.
“Even after these two episodes, Jonas will continue to have to prove himself and go that extra mile to contribute to the team effort. Hopefully, that will come across to the audience, who I’m sure were expecting to tune into the new season and suddenly find Jonas already part of SG-1. Believe me, that’s not the case, and I think that’s going to help a lot in the transition. Audiences will be able to better accept Jonas being made a member of O’Neill’s team after seeing what a real asset he can be. Do you know what I mean? So that transition stage is very important and I think that the show’s producers and writers hit the nail on the head in starting the season off that way. Now we’ll just have to see where Jonas goes from here.”
Although he has only been on Earth for a relatively short period of time, Jonas’s easy-going nature has helped him establish relationships not only with his fellow teammates but also Dr. Fraiser (Teryl Rothery) and General Hammond (Don S. Davis). “I’ve had some great scenes with Teryl,” says Nemec. “We did a TV movie together a couple of years ago, and I think that familiarity with her has helped make the connection between our two characters on Stargate a far more natural and friendly one. With Don Davis’s General Hammond, he’s very much a father figure in Jonas’s eyes. I’ve had time to hang out with Don off-camera and I’ve found him to be a great guy. Not only is he a wonderful actor but he’s also a painter and a sculptor. I really get along well with him.
“Carter is the first character that the producers had warm up to Jonas quicker than anyone else,” continues the actor. “Jones and Teal’c end up bonding because they have similar backgrounds. Both are aliens who left their worlds as well as their lives behind to join SG-1’s cause. As for O’Neill, the nice thing about him is he’s a loyal guy. He’s loyal to his teammates, his mission and he was and still is loyal to Daniel Jackson. They went through a lot together, so he can’t just blindly accept this new guy taking Daniel’s place. Jack is the person that Jonas has to prove himself to the most, and even when he’s allowed on the team, the colonel doesn’t automatically accept him. As I said before, Jonas still has to get out there in the field and pay his dues. So his relationship with O’Neill is a bit strained but I like that because it makes things all the more interesting.”
While some actors might have experienced trepidation about joining a long-running series like Stargate SG-1, Nemec did not. In fact, he wouldn’t mind continuing to play Jonas Quinn after the show’s sixth and final year, whether it’s in a feature film or a spin-off show. “I have a feeling that by the time this season ends we’ll have a pretty refined character in Jonas,” he says, “and one that’s in a position to develop further. If I get the chance to do that with him, cool. If not, I’ll be grateful to have at least walked in Jonas’s boots for 23 episodes,” smiles Nemec.