[caption id="attachment_4512" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Jewel Staite as Dr. Jennifer Keller on Stargate Atlantis. Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
No matter what the job, it is never easy on someone when he or she comes in to fill the void left by a departed colleague. That was certainly true for Dr. Jennifer Keller when she, much to her surprise, was promoted to Atlantis' chief medical officer after Dr. Carson Beckett unexpectedly died while saving a patient's life. It was a position that she neither wanted nor felt especially qualified for, but Dr. Elizabeth Weir saw potential in Keller, and she was not mistaken. The physician has since proven to herself and her colleagues that she is more than up to the task at hand. Naturally, it took time for Keller to settle into her new role in the Pegasus Galaxy, and the same is true for the actress who plays her, Stargate Atlantis' Jewel Staite.
"When I first started on the show [in season three's First Strike], I didn't have a clear understanding of who Keller was; I don't think anyone did," recalls Staite. "It was more or less a case of, 'OK, here's the part, we begin shooting tomorrow.' So I just started from the ground up insofar as building a character. A lot of it was about taking the material for what it was and going with that, but it was always important for me to play Keller as real as possible. She's a city girl in this bizarre world, and she had to get used to it in a hurry. My character also felt that she had to prove herself because she knew she was replacing someone who had the whole thing under his belt. She doesn't quite have that yet. Keller is still a little insecure, and what I liked is that they [the show's producers] weren't afraid to play that with her. Not everybody has to be a hero, and I liked that Keller wasn't. She was a normal girl stuck in a place she didn't understand.
"As the seasons passed and time went on, Keller definitely became more confident and more capable of dealing with these crazy, dire and dear situations. She gained some new skills in season five and became more aware of as well as felt more comfortable in her surroundings. At the same time, she's still vulnerable and isn't a heroic type of girl. When necessary, Keller steps up to the plate, but that's not her first choice. She would much rather have someone there to protect her, and I don't see anything wrong with that. I think Keller is still a strong female, but she's not going to be the person who fights the Wraith if she doesnt absolutely have to, and that's OK."
[caption id="attachment_4513" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Not the most comfortable of positions for poor Dr. Keller in "The Seed." Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
Jennifer Keller had no choice but to put on a brave face early on at the start of Atlantis' fifth season when, in The Seed, an alien pathogen is found in her blood and Wraith tendrils begin growing out of her torso. "My initial reaction to that script was, 'What did I do? Why are they [the producers] so angry with me?'" jokes Staite. "I was nervous, I won't lie. It's generally a thing here on-set about being in prosthetics - no one really likes it. It's usually pretty uncomfortable and requires lots of early calls and long days, but they assured me that they were going to do it in such a way that it would be comfortable for me.
"Basically, it was me lying in bed and underneath a cage-like contraption," continues the actress. "They would open the cage, I'd slip inside, they would then close the cage and put a Wraith tentacle 'blanket' over the top. So it wasn't too bad to get into and out of, but then I had these face pieces that were actually part of the blanket that they would pull up and glue to my neck. Once those were on, I was there for the day, and my hands were underneath the cage, so it was this weird way of working because there was nowhere I could go. I would watch the crew running around setting up the cameras, lighting, etc., and then we could shoot a scene. As soon as we cut, they'd be busy setting up the next shot, and I just laid there watching them go off in a flurry. It was a way of observing the [filming] process that I'd never really experienced before on this show.
"Needles to say I didn't drink a lot of fluids on the job that week because going to the bathroom was a challenge. I mean, I could do it, but it took about 15 minutes to get out of the cage, so I thought, 'You know what, I'm just going to lay off the water and hope for the best,' and it became very Zen-like. Of course, poor Dr. Keller was completely powerless, alone and frightened, you know? As for me, I was just so relaxed that I would doze off and catch myself starting to fall asleep in-between takes," she chuckles. "So it was an interesting week for sure."
[caption id="attachment_4514" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Dr. Keller is ready for action! Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
Among the more challenging season five Atlantis episodes for Staite to have worked on is Tracker, in which Dr. Keller is kidnapped by a Runner named Kiryk (Mike Dopud) while off-world on an errand of mercy with Dr. McKay (David Hewlett) and Ronon (Jason Momoa). "This was another of those episodes written by [executive producer] Carl Binder, and I don't know what the deal is, but he enjoys having Keller tied up and dragged through the woods," jokes the actress. "No, seriously, I worked with an excellent guest-star, Mike Dopud. He's a stuntman, but he's an amazing actor as well and a terrific person to be around. It was just me and Mike in the woods for two weeks. Keller does a major switch in this episode and she does something that surprises the viewer.
"One of the most memorable season five episodes for me is The Shrine. It's beautifully written, very touching and definitely different from the other stories I've done. It's a team episode that shows the humanity in all the characters as opposed to giant space battles and that kind of stuff. The story focuses on who these people are and is a huge tear-jerker. When I read the script, I cried. It was great for all of us and allowed us to really stretch ourselves that little bit more as actors."
In year four's Quarantine, Atlantis goes into lockdown as a result of a computer glitch and traps our heroes in various parts of the city. Ronon and Dr. Keller end up in the infirmary and, for a moment, it looks as if there might be a bit of romance in the air. However, it is the geeky and egotistical Rodney McKay that ultimately gets the girl, which, in Staite's eyes, makes sense.
[caption id="attachment_4515" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Dr. Keller attempts to save Dr. McKay's (David Hewlett) life in "The Shrine." Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
"I think it was the most logical outcome," she notes. "McKay and Keller started out as friends and she seems to mellow him out a lot and tolerates him much better than the other characters. I think, too, that my character finds his whining, crankiness and all that stuff funny, and Jennifer is charmed by Rodney and vice versa. They're both scaredy cats and want more than anything to be in a safe spot. The two of them are also slightly dorky, but incredibly smart as well and, again, feel like they constantly have to prove themselves.
"So they have a number of things in common, and in season five their relationship developed into something stronger. David and I have the same sense of humor and way of working. So it's easy to be around him and I think the show's writers saw that and thought, 'OK,' and decided to go that [romantic] route with the two of them, which I was super happy about."
Long before joining the Atlantis cast, Staite had acquired plenty of Sci-Fi/Fantasy experience playing such TV roles as Catalina in Space Cases and Kaylee Frye in Firefly. The actress' fans will also know that prior to being cast as Dr. Keller, she booked the part of a young female Wraith named Ellia in the second season Atlantis episode Instinct. She had no idea that this job would lead to a regular spot on the series.
[caption id="attachment_4516" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Staite as Ellia in "Instinct." Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
"I thought the [Instinct] character was so special and really wanted to do it," says Staite. "[Director/producer] Andy Mikita and the guys tell me that when I walked into the audition room they were like, 'That's Kaylee from Firefly. What's she doing here?' It wasn't anything unusual for me, though. I'm more than willing to audition to prove what I can, hopefully, do in a role.
"Luckily they gave me the job and I loved working on the series. I told them that I'd be happy to come back and they said, 'We won't forget you. One day we'll write something new for you.' Lo and behold, a year later they offered me a fulltime role on the show, no prosthetics required - at least for the first episode. I was like, 'That sounds great.' So it just kind of fell into my lap and I couldn't have been happier," smiles the actress.
Last fall, the Atlantis cast and crew wrapped production on what became the show's fifth and final season. The script for a made-for-DVD movie has been written, but filming dates are still pending. In the meantime, Staite can be seen in the upcoming Syfy Channel movie Mothman, and is also slated to begin work on a horror film, P5ych. From out-of-this-world roles to more down-to-Earth ones, the actress enjoys nothing more than creating gaps between each character that she plays.
[caption id="attachment_4517" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Dr. Keller and Dr. McKay share an especially tense moment. Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
"For me, it's really important to do projects that are as different as can be from the last one I did," she says. "And while sometimes they may be in the same genre, it's still important to have the character challenge me and to show other aspects of what I can do as an actress. When I succeed in doing that, that's what makes this job especially rewarding.
"It's nice to have viewers watch me in a show and say, 'I love what you're doing.' It was hard for me when I first started Atlantis; I knew what was going to happen, and it did. So whenever I hear people say positive things about Keller it makes me feel good because she's a part of me and I love her a great deal and protect her very much."
Steve EramoAs noted above, all photos copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!
[caption id="attachment_3182" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The cast of Warehouse 13 - Allison Scagliotti (Claudia), Saul Rubenik (Artie), Joanne Kelly (Myka Bering), Genelle Williams (Leena) and Eddie McClintock (Pete Lattimer). Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel"][/caption]
WAREHOUSE 13's action-packed season finale, MacPherson, features guest-appearances by CCH Pounder and Roger Rees). After a failed attempt to take Artie's life, MacPherson (Roger Rees) is now selling dangerous artifacts, stolen from the Warehouse shelves, on the black market. Artie and Leena also suspect that there's a mole in the Warehouse who is secretly aligned with MacPherson - could it be Claudia? Meanwhile, as the team hunts down MacPherson, they realize too late that his capture is a carefully orchestrated trap to destroy them. MacPherson airs Tuesday, September 22nd @ 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CT on The Syfy Channel.
As noted above, photo copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!
SPOILER ALERT!! - The team tries to tame a herd of Embolotherium when it comes through an anomaly, but these seven -ton rhinoceros-type beasts from the Eocene era don't budge easily. To make matters worse, Abby realizes someone is trapped in a tent and for some reason one of the Embolotherium seems intent on trampling it. Abby and Sarah try to rescue the trapped civilian, while Connor attempts to lure the lumbering creatures back into the anomaly without causing a stampede or being crushed in the process. Danny finally arrives, late. With him is Eve, a mysterious woman from the future. Things get out of control when the anomaly suddenly snaps shut and the herd starts to stampede. Episode nine of season three airs Saturday, July 18th @ 9 p.m. EST/PST on BBC America.
[caption id="attachment_2009" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Danny (Jason Flemyng, center) arrives on the scene to lend Connor (Andrew Lee-Potts) and Abby (Hannah Spearritt) a hand. Photo copyright of Impossible Pictures"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2010" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Eve (Kate Magowan), the mystery woman from the future is, not surprisingly, not who she appears to be. Photo copyright of Impossible Pictures"][/caption]
THE CREATURES OF PRIMEVAL - Embolotherium (meaning "battering-ram beast" or "wedge beast") is an extinct genus of Bronthothere that lived in Mongolia during the late Eocene period. It's most easily recognized by a large bony protuberance emanating from the anterior (front) end of the skull. The animal is known from about 12 remaining skulls, several jaws, and a variety of other skeletal elements from the Ulan Gochu formation of Inner Mongolia and the Irgilin Dzo of Outer Mongolia. Although they may look like modern rhinos, Embolotherium are not related and were somewhat larger, at 2 tons.
As noted above, all photos copyright of Impossible Pictures, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!
THIS Friday, June 26th (8 p.m. - 1o p.m. EST/PST), Fox will broadcast Virtuality. Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: The Next Generation) wrote and executive produced with Michael Taylor (Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: Voyager) this two-hour movie (and backdoor pilot) in which a space crew sets out on a 10-year journey through outer space in order to save an unsustainable Earth, their actions being telecast to a worldwide audience as part of a reality TV show. To help pass the time on their long journey, their ship is equipped with virtual reality modules, but tensions soon mount as a glitch in the system unleashes a virus onto the ship.
Earlier this week, myself and several other journalists spoke via a conference call with actresses Sienna Guillory and Clea DuVall, who play exo-biologist Rika Goddard and ship's pilot Sue Parsons, respectively, in Virtuality, about their work in the movie. The following is an edited version of that Q & A session.
Clea, you've been in so many different genre projects and played a variety of characters; what type of preparation do you do in order to get into the various roles. And how do you approach each of these different types of characters, where you always seem to be able to put it all together and knock it [your performance] out of the ball park?CLEA DuVALL - That's very sweet of you to say, thank you. I approach each role differently. On Virtuality, for me, it was about getting to know the people that I was working with and becoming comfortable with improv, which is something I'd never done before. However, [director] Peter Berg likes to work that way; he just sort of lets scenes run and watches what happens. So it was a lot of on-the-job training with this one, and any preparation I did had to be thrown out the window if you will, and it was a matter of putting my trust in Peter and my fellow actors.
Sienna, I know that a lot of the work that you guys did, especially when your characters were in the virtual environments, was green screen-type work. What were some of the challenges of that?SIENNA GUILLORY - I think in a way, when you're working with green screen, it's hugely enabling. In this case, it was the whole thing that Ron Moore came up with. By that I mean in Virtuality, he gives our characters lives with no limitations, so you have to use that green screen as a plus. The fact that there's nothing there to limit your imagination or where you see yourself or how you see the scene unfolding can be a helpful thing. So you just imagine it exactly the way you want it to be, rather than kind of being held back by the physical limitations of a set.
Each of the crew on the ship has his or her own virtual reality - what was each of yours?CD - My character was very much into outdoor sports, so bike-riding, surfing, etc.
SG - My character is actually an exo-biologist, which is kind of extreme gardening on a molecular level. But she's trapped in this passionless marriage to the ship's psychologist, so she uses her virtual module to fantasize about sex and intimacy.
Given that our world seems to be increasingly moving towards one that is dominated by virtual reality, how do you think that will impact our emotional and psychological well-being as reflected in your characters in the movie?SG - In terms of how it worked in the show, we're geeks, but we're still people, we're still humans. So anything that happens to us in our own personal movies happens to all of us, because we're stuck together. Again, the whole point of it is that Ron Moore is providing these characters with a life without limitations, so I think it's tremendously healthy to be able to explore your inner cravings and all the things that you dream of and be able to realize your fantasies without necessarily hurting other people. At the same time, you also need to realize that when you do experience something emotionally, it does affect who you are, and I think that's the backbone of what we're doing. What happens in our virtual modules affects everyone around us, even though we think our experiences are private.
Given that this story was meant to be an ongoing one, were there any details that you were given or that you asked for going forward about your characters?CD - There were little bits and pieces that we were given because I think we all had the hopes that it would continue. But they, Michael and Ron, didn't really give away much. I think that we were all under such pressure to just do what we were doing, that thinking into the future was overwhelming at the time. However, there is definitely a lot more to the story that, fingers crossed, we may be able to tell.
SG - We had times where we'd all gather around and discuss these kinds of "mad" notions that maybe our characters aren't actually on the ship. Maybe they're in these little pods being fed these ideas. That the whole thing is a virtual simulation and one day they'll all wake up and find that they're actually not where they think they are.
Going back to the improvisation mentioned earlier, having done genre, effect-heavy type work before, what difference does the improvisation make in that [type of] environment?CD - I think for me, whenever I'm doing any kind of genre, it's all improvisation, because you don't know. I don't know what's going to happen until I get there, so in that way I guess it [Virtuality] was similar to other things I've done. But with this, I've never had so much freedom with the script. I mean, of course I said everything that was in the script, but being able to then build on it and create more and find things that I didn't even know were there until we were doing it was very exciting. Everyone was so good at that, and it really shows onscreen.
SG- I agree. The creative imaginative geniuses that are Ron Moore and Mike Taylor are so infectiously enthusiastic as well as so brave. They assumed that the audience was intelligent and demanding, which made us as an ensemble want to rise up and meet the challenge. So when we were actually filming, they lent us that bravery and allowed us to inhabit these roles and just let rip with whatever crazy idea came into our minds, with the safety net of knowing that they were going to take out the bad bits. So that was the freedom and the great thing about working on this.
CD - And also them trusting us so much and being people that we, in turn, respected and trusted. I think that also gave us the confidence to trust ourselves and sort of go with whatever our instincts were telling us.
Can you tell us how you first became involved in this project and about the audition process for your role?SG - I read the script and thought it was one of the best things I'd ever read. I put myself on tape - I was in London at the time - and then they said they liked it. So I flew over to the U.S., did the studio test that night, and then the next morning I did the network test and that was it.
CD - I received the script and thought it was one of the best scripts I'd ever read as well. I had to go on the audition the very next day and it was terrible. I couldn't remember my lines, I was stuttering. It wasn't cute. However, they asked me to come back the next day and try again, which I did. This time I went in with a little more focus, and then they had me test for the role. I ended up getting the job and I was very excited.
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION:Sienna Guillory - Named one of the "100 Sexiest Women" by Maxium Magazine, Sienna Guillory transcends physical beauty as a British-born actress of broad range and nuance. She is beginning production on Gunless, which is slated for release in March 2010. Guillory plays Jane opposite Paul Gross and Dustin Milligan. Her latest film is Inkheart starring Helen Mirren, Brendan Fraser and Paul Bettany. In 2006, the actress starred in the Fox 2000 film Eragon as Princess Arya opposite Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich. Also recognized for her role in the romantic comedy Love Actually starring Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson, Guillory first grabbed the attention of audiences with her breakout role in the 2002 Science Fiction film The Time Machine opposite Guy Pearce. On the small screen, the actress was recently seen on Criminal Minds. She also made an impression on critics and audiences as the star of the 2003 miniseries Helen of Troy. Originally from Kettering, a small town outside London, Guillory began her career as a model, landing campaigns for brands such as Hugo Boss, before making the transition to acting.
Clea DuVall - In a relatively short span of time, Clea DuVall has burst onto the scene and quickly become one of Hollywood's most sought-after talents. One of the few actors working successfully and simultaneously in film and TV, her resume is both extensive and versatile. DuVall first gained recognition in the independent feature How to Make the Cruelest Month, which was one of 16 films in dramatic competition at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. Later that same year, her starring role as the rebellious loner Stokely in The Faculty garnered her Blockbuster and Teen Choice Award nominations for Breakout Performance. DuVall was most recently seen in Jonathan Liebesman's The Killing Room, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Prior to that, she could be seen in Passengers, directed by Rodrigo Garcia with Anne Hathaway and Patrick Wilson. Her additional film credits include Zodiac, the American remake of The Grudge, Girl Interrupted and The Astronaut's Wife. On TV, DuVall's credits include Grey's Anatomy, Heroes, Carnivale, ER and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she first became interested in acting while attending the Los Angeles High School of the Arts. During her time there, the actress performed in the theater and also took acting classes outside of school. Upon graduating, she quickly landed an agent as well as a manager and has been working nonstop ever since.