Syfy’s Stargate Universe [Tuesday’s, 9/8C] has continued the tradition of Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis by going to a couple of places its predecessor’s did not: into a far darker and more dramatic presentation and onto an ancient Ancient starship called the Destiny. The result has required a larger, more varied and unusual cast – two members of which, Ming-Na and Lou Diamond Phillips took an hour to chat with journalists and bloggers about the show’s second season and their characters’ arcs in it.
Thank you both. I really appreciate your time today.
Lou Diamond Phillips: How are you doing?
Ming Na: Hey not a problem. Thank you.
Doing really well. Lou my first question’s for you. It’s great to see you the last few episodes and the first two of the season back on the show.
I was wondering, can you tell us are you going to be on a lot of the episodes this season or is that not going to be kind of back and forth or how’s that going to go?
Phillips: Well I mean presently I’m still technically a recurring guest star. Without, you know, without giving too much away, I mean I will be much more present in the second season. But, you know, don’t look for me in every episode.
Okay. Okay great. And when – on the episodes that you’re on if you can say, you know, your character I guess has a lot to go through with you’re kind of being compromised and (creating) everybody. Are we going to get to see I guess kind of that evolution of him dealing with what he’s done?
Phillips: It’s, you know, I think it’s more in how he responds and reacts and deals with the people on the ship, you know, on the Destiny.
He’s certainly is – has a history that’s hinted at. What we’ve seen is a – I think a change in the dynamic especially between himself and Colonel Young and, you know, the lovely Ming Na is with us and, you know, she becomes a bit of a confidant, you know, to him because I think they both care very much about, you know, the welfare of the Destiny and how the decisions are made, you know, aboard the ship.
So we’ll see a side of Telford that we haven’t seen yet but yet it’s all, you know, I think it’s all very true to the character and very layered into what we’ve seen of him before. The fact that we’re going to see more of him I’m actually very happy about and we get a little bit more insight what makes him tick.
But it’s, you know, it’s not about him. I mean the storylines don’t revolve around him. So I mean there are definitely, you know, he’s definitely a team player in that respect.
Okay great. And Ming I wanted to ask you, you’ve got certainly one of the meatiest roles I think on TV, you know, let alone on this show.
Was it kind of (Art)’s intent that Camille was going to be such an integral character to everything or did that kind of evolve as you went along?
Ming Na: Well I’m very happy that the character has evolved the way she has. And it’s probably one of the most complex roles I’ve had the opportunity to play.
Yes I’m, you know, that was something that was proposed to me very early on that Camille Ray will be a more integral part of this series. And so far that’s come true, you know.
I certainly – I don’t have any say as far as where the character goes. And I, you know, and I don’t certainly get paid to be a writer. I just so – I’m thankful for the writers for bringing such a strong female character to light.
Lou, we last spoke with you when you were in Costa Rica so it’s good to see you back home.
Phillips: Oh my God. Yes I survived.
Ming Na: Man, you get around Lou.
Phillips: It’s been like a distant nightmare now. So yes I haven’t gone through as many changes as a lot of the other people have if you know what I mean.
Wink. Well Ming I was wondering what about your role keeps challenging you?
Ming Na: Wow, you know, I think it’s Camille is interesting because she starts off someone who really wanted to maintain the status quo of what she was used to on Earth and on Icarus Space. And, you know, she’s had to really learn to throw that book away and be more instinctual and think more on her feet.
So for me I find it fascinating that here’s a woman that she feels like she can compartmentalize her two worlds, her personal life and the life, you know, in the workforce. And now it’s kind of meshed into where her life and her work is just on Destiny. And so she’s kind of had to let her hair down. She’s kind of have to, you know, resort to tactics that she normally wouldn’t use and finding allies and making friends with people she normally probably wouldn’t make friends with especially the military I think, you know.
She works alongside them but it’s interesting how those challenges have been brought to light with the character.
Well why do you think people keep turning in to watch the show?
Ming Na: Oh because it’s so good. Am I being modest?
Ming Na: I – you know what? I am so proud of our show. I just watched the season two trailer. And I never – I’m not the type of actor that like toots her horn or, you know, or like oh please, you know, I’m on this commercial or oh I’m going to be on this talk show and I email and bombard everyone with an email. But I just watched the season two trailer and I’m so proud of our show and everyone who works on it that, you know, I’m sitting here this morning like sending out, you know, this trailer say you guys you have to watch this trailer. I’m so proud of my show.
So I think, you know, that an actor that’s actually in it gets so excited, you know, there must be something that’s happening that’s right.
Well there’s such a online support for this show. And Lou you’re an active participant on Twitter. Why is that such an important place for you to connect with the fans?
Phillips: You know, I’ve actually loved connecting with them on Twitter. You know, that way I’m never quoted out of context. I can say what’s on my mind. But at the same time I, you know, I’m not given to ranting or going off on long, you know, dissertations.
It allows me to share some thoughts. And I think I hope, it allows the fans to get a peek not only into my life but into, you know, what they might be interested as far as I’m doing. And when it comes to SGU the fact that so many of us are on Twitter I really, really do feel as if it’s a little gift, you know, to the fans out there to be able to peek into our real interpersonal dynamics and, you know, get a little bit of scuttlebutt about what’s going on behind the scenes without, you know, spoiling anything. And it makes the relationship very special.
And interestingly enough I think the relationship between a science fiction show and its audience is different than any one of the other types of shows that are out there.
Ming Na: Yes. It’s so intimate, yes.
Phillips: It has – it’s very intimate. It has this loyalty to it. It has this trust. They care about the characters and where the stories go. And, you know, it continues long into, you know, a future. It’s got a very long shelf life. So it is, it’s like a little romance that we’re maintaining with the fans of the show.
And, you know, like Ming said, I’m incredibly proud of the show. I’m a fan of the show even, you know, in the episodes that I’m not in. I think the entire cast is just brilliant. And, you know…
Agreed. I agree.
Ming Na: Thank you. Well, you know, and we have such amazing writers and directors and producers…
Phillips: Exactly and…
Phillips: …and James, you know, our production designer. It it’s a complete show. Everybody is bringing their A game.
Ming Na: Yes. And being a sci-fi geek like when I watch that trailer because a lot of times we’re just looking at green screens or we’re, you know, we’re trying to bring something out to the – onto from the page, you know, on to the set.
And then when the vis effects people are adding this amazing tableau of artistry it blows my mind as a sci-fi geek. You know, I’m looking at the ship, I’m looking at the aliens, I’m like oh my God this is my show. It’s fabulous.
I was just curious I mean one of the things that really stands out about Stargate Universe is the fact that it’s an ensemble show which I mean is typically okay if you bring a bunch of unknown actors together and put it together.
But here we have a show where there are people who stand out. There are people that, you know, we’ve known like, you know, we know Lou from other things, we know Ming from other things. I mean how is it as an actor to try to help maintain the dynamic of keeping the ensemble nature of the show?
Ming Na: Well Lou and I try to keep them down as much as possible, right Lou?
Phillips: Oh God yes, absolutely.
Ming Na: Right King?
Phillips: I won’t let them look us in the eye.
Ming Na: King Lou.
Ming Na: No, I mean Lou and I are both from the theater background. And I think for us an ensemble is key to any successful endeavor in art especially in creating a show or a play or a musical. So I love it. I love the dynamics of an ensemble.
Phillips: And I think we got very, very fortunate. I mean sometimes, you know, the chips fall differently and you get different personalities put together literally from day one.
And all of us Ming and myself included, you know, worked from day one on this show. No matter the level of experience, the ensemble treated one another with respect, had expectations of high standards and, you know, nobody was a diva. And that hasn’t changed.
And, you know, I mean and that comes from Bobby Carlyle. That comes from Louie Ferreira, you know, the people with a lot more, you know, more experienced than others. And yet, you know, the actors with perhaps not as much, you know, experience on their resumes still come with their A game and they come with a lot of respect. And everybody is very supportive of one another. And I truly feel like that’s reflected in the final product.
Ming Na: Yes.
Yes and there is like – there is kind of the difference between, you know, with some of the actors being kind of new, some of them being veterans and trying to bring that altogether.
But I know Lou that one of the things that you have done is you’ve really reached out and tried to keep this group cohesive even off-camera. I mean, you have your famous cookouts and everything else. I mean what are some of the ways that you guys kind of do this off-camera to keep that I guess an ensemble feeling there, that teamwork feeling there?
Phillips: Well you know what I’m going to say, it’s not by design man. It’s not like we’re trying to achieve something that doesn’t exist already. The truth…
Ming Na: Yes.
Phillips: …is we all like each other.
Ming Na: Yes.
Phillips: We actually like hanging out with one another. And, you know, so many of us have families. Ming’s got a family, (Alanna), you know, and so it’s just a natural thing that, you know, that we become tribal.
Ming Na: Yes. Yes tribal, that’s a good word. But, you know, and I’ve known Lou for so many years and what a treat to, you know, finally have a chance to work with him at length rather than just meeting him, you know, not clandestinely, that’s not the word. What is the word I’m looking for?
You know, just like we just meet…
Ming Na: …each other at these events or at these parties and, you know, and it’s just for a couple of minutes here. And it’s just so great to finally get a chance to work with him and Louis Ferreira, well before he was Louis Ferreira. But yes but, you know, I’ve known some of these people for a while and it’s just fabulous to have this forum to play with.
So can you talk about how you came to work on the show? I mean did you audition or were you offered the part?
Phillips: Is that for both of us or one of us?
Yes, for both of you.
Ming Na: Yes well I don’t know – I mean I met with the casting director to find out because I was very hesitant about wanting to do a show that shoots in Vancouver. I haven’t taken a job outside of LA in a while since my kid was born. So that’s like what, eight years. But after speaking with Robert Cooper and him describing the character and the direction that they wanted to go with the show I was pretty much convinced from that conversation to come on board. What about you Lou?
Phillips: No, my experience is almost exactly the same. You know, I got a call saying they were interested in me, went to MGM and sat down and had a conference call because the boys were already in Vancouver. And, you know, and the same thing. They just sort of told me, you know, that yes Telford started out very slow in air part one and two.
And, you know, they just, you know, let me know that there would be a future with the character and that he would have some interesting things to do and, you know, would become a player as far as the dynamic of the show is concerned.
So, you know, I definitely took a leap of faith and jumped in there. And, you know, it didn’t hurt that, you know, they were bandying names around like Ming Na and, you know, Bobby Carlisle and I…
Ming Na: Yes that was…
Phillips: …just got…
Phillips: …at the kind of show that they were going to do.
Ming Na: That’s right ding, ding, ding, yes. That was another enticement I should say, yes.
Great. Well now you started to talk a little bit about kind of how the effects look after the fact. But can you both talk about kind of acting with the green screen and how that’s challenging?
Ming Na: I always feel like, you know, there’s two – two things that I feel sometimes. One is wow, I’m really being a five year old kid pretending that I’m in outer space and how great is that to be doing it as an adult. And then two, you know, just when it’s such dire life or death situation that challenge is to really believe in that moment and selling it.
Phillips: Yes I would say the same thing in that you truly have to commit to what you’re supposed to be seeing because if you’re apologizing for it or if you’re distancing yourself from it then the audience will never buy it. Then the effect itself will never work.
Ming Na: Right.
Phillips: Everything has to go to that place of completeness and, you know, utter believability. And as a result what’s really nice is that, you know, not only are the directors very descriptive in what we’re supposed to be seeing and they help, you know, set up the shots, but many times the art department and the effects department will have renderings and can show you at least, you know, in a two-dimensional plane what it is you’re going to be looking at.
Ming Na: And then other times it’s just director yelling while we’re looking at nothing.
Ming Na: He’ll be like okay you see something light up and now it’s coming at you really fast. And now it zooms up overhead, you know, it’s, yes.
Well whatever you do it works out well at least so…
Ming Na: Yes, yes.
Phillips: Yes, no I’ve got to relate one story. Was it Andy? I think it was Andy Mikita talking me through something once. And sometimes it’s really hard to keep a straight face because it’s like and oh, okay here, here comes one here. Oh my God there’s (unintelligible). Oh Jesus well oh my God they’re all around you. Over there, there’s one. Oh, oh, no. And you’re having to keep a straight face. But, you know, really appreciate your enthusiasm and support but you’re cracking me up.
Ming Na: So maybe I don’t need it right now, thank you, Andy. Yes that sounds like Andy.
Phillips: Just tell me where to look and I’ll take it from there.
Ming Na: It’s either Andy or Peter they both are – yes.
Lou, since Telford has had such an interesting journey can you talk about how you really get to know him as a character? Like what do you hang on to in terms of consistency?
Phillips: You know, that’s a very good question because, you know, you’re actually brainwashing. You go man, am I somebody entirely different? No, I think the writers have done an incredible job of maintaining a core of integrity to Telford.
His mission from the start and even through season two quite honestly is very, very specific. And that is to be the hero to save these people to get them home. And whether that’s self agrandizement or not he’s still feels very, very committed to this mission. I think that he feels very frustrated that he was not able to, you know, perform the duty that he was called to perform.
I think when it comes to being a soldier and, you know, and an officer that he has a very strong code and must adhere to that. You know, I think we get to see him operate a little differently once, you know, the brainwashing has been taken away. But once again at his core he’s very, very focused and he doesn’t waiver from what he wants to achieve ultimately.
What’s been interesting is that, you know, we get to know him a little bit better. We sense, you know, the dynamic between himself and (Rush) and Young and Camile Ray how he operates with them become slightly different. But what we haven’t discovered about Telford yet — and I don’t think I’m spoiling anything — is, you know, we haven’t gotten a lot of details about his personal life just yet so that I find that very intriguing and that, you know, we’ll see if it ever becomes important, you know, to the storylines.
Ming can you talk about coming back to Camille for season two and the challenges of finding where she is emotionally at the start of the season?
Ming Na: Yes I think for Camile, you know, she has to come to terms with her situation. I think for season one her ultimate goal was to get everybody back home including herself back to earth and back to a world that she’s comfortable in, she’s familiar with.
And now I think with season two it’s the realization that perhaps there is something else that is going to take over as the more important mission in her life and to just start moving forward and embracing that as her world for a while. Because if she can’t then I don’t think she’s capable of leading the civilians to adapt and have a better frame of mind.
So I think that’s going to be a new change for a lot of the characters for season two is having this mission that they feel genuinely will help Earth and protect Earth from, you know, a Lucian Alliance attack.
This is for both of you, of the episodes that you filmed for season two so far which would be your favorite and why?
Ming Na: You see, you know, when they – when you ask questions like that you’re just fishing. You’re fishing for some…
Of course we are.
Ming Na: …spoilers
Phillips: Nice try. We’re used to subterfuge and manipulation. We know how to handle that.
Ming Na: Well my favorite episode is the one that I get to do a lot of stuff. What about you Lou?
Phillips: Yes, there’s been a lot of really cool stuff going on. I will say that a number of the episodes have an increased amount of action in them. I think that there’s a definite membership out there, you know, in the fandom that will appreciate the action adventure aspect of some of the episodes coming up. We blow a lot of shit up.
And, you know, yes, get into major firefights. So, you know, I mean that’s always fun, the bang, bang. I mean it’s certainly something I’ve done my entire career in, you know, in features and other things. So that’s always fun to get back and, you know, feel like you’re an action hero. I will say that early in the season there is an episode that involves aliens. And I’ve recently seen it and just amazed and thrilled about…
Ming Na: Yes.
Phillips: …what Mark Savela and in the effects team do. It’s really, really beautiful to watch. And what these guys do for television, it’s comparable to anything out there. And I’ll go on record saying Mark should have won the Emmy. I really think so.
Ming Na: I concur. I second that. And I certainly think that by season two he will have one in hand. I’m going to petition…
Phillips: Yes he needs…
Ming Na: …really hard for that, yes.
I think a lot of the people will agree with that too.
Ming Na: Yes.
Phillips: Oh yes.
Yes. Let me give you a much easier question then okay, one you can answer.
You both have worked on a lot of different projects both in film, television, and as you mentioned before, even stage. Which medium do you prefer to work in? How’s that, a little easier?
Ming Na: Well…
Phillips: The medium that pays me.
Ming Na: Yes I was going to say it really depends on, you know, from what perspective you want us to answer that, financially, emotionally?
How about as an artist?
Ming Na: I mean I love like theater and sitcoms because I get an immediate feedback from the audience. That’s something that I always get a high from. So I think as an artist that’s very fulfilling.
But also for me right now working on a Syfy show where I pretend that I’m in outer space billion, you don’t understand, I’m a Star Wars kid, you know?
So to actually be able to say that I’m on a show where I’m billions of light years away is so satisfying. I don’t know if that’s the artist in me or just the kid in me but yes, very happy about this ensemble work I’m doing.
Phillips: You know, and as far as I’m concerned I’m very grateful that I can work in all the different mediums. You know, like being – having a theater background and coming from that and being able to get back on the boards is truly invigorating and there’s nothing like it.
But there’s also nothing quite like the experience of making a big film, you know, or being on this kind of television show.
So it’s like different love affairs…
Ming Na: Yes.
Phillips: …you know, there’s something different to like about every one of them. And they feed you and inspire you in different ways, you know?
So just to be able to apply our craft as actors and do something that we love, you know, and get paid for it and have a career at it I think is something to be grateful for and…
Ming Na: Right.
Phillips: …you know, it would be difficult to sort of say okay you know what, I will only ever do this for the rest of my life or, you know, I mean it’s like saying I’m never going to write or I’m never going to direct again. I love both those things but not to the exclusion of acting, you know?
Right. Well that makes sense. Well thank you both for your time today.
Ming Na: Thank you.
Phillips: You bet.
My first question is for Ming Na. And I wanted to find out, going back to last season could you guys tell us a little bit about some of the acting challenges you found playing the paraplegic role in I believe it was Life, if I have…
Ming Na: Yes.
…that episode correct?
Ming Na: Yes I – when that was first brought up to me, you know, I was quite nervous about playing a part where I really – I mean I’ve had no experience with someone with that condition or, you know, even just understanding it.
So I had to do a bit of a research and I went on to YouTube and looked at Christopher Reeves. His was a little bit more severe because he can’t move his head at all. And but, you know, like Camille was able to move just ever so slightly her head. So, you know, and the breathing, the breathing aspect.
But ultimately I think for me was – the challenge was to portray someone who’s not used to that body. That was the hardest thing and to be able to kind of not bring the sense of doom and gloom into, you know, being a paraplegic.
Because I think as we see from someone like Christopher Reeves, even when they’re in that situation they do the best they can to live the best life that they can. And he had such a positive, you know, approach to that. I wanted to respect all that. So and the challenge is, you know, pulling it off. So I hope I did a decent job, you know.
Well I thought you…
Ming Na: But it was very challenging. I was quite nervous about doing it all right.
Well I thought you did a tremendous job, sincerely I really do.
Ming Na: Oh thank you. Yes and then just conveying the emotion with just your head.
Ming Na: Yes that was a lot of – yes, just a lot of from the chin up acting.
And then Lou I wanted to ask if maybe you could tell us — and I know you can only speak in very general terms — perhaps a little bit about the relationship between Telford and Young in season two and how maybe that further develops?
Phillips: It’s interesting because in season one it was, you know, only ever adversarial. And once, you know, he kills me and brings me back, you know, that tends to change a relationship.
But we get a sense of the fact that they were once friends, that they were in the academy together, that they had served together and have respect for one another as leaders.
And I think there’s a window into that. And there, you know, we see Telford sublimate himself to that. I mean the fact that he’s on, you know, I’m sure quite overcome by guilt, you know, for the things that he did that were beyond his control he still has memory of them. And so it certainly, you know, affects how he approaches his position on the Destiny now.
Having said that, you know, Telford’s still ambitious. He’s still, you know, full of confidence and cockiness to a certain extent that, you know, he is the best man for the job. And so that’s – that edge never really goes away. You know, I mean he does not 100%, you know, just bow down and say you know what I’m not worthy.
He tries to be a contributor to the survival of the ship and to the decisions that will hopefully, you know, save these people one day. I still think he’s got a very high estimation of himself and thinks that, you know, perhaps fate, you know, led him down the wrong path.
I have a question for Ming Na. I was actually – I was very happy to hear you refer to Camile Wray as a strong female character because I don’t feel like she gets talked about as such. And when it comes women in sci-fi, these are women who are, you know, leaders of state and physical fighters. And those are the ones that are usually anointed as strong female characters.
And then there are women like Camile Wray who certainly are strong in other ways but they don’t get talked about in the same terms. So what are your thoughts on Camile’s strengths and how does that affect your performance of her character?
Ming Na: Well I think in the beginning, you know, she comes off as someone who really wants to muscle her way into situations or have her voice heard. And I think it’s just probably her reality in achieving the level of success that she’s had at the, you know, in the IOA and going by the books and doing all the right things and being the right diplomat in all the situations. So in that sense I think any woman that – who has to play in a man’s field and succeed in it is strong.
But then now she’s also in a situation where on Destiny there are really no rules. You have to sort of re-create the rules and the guidelines. And it – like there’s a word that Lou just mentioned, tribal. In a way we not, just the actors, but the crew aboard Destiny has to become tribal and learn to live with each other and work with each other.
And I think in that sense, you know, she has to force herself to take that leadership role in guiding or helping the civilians. And the warmth for her to bring another side of herself out which is to care, you know, she cares about these people and actually to show it is also part of her strength, you know, to be able to be more herself.
Lou in the season finale I was so impressed with your performance. There was one scene in particular where Telford was finally coming to terms with what had happened with him realizing he was brainwashed, realizing the actions that he had done under that brainwashing.
There’s – there – I imagine there’s going to be some fallout from that later on. How is Telford going to deal with this?
Phillips: Once again, you know, I think that what’s really sort of nice and it’s one thing I really truly appreciated about the – those last three episodes which played very much like, you know, one long movie, you know, and it certainly felt like it when we were shooting it, was the fact that we got a glimpse into the humanity, you know, behind Telford.
You know, we’ve seen him in an official capacity. We’ve seen him as, you know, a soldier and a figure of authority. But to understand, you know, that this effects him emotionally on some levels as well I think was a real treat not only as, you know, for myself but for the audience.
And I think it’s going to become complicated, you know, as time goes on. He’s certainly will have residual guilt. I think he certainly will, you know, have responsibility. But in that respect that almost galvanizes him more into, you know, accomplishing what it – what he set out to do. And that is to save these people and to bring them home at times almost at any cost.
I mean in a way I really think this because his obsession, you know and in some ways a way to vindicate himself, you know, to save others, you know, when he obviously has cost other lives in the past. So it he fortunately is not just, you know, a cardboard cutout of a villain or the guy that’s going to be, you know, the fly in the ointment.
Telford has very interesting motivations and a lot of very interesting layers, you know, to how he will continue to be involved with the people on the Destiny.
Ming Na: And I think what is part of the great intrigue and fun of Stargate Universe, you know, for me I think whenever you are thrown into a situation where you have no other support system but what is in front of you it does bring you, you know, to have to have a better awareness of yourself.
And I think, you know, for Telford now that he’s…
Ming Na: …on board Destiny. It’s like anybody who comes on board…
Ming Na: …Destiny has to really face their own demons and…
Ming Na: Oh, hello?
Ming Na: Did we lose Lou?
We were wondering, we know that Robert Carlyle directed an episode. And we we’re wondering what it was like working with him as a director versus a cast mate?
Ming Na: Oh he was just fabulous. And, you know, and I had no doubt from the start that he would do a great job. I mean because he’s just such an instinctual and yet at the same time analytical actor that I just knew that he would do a thorough job as far as what he was going to be as an actor and also bringing some of his insights, you know, to guide us as actors.
But ultimately for me it was just fun to see Robert like he was a little kid in a candy store. He just had such a great time. And I really enjoyed him as a director.
Phillips: Thank you.
Operator: Thank you. And Mr. Phillips is now connected once again.
Ming Na: Ah, yes your back. I know all of a sudden I kept hearing this hello, hello?
Phillips: No I couldn’t – I – suddenly I couldn’t hear you guys.
Ming Na: You couldn’t hear us?
Ming Na: Yes no, no, yes just faded. It was funny.
Ming Na: Yes, can you hear us now?
I don’t know if you heard that last question from me from…
Phillips: No I did not.
We were wondering what your take was on working with Robert Carlyle as a director versus a cast mate?
Phillips: Well here is – okay well here’s the spoiler. I’m not in that episode. So I can’t speak to that.
Ming Na: Okay. Well I answered it so we’re good.
Phillips: Well there you go.
Ming Na: Yes.
Do either of you…
Ming Na: It was a perfect time for you to cut out.
Do either of you have any plans to return to the theater?
Ming Na: Oh sure.
Phillips: Yes, you know, 100%. I mean it’s interesting because theater is such a commitment. And it really it requires usually a lot of lead time and then in the performance of it it requires a lot of time. So it has to be something that you really love. It’s not something that can happen, you know, frivolously.
And the economics of the legit theater these days, you know, usually requires somebody get you to make a commitment, you know, a long time beforehand. So unfortunately you can’t just say hey, I got six weeks off, you know, let me go do a, you know, a theater piece. It doesn’t really work that way.
So for the time being, you know, this is my world. But, you know, I definitely – I would definitely love to go back to Broadway at some point. I would definitely love to, you know, do some intimate work in regional theaters. So it’s certainly something I’m always open to and I get inquiries about it all the time. But it really is a matter of, you know, trying to carve out the time.
Ming Na: Yes and unfortunately it’s more tough to do it in LA because…
Ming Na: …yes, just the commute alone would kill to get to the 7 o’clock call.
A big howdy from Texas to both of you. Hello.
Ming Na: Hello.
Phillips: You know, give my love .You know I’m a Lone Star State boy.
Yes I know. You’re in the paper like all the time.
Phillips: Oh damn. Woo.
Well okay my question’s for both of you. We’ve seen a practical use of the ancient communications stones more in SGU than any of the other Stargate series. But body swapping can be seen as a controversial issue. What are your thoughts on it since both of your characters have experienced it?
Ming Na: Controversial, hey bring on the controversy, you know, makes for a lot – more drama and more interest I think and intrigue for any storytelling. And I think because most of the Stargate’s have used this, these ancient stones that’s already been established. So if there were any controversy, you know, it had to have started up 15 years ago or whenever they did introduce those stones.
Phillips: Well I mean I think it’s interesting because it does put your consciousness into someone else’s body. And, you know, I know for Ming it’s been very challenging and gives you a different perspective, makes you work very, very closely with the other actor, you know, you are inhabiting so to speak.
I mean from my point of view it’s the only love scene Telford’s had, so hey I can’t complain. But what…
Ming Na: And you know we sign a waiver every time we have to use the stones so…
Phillips: Yes exactly. You won’t to leave anything behind, you know, yes that kind of thing.
Ming Na: Yes.
Phillips: But for – I mean but obviously for Telford it’s really been his way to stay involved which is great, you know. I mean it’s been very interesting, you know, device and one that, you know, I’m sure he finds very frustrating.
What I think in the bigger picture what I think is very, very cool and I don’t mean to spoil it is to say that in exchanging consciousness we are putting forth the theory that, you know, that consciousness is something that can transcend space and time, that it can transcend the physical. And this is a concept that will play out in different scenarios during season two in a way that I find just amazingly thought provoking and interesting and intriguing.
And it’s one of the things that sci-fi does very, very well, you know, to give you an idea and then to expand upon it and make you think wow, is that kind of thing possible? You know, it’s very cool.
Ming Na: And I think also it’s really relevant and important for the Stargate franchise. Because one of the main elements of this show for all three shows is that there is always an attachment to Earth and in its current timeframe.
You know, this show isn’t set in the future. It’s not set in the past. It’s set in the now. And it’s quite important I think to the Stargate fans to always have that reminder and to maintain that connection with Earth.
Sort of like a grounding tether point, right?
Ming Na: Yes.
Well along those lines about talking about the Stargate franchise since SGU is kind of different than the other shows with more of a Battlestar Galactica tone, how do you think SGU furthers the Stargate franchise?
Ming Na: Wow well I, you know, in a weird way like we are a show that stands on its own in its style and in its story telling. And that’s one thing that’s very different from the other Stargates.
But I think it pushes the envelope so much more. I mean our show is quite serious and dramatic in a really dark way. I don’t know is – I think it moves it in a whole other direction but for the better in its storytelling and furthering the whole idea of what – who created the Stargate, what it’s about, you know, what is it for, you know, what is the ultimate wisdom and reason for these Stargates. I think, you know, we’re still searching for that answer.
Phillips: And, you know, and I think that’s a very good point because it does raise the big questions, you know. And as I’ve said before, you know, good sci-fi does that. It really against a backdrop that, you know, is virtually Shakespearean or larger than life asks very human questions.
And, you know, where do we come from? Where are we going? You know, why? Why are we here?
And, you know, without sounding too pretentious, you know, Stargate Universe attempts to do that and yet bring in the introspection of how do we survive, how – you know, how do we relate to one another in a way that’s going to ensure that we stick around. And I think that is the extension of the legacy that, you know, Stargate gave us, you know, previously. They had the action adventure. They had the larger than life characters. They had the sci-fi. And I would like to think that, you know, what Stargate Universe adds to the mix is a great dose of humanity and perhaps philosophy.
So kind of a more of a modernization of the franchise then so to speak?
Phillips: Yes and, you know, and, you know, these guys were bored. They were doing the other thing for 15 years and wanted to – they decided, you know, try something different.
So both of you having such a broad background and such long and varied careers, what was it like for you all to step into an established franchise like Stargate? What did that mean sort of coming into something that there was a history there and you all were the next generation of it?
Ming Na: I was just thankful to be coming into a show that was such a well oiled machine. Because, you know, a lot of times when you’re starting a new show there’s many bumps and hiccups and, you know, chaos in everyone figuring things out and, you know, what goes where and who does what.
And I think when there is that – that – when there isn’t that panic or frantic energy it just gave us all a chance as the actors to come together and be relaxed and have fun and really figure out, you know, the tone and the feel. And, you know, the focus was very different. So I really appreciated that coming into the franchise because I really didn’t know that much about the Stargate franchise prior to.
Phillips: And to me it was, you know, it’s very much the same thing. I was not all that familiar with the television series. The film was done by a good friend of mine, Dean Devlin. So, you know, I certainly had respect for the tradition and the legacy of it all. But it was a win-win because as I said before, I could tell that they wanted to do something different.
I could see from the script that, you know, they were going in a different direction than they had in the past and the kind of people that were already attached. So, you know, you’re dealing with something that has an expectation that has a through line to it but, you know, the added plus of saying okay we’re going to do it differently.
And, you know, in today’s television landscape you see how quickly, you know, things come and go. They can promote the hell out of something and then it’s gone in a month. If anything had a chance to survive it was certainly something that had, you know, the track record of a Stargate. So, you know, as far as future employment was concerned it was a good bet.
There you go. And second question for both of you, you both said you were approached and you had sort of a general idea of what you were jumping into.
Did they explain to you that the sort of, for lack of a better term, body swapping and the consciousness, swapping would be an aspect of playing your characters that there would be that back and forth where sometimes you were yourself but you weren’t?
Ming Na: No.
Phillips: No, I had no clue either. But I mean that’s the thing, you know. I mean it’s fun but it’s a little daunting because sometimes you have no idea what you’re going to get when you crack open that script. I mean Ming knows firsthand what that’s like.
Ming Na: Oh my goodness well, you know, the stone thing, even by the third time of doing it I was still thoroughly confused. I was really like wait, wait, wait. Now who…
Phillips: I apologize…
Ming Na: …what – how – what? Okay why…
Phillips: I have to jump. I’ve got to get my daughter to an appointment. But thank you ever so much everybody for tuning in. And I hopefully I’ll get a chance to talk to you face to face and one on one very, very shortly.
Ming Na: All right, bye Lou.
So, Ming Na, you were saying so for you it’s a little overwhelming every time?
Ming Na: No not now.
Ming Na: You know? Yes, I might not be the quickest when it comes to, you know, coming to terms with because, you know, the way we shoot it a lot of times, you know, we put our hands there and then we have to like slide away and let the next person come in.
And, you know, a lot of times to me it’s like okay now okay, I’m wearing the other person’s clothes there. But why is my hair up and her hair is down? And do we keep the same hair?
That’s true. There’s a lot to think about.
Ming Na: Yes there – oh no okay, I don’t wear the jewelry because I’m not in my body. Okay I don’t wear that jewelry. So, you know, it just took a little getting used to whose body I was actually in.
So it’s never dull. You’ve always got a lot to play with. Great.
Ming Na: Yes, well I mean yes. I have to say that of all the shows I’ve done this has been the most challenging role because a lot of times, you know, whether playing a gay character or someone who’s a quadriplegic and, you know, and some of the other stuff that we’re doing in season two, it’s great for an actor to be challenged this way.
My question is really for people who’ve never seen Stargate or people who haven’t seen your Stargate – your show, why should they tune in this season?
Ming Na: Because if you’re looking for a show that has a lot of action and great writing and acting and is even if you’re not a sci-fi fan I think you would really enjoy Stargate Universe because it just has so much to offer.
It’s got the love stories. It’s got the, you know, life and death situation. And it’s got humor and just some really great characters to sink your, you know, teeth into so I think for all those reasons. And it’s just a great looking show.
I think people will be able to, judging from the episode I saw the – you know, the premiere, I think people will get what’s going on.
Ming Na: Yes because, you know, and it interestingly, it starts off with so much of the aftermath of the prior situation. And so I think there shouldn’t – you know, I mean it’s always good to start from the beginning so you kind of have a real understanding of who these characters are and you can care about them.
And maybe if somebody catches the premiere episode of season two it will interest them and excite them so much that they’re like oh I got to get, you know, season one and 1.5 and catch up. Because that’s what I do with Battlestar. You know, I came into it in the middle and just like ah, I’ve got a watch it from the beginning.
Wow that’s great. One more, your character along with Telford, Rush, and Young all seem like they think they should be in charge, at least they did this last season.
Ming Na: Yes.
And looking at it as an actor from the outside in who do you think is right?
Ming Na: I think ultimately it still should be Young because he has the persona and the personality for it personally.
I believe Wray has tried out of necessity, not out of ambition, and realized that it’s just something that she’s not comfortable with, you know. I don’t think everyone can handle making life and death decisions for someone else. It takes special military mind I believe. And I think Young can handle that.
You know, Rush, he doesn’t seem to have much of a consciousness for it. So and I think Ray has too much. You know, she would be too emotionally devastated if she has to send someone to their death, yes.
I was wondering if you still when you’re on set you still find it sort of fascinating how well built and detailed and almost believable like, you know, these things could fly they…
Ming Na: Oh, yes, absolutely. You know, I think because we do have to use our imagination so much when it comes to the green screens or the aliens and, you know, these situations that the writers put us in, it’s fabulous that they have spent the time and the energy and the artistry to create such a beautiful set for us. You know, it helps. Every little bit helps.
And, you know, there’s this sense of importance in contributing because, you know, you see someone put so much work and detail into the set you’re like well yes, you know, then I have to really put in my 200% to yes, to be respectful of it. You know, so although I have been in theater where, you know, we have just like a cheesy block and we have to make something out of it.
But it does help. And it’s so much fun. I just – I’m always tickled every time I go on our set and go wow, this is our sandbox. How much fun is it.
Did you ever get Victor Garber to sing for you?
Ming Na: Not yet but let’s hope there’s another opportunity.
Is it fun having these great guest stars in?
Ming Na: Yes. I think it’s just – yes I mean Kathleen Quinlan and, you know – and I didn’t realize French Stewart had been in the original.
In the original yes, yes.
Ming Na: So I had to rent that movie again just to watch him, you know. And the man really, he hasn’t changed that much, his face. It’s all – it’s still the same. But what a wonderful little bit of history that is.
Ming Na: Yes. So… and, you know, watching it again it was just – it was great. I don’t know, I had a new perspective, you know, on the film having been on the show now for a year and a half.