Ming-Na and Lou Diamond Phillips Talk STARGATE UNIVERSE

Ming-Na / Lou Diamond Phillips

STARGATE UNIVERSE returns to Syfy for its second season Tuesday, September 28 and Daemon’s TV caught up with stars Ming-Na (Camile Wray) and Lou Diamond Phillips (Colonel Telford) as they answered questions about body-swapping, acting with a green screen, how their characters have evolved, and what they’ll be facing in season two. There are some teasers, but both Ming-Na and Lou avoided giving out spoilers.

On what SGU adds to the Stargate saga

Ming-Na thinks SGU moves the franchise to a new level of storytelling and exploring the ultimate reason for the stargates.

Lou said SGU raises the big questions of where we’re going and why while bringing in the introspection of how to survive and interact with each other. He added that he thinks SGU adds a great dose of humanity to the saga.

On Camile and her evolution

Ming-Na called Camile one of the most complex roles she has ever played and she’s grateful to the writers for bringing such a strong character to life. She said Camille is interesting because she initially wanted to maintain the status quo but has had to become more instinctual. Where her original goal was to get everyone back to Earth, she has now had to come to terms with the reality of their situation and accept that something else–like protecting Earth from Lucian Alliance–will be more important and she must embrace that or she can’t help the others.

Ming-Na said that Camile started out very compartmentalized and she has had to learn to let her hair down and make friends where she normally wouldn’t–like in the military–because both her work and personal life are on Destiny.

When asked to describe Camile in terms of being a strong character, Ming-Na said that in the beginning she came off as someone who muscled her way into situations to have her voice heard. In that way she was strong like any woman working in a male-dominated place. Ming-Na continued that on Destiny, with no rules, Camile must also learn how to take the leadership role by not only caring but showing that she cares and that’s another kind of strength.

On Telford in season 2

Lou explained that he is still technically a recurring guest star and that while he will be much more present in season two, he will not be in every episode.

Lou said that we will see Telford deal with both the brainwashing and the acts he committed while brainwashed. It has all affected him on an emotional level and he will feel residual guilt and responsibility, but it galvanizes him to try even harder to get people home. That would be his vindication for causing other deaths.

Lou explained that we will get more insight into Telford and see more of his interesting motivations and layers, but that his edge will never go away. He’s still ambitious with a high estimation of himself and he will not “bow down and say I’m not worthy.” He believes fate took him down the wrong path. He will try to be a contributor and will be more of a team player.

There will be changes in how Telford responds and reacts to the other people on the ship and Lou said we will see a difference in the relationship between Telford and Young. Where it was adversarial in season one, we will now get the sense that they were once friends. They were in the academy together and respect each other.

Lou said the writers have done a great job of holding onto Telford’s central core of integrity. His central mission is still to be a hero by getting people home and he’s frustrated that he hasn’t been able to do that. He remains focused and doesn’t waver from his mission.

On acting in front of a green screen

Ming said she thinks two things when she’s in front of the green screen: 1. “Wow! I’m a five-year-old pretending to be in and outer space” and 2. that the challenge is to really believe in the moment and sell it.

Lou agreed, saying that you must really believe or the audience won’t He explained that the art department often makes renderings so the actors can see what they’re supposed to be looking at, while Ming-Na laughed about the directors who yell at them that something is zooming toward them so they know to duck.

On body-swapping

Neither Ming-Na nor Lou knew when they signed on that they would have to portray other characters and Ming-Na said that even by the third time, she still got confused about which body she was in and hung up on small details like what jewelry she needed to be wearing.

When asked about the controversy associated with body-swapping, Ming-Na seemed surprised, but she said to bring it on because it adds drama. She noted that other Stargates have used the stones, so it’s a well-established thing and that it helps show the attachment to Earth in its current time frame.

For his part, Lou said it’s challenging because of how closely he must work with the other actor, but he joked that it’s the only love scene Telford has had, so he’s not complaining. He also thinks Telford sees it as his way to stay involved.

Lou said that in showing the exchanging of consciousness, SGU is putting forth the idea that consciousness transcends physical space and time, a concept that will play out in different ways during season 2.

On the challenges of playing a quadriplegic in “Sabotage”

Ming-Na said she had to do some research for that episode. She watched Christopher Reeve on Youtube for inspiration and she wanted to be careful to honor his spirit and not bring doom and gloom to the role. She said it was a real challenge to portray someone not used to that body and to convey all emotion only from the chin up.

On Robert Carlyle as a director

Ming-Na said he was just fabulous, but that she wasn’t surprised since he is such an instinctual and analytical actor. She also said she loved that he was like a little kid in a candy store and they all had fun.

Lou joked that he finally had a spoiler for us: he can’t comment because he’s not in that episode.

On who should be in charge

When asked whether Telford, Rush, Wray, or Young should be in charge when all have demonstrated they want to be, Ming-Na said that it should still be Young. She explained that not everyone is cut out for the job and that Rush has shown he doesn’t have much consciousness for it. She thinks Camile has tried to lead out of necessity rather than ambition, but that she has realized she would be too emotionally devastated if she had to send someone to his or her death.

On what to expect in the second season

Ming-Na enthused over guest stars Kathleen Quinlan, Victor Garber (she’s still hoping he’ll sing), and French Stewart and said that she hadn’t realized French was in the original movie and she thinks that adds a lot.

Lou sad there is an increased amount of action and that they “blow a lot of shit up.” There are some big firefights and he has a lot of fun feeling like an action hero. He also mentioned there’s an episode early in the season with aliens and he’s amazed and thrilled with the effects. He called it beautiful to watch.

On why both fans and new viewers should tune in to the season premiere

Ming-Na laughed, “Because it’s so good!” She said she is very proud of her show and is sending out the trailer to everyone, She called SGU a series with a lot of action and great writing and acting and explained that even people who aren’t science fiction fans will find much to like because of the love stories, the life and death situation, the humor, the visual beauty, and the great characters. She also said that newbies can understand what’s going on if they start watching with the second season premiere because it picks up with the aftermath of the season one finale. She said she hopes that new viewers will be so taken that they’ll want to watch the Season 1 and 1.5 DVDs.

You can find all our Stargate Universe coverage here and be sure to watch the second season premiere on Syfy Tuesday, September 28 at 9pm/8 central.

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