of publishing: 24th February 2006
Paul studied both education (major) and theatre (minor) at
University, and also got involved in various sports including
becoming a freestyle wrestling champion. After graduating
the actor began his career teaching theatre in Toronto, squeezing
in time to attend auditions. Paul's first appearence in the
Stargate franchise was in the episode "The Torment Of
Tantalus" (Stargate SG-1) playing the young Ernest Littlefield.
When Stargate Atlantis launched in July 2004, he got a recurring
role in the first season as Dr. Carson Beckett, and became
a full main cast member since season 2. This interview was
conducted by Cécilia, aka "UgzY" in December
You can also listen and download this interview.
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Sometimes after a scene do you keep
on talking with a Scottish accent without realising it?
Paul McGillion: Oh yeah lots of times, you
know with ah, we improv a lot after the scene’s over
and sometimes they’ll keep some of the material and
sometimes they wont. Yeah I’ll often throw in little
things like “Ya cheeky little bugger” (said in
Scottish accent) or something at the end of a scene just like
a tag line or something for fun to do. Especially if David
and I are working together, because we like to play around
like that, they’ll often just let the camera run and
we’ll do things, quite a bit. You know most times they
don’t keep it but they might use as like in special
features as a joke or something later on, because we’ll
do some funny stuff. Sometimes directors, like in poisoning
the well, brad turner had me, we had a scene where I’m
toasting with the chancellor and with Kerna, have you seen
that episode? We’re toasting because they have decided
that this retro virus is done and I’m like ‘well
it’s not really finished yet’, but we had got
what he wanted as far as the scene went, and so he said to
listen this time when you’re toasting just down the
glass and then fill some more up and continue talking and
then fill theirs up and then take a slug out of the bottle.
So we did that right? Of course they didn’t use it but
the other actors were like, because it was their close up
and they were like, what is he doing, and I’m just continuing
drinking. So things like that often happen yeah.
TSW: Okay, that’s
great. Which Shakespearean character would you like to do
Paul McGillion: Mmm. I’m too old
to play Hamlet now, but maybe the Scottish character. Maybe
Macbeth because I’m Scottish and at some point in
time, you know a long time from now in my career, later
on, it would be a challenge as an actor to play that role,
you know. Definitely that would be something I would look
forward to doing at some point in time to give me opportunity,
you know primarily lately I’ve been doing film and
television, but that would be nice to do a Shakespearean
play like that. That would you know the Scottish play would
be kind of interesting because of my heritage.
Okay. What are your expectations
for season 3 and especially about the evolution of Dr Beckett
and have you already got some paths to follow from the writers?
Paul McGillion: My expectations for season
3 are to continue as season 2 has been going. In season
1 I think the character’s getting more fleshed out
as the seasons go on. I think Beckett is one of the more
fully developed characters in the ensemble cast at this
point and if he can continue doing that, that would be fantastic.
I’d also like to see, personally maybe see, a little
bit more of Beckett’s back story. We haven’t
seen Beckett’s quarters yet at all. So that would
be kind of neat to see that in season 3. A little bit more
history about where the character comes from, more personal
history, because we’ve never seen where he lives in
Atlantis yet, not once, and I think everybody else we have.
Except for Beckett. So maybe that’ll happen in season
3. As far as knowing what’s going on, no we don’t
find out until February. Maybe if I have a conversation
with one of the producers and writers who are friends of
mine, maybe he’ll mention something, but I haven’t
as of yet. Usually we get a script, like if we start shooting
February 25th, I’ll probably get the first script,
maybe early February and then when we start shooting, as
soon as you start shooting one day on the first episode,
the first day of principle photography you get the script
for the next episode that day. So you have one a week. All
the time. One week. Maximum. While you are shooting, so
something I’m memorising the lines from the episode
I’m shooting at the same time I’m reading the
other one and trying to memorise those lines for next week.
TSW: Are you
shooting several episodes at the same time? Like they do
it with Stargate SG-1?
Paul McGillion: At the start of the season
no, but toward the end of the season, they miss days so
sometimes you pick up. There’s a call to do, maybe
3 episodes at once. So one day I could shoot a scene from
an episode we shot a month and a half ago that we didn’t
finish and it just so happens that myself and Joe Flannigan
are together that day and we need to get a scene finished,
so we’ll have to go back and shoot that scene while
we’re shooting this episode and toward the end of
the season it kind of crunches times for budgetary reasons.
Traditionally speaking they try to keep it on a 7 day schedule
and try to keep it 12 hour days, because I think John Smith’s
motto is that we want you to have a life at the same time
which is good. Maybe Fridays are a little longer because
they have to make sure they get their week, but usually
speaking its all 12 hour days which is good for film and
TV. Especially for TV.
You first played in Stargate SG-1
as a young Ernest Littlefield. How was your experience there
and was it different from now?
Paul McGillion: Yeah it was a very interesting
experience. I mean I think it was in the first season of
Stargate and Jonathan Glassner, one of the executive producers
at the time, directed the episode, and I had no idea what
was going to happen with the series. Looking back at it
now, it was a very significant role, because I was the first
one to go through the Stargate. Different in the sense that
I was just a guest star on the show and not a regular character.
Interesting because I got fitted with a special diving suit
and vintage clothes and that was pretty cool at the time.
I thought it was a really sweet role, because I think he
has some similar characteristics to Beckett a little bit
because he’s very passionate and sort of a sweet character.
In terms of sacrifice and going through the gate and not
knowing, not to sound cliché but he was an earnest
character and his name was Ernest Littlefield. So that was
a neat experience for me and looking back now, I had no
idea I was going to be playing Beckett in the spin off so
TSW: What are
your projects outside of Stargate?
Paul McGillion: I’ve done lots of
different things outside of Stargate. I produced a feature
film called “See Grace Fly” which if people
haven’t seen it I think they should because it’s
an important film about mental illness and schizophrenia
and some interesting religious issues, and I think there
are some fabulous performances in it. More specifically,
Gina Chiarelli’s performance in it is terrific, outstanding
female role and I think for any young actress out there,
if you have an opportunity to see the film, you should see
some top notch acting and Pete McCormack is a terrific writer
and director and it was a pleasure to work with him. I also
co-produced that film which was a really nice thing to have
done. It was probably my most memorable film experience
so far. Starting in 2 weeks I’m doing a film with
David Hewlett called “The Dog’s Breakfast”
a comedy with him and his sister Kate in real life. That’ll
be fun, it’s completely different. A diversion from
Beckett and from See Grace Fly, it’s a definite comedy
and it’s a really really funny script, I’m really
proud of David. John Lenic from sg-1 and Jane Loughman,
who’s David’s girlfriend are producing it. I’m
really happy for those guys, I’m really looking forward
to doing it. It’s essentially a 3 hander, Chris Judge
might be in it as well, they are trying to get him for this
other part as a cameo, hopefully that will work out.
What draws you to a role in general?
Paul McGillion: Good writing. Good writing
draws me to a role. If it’s written well then I want
to play it no matter how big it is. Even a smaller role
in a film and there is something in there, if it’s
a little gem I’ll do it. I just like to act, so if
there is something of quality in there regardless of the
size of the role, sometimes it could be a large role and
a not so good script and it doesn’t really matter
but if it’s an interesting quirky role, I think of
myself as a character actor so a quirky role in a cool independent
film, I’ll jump at that. If someone gives me the opportunity
you know? If there are young film makers out there and they
have something that’s a good script and have something
to offer I would definitely take a look at it.
TSW: What are
the things you like the most in your job?
Paul McGillion: I think the people I work
with. I love my cast mates, they have become really great
friends. Again not to sound cliché but it is like
a family in a lot of ways and I really learn to respect
all their individual talents as well as their friendship.
David Hewlett is one of my closest friends now and I wouldn’t
have met him if it wasn’t for Stargate. Also I love
the character and being able to get great scripts. Like
Martin Gero’s “duet” is a fun script Damian
kindler’s “poisoning the well” for me
and working with brad and Robert, those guys really took
a chance on giving me Beckett and I just hope that I can
step up to the plate every time I get a chance, every opportunity.
And the food’s good too!
Who are your models on the job?
Which actors do you like to take as a model for Stargate?
Paul McGillion: Just in general, who do
I admire as an actor?
Paul McGillion: Uhh, so many you know.
There really is, just a variety of people. I love Bill Murray
because of his comedy but he also has a sense of drama about
him, I like his style of acting and I’ve been a big
fan of his ever since “meatballs” and “stripes”
and “Rushmore” is one of my favourite movies.
I really enjoy that. I like Sean Penn. A film he wrote and
directed called “Indian Runner” with Vito Mortensen
and Dennis Hopper does a cameo in it and Patricia Arquette’s
in it, one of my favourite films. I think he is an interesting
actor. Tim Roth, I really like Tim Roth. John Turturro.
I think Meryl Streep is a fantastic actress. There are so
many actors out there that I admire but as far as my own
style goes I just try to be honest to the script that I’m
TSW: Some quick
questions from fans from some forums.
TSW: What is your
Paul McGillion: Well, it’s hard to
pick one favourite. If I was to pick something at this moment
right now “True Romance” that sticks out, I
don’t know if it’s my exact favourite. In different
genres I have different favourite movies. I think “the
adventures of buckaroo bonsai across the eighth dimension”
is an interesting movie too but it’s completely different.
I love “The killing fields” and again that’s
a different genre. “Casablanca” is an interesting
film and there are so many different films I like. “True
Romance” is I think a cool script and right now I
like that movie.
TSW: What is
your favourite play?
Paul McGillion: My favourite play? Oh god,
um. There’s so many. There’s so many plays.
Eugene O’Neill’s “A long day’s journey
into night” is a great play. The classics, “Hamlet”,
I really like “The merchant of Venice” as far
as Shakespeare goes. I think it’s a great role in
Portia for a female character as well. I have a lot of empathy
for those characters. There’s so many plays out there
that I have done and have seen over the years. It’s
tough. “Savage in Limbo” by John Patrick Shanley
was a play that I had an opportunity to do a number of years
ago. I like a lot of Shanley’s stuff. “Danny
and the Deep Blue Sea” and “The Dreamer Examines
his Pillow” are also good plays. There’s lots
of plays out there that I like.
What is your favourite quote from
Paul McGillion: From my character?
Paul McGillion: (very long pause). Okay
there’s a couple I’m thinking of I’m picking
my favourite one. (another very long pause) it’s boggling
me right now, hold on a second. (another long pause) when
I was talking to rainbow, I can’t remember which episode
it was, could be “the siege” I think “part
2” I believe.
(in Scottish accent) “and you’re such a nice
young lad until you’re put in charge you cheeky little
bugger” that was a fun one. Oh and also with Sheppard
“I understand you have a bit of a klingon, so to speak”
that was a fun quote. I enjoyed that. I’ll give you
one more too. In the pilot when I’m talking to McKay
at the end of the pilot “we’re in another galaxy,
how much further out can you get?” that’s probably
my favourite quote.
TSW: There is
a private joke I guess on Stargate Atlantis, every time
you have to eat something it’s going to be turkey
and that’s the same on Stargate sg-1. I don’t
know if you know this or not but every time there is a sandwich
or anything it’s going to be turkey. So are you some
kind of turkey sandwich or chicken sandwich man?
Paul McGillion: Would I eat a turkey or
Paul McGillion: I think a combination.
Maybe a little turkey and chicken in it. Toss in bacon in
there for good measure too. Toasted. Brown.
TSW: Last question,
what is your favourite joke?
Paul McGillion: My favourite joke?
Paul McGillion: Who the hell wrote this
one? Umm, my favourite joke I don’t think I could
say on the internet. I really uh.
Paul McGillion: Yeah, I don’t know.
Well the Scottish duck joke but I have to say in person.
So just say the Scottish duck joke. That’s what it’s
called the Scottish duck joke but I can’t say it right
now, I have to do it. You want to hear it? If you turn of
the recorder I’ll do it.
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