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Interview with Paul McGillion (2)
Date of publishing: 24th February 2006

Paul McGillion interview - Dr. Carson Beckett Stargate Atlantis 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 2005.

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TSW: 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 and why?
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.

TSW: 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.

TSW: 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 it’s great.

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.

TSW: 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!

TSW: 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?
TSW: Yes.
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 given.

TSW: Some quick questions from fans from some forums.
TSW: What is your favourite movie?
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.

TSW: What is your favourite quote from Stargate?
Paul McGillion: From my character?
TSW: Yes
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 chicken sandwich?
TSW: Yes
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?
TSW: Yes.
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.
TSW: That’s okay
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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Interview by Cécilia "UgzY" and Gilles Nuytens for The Scifi World
Transcript by Nathan.


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