What will we do without our weekly McKay fix? Stargate Atlantis' David Hewlett told us about ending the 5 year series, his new projects, and how to tie your shoes in front of an astrophysicist.
I'm exceedingly excited that I got to talk to the David Hewlett about the end of the 5 year run at Stargate Atlantis and hear what it's like working with real scientists on the amazing SGA episode "Brain Storm." He also spilled it about kissing Jewel Staite and what's in store for his future. We're quite curious about his project Star Crossed which is a behind the scenes comedy about working at a scifi show. Hmm I wonder where he got that idea?
There's been so many great episode of SGA this year, some of the best people are saying
David Hewlett: That's just to depress the hell out of people, to know that it's not coming back, that's why we did it.
So out of this season what's been your favorite so far and has it been hard knowing that it's over?
It's so hard because there are some that are great for acting, and there's others that are great for "hey I got to shoot really large guns" but "Brain Storm" was definitely one of them, Shrine was another that was just a lot of fun, um, it's those two stand out out that they're obviously McKay heavy. But um I also really like the season opener as well, of season five, a really great way to get back into it and stuff, you know every episode has my favorite things in it.
Let's talk about "Brain Storm", easily one of the best episodes this season. You brought in real life scientists, what was it like working with the scientists like Mr. Bill Nye? And finally taking your relationship with Keller gets to go to a whole new level?
The great thing about "Brain Storm" was that as cool as Atlantis is, it's really nice for Atlantis to get away from Atlantis. It's really nice to get back to Earth, I love the Earth based episodes, you get out of the silly costumes and away from all the technology, and you get to have, it feels like you're actually doing a different show almost for a change, and the other thing, we got, you know Neil deGrasse Tyson, incredibly well known real scientists who are terrifyingly smart and actually terrifyingly good actors, so I think I'm well out of work now.
Well I thought Bill did a great job.
So did I! Bill Nye, so that guy truly knows everything, and I tested him. I'd come in every day with some new question for him that I'd assuming he'd have no idea basically how to answer it – basically he knows everything.
You tested Bill Nye the Science Guy?
Well when I say tested I mean, I'd go "hmmm," for example, "why when I turn my microwave on does my internet connection go down," like there's no way bill nye is gonna be able to answer that question. He did. He really is, it's like a walking encyclopedia. And I tell you never try to tie your shoes in front of an astrophysicist. What happens is they'll tell you you're doing it wrong.
All my life I have apparently been tying my shoelaces wrong, there is a much more mathematically beautiful way of doing it, that I was shown by bill nye. With Neil deGrasse Tyson looking on. The other kind of thing that you get to do on "Brain Storm" that just don't happen on a regular Stargate atlantis episode. If you want to feel stupid, that'd be an episode to hang around on. I was like, you know, I'm just an actor.
But it was good because you got to pretend that you were this huge scientist just with them, got to give them a little attitude back, so that must have been fun to give them a little flack.
Exactly, yeah it's kinda hard to fake that in front of Neil deGrasse Tyson, so you know. They were having so much fun and you know, and the other thing is, on the one end you've got, you know, the science geniuses, and then you've got the comedy geniuses of the world, like Dave Foley, I grew up with that guy, with Kids in the Hall and stuff, so it was amazing, just amazing, and he's also a nerd who knows everything, I might add. It was a room full of nerds. They filled the room with nerds who basically know everything. Jewel was just rolling her eyes the entire time.
Speaking of Jewel Staite [Dr. Keller] you're pretty much the romantic lead now on Atlantis...
And how sad is that! That I'm the romantic lead
No I think it's great, your character has come so far, did you ever think when you first started that McKay would end up the one who gets to kiss the girl?
I mean, I was supposed to be the guy that stood behind Torri at a computer saying, you know, "we've got no power!" and that was it, basically. When I came on that was originally my assumption of what I was supposed to be doing, and within three episodes I was running around on planets with guns and I was like "ah, kinda crazy!" The great thing about Atlantis is it's never what you expect it to be, every episode was always something new for us, always something, I mean especially for McKay, I was very lucky in that I think I played a character that people like writing for, and for that reason you get like Brad Wright coming back and writing an episode, that has a lot of McKay in it, and Gero who writes these amazing, amazing McKay episodes, and that was his first time directing [on "Brain Storm"] on Stargate as well, he was just great, it was so great to do all that.
What was it like filming the last few episodes? Will we end SGA with a big bang?
It was miserable! It was absolutely miserable. There's nothing worse, we find out that we weren't coming back I guess a couple, a few weeks before the end, and it just makes it painful. You're in this weird situation where you know that it's over, and you're acting your little heart out like usual, cuz you're used to having to keep going, but there's a part of me that's like, I want to go now. Like if it's over you don't want to be hanging around, you want to rip the band-aid off and move on type thing, so you're desperate to go away and do something else, and at the same time you're dreading it being over and stuff. I just can't imagine what it must have been like for SG1 after having been on for ten years. Everyone was really sort of upset about it.
What can we look forward to in the finale? How did you guys really try to make it extra special does it wrap up the 5 years of work on SGA?
There's an extra special ending. Yeah again it was so weird too, I can't help thinking there's nothing you can do in one episode that's gonna sum up five years. I hope if anything out of this, I hope it sets up further adventures for Atlantis. I think what's nice about the episode is there's enough unanswered stuff there. There are still things that need to be dealt with that I hope there will be more Atlantis for people to see, in cheaper formats, TV movies or DVD movies or whatever they want to do. But I do hope that’s something we can look forward to
Well I know that the tv movies haven't been written yet, and they haven't casted them yet, but what would you like to see if McKay was in the tv movies?
A really really nice wig. Something with a lot of hair. I have no idea. The pleasure of doing McKay is no matter what I expect, or where I think they're going with the character, it always changes up. I look forward to more, I mean I always found that the episodes that were the most uncomfortable to make were always the best episodes to watch. So you know I hope for some really uncomfortable feature film stuff coming up. If that makes a difference. I mean hanging him upside down, or its pouring with rain, or everyone's miserable I think the episodes tend to be great – for some reason the camera just picks that stuff up. "Brain Storm" was a lot of fun but it was an incredible amount of work, but a lot of fast paced stuff, shooting a lot of scenes in a very short time, which isn't easy, we shoot an episode in six days. So it's always a rush. I think you know that's just part of the, I think it picks up a little something that you can't fake in many ways, I feel like if we have absolutely no time to shoot the feature films and it's very very painful for everyone. I'm sure my fellow cast members love me for that.
What's it like working up close and personal with Jewel Staite, I mean Firefly fans everywhere are probably burning holes into you with jealousy?
When you're doing those scenes, everyone's all "ooh so you're with jewel in the back of a plane, a lot of kiss kissing" and the reality is you're in the back of a plane that they have to turn the air conditioning off for sound, and you've got cameras wedged in there and crew members who basically haven't showered for six or seven hours, and it is really one of the most unromantic and like technical things you could possibly have to do. I find that love scenes are the most unsexy things to shoot. Maybe other people have it better than this, but for me, I find them incredibly technical, and I spend the whole time basically apologizing to jewel about how sweaty I was.
But you must admit her scifi reputation is amazing from Firefly on down?
Firefly's actually my favorite scifi show that I've watched, you know, we got the dvds of the entire collection, when she showed up on our show I was basically fanboy for the first, you know, most of the time. Jewel's just one of those actresses that you come across very rarely that are just that combination of wickedly funny, I mean like evilly funny, she's just got a truly truly nasty sense of humor, and incredible actor, I often find myself saying "what?" and she's actually saying a line to me. And she's also, she's just, this weird combination of really evil and really sweet, cuz she's so easy to work with, and yet she's also just really easy to bitch about work with, so basically every writing project I'm working on right now, I write a part for her.
What projects are you working on right now?
I have a sort of 30 Rock behind the scenes of a scifi show thing that I'm working on now, called Star Crossed, originally looking at developing it as a tv pilot but I think we're going to develop it as a film now, just to open it up for people. Basically we had a half hour sitcom style thing.
I'm curious about the other characters you work with, like Joe Flanigan. Does he ever give you guff because you've kinda filled the role as sexy lead guy role?
Can I quote you on that?
Well you don't have the cowlick that he has. But you got the girl, he got the hair?
Joe gets the best features in television because of that hair I think. He looks like he doesn't do anything with it. It just does that. It would take me ten or twenty years of serious scientific work to get that kind of hair, but Joe just wakes up with it. Him and Jason, those two guys, just way too good looking for their own good. Certainly for my good. I talked to Rachel actually last night [Rachel Luttrell], she calls me every ten or fifteen minutes it's really sad, and I was just saying for some reason the last season with the cast it was like a bunch of friends, just coming in and seeing friends every morning. They knew when I was going to have a little hissy fit about something, or someone would show up with a sign saying 'Sandwich,' when they know that my blood sugar was getting low and I was getting grumpy about something. We generally just really got along. They're really people I hope that I can keep in my life. It was really really just a lovely experience to work with these guys.
We've talked about how much McKay has changed, but is it going to be hard for you, not being McKay, or are you looking forward to new challenges?
I think unfortunately I've taken on some McKayisms and I don't think I'll ever lose them. Over 5 years you pick up things, hopefully not anything too unpleasant. I just think that every character I play there are just a couple little traits that I never lose from them...But more than anything else I'll just miss McKay, and I really, really enjoyed McKay , and I came into SG1 as a guest star to come in and do three days work, and seven years later, I've put him down for hopefully not last time. But it could be the last we see of McKay. So its definitely a weird adjustment, but I'm an actor. I'm lucky that the characters that I get tend to be interesting and a little schizophrenic.
Is there a moment that sticks out in your head as one of the best McKay line?
Oh right now it would be Gero's, "mentally unstable like a fox."If you're going to end I like the fact that we're ending on season 5 because it was a strong season.
I think the key is to remember that everybody has a little McKay in them and they should bring it with them on a day to day basis, god knows I do. And thank you, it's been definitely the highlight of my career so far.
It's true everyone does have a little McKay in them, we'll miss you David!