Interview: Brian J Smith

We chat to SGU’s Matthew Scott about the evolution of his character, relationships on the show and more.

smith_001Has the hiatus affected the show positively or negatively, in your opinion?

You know, it’s definitely hard to keep people’s interest when a show is airing, much less when the show is not airing for four or five months until the second half of its first season. It’s tough, I understand the networks position to do it. If I was in their position I’d probably do the same thing. It’s very important these days to have continuous programming running all year, but for the fans of the show and certainly us who work on the show, it’s tough, especially with SGU which is more like a twenty-scene film than a bunch of standalone episodes. That sense of continuity is really, really important, and I hope that people are ready to jump back on the wave.

It must’ve been a long time since you’ve filmed those episodes, because you’re shooting season two now, right?

Yeah, we are about to do three episodes, shooting-wise, into season two. So it’s kind of odd, you know, going back to talking about Space. When people watch these episodes and have issues with them, it’s hard because we’re aware of a very large picture here. It’s hard, sometimes, because a lot of the issues that people have with them are addressed later on in the series, so we kind of have to keep our mouths shut, and hopefully they’ll stick with it, like it and get some kind of resolution.

How do you feel about your character’s development over the first season?

Pretty good. Again, with this show, it was very important for all of us to establish these characters from the beginning, to try and use friction, as well as the situations they’re in – not to create action and adventure, things like that, but to try and feel who these people really were, to put them under a microscope and see how that kind of person will react. I think we did a really good job of establishing the fundaments of who [Matthew Scott] is. I think the second half of this season is, ‘well let’s see who these people are. Let’s see who Scott is. You might start to see how all these things that weight on [the characters] start to have a toll, start to affect them. I don’t want to say anything, but I’m really surprised at what’s coming up in season two. Really surprised…

You can’t say anything about the content of season two yet, then?

No. Oh no. I love my job.

Have you enjoyed how Chloe and Scott’s relationship has changed over the course of the first season?

Yeah, I did. That’s actually a funny relationship, and for an actor, it’s gold. I’m really interested in the idea of these two people who look each other in the eye and see kind of a shared pain. Scott watched Chloe lose her father and Scott, more than anyone else on the ship, understands the meaning of loss, having lost his parents at a very early age. The relationship has always made sense to me, as an actor. It’s psychological. I actually asked a psychologist about those kind of  circumstances, and ‘does this make sense?’ And it was like, ‘actually, it does.’ It’s psychologically sound. It gets the stamp of approval from a psychologist, so it works! I understand there are some people who have problems with the fact they got together too early, that it’s just about sex, Scott is a man whore, that sort of stuff. I think that if people, again, stick with the show, they’ll see that we’ve never played Scott as a man whore. He’s been very gentle and unhorndoggish. You know what I mean? I’ve never seen Scott looking at some girl’s ass in the show and going, ‘Oh, man, yeah, let me –‘. You know. It doesn’t make sense to me when people start saying he’s a sexaholic and stuff like that. He’s a twentysomething guy and he’s got urges just like anyone else. I think he gets less sex than most people, actually.

Do you think that relationship becomes more emotionally grounded over the second half of the first season?

I believe it does. I’ll be really honest – the thing that’s bothered me about the relationship between Scott and Chloe is that we never got to see them be friends. It’s unfortunate that it got lost in the mix, because there are so many characters and so much that has to be covered, there was bound to be something that got lost in the mix. And one thing that got lost in the mix, that might’ve ended up on the editing room floor, is that Scott and Chloe are friends. That they knew each other, that they have time together, that they have a special dynamic that Eli and Chloe do. It’s sad, that viewers haven’t got to see it, but oh well. It’s certainly something I’m going to be fighting for.

The show has had a mixed reception from fans and critics – have you let that affect you at all? Do you pay attention to it?

No, you don’t let it affect you. You can’t. I haven’t been doing this as long as most people, but through my experiences at school and doing theatre in New York, as well as a couple of independent films, you get negative reactions and that’s just the price you pay for being in that arena. It’s just a fact of life. You don’t focus on it, and reactions – positive or negative – have much more to do with the person who’s reacting than the thing that they’re reacting to. That’s something I’ve especially learned over the last five years. No, it doesn’t bother me. You want everyone to love it and think it’s as great as you do, because you spend a lot of time investing in it – but you wouldn’t be doing your job if you didn’t care. You get a thick skin. You just smile, move on and be lucky that you are working.

Do you think that the Stargate name automatically puts the show under more scrutiny that it otherwise would be?

Yeah, it does. Honestly, I do think that’s kind of an issue, and I think that even sets up an expectation among critics. There’s kind of a sense of, ‘Wait a minute – you’re Stargate. You don’t tell stories like this. How dare you. This isn’t what you do. You need to stick to your funny, sci-fi ways or schtick that you do and not try to take yourself seriously.’ I get a lot of that attitude from certain critics and it’s unfortunate, but you know, at the end of the day, what matters is a) enough people are watching it to keep the show on air and b) are we growing? Are we honestly trying to make the best show we can each week? The answer to both of those questions is yes.

You have a theatrical background – how are you finding working on an ongoing TV series?

It’s frustrating in certain ways. I’m not used to going in front of an audience without having four weeks’ life with the dialogue and with the character. We go up, we rehearse the scene for maybe 20 minutes and then spend about an hour, an hour and a half shooting each scene. You just don’t have the time to go as deep into things as you like to, but you just have to trust your instincts and hope they’re going to put it together in editing. But you know, it’s very important to me that I do get back to the stage at some point, whether it’s even just doing a stage reading or something, because as an actor that’s where you’re really going to grow. I miss the stage. I spent most of my career on the boards and I’m looking forward to going back.

What’s the rapport like on-set?

It’s really good. A lot of people have been on the show from 5-10 years and they’re some of the most professional – they’re really good at what they do. It’s such a well-oiled machine. Guest stars are always amazed at how well-oiled the machine is and how the kinks have been worked out over time. There’s tons of laughs, people pulling pranks on each other and play poker together – it’s very fun, and my favourite thing about the show, honestly. Going to work in the morning is fantastic.

Stargate entries tend to go on for 5-10 years – do you anticipate being on the show for that long? Do you think that far ahead?

No, I really don’t think far ahead. I don’t know, with this show, how long you can be lost in space. It’s the same thing with Battlestar. I’m a huge fan of BSG – I think it might be my favourite TV show ever, but I think it ended right when it was supposed to. I would hope that with SGU, people don’t look back when it’s ended and think ‘they went on a little bit too long. It got a little bit tired and storylines started falling apart…’ As long as we’re all on the same page here, and we’re creating the kind of TV we want to create, it’d be great for us to be on air, but if we start slacking off and running out of juice that’d be the time to end.

Did Battlestar encourage you to audition, then? Did you have the feeling this might be a similar type of project?

I didn’t know about Battlestar until after I got the job. I’d heard so much about the show. When I talked to producers, Battlestar never even came up. The shows that were mentioned were Friday Night Lights and The Shield. Those are the kind of shows they were going for and of course, I’d heard there was another show out there that had done somewhat of the same thing, and so I started watching Battlestar and thought ‘this is amazing’. But it’s very hard to compare the two shows. Battlestar, for me, was very politically and philosophically related to what’s going on in the world today. We’re not so much interested in that on SGU. The stories are much more pointed towards the action in each episode and making philosophical statements.