Interview: Alaina Huffman and Jamil Walker Smith

We talk to the actors behind TJ and Greer on Stargate Universe.

SciFiNow had the opportunity to sit down for a one-on-one interview (or should that be two-on-two?) with Stargate Universe stars Jamil Walker Smith and Alaina Huffman, while covering the London MCM Expo last weekend. Naturally, we were happy to.

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Having filmed the second half of the first season and with it airing now, does it feel good to be able to talk about it?

Alaina Huffman: Yeah.

You had quite a long break didn’t you?

Jamil Walker Smith: Four months?

AH: Four months. Yeah, we finished shooting at the end of October, so quite a while.

JWS: It’s nice to talk about it, because I don’t do well with secrets.

AH: He’s got a whole second season to keep secret now.

Can you talk about the second season at all?

AH: Well, we do have a resurgence of the Lucian Alliance, and they stick around for a bit in the second season. And there’s more Stargate action. Lots of aliens.

Lots of aliens?

JWS: I’d say we kind of start to figure out why we’re on the ship.

AH: That’s true.

JWS: So if you’re a fan of the show, that’s interesting. We spent the whole first season not wanting to be there.

[To JWS] Your character was quite mysterious until the second half of the season where we had an episode that began to explore him more. How does the character develop, moving forward?

JWS: He can talk to plants. So that’s something that comes up.

AH: When Jamil’s eyebrows shake he’s lying!

JWS: The thing about the show that’s a bit of a trip is that we find out what’s going on with our characters as we go. We only know what’s going to happen one or two episodes ahead of what we’re shooting. So that’s kind of fun because it’s always a discovery for us. But I will say that – I’ll say something that I said a long time ago – you’re only going to get a chance to know people who are military and warriors when there’s no fighting going on. Because the minute it goes down they’ve gotta go into that mode, and there’s not a lot of time for introspection and self-realisation when you’re dealing with aliens and people in leather suits are trying to kill you. There’s a lot of action this season, hopefully we’ll still live.

How much input do you have with your characters? Are you allowed to suggest things to the writers?

AH: Well, with TJ last season they had no choice. I was pregnant. But absolutely, they’re always on-set at some point during the day, so we always get the chance to kick about ideas. Ultimately, they write the scripts and they tell the stories, but they watch us, watch the dailies and the episodes, see where our strengths are and write to that.

So you get feedback from the writers?

AH: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of times we’ll go down for lunch and the producers are there, they’ll say “Oh, we just saw the rough cut of that episode…”

JWS: We give them more feedback than they give us. You know, “Explain this to me”. I’m kidding.

One of the criticisms of the first half of the first season was that it was quite slow paced. In the second half there have been more action-orientated episodes, you’ve brought aliens into it, that sort of thing. Do you think that the show has answered its critics in this sense?

AH: It’s interesting; I wonder how much they play to the criticism. I don’t really know the answer to that question to be honest with you. It’s still very much an ensemble cast, it’s still very much a character-driven show, and as Jamil says, when you have the action you don’t get character-driven moments. So I don’t know how much of it is written to that.

JWS: I would say though, keeping it on that, they know who their audience is. They know that people don’t want to see a soap opera in space. They know that this is science fiction and that people want to see action, they want to see aliens and people want to see otherworldly interactions, other worlds at that, different ships, concepts to do with the stars and the universe. This coming season there’s no faking the funk. We make a point to hit that, to hit those marks, and because we spent so much time establishing our characters, this coming season we don’t have to create all of this back story on who these people are and their motives, because you’ve learned all of that in the first episode, so now we can get right to it.

AH: And it pays off in the casualties and the drama, because you’ve taken the time to develop the characters.

As actors, though, was it more satisfying in the earlier stages of the show when it was just human drama, and more or less shying away from the science fiction?

AH: For me personally, yes. Because you get to develop a character instead of just playing a role. And both of them are great and there’s definitely room for that – because we’ve taken the time to develop them as I said, in the middle of an action-packed episode you have a moment of intense drama, it works so well and it really pays off.

We spoke to Elyse Levesque recently, who said that you found out about your renewal around Christmas time?

AH: Yeah.

Has it taken a bit of the pressure off, knowing you have that second season in the bag?

JWS: No, because now we’ve got to wait until next Christmas to find out about the third.

AH: That’s the nature of the business, you go year by year.

It must be stressful for you, though, not knowing minute-to-minute whether you’re staying or going?

JWS: It makes relationships easier, though. “Baby I don’t know…”

AH: No it doesn’t! Speak to the married person! It’s great to be on a long running franchise like Stargate – you know you’ve got a fan base and you know that you’ve got something to play to that has success. That being said, you don’t know. I think that’s actually why most actors love the business, though, because we’re always getting to explore new characters. I’ve never been on a show for more than a season, and this is now the second so it’s exciting, but if it all finished tomorrow I’d get another job.

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