Saturday, September 6, 2008

Stargate Atlantis - Behind the Scenes photos from 'Whispers'

At Joseph Mallozzi's blog update for September 5, 2008:

(Please follow the link for the complete blog update and to view are new Stargate Atlantis season five behind the scenes production photos from 'Whispers,' in their original format and to view the new video, a tour of Stage 2, part 1, with Carl Binder, at the site.)

September 5, 2008: Whispers

Hey, Whispers finally airs tonight (10:00 p.m. on Sci Fi)! If you enjoy thoughtful, character-driven stories that explore the themes of trust, friendship, and the indomitability of the human spirit, then you should definitely check out our last episode, The Shrine. If, on the other hand, you’re in the mood for some good creepy fun, then tonight’s episode is for you. Sit back, break out the popcorn, and enjoy.

Back when I first started thinking about this story at the beginning of the season, I knew there were certain elements I wanted to include: an abandoned village, a mysterious fog, and things that go bump in the night. I also wanted to incorporate some new characters into the mix as a means of keeping the viewers off-balance. I didn’t want them to be red shirts but personalities that the viewers could invest in and care about - particularly when darkness fell and the fog rolled in. After all, let’s face it - we know that our cast will most probably live to fight another day. Secondary characters on the other hand are fair game and that’s one of the great things about horror movies: you never know who’s going to make it to the final credits. So, over the course of a week or two, I fleshed out the idea. I decided on a threat that, while different, was nevertheless linked to the show’s mythology. I came up with a logical reason for that pervasive fog. And, I created an all-female team to ride shotgun with Sheppard and Beckett on this one.

The three biggest challenges in this episode were the fog, the casting, and the look of the creatures. We ran into some problems with our initial fog test on stage 4. While it certainly looked great, certain crew members were feeling less so after spending a little over an hour in the swirling mist. Adding to the concern was the fact that it would take hours to fog up the village set and then a good half day to clear it out. Several ideas were bounced around, from trimming down the fog sequences significantly, adjusting the density, or even shooting through a fogged aquarium to approximate the desired look. In the end, it was Production Designer James Robbins who came up with the perfect compromise solution. Rather than make cuts to the script or go with a thinner fog level, we tented certain areas of the FX stage. We had three tented areas, each of which could be quickly fogged up for the appropriate scenes. Will would run a rehearsal with the actors first, then bring in the second team to make sure his shots were set up just the way he wanted them. Finally, the tent was fogged up and the actors returned to shoot the scene. We tried to minimize their exposure to the fog element.

The all-female team was made up of:

Major Anne Teldy, a tough as nails, by-the-book commanding officer who was, of course, named after blog regular (and contest winner) Anne Teldy. When it came to casting, I was looking for someone good, strong, and, above all else, believable. And Christina Cox’s audition delivered that in spades. Watching it, I totally bought into her as a kick-ass military officer. Of course, a lot of that could have had to do with the fact that Christina is pretty kick-ass in person. She’s had weapons training and extensively researched previous roles in procedural drama. She was perfect.

Captain Alicia Vega was introduced in Search and Rescue but her meaty scenes were unfortunately cut for time. Of the foursome and despite the fact that she is a Captain, she has seen little action in the Pegasus Galaxy. Despite being relatively green to off-world excursions, she’s eager to get out and flex her muscles (as evidenced by her take-down of the wraith dart in S&R). Leela Savasta had a small part in a past Atlantis episode (in The Tao of Rodney) but did such a memorable job that we had no qualms about casting her in the role. In my mind, the two characters are twin sisters - one military, the other serving as a member of the expedition’s science department.

Sergeant “Dusty“ Mehra, the team’s trash-talking loose cannon with a fierce hankering for some alien ass-kicking. There were a number of great auditions for this colorful character, but the role ultimately went to actress Janina Gavankar who, it turns out, was given the wrong sides and came in thinking she was auditioning for the role of Major Teldy. The fact that she had next to no time to prepare what was essentially a cold read made the audition all the more impressive.

Dr. Alison Porter, team scientist and resident adorable nerd. Nicole de Boer didn’t audition for Porter. Like Janina, she actually came in to read for the role of Major Teldy but, even reading Teldy’s dialogue, it was clear to Paul and I that we had found our Porter. After she’d been cast, Nicole admitted that she was actually bummed when told she’d be auditioning for Teldy. She thought she’d make a better Porter!

As for the creatures - more on them and the masterful job of Todd Masters and the team at Masters FX later next week.



Alfredo De La Fe writes: “I wanted to ask- at this point is there any point to fans “protesting” the cancellation of SGA? Could the jack be stuffed back in the box at this point? Is there even a remote possibility of them reversing their decision?”

Answer: I seriously doubt it. The decision has been made and, while I empathize with the fans, I think it’s unlikely that their protests will change anyone’s mind. A significant and sustained ratings spike, on the other hand, would certainly raise a few eyebrows.

MrsB108 writes: “Do any of the remaining episodes end on an unhappy note?”

Answer: Yep.


Today’s video: Carl takes us on a tour of Stage 2. Part 1.

[NOTE: Stage 2 has the puddle jumper, a F302, a wraith dart, and a the interiors to a wraith hive ship.]

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