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Star-Crossed Voyager

22 Jul, 2010 By: John Latchem

Brian J. Smith on "Stargate Universe"

“Stargate Universe” tells the story of a disparate group of human explorers trapped on an ancient spaceship called Destiny on the other side of the universe. MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment release Stargate Universe: Season 1.5 July 27 as a three-disc set on DVD ($29.98) and Blu-ray ($39.99). We caught up with Brian J. Smith, who plays Lt. Matthew Scott on the show.

Agent DVD: Did you have much exposure to sci-fi before joining the cast of “Stargate Universe”?
BJS: I was a big sci-fi fan growing up. When I was about 9 to 13, I was a secret geek. I was big into “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” My dad still works at the convention center in Plano, Texas. He used to take me backstage to meet people like Brent Spiner. I loved the Romulans. I still think they are the coolest sci-fi villains I’ve ever seen.

Agent DVD: What's it like being on the other side of the convention experience now?
BJS: It's really trippy. Our life on the set is so insulated. We work so hard and such long hours that often times we forget people watch the show. We go to the conventions and the people there can talk fluently about small details. I’m flattered they caught it. It catches me offguard sometimes. When I shoot a scene I’m usually thinking about what I’m going to have for lunch, or what to do on my day off. So it’s gratifying to see people express their enthusiasm for the show. It feels good to have people excited by something you’re making. One of my favorite things is going to conventions. I encourage fans to go to conventions so you can see a different side of us as people.

Agent DVD: How did you end up on the show?
I studied acting at the Juilliard school in New York. We came out to L.A. to do a showcase and I met Paul Weber, who turned out to be casting director for "Stargate." About two years later he was putting together the ensemble for "Stargate Universe" and he remembered me. So really I can trace the job back to school.

Agent DVD: What do you think of the rest of the cast?
There’s a young energy on set, and the pups are always looking for advice. Whatever they do to get right group of people together they’re doing something right. Sometimes we get tired and express our frustrations, but if we have any problems between us personally it’s because we care so much.

Agent DVD: What's the best advice you've gotten from your more experienced co-stars?
Louis (Ferreira, who plays Col. Young) frequently tell us not to play our ego, to play the character. And it’s hard to understand what he means until you are in front of the camera all day. You have to avoid the tendency to want your character smelling like a rose all the time because you have a desire for the audience adore you rather than appreciate the character’s humanity.

Agent DVD: What episodes stand out to you?
In “Human,” Robert Carlyle gives one of the best performances you’ll see on a TV series in that episode. It’s film-quality acting. Just watching what he does with that character is amazing. He actually directed an episode for season two and did a fantastic job. He got us to a level of performance I think is extraordinary.

Agent DVD: How much research into the "Stargate" franchise did you have to do to prepare for the role?
BJS: They kind of made a point this was a different show than its predecessors and said to watch shows like “Friday Night Lights” and “The Shield” to get a sense stylistically of what they wanted to do in their approach to characterization, acting and the way the camera moves.

Agent DVD: A lot of people have been comparing the show to “Battlestar Galactica.” Do you think that’s fair?
BJS: I’m probably the biggest “Battlestar Galactica” fan out there. I watched all four seasons twice. But “Battlestar” didn’t invent this particular style. It took things ‘The Shield’ and shows like that were doing and brought them to sci-fi. I believe “Firefly” did those kinds of things as well. Stylistically that’s the way TV is these days.

Agent DVD: Aren't there also elements of BSG in how SGU portrays the conflict between military and civilian?
It’s designed to not make an attempt to glorify or idealize the people who are in a situation like this. How would human beings behave in this situation? People don’t always just get along and sing “Kumbayah.”

Agent DVD: So, Lt. Scott hooked up with Lt. James in the first episode, but on the ship hooked up with Chloe, who is good friends with Eli, but he’s in love with her. What’s your take on the love triangles they have been throwing at your character?
I’ll stick up for Scott, obviously. What happened between Scott and Chloe is not like a first college love where you meet at orientation and hook up. Destiny is a pressure cooker. It’s a life and death situation. Both have lost parents and they may never see Earth again. It’s much more about a connection of the soul.

I think Scott is aware of how much Eli is enamored with Chloe. But he likes Eli. Yeah he can be annoying and he talks a little too much, but he’s a good guy. So it makes it tough.

But I don’t think you can’t mess with the friendship that Chloe and Eli have. It’s on a very different level.

As for Lt. James, that’s where I think Scott has been dumb and maybe not as sensitive as he could be. He needs to have a talk with her.

Agent DVD: One of the rules of “SG-1” was to avoid romances between members of the military. Why has this show moved beyond that limitation?
I think the Air Force knew coming in that this was a different kind of show. I think it’s unfair to any military branch to just present cardboard characters. I’m proud in how we portray the military. It’s a humane military, comprised of people making an extraordinary sacrifice for their country. They try to do the right thing. But soldiers get horny sometimes.

Agent DVD: How much can Blu-ray Disc improve the experience of watching a show like this?
BJS: I’m really convinced this show was meant to be seen on Blu-ray. It has a lot of texture that can only be seen on Blu-ray. You don’t just get better resolution and cooler graphics, you get more story.

It’s a very serialized show, and we frequently torture fans with intense cliffhangers. So I think it’s more satisfying to watch a show like this all at once.

Agent DVD: How well do you think the show progressed?
BJS: It was very important to the producers and writers to really lay the groundwork up front to establish these characters and create a world the viewer could be immersed in right away. Once they had done that after the first 10 episodes, they could really throw these people into some crazy situations.

I think season two is even more intense. It’s hard to differentiate what we’re doing in season two from that back half of season one. We all walked away from season one satisfied that we were making something special.


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