Brian J. Smith seems fairly pragmatic about the end of “Stargate Universe,” the Syfy series in which he has starred for two seasons.
“It definitely hurts to have shows you like get cancelled—and it really sucks when it’s a show you’re working on,” he said last week on the phone from New York City. “But there is nowhere else that you can get 40 episodes of 'SGU,' or [a show like] 'Caprica' on, other than a boutique-type, specialized, genre-based network.”
Syfy begins airing the final 10 episodes of the controversial series at 9 p.m. March 7 with “Deliverance,” an action-packed hour that picks up where the series left off in December. The Destiny crew stares down an army of drone ships programmed to destroy anything in its path. Smith’s character, Lt. Matthew Scott, faces a tough decision when he suspects his girlfriend, Chloe Armstrong (Elyse Levesque), may have sabotaged the ship. (WATCH a preview by clicking the "SGU videos" link at left.)
"I love the episode,” Smith said. “I think it has a lot of [stuff] in it that the fans will enjoy. More space battles—it starts with one and pretty much ends with one, too.”
That news should please many disgruntled fans of previous “Stargate” series, “SG-1” and “Atlantis,” who when “SGU” debuted in fall 2009 complained there were not enough space battles, not enough gating to other planets, and not enough fighting the “Big Bad.” But series creators Brad Wright and Robert Cooper wanted to make a different “Stargate” with “SGU.” They wanted to get to know the characters beyond whether they are simply heroes or villains.
Whether you think “SGU” worked or not, its writers accomplished that task, Smith (and I) think, coming up with character-driven stories that gradually showed many sides of the lead characters. Sure, it was a slow build to meeting everyone marooned on the Destiny, but that only added to the realistic feel of the series. Is that not how we get to know co-workers in real life?
Smith feels it was a legitimate change-up for the franchise.
"In my eyes, it’s better to lay out the case for the characters, [to] say, this is who this guy or girl is, and this is what the issue is, and this is what is going to be haunting them throughout the series,” he said. “I think you should really establish that first. So I applaud the writers for doing that."
Now that the character motives are firmly established, we’ve seen more action-oriented, plot-driven episodes in Season 2. That continues in the final 10 episodes, Smith said. As viewers have gotten to know the crew members, so too do the crew members feel more comfortable with each other.
"It’s exploration like crazy. We shot more days on location for those last five episodes than I think we had combined for that whole year,” he said. “I think people are really going to enjoy these episodes. It has a lot to do with the team coming together, and you really see the team dynamic improve; these people become a well-oiled machine.”
Sadly, the series will end without full resolution for the friendlier crew. Season 2 ends on a “huge cliffhanger,” Smith said. But producer Joseph Mallozzi wrote on his blog that “potential movie or two” could be in the works. (CLICK for JM's blog.) Smith, who is currently auditioning for pilots and theater roles in New York, definitely is onboard the Destiny (OK, the set in Vancouver) if there is.
“I would have to be a part of it just for myself,” he said, laughing. “I couldn’t know that they were up there having all that fun without me.”
We talked more about “SGU” and Smith’s feelings about the series ending, as well as the Syfy movie he just filmed, “Red Faction,” and his dog, Cassie.
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Scott (Brian J. Smith) and Greer (Jamil Walker Smith) apprehend Chloe (Elyse Levesque) in "Deliverance." (MGM photo)
You’ve been busy lately. It seems like you were barely back in New York before you went to Bulgaria to shoot "Red Faction."
Yeah, it’s been pretty busy. It’s been—when did we finish Season 2? I don’t even remember when it was. I can’t even tell you. [Laughs.] It’s all a blur, but pretty soon after that; I think I was back for like a week or something, or two weeks when my agent called [about the movie]. (FROM CURT: I’ll have more from Smith on “Red Faction” just before Syfy airs the movie, which is set for late Spring, I was told.)
Since you’ve been back from Bulgaria you’ve been auditioning for pilots and, I see on Twitter, doing some cool theater stuff.
It’s pilot season like madness right now. I mean two, three appointments a day, and it can be very frustrating because you get close. You get so close, a lot of close calls and then it just doesn’t happen. That’s just the way the industry is. It’s very difficult. The film industry for whatever reason right now is hurting. People aren’t making as many movies as they used to, so you’ve got a lot of really big-name actors who are coming in and they want to do pilots, so things kind of disappear for those of us who kind of have to still get in the room and audition and read for it. Do you know what I mean?
It’s difficult, but it’s a great exercise. You’ll get like 10 pages of sides the night before and you have to go in and just wing it. For someone like me, I came from the theater and I don’t like putting anything up in front of anybody until it’s really, really ready, so it can be very frustrating. But you’ve get to get very Buddhist about it and just disassociate and detach and just go in there and do the best you can. Like they say on P90X, “do your best and forget the rest.”
Before auditions do they give you a little hint about the character? Like, “OK, this guy is supposed to be A, B, C, D, and here are your pages. Let’s see what you do with it.” Is that basically how it works?
Basically, but it’s these big network shows; the character is usually an attractive, likeable, funny, sweet guy. Do you know what I mean? That is just the way it is in network and it’s so freaking boring! I call my agent and I'm like, “My God, I've been doing sci-fi for two years and there is always something big going on. The stakes are always huge. You’re fighting for your life or you’re dealing with personal stuff. It has really high stakes attached to it and there are green screen and explosions. You’re going out on these really cool locations. We went to New Mexico and all this stuff.” It’s really hard to fathom doing a series with a kitchen sink in it. It seems, at this point maybe, it just seems a little bit boring.