He was a success and then a disaster. A character we could sympathize with, and then a character we could hate without much reservation. A potential ally, and then an enemy who knew way too much. Michael the Wraith – or whatever you want to call him – became the Atlantis expedition’s arch enemy, but yet it was possible to feel for him the way a reader might feel sorry for Frankenstein’s monster. At least, until he exterminated Taranans. Connor Trinneer, the actor behind the menace, is just a friendly down to earth guy. Thank goodness for actors who stay calm, talk at a normal speed, actually answer the questions without getting derailed, and choose to sit in a chair while on stage! Yes Dan. I’m complaining about you!
Connor started taking questions pretty quickly, but first he told us that this was his first Stargate convention, and he was a little nervous. “My standard StarTrek answers aren’t going to work here!”
Not above flattery, Connor asked the first fan to reach the mic repeat her opening comment so make sure everyone heard it. “Turn your mic on, honey. And say that again. Clearly.” “I came here for you!” “Well thank you!” Then she amended her comment. “And Paul [McGillion], and Michael [Shanks] and Joe [Flanagan]. But you were one of them!” “Wait a minute; you were doing so well there for a second. Then you went like this (took his hand and showed us a steep downward slope).”
Eventually she got around to asking her question: What’s the difference between StarTrek and Stargate, and can you please tell us a StarTrek story?“About eleven dollars is the answer to the first one. I would have to say that the most immediate difference to me was that Atlantis was a loosier goosier show than Enterprise was. I think it had less of the formal rules that had to be applied to the show. And I didn’t wear nearly the amount of makeup on Atlantis, and I didn’t wear nearly the amount of clothes on Enterprise. But they were such radically different characters. They were just two different experience besides the obvious, different shows. But even for a place where they came from, there’s a whole lot of me in Trip [Connor’s character on Enterprise, for those who don’t know]. I hope to God there’s not a whole lot of me in Michael . I think I had to use a little more –I hate to use the word ‘imagination’ – but imagination with Michael than I did with Trip. With Trip, I got to do 99 episodes of a show where they just kept throwing me different places, but with Michael I sort of had the same MO and had to find where that arch played where I’d be coming in two, three times a year. So that was much different.”
Did you get paid in Canadian or American? “I got paid in food stamps. Not everybody got that. I got paid in US dollars with is either good or bad depending on what day it is.
As requested, Connor told a story for the benefit of us Trekys in the audience. “I just told this story back stage, so it’s fresh in my mind. Someone was asking what it was like to work with Padma Lakshmi. She’s got a cooking show. [Someone says, “Top Chef?”] ‘Top Chef’, thank you! About five of you know this. She’s this really beautiful Indian woman that I did this episode with [called ‘Precious Cargo’]. He was asking if I asked to by paid during that week because I spent a lot of close . . . time . . . with her [That’s a euphemism if I’ve ever heard one! For those who don’t know, let’s just say Trip winds up being pregnant!]. But at the end of the episode – again, I’m talking to the wrong audience! But maybe I’m not – there’s a part in the episode where I’m in a swamp, and I’m supposed to get choked underwater by this alien. So on Friday we’re supposed to shoot this scene, but we get to the end of the day and we haven’t done it, so they’d put this swamp together with dirt and reeds and the whole nine yards, and so they just let it sit. Over the weekend. In an unconditioned sound stage. And come Monday morning it smelled like an outhouse. And so first up, ‘alright Connor, we’re going to choke you underwater’. I was like, ‘Uh uh’. Immediately all of the producers got up and were very nervous and hustled me off to a corner of the sound stage and said, ‘but it’s written in the script’. I was like, ‘I’m not going to go underwater. Wait a minute. I will if you will.’ And really quickly my stunt double came in and did that. But I was like, ‘Naw uh. That ain’t what I’m doing. Unless you do it first.”
A fan commented on his hair color, which she thought was very different from usual. Connor replied, “With just a little bit of grey here. I turned 40 a couple weeks ago. But this is ah . . . (tries to look at his hair in the screen behind him, which has his enlarged live image) I can’t see myself at this distance!”
What are you working on now?“I’m doing an audiobook, a biography of Lance Armstrong, I start that on Monday. I’ve got a thing coming out on SyFy channel in late April or early May. It’s like a movie of the week with James Kyson Lee from Heroes, and we do this sort of Hans Solo/Chewy – he’s Chewy, I’m all Hans Solo – and I actually did the ADR for it, the looping. The voice-over. And I’ve seen a couple of these (laughs/sniggers) SciFi channel movies. (We laugh/snigger) Apparently you guys have too. Some of them . . . are not bad. And some of them are just like, ‘you’ve gotta be kidding me! It’s the worst thing maybe ever on television! And fortunately I took a look at mine, and um . . . pretty good. It’s called Termination Shock. It’s essentially me and James, and a couple of American girls, eleven Bulgarians, fighting giant termites. (Shrugs as we laugh) And it’s funny. Which I’m not sure how that can happen, but it’s funny.”
Why did they choose the name of ‘Michael’ and how did you get the role? “Why ‘Michael’? I don’t know. They named me that. And ah . . . what was the other part of this? (The fan reminds him) Oh! Ok, so Enterprise ends. And you know, I’m thinking all, I don’t know. ‘Well I’m not going to do any science fiction for a while. I’ve overstayed my welcome so I don’t want to do any sci fi’. (Smirks like he’s thinking, ‘Yeah, that worked out great, didn’t it?’) but I get the breakdown of all the characters that they’re auditioning that week and I see this role for Michael and I called my agent up and I’m like, ‘well I know what I said, but would you call them and see if I can get a read for this? Because it seems like a really interesting part.’ And he called me back in like ten minutes and said, ‘it’s yours if you want it’. Wow. And I don’t think it was meant to be anything more than that one episode, necessarily. I could be wrong, but it was a nice little run there.”
How did you prepare for playing the role? I’m not a method actor at all. I try to let the words and the situation play on me. I’ve kind of got to build myself up because I cried a lot in Enterprise. But one was very very easy. At the end of the series there was a scene were Trip comes in and talks to T’Pol about the possibility of having a Vulcan and human baby together. After the twins have died or something. I had found out that morning that my wife was pregnant. So we went in and we had that scene and we weren’t supposed to tell anyone for like 30 days to make sure it sticks. And that’s a medical term. So we do the scene a couple times. It just seems like I’m really really into it, and I’m walking out, and they’re having to dab my eyes off and stuff, and by the time the scene is over I’ve got to walk away. I can’t get a hold of myself. Jolene [Blalock – yes, she played Ishta!] walks up and she’s like, ‘What’s wrong?’ and I was like, ‘I’m not supposed to tell anyone this but I just found out that my wife is pregnant.’ And (pretends to break down) All over again! And she was very sweet. We sort of hugged for a while and I said, ‘if you tell anybody I’m going to have to kill you.’ Otherwise, there’s a little secret, at least that I have, when it’s not coming, when the juices aren’t flowing. You get a little Vick’s Vapor Rub, and just before you go on, you get your makeup guy to stand by with some powder, and you do it right here (takes his pinky finger and shows us where to put it – right underneath the eyes) and then you bend over (leans forward and looks straight down at the floor, then comes up looking like the waters are running full strength). ‘I’m just so sad!’ and then the next second it’s like, ‘Hey man, you want a donut? I want a donut!’ So there’s a variety of ways.”
To you, what is the difference between television acting and theater acting? “The thing about working in film and TV is your whole story is broken up based on how they have scheduled their locations. So you may be doing scene 3, 15, 72, back to 18 on one day, and then, so you’re always sort of patch working your role together in the arch of the story. Learning that can be a little bit jarring, but once you get it it’s fine. And it helps having the ability to see the camera really close, (laughs) and you get a few tries at it. ‘That was no good for me. Can we go again?’ Live theather is just so different because you’re directly having contact with your audience. You can feel what’s going on in the theater and you get to do an entire lifetime of a part in one night. I’d have to say that at the end of a day it’s a little more gratifying to have played . . . Hamlet . . . for three hours then done scene 2, 14, 28, then back to 7. But they’re just different things.”
Which did you like more, being good or being bad? “Well you could be bad when you’re good. It’s a lot of fun to be bad, I’ve got to say. Again though, they come from such different places. In atlantis I come to work at some ungodly hour like 4:00. They throw on this makeup for two and a half hours, and I’d get there all cross eyed and tired, and by the time they’ve got the makeup on I start to feel a little more . . . a little Michael coming on. A little more awake, a little more evil. And then I get into my trailer and put on my costume, and I’d look in the mirror, and then they’d thrown on those eyes. So what I was looking out at looking back at me wasn’t me. And it was a real easy thing to just kind of drop in. I lowered the register of my voice, they lowered it even more. But, God, playing Trip was a dream. He was a dream. I don’t think anybody could have played the role and walked away feeling like they got ripped off. So very different, but both very fun.”
Both Michael and Trip had their angry moments. For Trip, what steamed him was the fact that his sister was killed when – was in an asteroid? I’m sorry, it’s been too long since I’ve seen that one – bulldozed through Florida, and right through her home – a one in a million accident. A fan asking a question said in regards to when Michael learns his true nature as a Wraith, “That was some scary anger you brought on there.” “Well I was pissed. I know what you mean. They asked different things of me. Trip didn’t have that depth of malicious anger that Michael had. It was two different angers. And also I think that again, Trip just came from a different place than Michael did.” Did you have to dig deeper for the Michael role? “(seriously) No. I am that good (laughs).”
How was your first episode shot? Were the scenes filmed in order or not? “Oh, I don’t know. I think they shot all the scenes in that first episode, ‘Michael’, sort of chronologically. I recall vaguely that that’s what happened.
What was Michael going to do to Teyla’s baby? After much laughter from us, and some careful consideration from Connor, he answered, “Love it. Hold it. Raise it to be a good person. OR . . . teach it how to rule the universe and destroy everybody else! I wasn’t really sure. Teach it how to throw a curve ball? . . . Or kill everybody. I’m not sure.
In Enterprise, how was it to do an episode where you, the guy, got pregnant? “That was only the third episode of the entire show, so you’re still kinda like, ‘Oh my God, I’m on a show!’ (laughs). But when I saw the script and we started shooting ‘Unexpected’ where I got pregnant and got nipples right here ( shows us the inside of his left wrist) and a little baby by my sixth rib or something (puts his hand on the left of his rib cage where the baby was). I asked the director and the producers if we could throw in a couple more moments of him just, when he’s sitting at dinner and he just starts to cry uncontrollably for no reason whatsoever. I asked if we could do that. I’m like, ‘You’ve got to let us do one of these things. And eat weird stuff, and also just get really mad for no reason at all. All the things I’d heard that (gestures at the women in the audience as if he’s afraid to say it) some women apparently do when they’re pregnant. Psh. I don’t know what they’re talking about. So I did that and endured a lot of razing from all of my cast and crew. But I loved doing that episode. That was a lot of fun. “
What do you think of the fact that it was Teyla who finally killed Michael? “Michael kind of had a thing for Teyla, so it was a little bit surprising, I think. You know, it was a nice moment for Teyla because he hadn’t done the nicest things in the world to her. But yes I think Michael’s feelings were a little bit hurt by that. I don’t think she said anything to him. (Imitates Teyla by making a sneering face, offering a hand to save him, waving him off, then miming being unable to see or hear Michael.)
Who did you most like working with on Enterprise and then on Atlantis? “A guy named Greg Henry did a role – I forget what the episode was called. We’re trapped on a planet together, and the sun’s coming down and we’re both dying . . . (waves a hand dismissively) remember that? He said no words in English. He just, you know, (makes a throwing motion with his hand) gobbledygook. And that guy was so good in that episode. And he’s a great actor anyway, Greg Henry, if you’ve seen him around. I was the most impressed by what he did in that episode. I liked working with everybody on Atlantis. I didn’t get to work with many people a lot. Like I never got to work with Jason, he just got to beat me up a couple times. I liked working with Joe because he has a great sense of humor. And Teyla is [Rachel] always really fun to work with. Paul McGillian, I got to work with a lot. I liked working with Paul. And David Hewlett, I just never got to work with him very much. Am I missing anybody? Torrie. Never. I was never in the office [we all laugh at that thought]. Amanda . . . was she on that show? Yes she was, the last year! Forgive me, you guys! I’m a little busy. No I never worked with Amanda though I love her to death. Is she hear? [“Tomorrow!”] Ok, (sighs like he’s relieved) so yeah, never worked with Amanda.” A fan in the front says something like, “what about Flanigan?” “I just said Flanigan, I loved working with Flanigan. He’s very funny. He’s a hansom devil too.” We all laugh and then Connor says, “Digging a hole. Just digging a hole (making motions like he is digging).”
Fans love to see stars get injured. What was your favorite injury? “’Fans love to see stars get injured’ (squirms in his chair). (Looking at the fan who asked) What other shows do you like to watch? You like 24? (Laughs)” As Connor struggles to think, a fan in front says something like, “I think she means as your character.” Connor says to her, “Yeah, when I broke my arm was I was seven years old, that was my personal favorite injury. . . You know those “Mirror Mirror” episodes where we’re doing a throw back? I hate them, let’s start with that. Some people liked them but I think they’re just (grits his teeth so it barely come out) @$$. But I had a pretty cool Captain Pike burn scar (indicates that it was all over the left side of his face, including his eye). I’ll tell you why I didn’t like those episodes. I came in on the very first day to do these, and I’m doing this scene with Jolene [Blalock] – this wasn’t the problem. She’s wearing this, her uniform has been cut in half, it’s is like a midriff, and it’s pretty cool but – so I start doing the scene and the director is like, ‘ok that’s great but I want you to go farther’. He started to talk in that tone of voice, ‘(kind of growling) Farther’. And I’m like, ‘ . . . like a pirate?’ ‘Yeah! Try that out.’ So I came in and I’m like, ‘(like a pirate) Listen, rawr rawr rawr rawr rawr.” And he was like, ‘great! Pretty!’ and I’m like, ‘(face falls) We have two of these episodes to do though, man. You want me to ‘rawr rawr rawr’ all the way through?” He’s like, ‘Yeah, it’s great.’ And I was watching them and I was like, ‘Oh my God. You’re terrible.’ But I did like the injury, (throws an odd glance at the fan who asked the question to find she moved). Where are you? You like medical dramas or like medical reality shows? Hip replacements? (Laughs)”
Someone asked a question regarding Connor’s fight scenes with Jason Momoa. “He can fight. Not only can he fight, but Bam Bam [Bamford] who’s the fight choreographer comes from an MMA background – “Mixed Martial Arts” – and listen. I’ve done a lot of fighting in my day . . . on screen, (puts up his fists like he’s going to take someone on). But I got there to do those fights with Jason that Bam Bam was choreographing, and I was blown away. I was also terrified that my nose was going to be over here (puts a finger on his left temple). And from what I heard that actually happened a couple of times. In fact . . . so I did that first fight scene in ‘Michael’, and I’ve got to get to the airport, we’re fighting along, I’ve got my fight – the guy who’s really fighting – next to me, ready to jump in when I have to go. Apparently, literally, I leave, the door shuts, they do the scene again, and I think that Jason caught him with an elbow in the middle of his forehead, knocked him out cold. And I was like, ‘Damn! That’s exactly what I was afraid of. I’m so glad I had to go catch a plane!’”
Who was your favorite cast member on Atlantis to fight with? “I only faught with Jason. Nonono, I faught with Rachel too.” The fan helps him along saying, “and Joe Flanigan.” “Did I fight with Joe? Oh yeah!” “Best fight scene ever!” “Really?” “Oh yeah, when it spans back, and, oh!” “Everybody on the show is a really good fighter. You know why? Because Bam Bam – all props – that dude is awesome. I don’t know what kind of background people had in fighting before that, but when I got there, I had some background in stage combat. I fought a fair amount on Enterprise so I felt pretty confident. But to a person, the best? Jason. Dude can fight. For reals.”
Someone asked a question off the mic about Michael’s changing look as his story progressed – how the strength of his resemblance to the Wraith changed, especially in his last couple of appearances. “I think that was a matter of him being a hybrid. A little better looking? Less stuff? I think that was a matter of the retrovirus he’d given himself, and sort of like his evolution. He was kind of in limbo and he looked like he was in limbo between being a Wraith and being human, so I think he evolved into what you wound up seeing in season four, which is probably – I’m sorry, season five? – Five. And I think had there been more . . . oh well he’s dead. That was it, that’s all you’re going to get out of me.” Someone shouts, “They never found the body!” “Naw, it’s way down. Listen. If he didn’t clone himself, shame on him. [We all cheer and clap! Bring back Michael!] A little short sighted, to create a whole army of clones, and then thinking, ‘Yeah, but I’m cool. (Takes his fist, taps his chest twice, and then brings up one finger) There’s only one of me!’ That’s my two cents.”
How was it to be in costume on set? Was there a little Wraith clique somewhere because you all got shunned by the cast? “I had to turn and face the wall whenever they came around. No, you know I’m me, and I’m just pretty laid back and I like to have fun. So I’d be sitting there talking to whoever and a couple times they’d be like, ‘Alright, this is freaking me out, because you’ve got the eyes in and your just like (undulates)’. So sometimes people would have a reaction of sort. But the funny thing was in reality I’m wearing those cat eyes, and they eliminate your peripheral vision. So until I got used to it, I had to have somebody kinda like guide me, or sorta like hold my hand as we made it to set because It was dark and I couldn’t see anything. I felt like a bad @$$ because some PA is walking me on to set (shows us his hand which at that point would have had the feeding maw on it). So there were some funny moments for myself like that.
I’ve been given the two minute warning.[Awwww!] The score is tied seven to seven and if somebody gives a great question you’re side is going to win, either this side or this side, I’m not sure!”
What shows would you really like to be on? “It was a big thrill to do Sarah Connor, because I’m a big fan of that show. I did a pretty good job. Personally I don’t think I’m going to get the chance, but I’d like to be on American Idol. Or ‘Dancing with the Has-Beens’. I might be on that show. Lost would be cool. Because you’re in Hawaii. The thing is it loses a little bit of its luster when you’ve done a lot of television and you see how everything works and the long hours. And there’s a certain similarity to groupings of shows that, to answer that question honestly, it’d be like, ‘Yeah, all of ‘em!’ But personally if I had to pick one it’d be American Idol. No, it’d probably be Sarah Connor because I am just a big fan of the show, and that’s the only show I watch with any regularity. And you know what? Who would have thought it, but Brian Austin Green kicks @$$ on that show. It wouldn’t have been in my playbook to say that he would have done that, but he did and props to him.”
What was your favorite moment on the set of Stargate Atlantis? “So many. My favorite moment on the set of Stargate Atlantis was probably when they walked up and said, ‘we’re probably going to have you back’ (laughs). That’s the end of the game. It’s tied, and you guys have to have a shootout. And I hope Vancouver wins this time. Thank you!”
Let’s hear it for Connor! He almost has me wishing I’d stuck around past the first season of StarTrek: Enterprise. Almost.
I’m really looking forward to seeing Connor again in Chicago this August. Maybe by then Connor will have learned if Michael did clone himself after all? If I could ask a favor of those reading this post, if you could pass it along to anyone you know that is attending the Chicago Creation convention this year? It is my hope that by passing this “transcript” along to as many attendees as possible, we can avoid having the same questions come up. It can get boring for those of us who are fortunate enough to have seen an actor multiple times to hear the same questions get asked, and it’s hard on those dependant on convention coverage to learn about the cast because fewer new questions are asked. So, please pass it along!
Next, she may be short in stature, but she’s big in talent! The witty and lovely Teryl Rothery joins us to honor Janet Fraiser and cause mayhem with young gentlemen!