Joe Flanigan was scheduled to come to Chicago in 2007, but had to cancel at the last moment. Since then fans have been clamoring for him to come to the Windy City, and they were not left wanting for long!
A number of Joe’s stories were repeats from Vancouver, and when I recognized them I took the opportunity to give my poor hand a break and enjoy the experience. Those stories and more can be found in my 2009 Vancouver Report.
Having Joe on stage is actually one of the few times when having a second row seat is a disadvantage. Joe moves around quite a bit. One minute he is sitting, the next he’s at the side of the stage talking to someone who asked a question and facing completely away from you, or he’s smack in the middle of the stage, but right where the two heads that frame your view block him out. I had a much better time getting good pictures of him in Vancouver when I was 5 rows back and at the far right! Therefore I got the best pictures I could, and I wish I could have done better.
Joe had a seat and cut right to the chase. “When I do these things, I like to answer questions. I know some people, like (clears throat) David Hewlett, like to get up here and talk about things, and talk and talk and talk. But I would love to answer any questions you guys have.”
So, as requested, fans ran to get in line at the microphones on either side of the stage. I was happy to hear that the first question, while not terribly original, was one I had not heard asked before.
Do you prefer dogs or cats? Joe answered that he is a dog guy and he has dogs. “I’ve got complete control, they’re wagging their tails. I like that. Where I live, cats make nice little nibblets for the coyotes. I’m being totally honest! I lost 2 dogs last year to coyotes. And those are dogs, so cats are even tastier. (The questioner suggested that it is advisable to declaw cats, which caused many cat lovers in the audience to pipe up, saying “No!” Joe, sensing the incoming can of worms, made a joke of it.) Oh, well you could declaw them. You could. You could shave them and paint them purple. Or you could just let my four dogs out and watch the fun! I don’t think a cat would survive in our house.” Hmmm, best cancel that trip to go visit Joe, huh Adria the Cat? Yikes!
Randomly, Joe had this little lesson to share about actors. Apparently, Joe’s chair on set was shorter than the others by a good six inches or more! “I like to put my legs down. We were trying to figure out the history of the tall chair, so we thought, ‘well maybe it’s hair and makeup.’ And then we realized it’s probably just like actor’s outsized egos, like literally, and they’ll tell you stories, that some people have to have higher chairs than others. Which is probably why my chair is down there (points to the floor)!”
Are you being considered for or are you interested in being Robert Jim Rockford in the remake of ‘The Rockford Files’? Fans who are familiar with the original series (1974) seemed intrigued by the idea. Joe . . . looked at the fan who asked, mouth open, and nodded for a good minute before answering, clearly surprised by the question. “Naw, I mean, I thank that they just announced that. I don’t know. I would love to do Rockford. I’d be curious how they are going to remake it. They seem to have really destroyed every attempt at remaking a good show. So it’s a good question. Rockford is one of my favorite shows, and James Garner is one of my favorite people. I did a series with him and I love the guy. I would call him tomorrow and say, ‘Call everybody you know and tell them I’m going to be the next you! But I don’t – they just announced that. But Rockford is a great character. He’s a good archetype. I can recreate that archetype on another show; it doesn’t have to be Rockford. But good question.”
Have you considered making the transition to the big screen? “If it were in my control I would! Let’s just be honest, that there’s a thing called (waving an arm flippantly) career management. It’s kind of nonsense. There is no career management per say. There are very few jobs for a lot of people. It’s got to be the right place at the right time, and sometimes there are elements that are just out of your control. I have no doubt in my mind that I think I would do very well in movies. I would love to do movies. And yet they are amazingly short-sighted about who they go after. It’s really weird. They want to discover new stars, but they don’t want to take the risk in giving any of them a chance. So they reach for the same thing over and over and over, and they close the doors consistently to other people. I was kinda hoping that the show, since we’ve sold so many DVDs, would kind of change that, but we’re in the middle of a really deep recession and I’m not sure that that research is being done and people are looking at those particular numbers and seeing that (gesturing at the crowd) we have a really amazing fan base, and I think the fan base could push us all to the next level. (Shrugs) We’ll see what happens.”
Joe was asked about his appearance on SyFy’s Warehouse 13. “It was a really good group of people in Toronto. I enjoyed myself a lot. I looked at that and I was thinking to myself, ‘My God I didn’t do anything on that show!’ I just watched it the other day and I was like, ‘Right, well where’s the rest of it? That’s it?!’ I really enjoyed not doing a lot of things also because it was really interesting. I had a day off in Toronto. I didn’t have any days off in Vancouver, ever. I enjoyed that aspect of it. The two leads were pretty beat up from the season of shooting, and I just remember that so well that I was enjoying not being in that position. But, being egocentric and self-involved, I also said, ‘Damn. I want his job. Because I do! I like the premise of that show, and Eddie is an awfully nice guy.
“We all get into caveats because we’ve all – anybody who knows about developing a show knows it’s a long process. It may be working one week and not working the next. And yet I’ve done it successfully before and I’ve done it unsuccessfully before, so I don’t know where this will go. I know that I’m waiting for the right project. I just got asked this question which was ‘just get back on the air.’ I don’t really feel like that’s really my goal. I don’t really feel that I need to just get back on the air. I feel like I want to do the right thing. It’s a lateral move (waving his hand horizontally) or a move higher up, and I don’t want to fade into the background just to be on the air.”
How did you like working with Richard Dean Anderson? “I only worked with Rick a very very very little bit. I enjoyed it. When I first started working with Rick in the pilot I thought it was very cool because I had just done a series with Rockford, and I was like, ‘Yeah! Now I’m with MacGyver! I’ve got all the guys, man!’ So that was pretty cool. We were in a helicopter flying around, and I thought it was pretty funny. I handed him a paperclip and a rubber band. ‘If this plane goes down, here you go!’ I’m like, ‘Damn I’m funny, I’m funny.’ He just gave me this look (too funny for words, but included here!). Clearly he was like, ‘Who is this guy? Does he think this joke hasn’t been pulled on me before?’ So I realized the MacGyver jokes just keep coming at him. They weren’t as original as I thought they were. But I had a great time, and he’s got a good sensibility. I just saw him in Malibu, we both live in Malibu. He lives very close. He was playing ping pong [some fans chuckle, no doubt recalling the hilarious scene where Jack and Teal’c played ping pong.] Yeah, in like this open court shopping area. I was like, ‘You’re out of work too, huh? Here’s a paperclip and a rubber band!’”
Who is your idol? “My idol? Wow. I don’t have an idol but I have heroes. There is a distinction, I think. I think a hero displays sort of heroic qualities that you find bold that you’d like to have in your life. I think idols tend to be more of a blind worship thing. I don’t know that I idolize anybody in particular. My father-in-law has been a hero of mine for a long time. He’s a quadriplegic and he’s an amazing, amazing human being. My dad was a hero to me, and I have – there are so many people that I find interesting, and a lot of the times I meet people, (shrugs) they’re not famous. I just hear their story and I hear what they’re going through. It’s insane, it’s incredible, the adversity that people are able to survive without any glamour and any recognition. To me, I find that astounding, and because we’re in a public situation and we’re always given some weird affirmation about things and celebrities always air all their c%@& in public. There’s something a little disingenuous about that. I’m sorry I don’t have a specific answer. I could go through a list of people if we had more time, and people weren’t leaving right now because of this long answer, but literally I could go through so many different’ characters, well known and not well known, and why I like them and so forth.”
Everyone always wants to know what your favorite episode is, but I want to know what your least favorite episode is. “Probably that bug episode (holding a hand by his neck to indicate that he is talking about ‘Thirty Eight Minutes’ where we first encounter an iratus bug), with the bug on me. We had not built the sets properly. For some reason we built the space ships as though they were really space ships, and we couldn’t get in them (contorts his upper body around as if he’s trying to squeeze through a small space). We’re like, ‘but this is for TV. We need to get a film crew in there!’ So we were all shoved in there. It was like the forth or fifth episode, and it was hot and sweaty and they wouldn’t pay for the air conditioning; because they weren’t sure whether we were going to last, I think. They went, ‘(shrugs) I ain’t paying for air conditioning!’ It was hot, and sweaty, and miserable. And Rainbow [Sun Franks] – who I love to death – kept messing up all of his lines and my bug was stuck on my neck, and I was like, ‘(through gritted teeth) Come on! Come on! Get me outta here!’ And it was frustrating. But I learned. I have more patience now than I did when I was your age (indicating the young person who asked). I was about your age when I started the show.”
When you were on Warehouse 13, did you feel like they left the “character” out of your character? “I didn’t quite know what it was, and I realize it was very guest star-ish. I didn’t have time to talk to any of the writers, and had we talked about it I’m sure we would have tweaked it in an entirely different direction. It would have been more interesting. No, you’re a fine actor, I’ve seen you act, but as written it was not an interesting person. I think that it doesn’t quite work that way. When you’re the lead of a show they’ll let a camera sit there for a little while, and so you can inject moments into the situations that are not written. But when you’re a guest star, there’s a time line. Boom boom boom, you’re delivering information. Now let’s go back to the lead (turns with this hand up indicating the position of the camera). Information (turns back to guest star), lead (turns back again). So when you’re a guest star, I have found that our guest stars, many of whom are phenomenally talented, it comes out relatively flat. It’s not them, it’s really how the material they’re given and the editing they’re given and everything else is not a critical factor in the show. So, to answer your question (laughing) I guess you didn’t like Warehouse 13!”
A fan asked about the use of the Johnny Cash songs in ‘Vegas’. “We’d discussed that we’d have liked to have had Johnny Cash signing at the end, but it was going to come down to a licensing issue and a cash issue – ‘cash issue’, no pun intended! – and Robert [Cooper] called long after we’d finished shooting it and said, ‘Oh yeah we got Johnny Cash for the last thing,’ and I was like, ‘Oh that’s amazing!’ I was wanting to put Johnny Cash music in tons of different episodes, but we didn’t have the money. But it was kinda cool to at least be able to do it once before it was all over.”
At this point a fan asked Joe pointedly about a written chat session he did for the Hungarian site AXN in June of 2009. Joe talked about Atlantis’s cancellation and commented on Stargate Universe. You can read the Q&A here and read GateWorld’s report on it here. Some fans see that Joe might have been suggesting that the Atlantis cast was not properly appreciated by the writers and producers, and that contributed to the end of the series. Responding to the fan’s comment on this, Joe said, “Somebody brought that to my attention. I was supposed to do this interview and I missed the interview and they go, ‘Can you do a written thing?’ So I did the written thing, and then somebody called me and said, ‘you kinda set off a little firestorm here. People seem to think you’re implying ‘don’t watch Universe’’, which is nonsense. I would never ever – I’d never wish that on anyone. I think that they deserve every chance we got. There are a lot of really talented people that are coming together for that project. My point was we helped build a show for a long time, and we were assuming based on the success – not only financial, statistical success – that we were going to get a chance to benefit from more seasons. I think a formula was done saying, ‘We could save a little bit more money maybe if we didn’t do that and we just retooled it this way.’ I think that it is unfortunate because it’s not unlike a company. You work for a company for a long time, you work hard, you’re hoping that it’s going to get you to the next level, and you want to be rewarded for that. It didn’t happen that way, so I think that there’s a level of frustration, for sure, and we would like to obviously be valued for the work we did and the connection we made with the audience, which we think is substantial.” Fans applauded this statement, confirming that we made a connection with the characters that Joe and his cast mates brought to life. “They’ll hopefully move that to the next show. I hope it works out, I really do. I’m hoping that they all have a really good professional experience on the show. Mostly we miss working. David and I miss coming to set, giving each other a hard time, and things like that. It’s just, there’s always a jealousy factor of just like, I’d like to be working again on my show, because we were really getting things going.” The fan replied, that she wasn’t really asking about Universe, but rather his suggestion that the actors were underappreciated. “I just wanted to say that the fans appreciate all the blood, sweat, and tears that everybody puts into the characters.” Joe said, “Yeah well we appreciate that you appreciate it, trust me, we really do. Thank you.” As the young woman walked away and the fans applauded, I sensed a change in the room. A chill tension seemed to form as Joe spoke, and it loomed throughout the rest of his panel.
Next, Joe was asked about his acting training. “Seriously, I’m in some ways not too trained. Maybe that’s a benefit. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. I think you can learn this craft forever, but I think there’s a point also where too much training can suffocate the humanity in a character, and the humanity in a character is really what we all connect to, so then it’s a little idiosyncratic, and a little different, and is to me kind of interesting. I think there are some professionals in acting school who really try to destroy that.” The fan commented on the use of humor in Atlantis, and Joe replied, “Where I wanted to strike was taking the situation seriously, that it was a life and death situation, but having humor about it and defusing the tension through a sense of humor, but not the other way around. Not trying to make it a funny situation and not take it seriously. To me I thought that would be a detriment to the show.”
Joe was asked a question about working with Robert Davi as Acastus Kolya. “Robert Davi is a superb actor, and so he knows exactly what to do, which is cause tension in a scene, and he’s good at it! He took something small and (makes a pulling motion with a clawed hand) sucked the life out if it. He did it for, what, seven episodes or something like that. And they killed him off and they didn’t even need to. He could have gone on and on. He was a formidable opponent, and it was hard to find a formidable opponent, and when you do you need to keep them coming. Colm Meaney (Cowen) was another guy that was very good [Fans applaud in agreement]. Those guys were good. They’d just lay it into you and it just comes through, and it’s hard to find guys like that.”
As one might expect, with all the cast changes that took place on Atlantis, fans are curious about what caused them. One fan in particular asked Joe if he knew why Rainbow Sun Franks was let go from his role as Lt. Aiden Ford. “I don’t know, they just thought his character wasn’t working. They wanted to come up with something else, and they did, they came up with something very different which is Jason [Momoa]. Which is more along the kind of . . . animal nature (Joe chuckles as we laugh). So they thought that would make for better opposites. I mean in some ways it did, but I don’t know. That’s a question you need to ask the producers. They might have a specific reason for that, but Rainbow was so much fun to work with. I hung out a lot with Rainbow. I just saw his sister a few weeks ago. It’s a great family. Good people.”
I’m not entirely sure what led to this – perhaps Joe was asked about his TV and movie genre preferences – but regardless, it was very funny! “I’m hyperactive and I have ADD and I don’t know what else (waves a hand away), everything I guess, and so I have a hard time sitting there watching anything, and if I see people active on television I’m just like my nine year old son. They’re having a sword fight? (Jumps into what you might be able to call a sword fighting stance) I want to have a sword fight! Ahh! We come back from the movies and the kids are recreating every battle scene (draws an imaginary sword – or light saber as the case may be! – and says guiltily), and I’m doing it too. My wife is like, ‘(in a skeptical voice) What are you doing with that Luke Skywalker garb on?’ ‘(Trying to sound innocent, but Joe just sounds high pitched and funny) Nothing! Looking for work!’”
A young fan came up and asked: What has been your most memorable moment with Jason Momoa? “(Teasing) Memorable? Is that good memorable or bad memorable? You could put those in a couple different categories! (Pauses to think) Oh man, we spent an awful lot of time together. . . . The best memory I’ve had with Jason . . . I would say . . . that . . . (grins mischievously) Oh no I can’t tell you, you’re too young! I just realized I can’t tell you that story! So sorry, I’m glad. (Poking himself in the head) Good Joe. Let me tell you a milder story. Here’s a milder one. We had just gotten out after a really long day, one of those 14 hour days way out in the middle of nowhere, and everyone was tired and grumpy and exhausted and they’re all going home. Jason and I are in the same car, and there goes David right past us in his little red something, (hunches up like he’s driving a toy car) eco-friendly something that no one knows, right? And the car is this big (holds up fingers to show something about 3 inches long. Joe hunches even more and makes a buzzing sound that is apparently comparable to David’s car!). He was super grumpy that day. I was like, ‘catch up with him! Catch up with him!’ And we caught up to him and Jason rolled down his window . . .” Joe showed us what Jason did . . . only Joe kept his pants pulled up! That’s right! Joe bent over, wiggled back and forth a little, then craned his head around to look behind him and said in a gravelly voice like Jason’s, “That’s right! Whoa look at that!” Laughing, Joe straightened up and said, “David looked like he was going to carjack us. You could see the blood go out of his face. And then he finally cracked a smile and we were like, ‘Yes! We got him!’”
Apparently Joe has been known to say that he can fly a helicopter in real life, but that isn’t true! A fan called Joe’s bluff and earned this answer: “I really was full of c%@$ wasn’t I? I must have told them that to get the job. I can fly a remote control helicopter. I’ve got one at home and I’m like (walks around with an imaginary joystick, making the whirring sound of a toy helicopter). No, I’ve never flown a helicopter! I don’t remember ever saying that! Boy. You can’t get away with anything, can you? I guess people lie about their resumes all the time, right? No I’ve never flown a helicopter, but I have been in quite a few helicopters. It’s fun to say, ‘I fly a helicopter . . . on television.’ It’s fun to say that. Kinda like when you’re in an emergency room and they’re doing surgery and you’re like, ‘(chuckles) I play a doctor . . . on television.’ That’s fun. But know, I don’t know how to fly a helicopter. I don’t know how to fly a plane! Well, I have flown, I’ve taken flying lessons. I can fly. It’s the landing that’s the problem.”
There was once a prank battle going on between Joe and Paul McGillion. Joe played the now infamous rocks-in-the-bag prank on Paul, and then Paul wrestled with Joe and beat him. A fan asked: Have you gotten Paul back yet? “Yeah he beat me in a wrestling match and he will pay dearly for it because I’ve figured out how. I haven’t seen Paul. I saw him last night for the first time in . . . I don’t know, six months? And you know, a bottle of scotch later we were like, ‘(laughs drunkenly) Oh remember the time, you know!’ It was one of those things. I can’t remember, there’s so many gags between Jason, Paul, and I, it’s hard being serious. I’m trying to figure out a serious moment. That would be more unusual. But Pauly takes the bait a lot. Pauly’s pretty gullible. Pauly thinks he’s pretty smart and you just throw it out, (mimes casting a fishing line and makes a sound like something dropping through the air, then casually makes the motion of reeling in a fish!).” Uh oh, watch out Paul!
Did you ever have trouble with the directions you were given for the show, either character wise or acting wise? “I can’t even remember a time where somebody gave me a direction that just (makes a horizontal slashing motion with his free hand) wasn’t going to happen. There are suggestions that don’t work. But generally directors – in television it doesn’t quite work that way because you have your character and you know your character pretty well, so they’re not really trying to make you do things that you wouldn’t kind of actually do. So no, I don’t remember that. It would be more an issue with the story sometimes. You could go up to them and say, ‘I don’t think that I would do this or this or that. There was one issue I was worried about. It was when I . . . I think I kill . . . somebody . . . right? (Sarcastically) I killed a few people on there. No I did, and it was kinda a weird thing – Oh, I know what it was. The father we fed to the Wraith. That was something we had a discussion about. We’re like, ‘Whoo, that’s kinda . . . that’s a new territory.’ Because I’m basically throwing him to the wolves. I think there was some discussion about that and that was kind of an interesting idea. When they explained it to me I was kinda like, ‘I get it. I think that’s kind of interesting.’ So no, I don’t really remember anything. There may be specific moments of blocking, and that’s where, if there were differences, a lot of times it would come from blocking. You have it in your head, you’re like, ‘I’m going to say, ‘(walking across the stage as he speaks) David I told you for the tenth time, please start the ship’ and you’re going to be over here (indicating where he has stopped walking on the stage).’ And they’re like, ‘Well you can’t do that because we’ve already got it blocked and you’re supposed to be sitting down for that. You’re like, ‘Well I have this one line that’s supposed to be going to find . . .’ Those would be the only things you’d have to work out, and even then everybody is super flexible. We made a lot of things work on the show.”
What genre of television do you prefer working in? “When you’re talking about a TV show, a TV show is a major commitment; it’s a time commitment, making major sacrifices in terms of the time you get to spend with your friends and family. I would lean toward action/adventure because that’s the stuff that I feel translates well. It’s fun to watch. Our show was one of the last action/adventure shows on television. It really was. There’s not a lot of action/adventure television shows, and that is also why it’s really popular all over the world. People don’t need to figure things out, they get it! There’s a physical action. Sometimes I would have a debate with the writers because the enemy in one particular episode would all be theoretical. ‘Well if you do this, if you do that, we’ll have no gravity left and we’ll all float away.’ And I’d be like, ‘But that’s not as cool as a monster jumping out and trying the lop your head off!’ Because the guy in New Guinea gets that, the guy in London gets that, and I get it and I’m really dumb. So I was always about having a physical threat as opposed to a mathematical or hypothetical threat, and I know sometimes with special effects they can show something later on, but the acting was always best when there was an actual physical threat. Kolya for example, a human being who was a threat, and the Wraith who are a threat. So I was always pushing toward that kind of very palpable action quality that I like, so that’s kind of where I would go and I would like to mix that in with really good drama and comedy. There’s no reason there can’t be a really good action/adventure show that has all those elements. We’ll see what happens.”
Sadly, we have now reached the final question of the 2009 Chicago Creation Convention: Who of the cast took to the weapons the quickest? “Oh you mean the guns and clubs and knives and things. Jason and I, obviously! Right away we were like, ‘Ha, check this out! (makes a sound like the crack of a bull whip, swinging an arm)’ There was a lot of that. I think we made a lot of people nervous on set many times. (Chuckles) David got a little pissed off at us a few times when we were just like . . . playing with our weapons. ‘I’m a little uncomfortable with Joe and Jason playing with the um, machine guns.’ Yeah, we were big on that. And also, having any physical exercise when you’re working on that schedule, you don’t really have time to work out. So this gave you an excuse to pump some physicality back into your life, so that was always fun.”
In my random leftover notes, I have written down that Joe is a fan of Steve McQueen and his car. His favorite Stargate Atlantis episode was ‘Vegas’. When asked who his favorite band or guitarist is, Joe answered, Jimmy Hendricks. Out of all the roles he has played, his favorites come down to John Sheppard and Brendan Dean from ThoughtCrimes. Fans should note that, according to IMDB, Joe is currently filming a project titled “Good Day for It”, and his character is “Deputy Brady.” Joe said he once flew an F-16, and commented, “Thank God for air sickness bags!”
There you have it, folks! The 2009 Chicago Creation Convention was a big hit: providing fans with a wonderful experience, our first visits from Joe, Connor Trinneer, Gary Jones, and Rachel Luttrell, return visits from Michael Shanks and Paul McGillion, and a return visit from Amanda Tapping that was long overdue. It was certainly one of the biggest years Chicago has seen, and Chicago 2010 is shaping up very well with a new and better venue, and return visits from Michael Shanks, Joe Flanigan, and Jason Momoa, accompanied by Chicago first-timers David Hewlett, Christopher Heyerdahl, and Andee Frizzell! And guess what? The WormholeRiders Team is going to have it all covered for you, so sit back and enjoy the ride!