This is a quick partial transcript of Torri Higginson’s live interview on January 30th at http://www.dtrn.co.uk/, which will probably be available for download on January 31st. Torri sounded wonderful. Now I can see why fans enthuse so much about her. She talks about how she got into acting, Stargate Atlantis, and how she found out Weir was leaving the show...
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How did she get into acting? Her mother was a theater actor so Torri and her sister swore as kids that they’d never do that as it was pretty tough. Because she loved languages, she decided - “and I know this sounds really nerdy, I wanted to be a Shakespeare text coach.” So she went over to England to study and watched a teacher for about a month and a half, and thought “what a great thing to do for three years.” So she fell into it by accident.
She didn’t have any trepidations about that at age 18 as her family is from Wales and spent a lot of time going back and forth. She felt very comfortable in Britain. Her parents were very supportive of her decision and the move, and continue to support her. And her sister is working in childrens’ television.
Once she left the Guild Hall, she returned to Canada, which she did regret a bit as she had an agent in the UK. She does sort of regret that, wondering what would have happened if she’d stayed in London and done a bit more theater. But “you never know…”
The English Patient. The director wanted Canadian actors as the story was by a Canadian, and she on very well with the director, who said at the end of the interview they chatted for 45 minutes. British auditions are very different from North America. In Canada, you go in, do one scene, and barely talk with the director. In Britain, “it’s much more civilized.” The director assumes you know what you’re doing, and then gets to know the actor. Afterwards, despite her small part, she knew she’d ‘made it’ when in an episode of Seinfeld, they referenced her.
How did she get her part on Stargate Atlantis? Torri said she shot “Rising” before she shot her last guest appearance as Weir on Stargate SG-1. She was living in Los Angeles when she got the call. She said doing a spinoff is “always a bit scary” and SGA was really a spinoff of a spinoff. “To be on a series concerns me, because as an actor it’s tough one to do, because you’re not given a lot of time. The pace of it is so fast. You’re not given a lot of creative time. You just have to say your lines, hit your mark… this would have been the third series I’ve done so, yeah, I was reticent on a lot of levels.” She also had to move to Vancouver, so she had hesitations as to a series, the move, plus the scifi thing. “And I said yes, and I’m glad I did. I had crazy good fun.”
Although she used to say Stargate was her introduction to science fiction, then people remind her about Tekwar and other jobs and she went “oh yeah.” “I guess for me it was hammered into my brain, as an actor, you don’t act, you react to what the other person’s giving you. In sci-fi, the world is so ‘out there’ and most of the time you’re dealing with a green screen. You’re not even dealing with a person so it took away, in my mind, all the joy of acting and I thought ‘oh, this isn’t going to be fun. This is going to be hit the mark, say your line, and look scared. And there’s going to be nothing creative about it. And it was wonderful. It was a huge learning curve. And actually what it was demanding of me was to go back to my imagination and to play. To create that reality myself. I’ve got great respect and ‘newfound love’ for the science fiction world,” she said in a laughing voice.
“I get crazy proud,” she said, when told that many fans view her as a strong female character in the scifi genre. She used to laugh with Lexa (Doig) from SG-1 and Lexa would say “well, most of my fan mail comes from men in jail” and Torri would counter that most of hers comes from young women all over the world. “Just fantastic letters” thanking her for being a strong female character. And she’d never expected that as she was frustrated by Elizabeth’s seeming lack of strength. “I feel terribly grateful. I’m really proud of that.”
Did Torri bring “feistiness” to Elizabeth Weir? Torri laughed. She thinks “all the spaces in between the lines is what she brought to the character, and many fan letters pointed that out. Torri was always trying to bring more to Weir during those pauses. She was frustrated with how Weir was being written; she wasn’t being active, instead was passive, so how could she be a leader. Weir is much more patient than Torri, “much more measured than I am, and definitely much brighter!” Torri laughed, then spilled some coffee in her lap.
Stargate Atlantis season three was brought up, and how the series has stepped out of SG-1’s shadow. Although the show had different writers, etc. they used to joke they had the same cast (we had the black guy, “McKay is Carter,” etc.) But they were played by very different actors which created a very different dynamic, and the fact that they were cut off from Earth in season one created a different dynamic as well.
How did Torri find out, and react, to finding out Elizabeth Weir was being written out of Stargate Atlantis? “Honestly? I found that quite shitty, to be honest (laughs).Oops. But I found out, because I kept going to them, I kept going up to them saying ‘I have a feeling my character, you’re not doing anything with me, and you guys have me for six years and I don’t want to, you know, be here not doing anything. Let me know what’s going on.’ And they kept saying “no, no, no, it’s great. We love you. We love you. Things can be great.’ And I said ‘well, if that’s the case, can we do something with her’ and they kept reassuring me that nothing - and the very last day of filming season three, as I finished filming the last scene on the last day I was called up to the office and was told that my character was going to become recurring if I chose to be. So, I thought that was not very, um, dignified, way to deal with it, and I was a bit surprised. So I was—so my reaction was one of yeah, I was a little bit surprised. I was a little bit upset by how it was dealt with. But I wasn’t upset at the decision because I understood it. I kept going to them saying ‘I get, I get what’s going to happen, just give me some notice so I can pack my apartment and move back to L.A. Really. So I wasn’t upset with the decision. I was upset with how it was handled.”
Question: And now Amanda Tapping seems to be doing exactly the same… just filing an episode. Torri said “Well, no. I understand that it’s a club, and you know, some people.. .you know. I think they didn’t like me constantly rapping on the doors saying ‘excuse me, why aren’t there any women writers or any women producers on the show?’ I think it bothered them. And so, Amanda, bless her, just had a kid so... bless her, man, she needs that gig more than [me]… you know what I mean? So I have no issues with any of them. I understand how it works. It is a bit of a political game and… I’m not very good at politics (laughs). I’m like Weir. I just want to act.”
She is continually amazed by fan support. She finds it amazing. People say the kindest things. She gets very interesting letters, breaking down the character. “I’m just amazed. I really am. I feel very lucky.”
Weir returned at the finale of “Be All My Sins Remember’d” – what can fans expect for the remainder of season 4? She said the interviewer probably had a better idea than she did (laughs) and “you will probably know before I do, so drop me an email when you get a hint, because I really have no idea,” she laughed. She went to them, asking if Weir would evil, or what, but they didn’t know. “I don’t think they know even if they’re going to ask me back or not. Nothing has been decided.” Torri kept saying “You’re not going to make this fantastic leather jacket for just one two-second scene. That would be crazy! So if that’s the case, can I have the jacket?”
Quick fun question. If Elizabeth Weir could solve the Writers Guild strike, how would she do it? Torri thought it was a good question. “I’d need a writer to answer that question for me,” she laughed, “because I’m not Elizabeth Weir.” She thinks Weir is good at letting people find compassion for the other side, but it’s “not about compassion, this strike, it’s about points. It’s businessmen in suits, so, she’d get them all drunk?” Or “throw them through the gate.”
And that’s it.