From Doctor Janet to Kiss Me, Kate: Interview with Teryl Rothery

Despite a busy couple of days appearing at the London Expo, Teryl Rothery is still fizzing with unspent energy. She is best known to science fiction fans as Dr Janet Fraiser on the long-running ‘Stargate SG-1’ which starts airing its tenth season on 14 July. But sadly, Janet is no longer part of the show since, to Rothery’s shock, the writers decided to kill the character in the episode ‘Heroes’ in season seven. "I got a call from Robert Cooper [show-runner] and he said, ‘How would you feel if we killed you off?’ ‘Robert, you are talking to an actor. How do you think I would feel?’ Robert said, ‘It is our last year, so we are thinking of killing one of our regulars.’ He told me something of what the storyline was and it was a lovely way for her to go, but I wish I was still there."

Teryl Rothery can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to act. Other than one year when her school yearbook recorded that she wanted to be a nun, her career choice was listed year after year as "movie star". She started working towards her goal at an early age, having launched her entertainment career when she was thirteen as a dancer in the musical ‘Bye Bye Birdie’.

Five years later she was appearing on television shows in Canada. Then, while working on ‘Outer Limits’, Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner asked her if she wanted to play Janet Fraiser – and that role became a large part of her life for seven years. But, as she tells Carole Gordon, since she left ‘Stargate SG-1’, she has been busy with a raft of other work, including featuring in the Women of Sci-Fi Calendar, produced by Michael Shanks and Christopher Judge. Judge is noted to have a broad sense of humour, in complete contrast to Teal’c, the somewhat taciturn character he plays on ‘Stargate SG-1’.

With Judge as the photographer, had the calendar photoshoot been a fun experience? "Wacky, wild, zany and fun!" Rothery says with a huge grin. "I saw the finished product for the first time at this wonderful Expo and it is brilliant, and I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. Christopher Judge – honestly, this guy is amazing – he writes, he acts, he takes the most beautiful photographs, it’s absolutely amazing.   And then I got to see some of the behind the scenes DVD.  Again, the editing, and how they shot it, it’s just really quite brilliant.  I’m really proud to be a part of it."

In the calendar, which features seven of the most beautiful women on the science fiction scene, Rothery appears in one shot as a cowgirl.   That, she emphasises, was all Christopher Judge’s idea.

"Chris all the way.  Chris picked the outfit.    Chris has always teased me because I tend to be a country music fan, so when he built a karaoke room in his house, he said, ‘And for you, girl, I even have country music!’  Oh bless him, I love him!   So, it was his idea to do the Western theme."

Her current projects are certainly not all of the wild and wacky variety.   She recently appeared in a production of ‘Titus Andronicus’ at the Jericho Arts Centre in Vancouver in the challenging role of Tamora.  

"It’s one of the most amazingly dark pieces," Rothery says.   "When the director said ‘I want you to come in and do Tamora,’ I said, ‘I really don’t want to do Titus, it’s horrible; I don’t know if I can do this.’  We set it present day, so when Titus comes back with the Queen of the Goths, Tamora and her children, he had us in orange jumpsuits and I had a shawl over my head.   Every single night I had to dredge up and go to that dark place, to find that really deep, dark place in a human being that would bring on all of that revenge."

Revolving around Tamora’s revenge for the murder of her son, who has been sacrificed by Titus in memory of his own sons, the play is considered to be Shakespeare’s most bloodthirsty work.    So much so that, during a recent production in London’s West End, the diet of murder, rape, live burial and cannibalism caused four members of the audience to faint.  

"It wasn’t enough that he captured us and did all this," Rothery continues.  "So when we finally ended, we were so relieved, all of us ended up needing up three days to decompress from it all because you were so wound up with those emotions.  A lot of us were taking it home.  I was just weeping all the time.   It took a while to get rid of it.  And as soon as we cleansed ourselves of the play, we all were like ‘Wow, wasn’t that an amazing experience?’    I’d do it over again." 

After ‘Titus Andronicus’, Rothery is embarking on another theatre project in Vancouver – appearing in both ‘Taming of the Shrew’ and the musical ‘Kiss Me, Kate’ to be staged on alternate nights.

Although outwardly very different characters, Rothery’s roles in theatre and in ‘Stargate SG-1’ are all in essence feisty, independent and determined women.   But of them all, Janet Fraiser in particular captured the hearts of the fans, to the extent that many of the show’s fans have not forgiven the writers for killing off the character.   Has Rothery?

"No, I still haven’t," she says without hesitation.   A pause and a smile.   "But I am getting better!"

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But of course, this is science fiction, where anything can happen and no-one has to stay dead.   That has certainly been the case for Dr Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks), who seems to die at least once per season.   So it was that Janet was able to return for the season nine episode ‘Ripple Effect’, which featured several alternate realities and numerous versions of the SG-1 team and SGC personnel.    Is there any news of Dr Fraiser appearing in the upcoming season ten?

"No," Rothery says with obvious sadness, "but I keep my fingers crossed.  Because it would be lovely to just put on her garb again, you know, her skin.   I call it her skin; Janet’s skin is the lab coat, the stethoscope and the shoes.    Yeah, it would be fun to come back, for sure.  Wouldn’t it be nice?"

©  Carole Gordon 2006

Teryl Rothery:                          http://www.terylrothery.com/

Women of Sci-Fi Calendar:    http://www.womenofsci-fi.com/

London Expo:                          http://www.londonexpo.com/

 

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