“She’s a bit of a scaredy cat. She’s not very good in dire or violent situations. She scares easily, which is not such a good thing when you’re in the world of Atlantis. She’s really great under pressure though. I think that’s when she’s at her best, especially when she’s in her element; anything to do with medicine or a complicated medical situation she’s just there. She’s just on. She’s very, very, very smart and very focused.”
That’s Jewel Staite describing her character as she talks to a group of reporters via a phone conference about her brand new role as Dr. Jennifer Keller in the fourth season of Stargate Atlantis which airs on the SCIFI Channel every Friday night at 10 pm.
Jewel Staite began her acting career very early in life. “I started when I was five doing a couple of commercials and I really loved it and then graduated to TV movies and series work and I don’t know it just kind of happened and I really love it and I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”
Fans of the sci-fi genre have most recently seen Jewel Staite as Kaylee the intergalactic mechanic in the cult favorite series, Firefly and in the movie Serenity.
When asked about why she seems to end up in sci-fi related projects more than any other, Staite says that as an actor she is drawn to really well written characters. “I don’t limit my career choices on any particular genre. And I guess I’ve just fallen into this world of sci-fi over and over again because a lot of the time in this genre there’s some really well-written, intelligent female characters to play, luckily.”
Staite’s luck seems to be holding out as she joins the cast of Stargate Atlantis for their fourth season in the role of Dr. Keller and, if the positive reviews of the first two episodes of the fourth season of this hit series in the Stargate franchise are any indication, fans are embracing this new doctor in the Pegasus Galaxy as well.
Fans embracing her character aside, Staite is aware of the controversy that surrounded the decisions made by the Stargate Atlantis show runners to write an exit for the highly popular Dr. Carson Beckett, played by Paul McGillion, who had been with the series since it premiered and whose, ‘demise’ has created a lot of fan related backlash.
“I honestly don’t view myself as replacing anyone,” Staite says of the feeling among some fans that Keller has come in as a replacement for Beckett. “In sci-fi you know you never really die. And he could be coming back, so it just never really crossed my mind,” Staite says with a great deal of respect for the fans emotional attachment to Carson Beckett and that the position she is coming into is one that the show runners are asking those fans to give a fair chance.
Staite feels that it would be presumptuous of her to even say that she is coming in to replace Beckett. “I know how beloved his character was and he has a lot of fans, so I can only hope that people give Keller a chance and enjoy her. She’s got a lot of complexities and she’s a lot of fun. There are definitely a lot of surprises coming to her personality later on in the season.”
Jewel Staite let’s us in on some of the interesting developments that are upcoming for her character of Dr. Keller as the fourth season of Stargate Atlantis progresses. She cites an upcoming episode titled Trio as one Staite considers being a turning point for her character. “In Trio she is with Carter who she really respects and she is with McKay who she really respects, as well, and kind of gets to prove herself to the both of them.”
“She actually has a couple of romantic encounters along the way too,” Staite tells us.
Staite says that her character is a bit of a flirt. “I don’t know where that came from. I always play these shameless flirts. I don’t know why that is. It has nothing to do with me,” she says with a laugh. “There’s some unexpected romances happening that even surprised me and yeah, they’ll definitely come to the fans as quite a surprise, too.”
Staite doesn’t elaborate on who she will have these ‘unexpected romances’ with but does say that if she were given a chance to create a romantic interlude between her character of Dr. Keller and one of the Stargate Atlantis men, she thinks that one between Ronon Dex, played by Jason Mamoa, and Keller would be intriguing.
“I like the fact that he makes Keller feel a little bit uncomfortable. She is usually very much in her element in the med lab. She’s very confident and whenever he’s around, she kind of doesn’t know what to do with herself, and I think that’s sort of cute. I like that he brings that out in her.”
Romance aside, Staite says that overall she feels that her character of Keller has had some good opportunities to create bonds of friendship with the members of the Atlantis team. “I think she and Carter have bonded because they’re both new, maybe trying to prove themselves a little bit so they have that in common. And she’s bonded with McKay because… well mostly because she likes to tease him and sort of flirt with him and make him feel uncomfortable which is always really fun to play.” Staite says with a laugh about working with David Hewlett’s highly popular character Rodney MacKay.
Staite says that there are also a lot of moments where Keller and McKay kind of go head-to-head. “We are sort of trying to prove ourselves to each other and being all smarty-pants and, you know, spouting off all this techno-babble and yeah, he’s really easy to connect with, as well.”
“And she’s bonded with Ronon a little bit. In one episode we get locked in a room together. And with Teyla (played by Rachell Luttrell), as well, we go to visit her home planet and see her people and run into some trouble, so I’ve been really lucky. I’ve kind of got some bonding with all the characters.” Staite says that these opportunities to work with the other characters and create bonds have been fun and only regrets that the character she seems to have spent the least amount of time interacting with has been Col. John Sheppard, played by Joe Flannigan.
Jewel Staite says that she feels that it’s important in an action oriented show like Stargate Atlantis to have bonding moments like these between the characters. “There is so much action and there’s so much going on and special effects and that kind of thing and that’s important, but I think it’s so much more interesting when there are those special moments between the characters where they let their guards down a little bit. I really like that. I think that’s really integral to a good episode.”
Having worked on the cult favorite sci-fi series Firefly and the big screen movie version Serenity, Staite also offers her thoughts on what makes working on Stargate Atlantis different for her. “Well the sets are a lot cleaner and they’re better lit,” She says with a laugh.
“The thing with Firefly was the world that we were in was a very dangerous world. It was kind of about a group of people really struggling to survive and dealing with all of these different aspects and not really being able to – not being well-equipped to deal with them. And on Stargate Atlantis we’re so well-equipped to deal with all of these disasters and we face peril and danger every day, but we have such a conglomerate backing us that the world feels a lot safer. So…and in terms of production value, it’s just – it’s such a beautiful set and it’s very, very clean. It’s very pristine.”
Speaking of her days on Firefly when asked who she would love to have come onto Stargate Atlantis as a guest star to work with she told us that Nathan Fillion who played Capt. Mal Reynolds would be someone she would like to work with again.
“Nathan Fillion was just in town for the weekend and I had four episodes of Stargate Atlantis and we sat and we watched them and he was telling me what he thought of the show and my character and that kind of thing and he was really enthusiastic about it and it just made me realize that I really miss working with him, so I would absolutely love to see him come on the show. I think that would be really fun.”
Overall, Jewel Staite says her one hope in playing the role of Dr. Keller in the fourth season of Stargate Atlantis is that she is bringing something new and interesting to the dynamic of the relationships between the characters. However, this doesn’t stop Staite from having some apprehensions about her role as a doctor in the Stargate universe, having seen what can happen to even the most beloved of them.
“I definitely flipped through to the last page every time I read a script just in case. But I’ve been lucky. I usually don’t have to go on any field missions or ops or anything so I’m well out of danger so far.”
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the good Dr. Keller continues to stay out of death’s way and the lovely Jewel Staite continues to be a permanent part of the Pegasus Galaxy.
Watch Stargate Atlantis every Friday night at 10pm on the SCIFI CHANNEL.