Paul McGillion

Paul McGillion was born in Paisley, Scotland in 1969. His family emigrated to Canada when he was just two. He returned to Scotland during his early teens for a few years before heading back to Canada. McGillion has a degree in teaching and, while studying at university, got involved in various sports and ended up becoming a freestyle wrestling champion for a while. After graduating, McGillion began teaching theatre in Toronto as well as attending auditions. He has worked extensively in film, TV and the theatre for the last 12 years, as well as teaching scene study at the Vancouver Film School. Sci-fi fans may recognise him from one of many cameo roles on
Twilight Zone, Smallville, Seven Days and The X-Files. Darren Rea spoke with him as the second season of Stargate: Atlantis was due for release on DVD...

Darren Rea: What was it about the part of Dr. Carson Beckett that you were drawn to?

Paul McGillion: When I read the pilot it was just such a great read and I really loved the character.

I don't know if you're aware or not, but originally Beckett was not Scottish - they didn't know what nationality he was going to be. They wrote his part as an international character. The casting calls were looking for an "international flavour."

I was born in Scotland and the pilot episode was so comedic for Beckett that I thought it just fitted for him to be Scottish. The casting agent wanted me to do an English accent, but I just felt strongly about doing him as Scottish. I love doing an English accent as well, but it's closer to my heritage so I stuck to my guns and auditioned in a Scottish accent, and thankfully they went for it.

It was really the writing that attracted me to the role and, subsequently, Beckett's role increased quite a lot in the show. I never knew how many episodes I was going to be in when I started.

DR: Hard-core Stargate: SG-1 fans may also recognise you from an earlier cameo...

PM: Yes, in Season One in the episode The Torment of Tantalus I played Ernest Littlefield - the first person to ever go through the Stargate. That was a neat role to have.

DR: How do your parent's feel about you playing a Scottish character? Are they proud that you turned him into a Scottish role?

PM: Oh God, yes. I was born in Paisley, but left when I was quite young. I went back there when I was about 12 for about three years.

My parents have very thick Scottish accents and I thanked them for helping me, inadvertently, to get the part. I'm one of seven children, and when I got the part of Beckett I rang my parents to tell them.

My parents are quite elderly now, they are in their seventies. I called them up and said:

"Hello, Dad I've got a really great part playing a Scottish character..."

My dad then shouted to my mum: [Scottish accent] "Janet, Paul got a part playing a Scottish character."

Then he asked me: "What is it?".


And he tells my mum: "Star Trek"

And I go: "No! Stargate."

"Star Trek"

"No, it's Stargate, Dad. Stargate: Atlantis."

"It's not bloody Stargate! It's Star Trek! I've been watching it for years, man!"

And I go: "No! It's Stargate: Atlantis!"

He goes: "Hey! Don't raise your voice to your old man! Janet, Paul got a gig on Star Trek."

Then my mum comes to the phone and says: "Oh! Are you on Star Trek?"

And I say: "Er... yes. Yes I am."

Subsequently they do know what I'm working on. They've been to the set and they watch the show and now my dad's like: "Ah, that's not bad! That's alright!"

DR: You've guest starred on quite a few sci-fi shows. How did you find the transition from doing a few days on a show and leaving that role behind to living and breathing your character on Atlantis?

PM: It's nice being able to take a character and flesh them out. While I wasn't on the opening credits, I really did feel like a main part of the cast in the first season of Atlantis.

I know that the producers also thought that too. They came to me after the Season One episode Poisoning the Well, and said: "We'd like to make you a regular, but we can't this season. We'll do it next season." And they kept true to their word. That was a really nice compliment for me.

It's great because you grow with your character when it's reoccurring. It's also great when you come in to a show as a guest star and then you leave the show behind, like you said, so you have a smaller arc for the character. You have to look at the longevity of the character, and hopefully this is a long run. Hopefully you'll get to see the character grow within that as well.

I've been fortunate enough as an actor to have the writing that they give me. Beckett sits on dramatic aspects of his character as well as comedic. He's had many different adventures and hopefully they'll continue.

DR: You also have quite a lot of technical dialogue. Can that be a problem?

PM: Sometimes, but you just have to do your homework on it. I'm the doctor so I'm going to be hit with alien, medical, Scottish jargon at times [laughs]. It can be a little tricky. Sometimes I'll read it and go: "Are you guys doing this on purpose?"

Thankfully I have a brother whose just finishing his PhD in medicine and I call him up. He has a good Scottish accent too. So firstly he'll tell me what it means, and secondly say it with a Scottish accent. So I do my homework and I work very hard at trying to make it come across as naturally as possible.

DR: This interview is being held back until the DVDs for Season Two are released. Can you give us a taste of what your character gets up to in the second season?

PM: Wait until you see Duet. That was unfortunate for Beckett! It's kinda creepy David Hewlett [who plays Dr. Rodney McKay] is still calling me for kisses. Duet was a lot of fun to do. David and I are great friends and that was a really great episode I thought - especially for him. He gave another great performance.

DR: Didn't he unexpectedly kiss you before a take too...?

PM: [Embarrassed] Erm... yes he did [laughs].

DR: What was all that about?

PM: I'm still wondering that myself, Darren. Yeah, I'm still having therapy for it right now.

DR: No tongues or anything then?

PM: No! God, no! Come on. He's got bad breath and has lips like sandpaper [laughs].

Beckett's character goes quite dark in the second half of Season Two. And there are some really interesting moralistic and biological issues that we are dealing with surrounding the Wraith retro virus. That really effects the relationship of the characters in various ways. They have a lot of burdens on their shoulders - especially Beckett and Weir. We are basically dealing with this retro virus that will, if executed properly, in theory wipe out the Wraith. So we are looking at the survival of mankind, but also the extinction of another race.

The second half of Season Two gets quite dark in that aspect, for the whole of the Atlantis team, starting with an episode called Michael. Connor Trinneer [Commander Tucker on Star Trek: Enterprise] guest stars as well.

DR: Is there anything that you'd like to see your character do in the future?

PM: It would be really great if he got a cute, female, Swedish nurse [laughs] as a sidekick. That would be amazing.

It would be nice to see something of Beckett's history. We've never seen his quarters, or anything like that. I think we've seen all the other major character's quarters, so it would be neat to see a little bit more about Beckett's personal life. We had little glimpses of that in the pilot where he pops in and he's talking to his mum and then in Letters from Pegasus you see his mum feeding him haggis. But we've only had an indication of his history so far, apart from some descriptive stuff in Poisoning the Well.

I'm really happy with the way the characters going. I've really been blessed with some great storylines this season and last season. So, I'm very happy with the direction that the character is going in.

DR: If you ever got bored of playing Beckett, or he was written out of the show, how would you like him to go?

PM: [Laughs] Hopefully as an apparition, so I can come back if I want to. [Laughs] How's that answer? [Laughs]

Hopefully I won't be killed off. I guess I don't really think about that. At this point I'm not bored. I'm really enjoying it. It's a great time. I just love the cast and the writers and producers. They all treat me really well.

DR: Do you ever worry about typecasting? That you'll be attending conventions as Beckett when you are old and grey?

PM: No, it doesn't really bother me. I'm doing a movie in January with David Hewlett, a comedy he wrote and will be directing. It's a three hander with myself, him and his sister. It's called a A Dog's Breakfast and I'm really looking forward to doing that.

DR: If you weren't acting what do you think you'd be doing now.

PM: I have a teaching degree, so I'd be teaching in some capacity. I really love teaching. If I ever stopped acting I'd love to fall back into teaching.

DR: Do you think you'd have ever taken up wrestling professionally?

PM: [Laughs] Have you seen how big I am? No! I'd be a midget wrestler [Laughs].

DR: Thank you for your time.

With thanks to Alex Smith at DNA

Season Two - Volume One of Stargate: Atlantis is available on DVD from 10 April 2006
Order this DVD for £14.99 (RRP: £19.99) by clicking here

Stargate: Atlantis - Season One Box Set is also available from 13 March 2006
Order this DVD for £44.99 (RRP: £59.99) by clicking here

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