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Feature: Stargate Atlantis
Rodney's Dangerous Field
Since joining the Atlantis mission, Dr Rodney McKay has had more adventures than he ever dreamed possible – including some he never wanted. David Hewlett tells us what’s next for the not-so-intrepid explorer
In Stargate Atlantis no one loves to hear himself talk more than Dr Rodney McKay. A brilliant astrophysicist and leading expert on Stargate technology, he joined the group led by Dr Elizabeth Weir to explore the Pegasus galaxy and the city of Atlantis. As the team’s chief scientific advisor, McKay is often spouting off facts, figures and equations, usually in an egotistical and arrogant fashion. However, during Season One of Atlantis he became more than just the sum of his words, something that David Hewlett, who plays McKay, could not be more grateful for.
“I scored big time last year, and believe me, I know it,” says the actor. “In the Atlantis pilot [Rising] I didn’t have much to do, and the character’s voice felt rather strange because it was originally written as a different person. He was, in fact, supposed to be an African-American astrophysicist named Ingram. But it was decided, for all the wrong reasons, I’m sure – like my good looks and charm – to bring McKay back and use him. From then on the character has blossomed, and I have the show’s producers and writers to thank for that. There are various aspects of all of them in McKay, and without meaning to I think I’ve actually been just impersonating the entire producing/writing team,” jokes Hewlett.
“So throughout the first season, not only did we find [the voice] of McKay, but we also got to see, oh my God, he can go off-world and do this and that. For example, it was a big surprise for me in one of the early episodes to be standing there as my character and holding a gun. I really thought McKay was just going to be the computer jockey who’d mouth off while giving you all the technobabble, and I was curious to see how they would make that work. When McKay first appears in Stargate SG-1 he’s an obnoxious character, but it’s far easier to behave like that when you’re a guest star as opposed to a series regular.
“Fortunately, the more you see of McKay the more you realize, yes, he’s incredibly arrogant, but he’s also incredibly daring, and there are other facets to the guy as well. Last year my character was put in situations where he got to be a hero, a villain, a Space explorer, etc, and that’s something we’ll be doing more of this [second] season. From a character arc standpoint it’s a dream come true for me. McKay has gone from being a bookworm to a full-fledged member of the Atlantis team. Throughout it all, though, we haven’t lost the fact that McKay doesn’t play nice with others. Not that he doesn’t want to. It’s just that sometimes he forgets to try because he’s far too busy in his own little world.”
by Steven Eramo
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