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Feature: Stargate Atlantis

In charge, casually…

Actress Torri Higginson is making sure her character, Dr Elizabeth Weir, does more than just wave people off on missions

She’s not middle-aged, she’s not bald, but there is one thing Dr Elizabeth Weir has in common with General George Hammond: she’s the leader of a Stargate programme. In her instance it’s the expedition to the city of the Ancients, Atlantis, and in her second year in charge she has to deal with a whole new set of problems.

Asked if she feels her character has enough to do on the show, Torri Higginson replies, “Well, you ask any actor that question and they’ll always say, ’Well, I think she was ignored!’ There should have been at least seven episodes just monologues of Weir!” she laughs. “But I think she’s a difficult character. Brad [Wright, executive producer] and I meet up every few weeks and talk about where she’s going and what we can do with her, and she’s a bit of an anomaly because she is a leader but she’s not a Margaret Thatcher leader. She’s a bit subdued, she’s a bit of a hesitant leader, she tries to do things as diplomatically as she can – which has been hard to write, a leader not leading with an iron fist. And also because we don’t have the military it makes the structure of the hierarchy harder to crystallize. So there’s definitely times that I go, ‘You’re not giving her enough,’ or ‘I wish she would be more driven in the scene,’ and it’s a constant balance that we’re trying to find with it, but ask any actor and yes, I think they’re leaving her behind! It should be Weir of Atlantis, that’s next season I’m fighting for.”

She must be quite pleased that Jessica Steen, who originally played the character on Stargate SG-1, was unable to commit to a series. “What do you think?” She chuckles again, adding, “I wish she was doing it because then I could be unemployed somewhere. I could be at the pub! No, I feel very lucky and I didn’t know about it until after I was cast and started working, because it’s an insecure thing to take over another actor’s character, but I’m very grateful that she was busy or bored or whatever. She had a sort of quirkiness and softness to the character which I thought was nice, so I’ve had moments of trying in honour of Jessica Steen.”

In the meantime, as leader, Higginson is trying to avoid the dreaded ‘Hammond Syndrome’, where eventually her only purpose would be to stand about and wave people off on missions. “We did joke about that a lot last season, that I’d show up at the beginning and say, ‘This is your mission’ and they’d go off and shoot in the rain and I’d be sitting having martinis somewhere and come back at the end and say, ‘Well done everybody!’ [We’re doing] an episode right now which I’m deeply enjoying and she gets to be very much out of character and I spoke about maybe we could see this could affect her afterwards; because of what she experiences in this episode there could be some shifts in her character which would be more fun to play with.”

by Paul Spragg

There's more from Torri Higginson in
Cult Times #122

Stargate © Sci-Fi Channel
Feature © Visual Imagination 2005. Not for reproduction

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Cult Times #122
November 2005
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