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Feature: Stargate Atlantis
As Major John Sheppard, Joe Flanigan is stuck in another galaxy, catapulted into command by the death of his CO, and forced to find common ground with a civilian superior. So it’s probably a good thing he’s a pretty easy-going type…
With his dark, handsome features and confident yet affable manner, it’s hard to believe that Stargate Atlantis’s leading man Joe Flanigan was once shy. “At one point in college I was so shy that I’d drop out of a class if asked to speak in front of other people,” he recalls. Given his personality back then, acting was the furthest thing from his mind, but not for long.
“After graduating from college I worked at a variety of jobs, from banking to politics,” says Flanigan. “I enjoyed whatever I was doing at the time but I didn’t love my work. That changed, though, after I was fired from Interview magazine. I was living in New York City and flat broke. My next door neighbour was an actor and he always seemed to be having more fun than I was,” he chuckles.
“He convinced me to give acting a shot, but because of my shyness I was sure it would be a lost cause. Even so, I went to the New York Neighborhood Playhouse, began to study the craft, and after a while realized, ‘This might just work’. So I went out to Los Angeles and was lucky enough to start getting jobs right away.”
Which is how it happened this year. Stargate Atlantis’s producers were having a difficult time casting the role of Major John Sheppard, and it was a case of the actor’s manager being in the right place at the right time. “My manager was at the Golden Globe Awards with one of his clients, who won an award,” notes Flanigan. “MGM TV President Hank Cohen also happened to be there and he came over to my manager to congratulate him. He also said, ‘By the way, we’re making this TV show and we’re desperate to find a leading man. Do you have anyone?’ My manager said, ‘Actually, yes’. The next day I met with Hank and within 48 hours the deal was done. It wasn’t one of those long painful audition processes, which I’ve been through before.
“So all the pieces fit together right away and I couldn’t have been more pleased. Of course, I love my character. There’s a level of self-deprecation with Sheppard that I feel is critical, especially with this type of genre. Shows that take themselves too seriously are ones I tend not to watch. The exception being a programme such as Cops, which deals with serious real-life events. However, on Atlantis, we’re facing situations that are in some ways incomprehensible, and in the real world you’d need to be able to laugh a bit in order to survive.
by Steven Eramo
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