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Q&A: Lou Diamond Phillips Talks 'Stargate: Universe'

by Chris Jancelewicz, posted Oct 1st 2009 11:55PM


He's played a 50s rocker, a lot of cops, a federal agent, Native Americans, a gunslinger, and the list goes on and on. Following a film and television career that has spanned over 20 years, Lou Diamond Phillips has become a familiar face. Now, he stands on the verge of nerd superstardom when he takes the role of Colonel David Telford on 'Stargate: Universe', the latest incarnation of the 'Stargate' franchise.

AOL TV Canada spoke with Phillips about his lengthy career, his foray into the world of sci-fi, and his intergalactic sex scene.


He's played a 50s rocker, a lot of cops, a federal agent, Native Americans, a gunslinger, and the list goes on and on. Following a film and television career that has spanned over 20 years, Lou Diamond Phillips has become a familiar face. Now, he stands on the verge of nerd superstardom when he takes the role of Colonel David Telford on 'Stargate: Universe', the latest incarnation of the 'Stargate' franchise.

AOL TV Canada spoke with Phillips about his lengthy career, his foray into the world of sci-fi, and his intergalactic sex scene.

I have to start out by saying I grew up watching 'La Bamba'. I loved that movie! That was your big break back then, wasn't it?

Oh, definitely, 100 percent. That was my Cinderella story.

Your IMDB credits are impressive. I just kept scrolling...

Yeah, I can't even look at those. They make me tired.

What made you want to be a part of 'Stargate: Universe'?

First of all, it's been such a successful franchise, and these guys really know what they're doing. They've got years of experience and not only that, but a very faithful following. It's nice to step into something that's already considered a success. Also wonderful is the 'unknown' factor - the 'SG' group is going into a new territory and trying new things. Not to be too punny, but they're expanding their universe.

When the script came to me, Robert Carlyle was already attached to it, and that was very exciting to me. I've been a fan of his for such a long time, and knowing that he'd said 'yes' to it, I expected a level of quality.

That's the thing. I had watched the previous 'Stargate' shows and found them a bit too cheesy for my liking. This one is much darker, much more dramatic.

It's more realistic, and I think they've introduced a lot of characters that the audience can relate to, certainly with no disrespect to what's come before us. The drama is much more human. It could be set in a hospital, it could be set in a police precinct, it's that kind of backdrop. In this case, it just happens to be in space.

You're aware of how ravenous sci-fi fans can be. Are you ready?

[Laughs] You know, I've dealt with 'La Bamba' fans for 20 years! I think I'm up to the challenge. I hope I'm not naïve about it, but I'm very proud of this show and I'm proud of this cast. The writing is impeccable. Every script I've been involved with here is compelling, intriguing, and different. I hope we can give the core fans what they want, and add on some new fans in the process. The writers and creators don't pull any punches - they take us places I never thought we'd go.

Yeah, there was already a sex scene [in the first episode] that was quite raw and unexpected.

I have to say, I'm also involved in one of the most interesting sex scenes ever to grace sci-fi later on in the first season. It's humourous but also mind-boggling. 'Shock factor' may be a bit of an overstatement, but I think people will be surprised at how far the creators are willing to go in this series. It's in the episode called 'Earth'. I exchange consciousness with another character, and let's just say I pop up in a very inopportune moment.

You're not around very much in the first and second episodes. I assume your character emerges more as the season progresses?

Yeah, Colonel Telford is around later, in a big way. Not only does he have a future on 'SG:U', but I think he makes a very interesting foil for Colonel Young. He also provides a different point of view from those people on the ship.

What is Colonel Telford like? Is he a classic military man?

He's 100 percent a military guy, down the line. Very much by the book. Being a fighter pilot, he has a certain arrogance to him. His frustration comes from the fact that he's no longer in command - he thought he was going to be in charge. He thought he was supposed to go through the Stargate, be a hero, all of this wonderful stuff, but instead he becomes frustrated at every turn. He's not very concerned with other people's feelings, either.

Did you have any influences for this character, or did you just go from your own point of reference?

I always go from my gut, and if I can see myself in the role, then it's something that I can wear comfortably. I've played military guys before, I've played cops before, and my father was a career Navy man, so it's a mindset that I've been around my entire life. It didn't require a lot of research for me. I also had the privilege of doing 'Courage Under Fire' with Ed Zwick, and we went through a mini-boot camp. It's something I stepped into relatively simply.
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Top 10 TV Shows in Space
Stargate: Universe, 2009-?
We're so confident that this show will do well, we're even putting it in our top 10 gallery. Filled with great characters, interesting storylines, and kick-ass explosions and space shots, 'Stargate' breaks the mould created by its franchise predecessors. Think 'Battlestar Galactica' without the Cylons.
Space
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Top 10 TV Shows in Space

    Stargate: Universe, 2009-?
    We're so confident that this show will do well, we're even putting it in our top 10 gallery. Filled with great characters, interesting storylines, and kick-ass explosions and space shots, 'Stargate' breaks the mould created by its franchise predecessors. Think 'Battlestar Galactica' without the Cylons.

    Space

    Battlestar Galactica, 2004-2009
    We can't say enough good things about this space drama. Hopelessly dark and brooding, BSG followed the trials and tribulations of mankind's few survivors on the ill-fated Battlestar Galactica - and that's just on the surface. The show also explored the questions of God, fate, immortality, love, and any other existential fare you can think of, all the while keeping us hooked with hot, sexy, and compelling characters. It's only been off the air for a few months, but we still feel the ache.

    CTV

    Star Trek, 1966-1969
    This, and the subsequent sequel show The Next Generation, were smash hits for the same reasons: interesting characters, great (and very cheesy) plotlines, and lots of aliens. The debate rages on as to whether Captain Kirk or Picard was better, but there will be opposing sides until the end of time. All we really need to say is that Spock rules, Data rules, and that's that.

    AP

    Firefly, 2002-2003
    Created by Buffy mastermind Joss Whedon, this show was like a western in space. The series is set in the year 2517, after a group of humans finds a new star system. It follows the adventures of the renegade crew of the ship Serenity, which ekes out survival at the outer fringes of the galaxy. The shoe was a ratings disaster, and it was taken off the air a year after it premiered.

    AP

    The Outer Limits, 1963-1965
    We've all heard it before: 'There is nothing wrong with your television. Do not attempt to adjust the picture.' This popular catchphrase opened every episode of The Outer Limits, basically warning us that we're entering unfamiliar territory. Every episode featured a new cast and story; the show generally focused on things like time travel, human evolution, and space.

    AP

    Doctor Who, 1963-1981
    A British favourite, Canadian adults can probably recall the creepy theme song from their youth. The show was always cheesy, especially in terms of costumes and special effects. But the point of it was to suspend disbelief and enter the magical universe of the Doctor, who travelled through space and time aboard the Tardis, a phone booth he made into a time machine. Imaginative, to say the least.

    AP

    Taken, 2002
    Long considered one of the great sci-fi miniseries, Taken spans five decades and four generations, and centres on three families: the Keys, the Crawfords, and the Clarkes. As the decades go by, the heirs of each family are affected by the machinations of the aliens, culminating with the birth of a girl, Allie Keys (played by a young Dakota Fanning), the final product of the aliens' experimentation and the key to their future.

    AP

    Lost in Space, 1966-1968
    Both mocked and revered, this show was the first and only sci-fi sitcom set in space. Set in the future, in this case 1997 (ha ha), the world is dangerously overpopulated, so the Robinson family sets out to colonize nearby Alpha Centauri. (Never mind that it's only one family - how are they to populate without being incestuous?) It all ends up being of no consequence, since they crash land on an alien planet and their ship is destroyed. Each week was an exercise in space comedy.

    AP

    Buck Rogers, 1950-1951
    You've probably heard of him: Buck Rogers is/was an integral part of the American culture, especially in the 1950s. Based on a comic book character, Rogers represents everything a swashbuckling American should be: confident, brave, and virtuous. This pop phenomenon paralleled the development of space technology in the 20th century and introduced Americans to outer space. It didn't last very long, since it fluctuated from lead actor to lead actor, but it was eventually brought back in comic book, TV, and film forms.

    AP

    Futurama, 1999-2003, Returning in 2010
    This brilliant Matt Groening creation has an amazing cult following. Featuring the bizarre and oft-hilarious adventures of this maligned crew of misfits (including a lobster-like man creature and a sarcastic, drunken robot), Futurama pokes fun at sci-fi while being a sci-fi show itself. It was recently resurrected due to incredible DVD sales and the popularity of the series' TV movies.

    AP



You're comfortable with firearms, then, I assume.

Man, you almost can't keep a gun out of my hand. It seems like every time I turn around, I'm playing a character that's very familiar with weapons and weaponry. I'm currently popping up on 'Numb3rs' as the sniper expert. In real life, I'm not a gun guy. I've never been in a fight in my life, so it's funny to play these relatively macho guys. I'm usually at home growing my herbs and cooking. [Laughs] I have four daughters, so I'm very much in touch with my feminine side.

The explosions and scenes in space on 'SG:U' are impressive.

They didn't spare any money on this series, and they didn't cut any corners.

I've read that you're good friends with Edward James Olmos, who played Admiral Adama on 'Battlestar Galactica'. Have you spoken with him about playing this role?

No, I haven't spoken with him specifically about this, but he and I have a wonderful history. We did 'Stand and Deliver' together, and I actually got that job because I did a guest-star spot on 'Miami Vice' way back in 1987. Eddie and I have crossed paths so many times, and I have such respect for the man. I hope I can bring the same kind of intensity to my character that he did for 'BSG.'

You guys can both play 'stern' pretty well.

Yeah, I think it's possible. It's like when I look at my IMDB credits, I can't believe I'm now an acting veteran. I still feel 27.

Well, you look pretty young for your age.

I've got good genes, it's that Asian thing. I'm Scot-Irish-Cherokee on my father's side. The funny thing is, my four daughters got all the white genes - I look like their gardener.

That's what great about you - you have a look that's undefined.

It's out of the box. I've been very fortunate to have represented several different cultures, whether it's the Native Americans, even the Inuk. I'm even enough of a cross-over artist that I get to play the white guy every once in a while, too.

'Stargate: Universe' premieres on Friday, October 2nd at 9 pm ET on Space.

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