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Stargate Universe – Lou Diamond Phillips

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Stargate Universe - Ming-Na, David Blue, Lou Diamond Phillips and Robert Carlyle
Camile Wray (Ming-Na), Eli Wallace (David Blue), Col Telford (Lou Diamond Phillips) and Dr Nicholas Rush (Robert Carlyle) © Syfy

In yet another spin-off of the popular Stargate franchise, Stargate Universe follows a small group of military personnel, civilians, soldiers and scientists who, when their military research base is attacked, escape through the Stargate to an ancient ship, Destiny, that is locked on course through deep space.

One commander who misses the evacuation is Colonel Telford, portrayed by Lou Diamond Phillips. I spoke with him at the NBC party, launching the new series.

Did you know the Stargate series at all?

Stargate Universe - Lou Diamond Phillips
Lou Diamond Phillips at the NBC UNIVERSAL Press Tour August 2009 © Syfy

I wasn’t that familiar with the series so I came into it with fresh eyes, and what I’m very happy about is that I think we’re creating something very new.

I don’t want to say new and improved because obviously they had 15 years of success, but it will be new and hopefully different and intriguing to the faithful who are out there.

How did you first get involved with the series?

When I was first approached, Robert Carlyle was already attached, and so suddenly that, to me, raised the bar and I felt like I knew the kind of show these guys wanted to make.

I’ve gotten to the point in my career where I love working with wonderful actors, looking at things as life experiences as well, and I really wanted to work with Robert.

Looking at the material, and to be quite honest, not being as familiar with the Stargate franchise that came before, it was an opportunity to do something that I thought was going to be exciting television, that had an audience that was hungry for more and to be a part of something that is comfort food, I think, to the American public.

I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to work on a number of occasions with the Syfy Channel, with The Triangle miniseries and most recently Carnie. And it’s a genre that I appreciate and that I love, and hopefully I can inject some humanity into all the techno-babble. And it was a really lovely opportunity

Can you talk a little about your character?

Stargate Universe - Lou Diamond Phillips
Col Telford (Lou Diamond Phillips) © Syfy

Colonel Telford is a leader. He’s someone who has a mission and a way of doing things, and that’s how I fit into this. What I do love is that these are very three-dimensional characters.

They’re not just heroic or they’re not just villainous. They have their own agendas. We find ourselves at odds with one another on a number of occasions. Sometimes our motivations are suspect, and I think that’s one of the things that is exciting as an actor to portray, but also really gives these ongoing stories real intrigue and real suspense.

I was supposed to be in charge of the team that goes through the Stargate into the 9th Chevron, the base is attacked and all these people go through the Stargate to an unknown address and find themselves stranded on this ship. I become frustrated because I’m stuck on Earth now trying to find a way to get them back, and so I exchange consciousnesses with Louis Ferreira’s character, Colonel Everett Young.

I’m going there to try and fix the situation. So I’m often at loggerheads with Dr. Rush, played by Robert Carlyle, or some of the other members of the team, who are under Colonel Young’s command.

I feel like I’m better suited to lead them than he is, so there’s this power struggle that happens with my character and a lot of the other people on the ship, and when I come on board, I’m the outsider, I’m the administration, and I don’t find an awful lot of cooperation when I get there.

What kind of back story did you envision for your character?

He’s a career guy, he’s by the book, because he’s the commander of the away team and he’s a fighter pilot I’ve got to figure he’s the best of the best. He’s risen to a certain rank and level of prestige and yet at the same time he’s not used to dealing with the scientists or the civilians as much.

One of the conceits of the show is that these worlds and their different agendas often come into direct conflict with one another, and everyone is trying to achieve their own goals and unfortunately they don’t always mesh with what the other people want.

One problem with a series like this is you have a built-in fan base, but you want new viewers as well.

Like any genre-based show, you have this setting that not everyone is familiar with, and yet you get involved with the characters.

I think what Stargate has in space are these iconic characters that certainly fit the genre but are very relatable and very real. It’s the interaction and the dynamic between the characters that make it as compelling and not so much the setting itself.