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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Jacqueline Samuda

Jacqueline Samuda Q&A
Solutions Q&A, March 2003

Jacqueline Samuda was born in Ottawa, Canada and grew up in both the United States and Canada. She received a B.F.A. Degree in Performance from York University in Toronto, and apprenticed at the prestigious Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario.

(C) Photocredit

She received an Ontario Arts Council Grant for Individual Professional Development to observe theatre development in New York City, where she lived from 1987-1989. She received a Dramalogue Award in 1994 for directing George F. Walker's play, "Zastrozzi, " at Company of Angels Theatre in Los Angeles, where she lived from 1992-1998.

Jacqueline Samuda has lived in Toronto, New York, LA and Vancouver. In addition to her acting career, Jacqueline is a screenwriter and President of Women in Film & Video Vancouver.

Jacqueline has appeared in such films as The Arrangement, Making Contact, One Of Our Own, Death By Vertigo, Atom Egoyan's The Adjuster and Speaking Parts, and A New Life (with Alan Alda). Her recent television appearances including recurring and guest starring roles in Stargate SG-1, The Chris Isaak Show, Night Visions and Da Vinci's Inquest.

Filming Stargate

What is the best experience you had while filming Stargate?
First of all, let me just say I've read the list and there are some really great questions. Thanks for that, and for the invitation to respond. This is fun. The best experience I ever had was staring down Jack before he let me go in Rite of Passage. It was just so nice of him [Richard Dean Anderson] to stand off-camera for me for that scene, when someone else might have let a stand-in do it.

I also really got a kick out of coming through the Stargate the first time. Anyone who comes through it is asked to give a little forward gesture, less than a hop, but something to suggest coming through a kind of surface. It was cool.

Which cast member did you have the most fun reacting to in your various appearances?

Well, there was the above-mentioned scene with RDA, but I also really liked working with Teryl Rothery in that same episode. She was doing such a good job with the "fierce mama" thing, and it was really fun holding my ground against that energy.

Do you remember any funny stories or bloopers from the various Stargate episodes you've been in?

During Fair Game, just before they called "Action", RDA dared me to guess what was in his coat pocket. I said "Dog biscuit" and he was speechless with surprise, and he had to start the scene before he shook it off. But I'd noticed that RDA and Michael Shanks were really into eating dog biscuits (they even had them on the snacks table), so I had a good giggle. Also, during the scene where I zat Amanda in Metamorphosis, one of my Jaffa (who was supposed to be unconscious on the ground) kept falling asleep. Amanda was also supposed to be unconscious, but we all started to laugh in the middle of the scene when this gentle snoring suddenly got louder. Peter Deluise was hilarious when he was waking the guy up.

If it were possible, would you be willing to return in Season 7? (BTW, I loved "Metamorphosis")

(Thanks for the compliment. I just loved doing that one.) Of course I'd be delighted to return in Season 7. I'm working on resuscitating my DNA as we speak...

Thanks for making Nirrti so interesting. I liked her every time she was on screen. Are you planning on writing any other Stargate episodes?

Thanks so much. As to writing more for the show, I'd love to and I'm working on coming with an irresistible new story to pitch. After 100-plus shows, it's a very interesting challenge coming up with something new and just right for the current arc of the show.

If you did, what type of episode would you like to write? What characters would you use?

I'd be interested in taking it off-world and creating a situation that would demand that great teamwork. There are lots of possibilities, but I should save any details in case I get another chance with a script. (Of course if Nirrti manages to repair her DNA, it would be nice to drop in and cause some trouble...)

How does an actor speak when you're playing a Goa'uld? Do you speak normally and the technicians insert a Goa'uld voice later or do you have to change the pitch of your voice so it's easier for the technicians?

The actors speak relatively normally, although for a particular character they may use a slightly different tone (whatever feels right). Then the sound technicians "flange" the Goa'uld voices in post (distortion device). I learned after the first show that my voice sounded much better if I speak deeply - then the flanged version of the voice sounds much more impressive. Basically, I imitate Chris Judge's voice (low and slow) and then it turns out perfect with the effects added!

Being a guest character is often times difficult because you are stepping into a pre-established show and crew; what do you remember most about your first day on the set and your first time meeting Richard Dean Anderson?

My first time meeting RDA was when I was brought to set for hair and make-up tests. They did the work and then I was paraded over for his approval. He smiled and said "Beautiful." I liked him right away, needless to say.

Michael Shanks?

Quiet and nice. Unfortunately, I never really get scenes with Michael (another reason to want to return!).

Amanda Tapping?

So nice. So welcoming. Like we were friends.

Christopher Judge?

He was funny and flirty.

It seems like a lot of the Stargate "family" have tried their hand at writing scripts lately! What inspired you to write "Metamorphosis"?

It does really spark the imagination. I love science, and first came up with the image of the DNA machine and the capacity to read and alter DNA.
Originally, I saw it as a 3-D virtual environment, but I learned it would cost a fortune. So the machine (as you've seen it) was the sensible version, and it looks rather cool, don't you think?

Did you want another chance to bring the character to life or did it just work out that Nirrti was the most appropriate Goa'uld for the story?

I didn't pitch Nirrti as the alien who had the DNA machine. Brad Wright first suggested that Nirrti would be the Goa'uld who would most want such a machine. Of course, it made perfect sense -- but it was nice to have someone else suggest it. Then James Tichenor pitched an episode that perfectly incorporated this storyline and the ideas were blended together.

I know you co-wrote Metamorphosis. Did you decide to kill Nirrti? If yes, why?

I wouldn't have had the heart to kill Nirrti. She's too much fun! But I could understand the reluctance to let her get away with her tricks once again.

How did you connect with James Tichenor as co-writer?

As I mentioned, we each pitched a story and the separate ideas worked together well.

Regarding Metamorphosis if you had known that season 6 wasn't going to be the last one, would you have written the ending differently so that Nirrti would be alive to return for season 7?

As Brad said to me when I mentioned that it was too bad Nirrti was dead: "Who really dies on Stargate? Anyway, you're an alien and you died right next to a DNA machine!" I've certainly not heard of anything certain, but the only thing I can imagine being better than Nirrti not dying is Nirrti coming back from the dead!!

If you could have created a showdown scene between Jack and Nirrti, what would it have consisted of?

To be honest, I've always felt that Nirrti should somehow intoxicate him and make him her slave for a while... ; )

Is it possible for you to give us a run down of how Metamorphosis was storyboarded between yourself and the SG1 production/writing staff. What the process was that happened in between you putting it down on paper and the final product we saw on screen. Can you tell us about anything that we didn't see?

Actually, I just worked out the storyline for the episode I pitched. James suggested the places where his story and mine worked together and many of my contributions were modified. For example, the machine was originally conceived as a kind of door with hieroglyphs around the frame (kind of like a Stargate) that gave the readings of DNA. Then James wrote the episode, and of course worked with the executive producers on polishing it for the production draft. (James is such a great guy, by the way.)

Nirrti is one of if not the most interesting and complicated of the Goa'uld system lords. She's calculating and very controlled, always thinking and assessing, and she isn't afraid to take personal risks or direct action. Her character is deep and intriguing. Many fans were very sorry to see Nirrti die. She was one of the better-written Goa'ulds, and you portrayed her with just the right amount of menace without going over the top into a cartoon.
(Thanks! I really have fun coming up with her subtext.)

What was auditioning for Nirrti like? Did you have any preconception of a what a Goa'uld was going to be or what Stargate was?

I knew the show and I was told that there was a preference for actors who had a theatre background (or who could project that style the Goa'ulds need). Basically, my agent told me to act like I was royalty. I auditioned against about twenty women and then there were only three of us at the callback. I really had to get in to the character since I didn't have the Indian background.

How much of 'Nirrti' came from you; i.e. how much of her character was written and how much was what you created yourself? When you got the role did you do any research about Indian mythology to find out about Nirrti's story or did the writers tell you everything you needed to know to get inside her head?

I did explore the mythology of Nirrti, because I wanted to know if she really was evil. Well, yes she is. So then the work was about what's her rationale for what she does. That's the stuff that I create: her reasons for her actions and the way she can summon up a smile when there should be nothing to smile about. She's always got a reason she thinks is "good" for whatever she does and it's always a secret.

You play a Goa'uld in a host's body in Stargate, have you any thoughts or ideas about how Nirrti might have picked up this host or who she might have been originally? Does she have a back-story you keep in mind in each of your performances?

I imagine that this is a particularly powerful Goa'uld and the match was made right away with a host that was specifically genetically strong and charismatic. This Goa'uld and Nirrti are perfect partners. Looking around in ancient times for someone to inherit a new and extreme power, Cleopatra would be an awesome host. I imagine Nirrti like her but more about the power.

The costume you wore in Fair Game looked really cool, and I believe your hands were 'tattooed' for the other two episodes. What can you tell us about your experiences with makeup and costuming? She has elaborate eye and hand makeup; did you have any say in designing her look?

My hands are died with a tattoo ink (mendhi) for each show. The first time, a professional artist was brought in from Little India to do the work.
But it took forever and didn't last, so we drew over it with ink pens. Now we use a pattern that is laid down on my hands and paint is applied over it with a sponge. Jonathan Pinney created the eye make-up. I loved it. It takes a very steady hand with that eyeliner. Christina McQuarrie who does the costumes is so talented. The last time I showed up for a fitting, there was a molded chest plate for me to try on. It fit perfectly the first time even though we hadn't seen each other in a year, she's that good.

Are you allowed to express any preference as to what she should wear?

I'm pretty cooperative, because the character is extreme so it's only right the costumes should be 'out there'. But they listen to any concern I raise when it does happen, usually about comfort. Generally I just put it on and say, okay, let's go!

Is she really dead?

I hope not.

How IS Nirrti spelled?

Thanks for asking. It's NIRRTI. That's how it's always been spelled in my scripts and that's where she was born.

What do you think happened to Nirrti at the end of Fair Game? Daniel said "Man, is she gonna git it" as the wormhole disengaged; did she 'git it?"

She had some serious running to do, and too much of it spent invisible. For Nirrti, any time spent not being in a power position is pretty uncomfortable - the equivalent of jail.

We've wondered what she was up to before we saw her again in Rites of Passage; any thoughts about Nirrti's adventures and activities during that period?

Traveling and seeking out particularly advanced or impressionable people to experiment on. Working out details for creating the Hok'tar.

What was it like to work with Teryl Rothery?

Great actress. Lovely woman. A real pleasure every time.
Acting, writing and directing

What has been your best role?
(Aside from Nirrti of course...) It's funny, some bigger leading roles may look the best on paper, but the best roles will always be the ones where you really feel something and have a connection with your co-actor. I had a scene in an episode of Da Vinci's Inquest where a crew person came up after it was done and told me he had goose bumps, and he didn't look like a guy who got goose bumps very easily. That was great. Peter Williams was in the beginning of that scene as well, and he talks to me about it often even though it was a couple of years ago. Feels good when that happens.

What has been your favorite character to play?

(Again, aside from Nirrti of course...!) I've played a couple of roles on stage that I will never forget, in the plays Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, and The Woolgatherer.

What do you enjoy the most, acting, writing, or editing?

By editing, I expect you mean story editing (coaching someone else's writing process). That's something I do, but it doesn't move me like writing something myself. Writing is very liberating, because nothing can stop me from being creative. The easy part is I don't have to wait for the phone to ring. The hard part is the actual writing, since it's an up and down experience. Directing transports me; it's so much fun. But it's something I'm still working into. Acting is the best when you have good writing. But you often wait for the right role. So I like each of these things the "best" when the circumstances are right.

You've played all sorts of characters. Do you find it easier to play one certain type over another? I.E. a romantic part vs an... evil villain <G>?

The only characters that nearly knock me out are very ordinary "gal next door" roles... they're so hard for me. I'm fairly animated, so it's hard to be bland, but sometimes a role demands that.

Is there a character type you prefer?

I like characters that have something intense about them, even if it's well hidden.

What led you into acting?

Seeing an old movie with Shirley Temple in it, when I was three years old. I wanted to do that.

What was the first script you wrote which was accepted?

I was commissioned to write a TV pilot in LA, after the producer read one of my spec feature screenplays. The pilot never went anywhere, but it was an important step for me.

Have you always written? (short stories etc)

Always. Cartoons when I was really young, poems, lyrics, stories.

Where do you see your future - acting, writing, directing, producing, or a mixture of all four?

Definitely a mixture - although I only produce when it opens doors for the writing, acting and directing. Switching hats gets pretty demanding at times. So I'm working on developing a TV show (if I'm lucky) that would give me a chance to do it all in one focused environment. Otherwise, I'd love to be a regular character on a TV show that would give me time to do some filmmaking on the side.

How did you become involved with Women in Film & Video Vancouver?

I moved to Vancouver in 1999 and joined a writing group. The President of the organization at that time was in the group and suggested I join as a way to get to know the community. It's been awesome for that.

Having worked in both Canada and the US what is your opinion about the quality and quantity of roles available for female performers in each country?

I think we're seeing more women "carrying" movies, which is exciting. The quality of these star roles is going up. But these roles will always go to that tiny minority of leading actresses, meaning that your average actress is still struggling. It's not much different in either country, except that because Canada has almost no recognizable female stars, there's perhaps less motivation to create female star roles in stories here. Nevertheless, the popularity of female-driven TV shows continues to increase, and that's where the real shots are for women who aren't already famous. But I'd still love to have MORE opportunities.

As a writer and director, do you think it helps understanding the mindset of an actor?

Definitely. You have the understanding of the full arc of the character's journey and how important it is to be consistent with the character's motivation. You have the vocabulary. You know how much the actor wants to have obstacles to fight against because he knows this is how his/her character will be fully challenged and revealed. It's great background to have.

Thanks a lot for all the wonderful questions! Bye for now,
Jacqueline Samuda

Visit Jacqueline's website

(c) Jacqueline Samuda and Stargate SG-1 Solutions, Mar 2003. All rights reserved. You may not reproduce this article in whole or in part without prior permission.

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