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Joe Flanigan Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Joe Flanigan

This is an interview from April 6, 2011 with Joe Flanigan from the Syfy movie Ferocious Planet. In "Ferocious Planet," an experimental device designed to view alternate universes malfunctions on its first demonstration, transporting a group of observers into a nightmarish new dimension. The team must use ingenuity and courage to outwit the bloodthirsty creatures of this bizarre world, while trying to repair the damaged machine and return home.

Question:
What are these aliens like compared to the types you've gone up against on Stargate Atlantis?

Joe Flanigan:
They seem to be almost impossible to kill. I seemed to be very good at killing the other ones. When we shot this, we shot it Ireland, and we worked strictly on green screen, and we weren't given much in the way of what it was going to look like. And that's kind of interesting because on the show, we always knew what the Wraith were going to look like. And so, you had an idea of what you were looking at and what you were working with. And in this case, I have to say they're much bigger than I anticipated them to be.

Question:
You're so calm.

Joe Flanigan:
Well, my calm and easy demeanor may be a bit deceiving because I didn't think they would be that big until I saw the cut.

Question:
From the trailer Ferocious Planet looks a bit like the series Primeval. Were there any human-like aliens that you had to deal with?

Joe Flanigan:
Not in the movie. Just off camera. A lot of those.

Question:
What was it like working with John Rhys-Davies?

Joe Flanigan:
Oh, he's a wonderful guy. And, he's just filled with tons of fantastic stories. He's done so much. We took him out to dinner one night in Dublin and he kind of regaled us with like all sorts of interesting stories. You know, he's just done theater everywhere, movies everywhere. And he was wonderful to work with. Consummate professional.

Question:
Are we ever going to get to see Stargate Extinction?

Joe Flanigan:
Apparently not. I believe that those things have been postponed indefinitely. I mean as you know, the franchise has been summarily closed. That doesn't mean that's the end of the franchise by any stretch of the imagination, especially if I have my druthers, I'll find a way to bring it back. I think the fans deserve to see some closure or at least some type of continuation. I think that - and especially in regards to my show, it was just unceremoniously closed and we need to do something about it.

Question:
What can you tell our site viewers about the movie? What should they expect?

Joe Flanigan:
Well, the movie is kind of part homage to the genre and also part actually the genre, so it's one of those - you could call it in some ways a guilty pleasure in some ways. There are elements that are similar to Stargate in terms of the character and in terms of being kind of off world. But beyond that, I want to say it's dinosaur-centric, but I guess it is. It looks like that.

Question:
You did Stargate Atlantis for five years. What's it like shooting a movie compared to shooting a TV show?

Joe Flanigan:
Well, it's really not that much different except that it's a lot easier than shooting a TV show. It really is. I mean, I wish I was just a movie star. My God, those guys have a great life. They shoot one or two pages a day, and then they go back to their trailer. With Atlantis, for example, we would shoot 10 to 12 pages a day, and you're really on your feet all day. You know, 12 to 15 hours a day and its work. It's definitely a grind, and with no seeming end to it. And with movies, it's more laid back. You tend to have a little bit more time and a little bit more money.

In this case, I don't think that was the case. We actually had a very, very small budget. But because we were shooting in Ireland, you can make that money go a little bit further. Also in Ireland, they have this really interesting thing where they only work ten hours a day. You actually can't go past that. And that gave us enough time to go to the pubs, and we liked that.

Question:
What can your fans expect to see you in next?

Joe Flanigan:
I did a two hour back door pilot that aired on Fox, and they were supposed to extend our contracts and they're not extending those contracts, which leads me to believe it probably will not become a series. And I just assumed that that was going to be the next series, and we just found out Friday that it probably will not be. So, I don't have any definitive answer on that right now. And I actually kind of liked that. There's a kind of like wonderful freedom about that. I'm excited about being able to play my options out right now.

Question:
Co could you talk about how you got started in acting?

Joe Flanigan:
By accident. I was in New York City and I was working at Interview Magazine and I managed to get myself fired, don't ask me how, and I was pretty much out of money. And I had a neighbor who happened to be an actor, and he was always enjoying himself not working nearly as hard as me, and apparently making much more money than I was. And I said, "What is it that you do?" He said, "I'm an actor." I said, "Well, what does that mean?" I didn't quite understand what that meant. Now granted he was a commercial actor, but anyway he put it in my head that maybe this is something I should try out, since I was "in between jobs", and I did. I went to the Neighborhood Playhouse and I just thought to myself, "Well, if I'm going to try this, I might as well try it now," and I just happened to get very lucky.

Question:
You were on Warehouse 13 not that long ago. Is there any other Syfy series that you'd like to guest star on?

Joe Flanigan:
Oh, sure. I actually don't think in terms of guest starring. I'm not really in pursuit of guest starring. Sometimes, if it's interesting I would consider it, but it's primarily as a reoccurring or a regular. But as far as guest starring on different Syfy shows, it's not necessarily a goal of mine. However, there are a number of shows that are out there now that look awfully interesting to me, like - I consider True Blood a sci-fi show. You know, I consider anything with visual effects to that way is essentially science fiction.

And so, there is a lot of really interesting ones. Syfy's got a couple new interesting shows. I have a friend doing this one called Alphas, then there's Being Human. I think they have a lot of really interesting ones. And, I've been talking to Mark Stern recently about some new shows that he's got in the works. So I'm in contact with Syfy about trying to nail down the next series.

Question:
Can you tell me something that your fans would be surprised to know about you?

Joe Flanigan:
I raise my own honey bees. I have my own organic vegetable garden. I'm actually a little bit of a farmer. In fact, I'm sitting here in Colorado actually right now andy fingers are all wrapped up. I almost chopped my finger off in one of these classic Farmer Joe moments dealing with large equipment and nonsense. A man of the Earth.

Question:
How did you initially get involved with this project?

Joe Flanigan:
Well, Syfy does obviously a series of these movies, and they've asked me on a number of occasions if I wanted to do them. Most the times I've said no because of mostly location. Sometimes they shoot in Bulgaria and some places like that, and I just don't have any interest in going to Bulgaria in the middle of winter. I'm spoiled. So this one actually came up that was shooting in Dublin, and I thought, "Well now, that may be a game changer." I could actually go to Dublin for awhile. That would fun. And I was proved right. Dublin was amazing.

Question:
What did you find to be the most challenging part of making the film?

Joe Flanigan:
Well, a lot of the visual effects were not entirely fleshed out and shown to us. So when you're acting, you're acting against what you think will be the special effects in post-production. And you can only guess. So when you go and gauge your reaction to something, you have something in your head, I had some drawings they gave me. But when I saw the movie, the monsters were way bigger than I thought they were.

Oh, my God. It's very, very tricky and fraught with a lot of obstacles when you're doing science fiction acting. And I'm a bit of a stickler on set about making sure I know exactly what the levels of urgency are so that I don't get a lot of egg on my face after they do a lot of the post-production. And you say to yourself, "My God! Why is he not reacting to the 300 foot tall monster?" Because I thought it was 3 feet tall. So you can imagine it gets tricky.

Honestly, I think science fiction acting is an art form, and I think it's so much harder than people have any idea, and I don't think it gets the respect that it deserves. And if you talk to people like Robert Patrick and these guys, they'll tell you how truly difficult it could be.

Question:
Would you ever be interested in writing again or directing for you know a movie, TV show, whatever?

Joe Flanigan:
Oh, yes. Absolutely. In fact, this previous show that I did, it was a two hour, back door pilot which airs as a movie, and then could conceivably get spun off into a series. In that deal, I had a directing deal.

And so had the series gone, I would've been able to direct, and I was definitely looking forward to that. And presumably, I would write too. Any series that I'm on I would love to be writing and directing. And I just think it's a natural progression of where you spend that much time on set and that much time in front of a camera, I think it makes sense to kind of expand your horizons a little.

The problem is in our business right now, the business is going through a really serious compression, and it's so serious that it's actually kind of sad. People are really losing their homes and they're losing they way they've made their living for the last 20 years. So, the verbosity involved with protecting jobs these days is something else. So you know when you want to direct on a TV show, there are a number of directors who really don't want actors to become directors or writers. The pie has gotten too small, and so it's tricky in that regard.

Question:
Did you ever think of writing your own show?

Joe Flanigan:
I have. I'm busy definitely doing things. I just don't like to talk about them until I feel like they're kind of in their final stage and they're going to move forward. The one thing that annoys me the most in this business is that a lot of people talk about things that are going to happen that aren't happening, or may not happen, and I just don't want to be another one of those schmucks.

Question:
How did you originally get involved with Atlantis?

Joe Flanigan:
Well, I mean the President of MGM at the time was a guy named Hank Cohen, and he ran into my Manager at the Golden Globes, and my Manager was representing Renee Zellweger, and she had just won something and he came up to congratulate him. And then, he starting talking to him that he had this great new series, but he couldn't find his lead guy. And he said, "Well, I have a client who's perfect for that. Why don't you meet him tomorrow?" And we met and it just literally happened in like a painlessly little time. It was really like within 24 hours, you know there was deal struck and that was it. It was interesting. If all deals could only work that well.

Question:
Back to Ferocious Planet. What was your favorite part about working on it?

Joe Flanigan:
Being in Ireland is just so much fun. I feel right at home in Ireland. And I had this wonderful Irish crew and this wonderful Irish cast, and they were incredibly professional and efficient. And it's just a lot of fun. If I could shoot more there, I would. And I'm really glad I chose that because I would certainly try to encourage people to shoot in Ireland more often. And then it was fun to just get back into some camouflage and run around and shoot things. Call me crazy. I know it sounds a little weird, but I felt right at home.

Question:
When you have to act as if you are traveling to a parallel universe, did they provide you with any technical advisors that prepare you for such an adventure?

Joe Flanigan:
It would probably make my head explode, so they did not. I actually was thinking to myself, one of my favorite episodes in Stargate Atlantis was the Vegas episode. And we just kind of tapped into that at the very end, like unfortunately too late. So, it is kind of ironic this movie is about parallel universes also.

Question:
Do you prefer fighting aliens or dinosaurs?

Joe Flanigan:
I've got to say I think aliens are a little sexier, you know. I could at least talk to some of the Wraith. There's no common ground between me and dinosaurs. Couldn't really start any negotiation there.

Question:
In terms of genre, would you consider this your favorite one to work in?

Joe Flanigan:
Well I got to say it was funny. I approached science fiction with a lot of trepidation. I wasn't really that enthusiastic about the genre when I started. And then as time went on, I've been converted you know 180 degrees, and I absolutely would say it's now my favorite genre. And it gives you so much freedom. And I mean at heart, I'm an action/adventure kind of guru. I like that. And that you can do that and mix in science and fantasy and all sorts of things is pretty cool. And so, I really do miss doing my show, and I really hope to do another one. I think TV needs some more action/adventure, science fiction stuff.

Question:
You mentioned True Blood before. If you could be on the show, would you rather be human or other creature?

Joe Flanigan:
No. I wouldn't want be human. It's a lot of fun being the bad guy with big teeth. Playing bad guys is an awful lot of fun. You do it on a limited basis, but it's an awful lot of fun.

Joe Flanigan:
Oh, you did?

Question:
A big part of the movie is about people who want to stay and explore, and the rest who say, "Let's get the heck out of here." If you were in a similar circumstance, are you a run kind of guy or are you a let's stay and check this out guy?

Joe Flanigan:
I think it depends on what you left behind. I mean, you got a wife and kids left behind; you might want to run and go back. I think if you don't, then I think it could be a nice permanent vacation. In our case, it's unclear in the movie, it was kind of funny because all I really have to go back to is a boat. You know in retrospect, that's really not a hell of a lot of to go back to. Maybe I should've stayed. It might've been the lack of cold beer or something that you know, like really wanted to make run.

Question:
Are you very adventurous otherwise?

Joe Flanigan:
Unfortunately I am, and I sit here talking to you with a third degree AC separation, a semi-chopped off finger, and it's all from just nonsensical stuff like mountain biking. And, I'm actually sitting at the base of Aspen Mountain as we speak trying to figure out if I'm going to go cross country skiing, snowboarding, or just down-hilling.

Question:
Oh, rough life.

Joe Flanigan:
I know. I do. I live for it. And that's why I think I like action/adventures, because I just need to physicalize things, and it's tough for me to be inside and doing kind of domestic-like acting.

Question:
Did you do any stunts in the movie?

Joe Flanigan:
Yes. Well, I mean there wasn't really any incredible stunts. But yes, I did everything. As you'll see, there's nothing really stellar going on. I didn't get shot out of a cannon, but yes I did all the stunts.

Question:
WDid you do any big stunts on Atlantis on your own?

Joe Flanigan:
Yes. Well I actually did quite a few. There's some pretty serious climbing. We were on pulleys a lot. I mean, I got yanked off of two-story you know decks and all sorts of stuff. That is the part I miss quite a bit. It's so much fun. It's interesting because our stunt guy on Atlantis always had in his mind that I was some karate expert of some sort and would have these enormously like elaborate you know choreographed fights going on. And, I would say, "You know, I'm not that guy. I'm Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones. I just pick my gun up and shoot the guy." I mean the path of least resistance. And it would frustrate him. However, we were able to make it up with my character getting kind of beat to crap and getting thrown around. And I think it worked well for that character. And in this case, it's not unsimilar. The movie that - the Ferocious Planet, the guy gets kind of whacked around a good bit.

Question:
Do you have any advice for people who want to act?

Joe Flanigan:
Don't. How's that? There's not enough jobs. Don't come into our world. No. What I would say is if you enjoy it then pursue it. Acting is really difficult because it requires a tremendous amount of people to make it work, and a tremendous amount of money. For example with Stargate, we had 300 or 400 people working on the show. And you're dropping $60 to $70 million a year. And it's not like painting where an artist can go into a studio and nothing's going to stop him from painting. Nothing going to stop a musician from making music. Well, a lot of things can stop actors from acting.

There are so many elements of dependency. So there's a level of frustration that can come with the territory. I would warn people of that, and know that it sometimes may just end up being a hobby. So, that would be my advice.

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