Robert Carlyle Stargate Universe interview
Robert Carlyle stars as Dr Nicholas Rush
Q. What attracted to you to Stargate Universe?
Robert Carlyle: It was the creators of the show [Brad Wright and Robert Cooper]. When it was first suggested to me I wasn’t interested, it was well out of my world and everything I’d done before, it seemed a bizarre thing for me. But when I spoke to the guys, the first thing I said to them was: “Thank you, I’m flattered, but why do you want me to do this? Are you sure you have the right guy?” And they said they’d come to me because I was unexpected. So that already showed they were trying to change things from the previous Stargates, I’m unlike anybody they’ve had before. So that got my attention. Then they said they wanted someone to make Rush’s dislikeable side seem quite attractive. And that is something I’ve done before with different types of characters.
Q. Can you describe Dr Nicholas Rush?
Robert Carlyle: This character is very, very difficult to like. And that’s gold dust for me as an actor, to try to present this picture to an audience where they’re constantly changing their mind on whether or not they like him. He is probably the most maverick guy I’ve ever played. You’re never quite sure what this guy’s motives are. He’s fun to play. Rush is the one who says these people have to stay on this ship that’s heading to who knows where and that there’ll be no effort to return to Earth. I love that. What kind of mind is that? There are a thousand stories that could be told about this character, if he’s capable of that, he’s capable of anything.
Q. How does he develop through the series?
Robert Carlyle: He gets more rigid. The other characters say that he’s a lot of work. Rush would say, though, that everything he’s doing is for the greater good, so therefore if someone has to be sacrificed that isn’t a problem. He’s going in his direction and it doesn’t matter what he might have to do to get there. He always has an answer for his actions and he doesn’t care whether people like it or not. And that’s good drama. It’s good for an audience, it keeps them coming back. And even if they don’t like Rush, they need Rush. The ship needs Rush.
Q. Were you a sci-fi fan before getting involved with Stargate?
Robert Carlyle: I wasn’t a great science fiction fan, but I did love Star Trek and Doctor Who when I was growing up. And there have been films from that genre I’ve enjoyed over the years: 2001, Forbidden Planet, Alien. And with SGU you have that 2001 and Forbidden Planet quality with the prospect of not coming back, that these people are up there, somewhere in space, and they might not ever be returning to Earth.
Q. Have you encountered the loyal, fanatical, fans sci-fi brings?
Robert Carlyle: We went to Comic Con in San Diego and that was incredible. We were just there to say hello as the new Stargate Universe cast and 4,500 people turned up for the panel; it was jammed packed. All we did was say hi and then bye. I love that there’s an audience already there wanting to see this stuff. And that was part of the major reason I wanted to do this series as well.
I’m fed up of low-budget independent British cinema; I’ve done it for too long. You tear your heart out working on these films, they’re really heartfelt stuff and then they’re seen by about 12 people. And that’s depressing. It’s really depressing. Does the British cinema-going public want to see British cinema? Or is it that they can’t get to see it? I hope it’s the latter. There are probably things that can be done to rectify the problem. A simple suggestion is that in multiplex cinemas a screen should be reserved for British product only. Any other country in the world would do that, but with us nice Brits, we have to put the foreign films on ahead of our own. It doesn’t matter that £1,000,000 has been spent on a film, which then gets lost. The lunatics have taken over the asylum and I’m not prepared to take any more part in it for a while.
Q. Is this part of the reason so many British actors are now starring in American dramas?
Robert Carlyle: It’s precisely that. There’s a team of us now, so many that you forget they’re all over there. Another reason is simply the quality of the work in the States. Our film industry is pretty much on its arse and the American one, even though it doesn’t seem like it, isn’t that far off either, they’re producing fewer and fewer movies. So there’s a community of writers, producers, directors and actors who have moved over into TV. And this is all high-end TV. It’s no surprise so many Brits are in the US, it’s where the work is.
Q. Is there a big difference between making TV and film?
Robert Carlyle: There is with the schedule and the speed that things are turned around. It’s faster in TV. And I like that. In a low-budget film you almost work to a TV schedule, as opposed to a big-budget project where you can spend a week filming one scene. That is difficult. I don’t enjoy it. I like to be on set, and in television you’ll film up to 12 scenes a day and there isn’t the tedium of waiting in a trailer while they light a teacup in just the right way.
Q. Which other characters, aside from Rush, should we be looking out for in SGU?
Robert Carlyle: I’m very fond of Justin Louis who plays Colonel Everett Young, he’s a very interesting character and Louis is a terrific actor. He’s approached the role in a very interesting way, so he’s one to watch out for. And someone more on the periphery is Jamil Walker Smith who plays Greer. I think he’s an exceptional actor who the audience will really enjoy watching.
Q. If could travel through a Stargate to anywhere in the world where would go?
Robert Carlyle: I’d have it in my garden so that I could travel to where I needed to without flying. And then I’d always be able to get home easily too.
Robert Carlyle is back in Stargate Universe exclusively on Sky1 HD & Sky1 from Monday 11 April 2011.