We finally finished breaking episode 20 today. Formerly titled Gauntled, then untitled, now retitled Gauntlet, it’s a fitting end to SGU’s spectacular second season. I’ve been tasked with outlining the story and – depending on Paul’s schedule – scripting it as well. I’ll get right on that as soon as I finish work on The Hunt that goes to camera next week. This morning, I was making the changes that transformed the script from a bright blue to a vibrant pink draft complete with dialogue tweaks, scene omissions, and night scenes. Next week’s location shoot is looking like more and more fun. Speaking of location, tomorrow I head out on the final tech surveyt (timed to coincide with lunch, thanks for that), then head back to the office for our production meeting. Hopefully, I’ll be home by this time next Tuesday.
Another reminder that you have until this weekend to post your questions and comments about the superhero-themed anthology, Masked, September’s book of the month club selection. I’m gathering questions for editor Lou Anders, and writers Matthew Sturges, James Maxey, Paul Cornell, Gail Simone, Daryl Gregory, Mark Chadbourn, Marjorie M. Liu, and yours truly. So ask ’em if you got ’em!
And now, I turn this blog over to Stargate: Universe writer/Supervising Producer Linda McGibney who joined the show this season. In addition to her writing and producing duties, Linda is also the Stargate Militia Commander, a title she presently holds thanks to her combat training and the fact that most of the weapons (including the trebuchet) belong to her anyway.
Thanks to Linda for taking the time. On to her Q&A…
Chevron 7 writes: “Questions for Linda: 1. Lots of people complain that Stargate is a boy’s club. Do you feel that the gender of the screenwriter is important?”
LM: I actually do. I think there should be a balance. Some of my best experiences on staff were when there was a good balance of men/women with an ethnic mix. Doing TV for the U.S., I believe you have to reflect the reality of the people who live there. So, men, women, people of different backgrounds are what is the U.S. Cliché’ or not, it is a melting pot as is Canada. And a person’s background and life experiences contribute to what a show becomes over time. Most writers I know write from what they’ve experienced, so having different voices with different perspectives always makes a show richer.
“2. Was there any initiation prank performed on you when you started?”
LM: Not really. People were very friendly and courteous.
“3. Who at Bridge is the best cook? Who gives the best hugs?”
LM: I guess the cook question was submitted by Joe or someone who knows Joe because as we all understand Joe is the foodie. He loves to bring things in. It’s wonderful. After that I’d say Rob was a hell of an ice cream maker. As for hugs, for me I guess it’s Remi because I don’t remember any of the other writers ever hugging me.
“4. What would you say is your biggest strength as a writer?”
LM: That’s always a tricky question because what I might feel is my strength may not play for other people. I’ve been known as a character writer for many years so I guess that’s what stands out. I like to tap into the emotional arch of a character, love to write their weaknesses along with their strength. I also enjoy when over the course of a series I can develop and explore the relationship between two characters.
“5. Are you a cat or dog person or something else?”
LM: Dog definitely. I have a scrappy chihuahua, George, who came to Vancouver with me and he’s my doggie boy. He’s like a tiny junkyard dog. Lots of attitude. He’s learning to be polite here in Canada. For whatever reason, I rarely hear Canadian dogs bark.
“6. How do you cope with having your work critiqued? Do you like to see your episodes once they’re done?”
LM: Honestly, it depends. I don’t know a writer who likes notes as first glance. You want the show runner to tell you, “It’s brilliant, don’t change a word.” Once you’ve digested your disappointment, you realize notes usually make a script better. I have had on rare occasions a script go from first draft straight to pre-production, but in most cases you do the notes and the script improves. Look, the goal for everyone in TV is to do the best show possible, and if that means rewrite, you got to do it.
“7. Is there one character’s journey on Destiny that you relate to the most?”
LM: For some reason I have to admit I feel a certain affinity for Tamara’s character. It could just be that I find Alaina Huffman to be a wonderful actress, but when I watch her journey unfold, I am drawn to it. It may also be because I am a former member of the U.S. military and I can relate in some ways to the position she is in, but for the most part it’s because I just think she’s extremely talented.
“8. What’s one SGU surprise in Season 2 that you can tell us?”
LM: Joe? I don’t know… if I say anything there’s a possibility my Chihuahua won’t be coming home with me.
“9. Which writers could you beat in a wrestling match?”
LM: Okay, that question makes me laugh.
“10.What makes you laugh?”
LM: Besides the above question? So much. Right now I love 30 Rock. Used to watch Extras and Curb Your Enthusiasm religiously. I’ve always enjoyed Monty Python movies. I love that almost weekly they show Strange Brew here (a guilty pleasure). I was a huge fan of SCTV fan back in the day. On a daily basis, my husband makes me laugh, and then there Joe – and actually I think Carl is hysterical. He has a great, twisted sense of humor.
noelm writes: “Questions for Linda: What is your favorite part of script writing?”
LM: Finishing? No, really it’s filming something you think was pretty good on the page and seeing actors make it better. You never really get over that, no matter how many episodes you do.
“What did you want to be when you grew up when you were 8? What did your parents want you to be?”
LM: I think at 8, I wanted to be Barbra Streisand, but I can’t carry a tune so that was not going to happen. My parents wanted me to be me. I was fortunate that from a very young age they told me that I could be anything I wanted to be if I put my mind to it. Turns out they were right.
“What was your major in college? What do you want to be now?”
LM: I went to San Diego State and ended up with two degrees: English and Film & Television, both with an emphasis in writing. At this point, what I most aspire to be is happy, and professionally on a show that I’m really proud of.
“What is Joe’s most annoying habit? What is Joe’s most endearing habit?”
LM: Joe, stop asking me questions. No, seriously most endearing is that he has a great smirk. He walks in and smirks at you, it’s quite alarming and cute. Annoying? Friendo for some reason comes to mind.
Lisa R. writes: “Questions for Linda McGibney: How did you get into the business?”
LM: My first quasi-entertainment job was as a military broadcaster in the U.S. Army. I was stationed in the Azores and was on TV nightly. It was alarming to be out somewhere, like at the doctor’s office or something, and someone would point to me and say, “you’re that chick on TV.” Later, in LA, my first big job was working for Carol Burnett. In fact, Carol was the first person to ever buy or produce anything I wrote. Pretty amazing experience.
“How long have you been a sci-fi fan?”
LM: I’ve always qualified myself as a character-driven sci-fi fan. For example, Aliens is my favorite sci-fi film. I think it doesn’t get any better than that when it comes to sci-fi writing. I remember seeing that film in the theatre and thinking this is great storytelling. I also enjoy genre/fantasy. Excaliber had a huge impact on me when I was young. I still watch it occasionally for inspiration.
“What tv shows do you like to watch?”
LM: Right now my favorite show is Mad Men, but of all time I’d have to say the show I enjoyed the most was Twin Peaks. I was a fanatical fan, even having a Twin Peaks themed party for the second season premiere at my apartment where I made my friends act out a scene from the show. If that series was on the air now, I’d be blogging it to the nth level.
Sparky writes: “Question for Linda McGibney – How often when you’re in the middle of a script at a critical point (e.g. you don’t want to be disturbed by anybody for any reason) will Mr Mallozzi pop around with some grub (particularly of the chocolate variety), making you completely forget what you’d wrote?”
LM: Not often. Mostly what I do at work is rewrite what I worked on at home. I like writing with the TV on, and that’s not possible here in the office. More often he comes by to smirk which makes me giggle. I guess I could nickname him McSmirky.
Ytimynona writes: “Questions for Linda McGibney: What has been the most fun part of working on Stargate?”
LM: Many things. I am in awe of a lot of it. I have to say I am incredibly impressed with the art direction. I’ve been on every type of show you can imagine, and these sets blow your mind. I enjoyed seeing what they came up with for an episode I wrote. Also, the crew is very sweet, very welcoming, and I enjoyed being on set while shooting.
“Do you do any social networking with fans (Twitter/Facebook/blog)?”
LM: I have a personal Facebook, but without fan status. I skulked around Twitter anonymously about the show I did previous to Stargate to take the temperature on its reception, but that’s about it.
Ponytail writes: “A question (or two, okay 4!) for Joe’s Friendo Linda McGibney: 1. What do you want Joe to call you? Did you like any of the names us blog readers came up with (or do you even read Joe’s blog??)?”
LM: I’ve told Joe to call me Linda. For some reason he still has reservations about it, although I figure it was good enough for my mother. I asked Joe to share the names he collected but he failed to give me any but the word “Temp” which seemed a bit odd for a nickname. I read the blog sporadically, but I couldn’t find the supposed list of nicknames. I get “sarge” a lot because I was one, but Joe rejected that as well.
“2. Are you the first woman writer in the Franchise’s history, and how do the guys treat you?”
LM: I am not the first female writer on staff. There have been others. It’s funny how many people have assumed I am the first. Weird actually. If anything, the guys don’t have a reaction to the fact that I’m a woman. I believe they treat me how they would any writer coming onboard which is great.
“3. Can you describe a typical day at work for you?”
LM: Well, come to work and drink coffee which is essential. We do a lot of meetings here, viewing different cuts of episodes and giving script notes, etc. In a normal day, there’s a least two to three meetings. We eat lunch together, then I’m either in my office working or at more meetings. For fun, I like to play movie trivia games with the production office staff. It is a very friendly place to work.
“4. Second to SGU, what would be a dream job for you?”
LM: That’s a difficult question. I’ve always believed in the rule “be careful what you wish for.” Once I worked with an actor that I truly respected. I was very excited to work with him and he turned out to be a complete a-hole. It’s hard for me to even watch him anymore on screen because I was so disappointed. So at this point, I can’t even think what would be a dream job because I’m a bit gun-shy to the concept.
“Thank you for taking our questions …….. , what should I call you? I’m sooooo confused!”
LM: Linda is just fine. Many of my friends say “Leen-da” because my mother is originally from Spain. I’m not sure why Joe has such difficulty saying my name. Perhaps he doesn’t like the letter “L”.
E writes: “Ooh, I’ve been wanting to ask Linda something. First of all, a number of fans have been waiting for a long time to have female writer to join the SG team. What’s it like being the only woman in the writing team?”
LM: Actually quite normal. I’ve been on a number of staffs where I was the only woman. I think it does happen more often on genre shows. In fact, the three series I was staffed on that were considered sci-fi/genre, on all three I was the only woman, so go figure. I love that more women are joining the sci-fi writing ranks – it’s good for the genre.
“Which character do you enjoy writing the most?”
LM: That’s a tough one because there are too many to choose from. I did an episode that focused on Greer and Wray, and recently did one that centered on Rush and Eli. I’ve written scenes for T.J. that eventually got cut, but I enjoyed her voice.
“How much did you know about Stargate before joining?”
LM: I knew about the film and SG-1, but knew very little about Atlantis. When Universe came up, I understood it was a new incarnation of the franchise, but because only half the first season had aired at that point, I knew when interviewed I’d have to do some homework so watched the first ten episodes over and over just to get the feel of the show.
“Would you ever like to direct an episode or even have a little cameo? Thank you.”
LM: I have done a speaking role cameo on another show and I HATED it. I really did not like seeing myself on screen. As far as directing, I would be intrigued by the opportunity, but for now I like concentrating on writing.
Tammy Dixon writes: “Hi Ms. Linda McGibney! Are you new to the Vancouver area?”
LM: I am. This is my first time in Canada as well. The closest I ever came to Vancouver was living in Tacoma, Washington when I was a three.
“How big an adjustment is it working on SGU?”
LM: Big in the personal area. I am here without my husband who is working in California. On the professional front, not really different at all. In most cases the life of a TV writer is an incredibly transient existence, so being the new kid on the block isn’t that unusual.
Airelle writes: “To Linda, How did you begin your career, first big break?”
LM: As I said, my first big break was with Carol Burnett. My first in drama was when I wrote an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street entitled “Kaddish.” That really jumpstarted my professional career in dramatic television.
“Is Joe as nice as he seems?”
LM: What you see is what you get with Joe. I think it’s a great thing he communicates with the fans via this blog and share his experiences with all of you. And so you know, Joe really cares – that’s why he spends so much time on the blog.
“Has Joe taken you out for the welcome dinner yet?(the one with noodle-man, Remi, you missed)”
LM: As a matter of fact, Joe today asked if we could go out to dinner. So, I guess we will be doing it soon.
“What has been a favorite show to write/produce for so far?”
LM: By far I would have to say it was Persons Unknown (I worked with Remi Aubuchon on that series). From the time I started working on it until the night the last episode aired recently, I had spent three years of my life involved with the show. It was by far the most challenging experience I have had professionally, and I know I will remember it for the rest of my life.
“Thank you for taking time to do this Q&A with us,come and blog if you have time, its fun here. thanks Joe for asking Linda.”
LM: Thank you all for asking the questions. It’s been fun, and very encouraging to know that the fan base is interested in little old me.