STARGATE MAR/APR

CREATING CAMERON

Ben Browder talks through his first year as LT. Colonel Cameron Mitchell, new leader of the SG-1 team.


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"I don't think you should show all the facets of a character up front. The idea that what you see up front is all that you're going to get out of a character is narrow, it's shallow.

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"Mitchell is in a very unusual situation, and he has a rather unusual team to ostensibly be leading. Hopefully he's done a rather good job at it." 

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ďI probably should have been worried about coming back into science fiction, but I wasnít and Iím not worried about it now. The thing is, coming into Stargate SG-1, I have certain advantages over other actors in that Iím familiar with science fiction and how science fiction is shot. That doesnít change all that much. So thereís a certain advantage I have in that regard. I met Brad Wright, Michael Shanks, Joe [Mallozzi], and Paul [Mullie] and liked them all, and so that to a degree made it easier. Claudia [Black] spoke highly of her time here, and that also made the decision easier. But at the end of the day things come one at a time, and I couldnít really think of a good reason to say  no to something like Stargate SG-1 when I know I have a great time shooting science fiction. Itís my genre of choice in reading matter, my favorite films are mostly science fiction films. To be saying no because, ĎOh, no. Iíve got to be on a cop show,í or, ĎIíve got to be a lawyer next because I need to shake things upÖí I donít see that. So, Iím just an idiot, it didnít occur to me to say no!

ďI think I came in without expectations. My first job was to figure out where to fit in and to figure out the routine. It takes a while to do that. Even now, six or seven months later, some days Iím still figuring it out. The last six months have flown by. You get into a rhythm of shooting the show, and after a while itís like watching a deck of cards being shuffled, they blur in front of you. Itís gone by very quickly.

Mitchell had been busier in the second half of the season. In the first six episodes they were not yet a team so there was no team to lead. There was less adventuring, as it were. So, once you get the team back in place thereís more for all of SG-1 to do in a way. As team leader, if SG-1 is busy, then Mitchell is busy.

He doesnít really have a standard interaction with any of the characters. He has a fairly clear response in a different way to each. So, depending on the situation and who heís interacting with he has a very different way of operating. For the team as a whole the question is, where is Mitchellís place, what is his voice? He is kind of back to the roots of the show, in his enthusiasm for getting out there, and a certain naivety and innocence, even though he is neither particularly naÔve or innocent. So itís fun to play because you have characters heís surrounded by who have saved the world 160 times. So for me thereís a fun element in being able to go, ĎWow! Check that out!í

Heís an interesting sort of hybrid leader. His leadership style within the context of the team is not how most people perceive the military to be, which is a regimen of orders. His leadership style is more akin to what occurs in elite teams like Delta units, where everyone participates to the fullest of their abilities and when you need a specialist, you defer to the specialist, and defer quickly. Itís an interesting thing because Mitchell doesnít have much in the way of technical expertise, and certainly has no technical expertise above and beyond any of the other characters. The only thing he has is enthusiasm and the ability to be a pivot point for the team. Thatís an element of all forms of leadership. When youíre dealing with a team it has to do with adjusting to the team. A really good coach is always adjusting his form of leadership. Mitchell is in a very unusual situation, and he has a rather unusual team to ostensibly be leading. Hopefully heís done a good job of it.

ďI donít think that you should show all facets of a character up front. The surprises are sometimes interesting . Itís like youíve known someone for years and then you find out that they have a great fear of rats. It doesnít quite fit with their personality. Finding out what a personís phobias are, and sometimes way down the line, makes them more interesting. The idea that what you see up front is all that youíre going to get out of a character is narrow, itís shallow. As opposed to opening the whole ĎChristmas presentí on day one, string it over time. The question is, ĎHave we seen enough to feel satisfied and interested in the character?í Because quite frankly, when you bring new characters into a series, they are by definition more shallow in comparison to the characters who have been there for eight years, because the audience doesnít know them that well. The audience can see textures and patterns in the characters they have been watching for years, but they canít see those in the new character. Itís only as the character unfolds that they can see more. Itís a very difficult balancing act and one that primarily falls on the writing team and on the shoulders of everyone else who makes the show.

ďIíll sit back in a year, when I can watch it with a certain detachment. I know actors who never watch anything they do. For me, it takes some time to watch it and not go, ĎOh we were setting up this day on this,í and ĎOh, this was the day that Michael had a coldí. When I see a production that Iím in, more often than not I am seeing the day of shooting. Itís not really for me to be happy, thatís for the audience. If the audience is satisfied with whatís going on then the real question is, ĎWhatís next?í

ďI like the guy, which is a good thing. No self-loathing for Mitchell! Especially as the series has gone onÖI think heís revealed a bit more of his foundation as the year has continued. The more it goes on, the more interesting a character is. Not necessarily the Ďdark sideí either, but hereís this beat, hereís that beat. It informs you as you move on to the next stage of playing him.

ďI am always wary of saying where the series is going. Particularly with introducing a character like Mitchell into the fray of those already well-established characters. I worry about concocting a definition of the character too early, and saying, ĎThis is what the guy is.í Then youíre locked into a place which may or may not work for the breadth of the story. You trust the writers and the other actors, and that the story will unfold at an appropriate time.Ē


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