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Sunday - October 16, 2011

Multitasking is no issue for Stargate Universe actress Alaina Huffman (“Lt. Tamara Johansen”). While filming the series as a regular cast member for two years, Huffman also made repeated appearances on fellow genre series Smallville. In addition to her screen appearances, Alaina was also actively developing her current MTV comic book series — Agent Mom — while simultaneously juggling all those industry ventures with real-life motherhood of her three children (Huffman’s last pregnancy was written into SGU‘s storyline). Long story short — Huffman is an ambitious force to be reckoned with.

We caught up with Huffman at Wizard World’s Chicago Comic-Con event in August, where she was seated directly next to fellow SGU alum — and last week’s exclusive GateWorld interview — Julia Benson. Our time with the actress was limited due to the size and high attendance of the event (if you’re able to attend one of their conventions, I’d highly recommend it). But our conversation with Alaina Huffman is fantastic as she chats about another upcoming addition to the Huffman clan, her personal highlights for Tamara Johansen in Season Two of SGU, the response to her comic series thus far, and more!

GateWorld: How are you, Alaina?

Alaina Huffman: I’m good, Chad! How are you?

GW: Not too bad. Plus it’s always a good day if I know we get to chat!

AH: Awww…thank you!

GW: It’s been about a year since the last time I had a chance to talk to you.

AH: Yes.

GW: What’s been happening in between?

AH: Well, we finished the show, and we got canceled… [laughs]

GW: There is that. [laughs]

AH: My other show, Smallville, also ended in May. So I’ve been looking for a job. I’ve been looking for the right job. I had several opportunities this year that I, for one reason or another, passed on. I’m just sort of looking for the right opportunity.

I’m still continuing to develop my comic book with MTV and I’m hoping to release that in graphic novel soon. And I did an episode of Alphas and that was really fun. I hope it sticks around for a long time. And … I’m expecting another baby!

Huffman had no issues pulling from her own maternal emotions to play the range needed in T.J.'s baby storyline.

GW: I was wondering but I didn’t want to just come out and ask. Congratulations!

AH: Thank you! Number four. Keeping it real. [laughs]

GW: The last time that we talked was prior to Season Two, it was actually the summer prior. T.J. had a very interesting Season Two — her arc, especially in the very beginning, with her being unconscious and the vision she had about her baby and so on and so forth. Was that difficult to play, being a mother yourself?

AH: Yes and no. I feel like it’s very relatable to me in one sense, the horror of the reality of what T.J. went through. But on the other hand, T.J.’s whole baby story is completely different from mine. I’m married. I have three children. I have a great career. I have a wonderful family. And she’s stuck in space and has a child with a lover who’s married. It’s a completely different experience. But that being said, I feel like my innate maternal instincts I absolutely could draw on.

GW: What would you say were some of the highlights for T.J. over the course of the entire season?

AH: I think her coming into her own. The first season was really about how we had to find what our purpose was on the ship, on Destiny … how we could contribute to the solution and not the problem. The second season, I feel like her overall arc was coming into her own. Even though she met with bigger challenges, like operating on Volker and Greer and doing things that she was uncomfortable with, including dealing with the baby and the whole love triangle with her and Varro, I feel like she sort of was coming into her own.

I would have loved a third season for all of us to develop a deeper character. More of a personal character, because really, the first two seasons was about us discovering our character as we are on the ship. Not relaying our own personal experiences.

GW: A lot of [the series’] fans and also Brad [Wright] went to bat for a very long time, trying to get some sort of closure to the show after it was announced in December that it was canceled. Up until mid-April, actually … when Brad finally came out publicly and said there’s absolutely no shot. When all is said and done, where do you think you would have liked to have seen T.J. go if there had been some sort of continuation?

AH: I really hate to think in terms of my own vision for T.J., because they [Brad and Rob Cooper] are the creators. And I trust them. You know, there’s some really great writers on that show who wrote beautiful character pieces. But the obvious one … I really would have loved to get her cured!

When the script came out with the whole ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) storyline with T.J., Carl Binder — who wrote it [“Epilogue”] — came up to me and said, “I just want you to know, you’re not being killed off. If we go ten, fifteen, however many seasons — you’re still on the show. We just wanted to come up with something that would be an interesting story arc. I think you can play this.”

So that was really exciting to play and I would have loved to explore it … those emotions … dealing with knowing. Because in reality, she wouldn’t know. It’s just because of the alternate universe and the Kino footage that we had that she found out.

A promo cover for Huffman's online comic series for MTV, 'Agent Mom'.

GW: SGU, like Caprica, were both short-lived shows spawned from two very established franchises prior. But both has such a very, very serious tone. Do you think that serious sci-fi — as a whole — is in danger right now? In real life, there’s already so much that’s depressing that we have to deal with … like the economy and current world events and tragedies. Do you think maybe people are just avoiding heavier fare because they want genre programming that’s more light-hearted?

AH: Upbeat? Yeah, it could be. It very well could be.

I also feel like maybe [Syfy] isn’t the place for that darker tone of sci-fi, because it’s kind of separate from the whole rest of the genre, in a way. Maybe it doesn’t have a place on the network of Syfy … at least not anymore. Maybe, and I’m just saying “maybe”, maybe that serious sci-fi belongs more on a network like TNT — like with Falling Skies. Or direct to someplace like Hulu where people who appreciate it and want to watch it can.

GW: Some sort of business model that’s different that can be established to support it.

AH: Absolutely! I truly don’t feel that it was just that we had bad numbers. I really don’t think that it was specifically a numbers and ratings thing. The numbers didn’t help — they weren’t great. But I think there were a lot of elements here. Firstly, MGM. They were in dire straits financially. There was no money. And almost no advertising. So when our night was changed, no one knew about it. And then they were bought by Spyglass.

GW: Spyglass doesn’t seem to be interested in doing anything with the franchise.

AH: Exactly! So there was no support, really, to push it any further. I also believe that, in my opinion, the networks are where the record companies were ten years ago. It’s a changing business and the revenue model — the advertising model, the ratings system — is not up to date. Not terribly long ago, you didn’t have streaming on Netflix. You couldn’t catch up to your favorite show on Hulu. I personally don’t watch anything on TV. I watch it all on Netflix, all on my HBO GO. I would much rather turn on my TV and see a bunch of apps and pay for what I want. I feel like that’s the way the industry is going.

GW: I don’t think even good ratings numbers matter any more. Eureka is a prime example. It still gets ratings that are phenomenal for Syfy. They have great numbers, but they’re also a show that’s five years old with smaller profit margins because of its age. So despite great numbers, it’s still canceled.

AH: Well, apparently that was a Comcast decision. And again, who knows why they’re making these decisions?

I’m excited, to be honest with you. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity, I think, with YouTube and with Hulu, it opens up a whole world for independent film makers and television makers. To be able to do webcasts, like Sanctuary did, and like Riese is doing. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for growth and it’s going to force the big networks and the huge conglomerates to follow suit.

GW: Where are things heading for you right now with Agent Mom? You talked about the graphic novel coming soon, but how has the response been to what’s been released so far?

AH: The response I’m getting? It’s all been really positive. I mean, that’s my Twitter! I don’t go looking for people who hate it, for sure! [laughs]

But I love it. I’ve got a great, great team. Tony Lee is a fantastic writer and he’s killing it. Every week, he’s releasing amazing pages and we collaborate on the story, but ultimately, he writes. Ciaran Lucas is our colorist, Dan Boultwood is our artist. They’re all out of the UK, and they’ve got a huge comic book following. They just announced they’re doing the new MacGyver series. [Tony Lee’s] comic book, The Gloom with MTV is also doing really well.

As far as “will it build beyond a graphic novel?” … I would like to release it in hard form, in a graphic novel form. I know a lot of people have a hard time viewing it in other countries with I mean, I can’t view it on my iPhone because of the Flash. But my deal is with Viacom, it’s with Paramount.

Huffman poses with GateWorld assistant editor Chad Colvin post-interview.

GW: So potentially it could get optioned for something larger.

AH: Absolutely. I could call J.J. Abrams, maybe. [laughs]

GW: Yeah! Cause he’s got absolutely nothing going on right now! [laughs]

AH: I think him or maybe Joss Whedon, you know. Let me know! Call me! [laughs]

No, I really believe it has the potential. The idea of it was never to turn it into a big, huge franchise. It was to do something fun, to keep myself creative, to build a business. If it goes somewhere, I can absolutely pursue those options. I would love to see it as a show. The title is a little deceiving. Because it’s not campy, cheesy, or corny. It’s a spy [story].

GW: It’s like True Lies.

AH: Yeah, it’s like True Lies, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, sort of an Alias meets Chuck kind of thing. It’s a really witty, cute, fun, light-hearted science fiction genre comic book. And she just happens to be a mom.

GW: Any message for fans, of not just SGU but your entire body of work?

AH: Well, you know you can follow me on twitter, @AlainaHuffman, I always try and tweet what I’ve got going on. Thanks for all the support, thanks for all the love and for those of you who came around to SGU, we really appreciate you.

Interview and supplemental transcription by Chad Colvin.
Main transcription by Lahela.

Chad Colvin is a GateWorld editor and convention correspondent. He lives near Madison, Wisconsin. Follow him on Twitter @ChadColvin.

COMMENTS (13):Rules | Report Comment | Trackback

  • Great interview. She’s the first person since SGU was canceled who has openly stated what most fans feel about the situation – maybe its time for Stargate to leave SyFy. A question I’d love to see you guys ask these people is “if at some point in time they finally decide to conclude it in some way would the cast be willing to come back?” Since everybody says “oh its been so long at this point there’s no way they could do it.” I still hold out hope that SOME DAY we’ll get the conclusion that we deserve. I would have been perfectly fine with SGU being it for the franchise for a while at least if we had gotten a satisfying conclusion to SGU.

  • SYFY sucks, there’s no denying that, but unless some one can come up with a way to make the special effects cheaper than it presently cost, we’ll never get our show back. I’m teaching myself C++ and 3d with applied C++, but I’m a small guy with no resources and no funds. I was reading Syd Field’s Screenwriting the other day (good book, please buy), and in his revision he said that soon enough, fans will be able to write scripts and make movies using camera phones and applied computer visuals. And Stephen Spielberg says that the reason he doesn’t help anyone do anything film wise is because we have enough technology to make movies like jaws without much effort. I’m sure we could pull off Destiny level graphics with whatever we could get our hands on. I don’t have any money, and my Frankenstein computer is a generic compilation of rotten bits and pieces, but what I have is a few years old books on C++ and Computer Graphics and a bloody plan. Which is probably more than SyFy and MGM combined has at the moment (at least concerning SGU). If they’re a million of us willing to see another SGU episode or movie, I’m sure we could pool resources and take care of the actors salary and production cost (Which shouldn’t be no more than two million I’m sure). And do things out of our basements, from our bedrooms, or where ever we are, to bring the complex visuals to life.

  • Great to hear from Alaina and that she’s doing well on all fronts. I look forward to seeing her on the small screen and perhaps on the large one as well.

    @Coremae e-mail me at GateWorldpioneeringcom with any C++ questions. I’m a software engineer and I teach it from time to time at the local community college. Always glad to help out a fellow Stargate fan.

  • Great interview,she’s awesome..that’s not even news to most of us fans and yes the first person beyond fans here who said it like it is.I absolutely agree with her in everything she’s said.It IS a rapidly changing industry,networks ARE where record companies where 10 years ago and I’m positive we won’t have to wait longer than few years at the most till the whole situation changes business-wise as well.Tech is already here,new creative people are appearing and the exec dinosaurs with their mind sets stuck somwhere in the 80’s(ratings,numbers,live tv,prime time…)will have to adapt,or make way for new generation..that’s us!

  • It was both a good interview and a perceptive one – re both participants.
    It’s really too bad that SYFY has become such a zero network. Eureka was often their number one series this past year, while Warehouse faded just a bit. It’s hard to believe that the costs that would go into a fifth season for Eureka would have been so hefty that SYFY just couldn’t afford to renew the series. And Comcast, that’s a sad joke – before they consumated (and I use that term lightly) their purchase of NBC and all it’s properties, they were so public about how they were going to put more $ into not just NBC, but all the other parts of the package. Yet, such is obviously NOT the case, they simply lied for effect as first, they can’t even afford to renew SYFY’s highest rated series, and what have they approved to be new series on SYFY – a bunch more of terrible reality shows. (And Urban Legend is not a good reality show by any means, but why … why …. why would SYFY renew such a series, and then show it with new episodes on a Monday night at 11PM. There are better open holes all over every night of the week, just about, but they chose to show new episodes of such a reality series at 11 o’clock on Monday nights. Surely that is absurd. Do they want things to fail. Maybe there’s a hidden agenda here that perhaps was never so clear previously.
    And lastly – I agree with AH, SYFY is no longer the place to have good Sci fi programs on. They want terrible ones like Merlin and Reality shows like Paranormal Witness and Urban Legends and Wrestling – they don’t want to put on good programs, just cheap glitzy ones – like the fare they put on Saturday night movies – One joke movie might have been mildly amusing, but the absolute crap they put on now with every film is … beyond words. I saw parts of the recent one involving – the ridiculous premise of someone finding seeds from the garden of eden, but if dropped in the wrong place, they instantly sprouted huge football sized roots. There were so many random coincidences in just the half hour I saw and terrible mistakes – like worrying that a helicopter would run out of gas, but making other trips with it – and never mentioning the concern again. If everyone would just stop watching that channel, maybe Comcast would notice – though I doubt it. LOL!!!

  • @zack Eureka will have 5th season and it’ll be shown next year,it’s already been filmed.They cancaled the 6th.But I agree,cost that would go into next Eureka’s season couldn’t have been too high,especially because all the sets,which are huge are already there and as with most such shows props are being reused and new ones scrapped from the old ones parts and so on.CGI will only become cheaper as computer tech advances.So what remains is marketing, regular maintenance and salaries,which if due to economy should cost more,a show as successful as that should find a way to make it work.Redirect,shift,get a fewer episodes order,which btw had already been done and agreed and was then abandoned..that’s what pissed so many ppl off.It is called producing for crying out loud.But nowdays “producers” seem to expect the show to fully work and provide for them on its own,while they sit back and count the money.That’s why you see so many reality shows and such nonsense,especially on SyFy..the new UPN case.

    And as far as hidden agendas you mention,I have been telling that for a while now,only it’s not hidden at all,cause it really does seem like the’re expecting things to fail.I’ve said it already,it really seems to me as if someone sent by new owners got there just to suck the rest of the capital out from that dying network(dying cause it’s been killed in cold blood)and turn the switch off!

  • Interesting interview and congrats to Alaina on the upcoming addition to her family. Two things struck me, one is that Syfy has been completely co-opted by Comcast’s mentality and has become a cheap shadow of its’ former self. Second, re SGU, I am kind of sad to hear they “guaranteed” that her character would be around as long a the show lasted. As much as she was a good character, it also meant there was never any real jeaopardy for her or perhaps any of the other main characters on the show.

  • @PIONEERING, thank you kind neighbor, thank you very MUCH! I am in your debt.

  • @Sylvia That’s true,reg. characters not being in any real danger.Shows nowdays should take more risks and really good ones actually do.Like what’s happened in the Game of Thrones,or Spartacus(and I’m not talking about the unfortunate and sad thing with the lead man).And even in Atlantis when they killed off Dr.Weir..I absolutely loved her character and was sad to see her go.But it never occurred to me to stop watching the show because of it.Or Dr.Becket…or any of the doctors in Stargate for that matter,lol!Maybe they were even referring to that.Like this time we are NOT killing the doctor character!
    Anyhow,I think James Cameron said;In sci-fi no one ever really dies,unless their DNA is destroyed and even then there’s time travel.

  • @zack @Jim

    Regarding Sanctuary: while I consider it unlikely, Comcast/SYFY could go the route that ABC did with Defying Gravity in cancelling the show and then not bother showing the last 5 episodes. Season 5 of Sanctuary is slated to be 13 eps. I remember reading a lot of angry posts from US viewers about not getting to see the entire series. Those of us in Canada were fortunate that SPACE had acquired the broadcast rights for the full season and showed all 13 eps.

    It seems to me that many of the broadcasters these days have no clue how to bring genre TV shows to the modern viewing audience in a way that’s profitable. With the exception of teen vampire shows (it’s easy to ride the coat tails of a juggernaut like Twilight).

  • @Slayme You mean Eureka,right?Reg. fifth season and 13 eps.Not Sanctuary..correct me if I’m wrong.
    But yes you’re exactly right,that was the point of what we were saying as well. And I was ome of those pissed of,cuz of Defying Gravity!But few weeks later I simply downloaded it from the net.And trust me,without any guilt about doing so.

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