An Interview with Stargate's Janet Fraiser, Teryl Rothery

Teryl Rothery Dr. Janet Fraiser endeared herself to Stargate fans from the moment she reached out to Colonel O'Neill in the first season episode The Broca Divide. Instantly she became a respected and vital member of the SGC. It was in large part because of her importance as a character that she was selected to represent the unsung heroes of the military in the seventh season episode, Heroes.

It was not a decision that was made lightly by the writers and producers of the series, but at the time, season seven was expected to be the last, and it was felt that the story which paid tribute to the real-life heroes of the military would have far more impact if a sacrifice meant the loss of a character about whom the fans cared deeply. In one horrible instant, a beloved character was gone, and the reality of the risks faced by those in the armed services was driven home.

It was not easy for Teryl to bid farewell to a character she loved to portray, but she remains philosophical about the decision. She acknowledges that she was approached about the storyline for the episode in advance, although she had no input into the story itself. "I was phoned in January," she recalls, "before any of us had even started filming, to discuss the storyline of that particular show, and how I felt about that particular storyline. And I offered up how I felt about it. I just want everybody to know that, it wasn't my decision. I was asked how did I feel about it, and I said, well, of course I'm not in favor of that particular storyline. I understand where you're going with it, and it's a beautiful way to send up the military, so I liked that side of it. There were parts of this particular storyline that made me a little sad, that I didn't really want to see happen, but it was out of my hands."

Despite her sadness over the fate of Janet Fraiser, Teryl insists that the episode Heroes accomplishes its goal in honoring the military in a beautiful way. "You really have to watch, just for the writing. It's an episode that sends up the military, and the men and women who put it on the line for all of us, in the name of freedom, and our democracy, and this wonderful world that we live in. It pays tribute to them and the sacrifices they make. I quote Don [Davis] on this all the time. It's not the military that causes wars. It's the politicians. It's the military that do everything to protect us. I'm a huge military fan, and it shows how they go above and beyond their duty, sometimes at the risk of losing their own lives for others. So, it's a beautifully written story, and I think it's a great episode. And I think every Stargate fan will enjoy it. There's some sadness in it, but it's a lovely story, a lovely show."

Asked if she has had heroes of her own, those whom she has admired as mentors or role models, she considers thoughtfully. "Acting-wise, it's Judi Dench, hands down. She inspires me, she's my idol. I absolutely adore her. Lucille Ball for her comic timing, and I just think she's brilliant. And I think we also lost a great physical comedy actor recently, John Ritter. I had the privilege of working with him, and I'm so thankful. What a gift he was, and it's just so sad that he is no longer with us. Anthony Hopkins, his subtleties, I just think he's brilliant. He and Judi, they're brilliant, that's all I have to say. So they certainly inspire me, and they are my role models. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, I so admire their beliefs. I think if I could have a dinner party, who would I want to be at the table, they would certainly be the two at the top of my list. At my magical dinner party, they would be there, hands down. I admire what they stood for, absolutely."

Teryl is passionate about her craft, and she finds it impossible to choose a favorite medium among her experiences on stage, television, and film. She insists that it is the magic of make-believe that draws her, and that she has not given serious consideration to exploring other avenues such as writing or directing. "I mean, you certainly toy with the idea," she says of directing. "I think eventually, way, way, way, WAY down the road, I may be interested in doing some directing. But it's not something that I've ever considered in the near future. I still love doing what I'm doing. I so like getting to play, to make-believe, to be different people.

"I love theater. I love the immediacy of it, I love going out to the people, because you're on stage and you're reaching out to them, whereas in film and television, you're drawing them in. I love the intimacy of the camera. But I love the beginning, middle, and end of theater. I like the wonderful time that we have in features. You can just take so much time, and take and take and take after take, and rehearsal, I love that. Whereas in episodic, you're cranking out an episode every seven and a half days, and sometimes less. Everything has a plus, everything has its minuses. But the constant is that wonderful make believe. You're somebody else. I love that, bringing life. I love writers, and to be able to bring life to their words.





Many questions were submitted by fans hoping to hear an answer from the cast, crew, and production team behind Stargate SG-1, and several questions were selected for this interview. Here is how Teryl Rothery responded to the fans...

From: aswr
What is your favorite color? Mine is pink.
Elizabeth Reed, Age 9

Teryl Rothery:
Oh, really?! I love that. My favorite color is purple. It's my all-time favorite color. I love purple. I have purple furniture. I wear purple clothes. I wear purple jewelry. I don't have it on today. But I love purple, everything purple.

From: Kawemaus
Have the cast and crew and all of the team seen the series?
What are their favorite episodes?
Thank you.
Greetings from Germany,
Karin Weitze

Teryl Rothery:
I don't see anything. I think I've maybe seen one episode in its entirety. Isn't that terrible? I don't see most of my performances. I will sometimes, especially with it being a series, I will look at the dailies, certainly, just to make sure I'm on track and being consistent, and true to the character, especially when you come back after a four-month hiatus. But she's pretty easy to find. As soon as I get her shoes on, when I'm in her feet and I put that lab coat on, she's there, you know? But you still want to maintain, to see the growth, that it works, as being consistent. But I don't watch my work, no. I'm not one to watch my stuff. And I don't know why that is. And I know there's a lot of us actors who are like that, and I don't know what it is. I can't even pinpoint why, I don't know why. Usually I'll just have a little peek on dailies. I did a movie for SciFi called Threshold last year, and went to the director and said, hey, I want to check out the dailies, I want to see where I'm going with this character. She was a wacko! She deserved to die, that character. I'm kidding! Nobody deserves to die! So I watched, and then it was like, okay, stand back, that was the end of it, and I didn't want to see anymore. It's just funny! Yeah, I don't like watching my stuff. [I don't read reviews either.] It's stupid, and I shouldn't, but sometimes I'll have people tell me. If I'm doing live theater, I'll sometimes want to peek at the reviews, and then usually I'm destroyed, as most actors are. So I would stop doing that too. Unless it was good, then I would want to hear! But no, I don't want to, I don't like that. I like to do it, I do it, and then that's it.

From: okapi_sgc
Which episode is your favorite one and why?

From: the_universe_is_vast
Which is your favourite episode so far and why?
Rebecca Bielby xxx

Teryl Rothery:
There's too many for me to answer right now. There's lots. I think the writers are amazing and I think everything they've done I've been always in awe of. I think they're great. Certainly in this past season alone, I would say Lifeboat and Heroes. I loved Lifeboat. Brad Wright wrote that, bless him. I love his writing. I mean, most of it takes place in one room. So putting yourself in that sense of 'I'm desperate', that desperation, the frustration comes through, because it was like there was going to be no end. It was like she couldn't see an end. To me, anyway, I'd say is there going to be an end to this? Am I going to find out what I need to find out? So I just made the stakes really high. Was it funny? It's always funny working with Michael. I mean, it was just great. We just hung out a lot. It was well written, and a great one to play. It was just great to play. But then there's been other ones, too, this year that I quite liked. Last year I loved The Changeling, the one that Christopher Judge wrote. Really liked that one. One of my favorite writers right now is Christopher Judge. I love some of the stuff he's been putting out. Certainly The Broca Divide, her introduction episode, I love to this day. I just think it's great. Singularity, Hathor was fun to see Janet in fatigues. One False Step, I loved that one with those little creatures, oh they were sweet, you know the ones on the planet, they were all white, and they never spoke, they had that sound? I loved that one. Oh, there's all sorts! Upgrades, where the battle was on between Anise and Fraiser, where she's wanting to experiment on SG-1 and you get to see that hard-ass Fraiser getting upset to defend these people that are hers, and she wants to protect. There's just so many! That's such a hard question to pinpoint it to maybe one or two. It's too hard. There's just been such great shows over the seven years, you know?

From: BElannagosling5
My name is Jessica King and I would like to ask each cast member what their favorite aspect or personality trait of their character is and why. Do they admire that trait and maybe share it, or are they totally different from themselves? Thank you for reading this. :)
P.S. Obviously I love the show but I wanted to say so anyway. Thank you for keeping it great over the past 7 years and counting. ;)

Teryl Rothery:
Oh, I am SO different than Janet! Contained is the word I use to describe her. But I admire her strength, her absolute strength, and her drive, and certainly her intelligence. I mean, good Lord, not only was she 'military girl', she was a major, she worked her way up to major in the Air Force, to be not just a doctor but the one that specializes in these exotic diseases. She's just so driven, she's just so different than me in that regard. The only thing I think I've really added to her is compassion. I didn't want to get into that stereotypical doctor who is not allowed to show any emotion because, you know, you're not supposed to. They never stopped me. When I would get maybe too emotional, they've allowed me to sort of go with that, and I'm so thankful. Because I love that about her, that she has this amazing amount of compassion. What I tend to get from feedback from the fans is that there's this maternal sort of thing, it provides this safety net. And it's like this welcoming face there to look after things when they come home, type of thing. So it's not something I even planned on doing, but it just happened, between the writers creating this person, and then Teryl rounding it out, and filling it out, to make it be a walking, breathing, talking character. So to me, that's what I see. That's one side of her that I see as being completely different, and the challenge. But I love to stretch, doing things that are so against me. You know, it's a challenge, it's not who you are. But do I love comedy? I absolutely adore comedy. It's the idealist in me. I love happy endings, I love making people laugh, I love it when people make me laugh. So, yeah, I do like doing comedic type roles. But I also enjoy, and have enjoyed, putting on that lab coat for seven years. I love who she is, you know? She's great! A great character.

From: calliesg1
Is there anything you would change about Janet if you could?
Thank you for your time and this opportunity.

Teryl Rothery:
No, the only thing that I would sometimes think is, I don't know if that's right that so many times there'd be situations where she was left always saying 'I don't know, it's a guess, it's a guess, I don't know.' Which is true! But sometimes, and I think I only made reference to it maybe once or twice with one of the writers or directors, I had to say, you can't make her look like she doesn't really know. She has to have something there. I mean, it's obvious I can't have any answers right off the bat. It's about research and figuring out things medically. But that's the only time I've had to say I think she would know that, or maybe can we rephrase it a different way. But for the most part I haven't had to, no.

From: purple.1
Is there a favorite director for each of the cast? Do you prefer a director such as Martin Wood/Peter DeLuise or do you like to have a guest director to see where this new person will take you?
Thank you for your answers,

Teryl Rothery:
We're so spoiled in that we've been so blessed with repeat directors like Peter DeLuise and Martin Wood who tend to do the majority of the directing, and trade off. There's just no way, there's absolutely no way you could pick one over the other. They're two different people, two different styles, and yet both of them are delightful, and fun, and family. It would be like saying, do you have a favorite sibling, or child. You couldn't. They all have wonderful gifts that make you love them. I love the comfort with these people that you've known for years, of course. I really love that. But if you do get a new one, sometimes it's fun to have that new perspective, as long as it doesn't take away from what has already been created as far as relationships and that sort of thing. We really haven't had many new directors to even comment on. Earlier, in the early beginning stages, certainly in season one, we had new things, but no, not recently. Certainly it's always fun to have somebody's new perspective, but no, it hasn't been something we've experienced in the past few years.

From: AndrewBTLiddle
The question I have always wanted to ask the cast is whether they find themselves calling each other by their script names rather than their real names when they are off stage.

Teryl Rothery:
No, never. Never happened to me anyway!

From: tfgames
Do the cast members "hang out" together when they're not taping the show?
Theresa Fischione

Teryl Rothery:
Sometimes! Not as much this year. Everybody's sort of been, just with the hectic schedule, everybody's been doing their own thing. So not as much this year. But certainly yes, in the past years, absolutely.

From: tessacason
You work with animated series. What do you do and who is "Mrs. Skittles"?
Thank you,

Teryl Rothery:
Mrs. Skittles is a character on Noddy. I don't know it, but I think it's a British book or cartoon, or a little children's book series. And we ended up doing a cartoon of it, and I played Mrs. Skittles, the mom. It was great fun. I love doing animation. You can show up in curlers with cold cream on your face, and nobody's going to see you, just come and stand in front of a microphone and bring life to this little cartoon character. So they're fun. And for the most part, every animation actor I know of is so funny. You just laugh nonstop, so it's great fun.

From: Sjtrekmor
Will any of you (the cast) be visiting the UK shores anytime soon? I would like the opportunity to meet some or even all of you.
Sharon Morris

Hi I have been a Stargate fan since the film. Brill. When will the new series start in England and will you be having a convention over here? My kids love it and ask for posters for their bedroom. Well done all, for a fantastic and very realistic program. I am asked regularly if it is all real.
Rachel, Ryan, Aaron Williams

From: ablco
Would any of you consider attending a convention in Ontario? You have many fans here and not all of us can afford to leave the country or come out to Vancouver. :-(
Thanks in advance!
From Amanda "Star" Jones
Founder/Co-President of the Michael Shanks Fan Club (MSFC)

From: calliesg1
Will any of you be coming to England any time in the near future?
Thank you for your time and this opportunity.

Teryl Rothery:
Yes! I love conventions! We leave, I think, December 2nd, and we'll be on Reunion Island, which is just off of Madagascar. I think we're there for ten days. And prior to that I'm doing London, and Germany in October. Don Davis is going to be there for London and Germany, and I think he's also on his way to Barcelona or something, and then Tony Amendola… I mean, we're all doing stuff this fall. Yeah, it's going to be busy. I'm real excited about it. It will be my first time to Germany, too, so I'm really excited!

From: dc_wray
Story-wise, how would they like to see Stargate end?
London, England

Teryl Rothery:
Oh, I don't think anybody wants to see it end! But of course everything ends. But coming in as a viewer, like if I listen to my favorite shows that I watch, I like it to not end with finality, but end so that in my imagination they're still carrying on in their little whatever world. So, I guess end like that.

Ritter, Kate. "Hero." September 14, 2003.

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