Actress,Rachel Luttrell has been leading a distinguished, multi talented career as an actress,singer and dancer. Luttrell experienced a strong musical upbringing which included a great deal of inspiration from her father, who was a former member of the acclaimed Mendelsohn Choir as well as her piano studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music.Luttrell’s strong background within the television industry is evident from her many past television credits,which include shows such as ER,Charmed and Touched by an Angel.
Rachel’s more recent and most prominent television role was on Syfy’s original series,Stargate Atlantis where she portrayed the Athosian leader and warrior,Teyla Emmagan.Rachel portrayed the character over the course of the show’s five seasons, which aired from July 2004-January 2009.
With the Stargate franchise having drawn to an end earlier this year after the cancellation of Atlantis’ spin off series,Stargate Universe and Rachel being kind enough to participate in an interview with me, we discuss the actress’ initial experience in playing the role. Particularly,we discuss some of the challenges involved in portraying the character of Teyla and how Rachel related to the character.
The actress also shares her perspective on Teyla’s development over the course of the show’s five seasons, her experience on having her real life pregnancy incorporated into the show’s fourth season and Teyla’s conflicted feelings between the father of her child, Kannan[Patrick Sabongui] and Lt. Colonel John Sheppard[ Joe Flanigan].Luttrell also comments on her perspective on the recent announcement that Stargate Extinction ,the follow-up movie to the series has been cancelled as well as her thoughts on the future of the Stargate franchise.
The actress also discusses the recent projects which she has been working on since Atlantis ended, including her musical CD which is scheduled for release this September!
Rachel Luttrell as Teyla Emmagan
Abbas Karimjee:Were you contacted for the role of Teyla or did you audition? Could you please describe the initial experience and any challenges which were involved in the process?
Rachel Luttrell : Oh! I had to audition, and audition and audition.It was a long process.But I always felt connected to Teyla.I initially found the fight choreography challenging but soon grew to enjoy it. Another challenge was to preserve the “other worldly” quality of Teyla.Human but not of Earth.
AK: How did you relate to the character of Teyla ?
RL:Yes. Very much.She resonated with the side of me that is from Africa.I really drew on aspects of my mother’s life and my grand parent’s influence on me as a young child.
AK:The role of Teyla is that of a warrior,which in turn deal of physical activity and action.What challenges did this present to you and how did you learn to cope with this?
Luttrell trains with Atlantis stunt coordinator, James Bamford to help perfect her fighting moves. The actress comments on how she broke the moves down as dance choreography, to master the art.
RL:I had never fought on camera before. I was a dancer.So, initially the fight sequences were daunting. But I soon began to see them as a type of dance choreography and could break them down that way.I began to enjoy them and certainly thought they were a vital part of bringing Teyla to life.
AK: How do you think Teyla evolved over the course of the show’s five seasons and was there any aspect of the character’s background or personality which you would have preferred to see further explored?
RL:Teyla grew up over the course of the series.She had to make some pretty challenging decisions, including leaving her people in order to further the greater cause of getting rid of The Wraith. She became a mother (which changes everything). If the series had continued I would have loved to have explored her heritage more. The mythology, the history…. I also would have enjoyed seeing Teyla truly in love.
AK:.In season 5 , Teyla pursued a relationship with Kannan, who is the father of her child, Torren.Though the two have a strong connection from Teyla’s time with her people, what are your thoughts on the inner nature of her relationship with Colonel Sheppard, in terms of the possibility of romantic interests between the two? Who would you prefer to see Teyla with and why? What challenges may be associated with your choice?
RL:I believe that Kannan was someone Teyla dearly loved.I believe that he would have been the choice that her parents would have made for her had they been alive.He represented her connection to her people and Teyla desperately wanted to keep that strong.There was already a great deal of guilt for having joined Atlantis and “leaving” them in a manner of speaking.But I think that she did love Sheppard.In a way he was forbidden but longed for.
AK:On the show’s fourth season, Teyla’s pregnancy was incorporated into the show, in order to coincide with your pregnancy. What were your thoughts on the direction which the writers took Teyla’s storyline as a result of the pregnancy and how do you think it further developed the character’s personality?
RL:I thought that the writers did a great job and I will forever be grateful to them for running with my own pregnancy without judgment and with great imagination and care.I think it acted as a way to fully showcase Teyla’s strength and determination. You don’t mess with a mamma bear.
AK:In retrospect,how suitable of an ending do you think Enemy at the Gate was to SGA and how do you feel about the Stargate franchise ending?
RL:Well, I think that everyone involved at the time really did hope and indeed expect a film. So the session/series finale was not meant to fully satisfy. And it didn’t. But all good things come to an end making way for new good. The franchise was an immensely successful one.Unprecedented success, really.And I am very happy to have been a part of it.
AK:Brad Wright recently announced at a Vancouver convention that the Atlantis movie, Stargate Extinction ,as well as other Stargate productions ,including the pending Stargate SG1 film,Stargate Revolution and a pending Stargate Universe movie, has been cancelled.
What is your reaction to the cancellation of the Atlantis film and how did you hope it would tie up both the overall story arc of Stargate Atlantis as well as Teyla’s journey, in terms of her relationship with her people, her role as a mother and a member of Atlantis?
RL:I am not at all surprised by the announcement.Although the movie would have been fun and deeply satisfying.It would have been nice to see that Teyla had managed to find some marriage between her people and her love of her Atlantis team.There was such a huge “dot, dot, dot” at the end of the final episode and so many questions could have been answered.
AK;How has being a cast member of SGA, impacted your career as well as your personal life, in terms of the various friendships you formed?
RL:I made some life long friends. And it never hurts to say that you were on a successful series for five seasons in terms of my career.
AK:What do you think is in store for the future of the Stargate franchise? Do you think it will be revived at some point?
RL:Perhaps.Anything is possible.
AK:What message would you like to convey to fans ,as the Stargate franchise draws to a close?
RL:Just know how grateful each and every one of us who were lucky enough to be involved in the franchise are to each and everyone of you for your support.It was a pleasure serving you!
AK:What recent projects have you been involved ,which you would like to /share with viewers and what future plans or aspirations do you have for your career, both as an actress and as a singer?
RL:I have been working on a CD for over a year and a half now and it will FINALLY be available September 2011!Yeah!I am still auditioning for shows and movies.Any number of those may bare fruit soon.And I am writing some pretty fun screenplays at the moment that I hope to see produced soon.I would like to be involved in all aspects of this industry from acting to directing.
AK:What activities do you enjoy during your spare time?
RL:Being with my son doing, anything!Writing.Singing.Going to the movies.Going to the stables to watch my boy ride.Hiking.Hanging out with dear friends and family….