[TG] Can you tell us how
you won the role of Radek Zelenka?
[David Nykl] Originally,
the role was meant to be a
Russian scientist, and it was going to be
for one day in the episode "38
Minutes", way back in Season 1, all those
years ago! And they brought me in for this scene
that I had with Torri in the puddle jumper. And,
as luck would have it, Brad Wright was on set
that day watching the monitor. He said to me
afterwards he really liked the scene and I was
exactly the kind of character that they would
like to start using more. And that was very
good, I was very pleased with that and sure
enough in the episode right after, they wrote in
a little scene with me and McKay in the bay,
they open up the roof of the puddle jumper bay.
'Suspicion', I think it was called. From then on
in they just started writing me in, almost every
other episode. 10 out of 20 in the first year,
10 out of 20 in the second year and its probably gonna be a few more this year I think. So I feel
very lucky and very pleased to work on such a
fanatic set and to be given this opportunity.
[TG] He's a recurring
character that's obviously gone from this little
tiny role and just seems to be expanding all the
time. Fans have really taken him to heart, were
you surprised by such a warm reception?
[DN] I was, and thank you
very much for saying that, it's always very
heartening, particularly since the
presence is mostly on the web, you notice
the fans and the chat rooms.
I just had a group send me some pictures
of themselves, it's amazing, it's quite fantastic.
Yes, it is always a surprise, because you know
I've been doing this for a long, long time and
never having had such an impact as I've been
having with this particular franchise, and it's
very heartening and very touching.
[TG] When you got the
role, how much were you told about his
background? Was it all written for you or did
you have to develop it
[DN] Well, it's
always a kind of dance between the
writers and the actor. In some ways, it's written,
I guess, for me, because I did mention I was
Czech. I was born in Prague and I speak Czech.
And they were gonna go with a
Russian guy, and they did change it to a
Czech guy, gave him the name 'Zelenka' and then
later the name 'Radek' and it sort of evolved.
They responded to what I did with the character,
and of course I do what I can with what they
write, as I would for any other role. And so most
of the relationship actually happens on screen.
I don't see the
writers, I just sort of say hello to them, but we
don't really sit down
and have meetings and discuss what's
going to happen with Zelenka, it just sort of
evolves this way.
[TG] What do you like and
dislike most about him?
[DN] I like that he can
put up with a lot of stress I think, and
a lot of pressure, particularly from
McKay and the situations that he can get into. I
think he's the sort of scientist that's got
reasonably well honed social skills too. I think
what I don't like
about Zelenka is that one sided focus, that
just pure determination to get one thing done.
I tend to be more of a multi-tasker, and like
doing more things at once.
[TG] Obviously, we know you
make up the Czech phrases for the various scenes, and
the Czech fans absolutely seem to love this,
they delight in translating it for us and sticking
it on the net. Is this all ad-lib or do they ask
you to translate lines?
[DN] Well, the way it's
done, is usually they will have a particular
line and in brackets above will be 'In Czech',
and at which point I just translate it directly.
And sometimes there's just lots of room for
improvisation, so I just think up what I would
say under those circumstances, and often the
would come up to me afterwards and ask 'what did
you say just just so that we know?' So I tell
them what I say. But most of them are written, and
I'm asked to translate them on the spot. The one
from 'Letters from Pegasus', I think that was in
season 2, it was about a year ago. That was a
whole paragraph and that was where I was
describing the city I think. That was written
all in English and I just took that home that
night and just translated it and did it in
Czech the next day. And they only did the
one take, they only did the take in Czech, they
were gonna do a version in English but just did
the one take.
[TG] Talking of Letters
from Pegasus, he ends his video letter with 'drz
sze milacku' that's been translated online as
'take care of yourself darling'. Did the writers
tell you who you were addressing?
[DN] No, I just added that
myself, that I'd be addressing someone back home
again... *chuckles mischievously*
[TG] Who exactly did you
[DN] Well, we
don't know yet, do we?
We're not sure who that could be...
[DN] That's a very good
way to duck me into a corner here.
[DN] The sort of back
story relationship with Zelenka, I'll tell you
straight away is an evolving thing, and I just
don't know, but of course I have speculations, and
I have my theories as to the background. But
really, what I like to do is leave the writers to
develop their own kind of backstory for the
character before I go saying what it was for.
But yeah, it certainly does
indicate he has a relationship he left
behind on Earth. I think that's quite clear, and
some of that will become a little clearer in
season 3 as well.
[TG] Glad to hear it! It
has been a subject of awful lot of speculation
online, because aside from Weir, he's the only
to have really left someone behind. How do you
think that's affecting what he's doing?
[DN] The fact that he's
left someone behind? Well you know, we've all
gone into this project knowing full well that we
might not come back, as they say. And we've
certainly all made hard sacrifices back at home
in terms of who we've left behind. Not only that,
but the jobs and the postings and opportunities
that we left behind, even though this is quite an
amazing job opportunity as it is! *chuckles* So
yeah, its made it quite difficult. Now we have
some new technology that will enable us to visit
Earth more often, I think that takes the edge of
it a little bit. But it is a bit of an outpost
and it really is the frontier of the Stargate
[TG] What's your
favorite Zelenka moment so far?
[DN] I guess that would
have to include season 3? I really enjoy the
lighter comic versions of the scripts. We had a
fun episode with Richard Kinds, I think it's
[TG] Yes, it's on this
[DN] Is it really? Oh cool,
it hasn't aired yet. So those scripts are always
very fun to work on and there's always a lot of
comic chemistry you can
develop with the other
actors... like David Hewlett. And I like
the action ones too. Those are fun. I just saw
some bits from the
season opener 'No Man's Land' last night for the
first time. I remember doing the scene on board
the Orion with all the explosions and all those
things going on. Action scenes are fun but it
is also challenging
because you have all those explosions going off
or rocks falling on you. A fun
environment to work in. *Chuckles *
but you know it is
different types of acting, It's a very technical
endeavour at times like that.
I think the things I enjoy most are the actors I
get to work with and the relationships we
[TG] Do you feel there are
any similarities between you and Radek? Apart
from both being Czech.
[DN] Well, other than the
fact we both have the same nose? ( Laughs)
Well... yes. There are some similarities. I
think if I hadn't gone
into acting I would have gone into science. I do
consider myself a science fiction buff. I enjoy
the genre immensely, as well as all things
scientific. I think I have more of an artist's
disposition, not necessarily
the scientific mind, perhaps that is the
biggest difference. He is more scientific and I
am less so.
[TG] It is pretty well
known that the cast of SG-1 likes to play
immense pranks on each other and will go to
great lengths to do so. Is there a similar
atmosphere on the Atlantis set?
[DN] Do we have that? Oh
boy.. It seems you don't go a day without
something like that happening on set. Between
Paul McGillion, David
Hewlett and Jason
Momoa it can get pretty crazy sometimes.
(Laughs) These are long days with sometimes
We are working from six in the morning 'til
eight... nine... at night. So levity is not just
creeping in, it's more like the acting creeps in
around the levity. (Laughs) It should be the
other way around. But yeah, we have a lot of fun
on set. The crew and cast are just like a well
honed machine, they've been doing this for three
years and of course SG-1 has been doing it for
coming onto on ten years. We get a lot of shots
done, and a lot of work done in a day. It
happens in a very fun
[TG] Who is the biggest
[DN] Hewlett (Laughs) Of
[TG] I think he would like
that! (Laughs) As fans, we always start worrying
when we begin enjoying a recurring character. It
usually means at some point they are going to
disappear or be killed off... like with Grodin
or Bates. Although, unlike Bates, your character
has been lucky enough to have been given a first
name. Usually when you
haven't got a first name, that's it,
you're gone. In science fiction, anyway.
[DN] And you have the red
jersey on. (Chuckles)
[TG] If Zelenka had to die
in some massive blaze of glory, how would he go?
[DN] Oh, I hate these
questions. Would you want him to die? I don't
want him to! He can't! He can't! * Laughs* No,
Zelenka is going to live to a ripe old age of
'however long the series runs'. And if he's got
to die... oh gosh, no no no... tell me
it's not true. It would have to be an act
of utter heroism and scientific glory. You know
IF it was to happen.
[TG] Which we certainly
hope it doesn't. He is a great character. I
don't think I have read anywhere of people
disliking him, which is unusual.
[DN] That is unusual isn't
it. I've got to work on that. (Chuckles)
[TG] Are you currently
working on any other project or films besides
[DN] Yes, I was involved
in a television series called "Psych" just a few
weeks ago. It just premiered in the United
States to some very encouraging numbers. And,
well I don't want to jinx it, but there is
another little project that I am very close to
securing here in Vancouver.
I hope to hear back from them this week.
It's very promising. I also just found out that
the next episode we will be shooting called 'The
Tao of McKay' will also
include Zelenka as well. So that's
[TG] Which is your
favourite Atlantis episode so far?
[DN] So far.. Well, I
liked a lot of them in season one. I liked "The
Storm”. I enjoyed "38 Minutes", that was a fun
one. I like "Hot Zone", the one with the nanovirus.
This season I enjoyed "Irresistible"
quite a lot. This last one that we shot too was
an awful a lot of fun. "Sunday".
[TG] Right, that's the one
where everyone has a day off from what I have
[DN] That's right, it's a
day off in Atlantis.
[TG] On another tack, a lot of your fans
actually love the movie
[DN] Oh my god, please..
no no...*laughs* now you are embarrassing me.
[TG] I've not actually
seen it, someone else has and has begged me to ask
this! What was your experience working on this,
that is obviously until your character's untimely
[DN] Untimely demise!
Actually that was probably the only reasons I
took the job, because of the fact that I would
be pulled apart in two by a
pterodactyl. I thought 'Well, I can't
pass that one up. *laughs* I was in Prague the
summer before last,
just vacationing there. Had some friends up at
the film studio that I went to visit. As luck
would have it, I literally walked in to see them
and they said 'Oh there is a casting going on.
We are doing a pterodactyl
movie.' and I said 'A movie about
pterodactyls?'. I met
the director straight away, and I had no idea
what this was all about. On the spot, I read
a little scene for them and the next morning I
had a phone call saying, 'Hey, would you like to
be in this?'. So I said 'Oh.. well ok. Can I get
a script, please?' So I
actually agreed before I even got the
script. I just thought it would be a summertime
lark, and.. oh boy was it funny. They brought
Coolio in on it, and we were out in the woods in
southern Bohemia, firing
machine guns into the
air at some imaginary
pterodactyls that would later be CGIed in
by some Bulgarian special
effects team. It was really quite an
absurd, wonderful and funny situation. That's
something I only saw just recently, I
found it on the web somewhere. The scene where
I get pulled apart. It was very funny to watch,
I thought 'geez, this is crazy.'
[TG] Another thing you
shot in Prague was a small role in "The Scarlet
Richard E. Grant... I actually remember
[DN] Yes, that's right! I
was the barber, you remember that? Oh my gosh,
that was a long long time ago.
[TG] What was it like to
see Prague transformed into 18th
[DN] That was fun, a lot
of fun. I really enjoy character work like that
when it comes to film. It's what I did a
lot of in theatre. What I particularly enjoy
about acting is the different characters you can
imbue. A lot of the films shot in Prague are
period pieces because Bohemia just lends itself
to those kinds of stories. That was just a quick
day shoot. I think I was outside of Prague at
the time, and they brought me in a taxi, put the
wig on, gave me the barbers gear and then I got
to shave Martin Shaw.
[TG] One slip and he's
[DN] (Laughs) Yes.
[TG] You have extensive
experience with theatre in Prague, as well as in
Vancouver. How does theatre in Europe,
particularly Eastern Europe, differ from North
America? (In terms
of audience preference.)
That's a very good question. There are very big
in Europe most of the theatres work as a
repertory company, meaning that they
rehearse during the day and have productions at
night. In any given month, it doesn't work like
it does here. Here you open a show it runs for
two weeks and closes. There you open a show. It
will have 3 or 4 days to get on it's feet, and
then it is up and running. It's just not every
night, it's blended into the
schedule. There was one time I was in
eight plays consecutively
running. We would rehearse "Rosencrantz
"Angels in America" and "Waiting for Godot". We
would have all these plays up and ready to go.
So you would come into the theatre and go 'It's
Tuesday, so it is Rosencrantz',
and that's the costume you would put on, and
that's the play you would do. And then Wednesday
is another play, maybe in
Czech, and Thursday was another. That was
actually an amazing experience, to go to the
theatre and work on an entirely different play
every night and during the day be in rehearsal
for going on. It was eight years of full bore
work and rehearsal, and doing this craft that I
love so much. Sometimes it is very hard to get
work, and I felt blessed to be able to work so
much for so long. And that's the big difference
between work here. Here you get cast, you work,
and then it goes away after two weeks. Everybody
sort of parts ways and
moves on. It's disheartening, and a shame
because so much good will is built up and the
play gets good by the second week then it's time
for it to go away. So yeah, I do enjoy very much
the process of what theatre was like in Eastern
Europe, much more than here in North America.
[TG] As an actor do you
prefer the immediacy of performing live
theatre or do you prefer
[DN] You know, It's apples
and oranges. I enjoy
both of them, they are very different things.
They are different approaches to the work. One
pays better than the other, theatre ... not. (Laughs) The style is entirely different. You
know, you are working on an entire role. You're
working in front of an entire audience.
You have a direct relationship with them. Whereas in TV, it's much more deconstructive. You take
little bits and pieces of the script, you can do
them over and over again and hone them, work
them from different angles. Then you go home and
do the dishes and washing up. You don't have any
direct relationship with the audience until you
go to your email and
go 'oh my goodness, people are watching!'
[TG] I've got a few fun fast
questions for you. What's the most embarrassing
CD you will admit to owning?
[DN] Pat Benatar, "Love is
a Battlefield". (laughs) How about that one?
I'm sure I have some Duran Duran rattling around
in my closet too.
[TG] There's nothing wrong
with a little Eighties music!
[DN] Well I was around for
it... (both laugh)
[TG] What one thing do you
have that you would never ever sell?
[DN] * thinks* My boat.
It's just a little one, but I have a lot of fun
[TG] Pink Floyd or
[DN] Pink Floyd.
[TG] Snow or sand?
[DN] Oh that's a really
good one... *thinks again* Both! Can I do that?
[TG] Morning or evening?
[DN] Evening, late night.
[TG] You're a night owl?
How do you cope with early mornings?
[DN] I don't. (laughs)
It starts at ten
o'clock for me, in the morning. When I can, of
[TG] Wine or beer?
[DN] Hmm... beer.
[TG] Chocolate or
[TG] (laughs) I think
everyone answers chocolate to that one. Tiger or
[DN] Tiger! I
mean... come on!
[TG] If you, yourself,
actually had the
chance to go to Atlantis, what would be your one
personal luxury Item?
[DN] What would the one
personal luxury item I
would take to (sings) Atlantis... Probably My iPod.
[TG] Ah! And what's
currently playing on your iPod?
[DN] The.. Arcade Fire,
Arctic Monkeys, Pink Martini. What else
have I been listening to a lot recently? Oh! The
new Red Hot Chili Peppers. That's a good little
double album. Tom York! I'm really excited about
that. Radiohead's all over the place. It just
keeps coming up in the mixes, can't get right of
[TG] Quite wide taste
Well, thank you.
[TG] Almost as bad as my
CD collection. I've got everything from
seriously heavy classical to heavy metal.
[DN] Yeah! Every now and
then a little AC/DC will creep in... depends on
the time of day that you have to turn it up or
turn it down! (laughs)
[TG] That's all we have. Thank you
very much for you time this evening, David -
it's been fun!