If you’re a fan of TV in general, you may have seen Paul McGillion on some of your favorite television shows. His filmography is extensive and includes credits such as The X-Files, Once Upon a Time, When Calls the Heart, Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, and 24.
McGillion is probably best well-known for his character for of the Scottish Doctor Carson Beckett in the 2004 television series, Stargate: Atlantis.
I recently spoke with Paul McGillion about his new role on The Flash and his time as Carson Beckett on Stargate: Atlantis.
Recently, McGillion debuted his recurring role as Earl Cox on The Flash Season 4 Episode 13 “True Colors.” Earl is a Scottish con man who Ralph Digby, the elongated man, finds sleeping on the couch in his office.
Ralph later transformed into Earl while talking with the team at Star Labs, revealing a new use for The Elongated Man’s polymerized cells.
“This character wasn’t initially written physically like I am, so we added a prosthetic belly and I tossed in the Scottish accent. I thought it would be fun, and they seemed to bite at it, and really enjoyed it,” said McGillion.
Earl Cox will also appear on The Flash Season 3 Episode 17 “Null and Annoyed,” and there is definitely the opportunity for Cox to come back.
“It’s a very different type of Scottish character, almost the dichotomy of Beckett, Beckett was this sweet cowardly lion sort of character. This character is just kind of a bit of a con man. He’s fun to play and you know he’s quite aggressive, and you know, the second episode was fun too,” said McGillion.
It’s been about ten years since McGillion has played a Scottish character. His role on Stargate: Atlantis was also Scottish, but it wasn’t originally scripted that way.
Stargate: Atlantis focused on an international team of explorers who establish a base in an abandoned ancient city of Atlantis. The casting directors were looking for two actors who could do accents for recurring characters, one of them being Beckett.
When McGillion read the script, he immediately knew the character was Scottish, despite some hesitation from the casting office.
“Beckett opens the pilot, and he doesn’t want to get in the chair, he’s a scaredy cat, and I said, ‘This guy’s Scottish,'” McGillion recalled.
“‘My agent at the time said, ‘What accent are you going to do?’ and I said ‘Scottish. Why?’ She said, ‘Well the casting director wants to know. He said, tell him not to do a Scottish accent, no one will understand him.’ I said ‘Well, no, there are educated Scottish people, not every role is like something from Trainspotting.'”
McGillion stuck to his guns and went to the audition ready to do an educated Scottish accent.
“I get to the audition, and he says, ‘What are you going to do?’ I said, ‘I’m going to do an educated Scottish accent’ and he’s like ‘Okay…’ and I could tell he wasn’t so pleased by that.”
McGillion read three scenes for his audition with casting director Stuart Aikins.
“I did the first scene, he’s like, ‘Good.’ I did a second scene, he says, ‘That was good.’ I did a third scene, and he’s like ‘Alright, very good. Get out.'”
A week later, McGillion would get the call that he was cast as Beckett. He was getting ready to go to Spain for a film festival at the time and canceled the trip.
At the time, Beckett was officially in three scripts, and the character’s future was uncertain, but Beckett ended up appearing in seventeen out of twenty episodes, and by the second season, McGillion was a regular on the show. Beckett would appear in sixty-two episodes in Stargate: Atlantis’ 100-episode run.
“As an actor, you kind of have to stick to your guns a bit and go with your gut. I felt like I did that, and it paid off. Sometimes it doesn’t, but I think that time I felt strongly about where I was going, and I am glad I did it,” McGillion shared.
Carson Beckett was later killed off on Stargate: Atlantis Season 3 Episode 17, “Sunday.” Fans were devastated, and so they launched the Save Carson Beckett campaign. Part of the campaign included fans sending McGillion turtles to represent Carson’s pet turtles.
“I had every kind of turtle sent to me that you can possibly imagine. Turtle tea cozy. Turtle posters. Turtle stuffies. Turtle everything. Then finally I told the fans, ‘Beckett loves turtles, but he also likes scotch.’ That worked out better for me,” McGillion remembered.
“That’s why the fan base will always hold a place in my heart, because they have always been so great to me, and I never forget it or take it for granted,” said McGillion.
A season later, McGillion would reappear on Atlantis as Carson Beckett’s clone. Executive Producer and writer, Joseph Mallozzi gave him a call with the idea.
“I said to Joe, ‘Well, how am I going to come back?’ He said, ‘Well you know, it’s sci-fi. Anything can happen in sci-fi,'” McGillion recalled.
The Carson clone would reappear in Stargate: Atlantis Season 4 Episodes 18 & 19, “The Kindred,” and would continue to appear until the series finale Stargate: Atlantis Season 5 Episode 20, “Enemy at the Gate,” saw a remarkable transformation when Beckett used an Ancient chair, like the one he was afraid of in the pilot, to fly the city into San Francisco Bay.
Even though it has been almost ten years since Stargate: Atlantis wrapped, another fan initiative took over Twitter recently with fans tweeting #StargateAlive and #StargateRising, trying to convince MGM Studios to bring the franchise back in some form.
The tweet storm drew actors from the series, as well as directors, and the producers, and left many fans wondering which characters might make a return to our television screens down the line.
“Well abso-bloody-lutely,” McGillion said, putting on Dr. Beckett’s Scottish accent when asked if he’d consider reprising his role in the franchise.
“Of course, he was such a fun character to play, I think it would be a blast to come back. It would be great if Carson ended up on an island with Swedish models.” he joked.
“Listen, Carson never got anything. The only time Carson ever got kissed was from Rodney, so I think he deserves a little something-something,” McGillion elaborated, referencing Stargate: Atlantis Season 2 Episode 4, “Duet.”
“But seriously, we all had such great storylines, and my character had a ton of them,” said McGillion. “I am sure whatever they wrote would be well received. These guys, if they did have the good fortune of being picked up again, it would definitely be a pleasure to work on again. It was a lot of fun.”
McGillion’s resume is extensive. He lives in Vancouver, which is sci-fi central and has given him the opportunity to appear on many series. McGillion himself grew up watching Star Trek and likes the imagination that sci-fi provides.
“It’s escapism, and I think that’s a great thing that is needed readily at this point in time, and that’s the thing about Stargate. When I worked on Stargate, every episode took you to a different galaxy or a different planet, and I love the fact that families can watch those shows together, and I think The Flash has that appeal as well. I think that’s something that’s missing these days,” McGillion noted.
The genre has afforded him the opportunity to play a variety of characters. McGillion had a recurring role on Sanctuary as Terrence Wexford.
Wexford was a half-human, half-lizard who was set to overthrow the head of the Sanctuary network, Helen Magnus, played by fellow Stargate alum Amanda Tapping.
“To me, that’s the perfect example, you know you play Beckett for five seasons and they say he’s the ‘Heart of Atlantis,’ and then you play this guy, who’s just evil incarnate,” said McGillion.
“For an actor, it’s so much fun to play that. I ended up taking over the Sanctuary after the second season.”
McGillion doesn’t just appear in sci-fi. He’s currently in a film called Heartbeats which is best described as Dirty Dancing meets Step Up. McGillion plays the father of the main character.
“We have two daughters, and one of them is supposed to be going to school and we find out she’s spending her tuition money on dance classes, so we say, ‘You’re coming with us, we’re going to a wedding in India.’ She ends up falling in love with a Bollywood wedding entertainer, and then this romance ensues,” McGillion explained.
Heartbeats is the latest from Duane Adler who created the Step Up franchise.
“Duane Adler, I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s just a class act. His whole thing is being collaborative, and that’s not something that’s seen enough in this day and age. He just makes everyone feel at home and comfortable in their skin,” said McGillion.
In between studio projects, McGillion likes to stay active with his own independent projects. Recently, McGillion wrote, directed, and starred in a short film called Before the Day with his good friend, Steve Belford, which will premiere at the 2018 Canadian Film Fest in Toronto.
“It’s a more dramatic piece about the day before a traumatic episode happens to one of these two brothers, but it was really based on my father and his father going through cancer treatments,” said McGillion.
He is also in Frontier on Netflix and The History Channel with his Stargate: Atlantis co-star, Jason Mamoa. McGillion will be playing Major Vinnicombe in Season 3, and his character will be pivotal to the season. You can also catch him in Midnight Sun with Bella Thorne and Patrick Schwartzenegger.
With McGillion’s extensive resume, some might be surprised to learn that he didn’t originally plan on going into acting.
“I was number six out of seven kids and no one else in the family was an actor. I got my teaching degree. I took some acting classes and I really enjoyed it. Then I started slowly getting into it, there’s a lot of theater in Toronto, and I started getting parts in a ton of commercials, and then parts on small television shows, and I started building up my resume. Then it just started exploding from there,” McGillion said.
When he was first starting out his dad didn’t quite understand what he was doing out in Vancouver.
“I remember telling my dad, he’s old school Scottish, on the phone, and I was in Vancouver, he said, ‘What are you doing out there, doing that? You’re a teacher, you have a teaching degree, you’re a teacher,'” McGillion said. “I said to him, ‘Well dad, you always said, whatever you do, you gotta love it.’ And he said, ‘That’s right, I did say that.'”
But his dad’s tune changed when McGillion called him back a few weeks later to tell him he got a role on The X-Files Season 2 Episode 5 “Duane Barry.”
“‘He goes, ‘That’s a very popular show, how much do you make doing that?’ I told him, and he said, ‘That’s fantastic the acting! Great stuff!'”
Be sure to catch Paul McGillion on The Flash, airing Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW. You can also binge Stargate: Atlantis on Hulu.
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