Higginson was born in Burlington, Ontario. When she was 18
she moved to England where she studied acting at Guildhall
in London. In 2000 she won a Gemini Award for her performance
as Katherine Stracham in The City. She has had numerous
lead roles in television productions including Stephen
King's Storm of the Century, Balls Up, Hidden
Room, Family of Cops III and TekWars. She has also guest
starred in shows including Canada: A People's History,
Twice in a Lifetime and The Outer Limits. She is
also remembered for her portrayal of Mary in the movie The
English Patient. She currently plays Dr Elizabeth Weir
in Stargate: Atlantis. Darren
up with her as Season One of Stargate:
starts its release on DVD...
Rea: What was it that attracted you to the role of Dr Elizabeth
Weir in Stargate: Atlantis?
Higginson: Er... A purpose in life [laughs].
I didn't know the show Stargate, so I wasn't aware
of that sort of connection with it. I thought she was a cool
character. She was a very strong ethical character.
always nice to play those sort of roles. As a woman, characters
tend to be, especially in television, a little bit manipulative.
So it was a combination of these things that attracted me
to this role... that and the money [laughs].
Were you apprehensive about starring in a spin-off show?
Er... You know I really don't think in those terms. All I
do is think about the day to day job. It's funny because people
sort of talk about: "You must feel great because you're
in a show that's already got a huge following because of Stargate
and you must feel really confident that you've already got
the fans." And I was apprehensive on that level.
didn't think that that was the case, because if the fans thought
that we were coming along to take the place of Stargate
there might not be a whole lot of warmth. There might have
been a whole lot of animosity because they love Stargate
so much. So at first I didn't think it would be helpful at
all. I thought that it could be a hindrance to us.
I actually got out there and met some of these fans - who
are so passionate and so adorable - and I realised that we
are very lucky because Stargate gave us a sort of step
up, which made it much easier for a new show.
Do you think that Atlantis has the potential to be
as popular and last as long as SG-1 has?
My line of the day, and my line in life actually, is: "I
live as a pessimist". I do that, not because I'm negative,
but because that way I'm only pleasantly surprised [laughs].
You know, you don't want to be disappointed.
think that as far as shows go, we have all of the tools to
do that. Because Stargate has done it; because we are
created by the same people that created Stargate; because
we already have this fan base that seems to be embracing us
with loyalty and warmth, because of their loyalty and love
television medium is very fickle, but the sci-fi fans are
so loyal and dedicated. So if any show has a chance, then
we have to be up there with... er those chance... [laughs].
Does that make sense? [laughs].
Dr Weir was originally played in Stargate: SG-1 (in
the two-part episode The Lost City) by Jessica Steen.
Had you seen how she'd played the role and did you make a
conscious effort to make your Weir different in any way?
This is the one question I am really bored with now! [Laughs]
And I'll tell you why. At this point I've now done 24 episodes
of this show. She did one. So, at this point for me, it's
like if people are still comparing me then I've not done a
understand that a lot of people won't have even seen the first
episode yet, but I'm just so frustrated with answering that
question [laughs] but I do understand why people ask it.
answer you question though... When I was offered the part
I didn't know that the character had been played by another
actress before. Once I said I'd do the show was when they
told me that the character had appeared before. At first,
yes it was daunting, and I thought: "now do I second
guess my choices?"
I spoke with Brad [Wright - Atlantis's creator] and
he said: "No. We hired you on your audition, so don't
second guess anything."
I had known before, I would have been going in with questions
of what did they liked about her?; what didn't they like about
her?; what do I do? I then watched her episodes because I
wanted the information about the character. It was a tough
decision to make, because I knew that it would make me insecure.
We all see our own warts and everyone else's halos - it's
much easier to do that. I saw some very interesting choices
and I liked what she did with the part and I made the decision
that I couldn't get stressed about it because we are very
different actors and we both made very different choices towards
I did store that in the back of my head and maybe on some
level it can texture what I'm doing. But I can't let it feed
me, otherwise she would still be here. I'm here for a reason
and I have to trust that and go with what I would do instinctively.
Are you starting to get recognised as Dr Weir now? And if
so how do you deal with that?
No, not at all yet. I've had little bits of experiences in
the past and I don't really embrace celebrity - I find it
a bit awkward and strange, the idea of it. But, at the same
time, it's a weird thing because there's a part of you, no
matter what you do, that feels great when somebody comes up
to you and says: "Hey! I applaud what you do," be
it if you're an accountant or no matter what you do. Somebody
validating what you do is a great feeling. I think our society
is so strange about celebrity. I have a hard time with it
- I struggle with it. On the one hand you want to be appreciated
and on the other hand you want to say: "I'm not saving
children's lives so don't applaud too loudly." It's a
did a show a few years ago in Toronto and that was very funny
because my face was on the side of buses a lot. I had a lot
of people coming up to me saying: "Oh aren't you..."
And I dealt with it by lying. I would say: "No that's
not me." And they'd look close and go: "Oh, you
look a lot like her."
like a ragamuffin in real life. I don't wear makeup, I don't
brush my hair. I'm a bit of a scrubmuffin So if I say that
it's not me, it's very easy for people to believe me. I've
found that the sci-fi fans are so loyal and so committed that
I'm kind of straight forward with them and I feel very grateful
had my first experience at a convention recently and I was
just blown away by their commitment and warmth. So at this
point I say: "Thank you very much and bless you for liking
the show." I found the whole convention experience really
intense and exhausting. After three days of it I spent the
following Monday just hiding in my hotel room - I didn't want
to smile or shake a hand. But, I was really blown away by
the really interesting questions that were asked by people
and by their absolute commitment.
What characteristics would you say, if any, you share with
Dr. Weir? Would you be happy stuck on the base, or would you
want to be out there exploring the galaxy?
I'd like to be out there doing the exciting stuff.
did a lot of action films in Toronto for a while. I did about
five or six "d" movie action films over about two
years over there. I had great fun doing them. I find that
stuff is enjoyable - the jumping and running and shooting
guns and all that kind of stuff. It's a lot of fun. It's very
childlike - like playtime again.
miss that to a certain degree, but I understand that my character,
Elizabeth Weir, will never do that. She comes from a point
of criticising the military. I think she would like, and I
would like her, to go out more often in terms of meeting the
different cultures. I think her interest is in human nature
and having different cultures see each other as individuals
and learning from each others cultures. I think she's missing
doing that. Right now she does feel stuck in this place and
she can't leave. She's missing, what comes naturally to her
- human relations.
Do you get any input on how your character develops? And if
so is there any areas that you'd like to see her develop?
Yes, you get a little bit. The first season is a learning
curve for everyone. These guys that do the show are amazing.
They are a great bunch of people and you can go up to them
and say: "I want to do this..." and they'll say:
"No! It's never going to happen." [laughs] "Get
that out of your head! It's never going to happen."
And then you can go up to them with something else and they'll
go: "Oh, okay that's interesting, maybe. Maybe we can
they're very open but they won't pander to you. They're not
afraid to say: "Get out of your head right now,"
and they're not afraid to say: "I hadn't though of that.
That's a good idea." Or sometimes they'll say stuff like:
"Yeah, we have thought of that, but we're waiting until
the end of Season Two because that's an arc and we want to
get there slowly because we have these other ideas of how
we are going to get there."
would be great to see her have to deal with a situation that
went against everything she believes in - if she had to physically
defend herself, or another person. I think that would be a
really fun episode to explore - making the decision, having
to go back on what her politics might be and then the repercussions
of that decision and whether she was able to pull it off.
I think that would be a fun thing to explore.
TV production has changed in recent years with the introduction
of DVDs. Now not only are you expected to make a show, but
also there are camera crews filming behind-the-scenes documentaries.
Is that something that you are at ease with or do you sometimes
just want to get on with making the show?
Yeah, it's all sort of new at the moment. There are always
cameras floating around on set and there are certainly days
when you don't have it in you to be funny or quippy and you
just want to focus on the next scene.
you have to understand that it's a franchise now. The more
successful the franchise, the more likely the show will continue,
and the more likely I have a job [laughs]. So, I've been in
it long enough to understand how it's all connected.
are days when it's great fun too. You might have a day that's
not very interesting as an actor and the DVD camera comes
up, and you get to have fun ribbing the director or taking
the piss out of the best boy, and it actually invigorates
you and keeps you inspired. It all balances out, I think.
Are the cast and crew from SG-1 close by? And is their
door open to you if you want to go over there for advice?
Yeah. When they're not on location we're in the same building
and we bump into each other all the time. They're great -
so playful and so much fun.
going to get them in trouble, because I keep saying that the
best advise they've given us is to start drinking now and
by Season Nine we'll have a high tolerance level and be able
to hold our liqueur. We sort of shame them now because we
complain about our hangovers and they say: "Get over
One of the elements of SG-1 that goes down well with
fans are the comedy episodes where they take themselves out
of the normal show format and put a twist on the series -
have a bit of fun with the format. Is that something you'd
like to see happen on Atlantis too?
Yes. We've been much too sincere in the first season, but
it's something that we talk about. Every thing is still being
established on Atlantis. I think that's one of the
elements that makes SG-1 so successful - that absolute
irreverence and that wonderful fine balance they have of exploring
things seriously and having great ideas, but at the same time
stand on the side and take the piss.
Richard Dean Anderson's character does that so beautifully.
It's a very hard balance to achieve and I think with Joe's
[Joe Flanigan - who plays Maj. John Sheppard] dry sense of
humour and Hewlett's [David Hewlett - who plays Dr Rodney
McKay] very manic and self depreciating character, we have
the ability to explore that more. I think that it's a very
important thing to do and the more we do that, the more successful
think we have laid more on the sincere side this season and
I truly believe that they will lighten up a little more next
Of all the roles you've played which would you say you're
most proud of?
Two come to mind. Both are theatre. One was a production of
Mill on the Floss, which was actually a British theatre
company that adapted it from the George Eliot novel and we
did the Canadian premier. It was directed by Robin Phillips
and it was such a joyful experience - it was my favourite
experience ever, ever, ever.
other was an Edward Albee play called Three Tall Women
which was another remarkable cast and a great director
and I did that in London and in Ottawa, Canada. Those were
my two favourite parts.
Higginson, Anna Hagan and Stephen Ouimette in Mill
on the Floss
Higginson, Patricia Hamilton and Maggie Huculak in Three
Would you like to go back to theatre in the future?
Yeah. I've done two television series in the past, this is
my third one and I think when you do a series that it's really
important to do theatre in your time off. How ever much fun
it would be to do a short film, I think the balance of theatre
and television is a very healthy one. The two teach each other
a lot and they both appease to different parts of your creative
and playfulness and the result is a really healthy balance.
If you hadn't gotten into acting what do you think you'd be
When I was a kid I wanted to be an optometrist - I was obsessed
with eyes. I was seven when someone mentioned the word "optometrist"
to me and I went: "Ohhh! That's what I want to do."
Now I talk about wanting to get involved with photo journalism.
If I ever stop acting, I think I would somehow want to get
involved in that profession. That interests me, travelling
the world and trying to do something in that field.
going out and buying digital cameras and I'm still going and
buying lenses for my old 35ml and I really love that whole
Thank you for your time.
thanks to Alex Smith at DNA
Atlantis Volume 1 (Season 1 - Vol 1)
is available to buy on DVD from MGM from the 14 March 2005
this DVD for £13.99 (RRP: £19.99) by clicking