AE: In terms of the controversy, you’re probably also experiencing runoff from so many other shows that have let lesbians and bisexual women down…
MN: Being an Asian woman, I’ve got the double whammy of being Asian and being a woman in this business, so I completely empathize and totally understand the sensitivity of a minority group.
And I think that’s why I felt challenged to take on the part of Camile, because for me I really had an innate understanding of why she could sometimes come off as having a big chip on her shoulder, because she’s had to, in so many ways. Not just being an Asian woman, but also being a gay Asian woman in a man’s world and fighting for what she believes she deserves.
And in the previous episodes, you can see the hinting at some of the stuff she’s had to come up against in trying to get promotions. So, it’s just a wonderful discovery of who she really is and the strength that she has as a person to overcome all those obstacles and to reach the level of authority she has in the IOA. And a lot of it comes from the support she has from Sharon as well.
So for me, it’s been really interesting to show her vulnerability because she doesn’t have that support anymore on Destiny. These are really human issues, and that’s what I love about the show. It takes place in outer space, we have aliens, the crazy stargate … but ultimately, they’re relatable characters.
Ming-Na in Stargate Universe
AE: Is that struggle (dealing with three types of discrimination in this environment) going to be a bigger part of her story throughout the season?
MN: I think you see it in the way she handles situations, whether it’s confrontations with Colonel Young or Colonel Telford, or whether it’s dealing with Rush, even. You see different levels in how she relates to the people around her.
That’s what I love, that it’s not just expository scenes, but there are moments in a person’s life in which they’re in a workplace and have to deal with a particular person or issue. You deal with it based on who you are and where you’re coming from.
With Camile, that’s what you see. Even in the scene with Colonel Young, in which he’s saying, "Look, I’m going to have a lottery," she says, "No, let’s think about this. Don’t you want the people who will have the best chance to survive on this planet?" And she doesn’t present it in a way where it’s like, "Well, you have to listen to me because I’m an IOA officer." She’s trying to present it in a way where it’s like, "Look, there are other solutions to the problem."
So you see her intellect and you see her various ways of trying to deal with authority (the military, let’s say). But when she’s batted down, then you see the fire in her come out. And yet at the same time, there’s the other layer of her own vulnerability, of not wanting to die. I just love all of that about her. She’s just not what you would expect an IOA officer to be.
That’s what I’ve always loved about the science fiction genre, It’s always been sort of like a morality play. In anything that you read about, whether its Ray Bradbury or Isaac Asimov. Though they’re set in these fantastical worlds, ultimately they’re about peoples’ morals. That’s why I love the way that this series has been approached. It’s more the type of science fiction I’ve always enjoyed.
AE: I was going to ask if you enjoyed science fiction before Stargate, and it sounds like you have.
MN: Yes, well, and one of the great female heroes of all time would be Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, I mean, come on! (laughs) It doesn’t get better than that.
AE: Would you like to play a role like that?
MN: As long as I don’t get hurt! (laughs)
AE: I want to go back a little to what we were talking about before, in terms of the portrayal of minority groups in television. There are probably more portrayals of Asian American people in film and television now than before, but certainly it’s not where it could be. What are your thoughts on that, and how have things changed in the industry since you entered it.
MN: Do you mean for Asian Americans, or for actors?
AE: Both in terms of characters you’re seeing in pop culture and also your experience as an actor.
MN: Well I think there’s been great leaps and bounds. What I notice oftentimes, which is so fantastic for my kids, is that there are so many many animations which have an Asian character incorporated. And that never happened when I grew up. And sometimes there are whole series that have all Asian characters. That to me, is just incredible.
It’s an extreme leap in allowing my children to also have an image of themselves in these animations early in their lives. They’re not going to have the same issues feeling like they don’t belong, feeling like an outcast, or feeling like they don’t have representation of themselves, like how I grew up.
I grew up always treated like I was a foreigner, and had a non-Anglo name. But for me, those were the obstacles that made me stronger. In that sense I think it’s great; it’s never enough. I don’t take it personally, a lot of time its economics, as far as I’m concerned.
If there were more Asians in American, there would be more Asians depicted in the American media. If you go to Vancouver, where we shoot Stargate Universe, there are a lot of Asians in Vancouver and in every other commercial you see an Asian.
To me, its sometimes an economic issue more than a racial issue. And I don’t take that personally.
With the gay community, you guys are an extremely wonderful, vocal, strong, united group, and I wish Asian Americans were more that way. And you know, you guys knock it out of the ball park a lot of times. You get a lot of changes happening, you also get a lot of opposition. So hopefully, being a Buddhist, I always believe in accepting and staying open and I’m hoping more and more people lean that way, as time goes on.
AE: That’s why these portrayals in popular culture make a difference in the political landscape. They give people a face, a person to relate to when they think of a label. Which is why having your character on the show is important to LGBT people, it makes a difference.
MN: I appreciate that. And sometimes it makes me really nervous because as an actor you do what is on the page, and so that’s why I have a lot of trust in my writers. Because if i didn’t, there might be a lot of conflicts ahead that we’d have to deal with. But because I trust them, that’s the other reason why I took on the job, it’s an artistic group effort. And so far so good.
I’ve been really happy with the character that they’ve been creating with Camile and I’m really excited. I hope we see Season Two and just keep building on great characters.
To read more about the body-swapping controversy, click here.