Today, Evil takes over this blog. And by Evil, I am, of course, referring to “Evil” Kenny Gibbs, our Stargate Atlantis Props Master. Kenny a.k.a. Evil a.k.a. Yellow has been with the show as long as I can remember and it’s a pleasure to have him drop by for a little meet ‘n greet. While you’re enjoying Kenny’s little show and tell, start thinking up questions for our next guest, Mika McKinnon who, as part of the props department, has been our physics consultant for the past two seasons.
So, start posting questions for Mika, enjoy Evil’s Q&A, and scroll down to the bottom of the Kellerific mailbag to check out The Weird Food Purchase of the Day: Durian!
Airelle writes: ““Evil” Kenny Gibbs— what is the evil in your name referring to?
A-‘evil’ was a nick name given to me by my nemesis…Martin Wood ( Martin and I are actually very good friends to tell the truth ). It was my first season on the show and everything was really great until we started shooting “Upgrades”. The main prop was an alien (Tok’ra I think ) arm bracelet device that would ‘upgrade’ a person’s abilities when worn. The prop was very tempermental ( I’m being nice…). Near the end of the episode, Martin called for a remote control version of the arm bracelet to be brought to set. Since he was sure the bracelet wouldn’t work he called it evil…then he called me evil. I brought in the prop, positioned it and activated it for a test. It didn’t work. I looked up, walked over to Martin and said “whatever” and walked away. Everyone laughed, including Martin. The name has stuck ever since.
How do you make those amazing props>? I know its not all smoke and mirrors, but a little magic? Have you had to fashion any prop that you scratched your head and said, #$%^&*$…?
A-Those amazing props are conceived and created by an amazing group of people. Our Production Designer ( James Robbins ) starts the process, and our model shop brings the drawings to life. The shop is lead by Gordon Bellamy, who has been with the show for years ( btw, he had very little to do with that arm bracelet ). The talented group that he supervises is a mixture of engineers, sculptors, machinists and inventive builders. They are the true magicians that make my job fun and rewarding.
How does the stargate turn)(if thats your dept)?
A-The mechanics behind the gate’s practical function is handled by our SPFX department lead by Wray Douglas. Another great team and amazing professionals.
Whats your favorite power tool to use?”
A-Power tool huh? Being the ‘office guy’ now, I don’t handle tools or weapons as often as before. I guess I would have to say my 24v cordless Bosh circ saw or drill. They always get the job done ( did that sound like a commercial ? ).
Antisocialbutteflie writes: “1) How much do you have to creatively recycle the same props over again?
A-Once an episode has aired, we’re free to reuse and modify existing props. It happens quite often.
2) Did you always like building things? What did you want to do when you were a kid?”
A-I’ve always been the kid of kid who wanted to know how things worked and loved adventures. Building forts and gizmos was how I kept myself entertained as a kid.
I always loved watching action and adventure movies growing up, so I actually thought I’d grow up to be a cop.
KaziWren writes: “Oh, great and evil one,
I humbly put forth the following questions for your prop-masterness:
1). What are your favorite materials to work with when creating props?
A-Hmmm, that’s a tough one. All of our props vary in the materials used to create them. I guess I would have to say aircraft aluminum. We’ve built a few sword over the years and what we’ve been able to create with aircraft grade aluminum has been fantastic.
2). How challenging is it to develop props for science fiction?
A-I think I’d describe it as an adventure in problem solving. Today’s technology makes almost anything possible. Building practical props that would survive an episode ten years ago was challenging. Working with people that are as talented as the group we have is just plain fun!
3). Are there any props that regularly “grow legs and walk away”? I can only imagine actors may become attached to a cool prop and … well … you know.
Thank you for everything you’ve done to make all us fans go “OMFG! Did you see that gun/blaster/book/picture/etc!”
A-Props that ‘grow legs’ are as common as surfing the internet! Implementing precautions to prevent them from walking is the hard part. We grow attached to our own props as much as the actors that use them. It all comes down to the value of the prop when it comes to giving parting gifts to actors…usually it doesn’t happen. We do our best to wow you guys and our producers….you’re welcome.
Jess writes: “1) Are all the show’s prop’s made from scratch or do parts of old or brought thing’s get worked into them???
A-Most of our props are made from scratch. Trying to re-create an existing prop into something else in usually more time consuming and costly. We still recycle whatever we can but in most cases we build from scratch.
2) What is the weirdest thing you have made a prop from??”
A-Weirdest thing I can think of is not really that weird. In SG-1, we made the Ori warrior staff weapons from pool cues! After studying the concept drawings, the model shop realized it was the best material to use…so we did : )
Laura writes: “In some of the behind the scenes features of the props department you have what appears to be a monkey teddy, (I can’t exactly remember as its been awhile since I saw it) what is the story of why you have him attached to you?”
A-Boy, nothing gets by you guys. The monkey. Do I really want to tell you about Baba-lou….okay. Back in the SG-1 days we did an episode called ‘Absolute Power’ ( I hope I’m right about the episode ). Michael Shanks’ character dreamt he was taking total control of earth or something like that. He had a scene where he was in the SGC infirmary and my prop master thought it would be a funny joke to put a stuffed toy in the bed to keep him company. When Michael found Baba-lou, he immediately embraced the joke and he wanted B around for the rest of the episode as the set mascot. It became my responsibility to make sure B was there so I wore him everywhere. The cast and crew became attached to B and I ended up wearing him for the rest of the season. Baba-lou had his own fans too. Corin Nemic’s daughter liked B so much she made her dad buy B clothes when they were on vacation one summer hiatus! Where’s B now? He’s retired from set life and is presently….hanging beside my desk.
Chelle deBeor writes: “Why “Evil” ?? How did that name come about?
A-Yeah, again thanks to Martin Wood.
What’s the “evilest” thing you have done on set and to whom?”
A-I’m a bit of a prankster I’ll admit. I usually try to keep things light at work. When I was on set I think the worst prank I pulled was on our AD department. I tricked our 3rd AD into running from a location base camp to set by imitating his boss ( 1st AD ) on the walkie. The poor guy was exhausted by the time we broke for lunch!!
Sulien writes: “Questions for Evil Kenny Was there a specific TV series or movie that inspired you to go into the Business as a props maker? If so, which one?
A-I’ve always had a passion for sci-fi and action ever since I can remember watching movies. It was tv shows like ‘Batman’ ( with Adam West ) and the original ‘Star Trek’ did it for me. I was also a comic book kid. My favs, ‘Luke Cage-Power Man’ and the ‘Fantastic 4’.
What has been your personal favorite prop that you had a hand in making (Stargate related or otherwise)?
A-My favorite Stargate prop would have to be a toss up between the ‘replicator disruptor’ used by RDA in SG-1 or the hero swords used in Blade 3. Guns and swords. Love em!
What is your favorite prop from a series/movie that you haven’t worked on?
A-The only prop that gave me ‘prop envy’ was the cool props that the ‘007’s always have! The Bond props rock!!
Which prop was the hardest to make?
A-I don’t think I can remember what was the hardest thing for the boys at the model have built. I can only say that the more the props have to do (lights, special actions thru remote control, etc… ) , the harder they are to perfect without failing on camera.
Lastly, thank you for all of the beautiful work you and your crew have done for Stargate!”
A-Thank-you so much.
Norriski writes: “On the commentaries we often here that you are responsible for the food that the actors eat on the show; so what’s the strangest thing you’ve made an actor eat?
A-We once made a mixture of rice stick noodles, sweet bean paste and vermicelli. I don’t think they actually swallowed much but we tried making it tasty…if that’s possible.
Also did you enjoy your time in Antarctica for Continuum and when you agreed to go did you know you were going to become part of the cast?”
A-We were actually in the Arctic. Antarctica would have been much more comfortable temperature wise : ) The trip and the filming was a great life experience. Martin did mention that he’d have to dress me up, but I didn’t think that I’d be that close to RDA or the camera.
Eugene from Aus writes: “1] Will there ever be released specs of some of the props used, such as Ronon’s Gun or perhaps a Wraith Stunner? (and will there be reproductions of them to be sold on the MGM online store?) By specs, I mean like “build-it-yourself” instructions, possibly from scratch or a bought set.
A-To tell you the truth…I don’t know. Those kinds of decisions are made by MGM. We just make sure whatever we produce looks and works great on camera. The rest is out of our hands.
1-2] Also on the topic of Ronon’s gun, how many duplicates of his gun have you made, that is, the guns with the Wraith Hair on the handle/hilt(unsure of the proper terminology)
A-There are a few version of the Ronon guns kept on hand. We have stunt foam/rubbers and hero aluminum versions. I think the count is at 8 right now.
2] Ah, another thing, (not sure if i’m asking the right person), but are you responsible for the heat-resistant gel(featured on many of Bartok’s specials, I believe some on the AoT and some mentions on your host’s blog) , and if so, can you share with us how to make it, or possibly if it’s already commercially released, where to buy it?
A-The gel is used by our stunt coordinator James Bamford, and our SPFX department for serious fire gags. I highly doubt the ingredients of the gel is published.
3](unsure if already asked) Favourite material to use for any prop?
A-Air craft grade aluminum.
4] Favourite prop in general?
A-I would say the Telchak device or a Goa’uld stun grenade ( I have one of each on my desk )
5] Where does the line stand when it’s either a Prop, or part of the background/Set Deco?(I think this may be answered in SG1, where someone was using a cap as an example)
A-If an actor handles or carries something, it becomes a prop.
6] Are propane cannons part of your territory, if so, then are the ones used for Stargate the standard design or are they completely different from the ones used in other commercial productions?”
A-I wish we could handle propane cannons!! Those bad boys are under the strict jurisdiction of SPFX…
SusantheTartanTurtle writes: “What do your family call you – Evil or Kenny?”
A-I usually get ‘hey you’!! Kidding! They call me Kenny : )
MellowYellow writes: “Question for Evil Kenny
Is Jason’s wig considered a prop? (Just joking)
OK, here is my question for Evil Kenny.
How do you go about deciding on the final prop that is use? Do the writers/directors give you an idea or do you get your own idea based on how you interpret something or is it a combination of the two?
A-Most of the decisions I make are straightforward. Once a concept drawing has been approved, I sit down with Gordon to see if we can make it work. Sometimes we ask guys like Paco Don and Darren Wright ( model shop engineers ) to join the discussion right from the get go. It’s a group effort really. Most of the time the decisions are obvious and I just let the model shop do their thang. If the build is difficult or complex, my main concern is deciding ‘will it work on set’. That’s when I get really involved.
Looking back, are there any episodes where something was or wasn’t used and now you think it should or shouldn’t have been used? Can you give examples?”
A-Those kind of things don’t bother me cause it happens all the time. The final call on set belongs to the director and the producers. As long as we deliver the props and they work, I’m a happy camper.
DasNdanger writes: “@ “Evil” Kenny Gibbs - Not sure if this is your department, or wardrobe, or make-up – but I’ll give you a try. Questions about Wraith finger armor:
What is the finger armor actually made of (metal, plastic, other)?
A-The finger armor isn’t my department but I think it’s made from a urethane compound…plastic.
What is it supposed to be – a manufactured item, or the remnants of iratus bug exoskeleton?
A-That’s a question for Joe : )
What purpose is it supposed to serve – is it just for adornment, or is it a sort of weapon, or tool, or has this not been determined?
A-Joe….help me out here!
Strivaria writes: “- As someone whose longtime dream jobs were either astronaut or Star Wars model/prop builder, how does one go about getting into the prop making business anyway? How did you get started?
A-Well, I started building props on a feature called ‘The 13th Warrior’ as a laborer. I was new to Vancouver and met the right people who gave me a chance. From there it was a matter of dedicating myself to working hard and listening to people that wanted to share their expertise in the biz.
I think I saw someone else ask this same question but I’ll repeat anyway: any chance of getting schematic/specs for things like the turtle brooch and ZedPM? I mean, I think I’ve got those two figured out, but it would be nice to have confirmation.”
A-Yeah, that’s totally not my call. It may happen one day but only if MGM goes in that direction.
DasNDanger writes: “Evil Kenny - Another question – What is the most harmless everyday item that’s been used to create the grossest/creepiest/most disgusting prop?”
A-Bean paste, vermicelli and food coloring…I take my hat off to Rachel Luttrell…sorry Rach
Wraithfodder writes: “* What has been the oddest prop you’ve ever had to create?
A-Oddest prop would have to be the time we made an alien communication device made from painting a racket ball…
* Once you’re handed a script, how long does it normally take the set folk to dress up a set?
A-Usually my guys don’t dress the sets, that’s Set Decorating.
* Lots of props folk like to insert a favorite item into each episode; have you guys done the same with SGA?
A-I used to sneak my monkey Baba-lou into shots….no really!!
* How did you get into doing props for TV?
A-A keen interest in film, a desire to help create things that you can’t buy at the mall and a strong work ethic…and lots of luck!
* Hmm, and lastly, why are you “Evil”? “
A-You know if Martin Wood didn’t give me that name nearly ten years ago I might be called Kenny the Saint….yeah right!!!
Jen writes: “The producers never felt that any of the other actors on SGA deserved to be nominated for anything, in a five year period !!!”
Answer: If you found that upsetting, then you’re not going to want to hear the rest of the story. But I’ll tell it anyway. You see, initially, we had plenty of money in the budget to submit all of our actors for consideration. But then we started shooting Brain Storm, an episode in which the Keller character attends a fancy party, and while our costume department has done terrific work all year, the producers felt it was imperative that we take matters into our own hands to ensure that Keller (who happens to be our very favorite) look her best. Having done an apprenticeship under Bill Blass and Karl Lagerfeld, I designed Keller’s outfit while Carl, who worked as a seamstress in the lean years prior to landing his gig on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, put it all together. We only used the very best of materials and so, when all was said and done, it turned out that we had exceeded the costume budget for the episode. In order to pay for the cost overruns, we decided to take the extra money out of the Gemini submission actor budget. There was just enough money left for one submission so, of course, that went to Jewel because, after all, Keller is our favorite. Anyway, once the other actors got wind of this, they contributed their own cash to replenish the Gemini submission budget, funds formerly earmarked as milk money for their children. The producers took that money and used it to purchase a pair of Jimmy Choo’s for the Keller character. Whatever money was leftover went, not to actor submissions for the Gemini, but toward an truly awesome wrap gift for Jewel that included an all-expenses-paid trip to Montreal, a nice fuel-economical car, and a puppy. The rest of the cast received t-shirts that read: “I WORKED ON STARGATE ATLANTIS FOR 5 YEARS AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT BECAUSE I WASN’T THE PRODUCERS’ FAVORITE”.
Shadow Step writes: “We only had enough money for only one submission ”
Ack, what do they cost?”
Answer: A dollar fifty. EACH!
B Angel writes: “But isn’t that kind of mean to the other actors?”
Answer: Parents always choose favorites. It’s a normal part of growing up.
Sachi writes: “Oh, and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a fantastic book. I hope you enjoy it.”
Answer: So far, very much so. I like it a lot. But nowhere near as much as I like Keller.
Happy Editor writes: “I’m going to be marvelously off-topic, but I just had a really good work review and got a 2.5 percent raise!”
Answer: Congratulations! Consider using the extra funds to purchase some Jennifer Keller memorabilia.
Marissa writes: “Wait until the movie comes out. Nobody’s going to want to buy it, because it’s going to be all Keller, Keller, Keller.”
Answer: Hey, how did you know? Did you talk to someone about our idea? By the way, you forget an extra two Keller, Kellers.
BeckettsPatient writes: “ In the rather unlikely event that I’ll ever get to vancouver and have the money for a fuel Dinner; would the cook be able to present me with a rich and satisfying vegetarian menu?”
Answer: Absolutely. The first time Mark Dacascos was in town, he was following a strict vegetarian diet as part of a training regimen for an upcoming mini-series. Chef Belcham and the gang fixed him up with a “vegetarian feast” (which I always assumed was an oxymoron). By the way, you know who else isn’t a vegetarian? Jewel Staite!
Nodaskip writes: “I thought there was? There where 2 mentions of it, both from Carter.
In the first one she told Sheppard his name was on the very short list for command. Then in the second after Carter has to deal with the IOA she tells Sheppard “I can see why you didn’t want command.”
Answer: That was an in-story consideration, the notion that the IOA considered giving Sheppard military command. The producers never considered going down that route. Although we did, of course, give some thought to making Keller the base commander.
AMZ writes: “I’m sure this question has probably already been asked and answered and I’ve missed it, but just in case… will there be special features (like commentaries) for the Season 5 dvds?”
Answer: Yep. There’ll be a bunch – each of which will focus on Keller’s contribution to a specific episode.
Shadow Step writes: “Do you *think* that the powers that be would like to include *one* (1) character from a previous Stargate series in the new series?”
Answer: From what I’ve heard, it will probably be an all new cast. But we producers are lobbying hard for the Keller character.
Shai writes: “Hope you’ll ‘do the Right Thing’ and nominate Joe F for season 5.”
Answer: Sorry. The Season 5 Gemini Actor Submission budget has already been allocated to the print and publicity campaign in support of Jewel’s 2008-2009 Gemini nomination.
Lisa writes: “Again I realise that Joe Flanigan cannot be nominated for a Canadian award but surely there are some American awards he could have been nominated for, but it’s not just about awards but a little recognition to all the cast members who have consistantly done a great job and I rarely if ever have seen Joe Flanigan get applauded for anything he has contritubed to Atlantis over the years.”
Answer: Unfortunately, the American awards submission budget is also being redirected toward funding Jewel’s publicity campaign.