Interview: STID'S Cybernetically Augmented Science Officer, Joseph Gatt, Part 2
What do Star Trek Into Darkness, God of War, Thor, Chuck, Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Elder Scrolls and the current cable series Banshee all have in common? That’d be Joseph Gatt, an imposing, talented and ambitious British actor who’s starting to make a serious mark in Hollywood. He plays the unique-looking, cybernetically augmented character, Science Officer 0718, who appears on the Enterprise bridge throughout the movie. Gatt takes his acting, and Science Officer 0718, very seriously, and once he got going during a recent interview there was just no stopping the man, so we’re running this conversation in two parts. Below is part two.
Were you at all disappointed your STID character went from being named GATT2000 or GATT5000 to Science Officer 0718? GATT5000 really would have been cool...
GATT: It's kind of funny. The whole GATT2000/5000 thing was a bit of a joke. It originated from a set nickname which Dave Anderson used to call me. On any other production I would never have believed that that could seriously be my character name, but J.J. has a habit of naming his characters according to their actor names or other important names/dates/events in his life. About two weeks before the release, Paramount had given me permission to say my character name was GATT5000. I thought that this was a little strange, but cool. Then, about a week before release, I was told that my character credit was going to be Science Officer 0718. At first I was a little annoyed about the change, but then I started to be OK with it. It does, however, seem like a very inhuman name. One of the most frustrating things was that we'd already established that the character was human, with cybernetic implants. So, why does he have a number and not a name? Did he have a name before the implants? I didn't answer these questions at the time because there was no name and no need for a name, but now it makes me wonder. I'd love to know your (readers’) opinions. Maybe the truth will come out in the next movie?
Building on that, some fans feel the character is too ahead of its time, and/or think that a character connected to the ship's systems could even be a threat if somehow hacked. Your thoughts?
GATT: Firstly, since these movies are reboots and are living in an alternative timeline to the other Treks, I didn't worry too much about matching other canons/timelines from other shows. Secondly, not a huge amount of details were decided about the character on set unless they were deemed absolutely necessary to the shoot at that time. Due to the scope of the character, I was free, as an actor, to work out as much of this unstated background as I needed. None of this is canon or set in stone. They are the educated thoughts and developments which I did to help my work as an actor and to fulfill my inner geek... a little. I knew the basics. I am human. I graduated from Starfleet. I was augmented with advanced cybernetic implants. I work as a Science Officer aboard the bridge of the Enterprise. I personally think that it's perfectly feasible to have advanced cybernetics by the mid twenty-third century. We have people walking around today, in 2013, with cybernetic implants of various kinds, so how can we say that it would be ahead of its time 250 years into the future?
How about the character’s connection to the ship’s computer via his cybernetic augmentation?
GATT: Technically, my humanity acts as a firewall against the hacking threat. Because I'm still a human, with a cybernetic implant, I can't be hacked. My humanity will always know what’s right and wrong and is always in control over the cybernetic implant part of me. This means that, even if there is a hacking threat to the ship’s main computer or to me directly, it won't get through the human firewall and the ship will always be safe. In the end, you guys know more about this universe than I ever will, and I'm hoping you will help me fill in this character’s details. Or maybe more will be revealed in a novel or another movie.
For a lot of people out there you are a new name and a new face. What's your background? How/why/when did you get into acting?
GATT: I knew I wanted to be an actor before I even knew what acting actually was. I watched Raiders of The Lost Ark, Star Wars, Top Gun, The King & I, True Grit, etc. and loved what I was watching, but had no idea how to become one of those people. I idolized people like Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Harrison Ford, Michael Caine, Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner, but they might have well been Gods from another place and time of existence. When I was 10 years old, I met Burt Lancaster at the hotel in London where my father, Godwin, worked as a concierge, and it was like being in the presence of something unreal and spiritual. As I got older, certain other, more realistic, career paths fell by the wayside. I couldn't be a pilot because I found out I was color blind. I was bored of playing football (soccer) so let that go, and I didn't join the Royal Marines full time. While all of this was happening, a lovely drama teacher at a small college in West London told me that I had some skills and should possibly audition for a drama school. So, with her help, I did.
After graduating, I worked in musical theater, playing in a couple of shows in London's West End, and I also worked a few small roles in a couple of movies and TV shows. I also began doing motion capture for a studio near Pinewood, in London. Work was tough to come by for a bald, hairless, muscular actor in London, so I sold up house and home and moved my life and career to Los Angeles, and I've been pretty consistently working ever since. Leaving London was the best decision I've ever made in my life. Well, that, and running across Santa Monica beach to chase down my girlfriend to get her number and ask her out on a first date.
Word is that you consider yourself a real geek. So, give us your geek cred...
GATT: Well, I could send you a picture of my office space and show you all the Star Wars/Star Trek/BSG actions figures surrounding me. But my two favorite stories are, following on with the girlfriend subject: On my first date with Mercy Malick, we were sitting in her bedroom and just talking. She asked me openly, "What's the worst thing you can tell me about yourself that might scare me away?' So I responded coyly, "Well, I am a huge Sci-Fi/Star Wars geek and have a huge collection of Star Wars toys in storage in the UK which I'm having shipped here pretty soon." Mercy stared and me and told me to "Wait right there." So I waited while she went into her closet and reached for the top shelf. As she did this she said, "I haven't ever showed this to anyone before on a first date!" She then pulled out a mint-looking Darth Vader action figure carry case from 1980. She placed it on the bed next to me and then opened it up... and it was FULL of mint-condition action figures! It was immediate love.
The second story was the moment I first stepped onto the bridge of the Enterprise. It was an incredibly emotional moment and felt like all my childhood moments of sitting down with my father watching TOS and TNG all rolled into this one amazing moment. My initial reaction was to burst into tears. It was that emotional. But I'm standing there in front of J.J., Chris, Zach, et al and had to maintain my composure and professionalism. That was tough. But it was one of the best first days at school ever.
If you were NOT a geek and if you did NOT love comic books, how differently might you have played some of your roles? Or would you have played them the same exact way?
GATT: If I wasn't such a geek I don't think there would've been any difference to way I've played any of these characters apart from the fact that I would've had to do much more research since I wouldn't have been so familiar with the characters or worlds. On the set of Thor, I remember bringing my Thor comics to set for the other actors to read. That was fun, but dangerous. Actors aren't very careful with comics.
What comic are you currently reading? Any characters you'd like to play or voice?
GATT: I'm not reading any comic books currently. I haven't really had time. The last comic books I read were when I was shooting Thor and I went back over my old Thor comics. When I was younger I used to read X-Men, Hulk, Thor and Iron Man. They were my favorites. I always wanted to play Professor X. I've met Patrick Stewart and everyone says that I could play his son... so let's see what happens. There are so many other great roles out there which I'd like to play. I've been reading an incredible book called Blood Meridian, which is hopefully in process of being made into a movie. The lead character is called "The Judge" and is an evil, large, muscular guy with alopecia , just like me. He would be an incredible acting challenge. I'm also hoping that the rumors about Paul Walker playing Agent 57 aren't true because that would be a great role to play and I know a lot of fans of the comic books and the original movie have said that they'd love to play the role, also. So, fingers crossed. Lastly, of course, I want to be in the Episode VII, preferably playing a badass Sith Lord of sorts. Time to call J.J. up again.
Where do you call home these days, and what else are you working on at the moment?
GATT: Home is where the heart is, and my heart is in Los Angeles. Luckily, so is all of my work. I love it here. I do miss London a little, but never want to live there again. The quality of life here in L.A. is so amazing, and the opportunities that have come to me just didn't exist in London. I'm looking forward to doing some more voice work for Elder Scrolls and Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I'm pretty busy doing guest appearances all over the U.S.A. and Australia this year. There are a couple of great scripts I'm reading and meeting about, but nothing that I can speak of at the moment. The main "problem" about looking like me is that I tend to get involved with a lot of secret work which I can't say anything about. LOL. My life has become one long non-disclosure contract! But watch this space...
Click HERE to read part one of our interview with Joseph Gatt.