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 going to run this conversation in two parts. Below is part one, and visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read part two.
You've done a lot of genre work: God of War, Thor, Chuck, Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Elder Scrolls. Can you give us one or two quick memories/anecdotes about a couple of those credits?
GATT: I could probably write a book answering this particular question. I have so many great personal stories about working in this business. I've given you a couple of STID ones already. Here are a couple from different gigs… I had been working on Thor for a couple of weeks when, while heading to set in full Grundroth makeup, Ken (Branagh) pulled me aside and said, "Joe, I have someone I'd like to introduce you to," I said, "Sure." We walked towards the back of the huge Jotun set and he took me to this little old guy, wearing a three-piece tweed suit with matching trilby hat and said, "Joe, this is Tony, Tony this is Joe Gatt." That's when it struck me what exactly was going on. My head starts doing a weird dance and I reach my hand to his outstretched hand to shake it and I said, "Mr. Hopkins, it's a pleasure to meet you and great to be working with you." He stopped me and said straight back, "No, dear fellow, it's Tony. You call me Tony. How are you my friend? It's so wonderful be here. Isn't it a wonderful day? So good to be here." So that was my first introduction to the man I would spend most of my time with on set, drinking English tea and talking about life together. The next time we met was on the Thor red carpet. I was meeting press on the carpet with Doug Jones, when he points to Tony on the carpet and tells me to go and say hello. I told Doug I couldn't. I was afraid he might not recognize me as I was always in my Grundroth makeup/costume every time we'd hung out on set. Tony had never seen me as me! He was with a large entourage and it would've been very embarrassing if he brushed me aside and didn't know me. But as these thoughts started going through my head, I saw him look at me, and I noticed a look of recognition. He walked straight over to be and grabbed my hand, shaking it vigorously and said, "Joseph, my dear fellow, it's so good to see you again." I asked him how he recognized me without my makeup on and he replied, "How could I not, Joseph, how could I not!" I love that man.
Next, when I arrived in the studio for my first recording session of Star Wars: The Old Republic, Will, the voice director from Lucasfilm, put down a large, very think script in front of me. I asked him how many roles that was, because I had not been told what roles I had booked and only remembered auditioning for this game many months ago and reading for several very small roles. Will, looked at me with a puzzled expression and said, "No, that's all one role. It's one of the main roles. You're playing Lord Scourge!"
Let's talk about Star Trek Into Darkness. How did the opportunity come along?
GATT: Firstly, my manager called me to let me know that she was contacted by casting letting her know that they were going to be bringing me in for this feature. No details were given, but by using classic Sherlock Holmes deductioning, we figured out that it was for STID. A few weeks passed and casting called again letting me know that Webster/Weisberg Casting wanted me to come in for a meeting. NDA's were signed by all parties, sides were sent to me and I went in to meet and read with April (Webster). I actually read for two different roles, the lead Klingon and a uniformed security officer aboard the Vengeance. I had two further meetings and then… silence. After another couple of weeks I got the call from my manager checking my availability for January (2011) and that casting had offered me the role! The normal life of an actor.
What did the casting people and or J.J. Abrams initially tell you about the role?
GATT: I didn't really have full disclosure regarding the character specifics until I reached set. All I knew before reaching the set was that I was a bridge officer, that I'd be wearing a blue shirt, and that I'd been contracted to work for six weeks at Sony studios.
Now that the film is out, what's your take on Science Officer 0718? Is he humanoid? An android? Sentient? What's his purpose on the bridge?
GATT: The simple concept is that Science Officer 0718 is human, with cybernetic implants. He is NOT an android or robot of any kind. The rest is stuff that I've had to come up with, as an actor, to help fill in the gaps and play my role effectively. My main thoughts, while shooting, were that his main purpose on the bridge is augmenting the work of Spock and Uhura, mainly managing the science and engineering systems in the bridge.
How much work went into settling on the character's look?
GATT: During November and December 2010 I had a few meetings with David LeRoy Anderson, the head of makeup effects, at his AFX Studio in Burbank. These were primarily to take a head cast to help them begin designing my character. Apart from the appliance to the back of the head, there were also ideas of other digital/electronic effects on my face and side of head. When these ideas where brought to (creature designer) Neville Page and J.J., they decided that they loved the way I looked without anything at all and decided that a "less is more" approach would work best for this character. J.J. really just wanted something special to accent 0718. Then different ideas about eyes started being thrown around and many different types were ordered and tested for J.J. and camera. In the end, again, J.J. wanted to keep things as simple as possible, settling on the full white sclerals.
I also had a lot of fun working with the award-winning costume designer Michael Kaplan, who's just been announced as costume designer for Episode VII. He's a great guy. While we were getting the blue shirt fitted, I kept asking to have it made tighter and more fitted, to accentuate my physique. I thought that would be awesome for 0718 since there has never really been a muscular officer character on the bridge. But word kept coming back from production to keep the shirt loose fitted to slim down my physique as much as possible. I then noticed why when I arrived on set. I guess that some of the other actors didn't want to be upstaged by a muscular cyborg. LOL! Maybe I'll get a tighter fitted shirt for Star Trek 3 or Ep VII?
What stands out to you most about the actual shoot?
GATT: Simply, how much fun everyone had. From the first day through to the last long, long day, it was nothing but immense fun. I also loved just how much love and passion everyone had for the project, and how much respect everyone on set had for the Star Trek universe and franchise.
Abrams is known to bring entertainment to set, especially on long days. Can you give us a couple of examples that you experienced?
GATT: J.J. is all about fun. And this is great because the tone on sets is generally set from the top. If the man at the top is an angry, nasty person, you can bet that everyone is going to be unhappy during that shoot. But if the man at the top is J.J., then he will make it his primary job to make everyone on that set feel as important as everyone else, and have a damned good time while shooting. He really understands people. This is why he would bring trucks serving ice cream, lobster, burgers, pizza etc. whenever we would have a long day. On a couple of occasions, when there was a long break between difficult setups, he would bring in a cyber DJ who'd arrive on set with all his equipment on a cart, including full PA system, and just start pumping live music through the studio to entertain us while we ate and waited. There was never a dull moment.
What did you make of the finished film?
GATT: I loved the movie. It was a total thrill ride. Even my girlfriend, who isn't the biggest fan of sci-fi movies, loved it. It makes you laugh, cry, grip tight, and most importantly, you leave with a smile because you've just seen the good side of humanity win. It respected diehard Trekkies as much as possible, whilst making an epic movie which anyone could watch and enjoy without ever having seen a Star Trek movie or TV show previously. I know that many diehard Trek fans aren't too happy with it, but I think they have forgotten a very important thing. This movie was made for everyone to enjoy. I believe that J.J. could've made a movie that was directed more towards satisfying Trekkies, but by doing this he would've alienated 75% of his audience. I think that Bob, Alex and Damon did a fantastic job with a very underrated script. This story is so relevant to modern politics and events, with very direct connections to current news issues; some obvious and some you have to delve a little deeper to see. So it works on many different levels all at once. It satisfies the Trekkies. The non-Trekkies. The deep-thinking politically minded people, and the people who just want to see mindless action. It left me with some of my favorite movie viewing experiences. It left me wanting more and it left me feeling happy to be human.
Visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read part two of our interview with Joseph Gatt.
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