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'The Ark's Dean Devlin reveals how a pivotal 'Stargate' scene taught him an important writing lesson

It's never too late to sharpen those screenwriting skills, folks!

By Josh Weiss

It's never too late to learn new screenwriting tricks, even once cameras have begun to roll on the blockbuster you wrote.

How to Watch

Watch the Season 2 premiere of The Ark on Wednesday, July 17 at 10/9c on SYFY. Catch up on Season 1 on Peacock.

During a recent sit-down with IGN, The Ark creator Dean Devlin broke down a scene from 1994's Stargate (his first big screen collaboration with director Roland Emmerich ahead of Independence Day), in which the soldiers and scientists go through the portal for the first time. It wasn't until they were actually shooting the sequence that Devlin realized he'd been a little too vague on the page. Luckily, the talented collection of actors were able to read between the lines.

"There's an old saying about bad writing where a writer will write, 'The army marches over the hill.' And, of course, that means five days of shooting and a thousand shots and it's so much more complicated. Well, this is the mistake that I had made in the script for that scene because all I wrote was, 'They walk through the Stargate.' That's literally all it said in the script. But as they started to do it, it became evident that all of them were bringing the uniqueness of their characters to how they were reacting to the Stargate."

RELATED: ‘The Ark’ co-creators Dean Devlin & Jonathan Glassner on crafting a deep space ‘pressure cooker’

Kurt Russell, for example has a "very tough" reaction as Colonel O'Neil. "He's gonna muscle his way through," while the other characters "are kind of nervous and worried," Devlin continued. James Spader's Dr. Daniel Jackson, meanwhile, exudes a "sense of wonder and excitement and his life's work has built to this moment. So he walked to the Stargate and he put his hands in and then he pulled his hands out. He looked at his hands and he looked up at this wonder and then he went into it."

This apparently didn't sit well with effects supervisor Jeffrey Okun, who was "literally screaming, standing right next to me going, 'I can't hold the effect that long! Tell him I can't hold the effect that long!'" Devlin remembered. "And I'm like, 'Shut up! Shut up! Just let him do his thing! We'll figure it out later!' And, of course, Jeff Okun is a brilliant effects supervisor and he did figure it out later, and it became a magical moment that ended up being much more about the character[s] than the effect."

Watch the scene below:

Devlin's experience of making the film came full circle when he partnered up with Jonathan Glassner (who successfully revived the Stargate property with the SG-1 television series) for SYFY's The Ark. The duo serve as showrunners and executive producers on the deep space drama, which takes place aboard a spaceship heading for a new planet that the human race intends to colonize a century into the future.

RELATED: Did you catch that ‘Stargate’ Easter egg in the latest ‘Quantum Leap’?

The Ark airs on SYFY every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET. New episodes are available to stream on Peacock the day after they premiere. 

Looking for more sci-fi content? Check out shows like Resident Alien, Brave New World, Project Blue Book, Eureka, Heroes, Intergalactic, and more streaming now on Peacock.

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