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SYFY WIRE Stargate: Atlantis

Rodney McKay Wasn’t Supposed to Be on Stargate Atlantis - Here’s How He Ended Up There Anyway

Things were still very much in flux when Stargate Atlantis first journeyed through the 'gate.

By Trent Moore
Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett) poses in front of a light structure for Stargate Atlantis Season 5.

The first spinoff for Stargate SG-1 is beloved by fans just as much as the original, most notably because of the excellent ensemble cast that led the adventures off into the Pegasus Galaxy. But did you know one fan favorite wasn’t even supposed to be on Stargate Atlantis?

The series starred Joe Flanigan (John Sheppard), Torri Higginson (Elizabeth Weir), Rachel Luttrell (Teyla Emmagan), Rainbow Sun Francks (Aiden Ford) and David Hewlett (Rodney McKay) — with eventual film superstar Jason Momoa (Ronon Dex) joining the series from the second season through the series’ end in Season 5.

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The entire cast was great, but arguably the biggest breakout was Hewlett’s Rodney McKay, who starred as the snarky science officer on the mission, reprising a role he originated years earlier on SG-1, where McKay was basically a foil (and desperate flirt) for Amanda Tapping’s Amanda Carter.

In a 2004 interview with GateWorld, Hewlett discussed the start of the series back when it was first entering production on Season 1. It turns out McKay wasn’t in the original pilot or plan for the series, and that character was a different role by the name of “Ingram” taking on that spot on the team.

How Rodney McKay Joined Stargate Atlantis

“I’d certainly heard about the fact that there was going to be an Atlantis spin-off series to compliment SG-1. And so I’d heard rumors about — someone had mentioned that they might be interested in bringing McKay back,” Hewlett explained. “Originally, actually, the episode that we started with, the pilot of — the two, the sort of double pilot episode — the character was Ingram. So for a long time, even with signs and stuff, we kept getting signs with Ingram. So, you know, I had to figure out what I was saying, when I was saying — it often had the wrong name attached to it. So it was quite a last-minute change.”

Hewlett went on to explain that reprising the role of McKay turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it was at least a returning character fans knew who could provide some connective tissue between the old series and the new one. But, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a bumpy ride getting it established with the character of McKay being written into the series at the last-ish minute.

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“There were definitely some changes made from the script that I read originally. Because I actually ended up auditioning for the role when it was Ingram. So I actually came in and read as Ingram, thinking, ‘Oh, it’s too bad this isn’t McKay.’ Because McKay was just so much fun to play,” he said. “And then I know that [producer[ Robert [Cooper] was — obviously Robert was the one who originally brought McKay into Stargate … And I know that he was a big champion for that, and I — the people who we’re working for here are just great, a great bunch. They remember people, and they like to bring people back."

Stargate Atlantis ran from 2004-2009 on SYFY for 100 episodes and was a beloved series, following McKay and the new team in the Pegasus Galaxy as they took on the vampiric alien race, the Wraith. Though McKay was one of the few main tethers to SG-1 in the first season, the series eventually brought on former SG-1 alums Tapping (with Samantha Carter running Atlantis for a season), and Robert Picardo’s Richard Woolsey joined the series’ final season to take over the mission.