SGU's Lou Diamond Phillips reassures Stargate fans

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Much has been said about how Syfy's upcoming Stargate Universe will take the long-standing franchise in a new direction, but star Lou Diamond Phillips promised there would be enough for faithful fans of the Stargate series as well.

"The Stargate is at the center of it," Phillips said in an exclusive interview Wednesday at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif. The show will also focus on the combined military and civilian exploration of space, much like SG-1 and Atlantis before it, he added.

But Phillips, who plays Col. Telford, said the show will do some new things as well.

"I think audiences today are looking for something that's a little more grounded, so to speak, even when you're doing sci-fi," Phillips said. "It's grittier. It's darker. It's very much character-driven. It's about the dynamics between very real people in an extraordinary situation and not so much about heroes and villains, you know? And also not as much about the hardware anymore. I mean, certainly it has created its own world, it has its own mythology, but it's about how these everyday human beings—be they military, scientific or political—fit into this scenario."

SGU follows a band of soldiers, scientists and civilians who must fend for themselves as they are forced through a Stargate when their hidden base comes under attack. The desperate survivors emerge aboard an Ancient ship, the Destiny, which is locked on an unknown course and unable to return to Earth. Phillips (Syfy's The Triangle) plays a lifelong military man who is the chosen leader of the ill-fated expedition.

"I'm supposed to go through the Stargate into this unknown address," Phillips said. "The base is attacked, and a lot of people who should not be in charge are stranded on this ship out in the middle of nowhere called the Destiny. I get stuck on Earth, and it's my mission to try to get to these people ... back, but I have no way to physically get on the ship. ... [So I] keep using these telecommunications stones, exchanging bodies with people and trying to take over and ... get them home."

The body-changing communications device is presumably based on the Ancient technology discovered in the season-nine SG-1 episodes "Avalon," parts one and two.

"It leads to what I hope is going to be the most talked-about love scene of the fall," Phillips adds.

The new SGU will also feature characters with conflicted motives, Phillips added. For his part, "Col. Telford is so focused on his mission that ... he basically comes off as a jerk an awful lot of times," he said. "I mean, he is by the book: ... whatever it takes to get it done. And also very much driven by his ego and the fact that he wants to be the one in charge. Knows that he is more qualified than anyone to complete this mission. Yet there are some dark secrets, and, I think, there are some very interesting surprises about Telford to come."

Stargate Universe debuts Oct. 2 with a two-hour premiere at 9 p.m. ET/PT; it will air Fridays at 9 on Syfy.