Why SGU's Ming-Na was surprised to play Stargate's first lesbian

Actress Ming-Na's character, Camile Wray, seemed destined to be little more than an underused troublemaker on Stargate Universe. Then, in a pivotal episode, "Life," we discovered that she is a lesbian who has an awful lot to lose by being stuck on the Destiny with no way back to Earth. Ming-Na's character suddenly had depth and was far more than a recurring IOA bitch.

That episode was followed up by "Justice," which left Camile in charge of the ship when Col. Young was accused of murder. "It seemed in the beginning they had her a little bit ambiguous, not certain what her intentions are ... Is she one of the good guys? Bad guys? I think it was a lovely way to slowly reveal a character. For me it was a joy to discover all those elements about her. It's almost just like reading a good novel," said Ming-Na (Mulan, ER).

(Spoilers ahead!)

That novel is unfolding in the most interesting ways, especially when it comes to her character's revelation that Camile's long-time partner on Earth, Sharon (Reiko Aylesworth), is obviously the love of her life.

"I was really surprised, because I always thought cable was quite risk-taking and forward-thinking, and it really surprised me when I found that she was like the first female lesbian character in a sci-fi show and definitely for Stargate Universe," said Ming-Na. While not the first lesbian character in sci-fi TV, Ming-Na is actually the first lesbian played in the Stargate universe.

Thrilled at the direction the producers have taken her character, the married mother of two admitted that that promise of character development was exactly why she wanted to take the role in the first place.

"I thought it was really presented in a way where it was just two people in love who really understood each other. There didn't need to be an explanation. It was just like any other character that they would develop. So I found that to be really refreshing. It wasn't like an immediate ... 'Oh, there's a controversy or a debate or an issue about it.' It was just two people who were in a relationship."

In fact, fan response was less about Camile being a lesbian than Camile becoming a fascinating character through Ming-Na's portrayal of her. WormholeRider's WR Systems wrote: "Ming's Camile Wray character is just fantastically done in 'Justice'. It even exceeds her performance in episode nine's Lesbian love with 'Sharon'. Ming once again shows us how great an actress she really is. Some said early that it was a waste of her talent to be in Stargate Universe. After watching episode 9, 'Life,' and her role in 'Justice,' we will refrain from telling detractors just how incorrect they were. What we have enjoyed reporting previously is that Camile DOES know much more than was revealed in the pilot and is more powerful of a character than anyone ever anticipated or expected."

As for the lesbian community, AfterEllen's StuntDouble commented: "Camile's scenes with her partner Sharon (played by Reiko Aylesworth) only account for about four minutes of the episode, but Ming-Na and Aylesworth infuse their characters with such warmth that their limited screen time together is quite affecting. In fact, of the four minutes that Camile and Sharon are together, half of it is a musical montage. Yet despite the sparse dialogue and minimal moments together, 'Life' is an extraordinary landmark in lesbian television."

However, one viewer felt things were getting out of hand when it came to the communication stone stories. The TV Obsessed wrote, "I don't how Sharon could be intimate with someone that looks nothing like Camile even if she knew the mind was there. Anyways, their relationship is probably the strongest on the show."

In fact, when it comes to the communication stones and those randy Stargate Univers-arions, we're thinking maybe someone should put together a handbook. "It definitely brings up moral issues, and on another level I think it brings out a more profound understanding that what's on the outside doesn't dictate what's on the inside of a person," said Ming-Na. "And for me I find that really fascinating."

Beyond the Camile-is-a-lesbian thing, Stargate Universe had an even bigger shocker waiting for us when it came to its midseason finale cliffhanger in "Justice." After Dr. Rush (Robert Carlyle) tried to frame Col. Young (Justin Louis) for murder, Young struck back. On a desolate alien planet with little around but a derelict spaceship, Young knocked Rush out and left him stranded on the planet with no apparent way back to the Destiny. It was a big episode for Ming-Na's Camile as well, considering that she finally got to lead the crew ... for a while, at least, until Young did away with the troublesome Rush.

Ming-Na admits she was shocked by Young's actions when she read the script. And she thinks in some ways Camile may be right about Young, considering that he previously freaked out and beat up Col. Telford (Lou Diamond Phillips) for messing with his wife on Earth ... and now there's Rush. "At the trial, when Camile's yelling at Chloe, it's like, 'Look, he's not the guy that you might think he is,' because I think she does know a lot of history about who he is and what he is capable of doing. I just love that about the show. It takes you by surprise for sure."

That issue will certainly be addressed when the series comes back this spring, as well as that of the stranded Dr. Rush. It's been established that the Destiny can't go back to get anyone, but we're thinking SGU isn't about to lose the Machiavellian Dr. Rush. "Not to give anything away, but I think that's a safe bet," she said with a laugh. "But how he comes back is the big thing."

We'll also see something the fans have been asking for, said Ming-Na. "What I've been hearing is they want more action, so there's definitely going to be more action ... There will be aliens introduced, but not the ones in the rubber suits that I guess have been in the other past Stargates. These are really amazing aliens, and I think that's going to bring a lot of excitement to the show and another level of dire situations for the crew on Destiny. I think we will definitely make those fans happy, but we'll continue to do the storylines with the characters." One of those stories will include the return of Sharon.

And she had one final cool spoiler for us ... "I think we might discover ways to use the Stargate that might be different than previous series, just because there is so much more technology that we're going to be discovering with the ship."

While we'll have to wait three months to see how those spoilers transpire, for Ming-Na the future looks bright when it comes to all things Stargate Universe. "Being a sci-fi geek, it always blows me away when I see the final product. Because a lot of times we're just staring at green screen," laughed Ming-Na. "It's pretty fantastic. I'm on a spaceship. ... It's always been my dream to travel through the galaxies, so here we are."

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