TV Alert: “Stargate Universe” debuts tonight

GLAAD’s “Where We Are On TV” report got you down? Well, cheer up, kids, because the much-hyped, highly-debated Stargate Universe premieres tonight as a two-hour movie on Syfy, and the word on the Internet is that lesbian I.O.A. rep Camile Wray (Ming-Na) exceeds all expectations.

A quick refresher: SGU is the third incarnation of the Stargate franchise in which a multi-national exploration team finds themselves stranded on the ancient ship Destiny. Camile is an HR rep who becomes the highest-rankingIOA member left on the ship. She is separated from her long-time partner Sharon (Reiko Aylesworth), who will begin a series of hopefully recurring appearances in episode seven.

Camile is the first leading lesbian character played by an Asian American on American primetime TV, and one of only a handful of leading lesbian characters on American TV this fall. Her presence on SGU is a big deal not only because it’s groundbreaking, but also because it shows Syfy’s willingness to better their dismal GLAAD diversity score from last year. And they’re doing it with a franchise that has been inherently conservative compared to darker, edgier shows like Battlestar Galactica

Ming-Na recently spoke toio9 about coming out as the first lesbian on Stargate.

I’ve never played a gay character, and for me that was such an incredible challenge. And I said, “As long as you write her with absolute depth and she’s well rounded, and there’s no stereotypes, and she’s a real person — then yes, let’s go for it.” I’m thrilled … Being an Asian woman in this business, I have had to deal with a lot of adversities … so I relate a lot to Camille’s character, because I think being a woman who’s also gay in an environment where she has to be the head of a department — she’s an IOA officer, head of the human resources department, and she is in charge in a man’s world.

(Check out the full video interview at i09.)

Joseph Mallozzi long-time writer and producer in the Stargate world, wrote about Ming-Na on his blog last week:

I loved the character [Camile Wray] because she was fiercely independent, a force to be reckoned with, and a fiery wildcard in an extraordinarily volatile scenario.

Of course the character we imagine at the script stage is never quite the character we end up with on screen. Sometimes, they’re very close. Sometimes, they don’t live up to those lofty initial expectations. And, still other times, with the right person in the role, they far surpass that original incarnation. A great actor not only gives life to the attributes that so engaged you on the page, but adds layerings of depth and complexity that, in turn, open up a host of wonderful possibilities for both the character and the show in general. And that’s exactly what actress Ming-Na has accomplished in the role of Camile Wray.

If you tied together every promise network execs have broken with regards to gay characters over the years, you could fashion a rope long enough for the SGU crew to tug themselves home to earth. Still, I’m hopeful and excited about this one. Will you be tuning in to watch Stargate Universe?