In this part, David discusses the process of becoming the galaxy’s biggest bad boy, and speaks his mind on some of his co-stars, including Michael Adamthwaite and Ronny Cox (who we recently interviewed). We also touch on Anubis’ fate, so if you still have not seen Lost City, please beware of spoilers!
GateWorld’s interview with David is available in MP3 audio format for easy listening, as well as transcribed below! The audio version is about 16 minutes long. Be sure to take time to check out David’s official Web site at DavidPalffy.com!
GateWorld: In a lot of ways, Anubis has been deliberately written to be over the top. Did you approach him any differently than Sokar?
David Palffy: I suppose not. No, I didn’t really prepare Anubis any differently than Sokar except perhaps watching Darth Vader in “Star Wars” a hundred times. Just kidding! Not particularly. With most, as I said, larger-than-life villains, there’s, again, the opportunity to incorporate certain character traits that sets them apart and — as I mentioned, whether it’s the voice or how they move. So, externally, with those ideas of the voice and the movement, because each of them wears slightly different costumes or wardrobe you try to use that to incorporate how you move and how you speak.
As I mentioned before, neither of these gods move or say a lot, so when they do express themselves, there has to be a weight to their gesture or their cadence, because that’s where their power is. With Anubis, for example, his weight is found more in the voice because basically his movement is basically dwarfed inside a cloak, so you have to then put more onus on the voice, whereas maybe Sokar, whose face is readily exposed, and every thought is clearly registered and communicated through his eyes. So in that respect, the preparation is slightly different, you know? You just have to find a different way — each one of those characters communicates in a different way. You have to find that for yourself.
GW: With Sokar, he was a rogue and had been banished by the System Lords. With Anubis as well, but he was thought to have been dead. And when we finally encounter him, he’s as physically cloaked as he had been cloaked with his history. What did the producers tell you about him so that you could fill in the gaps when you first entered as him in “Revelations?”
DP: To be honest, David, there wasn’t a lengthy discussion at all about, from the producers point-of-view, what they wanted to see. They just basically gave me the wardrobe, said, “OK, here are the lines, what do you think?” And then just gave me a chance to look them over. And then, of course, that’s the only thing is when you go on set for the first time and you’re wearing the wardrobe. I suppose sometimes as an actor you innately start doing things or saying things a certain way, and you just hope that what you’re doing or saying receives an acceptable response.
And basically, a lot of the time on-set, if they don’t say anything, everything’s fine. It’s when they start saying things — especially if they start saying too many things — it’s when things are not fine. A lot of the time, especially for TV, they hire you as an actor, hopefully with the intent also not that you’re just a good actor, but you’re a good technician in the sense that you don’t have to be babysat.
You can come on, they can say a few short words to you, give you the wardrobe, give you the lines, and you’re able to portray this character hitting your marks and selling it in the scene without too much, as I say, babysitting — without too much lengthy discussion about methodology or objectives. Because, especially with TV, you’re under quite a severe time restraint. You’re just one character among many who’s on the show, and they’ve got to get their day. So they don’t want to get involved with an actor or giving an actor a part who takes up more time than is necessary.
So that’s perhaps a long-winded answer to your question. So similarly, because it’s just the way they work: they don’t get into lengthy discussions about Anubis. And, even on the first day they didn’t. They just gave me an idea, you know, a few short words.
I think it was the first time it was on, it was Michael [Greenburg] and … I think the first episode was Martin Wood. I think I had some discussions with Martin — but just very simple, because they’ve got to be concerned with so many other things at the same time. So again, as an actor you just go in there and do your job. And, of course, you have to have an idea even before you go in, David. It’s not to say you don’t do your homework. But they trust you because — well, hopefully, they trusted me based on what I did with Sokar, where I worked with Peter. And Peter is a very good director to work with because he’s an actor’s director.
And the same thing with Martin. The only two directors, basically, I’ve worked with on Stargate are either Pete or Martin. And both of them work differently and both of them are very good at what they do. And Peter I worked with moreso with developing Sokar, and then Martin was moreso along with the development of Anubis. But then again Anubis, I think, was more straight-forward than Sokar was.
GW: Yeah, I guess they didn’t say, “OK, here’s Anubis. Portray him.” They more wanted you to find who he was.
DP: Well, that’s the thing. They said, “This is what Anubis is, and here’s what he looks like, and then here are the lines. Dave … go to it!” And then, of course, you just open your mouth and you start walking and just hope that whatever comes out or whatever you do is what they … Because a lot of times, sure they have an idea in their head, but sometimes — as again, they get ideas from what you do — and sometimes what appears on paper is not fully developed until the actor does something with it and takes it to the next level. And they will say, “Yes, that’s it!” Or it will happen where the actor will try something and they say, “No, that isn’t.” That’s why so much, especially with film and TV, it’s a visual medium which also means even, like in the audition process, sometimes they don’t know. And I’m not talking about Stargate specifically, but it’s auditions in general.
They have an idea in their mind what they want. And sometimes that’s why you’re going to get 10 different people coming in to audition with that idea, but only one of those actors is going to get it. The simple reason is because that one actor took that one idea in a direction which suddenly, they felt, was the right direction. It’s one of those things. And it’s an either-or situation.
And the same thing with Anubis. It’s just one of those things where they trusted me to take it and start him in those first couple of episodes, and just gently move through him, so to speak, and create this idea. And of course, I’ve had some discussions — a little bit with Peter with Sokar — which I think helped me with Anubis. Because it’s that whole, again, that menacing stillness of power and just trusting that the movement doesn’t have to be big, and that if either of these gods just basically seated and they’re not moving until just the last minute — then that movement in itself is so much bigger.
And I mean, in that respect, it’s always helpful as an actor. Then when you do it, then of course when you do it and they say, “Yes, that’s it!” — then it becomes yours. Then you have a clear idea: “OK, this is the direction that they want to go in.”
GW: Sure, yeah. We recently talked with Michael Adamthwaite [Herak], who was your First Prime. Can you tell us about working with him and William Devane [President Hayes]?
DP: Sure. Michael’s a good actor, and also he’s a nice guy. So I think that’s also helpful. I didn’t work too much with him, but what I can tell you is I enjoyed working with him, as I enjoyed working with most of the cast — in fact all of the cast, including especially people like William Devane and Ronny Cox.
I suppose one of the running jokes I had with Anubis is Anubis never ventures outside his throne room. He seems to be always on his throne. He never goes anywhere. So it’s funny in the “Lost City,” the two parter, all of the sudden I get to go to a quarry, and I got to visit the White House. And I had to laugh, because what’s better than that?
Well the only thing better than that is to actually have William Devane playing the president and Ronny Cox there. And to be in that room with both those actors — I enjoyed it very much, with both those actors. They’ve been around for many years. And they demand a lot of respect, and the reason is it’s because they’re very good at what they do. Both consummate professionals, and those types of actors just appear effortless when they’re working. And the reason is is because they’ve got so much experience to dwell on, to rely on. And I actually did a convention with Ronny Cox.
GW: Oh, really?
DP Yeah, I did WolfGate with him. It was in February. I had a great time with him. He’s also got a very good sense of humor — a very nice man.
GW: Yeah, we’ve talked with him. He is a hoot and a holler.
GW: In many was Anubis’ fate was inevitable. Are you surprised he has lasted this long?
DP: I suppose, Dave, not really — even though, yeah, with any of these, obviously the gods, it’s one of those things. You know that your time is ticking. I mean, it’s one of those things — sooner or later the writers will decide it’s time, which is kind of also a thing that I have because obviously the writers are the true gods, regardless of what Sokar or Anubis or the rest of the Goa’ulds want to think. The real gods here — the gods are the writers. And it’s funny because they’re the only gods that every Goa’uld god must actually really fear. They constantly bicker amongst themselves, and of course, regardless of how powerful one god appears that they’ve always got to answer to these writers. I suppose there’s always been, how can I say, rumblings — every episode that you do — that this might be the last for your character.
And, of course, you’re always very pleased to hear that your character lives another day to sweep another planet or to do away with another Prime, which I often had to laugh with Michael. Michael’s one of the very few Primes in the show who hasn’t been killed off by Anubis. I was laughing — obviously Anubis has got something for him, you know? Because every other First Prime has fallen through with orders, and Anubis has no problem doing away with them.
Again, I think sometimes Anubis has killed as many Primes and Goa’uld as he has any other alien race. Again, he’s a man of little words and big actions. Again, he’s not the type of guy that you’d want as a CEO, president of some big company. You wouldn’t last very long.
GW: No, you wouldn’t. We were talking with Michael recently and he said that every time he received a script he would go to immediately to the end of the script to see if he lived. It makes sense.
DP: Yeah, absolutely. It’s one of those things that you do. And I suppose when you’re playing these types of characters that exist on that very thin line of life and death — one moment, as I mentioned, you could be killed off and the next moment resurrected — of course that’s one of the first things you’re concerned about in reading the script.
Though I suppose, as time goes on, you know, the more episodes you do — because Anubis has had, thankfully, a lengthy history with Stargate — eventually you kind of get comfortable. Eventually when they actually think of actually killing you off, you read something. Because they don’t tell you beforehand, which is very funny in one respect. Funny as the actor, not so funny as the character, but you don’t really know that until you pick up the script and you start learning the lines, and you see something that … something’s rather disturbing where a space ship is — there’s a blast or something, and it’s not made specific in the script, whether you survive or not.
GW: Yeah, it never says. Just “Explosion.”
DP: Yes, so they kind of leave it open. And that was the whole thing even with Sokar. Initially it was kind of left open whether he really was killed off. And of course, again, as time goes on, that’s the true test, whether time will tell.