You thought the Tok’ra had moved him to a new planet … but Colonel Harry Maybourne actually lives in Canada! Now, by popular demand from our readers, GateWorld is proud to bring you an exclusive video interview with the insatiable character actor Tom McBeath.
GateWorld’s David Read, Feli, and Skydiver met with Tom on Granville Island outside Stargate‘s home city of Vancouver. (As you’ll see, a bird forced us to change shooting locations from the bar of the Arts Club Theatre to a stone compass in one of many of the island’s beautiful parks.) Primarily a traveling stage actor, McBeath has appeared in almost a dozen episodes of Stargate, but his fondness for this character exceeded even our expectations. He has recently appeared in “Along Came a Spider,” and MGM’s Dead Like Me.
We caught up with Tom just before he began shooting his appearance in Season Eight’s “It’s Good To Be King.” While there are no spoilers in the main interview, stay tuned for those after the interview!
GateWorld’s video interview with Tom is a little over 30 minutes long, and is also available in an audio-only format for your listening convenience. The entire interview is also transcribed below! We hope you enjoy watching as much as we enjoyed filming it.
GateWorld: This is David Read for GateWorld.net and I’m here with Mr. Tom McBeath, Colonel Harry Maybourne — ex-Colonel, ex-criminal, ex-convict, and now resident of another planet. How are you doing, Tom?
Tom McBeath: I’m doing great, thanks. [Laughter]
GW: Good! It’s a little long-winded intro for you there — but this guy, man, what a history you’ve had on this show. Did you have any idea you’d be living with this character as long as you have?
TM: Well, when I auditioned for it they said it was possibly recurring, and then the first couple years I think I only did one a year, maybe two. But he was just this small, pain in the ass N.I.D. guy and relatively boring character to play. Luckily, they kept writing stuff and I got to fall out of uniform.
GW: Right. Do you like the direction that they went with that?
TM: Yeah, I’ve never really — yeah, I suppose I do like it. I’m only hesitating because it’s a very small part of my life, Stargate, and over the six or seven years I’ve only done 10 episodes. So it does not consume me. I enjoy going back there as an actor and working with that group of people a lot, and I’d love to do it more. But the character only does raise his ugly head once a year, twice a year — and last year not at all.
GW: What’s the single most rewarding thing about being a part of the Stargate phenomenon?
TM: I guess a couple years ago, I’d done enough episodes by then, and they were enough in reruns — I was sitting in Pinticktin, which is a small town in what they call the Okanagan in British Columbia, having brunch on a Sunday. And two young boys came up and asked if I was Colonel O’Neill. And I killed myself laughing and said, “Yes.” We had a very nice talk and a chat. Every Saturday morning they watched two shows, Stargate and something else, I can’t remember what it was, and it was their favorite shows. And it was an absolute delight.
Also going to the conference over in — I went to the conference a couple of years ago in London. I was amazed at the fan reception because I’d never been to a conference before. The fan reception in London was just phenomenal, not just for me, but for the show and for Amanda, who was there, and Michael, who was there. It was phenomenal, this group of 1,500 people, partying for a weekend.
I’m sure the party is an attraction as well. But just their interest in the show and their willingness to come there and spend all the money they do and get involved — it was a real eye-opener for me. I just sit here in Vancouver, largely. Although I travel a bit to do stage work, I don’t travel much for the film business. Most of this film work I do is here in Vancouver. And rarely in the film work do you get parts like you can in theater where you really get to use your acting muscles. Here you have to restrain yourself more often, in the film business — you can’t play yourself. It’s usually not your story.
One of the great things about being in it this long is when it comes around to one of my episodes now, I’m a very integral part of the story. And being involved in the whole episode I can go from Point A to Point B, a big arc, acting-wise. So I have a great time.
We’re just in the middle of a bar here, well the back room of a bar, and it’s a beautiful day outside. Why were here — partly my fault, sorry.
GW: [Laughter] You started off in “Enigma”, and just sort of like, “Oh, yeah, here’s this guy who’s going to sweep the Tollans away, and put them away. They’re going to live better than some Americans,” and all that stuff. And now, my gosh, eight years later … Do you like the direction Maybourne and O’Neill’s relationship developed?
TM: It’s been a great pleasure that it’s got as loose as it has and as fun as it has. It has had nothing to do with me. Perhaps it’s had something to do with RDA, I don’t know. But the writers … once I sort of got out of the uniform thing it really changed a lot. I think they had more fun. The writers had more fun, and I certainly had more fun. Even in the uniform it was still OK, but I was just more like a gnat rather than a character who was really useful on the show. That became kind of neat. I enjoyed that part.
GW: You’ve appeared in probably a dozen episodes. You’ve said 10.
TM: I think 10.
GW: OK. Which one do you center out as being your favorite?
TM: It’s not so much one in particular. It’s one part of one. And it was the ending to — I can’t put the names to a lot of these episodes. [Laughter] It was the tag scene they used when Colonel O’Neill had gotten me out and somehow let me go, and I was down in the South Seas somewhere. And as I danced down the beach with the extra who had crossed my path — and that whole ending was so accidental and so much fun. And out of that, I think they’ve added more fun to Maybourne out of that.
It was that moment that was a real change for me and it really made me feel much more at home on set, because it took everything the crew could not to kill themselves laughing. And they did — once they cut they did laugh, and they laughed big. And I knew then it was more fun to be part of this group, and I didn’t have to feel so much like a guest. I could feel more like I was part of the family. So that was sort of that moment in there where that happened.
GW: It was “Chain Reaction.”
TM: It was, OK.
GW: Yes. I was like, “Yes, I know that one!” You’re kind of like John de Lancie was on Star Trek [The Next Generation], you know — come in every once in a while, sort of take the temperature of the show, and get everyone’s blood stirred up again, and then take off again.
TM: That’s certainly how they stuck him in there, originally. The last couple of times it just seems like I’m hooking up with Richard Dean. Although in the next episode, which I start next Thursday, it changes a lot.
GW: We’ll ask about that in a minute. I’m looking forward to that. Was or is there a direction you would have liked the character to go but didn’t?
TM: No, it’s not part of — you’ll go mad as an actor if you start thinking in those terms. Absolutely mad. You take what’s on the page and you try and make the most of it. You try and find something. You don’t look for the easy choices. You try and find the quirky stuff, the fun stuff that really makes it lift off the page and become entertaining. To start wishing that they would write it another way — sometimes you’ll get the script and you’ll look at it and you’ll go, “Oh, God,” and you’ll wish they had written something else. But there’s nothing particularly in my mind. As an actor you just take what’s there and try and go with it.
GW: Was there anything that was written where you actually went, “Oh, God, I can’t believe this,” and it was executed and you were like, “Wow, that was good!” Anything that you had doubts about that, you turned around and it was like, “That’s great.”
TM: Throughout the 10 episodes, or whatever, every time I got a new script I would just say, “This is not the character that I know. This is not the character I played in the last episode. This is a totally different character.” And then I would just start embracing the thing that was there on the page. And then I’d get to the next episode that I did, and again, I could see no resemblance between the characters. So ultimately, I just decided that as I kept adding on these things that they were writing, the character actually became much fuller, became huge. Well, not huge, but became full.
GW: So all these pieces of him being different melded together into this one great big, multi-faced character. If Harry hadn’t been court-martialed, do you think he would’ve become as interesting a character?
GW: No? That changed the whole thing?
TM: I think it just freed the writers up to just go anywhere then.
GW: Was that the idea behind it?
TM: I don’t know. I’m just an actor. I have no say in anything! Unless you’re a regular on the show, on any show, if you’re a guest actor you have very little say. I mean, you have some say — not a lot — about where a character is going in the big way. I mean, you can change the odd line and stuff. They’re fine with that kind of stuff.
GW: Some fans have speculated that Maybourne has a thing for Carter. What do you have to say about this?
TM: Well, I got interviewed, I don’t know, after the third episode or something, and I think it was in the second episode that there was a scene where I was working with Carter. There was a scene that they ran out of time and decided they didn’t need. But it was a scene where it showed Maybourne sort of having this little — he finally found some human element in himself, and it was towards Carter. And it was, like, the first time he felt maybe he was attracted to someone. [Laughter]
So I mentioned that in that interview, and then I think I’ve mentioned it a couple times. So it’s probably come as much as reading stuff around the outside edges as not. But in the upcoming episode I have some moments with Carter, and she’s just really hard-nosed with me the whole time. I’m hoping I can squeeze a new line in the end just to keep that little pot boiling.
GW: Do you regret that scene was not shot? Do you think it would’ve added a dynamic to the character that would’ve changed his direction even more?
TM: No, I think that sort of opened him up to the human element. The scene that followed, he was nice to all the people at the table. So it was sort of a new side to Maybourne that I hadn’t seen before.
GW: Yeah, at the end of “Foothold,” actually things looked like they were turning around. I mean, O’Neill was actually civil to Maybourne and all this stuff, and in the next episode comes around and it just flips it all upside down.
It’s been said you’re practically the opposite of your character. Is that the truth?
TM: I don’t know — I think he must be part of me somewhere. I don’t operate in the world like him, although in the last couple [of episodes] I’ve had a lot of fun, and he’s a little goofy and he has no aim in life except to have a pretty good time. And at times that seems to happen for him. So that side of him is certainly me.
GW: It’s like once Jack got him out of jail it was this whole different personality, and a whole different side to him, as if he had learned something in prison and there was more to his life than all this stuff that he had done.
TM: Yeah, I think once he got deserted by his cronies … I remember, he did talk something about being deserted by them and really having nothing to fall back on. And I think if I had a chance to go back and shoot that stuff again it would mean more to me, in retrospect. It would mean something different, knowing where Maybourne’s gone to now. But certainly it had something to do with choices.
GW: Maybourne was someone that Jack, at times, would trust with his life, and then turn around and be the last person that he would ever plan on trusting. What was your favorite part of this two-faced character to play? What has been?
TM: Well, I think it’s that sort of edge that we walk, between Jack and I, that “I can’t stand you, but at some level I have a lot of respect for you. And I do actually, grudgingly have a good time when you’re around, and things seem to work out.” So he has to eat some crow (speaking of crows). And I think Maybourne loves it when Jack has to eat a little crow. And Maybourne has to eat a his own as well.
The world didn’t work out the way he planned. But obviously he’s adaptable and has found his joy in life. And even in finding those things that he enjoys, I think he knows at some level Jack understands what that’s all about. It’s such a treat working with Richard Dean, because we do have a lot of fun together. And perhaps another actor would’ve taken that early Maybourne stuff and the same results wouldn’t have happened. I don’t know.
GW: The characters are great foils for each other.
TM: Yeah. As harmless as the banter is … I don’t know if it’s just macho male stuff underneath. I guess that’s what it is.
GW: That urge to shoot you has come back. [Laughter] And he did get to!
TM: Twice! [Laughter]
GW: That’s right! Tell us about working with Richard Dean Anderson.
TM: Well, he’s one of the smartest actors I’ve ever worked with. He’s so intelligent, he’s so educated. You would never think he would be an actor. As a young actor he was probably a hell of a guy to have to deal with, just because directors don’t like smart actors. Most of them don’t.
I think Richard Dean — it was great for him to have that long career he’s had working. And I think he put together — the group that came together for MacGyver and then went on to Stargate, I think is a group that respects him and respects his mind and respects his point of view. And they’ve all been successful because of it.
I’m not saying they’re simply riding on his talent, because he’s got a tremendous amount of that, because they all bring their talents to it. But I’m sure he’s had a lot to say about how MacGyver went and how Stargate has evolved. And actors don’t often have that kind of power — and sometimes when they do get it, it was the wrong person to give it to.
I also love his absolute irreverence for the process of acting. He does learn his lines. He doesn’t bump into the furniture. But he’s always alive with the lines. He knows exactly what he’s saying, but he throws away all the acting stuff. He’s at his best when he’s having fun. That’s when it really flies, and not just when I’m there but when I’ve seen the shows. When he’s having fun, when he’s being witty and making bad jokes — that’s for me when the show really, really works well.
GW: Do you have any particular memories over the past eight years of when you two really clicked, and “This was just the best thing that could be happening for the show,” or just fond memories of Richard?
TM: Well, I remember in whatever episode it was — again, I’m sorry, I should know these better. I guess it’s the first time he got me out of jail after I’d been sentenced to die, and we went up to the senator’s house and she asked who we were [“Chain Reaction”]. And he said “Starsky and Hutch.” And that was right out of the blue. He never talked about that before. Maybe he did in the rehearsal, I don’t know. And because he’s a producer as well, the line stays. And that’s what’s so much fun about it. It becomes — it’s when he does those kind of things that I feel totally comfortable, because he feels comfortable in doing it around me.
Maybe the surprise on my face is something that kills him, I don’t know, [Laughter] when he does it. Most of my life I’ve worked with directors and I’ve never been in the position that he’s in. And I just enjoy it so much to see him take advantage of it and do it well.
GW: Has your relationship with him impacted that of the characters in the last eight years in any way?
TM: I think it has influenced the writers, certainly. I guess that’s all I could say. I probably could say some more; I don’t know if I should. I do know that one of the producers, John Smith, has said to me, “When you’re on the set, Richard’s always up. He always really enjoys having you here.”
GW: Oh, what a nice complement.
TM: “And we really enjoy having Richard up, so you’ll be back.” I hope Richard doesn’t get his laptop working and hear me say that.
GW: Is there something you would like to see happen to this character before he takes his final bow?
TM: Well, I think this one coming up is the final bow. I thought maybe the last one was, where we came off that planet. Well, we didn’t actually come off the planet, we were rescued, we saw the ship come over, and he said he’d talk to the Tok’ra and maybe they’d look after me. I thought, well, I guess that’s my goodbye. And last year I didn’t show up again. And then they didn’t even know if they were going to do the following season, but now they have and I’m a part of that season. I think this is probably Maybourne’s goodbye.
GW: What do you most look forward to about this episode?
TM: Getting through the first day, and then I can relax!
GW: Oh, really? Is that always tougher?
TM: Yeah. Because I don’t do this every day, because I don’t do it every week, every month, even. Sometimes I go months without working. That first day back is always a little nerve racking. You always hope you know your lines. It’s just nervy. You just are nervy. It’ll be great to get back and see them all, for one. I run into the odd one once in a while. I work on a Thursday, then my next day is actually on a Sunday at the Stargate golf tournament. And then I work Monday again, so by the time I get to my second day I’ll be well-relaxed.
GW: So this coming week you start that?
TM: We start a week yesterday, six days I have before I start, yeah.
GW: You definitely looking forward to that?
TM: Yeah, in a lot of ways. The people, and on Stargate, and just working.
GW: You think it’s going to be a bittersweet experience?
TM: I don’t think so. I’m a pretty practical guy. When the show closes I’m usually glad the show closes. I’m not talking about necessarily Stargate, but stage shows. It’s always nice when you’ve done what you can, and you’ve done what you’re allowed to do, and you move on.
GW: Are you open to more appearances in Season Eight, if that’s a possibility?
TM: Oh yes, of course, of course. Are they talking Season Eight now?
GW: This is Season Eight.
TM: I thought it was Season Seven.
GW: Well, there’s still some possibility of … Not all the episodes for Season Eight have been nailed down. And they were throwing around one where the O’Neill clone and Maybourne got together. It was called “You Ain’t Jack.”
TM: [Laughter] Oh, my!
GW: Michael Greenburg pitched this story, actually, and apparently has not come to fruition because Michael Welch, who plays the O’Neill clone, has his own series right now and that as just started back this week. We thought it would be a great story.
TM: [Laughter] It would be! So now, you’re saying this is Season Eight that they’re shooting right now? Oh, I thought it was Season Seven. That just shows you how out of the loop I can get.
GW: Yeah, Season Seven is the one that you did not appear in, unfortunately.
TM: Right, OK.
GW: But almost all the episodes are nailed down except, like the last four [as of interview time, in July 2004]. So, you never know! You said that the episode “It’s Good To Be King” has closure to it. Is there any sign that it could lead to somewhere else?
TM: I don’t hold any hope for that. No. I don’t die! But as a Canadian actor working in — this isn’t necessarily an American series, although it’s sold in America it’s been Canadian all the way through. As a Canadian actor working in a largely American business that happens here in Vancouver, usually you die. You usually die, and as long as I — it started that was always great in Stargate, that I never die. I always figured, “Oh, I’m coming back! I’m not dead yet!”
GW: Well, any closing thoughts to the fans who have been watching you for seven-plus years now?
TM: Well, I don’t know how you could pick me out of that huge volume of material there, and I do apologize for not knowing as much about Stargate as I probably should. But because it hasn’t been a huge part of my life, I think I’ve got it in a good place. I can go back and look at everything and go, “Oh, yes, I remember that! I remember that.” I do remember most of it, and I do have all the tapes at home and I have watched them all. And I actually hadn’t done that until last year.
And … that’s all, folks!
GW: Tom McBeath, thank you very much, sir.
TM: Thank you so much, David. Thanks for the camera work, Fel.
NEXT: McBeath talks SPOILERS for “It’s Good To Be King”