Who would have thought that when Showtime cancelled Stargate SG-1 four years ago, it would go on to see an incredible ninth season? The move to The SCI FI Channel in the U.S. gave the show about four intrepid explorers new life. Now, despite significant cast changes heading into the new season, co-star Christopher Judge believes that SG-1 has a new lease on life once again.
GateWorld visited the set of Stargate in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, during the filming of the upcoming episode “The Powers That Be.” We caught up with Judge, who plays the not-as-stoic-as-he-used-to-be Jaffa warrior Teal’c. The actor talked about the fun he is having this year, his new cast mates, and why his character has no chance of sinking into the background in Season Nine.
GateWorld’s interview with Chris Judge is available in MP3 audio format for easy listening, and is about 14 minutes long. It is also transcribed below. You can also download the interview to your MP3 player and take GateWorld with you!
GateWorld: Tell us about being back to work this year!
Chris Judge: Oh, it’s great. Still paying for my house! I’m a little salty, I just woke up. It’s fantastic. It’s like starting a whole new show with all the new cast members and everything.
I think there was somewhat of a sense of being happy to be back, being sad that Rick and Michael Greenburg and those people have left, and kind of not knowing what the interpersonal relationships were going to be. And much to the chagrin of Andy Mikita, within half an hour we were screwing around like we’d known each other for 20 years.
So all of our fears were allayed very quickly. No disrespect to anyone who was on the show before or to those relationships, but I can honestly say this is the best time I’ve had since I’ve been on the show. It’s amazing. It’s great that we have the safety of the Stargate franchise, but this really is an entirely new show. And we are just having a ball. We are having a ball.
GW: Other than the two new characters, how would you say it’s a different show this year?
CJ: Well, I think that the tone of the show is different. It can’t really be, other than the two — because Claudia, she just gives the show something that it’s never had. It’s always had its underlying sense of humor, but with her it’s not so underlying. [Laughter] Shanks and I were just laughing — we were just watching the director’s cut of “Origin” and it’s like, this chick doesn’t miss a beat. I mean, if there is a laugh to be had, she’ll find it.
As an actor, let’s face it: I’ve been doing this eight years. It’s tough to find new challenges. It’s tough to find any freshness anymore. And we were remarking to Shanks on one of the early days, “I’d better start rethinking this or I’m going to be left in the dust!” And so it is — it’s that early excitement of really trying to find your character, and where your character fits into the general diaspora.
It’s amazing. It really is amazing. And to meet Beau and see his take on the General, and now Lou’s here. It’s just really wonderful to have all of these creative people who are truly about the show.
There’s no self aggrandizing. It really is: “How can we have the best possible show on the screen?” And it’s really amazing. It’s really amazing that no one came in with any ego whatsoever. I mean, like, none. Zero! It’s almost embarrassing how just giving and open, in everything, they are. [Laughter]
GW: Did you and Michael do anything to initiate the new guys?
CJ: Well, you know, it’s funny. My first day I had planned on Saran wrapping their toilets, and I got here … This is the kind of guy Ben is. Ben’s call time is later than mine but he gets here before I get here! So I couldn’t do that. So one of the first scenes in the cave, the cave door comes up, and so I had my pants down around my ankles. [Laughter] So that was my “Hello!” [Laughter]
GW: Tell us a little bit about working with Lou Gossett.
CJ: Well, I’ve known Lou for probably about 15 years. And that’s another funny thing — it was never as an equal. It was always “Aaaaa!” Lou Gossett!” And he, too — he’s just a lovely, lovely man. I knew him not as an actor, but as a father. I was an assistant coach on his son’s Sautee basketball team, so he was always “Mr. Gossett.” It’s weird, first of all, to call him Lou. He is just such a lovely man.
You hear all these horror stories about people and their personality quirks and all this. He’s just lovely. He’s just lovely. It inspires and also makes you aspire to do the best that you can. You don’t want to be screwing around, screwing up lines and stuff. But the first scene that Beau and Lou did together, they so reminded me of Shanks and I. They just gave each other the gears the entire scene. And it just frees you up to not walk on egg shells.
GW: And you’re going to be dropping your pants for Mr. Gossett?
CJ: That’s soon! [Laughter] But I’ve got to do it before we get into the armor because you can’t really drop your pants with the armor on!
GW: What do you most look forward to about this new season?
CJ: Just seeing where it’s going to go, because there’s so many … I mean, with the new breed of bad guys. I asked Robert Cooper after reading “Origin,” I said, “Can we afford to do this?” It’s, “Wow, I can’t wait to read scripts when they come out. I can’t wait to see where this goes.” Because it is an entirely new universe where the Goa’uld are not the omnipresent protagonists that they once were. They’re guys trying to struggle and get along and make it now like everyone else.
And there’s this new entity that it’s seriously, really exciting. It’s really is exciting. We’ve just begun another eight-year journey! [Laughter] I’m going to keep my ex-wife in Gucci! [Laughter]
GW: It’s a pretty big change to take the enemy of Stargate, kind of set them aside and start something new. Do you think it detracts from the formula?
CJ: Well, no — see, that’s the beautiful thing. They haven’t really set them aside. They’ve kind of reassigned them. So we just got a script last week, and I was just tickled, to see what — I guess I’d better not say.
CJ: Yeah. So you already know! [Laughter]
GW: Very interesting.
CJ: What a great idea! And this year, because of the baby, this is the least I’ve ever been involved in going and pitching and the least knowing the evolution of the season. When I read it the first time, that’s the first I’ve ever really heard of it. It’s exciting just to read it almost as a fan! [Laughter]
GW: Do you think the team dynamic has improved with the addition of Ben and Claudia?
CJ: Certainly, certainly. Well, you know, for as much as it was said to be a team it was always “Rick and the other three mooks.” You know what I mean? Well, it was. I mean, truly. And then in the last couple of years then it became “the three guys and Rick when he’s here.”
Now it really is a true team. And just like in any group of people you’re always kind of searching to see where you fit in within the group. And that’s kind of what we’re going through now, which is so interesting to see on camera — to see on the screen the struggle to find where you fit in. And that’s very much what’s going on now.
GW: So Teal’c’s not going to get pushed into the background again? Become “wallpaper?”
CJ: I don’t think so! I don’t think so. And I think because Ben is so determined that it’s not going to happen. Because a lot of stuff where I think Teal’c would rather observe, Mitchell makes him an active part of the scene by not letting him step back and observe. A lot of the stuff that Mitchell does Teal’c has to react to, whereas in the past he could’ve been a very passive observer. But I don’t think with Mitchell that will be the case.
Mitchell is forcing Teal’c to interact with him — which I’m not sure whether Teal’c really enjoys at this point or not because he hasn’t even determined if he likes Mitchell yet or not. So that’s very interesting to play.
I actually enjoyed playing Teal’c as the observer, and a lot of that was due to my own laziness. I wouldn’t really have to read the scripts. [Laughter] But now that’s another thing. My work ethic has had to change because there’s no telling who’s going to ad-lib something to you. So there’s no such thing as not knowing what’s going on in the scene, what proceeded it, and what comes after it, because somebody’s going to ad-lib something. So you always have to be on your toes.
It’s almost like remembering how to act again, because there is that general air of spontaneity. Anything can happen at any time. It’s such a breath of fresh air. It’s just so reinvigorating. It really is. I’m sure everyone said it’s like starting a new show, but it really is like this. That sense of excitement, and not just for the actors — I mean from the writers, from the directors, the crew, from top to bottom. Craft service is especially good this year!
People are happy to be here and excited about it. We laugh all day. Why be here if it’s not this much fun? And the fun factor is off the meter. It really is.
GW: So tell us, as you guys are evolving this new show dynamic, this changed show dynamic, what do fans have to look forward to most? A lot of fans look at the early seasons and it’s four people going through the gate, going off world, having adventures. And it’s kind of not been there much in the last couple of years.
CJ: I think we’re definitely getting back to that. We’re definitely getting back closer to where the roots were. For a few years — I mean, let’s face it — we couldn’t afford to do that all the time. Let’s call it for what it is. It’s expensive to do sci-fi.
You can see how the sci-fi cemetery is littered with shows with good ideas. You just can’t afford to do it every week. And this year we’ve got more money! [Laughter] I’m not privy to how that came about or why it came about, but it’s great. We are, once again, explorers. We are a team of explorers and it’s great to get back to that.