We know him as one of the most nefarious characters to ever lay eyes on Stargate Command. But in reality, Ronny Cox is as gentle a gentleman as they come. His lifelong passion for television is dwarfed by his interests in music. With hundreds of performance dates each year, GateWorld is proud — and lucky — to sit down for a face-to-face dialogue with one of the most recognizable actors of our time.
Many fans don’t realize that Ronny was an upstanding musician long before he was a movie star. In our interview he takes us back to his early film and television performances during the days when he was a struggling actor and musician. He tells us how music originally turned him into what he has become, and how he prefers spending his days returning to his roots — but making the occasional exception for Stargate.
He also tells us about Robert Kinsey’s origins, from the people he was based on to the quirks that brought him to his most recent appearance. On that note, be warned that this interview contains spoilers for his latest appearance in the episode “Full Alert” as Ronny lets GateWorld readers in on the fact that the most recent happening to his character is all his fault!
The primary video feature, our interview, runs approximately 28 minutes. Immediately following is a 4-minute song from one of Ronny’s European folk music performances, provided by our friends at Wolf Events! The interview is also available in audio format, and is transcribed below.
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net this is David Read and I am here with Mr. Ronny Cox.
Ronny Cox: Hi, David.
GW: Ronny, thank you for being with us on this fine afternoon.
RC: My pleasure.
GW: Now, you’ve been preoccupied this past week. What have you been up to?
RC: Well, you know, in my other life I’m a singer / songwriter. I do acoustic music. For lack of a better description we call it folk music — it’s more acoustic oriented. But some people have said we’re going to have to give up our folk music credentials because I have a muted cornet in my band [Laughter]. And you don’t often hear a muted cornet in a folk group.
So there’s a big folk conference here this weekend and we were chosen as one of the groups to have official showcases there. So we’ve been performing all weekend.
GW: Now, this is very important to you. When did you start playing, and how did you get hooked?
RC: I was making records when I was in high school. Most people didn’t realize that. When I was struggling as an actor early on in my career I was struggling also as a musician. My first film, “Deliverance,” one of the reasons I got it was because I was also a guitar player and could play. My second big film was a film called “Bound for Glory” — the Woody Guthrie story — that Hal Ashby directed. And my first television series was a series called Apple’s Way, and I used to pick and sing a song on that every week.
So early in my career, everybody knew that I was this singer / guitar player from New Mexico. But it’s just that I’ve had such success in the last few years, 15 or 20 years, of playing guys primarily in suits and ties — corporate executives, senators, vice presidents, presidents of the United States, dictators of Mars [Laughter], heads of the Beverly Hills cops. Always guys in suits and ties. So then people get really amazed and blown away when I show up with my guitar and then play.
One of the things that has been really gratifying for me about that aspect is, I guess you are aware that I’ve gone to a number of Stargate conventions, especially in Europe. Bryan Cooney, who puts on the Wolf events there [has] always been really fabulous for me. We always go over and do a concert for all the Stargate fans.
And I have to say this from the get-go. I play Senator Kinsey, Vice President Kinsey, the most hated character (probably) on the show. I love playing that character, by the way. First of all, when we went over to England and Germany and Scotland for these shows, I had every reason to think that they didn’t really understand what folk music was either. I had every reason to believe that they might just boo us off the stage.
And I have to say that the Stargate fans — and I’m not using hyperbole here at all — they were the best fans for the music that I had ever encountered. They got every nuance of every song, they sat on the edge of their seat. It’s a little embarrassing to talk about it. We had six encores — could still be playing! [Laughter] We took over a number of CDs to sell. We sold out before we ever started playing. The Stargate fans have just been wonderful. They’re so supportive of my music. It’s been really gratifying to do that.
GW: Last time we talked to you, I think you said that you had done a couple of those and were hoping to do more. So that has really taken off?
RC: Yeah, it has. As a matter of fact, right now, I was supposed to be in New Zealand and Australia doing it, but they had some financial problems down there so that sort of fell through. So we’re going to do that next year. But I’m going back to England early [this] year. I’ve done one in Tulsa. I’ve done five or six or seven of these now.
Actually, Bob Picardo was the first guy who turned me onto this. You know, he’s a wonderful singer, too. Bob had heard my CDs and had seen my stuff, and he said, “Ronny, you need to go do this kind of stuff.” The music is a really, really big, important part of my life now. I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a wonderful career. The one show that I’ll make time to go and do are the Stargate shows.
I know this sounds self-aggrandizing, but they always treat me practically like royalty when I go up there. I can’t say how enamored I am of all the producers and writers, and of course all the other actors. For the last eight, ten years I’ve been going up and doing the shows, I’ve never been treated better. Ever.
GW: Take us back to that first show you were a part of: “Politics.” Albeit a clip show, but a good one. How did you get roped into Stargate?
RC: As you know, I don’t do a lot of episodic television. My career has been primarily in films and films for TV, as opposed to episodic stuff. I’ve done a few series things, but almost no guest starring on series, other than the couple of episodes I did on Star Trek [The Next Generation]. So when they called me up, I was fascinated by this character.
I have to say this, originally when I did Kinsey it was just going to be one character. It was a clip show to sort of recap that first season and we were never going to see him again. First of all, we had so much fun doing it. And the writers and the producers loved what I did, and they said, “Ronny, we’d like you to come back more.”
And I have to say this. They’ve basically said, “Where do you want the character to go?”
RC: Yeah. I’m not saying I make up where he’s going to go. They are certainly in charge of this. But they do call me up and say, “What would you like to do?” And I say, “What about if we did this, or this, or this.” So about half of the storylines have been from discussions with me and the producers and the writers saying where we’d like to see this guy go. As we all know, playing the bad guys is about twice as much fun as playing the good guys. They’re always more interesting.
My relationship with Rick has always just been wonderful. We have this really good working relationship. We both like and respect each other. It’s been a real joy going up and working there. I mean, I love all the actors up there, but most of my scenes have been with Rick, and we’ve just always worked that it really well.
GW: Did you know Rick before Stargate?
RC: Didn’t really. We would sort of crossed paths at times a couple of time. Run into each other at functions occasionally, but didn’t really know each other. So when we did “Politics” that first time, there was a little bit of feeling out there. As you know, one of the most endearing qualities about him is that he acts off the top of his head. Always well-founded — well-grounded, I should say. He really knows what that character is doing. But he’s willing to let his natural wit bubble there. I think it really helps the situation.
I love working that way too. I know this sounds like a cliché, but the real joy of acting is reacting. It’s being there. So when you have someone like Rick who gives you so much, then all you have to do to win is be present.
GW: Well, you really don’t know what he’s going to do next, because [as an executive producer] he has that freedom to do something that’s completely off the wall and have it stick.
RC: I’ve been around for awhile, and I’m pretty good at improvisational kinds of things. I think that’s one of the reasons they like us working together, because I’m pretty good at sticking to where we need to go. Often times with someone like Rick, you need someone that’s going to make sure that the plot points get through. Although I’m not implying that he wouldn’t at all. He always makes sure that the plot points are there.
GW: Did a clip show as your original appearance seem bland or ridiculous when you first looked at this?
RC: No, if you go back and look at that, it’s a clip show — for me personally that was a huge show, because Kinsey had to carry that whole show. All the other things were just the clips. If you go back and look at it, that’s a show that 90 percent of the dialogue and 90 percent of the words going on there are all Kinsey. So in some ways it was a chance for an episodic show to almost be a little tour de force thing.
And very challenging, because when I went up to see it I didn’t know a lot of those shows. I had to do a lot of research. I had to go back and look at a lot of episodes so that I knew a little bit about what I was talking about. So in some ways it gave me a crash course on what the series was about, getting to know those characters. I was not that aware of the show, to tell you the truth.
GW: Not everyone gets to shut down the S.G.C.
RC: [Laughter] It should be shut down! [Laughter] They’re wasting our money, good Lord!
GW: So this is what the money goes through … the drain! Very good show. Are there any qualities about Kinsey you like or wish you had?
RC: No. Absolutely not. The great thing about the kind of work I love to do is, like I told you, I love playing the bad guys. I like to think of myself as being a good guy, and I spend a great portion of my life trying to be a good person. The fun is getting to play someone completely outside of me. I don’t draw from anything of myself on Kinsey.
There are two or three people in the world that I based him on. Well, I based him on two people. One’s a real person, and I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this. I was always fascinated by Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah. That right-wing conservative senator.
But he’s pretty much a straight arrow — and Kinsey needed to be a little bit more off the wall than that. So I sort of combined aspects of Senator Orrin Hatch with Sterling Hayden’s character in “Dr. Strangelove.” [Laughter]
GW: OK, well, here we go, ladies and gentleman. That’s where Kinsey came from!
RC: What other character in a modern film has added something to our American lexicon? If anyone talks about body fluids these days, they say “bodily fluids,” because he said, “precious bodily fluids.” It’s absolutely nonsense, but every one says that now because of Sterling Hayden as “Jack D. Ripper.” I love his character, I love that film.
[Loud plane flies over head] I’m shutting that down, too! [Laughter]
GW: I bet he could do it! Are you going to be in any episodes in Season Nine?
RC: You know, I never know. Now that Rick’s not on it much, and since they brought in other guys, if they call me I’ll do it. But it seems like maybe not. I don’t know.
GW: Shooting has already wrapped.
RC: For this season, yes. So I’m not on any of this season, no.
GW: Well, that’s disappointing. How do you feel returning without Rick being there?
RC: Well, that’ll be a challenge. I don’t know if I will. I don’t know where they can go with Kinsey. They’ve sort of gone in a different direction now. That would be an interesting process now. I just don’t know how it’s going to work.
GW: He has been made a Goa’uld. Did you see the coming?
RC: I asked for that.
GW: You asked for that?! Really?
RC: I did, indeed. That’s one of those places where they said, “What would you like to do?” I said, “Let’s put him on the other side.”
GW: You really don’t think that that damaged his uniqueness as a villain?
RC: No, because by the end of that episode, if you realize, he had become completely unenamored with the Goa’uld, and was turning on that. So I think we have an opportunity, had Rick stayed, and who knows what they want to do now if they stay with those stories. There’s any number of directions that Kinsey can go now, because in some ways he’s been through the fire.
GW: Yeah, but it’s not really Kinsey. It’s the Goa’uld that’s taken him over.
RC: No, no, no, no. You’re not [with] the Goa’uld for good and all. This is a sci-fi show.
GW: You’re right. He could change the Goa’uld’s personality perhaps. As rotten as he is.
RC: You notice that by the end of that episode he was no longer following the Goa’uld plot lines. He was going a different direction.
GW: He was doing his own thing.
RC: So we finally found someone who had the will who can stand up to the Goa’uld. Think about that! That you have a character out there that is able to deal with those guys.
GW: So you’ve had no discussions with the writers, directors, or producers?
RC: No, I haven’t. That’s another thing with this whole music thing. I’ve been so involved with this music thing, now. I’ve got a brand new CD that we just finished. It’s going to come out in December. December 1st, we hope to have it out. I’m probably going to do 120, 125 dates just doing music.
GW: Wow! Well, good for you.
RC: Yeah, I’m doing a lot of music dates now. My poor acting agents are slitting their wrists. I’m lucky. I’ve had a wonderful career. I get asked to do a lot of stuff. I’m not rich or anything like that, but I’ve made enough money that I can do what I want to do. So I’m pretty selective about what I want to do. The funny thing is, if I make this much money as and actor [holds hands far apart], I make this much money as a musician [holds fingers up close together]. But I really do love going and doing it.
GW: Well, fortunately Stargate is on top of your list along side the music.
RC: But see, that’s the other thing that shows how wonderful the Stargate people work. All this time I was doing the music stuff like that, and I had some music dates that conflicted with dates they wanted to work. To show you how wonderful they have been to me, they changed their schedule. Now how often have you heard a television show change their schedule to accommodate an actor?
GW: That’s wonderful.
RC: And they’ve done it three, four, five times. So you can see why I’m so fond of those people. As a production entity, in my 30-some years in the business I have never worked with anyone that I thought treated people with such dignity and made every effort to be in this business the way we all wish it were.
GW: Your character has had a lot of great interaction with O’Neill, as you’ve said. But which other characters, besides RDA and Jack, have you found it especially challenging or rewarding to work with?
RC: It’s always interesting to work with Jackson, of course. And Amanda. I have a great working relationship with all of them. I loved the episode when they brought in Bill Devane as the president, and of course Jimmy McDaniel was on that show, as well. And Bob Picardo was in that show as well.
RC: Yep. And Don. It’s just that the bulk of my work has been with Rick. When you want someone butting heads, I don’t mean to sound too self-aggrandizing, but you want the heavyweights going at each other. Since Rick was that force, you had to have someone of equal or greater force — otherwise he was a straw man, in a way. Same with me — he wasn’t going to deal with underlings, he was going to deal with that –.
GW: Some of the three strongest heads in the show. “Here we go!” That was a great show. You’ve been in several great episodes over the years, “Lost City” and “Chain Reaction.” Which do you highlight as your favorite?
RC: That’s like picking a favorite child. Every show and every episode has a unique, particular problem to deal with. And once you immerse yourself into that … Obviously “Politics” meant a lot to me, as it was my first one. It sort of allowed me to set the limits of what I thought we could do. One of the things I proudest of about “Politics” … because “Politics” is what, eight, nine years ago now?
GW: First season.
RC: Yeah. I don’t know if you realize it or not, but when I went on there, one of the first things I insisted on was that Kinsey always wore his little American flag in the lapel of his coat. When I did that, nobody was doing it. Nobody was doing it. This was way before 9/11. It’s amazing to look around and see, because now every politician — it’s part of their uniform. They have to wear that flag in their lapel.
GW: Did you insist on that?
RC: I did. As a matter of fact, when I first said this is what I want to do — here again, they let me do it. But they said, “Ronny’s a little eccentric, we’ll let him do it.”
GW: Let’s see if it works!
RC: Yeah! They were willing to do it, but it was not a thing that was important to them at all. It was a thing that was only important to me. That was part of that Orrin Hatch, Sterling Hayden character from “Strangelove.” That was just a quirk of his that I felt really important about.
GW: [In] “Chain Reaction” we got to see a little bit of Senator Kinsey’s personal life. We got to meet his wife, found out the number of grandchildren, and so on and so forth. Was there anything rewarding about going into his house and seeing that atmosphere in terms of your direction in learning about the character?
RC: No. In fact, I thought it was intrusive.
RC: I did.
GW: As the character did.
RC: Exactly. To me, it was another problem that he had to deal with. I think typical of a lot of those guys, they keep their life compartmentalized. For that to intrude into this — to tell you the truth, dealing with his home life as an actor didn’t help me at all. Because there was no interaction with those people, really. It probably meant more to people outside saying, “Oh, this gives us a little glimpse into Kinsey.” But I don’t feel like it gave me an ounce of more knowledge about Kinsey.
GW: I found his wife was just as much of a shark as he was. [Laughter] Maybe she was a little ditzy here and there, but she was vicious in terms of calling the N.I.D. “OK, my husband’s in trouble, let’s make the call.”
RC: It seemed that that was the most pat writing that we had about the character.
GW: So you didn’t like that episode?
RC: Oh, I loved the episode! The episode, I loved. Just the aspect of dealing with his home life was not as important to me as dealing with all the other stuff.
That’s where we really got into him being all tied up in the N.I.D. and all of that stuff. Which here again required me to go and do a lot more stuff. I spent more of my time worrying about that than I did about home life, really.
GW: I found it interesting with that episode showing his personal life and the wealth that he had as a U.S. Senator running for office soon. But that he’s always been so “Holier than Thou” and has this whole shield, this aura about him — but when you really get down and when you take a look at his computer and what he’s really been up to, it’s a completely different face. The guy is nowhere near what people would think him as. He had just been ready to kill RDA and Tom McBeath, and he goes out on the front porch and talks about his love for America. Have you found that polar —
RC: — No, I found it to be what I think most politicians are like. [Laughter] I think it was a great opportunity. That’s one of the reasons why I embrace playing that guy. Most of us, I think, are a little dismayed at politics these days. It’s an opportunity to hold a mirror up, if you will, and say, “Let’s look at who we’re voting for these days.”
GW: Right. If you never return to Stargate, are you satisfied with your footprints on this show, or do you feel that there are still more places to explore?
RC: No. I’m perfectly at home with what we’ve done with Kinsey, and if he’s gone as far as he’s going to go on Stargate, that’d be great. If they wanted to take him over to Atlantis, I’d go over there. [Laughter]
GW: Hey, well, he’d went a few rounds with Dr. Weir — that may be interesting. Have you watched Atlantis at all?
RC: I’m not as big a fan of Atlantis. I’ve got to tell you the truth, I’m not much of a television fan. I don’t watch a lot of television. To me, watching television is a postman taking a walk. [Laughter]
GW: That’s a very good analogy. Ronny, thank you very much.
RC: Thank you. My pleasure.