You’ve known him and loved him as Denethor, the Steward of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Now, actor John Noble graces the screen of Stargate SG-1 as the village governor Meurik. Following the airing of the episode GateWorld called Australia for a conversation with this great actor.
In our interview, John explains how Stargate is a regular show watched in his home. He shares with us some of his experiences from the set of Season Nine’s “Camelot,” playing the husband of the 2005 “Get In The Gate” contest winner, and his feelings toward the great, legendary stories in which he has participated.
GateWorld’s interview with John Noble is available in MP3 audio format for easy listening, and is 17 minutes long. It is also transcribed below. You can also download the interview to your MP3 player and take GateWorld with you!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net I’m David Read and I’m on the phone with the Land Down Under to the one and only Mr. John Noble. John, thank for taking time to be with us this morning.
John Noble: Pleasure to be with you, David.
GW: Your success has allowed you to pick and choose which projects you’ve been invited to undertake. What was it about Stargate that interested you enough to travel half-way around the world and perform?
JN: It’s a show that we’ve always watched, my children and so forth, and I’ve watched it myself on occasion. It’s just a quality show of it’s kind. It’s one that I’ve found fascinating. Science fiction works for me when it stimulates the imagination in ways that are feasible and exciting. It does that to me, and hasn’t stopped doing it, really. So given the chance to go and work on it, to me was a pleasure.
GW: So you have family in the household that regularly watch the show including yourself?
JN: I’ve watched it on occasion when it’s on. My son watches it in particular.
GW: Ah, I see. So when you were invited to do this, was he a real motivation for going?
JN: Well, no. He thought that was a great idea. [Laughter] “Oh yeah, do that one!”
GW: What was your first impression of this character, Meurik?
JN: I totally understood Meurik. He was a guy who was the governor of a village, entrusted with looking after the people, whilst having this incredible threat over them. I liked him. I thought he was actually a good man. And confronted with these strangers running in with guns and things, no wonder he reacted in a negative way, in some ways.
But at the end of it he sort of was redeemed in the sense that he did what he thought was right, and the right thing for his people. It’s just a good, solid, strong character, David, and I was attracted to it.
GW: Yes, well, this village has a lot of history. Whether the legend of King Arthur is true or not, they have a great deal to be proud of — and not only that, [but] a great deal to look forward to in terms of his return. So Meurik really had to be prepared for basically the deity’s return to the village
JN: That’s right.
GW: What were your feelings toward the people of Camelot? Did you feel they were unsophisticated and wasting their time, or did they have a hold of something special waiting for Arthur’s return?
JN: I don’t know if it was to do with waiting for Arthur’s return but people in small communities, wherever I’ve struck them, have a bond and an understanding and a support for each other that we don’t have sometimes in the big cities. I’m a country kid. I came from a small country town, so I understand the difference of living in small communities against a large city.
I guess everyone has something to look forward to, whether it’s the annual football game or the roast or whatever. They went about their business and I think people [don’t] sit around saying, “One day, one day someone will return to us,” anymore than perhaps religious people sit around on a daily basis and wait for whatever. They’re conscious of it and perhaps it gives them some sort of hope. I’m not sure.
GW: So calling them primitive would be a little premature, do you would think?
JN: They weren’t primitive, but they weren’t sophisticated in terms of “technologically advanced.” If you’ve seen the episode, it’s set in a medieval setting. That’s where they were. And yeah, they were superstitious, but that’s not necessarily something that the primitives have. I think superstition is something that quite sophisticated civilizations have.
It was lovely. They were like a people in a medieval village, but with a good rule of law and seemingly a harmony.
GW: How aware were you of the legend of King Arthur?
JN: That’s pretty common reading to kids, I think. It’s one of those seminal works that I was conscious of. Certainly from my point of view, the pursuit of the Holy Grail became a very interesting aspect of my thinking over a period of time at a deeper level. But it’s one of the two or three great legends of all time, isn’t it? I was pretty conscious of it, pretty aware of it, yeah.
GW: You seem to be covering the great legends pretty well. [Laughter]
JN: That’s true isn’t it?
GW: Yes! [Laughter]
JN: They’re great because they’re great, though. Isn’t that that fact? They sustain not because some publisher in some big city said “Let’s promote this thing.” They sustain because they are, in fact, great legends with great stories that touches and strengthens. It’s a terrific thing to be involved in doing those types of things.
GW: Yes. It comes down to the human connection, not as much as monetary gain.
JN: Well, it has nothing to do with monetary gain because they became legends before monetary gain was an issue.
GW: Right, right. Most of your TV guest work was in Australia itself. How much time did you have to recover before you started performing once you made the trip over here, and how straining was that transition for you?
JN: It wasn’t straining at all. I was in fact in Los Angeles at the time that I got the call. I was just there visiting with my management and doing some other stuff. I was, in fact, heading out to Europe to do an appearance in Germany. So it slotted in beautifully. It was just a matter of side-tracking and going up to Canada.
It was painless and certainly an enjoyable experience because the people on Stargate, the whole production crew and the actors and everything were wonderful to work with. They were just lovely people as well as being an incredibly efficient organization.
GW: I was on the phone with Martin Gero, who’s one of the producers up there, and he said he was delighted to have a chance to meet with you. So I guess your impressions of the production body as a whole are very high?
JN: As high as they could be. I suppose it says something about the people that are attracted, or the teams that are put together. Also, the fact that it’s been together a long time. A lot of the folks have been there a long time, like an extended family. And I guess the flattering thing for me was that they took me in so readily and made me feel so at home.
And working with the established cast — sometimes that’s not so easy, going into an established cast. But they were absolutely gorgeous. I had the best time, really.
GW: By looking at your performance, your significant other for that episode was actually the “Get In The Gate” sweepstakes winner, Nancy Martin. And in fact all of her scenes were with you. Now were you aware of who she was?
JN: Yeah! She played my wife, in fact!
GW: I figured as much, but I couldn’t be sure. [Laughter]
JN: Yeah, she was lovely. I was aware when she came on the set that she’d won that. And they said, “Well, she could play your wife.” [Laughter] So she was there with me the whole time. Really nice lady. I think she was from Texas, from memory.
GW: I’m not sure where she’s from.
JN: Anyway, I could be wrong about that. But really nice lady, and picked up incredibly fast what was required in the film-making process. I think she had a great time, and it was really lovely to be there with her.
GW: I read online that you actually tripped in the mud. [Laughter] Was that an experience? What other highlights do you have from the trip?
JN: We were out in the courtyard that had about three inches of mud on the ground, which was great for the sword fight scene, and we were sloshing through it. If you do get dirty in something like that, it’s quite a turn around while they clean your costume. There was a line of one of the sound cords buried deep under the mud, and I did one of those ten yard staggers, saying, “Oh, no! I’m not going to go down. I’m not going to go down.”
It was an interesting moment. But no other dramas at all, really. I managed not to go flat on my face, thank God. Everything else was so smooth, really. It was such a smooth operation. Working with Martin Wood, the director who is incredibly experienced. He’s the nicest man and a delight to work with. And as I said, very efficient.
GW: Did you get to bring anything home for you family from the set? [Laughter] “I stole this for you! Here you go!”
JN: No, no, no! I did not. I’m terrible at that. I’m often asked that question about “Lord of the Rings” and they say “You had to have brought something home.” And I say, “Well, no.”
Listen, David, I travel lightly. I learned years ago not to take anything with me I didn’t need. I’ve learned to travel no matter where I am very lightly. So I didn’t bring anything home except for the memories. And, of course, you know the main memories are the episode, which I haven’t seen yet. I believe it’s gone to air in the States, is that right?
GW: Yes. It has already aired. It was very, very satisfying. Being the finale.
JN: Oh, was it? Good! I’m so pleased.
GW: Yes, it was great.
JN: I’m so pleased.
GW: Would you mind if I asked you a question regarding “Lord of the Rings?”
JN: No, please do.
GW: After three years of having this film released, does the series’s popularity still surprise you?
JN: It would be true to say that the phenomenon that is “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy took everyone by surprise. I was communicating with the producer of “The Lord of the Rings” the other day because three of the men I know won Oscars, three of the sound guys, and I wanted to just send them a card because they’re friends of mine. And I was remarking that as time has gone by I feel even more — somehow or other — honored to be involved rather than less. It was an astonishing thing to do and I can’t really imagine anything being like it again.
And as for popularity, I did have a sense that when I was there I kind of knew it was pretty special when we were doing it. And I thought, “My goodness, me. This is one of those things that could last for generations and generations.” Judging by the response that I still see when I travel, that’s well on the way to becoming one of those trilogies that will be watched for generations and generations. It really was just so good, in all aspects. And a great story.
GW: What do you feel makes Stargate worth having on in your home?
JN: Certainly the greatest gift that I have has a creative artist, but I personally believe the greatest gift we have as human beings, are our imaginations. And what Stargate does without being the least bit silly, if you will, is stretches the imagination. It takes it through leaps into other places and times, just like our imagination wants to go. And none of it to me is actually scientifically improbable either, which I find more interesting.
So I can watch that without feeling that I am being manipulated, or “this is a silly thing to do,” or that it’s the result of some thoughtless person just trying to make a buck. I actually don’t feel any of those things. I think it’s a really solid piece of science fiction. And as such, whenever I watch it I think, “Yeah, that’s interesting.” As they step outside of the box, as it were, step outside of the box and go to other places.
So far it’s certainly sustained for me the most fascinating of the science fiction shows being done.
GW: It’s very popular in Australia, where you live. Actually, moreso than it is in the United States.
JN: I did hear that, but I didn’t realize that till I got to Canada. But that was interesting. But it is popular all over the world, right?
GW: Yes, it is. Europe, Germany, France.
JN: Yeah, yeah. And Canada itself?
GW: Yes. Yes, it is. In fact, they actually get Atlantis before the U.S. does. So it kind of all evens itself out, I suppose.
If we get to see the village of Camelot again would you be up for returning, or perhaps playing in another Stargate role, if we don’t?
JN: My feeling and my parting sentiment to the people involved there was that, yes, of course I would love to return.
JN: Seriously, it was a really good gig. It was very pleasant. Good, quality work — very good quality work in terms of the production standards. And it was just a really pleasant gig to do. So I would have no hesitations, and I said this to them. And I think the question was asked of me, whether I would go back. And I wouldn’t have any hesitation, to tell you the truth.
GW: Well, your children and I thank you.
JN: No, thank you, my friend.
GW: Thank you again for taking time to talk to us. This is actually my first international call for the Web site!
JN: Ringing me from that state of Abraham Lincoln.
GW: [Laughter] That’s exactly right.
JN: I just finished reading an amazing book about Lincoln. It’s called “A Team of Rivals.” It’s a great book. Anyways, that’s by the by. David, thank you so much and I’m glad to hear that the episode went well, because I haven’t seen it yet.
GW: It was, very well. You’re going to have to ask them for a copy.
JN: Oh, there’s no problem, I’m sure. I’m sure that I’ll get one. I don’t think it’s gone to air in Australia yet, that’s all. I think they’re still showing something else. Mate, thank you so much for calling and taking the time, David.
GW: Well, thank you for talking with us. This was wonderful.
JN: It’s my pleasure, friend. I hope we’ll run into each other again one day.