In this interview Cliff discusses how Baal has grown to be more human over the course of the show. He explains the origins, and purpose, of the System Lord’s clones with detail, and considers what his character will now do with all of his duplicates once a certain “search” is completed. Cliff also elaborates on Baal’s interest in blondes.
In addition, Cliff wanted us to let fans know that his Web site, CliffSimon.com, has recently opened a store! Be sure to check it out after the interview.
Our interview with Cliff is 25 minutes long, and includes minor spoilers for “The Quest, Part 1.” It’s also available in audio format, and transcribed below!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net I’m David Read. I’m here with Mr. Cliff Simon once again. Thank you, sir, for taking time to be with us.
Cliff Simon You’re welcome! Good to be with you again.
GW: The last time that we talked with you — the interim between that — I did some research and I found out that Baal is either the longest lasting or the second longest lasting Goa’uld that there has ever been. Do you know that?
CS: I did know that. I think, yeah, he’s outdone Anubis.
GW: And Apophis!
CS: Yeah. I was told that, actually, by the producers. I’m now the longest-running villain on the show, which is pretty amazing. As I said early on, villains get killed off very quickly. It’s quite amazing. I never thought … five seasons? Wow.
GW: Season Nine renewed the show in a really big way. In your opinion, what ways has it both changed and stayed the same?
CS: You mean with new cast members coming in and so on? You know, what stayed the same is the professionalism. What has changed is they shoot a little slower than they used to. I think that’s probably because of Richard not being there, and Michael Greenburg not being there. Michael Greenburg being the line producer who would just sit and watch the monitor and tell the directors to get a move on. “Things are going a bit slow.” You get into discussions about, like, lines. “I shouldn’t say this, or I should say that.” That’s what takes a lot of time. So things on that front changed, but as far as the actors are concerned, and the family feel and all that kind of thing, it’s exactly the same as it always was.
GW: Do you think it’s better that everyone’s kind of cooled there heels and is taking their time more, or do you think that Michael Greenburg had the right idea in speeding them up?
CS: No, Michael had the right idea. On every set you need a line producer. You need someone sitting there besides the director, because the director’s creative. He’s trying to make it as good as he can.
GW: He’s in his own little world.
CS: Exactly. He’s thinking about himself and about the actors, whereas the line producer, like Michael sitting there, looks at the whole thing and what’s going on. He’s looking at time and he’s watching all of these kinds of things. And normally the line producer is the one to change dialogue. He’ll be the one to say “OK, change that.” But now it’s left up to the director. Well then the director’s got to call up to the production office and say “We want to change this.” And all that slows down. You need a line producer in there and Michael is missed. When I work — in my opinion.
GW: Word of SG-1‘s cancellation has now had a chance to fully run its course through fandom. Was it a surprise to you?
CS: Not really. I had a feeling it was going to happen. And then officially I knew on Monday when it came out in the trades in LA. My agent called me and said “Well, it’s now official. They’re canceling the show.” I’m looking at it as I didn’t see the show stopping. SCI FI‘s canceling the show. And that’s what they should’ve worded it as. There’s a lot more places it can go, and I have a feeling it’s going to. That’s my opinion. I had a brief word with Michael [Shanks] now. I just bumped into him. And they’ve got the same feeling on set. So I think it’s going to go somewhere else.
GW: You said you’ve received your final script. What can you tell us about it?
CS: No, actually I haven’t received it. I don’t even know what the name of it is yet. I’ll probably get it this week, when I get back
GW: So you don’t know anything about it?
GW: But you know that you’re not in the finale?
GW: OK. Well that’s too bad!
CS: It’s a pity. I’d rather been the last episode, but I don’t know! We don’t know anything. I think what they’re probably doing is because they’re looking at the last two episodes they might be rewriting things very quickly. I think I should be because they need to bring some kind of closure to the character. Even if he’s just, “Well, we don’t know where he is.” Or “he’s definitely dead.” So I think that they might bring that up in the next script. I don’t know.
GW: Well yeah, they haven’t actually nailed down what they want to do, so this one may not be your last.
CS: Yeah. It might not be. They might call me back for the last episode and I hope they do.
GW: In your personal opinion, what do you believe will become of SG-1? Do you really think it will go on to a Season Eleven or possibly a movie or miniseries?
CS: I believe it’s going to go on to some kind of miniseries, and hopefully the “Stargate” movie. The big movie. And I hope with Sony behind it now, that’s the kind of movie that Sony would make. But I definitely see some made-for-TV movies of Stargate, or even one miniseries.
GW: Last time you talked to us you discovered the purpose behind all of the clones. It’s pretty clear he’s using them to multiply his search for Merlin’s weapon. Does he have a plan for him once that search is complete?
CS: You know what? Baal is going to find a plan for them. He’s going to find some other use for them. We saw the use that he had for them now, but I think he’s going to keep them. There’s no way he’s going to kill them off or destroy them or anything like that. Look how useful they’ve been! It’s like his own private army. And it would be very stupid of him to get rid of them. I think he’s going to put them on ice and keep them somewhere. And use them when he needs to.
GW: You say you’ve been very proud of “The Quest” and how you get to be outdoors and do some out-of-the-box stuff with this character. What else can you tell us about “The Quest?”
CS: You’re going to see Baal eat a power bar. Man, that’s amazing! Isn’t that amazing? [Laughter] I’m going to be the first alien to eat a power bar on the show! That’s pretty cool! That was very, very funny to shoot that. It was very funny. It just worked so well. And we actually carried it through a little bit in the show.
You’re going to see me throw the wrapper away, like I’ve snuck a power bar on the side. Because they’re basically keeping me — the basic storyline is they’ve got to find me because I’m ahead of them and looking for Merlin’s weapon. They’ve got to find me, but then they’re really keeping me as their prisoner. I can’t leave the team, because I’m helping them find Merlin’s weapon. But I’m really their prisoner, so I keep asking for food. Ben Browder starts teasing me with power bars and all of these kinds of things, so it’s very funny.
GW: At first I thought “Well, he’s been on Earth for a while so maybe he invested in some kind of a food company and brought power bars with him. Why else would he be eating a power bar on an alien world?”
CS: Now that would have been funny. They find me in the forest a few days later and I’m starving, so I’ll eat whatever’s eating. I thought that was pretty cute.
GW: In early Season Nine one of the big arcs was that Baal was on Earth, but the true Baal had to arrive on an Al’kesh. Have the writers abandoned the “Baal on Earth” concept, or are there still possibly a few Baals floating around on Earth?
CS: There’s still that possibility, and I know Joe Mallozzi said something about that.
GW: It was such a big thing, that ending. “We have a big day tomorrow.” And the next time we see you you’re on a Ha’tak on an alien planet. It’s like, “OK, what’s going on?”
CS: But now the question is, the guy that crashed in the Al’kesh, was that the real one or is the real one still on Earth?
GW: When you guys beamed aboard — you guys, the multiple clones beamed aboard the cargo ship, “1” was the one that stepped out and started commanding them. But I guess he could’ve still been a clone.
CS: I believe that there is still a Baal on Earth. And he’s still in hiding. They just don’t know about him. He’s gone underground again, and now that leaves it open again. Because now he’s on Earth and he’s up, floating around the galaxy somewhere.
GW: So he’s not interfering in business matters anymore, he’s quit that, or is he still in control, like Hammel Technologies and a few of these others.
CS: No, no, he wouldn’t be there, because SG-1 would know that he’s there. Because that’s where they discovered him. I think it would make a great storyline, that he’s gone underground. He’s hiding. He’s still on Earth. Because I think he has plans on Earth. Because that’s where the SG-1 team is and that’s where everything is. And that’s how I see maybe there’s a storyline where he would start working with the SG-1 team as a human. Dressed in a uniform. Like that. So the guy is still going to be flying around the galaxies but the guy whose on Earth is going to stay on Earth and help them. And maybe help them find … Where does Baal live? What’s his planet? Where does he stay? Or does he fly around the whole time?
GW: Right, because his territory — Dakara — is no longer his.
CS: Yeah. It’s not his. He can’t go there. So where is he now? That’s, I think, a really good question that, I think, could be a really good storyline.
GW: Mobile home.
CS: [laughter] In the sky!
GW: Connect the truck and take off!
GW: Is Baal still cloning, or does he have all that he needs?
CS: No he’s got all he needs. He made a certain amount of clones because he needed an exact amount to beam out of there. They needed to have that energy — a certain amount of clones — so he’s stopped making them.
GW: OK. So not only was he using them, basically, to increase the ability of being detected, but also their next mission was to go and search through the Ancient repository of knowledge and the databases.
GW: And then you think he’ll put them away.
CS: Then I think he’s going to keep them. Yep. On ice. Literally.
GW: It’s largely Carter’s fault for letting slip the library of gate addresses. A few of us wonder why her security codes weren’t locked down when she became captured, but that’s splitting hairs. Will she have a bit of a vendetta against Baal that will carry into “The Quest?” She was held at gunpoint against him, and one of her dearest friends was threatened. Is there a possibility that we’ll see …
CS: Yeah, you’re going to see a lot of reactions from her towards me in “The Quest.” But she still plays the sarcasm, or Baal’s sarcasm. But you’ll see there’s a little bit of tension in that. Yeah.
GW: You’ve always been very active in making Baal as human as possible. So funny with the power bar. We spoke to you last time and you talked about him bleeding. In what other ways has he become more human this year?
CS: The main thing was him feeling pain, and being in pain, and being uncomfortable, same as a person would be. Same as when I got shot. The way he dies. The one when I got shot in the arm, he was actually in pain. He was as if he was human. And it actually comes out in “The Quest.” I actually say the line to Ben Browder, that “Your forte lies in unarmed combat, and my forte lies in strategy and command.” And that actually says it all.
You don’t have to be, physically, a strong person to be a highly intellectual strategist and all this kind of stuff, which Baal seems to have become now. Teal’c pushes him around. Physically he pushes him around. I get grabbed. I get pushed around. Vala slaps me. I didn’t really feel much, but I got slapped. There was a reaction. It’s not like her hand went through my head.
So yeah, it’s pretty interesting. That’s actually in the dialogue now. The SG-1 team are the physical side. They’re the strength. They’ve got the weapons. They know how to shoot. They know how to do unarmed combat. Whereas now it’s come out Baal doesn’t really know that kind of stuff, but put him in command of an army and tell him to come up with a strategy on how to attack a planet and all this kind of thing, and he’ll do the best out of anyone that there is. The SG-1 team can’t do that. Baal can do that. And that’s why I believe SG-1 can use Baal.
GW: It’s like the old quote: If strength were everything, the tiger wouldn’t fear the scorpion.
CS: That’s exactly.
GW: I can’t remember which System Lord it was that Baal really cleaned up the floor of when the had the episode, “Summit.” He wiped out so many people just like that. For the pleasure of it.
CS: Yeah, I can’t remember the name either, but I remember the scene.
GW: Take us back to your first appearance in Season Five’s “Summit.” Goa’uld Mardi Gras at the space station. What were some of your favorite characters to play against in that meeting hall? It was really a revolutionary thing because we’d never seen the System Lords before. And here they came in full form. All of them. Most of them.
CS: Right. I’ll tell you who I was working a lot [off] of, and who I actually knew as a person, who I met before, was the character of Yu.
GW: Vince [Crestejo]!
CS: Vince. He’s a great guy. And I watched how he’d been playing Yu. For quite a while. And I thought “That is not how Baal can be.” He cannot be like that. And when he first walked into the room and he was talking to Daniel about “This one’s done that and this one’s done that.” And then he got to Baal, and “This one’s done that.”
GW: “Do not accept gifts from Baal.”
CS: Yeah. All that kind of thing. And I tried to play it like, just with a straight face. I wasn’t standing there trying to be mean. And then when we all sat down and, I’ve forgotten the character’s name now — the girl.
CS: Osiris. Osiris walked in, and then I thought, straight away, I have to start playing the sexual thing of it. Straight away! It just hit me, because none of the others were doing it. And I thought “This is what I have to do.” And I just felt it. I just felt that this was the character. It was pretty weird. And I played it. I started smiling and started doing my thing. And it came across completely. I saw it come across.
She never played off it though, which was fine. She could’ve played off it, which would’ve made it a little bit better, and which maybe, would’ve led on to another storyline between her and me. But it definitely worked for me. And I know that’s what the producers looked at and went “Hmm … What’s this guy thinking? What’s he thinking?” You know what, you play it as if it’s real. A girl walks in. She’s got legs up to her neck. She’s hot. You play it as that! That’s what it is! And it comes across.
GW: Sometimes the most obvious answers are the best.
CS: Yeah! Yep.
GW: Was there a bit of audition competition in the air? You were essentially aiming to please the audience the most to ensure your return. All of these different System Lords. Did that come across when you were shooting this?
CS: Yeah. In a way it did. It was actually like being at an audition. A normal audition, where you walk in and people are courteous to each other. They’re like “Hi, how are you doing?” But once you’re in nobody’s talking to anyone else. And you’re reading a script and looking at that guy. “Hmm, he looks very similar to me. OK.” You know what I mean? That kind of thing. It did come across a bit, because I think they all knew they were looking for new System Lords. All the actors who were in there. They were all trying their best and doing what they can.
GW: They were bringing in Anubis and he had to have minions. What do you think sold you as the Goa’uld to work with? What pulled you out from the others, to say “OK, we’ll use Baal” for ‘Abyss.’ We’ll use Baal for ‘Homecoming’ He’s the one we’re going to continue with.”
CS: I think they saw I had a sense of humor. And why shouldn’t an alien have a sense of humor? I think that was the main thing. I think I put across some sexuality and I put across a sense of humor. And that made the character interesting. All of a sudden it was like, “We can go far. We can do a lot of stories with this guy. We can play him.” And because of Richard Dean Anderson having that sense of humor, then they put us together in “Abyss,” and it was like, “I’ve got the knife. And I’m smiling. ‘One last time.'” And he’s like “Uhh,” making all of these “bocce Baal” jokes. It just worked so well, and from there they just carried it on.
GW: They took you, but they didn’t take your staff.
CS: That was weird. I don’t know! I never ever used it again.
GW: You’re walking down the corridor on the Goa’uld ship with Nerus. It’d be really nice if he had it in his hand. Focusing on the other clones.
CS: I know. Never used it again.
CS: You know what? I think it comes down to that same thing I said earlier on about being as real as possible. Generally when you get a guy of my coloring who’s dark, the kind of woman he likes are fair or blonde. Blonde guys prefer dark girls. And that’s just the way it is because it’s something different. They [the producers] actually did it. They did that. And I like it, because I am more attracted to blondes.
GW: Is Colette [his wife] blonde?
CS: Yeah! [Laughter] Naturally, she is. She does have a reddish hair now. She’s a hairdresser so she does her hair. But yeah, she’s very fair. So it’s very funny that that’s just the way it worked out. That’s so real.
GW: They’re paying attention!
CS: Yeah, they are! Definitely. That’s why I always say the writers are so good, because that’s what they watch for.
GW: A lot of your fandom has asked that question. “Is this deliberate?”
CS: And in “Ex Deus,” when I arrived and I saw her [Sonya Salomaa] in the trailer, I was “Oh, my God! This is, like, perfect!” I even said that to her. It’s like, “You’re perfect!” [Laughter] But it was great. We worked well together, and I think we looked good together. I liked her. She had that bitchy side to her, especially in the scenes with Amanda. She nailed Amanda. She was like —
GW: — “It’s time for you to go.”
CS: Yeah. It was actually good, and she’s a great actress. Hopefully she’ll be back.
GW: For Mr. South Africa, I think you said you performed something with gymnastics. Will you get to exercise your physicality any more this year? When you’re outside doors you’re probably running and things like that. What else?
CS: Not this year, you’re not going to see it. I don’t know, the next episode what I’m doing. I don’t know what’s going to happen there. I do ask them, the whole time. Baal needs to be more physical. We need to see things.
In “Insiders” there was a little bit more fighting. There was an amazing fight scene that they never kept, and the one soldier was running down the passageway and I was hiding around the corner, the same corner where Teal’c and a few of his soldiers were standing when I came down the corridor. I knew the soldiers were coming down. I hid around the corner. As the soldier ran around, I turned into him and hit him in his chest, and he did a full back somersault right around me, landed on the floor and it was awesome. And they cut it out, because I think they said it was too big. His movement just looked too unreal.
And I’m like, “But this is Baal we’re talking about. He hit him with some force.” It wasn’t a normal fight situation, and I was really upset about that because it was the one time where you actually see Baal hit someone. We have that little fight scene which was more just like a slap and wrestling around. So I’m hoping there’s going to be more. I always ask them to do some fight scenes or something. More physical.
But on that note, my costumes don’t allow me to do that kind of stuff. That’s the problem. I’ve got shirts up to here and I’ve got these long leather jackets that weigh 40 pounds, and boots up to here, so as far as doing somersaults like that, there’s no way I would ever be able to do it.
GW: Every time we talk with Peter DeLuise he says “Baal is back, and his collars are taller and pointier than ever!” [Laughter] What surprised me most about “Insiders” was Baal’s relationship with Qetesh. Now [I] should’ve seen that coming, but I didn’t. Was it fun to work with Claudia like that?
CS: Yeah, it was great. Claudia and I get on very, very well. Also because she’s Australian she knows South Africans as well, very well. She puts on an amazing South African accent that you wouldn’t even know she’s not South African. So whenever I was with her she’d speak to me like she was the South African girl. So it was very funny. We got on very, very well. She’s a great girl. I was happy that it happened. When I read the script I was like, “Yeah, that’s great,” because I saw Baal and Vala getting together. And they also look like they could be the same race. They look similar. She looks like the female version of Baal.
GW: Maybe. Who knows. Interesting.
CS: Yeah. So it was great. She was great to work with.
GW: Are you hoping for more of that?
CS: Yep. Definitely.
GW: You said you don’t think Season Ten is the end. We know something is coming down the pipe. We don’t know what it is. Is it the end of Baal? Do you think it is the end of Baal?
CS: I don’t think it’s the end of Baal. The character’s been built up so much, and even though the Goa’ulds are gone he is the last surviving guy. He still has all his strength. He still has his little armies. He’s got all his ships. He’s got everything.
GW: He’s the last System Lord, yeah.
CS: Yeah, he’s the last System Lord, and I think it would be silly to get rid of him at this stage. If they didn’t want him as the bad guy, that’s fine. Then turn him into the bad guy who’s become good, who works with SG-1.
GW: He’s done it before.
CS: Yep. It’s been done. Because it’s silly to invest five years in a character from their point of view and to have the way they’ve built up this character over five years, just to let him go. It’s silly because what I’m finding now is people are actually looking at Baal as kind of a regular cast member. As opposed to being a guest star. And that’s the feeling I’ve picked up.
You find things like photographs, books that are coming out. There’s the SG-1 team and there’s Baal. And so it’s the feeling I’m getting, and people have spoken to me about. You know, “You guys are shooting every week.” Just like things you pick up. I’m like, “No, I go up every two months.” And they’re like “Wow, really?” So yeah, it’s a waste of time — it’s stupid — for them to get rid of the character like that.
GW: If this time is your last time going up, what are you going to miss most?
CS: Getting out of LA for two weeks and going to relax in Vancouver, which is a great city. I think what I’ll miss most is being with the guys up there and working with them. Working with guys like Andy [Mikita] and Peter [DeLuise], who are really nice guys. Great directors. And just working. As an actor you never want to be without work. When shows close all of a sudden there are all these actors who are now unemployed. It just creates that kind of thing.
I’ll miss the work. It’s been fun. It’s been amazing. For me, starting off my career in the United States, and only being here for six years, and to have the kind of fan base, thanks to you guys, that I’ve got now over the world just from appearing on Stargate is absolutely amazing. If the show had to end, and my character never came back, it’s the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I don’t regret a single minute of it. And even if the show had to end we’d still be doing conventions, and I’ll still be getting invited to conventions. Europe, definitely, we’ll be there next year. They’re only going to be watching Season Ten next year.
GW: That’s what you said to the crowd. They haven’t even gotten it yet!
CS: Yep. And a lot of them haven’t seen Season Nine, so as they watch it, “Let’s invite Cliff.”
GW: It’s fresh.
CS: Yep. So hopefully I’ll carry on doing the cons as well.
The Official Cliff Simon Web site