Beware of minor SPOILERS for Stargate: The Ark of Truth in the interview below!
Many believe Stargate SG-1 ended its journey on the small screen way too soon. Others think the series jumped the shark when it entered Season Nine. Whatever the case may be, actor Ben Browder, who was known well before entering the SG-1 scene, has made an impact on both old and young generations of sci-fi viewers. GateWorld is privileged to speak with him again, this time inviting him to detail his favorite moments from the production of the first direct-to-DVD SG-1 film, Stargate: The Ark of Truth.
Ben talks us through what has been taking up his recent days, from coaching to developing his TV miniseries. He remembers what he most loved about showing up on the sets of Stargate every day, but is not afraid to reveal reasons why he also loves being home for a time.
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net I’m David Read and I’m here with Mr. Ben Browder. Ben, what’s life been like since Stargate?
Ben Browder: Well obviously I’m home a bit more. That’s the good thing. It gives me time to watch my children grow. I don’t have to worry about “Am I going to be here for that?” “Am I going to be here for this?” That’s the good thing.
The bad thing of course is quite frankly going to work was fun. Going to work is tremendous fun. You miss the people and you miss the day-to-day. You miss getting the next script and seeing what you’re going to do. You miss walking over to a sound stage and seeing something you wouldn’t quite frankly expect to see when you walk out of a sound stage.
Last time we were there I was walking with a journalist and there was a guy standing outside and they were testing a new bio gel. They were hitting this guy with a flame thrower. He’s standing there in street clothes with nothing on his face, and they’re hitting him in the face with a flame thrower. This is not what you’d expect to see when you walk out your front door in the morning. It’s the kind of thing you might see when you walk out the door of your trailer. You just never know what you’re going to get.
“Oh look, there’s a Wraith over there. He’s having coffee.”
It’s just another day at work. “h look, we’re going to blow something up! We’re going to freeze a bunch of people.”It’s fantastic, and that’s an exciting way to start your day.
GW: Well you’ve always been a big proponent of family coming first. Are you going to take a break from series television for a while or if another offer came jumping in your face would you pick it up immediately?
BB: Well it’s interesting, I had that discussion with a casting director recently. He said “Are you ready to do another series?” And I said “Yeah, I think so!” I’ve got to keep working. Not just on a personal level, but on a practical level. Another series would be great, or whatever else if it comes. I’m happy to be working.
Having said that, I’m happy to be home, too. There’s a balance somewhere, I guess. I haven’t quite figured out how it actually works, how people plan their lives. With series they come infrequently and they do take over your life. How do you plan something like that? I’ve been on two series and spent the better part of, seven, eight years doing those two series.
GW: Maybe we can find something in LA for you so you don’t have to keep bouncing around in planes!
BB: That’s a whole separate question altogether. It’s amazing how infrequent things like that happen — I go out for something and “Oh, it shoots in LA!” Maybe post-WGA strike we’ll have more of that.
GW: In what ways does Ark of Truth stand out for you personally?
BB: For me as an actor there’s two things — we’re shooting in 35 millimeter camera in ways we didn’t shoot on the series. I’m a big proponent of film making. In television sometimes the schedule gets so tight — the filmmaking process, how to do a scene, how to shoot a scene, gets truncated. So despite the fact that we didn’t have a huge schedule we were moving the camera more in ways that we didn’t on the series and that was exciting.
Obviously the fight sequence that we did in the movie, which we took two days to shoot, we would have never had that amount of time on the series.
It was a two-day fight sequence. On the series we would’ve tried to do it in less, which meant we would have been able to do less. That kind of thought process permeates the whole movie. The opening shot is huge. The music, Joel’s score, is huge. In that sense there’s more to it than the series. On a personal level it’s “How did it affect me on the day,” not “How did it affect me when I watched it.” And on that level it’s fun to have a little bit more to play with.
GW: It’s amazing that that whole fight sequence was done in two days. You just got your ass handed to you!
BB: I joked around for years that Mitchell’s super power is getting his ass whipped. Everyone else seems to have some kind of super power, and Mitchell has one. He’s the Energizer bunny of ass whipping.
GW: It seems you’re always at the center of the action and fight sequences. What’s the draw from the writer’s standpoint? Have you always been willing to do those intense scenes?
BB: Well the first fight sequence I had on Stargate was the sword fight which was fairly ambitious. We did some other stuff. Because I like to do my own stunts, and I mean really enjoy and like to do my own stunts. I don’t like to walk away from the physical action. I don’t know whether they had a cast member as vocal as I was saying “I like to do this stuff! Come on! Put me on fire, but the ratchet on me! Throw me up against the wall. I want to play in the dirt! I want to get dirty, muddy and bloody.”
When you look around the series and you walk into a series, say “What do people do?” Everybody seemed to have certain things covered. There seemed to be an opening for a punching bag. Well look, Teal’c never loses many fights. Two blows and he’s got ’em down.
Chris has done his fight sequences early on and established the powerful warrior. I was establishing the un-powerful warrior, which if you have to have somebody take a whipping that’s my job.
GW: It’s just that football mentality. We don’t get to see much of that.
BB: Well you either like that kind of stuff or you don’t. You either like being thrown around or you don’t. Right now I’m coaching pole-vaulting. Occasionally I need to demonstrate a skill and I find myself flying through the air and loving it.
We were jumping at a very low height doing a drill the other day. The bar’s at eight feet. Even jumping over eight feet and landing on the pad, running down the runway and doing that at my advanced age, I go “This is so much fun. Well maybe I’ll go higher.”
That kind of stuff is just fun. I enjoy it.
GW: What was some of the most fun you had during the shooting of The Ark of Truth? Was it during the fight scenes?
BB: Definitely doing the fight sequence. It was one of those fight sequences where the shooting of it went well. We didn’t damage each other badly. There’s a lot of things flying around and by the end of it you can’t believe how sore you are.
I said to previous journalists, but I’ll say it to you. The only people who are actually physically fit to do this kind of stuff are people who go under the octagon. People who train in martial arts and mixed martial arts are the only ones who are really in shape for this kind of activity, because you’re doing everything but making the contact. So your body is moving in ways that you’re not used to it moving. Boy, do you feel it the next day and as you get older. But it’s still tremendous fun.
You get bruised up and you go “Oh, wow.” But it’s just a bruise. It goes away.
GW: In your opinion, what do you think the film’s most important message is? As a viewer. You’ve seen it.
BB: Well when I saw it I saw it on the big screen. Honestly when I watch something with a group of people I tend to hide behind my hands. I don’t like watching myself. There are chunks of the movie I didn’t see because I knew I was on and I was hiding.
GW: Well that’s a little unfortunate. You’re out there as an actor to be seen and when that moment comes you kind of retreat.
BB: Well I do it as an actor to be part of the storytelling process. The exciting thing to me about acting, what’s most exciting, is you’re moving in this story. You wake up in the morning, you put on some interesting clothes, pick up some interesting props, and you go and you interact with people. You’re telling a story and you live the character for as many moments as you can during the course of the day.
At the end of the day you’ve handed the work over to everybody else. And it’s not about watching yourself. It’s about “Does the story work?”
I can watch it when I’m by myself and I don’t think anyone else is watching. Then I don’t bother myself so much. I’m not weird or shy. But I haven’t seen the screener and I haven’t seen it by myself. I only saw it in a room with a couple hundred people on the big screen.
BB: Yeah, that was my response. “Wow. Wow, OK, now I’ve got to hide. Wow.”
I did manage to watch the fight sequence. That was far enough into the movie that I sort of recovered. But as to the message and the movie I don’t know. That’s for Robert and the audience. As an actor I’m not thinking about the message. I’m thinking about living the moment.
GW: What are you working on most recently?
BB: Well the strike finally finished so I’m sitting in front of my computer reworking a story for a miniseries.
GW: So you’re writing.
BB: Yes, I am writing, if one can call it that. I’m hammering at the keyboard and seeing what comes out. It’s a miniseries for SCI FI called “Going Homer.” I’m writing it with a man named Andrew Prowse, who was a producer, director and editor on Farscape.
GW: Is there a possibility that you’ll be in it?
BB: We’ve got to get farther down the road before entertaining that idea. The most important thing right now is cobbling out the story and getting all that to work. It’s six hours so it’s a big story. It’s creating from scratch. It’s an interesting way to wake up.
GW: It’s a very rewarding process too, especially when you finally see it on the screen.
BB: Yeah, that’s a ways away though. Of course you imagine it in your head as you’re doing it. Anyone who writes a screenplay knows that’s still further down the road.
GW: Are you open to appearing in Season Five of Atlantis?
BB: I think they’re probably going to have to work through everyone else before they finally get to Mitchell. I don’t think that that’s on the card, but I think that’s what Joe and Paul are thinking. We’ve done Michael, we’ve done Chris, Richard Dean Anderson, and Beau and Amanda. I guess they need to get past Claudia. They haven’t mentioned it and I don’t think it’s in their plans.
I can’t foresee a story need for Mitchell to be there. Daniel Jackson brings something different to the table. Carter brings a history with McKay and something different to the table. Maybe Mitchell doesn’t have anything to offer Atlantis in a story sense.
GW: We can only hope. You deserve more than two seasons and a couple of movies to flesh that character out.
BB: Well we’ll do more movies then!