Beware of minor SPOILERS for the SG-1 series finale, “Unending,” in the interview below!
It was just at the beginning of the Ori story arc that GateWorld last talked with Christopher Judge. It seems fitting that we chat with him again just shortly after the Ori storyline is dealt with in the just-released DVD feature, Stargate: The Ark of Truth.
The actor has kept himself particularly busy in the months since Stargate: Continuum finished shooting. Not only is he in full pre-production of his new series Rage of Angels, he is performing the bigger task of being a father for the fourth — and in some ways the first — time.
We also chat about his recent appearance in the Stargate Atlantis episode “Midway,” poke a bit of fun in the general direction of Teal’c’s gray streak, and brave the murky waters of the overall religious messages from Seasons Nine, Ten, and Ark of Truth.
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net I’m David Read and we’re talking again with Mr. Christopher Judge! Chris, how are you doing?
Christopher Judge: I’m very well, sir.
GW: What’s been going on?
CJ: Nothing. [Laughter]
GW: Which is a nice change, probably! [Laughter]
CJ: In all seriousness though, I was just talking the other day. With the writer’s strike and the series ending … I’m on my fourth child now, but this is the first child I’ve actually ever — I potty trained her, watched her learn to put sentences together. I actually spent time with one of my children! [Laughter]
It’s great. My three older ones, for almost eleven years, I would leave to go to work before they woke up and I’d come home after they were in bed. So it’s actually been really great.
GW: Now you’re finally beginning to experience a little normalcy. What is it like, for all intents and purposes, no longer having Stargate in your life?
CJ: Early on it was weird. Even when we’d go on hiatus my down time would be reflective that we’d be back in February. I would stop dieting, I would stop working out every October. But then every January I would know that we’d be back in February and I’d start working out, stop the drinking, all that stuff.
This year is kind of weird. I was negotiating the new show, Rage of Angels — the writer’s strike hit. So this January I was lost. [Laughter]
GW: You can’t act if you have nothing to act.
CJ: Right! [Laughter] It was a very different January for me.
GW: Well you know, everything that we do in our lives, it all comes back to our family, if our hearts are in the right places. So it’s really cool that you can go back to those roots for a little while. And there are other projects. You and Michael are obviously working on Rage of Angels.
CJ: Yes. In fact I’m in LA right now. The deal’s done. What I didn’t know is when you sell a series … As an actor what you do is your agents negotiate, the studio negotiates, you come in at the end of it and just sign the dotted line.
When you create a series, I’m down here to be fingerprinted, then we have to go to two notaries and four witnesses. I wrote the project, I control the rights. I had no idea it was that involved.
GW: Do you have a pilot at this point?
CJ: We’re going to do a one-hour pilot and the two-hour movie.
GW: When can fans expect to see it?
CJ: I just got down here. Here’s more lingo … Once the contracts are “executed” — [Laughter] — then I have a sit-down with MGM and we talk about time frames, when we’re going to go to camera, what the prep time will be and all that. I’m assuming we’ll probably go to camera in June.
GW: OK so potentially for a Fall or early Winter release?
CJ: Yes. And it’s great — to still be able to work with MGM, to still be able to be in Vancouver. I still have to talk to Brad about who I can use from the Stargate crew, but it really is fantastic just to, still, not have to go out into the real world.
GW: And Michael’s still going to be in it, right?
CJ: Oh yes.
GW: Let’s go back to The Ark of Truth for a couple minutes. Tell us about filming the scenes in the mountains.
CJ: It was terrifying. When I read it I thought “Oh, it’ll be cool. I’ll be in the green screen. They’re going to have some beautiful mountains behind me.” Coop [Writer/Director Robert C. Cooper] goes to my trailer and he’s like “How do you feel about heights?”
My claustrophobia is very much a matter of record. Any time there’s anything — “Do you have a phobia of this?” “What do you think about heights?” I was like, “Well, Coop, I don’t know. What are you talking about?”
“How would you feel about taking a helicopter up to the Sisters Mountains, filming up there and doing all this stuff practical?” I said, “Wait a minute, so do you want me alone in nature?” [Laughter]
GW: “Just walking around??” [Laughter]
CJ: Yeah! So I agreed. But we had to wait a month for a break in the weather. So finally there was a clear day forecast, and it was “Ah, cool, it will be beautiful.” But what I didn’t look at was the wind. It was so windy!
Helicopter rides are generally very smooth. But that day, because of the winds, not that smooth. What I never realized was when they pick you up from somewhere they don’t shut the rotors down and then you go over to the helicopters. Me and my safety fella, we’d actually kneel down and they would come and land the helicopter within a foot of us. And it was windy!
GW: One wrong gust and you’re going to be diced!
CJ: The thing was on one of our first passes the helicopter was being blown around quite a bit. They were quite close to me. A gust came, and which probably was the safe thing for me, it blew me off the course I was on, but it also blew the helicopter into me. I didn’t almost get hit by the blade, but by the runner underneath — but fortunately I got blown to, so it didn’t hit me.
GW: If Teal’c had long hair those long shots would probably have his hair blowing in the wind.
CJ: Exactly! But you know what? I don’t know if you’ve seen it yet — what I said to Coop was “No one’s not going to believe that this is not CGI’d. It’s so beautiful that no one’s going to believe someone didn’t draw it!”
GW: “So we went all of this trouble for nothing!” But what was your opinion of those finished shots?
CJ: I did the commentary with Coop and [Cinematographer] Peter Woeste, and that was the first time I’d actually seen it. I could not believe the visual aspect of the film, how big it was. I said “Coop, this is a movie, dude!”
GW: It really is. You’ve got a helicopter, you’ve got wide shots. You’re not in little rooms anymore.
CJ: Exactly. I was so surprised. When I read the script, and then I saw the shooting schedule, I think it was a 15-day or 16-day main unit shoot. I was like “Are you guys out of your mind? There’s no way we can do this in this amount of time.” And somehow we got it done. It was really amazing.
GW: How do you feel about your gray streak now? Has it grown on you or is just plain irritating?
CJ: It’s now irritating. It’s irritating. I actually did an episode of Atlantis. My hair’s longer, so I went up to Joe [Mallozzi] and Paulie’s [Mullie, Atlantis Executive Producers] office, and Carl [Binder], who wrote a fantastic script. The debate was I thought it was going to be whether I had to cut my hair or not. The debate was whether or not to keep the gray streak in. So I thought it was going to go away, and Brad and Coop said “No, no, for continuity for SG-1 we had to keep the gray streak in.”
When I saw the Atlantis episode I really loved the episode, but the thing that bugged me was that damn gray streak. [Laughter]
GW: I figured out Teal’c’s age and compared to Bra’tac. It’s just one of those little things, I try to keep track of all that stuff. Teal’c is now older than Bra’tac is.
CJ: You’re right, in actual — because I was the one that didn’t go back in the finale. Yeah. I actually caught that too and was like “Well, shouldn’t I have some physical signs of aging?”
GW: “I’m perfect!”
CJ: Yeah. And then they said “Well, do you want to come in early every day and get aged?” And it was like “Maybe he shouldn’t have any physical signs of aging!”
GW: Yeah. And I was thinking about it too. He’s been on tretonin for fifty years. Who knows what that stuff does.
CJ: Yeah, exactly.
GW: In your opinion what are some of the film’s most important messages? There’s a big religious one there.
CJ: Well, I actually had a talk with Coop about this, about the religious implications not only of just the movie but of that whole arc of the Ori. Coop’s a smart dude, and he knew exactly what he was doing. For me growing up religious and then turning away from any organized religion and just having my own individual relationship with whatever I believe in, for me, that was very powerful.
To me, any “religion” should not be about separating people. It should be about bringing people together in understanding and forgiveness and loving people. But so often when you get into the fiduciary aspect of religion it has to be about us being right, you being wrong. And I think fundamentally that goes against everything that religion should be about.
GW: Yeah. We get hung up on the little things.
CJ: Exactly. Exactly. Don’t go blindly into something. Check it out. Do a little work. And if their doctrine is about separatism then maybe that’s not the religion for you. If you really believe in the Almighty, His message is about loving people.
The great thing, I think, about Stargate over the years, is that Stargate has always been, and hopefully always will be, a show with a message, but doesn’t hit you over the head with an anvil with it. Hopefully The Ark of Truth, along with the whole Ori storyline, will at least give some of the fans pause about “Hey, because my neighbor prays to the East” or “Because my neighbor reads the Torah,” whatever it is, who cares? He has his beliefs and I’m going to respect them, and hopefully he respects mine, and we just all get along.
GW: If you were in SG-1‘s position, would you use the ark if you had to? That was a big message from this film, right in the first opening scene. Do we have a right to do this? Ultimately to ensure our survival?
CJ: Right. That’s a good question. I think man’s quest for knowledge — I would have to. I would have to. One of the great things, hopefully when we do meet our maker, one of the things for me is to learn all those things throughout history and our lives that have meant something to us that we’ll never know the answers to. Where is Jimmy Hoffa? Who really killed JFK? Hopefully when our time is done on this earth we’ll get to find those things out. So to have something that will give you answers it’d be very tough to not use.
GW: Right. “Use it on me!”
CJ: Exactly! [Laughter]