Beware of SPOILERS for Stargate: Continuum in this interview!
For nearly seven years Stargate fans have been intimidated, hypnotized and horrified with Baal, portrayed by South African actor Cliff Simon. Simon, who became an American citizen back in 2005, played a pivotal role in the penultimate SG-1 episode “Dominion.” Now, with his return in Stargate: Continuum, GateWorld can say with certainty that one of his greatest performances is still to come.
In GateWorld’s fourth interview with the actor, Cliff discusses filming Continuum, shooting his favorite scenes, and lamenting an absence of a theatrical release. He takes us back to his decision to move with his wife from South Africa to the United States, and fills us in on his latest personal projects!
An avid dog lover, Simon has made the adoption and care for “bully” dog breeds a cornerstone of his community work. If you wish to support his endeavors, we invite you to visit the links on the last page of this interview.
GateWorld’s interview with Cliff is available in MP3 audio format for easy listening, and is almost 24 minutes long. It is also transcribed below. You can even download the interview to your MP3 player and take GateWorld with you!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, I’m David Read, and I’m once again on the telephone with Mr. Cliff Simon, Baal of Stargate. Thank you for taking time with us, sir.
Cliff Simon: You’re welcome, David. Once again, thank you, man.
GW: I think the topic foremost on everyone’s mind is Stargate: Continuum, due out this July. What can you tell us about your involvement in that story?
CS: Well I must tell you, right in the beginning when I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be in the movies, eventually when they did tell me I was going to be in, someone actually came to me and said “Cliff, have you seen the script?” And I was like, “No, I haven’t.” I didn’t even know I was in it. It was really odd someone hadn’t told me. They were like, “Wow, well the whole story centers around Baal.” “Really? I can’t believe that!”
They said, “No, the movie is actually Baal’s movie.” I was like, “Wow.” Anyway, that same day production contacted me, got a script to me, and when I read the script I was blown away at how the whole story centered around my character, which was absolutely amazing. I didn’t know if it was just going to be a small part or whatever. So it made it very interesting because you see Baal from a whole different perspective, and it was really exciting.
I was excited. When I was reading the script, I was like, “Wow, this is great, this is great.” Yep, very exciting.
GW: It’s not only just you, but a couple of the other Goa’uld come back and also play a role as well.
CS: Oh yeah, that’s what’s so interesting. You’re going to see six or seven of the top Goa’ulds come back, and it’s the first time you see us all together, and you see the animosity and things going on between us, which is really great.
First of all, the women Goa’uld, I love them. They’re so regal and queen-like. What’s very interesting in the movie is, just to give a little tidbit, Claudia Black, you’re going to see her as she used to be, which is absolutely amazing. So I would have to say that she was my favorite. When you see her you’ll realize she is obviously my queen, and you’re going to see it in a way that you’ve never seen it before.
It’s only been assumed, and people have just imagined it but now you’re actually going to see what it looks like.
GW: As Qetesh?
CS: As Qetesh, uh-huh.
GW: Great. Now you and I were talking about how you wanted to get Baal and Qetesh together for some action. Do we get any special scenes in the film?
CS: Oh yeah, but that I definitely can’t give away. It’s pretty amazing. That’s why, once again when I read the script, I was so excited and couldn’t wait to start shooting. You’re going to see some things that are pretty mind-boggling, and yeah, a lot of action between the two of us.
GW: Anything that’s particularly, like, only a Goa’uld would do?
CS: Oh yeah. I really can’t even tell you about it. I’d be giving away the whole thing. That’s a really exciting time.
GW: In what ways does Baal grow as a character?
CS: First of all you’re going to see the real Baal, and you’re going to know it’s the real Baal. He is a lot more tough. He comes across as how a System Lord should be, I think. There have been times in the series where it’s been very humorous, which works, but in the movie you actually see Baal come across as pretty serious and tough.
GW: Great. You and I have always talked about in the past how fortunate you’ve been that this character has had such a breadth to him. Every episode you got to come back and so something almost completely new.
CS: Yeah, which is great. You know, I’ve been thinking about it. Baal is a franchise character that could carry on for so long and come into different series, as an example, like Atlantis. The character has developed to the point where he is mean and tough but he’s also humorous.
The only time you really see him taking out people or killing people are people that deserve it. There’s that kind of good side. He never kills people who [don’t] deserve it any more. Which is kind of making him likable. I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s likeable. You’ll see that in the movie as well.
CS: Yep, he’s grown so much. It’s amazing.
GW: Is the clone issue resolved at all in Continuum?
CS: Yes it is.
GW: In some form there will be a resolution to that? That’s good.
CS: You’ll see that. There are a couple of clones involved. We’re going right back in time, right to when the Stargate was first discovered, before SG-1 even got their hands on [the] Stargate. That’s the whole story, is that Baal travels back in time. Because he knows what’s going on the future he goes back in time to change history.
GW: To change the Stargate from even being unburied?
CS: From even being known. Completely. But it backfires.
GW: That’s interesting. Could this movie potentially be the end of Baal?
CS: I can’t really say. It could be, but not the end of me. There’s a twist right at the end of the movie, the last scene of the movie, that’s going to be like, “Wow, OK, let’s see Continuum 2.”
GW: That’s what Brad said. The last scene says it all.
CS: Yeah, and I think obviously it’s specially written like that. So there is a whole other story. Even some of the dialogue, people will be able to see, “Wow, OK, now we want to see what happens.” This was kind of like the beginning of a new story. It could be.
GW: Which is what basically Continuum was setting out to be.
CS: Right, exactly. The writers are brilliant, and they leave it open. It could develop into a Continuum series. It could be anything.
GW: Have you seen the completed film yet?
CS: No, I haven’t.
GW: Have you seen anything yet since shooting?
CS: I haven’t seen anything. I actually called publicity the other day to make sure that as soon as it’s out on DVD I need a copy. I’ve seen a little bit from the ADR, the looping that I’ve been doing, for the movie. A couple of the scenes. I must say I was very impressed. It looked amazing.
As far as television shows go it’s a pretty big budget and they put a lot of effort into it. I was pretty impressed. I think it looked great and I really think it should be on the big screen. It really deserves to be on the big screen.
Even the sets we had were huge. We’re on a ship that’s rocking. The Alaskan scenes that they shot with the sub are these big scenes. The cinematography on it was amazing, so it really won’t do it justice seeing it on a television set, but we’ll see what happens.
GW: So you think Continuum was really above and beyond compared to even Stargate’s big two-parter episodes?
CS: Oh yeah. Yeah. No, it’s way beyond that.
GW: This must be the fifth or sixth interview I’ve had with you, and in all that time we’ve never discussed your decision to move with your wife to the United States. I remember you telling this story at a Chicago con a couple of years ago. I was wondering if you would share it with us here now.
CS: Sure. I’ve always wanted to move to the United States. I’ve always thought it was an amazing country. I’ve always thought you could really go far in America. There’s no ceiling on what you can do. If you put your heart into it and you work hard you can really do anything that you desire.
I found in South Africa it started getting a little small for me. The acting industry, which is a good industry, it’s a little small. Once you reach a certain level there’s no one else to go and it can be very frustrating. The one reason was to further my career as an actor. But the first reason was I wanted to change the quality of my life.
South Africa just became too much for me. I had some very violent encounters also involving my wife. I turned around to her one day and just said “Look, what are we waiting for? Are we going to wait until I get murdered, or you get murdered?” Because it was actually getting to that stage. It was pretty crazy.
So we made the decision. I said “Look, we’re going hang around and hang around. We’re actually going to make the decision and just leave.” I had it very good in South Africa. I was very famous. I couldn’t go anywhere. People would know me wherever I went. I would get into clubs. I would get free drinks. I was a contracted player on a show, so I was on a monthly salary. Everything was great. I earned a lot of properties.
After the things that happened to us I realized none of that mattered. Money doesn’t matter. It’s your quality of life. I want to be able to go for a walk around the neighborhood at ten o’clock at night, if I want to. I want to walk my dog.
So that was a decision. I came out here, brought my dogs. I have now exactly what I wanted as far as that quality of life. Quality of life has got nothing to do with money. It’s how you live your daily life. And I found that. Which was amazing.
GW: Now did you decide to move because you were so well known there or because of the violence?
CS: It was mainly because of the violence, firstly. That was the first thing. The second thing was my career. I wanted to work harder. I wanted to get somewhere or at least give it a bash. If I’d stayed in South Africa eventually one day I would’ve turned around and gone “Ah, I should’ve gone to America.”
I wanted to become an American citizen. I became a citizen in 2005 and it was the most amazing day for me and my wife.
GW: Tell us about this audio project you are presently working on.
CS: Well thanks to Pat, she’s written most of it, and we’re producing it together. The first CD I’m doing is called “Stress: It’s All In the Mind.” Through my growing up as an athlete I was always taught to be positive. It’s kind of ingrained in me. My mother was a very big, what was at that stage, called, “size of mind.” She was a big driving force behind me when I was a kid growing up, believing in myself and being positive, being a swimmer like I was and getting on to an international level.
This all came to me naturally, only because I started very young. I brought this CD out to try and help people. A lot of people have no idea how to handle stress. Anything like that. It’s from my point of view on how I handle stress and how I use it to my advantage.
Everyone feels depressed. We all have things that get us down day by day. We can never be totally free of stress, but in this CD what I do is I explain a little bit and then I work on deep breathing exercises and relaxation exercises. Making people aware of their internal feelings and external feelings, muscle relaxation.
It’s things I’ve always used. I use them when I go and speak in front of large crowds of people. People think “Oh, we just get up on stage and we talk.” We’re so used to it, it’s natural to us. It’s not natural. Very intimidating. We have to relax ourselves. All actors or anyone who does public speaking. There are certain ways to relax yourself. That’s what I’m teaching in these CDs, teaching people what I do to relax.
People have no idea where to start, so this really is the start for them. If they do what’s on my CD every single day, I can guarantee them that within a week or a couple of weeks they’re going to feel like new people. It’s very simple, but people have no idea where to start. That’s the stress CD.
The other CD I’m doing is called American Affirmation[s], also written by Pat and me. I feel, having become a citizen in 2005 and the way the world feels about America at the moment, there’s a lot of negativity in the world about America being the big bully. From my point of view as an immigrant, I’ve put it onto CD how I see it through my eyes.
America is a great country. America has been the first in just about everything. America has sorted out countries from violence. It’s just affirmations from seeing it through my eyes, as an immigrant, as a new American citizen, and hopefully showing people that there is a positive light to being an American person, that it’s a great thing to be an American person.
I’m not all like “Ra, ra! America is the only country in the world!” Not at all. I want to try and get across, and hopefully so many people will hear this and it will be played everywhere. I would love to get it onto a radio show.
I think people should start realizing that America is great, the American people are great. They still have a sense of community. We can still talk to our neighbors, we know who our neighbors are. If a country’s in trouble America will be there to help them. It doesn’t matter what the reasons are.
Yes, there’s s a lot of politics that goes on, but the bottom line is America is a big brother to most countries out there and will help them when they need help, whether it’s financial, whether it’s for security, whether they need an army there, for whatever reason.
It’s just a positive affirmation on America, seeing it through the eyes of an immigrant and a new American citizen.
GW: Now all you have left to do is to run for governor of the state of California.
CS: Well, who knows! [Laughter] Who knows. You know, I feel America’s being very good to me, and it’s my way of giving back a little something. My fans especially, I care a lot about them, and I know there’s a lot of people out there that have problems. I want them to know, we’re not perfect people. We also have our problems. But the stress CD, this is how I deal with my problems, and I want to teach you how to deal with your problems.
And just being in a position where I am, where a lot of people know who I am and know quite a bit about me, they’ll actually listen to me as opposed to somebody who they have no idea who that person is. So I’m using my celebrity status, because of Stargate. I’m going to use it to try and get a message across.
GW: For the stress CD, what was the genesis of this? What did you see around you that made this snap in your head? “I have to make this. I have to make this for others.”
CS: I go to all these conventions and do these things. The kids I see there, they spend so much money to get to these conventions, and I know for a fact that a lot of them do not have that money to waste. It’s always hit me so hard that they come there just to see me. Just talking about it from my point of view. Obviously there’s other actors. They come here to see me. The travel miles and miles to see me. I’ve always sat there and wondered what kinds of lives they have.
I can see, when I’m on stage talking to 500 people in an audience, I actually look at the people and I can see a lot of them are just so happy to hear something positive coming out of my mouth. That was the spark that lit it. I wanted to give them something that they could have in their house, or play in their car. They can hear my voice speaking and it can make them feel good about themselves.
I think there are a lot of kids out there, a lot of the fans, whose lives aren’t that great, and who think we have great lives, and I want their lives to be great. I want them to be happy. I want them to be positive and I want them to not think that they are second to me. They’re a human being just like me. I think that this is what it’s going to teach them.
GW: Is it just your voice or do you have any sound effects to help soothe the person?
CS: It’s just my voice and music. The music on the stress CD I actually composed and made with a good friend of mine, so it’s all my music. We owe nobody anything as far as copyright. It’s great music. If people want that music in a track we can always make a plan that they can get it.
GW: Put in a special code and download it on your Web site.
CS: Yeah, we can do something! We can put it up on YouTube or do whatever. It’s awesome music. It really is. I’ve done the whole CD. I’ve gone through it with myself and I really feel relaxed at the end and I really feel like I want to sleep. My own voice has actually relaxed me, which is good.
I want to make it real easy for people to get the CDs, [so] that they shouldn’t have to go looking too much. The Web sites, your Web site I know is the biggest one which would be great. And people should just be able to Google “Cliff Simon CD” and it should come up straight in with the links.
GW: I know you’re not coming to Vancouver. Are you attending any conventions in the coming months other than that?
CS: Oh yeah, I’ve got plenty. I’ll be in Starland in Denver. That’s coming up in April. In May I will be at the Motor City convention in Detroit, Michigan. The month of August I will be doing all the Jump conventions, one in New Jersey, one in Washington and one in Cleveland. After that we go straight to Dragon Con. So far that’s what’s lined up. The whole month of August, and the CDs will be available at all of them.
GW: Great! There you go! You can sign ’em right there even.
CS: Definitely. People are gong to love them. There’s really some amazing pictures inside, brand new photographs that have never been seen. I’ve done a special photo shoot for them, Patricia and myself, and it’s really nice. It’s going to be a really nice pull-out concertina, thick booklet that you get in a CD, and people, with pleasure, bring it to me and I’ll sign it.
GW: If you only had an hour to introduce a new Stargate fan to your character — the episode you think would have the most impact — which would you give them?
CS: I would give them “Abyss.” I would give them “The Quest, Part 1 and 2,” and I think I would give them “Dominion.” And then definitely the movie. “Abyss” shows the real Baal coming through, and then “The Quest” brought out the humorous side of me and had me cruising around with the whole crew. and then “Dominion” brought back the sexuality. Those three episodes, or four episodes, would describe the character pretty well.
GW: From shooting Continuum, what one thing sticks out in your mind mostly from that whole experience? You said the System Lords get rounded up with you in a scene or two. That would probably have been pretty mind-blowing.
CS: Yeah, that was really great. What really sticks out with me, what I was really excited to do and I can’t wait to see, is the scene between Qetesh and myself, when there’s some action. Which I can’t say any more.
That really sticks out in my mind, because it was a difficult scene to shoot. Cameras were very, very close up on us, there’s special effects involved, and a lot of tension, and we’re very close. We’re basically nose-to-nose. That was a very technically difficult scene to shoot. I’d never done anything like that before. That’s what really sticks out. The effects of it, what you’ll actually see, I know is going to be mind-blowing.
GW: How has Stargate had an impact on your life since coming here?
CS: It’s had a huge impact as far as my career’s concerned. It really set me up as a working actor, which is the hardest thing to do when you get here. I have friends who’ve been here the same length of time as me and they’ve done smaller jobs off and on. It’s done nothing for them.
What Stargate has done for me, and that is why I’m so thankful for the fans, is it set up the fan base for me. Once you have a fan base, people in the know, producers, directors, those kinds of guys, know that if they put me into their project they really have a built-in fan base coming with me.
Let’s say I have a million fans worldwide. At least 500 thousand of those people are going to want to see me in that movie that I come out in, or that television show. That is the most important thing, and that’s what I’m most grateful about the show, setting up this fan base.
People actually know who I am. They know Cliff Simon and they know my face. A lot of times you see actors, you know their face, you won’t know the name. Or you know the name but you can’t put a face to it. So that’s what Stargate’s done for me, which is absolutely amazing.
Obviously the spin-offs, doing all of the conventions, traveling all over America and seeing cities that I haven’t been to is absolutely amazing.