Beware of SPOILERS for Stargate: Continuum in the interview below!
GateWorld owes a huge debt of gratitude to actor Peter Williams. He, along with writers Sonny Wareham and Daniel Stashower, brought to life a terrific cliffhanger in SG-1‘s Season Three episode “Jolinar’s Memories,” which sparked the idea of a Stargate Web site. That Web site ultimately grew into GateWorld.
Not only has Williams portrayed the serpent god Apophis off and on for the past decade in various episodes and features (most recently Stargate: Continuum), but he is also praised by some of the core cast members as being a favorite bad guy to this day. GateWorld is privileged to finally sit down with the actor for our first interview!
In this piece we discuss the growing phenomenon that Stargate has become since the feature film, the various deaths and resurrections of Apophis, Williams’s most recent project, “A Winter Tale,” and much more!
GateWorld’s video interview with Peter runs approximately 18 minutes, and is also available in audio format. It is also transcribed below!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, I’m David Read and I’m here with Mr. Peter Williams.
Peter Williams: One in the same.
GW: Baddest badass in the galaxy.
PW: It’s been said. [Laughter] It’s been said, then they killed me dead. [Laughter]
GW: And then resurrect you again and again. You were the first villain for Stargate SG-1 to follow up Jay Davidson’s performance as Ra in the feature film Stargate. Amanda Tapping has said you are her favorite bad guy because you were the first.
After 13 years of Stargate franchise being on the air, how does this character strike you now, Apophis?
PW: He doesn’t strike me as much as he gets struck [Laughter], as anyone who’s seen the latest incarnation would attest to.
GW: And sliced.
PW: Trying to avoid all the spoilers, but that’s cryptic. First of all, when I first got the part of Apophis in “Children of the Gods,” I had the image of Jay Davison’s character, Ra, in the movie in my head and I was a fan.
GW: Oh, you were?
PW: I was a fan of the movie and I sincerely doubted whether they could recreate “Stargate” for the small screen but it was a gig and I was lucky enough to get cast in this part, and 10 years later, 13 years later, I’m eating my words. The doubt faded long time ago and I’m convinced as to the staying power of the Stargate franchise.
GW: What were you impressions of “Children of the Gods” as a script when you first read it? Did you feel that it properly emulated Stargate as a “Stargate, Part 2” or were you kind of like, “Let’s see if this works!”
PW: I thought it did properly emulate Stargate — “Part II.” In fact “Children of the Gods” remains one of my favorite episodes, for reasons that the fandom will already know because I’ve said many times on the convention circuit, working with Sha’re [clears throat] was one of the highlights of my career.
GW: That’s right, the nude scene! Oh, man …
PW: Do you know they’re re-shooting that two-part episode, “Children of The Gods?”
GW: Did Brad contact you?
PW: Yes, I’ve been into the studio to do some voice-over work to clean it up. I think pretty much everyone who was in it is doing that. They have said the finished product is going to be a lot crisper, a lost cleaner, a lot clearer and losing one of those pieces of scenes we’re talking about. So, it might hold up as a DVD movie.
GW: Right. Yeah, I know FOX is very interested. They’re also going to trim a lot, according to Brad. They said a lot of dialogue was awkward
PW: That makes me nervous! [Laughter] That makes me nervous because they tend to like to trim the bad guys.
GW: No, it’s all good!
PW: I already had to trim for that part. I had dreadlocks down to my shoulders when I got the part and I had to shave them all off to wear the headdress
GW: OK, wow. And I know at the end of Season Eight you were “out here” with hair. Chronicles of Riddick was about that same time and I think they gave you like a Tin Man cap to hide it all
PW: They built everything a couple sizes bigger and then they used pomade or brylecream or something to flatten my hair. You know, the stuff Christopher Judge wears. [Laughter] Just kidding, Chris!
They flattened it down and they stuck the plastic cap over and away we went. But anybody with a keen eye will notice that Apophis’s head was slightly larger in those episodes.
GW: That’s right.
PW: That’s because of all the hair.
GW: They kept on bringing you back. Even though you were dead once, in Season Two, the biggest villain of the show actually dies and gets sent to Sokar, pardon the pun. Then you were obviously resurrected
PW: Sokar resurrected him to torture him.
GW: To torture him and kill him again and again.
PW: Which is what one does with one’s dead foes.
PW: I didn’t expect it. I liked it script-wise, but I didn’t particularly enjoy wearing those face plates.
PW: I did not enjoy that and I still find it hard to look at those images from that era of Stargate. Because, yes, I remind myself of one of those Borgs, or something I’ve seen in something else.
GW: Seven of Nine.
PW: Yes, exactly.
GW: Jeri Ryan, they just switched to the other eye.
PW: And two, I’ve got a good looking face. I really didn’t want to cover it all up. Not to mention the fact that it was extremely excruciating and painful to wear. Not painful, but uncomfortable.
GW: They glue it on?
PW: It was glued on. They had a guy who won Emmys for his makeup for putting it on my face
GW: You should have won an award for patience
PW: I should have won an award for most time spent in makeup. [Laughter] Although I’m sure I’ve been surpassed because, you know, Stargate was heavy on the makeup for a lot of characters.
GW: Chris Judge wrote “The Changeling” in Season Six. Did he want you back for that or did they say, “You know, Chris, you should throw in Apophis.” Was that his idea?
PW: Let me tell you something. Chris is the epitome of the gentle giant. And he’s a gentleman as well, despite what we all know about his antics.
GW: And flatulence.
PW: And his flatulence. He’ll forgive me for saying that. Chris has one of the biggest hearts around, and I think Chris deliberately put me in that episode to do me a favor and I’m forever grateful. I mean that sincerely.
GW: They kept on bringing you back.
PW: They kept on bringing me back.
GW: Were you surprised every year when they would do that? Cause like, eight out of 10 seasons you were there.
PW: You know what surprised me? Chris wrote more episodes after “The Changeling” and didn’t bring me back. That surprised me. [Laughter]
GW: Well you know what they say about lighting and striking twice.
PW: Yes, I know, I know.
GW: I mean and now Stargate: Continuum, which was just released.
PW: Lighting did strike twice at the Olympics this weekend, by the way. I’m Jamaican. Lightning bolt broke the world record in the 100 and 200 and helped break the world record in the men’s 4×100 relay, so lighting stuck three times in Beijing this weekend.
GW: Very cool.
PW: And I can’t not mention that because we are going to be talking about that one for decades, guaranteed.
GW: That’s great. Do you follow a lot of sports?
PW: I do follow sports. I’m primarily a football fan and that is soccer to the folks around the world. And I like a lot of sports. In fact I’ll watch Tiger Woods play golf any time. I follow tennis, the major tournaments; track and field is huge in Jamaica where I come from. And I also like a little-known sport called cricket.
GW: Cricket’s good. Yes, that’s right
PW: It’s a thinking man’s game.
GW: It’s big in Aussie land.
PW: Or it used to be, anyway. We don’t mention Aussies because they rule the world in cricket right now.
GW: [Laughter] That’s right.
Season Eight, you came back in “Moebius,” obviously, which we talked about. Were you continually surprised when they would bring you back, or did it just get to a point like, “Well it’s about time for them to bring me back and I don’t know how they’ll do it, but it’s about time.”
PW: You know how it would work? You’d get a rumor. The casting director would call and request details as to the actor’s availability. Well, anyone who knows actors, we’re always available! Always! Just take it as read, we’re always available.
So you’d get that rumor, inquiring as to your availability. And the minute you hear that, you know something’s up. There’s a script coming down. And I wasn’t so much as surprised as I was elated.
GW: Oh, really?
GW: You really loved that character.
PW: Well, I loved the character, and I loved the remuneration it brings. It also keeps me going on the convention circuit which is really good for those stamps in my passport.
The only thing that scared me was “Are they going to want me to cut off all my hair again?” And they were good about it. They worked around it, because I was usually doing something else that needed the hair. And I’m a well known hair actor
GW: David Palffy, as Anubis, he always said that no hair has worked in his advantage.
PW: It has worked in his advantage and that’s a damn good thing too!
GW: [Laughter] Oh no … Oh geez.
PW: Love you, David!
PW: You know what? I spent a few sleepless nights on that scene. Those of you who have seen it will understand why.
I came back to do that little vignette. I will call it a cameo, although I don’t think that’s the strict title of the categorization of the role. But I’ll call it a cameo or a vignette. I’ll say that I was very happy to do it, just to maintain my connection to the Stargate franchise.
That day, it had been a couple years since I’d seen Brad Wright, Richard Dean, Amanda Tapping. I see Christopher Judge every now and again at auditions, and Michael Shanks once in a while here and there, but I don’t see the cast a crew that often anymore.
GW: En masse,
PW: En masse, exactly. And they were all there for Continuum.
GW: All the System Lords
PW: Yes exactly! So it was fantastic. It was a homecoming
GW: And Baal was a completely different generation of Goa’uld than you. By the time that you were dead, like the character, permanently dead.
PW: Baal? Who’s Baal? It doesn’t ring a bell.
GW: It was 10 episodes later they introduce him. How was your first experience working with Cliff, the other Goa’uld?
PW: First of all I didn’t know what a star Cliff was until I got onto the convention circuit afterwards, and now I’m realizing not only was that guy a star in stage and screen, but he was a fashion model beforehand.
GW: That’s right, Mr. South Africa, the first.
PW: That’s something he and I share in common.
PW: Yeah, I did that too before I got into acting and I don’t think he and I have talked about it, but … actually I probably won’t bring it up because he’s got his photograph of him with his shirt off. And there’s no way I could compete with that.
Cliff is a gentleman as well. And I was glad to meet him and glad to travel with him on a couple occasions now. But I hope he gets killed and they bring back Apophis to kill him. Can I say that? You heard it here first, GateWorld.
GW: Do you think we’ll see Apophis again one day?
PW: I’m absolutely certain of it. If not on the television screen, certainly in 2036, or whenever it is, because they named the asteroid after Apophis. Are you aware of that?
GW: No, I was not!
PW: There’s this asteroid that’s circling earth. You go and Google “asteroid Apophis.” The guys who discovered this asteroid are Stargate fans
GW: You’re kidding!
PW: And they named it after Apophis.
GW: That is awesome!
PW: It swings by earth in 2026, or something like that, at which point it’s so close that its trajectory is going to be altered by the gravitational pull of the earth, meaning that it may hit on its next pass around earth, with is scheduled for 2039 or something like that. So Apophis could yet conquer this planet. You heard it here. And it’s true.
PW: Google it, “asteroid Apophis.”
GW: That’s a news story right there. “Apophis conquers earth.”
PW: It’s more than a news story. It’s a movie!
GW: [Laugher] Oh, that’s fantastic. And they were Stargate fans.
PW: They were Stargate fans. And they named it Apophis, not Anubis, not Baal, but Apophis.
GW: That’s right. Sweet.
This is not your first Gatecon. You’ve been doing Gatecon for several years now. What is it about this particular event that keeps you coming back?
PW: I think the main thing about this event it’s in the hometown of Vancouver, so its close by. It brings people here from all over the world, many of whom I’ve met in various places around the world. It’s fun to do. It’s strictly fun to do, do Gatecon wherever it was held.
GW: What about the fans. How do they react to you? This role is cherished by many. How do you receive that?
PW: It is. I love it.
GW: Do you ever find it annoying?
PW: I wouldn’t say never, but rarely, absolutely rarely. Trust me, science fiction fans have opened my eyes.
PW: They really, really have. It’s a place where there is a distinct lack of judgment of other people. So, you can be who you are in a science fiction crowd. It’s not just Stargate fans, but science fiction fans in general. Lack of judgment, you know? You can be who you are.
GW: Lack of criticism.
PW: Well, no there’s a lot of criticism. Some people criticize. But judgments on who you are as a person. That’s what I like about sci-fi fans, and they’ve taught me a lot.
Interpersonal relationships. I’ve become friends with a lot of fans. They’re always impressed for some reason that we talk to them. [Laughter] Or even count them as friends. By and large, most of the fans have been considerate and respectful and friendly.
GW: That’s why you keep coming back.
PW: That’s really why I keep coming back and going to far-flung places
GW: How did you prepare yourself to play a god? How did you bring that to the screen? I mean, obviously you are a fan of “Stargate,” so Ra was a template.
PW: I’m a fan of “Stargate.” I came in with a big ego, so that’s that. I think that’s one of the prerequisites for feeling like you’re a god [Laughter] And then they give me a nice big trailer and then they start calling me ‘God.’ No …
GW: “I have eyes on God. He’s approaching the set.”
PW: You know what, he’s a false god, so it’s easy. Mario Azzopardi, who directed “Children of the Gods,” had me analyze people with delusions of grandeur. People like Mussolini. He had me look at those people and try to find what it is amongst people who think that they are greater than. That was one of the preparations that I did.
GW: Does Apophis, the role, ever influence your audition process? “Oh, here comes Apophis.” Do you ever feel yourself typecast as a sci-fi actor? I mean, I love you in Chronicles of Riddick, even though it was way too short and you were incinerated. Do you ever encounter that?
PW: Actually Chronicles of Riddick was long, I was in there for a good half hour but I didn’t get to say very much.
GW: That’s right. Tons of Vancouverites make little appearances and then it’s like, “Peter Williams!” And it’s still Peter Williams! Oh, but he gets burned up.
PW: Yeah exactly. I know. I was the second to last one, or the last one to go, so I thought, “hey I’m going to make it into this franchise,” which never came to be.
GW: Still a good run. Still got to play with Vin [Diesel].
PW: Play with Vin. Make sure, those of you who are watching Chronicles of Riddick, if you don’t know who you’re looking at, if you don’t see me in there immediately, I’m the guy behind Vin’s bicep. Always the guy behind Vin’s bicep. [Laughter]
GW: That’s right. What are you currently working on, Peter? What’s in the life of Peter Williams in 2008?
PW: Right about now I am in the process of promoting a movie that I did two years ago in Toronto called “A Winter Tale.” I have the central character in this movie and its set against the backdrop of some gun violence that is happening in Toronto at this point in the Caribbean community. I play a social worker who tries to make a difference in this community.
It’s a really good part and the film turned out extremely well. It raised my cache amongst the Caribbean audiences and we, in fact, did a tour of the Caribbean. We went to Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados and Antigua.
And I’ve been spending a lot of time in Antigua since then. I’m in love with a girl down there and I’m very happy. A lot of good things happening in my life.
GW: Good. That’s great.
PW: I also have just done episode of a TV series here in Canada called The Kink in My Hair, which is a comedy set in a ladies hairdressing solon. And I play the ex-boyfriend of the owner on the solon. So, I’ve got stuff happening.
GW: Sweet, That’s fantastic
PW: I look forward to the next Stargate DVD movie, if there is one.
GW: Brad is writing it right now.
PW: OK, good.
GW: He sure is.
PW: Where is Brad?
GW: You know, I invited him this weekend and he’s not here.
PW: You know, I happen to know Brad looks at GateWorld, so Brad, if you’re watching this, Apophis is the number one baddy, the asteroid is going around the earth. You don’t want bad karma. Put me in. [Laughter] I said it.