Whenever there was a corrupt government body that needed wringing or an impostor posing as a member of Stargate Command, one honest soul from within the N.I.D. could always be phoned to help set the record straight: Malcolm Barrett.
Actor Peter Flemming played this agent of accountability from Season Five to Ten of Stargate SG-1, along with two episodes of Stargate Atlantis. GateWorld is proud to publish our first interview with the actor who helped set the corrupt N.I.D. straight.
GateWorld’s video interview with Peter runs approximately 23 minutes, and is also available in audio format. It is also transcribed below!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, I’m David Read, and I’m interviewing Peter Flemming — with a little bit of music to help us out here. Peter, thank you for coming to join us. Where are we? In the Transcontinental, down in Gastown in Vancouver?
Peter Flemming: We’re at the last stop of the train station in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia.
GW: Were you born here?
GW: Where are you from originally?
PF: Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, the east coast of Canada.
GW: OK. Did you do any acting in Toronto?
PF: Not in Toronto. I mean I have, after I came out to Vancouver. I went from Halifax to Vancouver about 15 years ago. I started my career out here.
GW: So how did you find your way out here?
PF: Just process of elimination. I did a bunch of different things in Halifax and never really settled into anything. I was watching TV one day and I saw a few actors and I thought that maybe I could do that. But I needed to be far enough away from home.
GW: So how old were you when you got this bug?
PF: Early 20’s? Around 20. I had done some commercials and some small TV parts in Halifax while I was going to University. So I was kind of just filling the space in the classroom but not really wanting to be there. I did some modeling when I was in my late teens and some commercials. I did enough of it in Halifax that I got the bug enough where I needed to leave. And I needed to go far away enough that I would be far enough away from home that I wouldn’t come back. Vancouver is across the country from the east coast. I went to the west coast.
GW: So you can’t exactly slide back into town …
PF: Well, I ended up doing that. And that’s just a long slide.
GW: What were you originally going to school for? What would have become of Peter Flemming had he not got the acting bug?
PF: In the beginning I wanted to be a gym teacher, and that didn’t turn out. I’ve done a lot of sports. My whole upbringing was sports. I competed nationally in a few different sports.
GW: Such as?
PF: Curling and golf, baseball … But I played all sports at a pretty good level. So that was my life growing up, it was sports.
GW: Any hockey?
PF: Played a lot of hockey, a lot of hockey.
GW: Hockey and curling.
PF: And when you asked me the question, I was like, “I’m missing a few sports, I can’t think of them.” But hockey and curling were big. My brother [Paul] is actually a really big curler. His team is ranked, I think, sixth in the world.
GW: Wow! He’s playing!
PF: Yeah, oh, he’s a player. So actually there’s been a couple of times where he’s been on TV curling, and I’ve been on TV on one of my TV shows or gigs that I’ve been doing. It’s happened a few times at home where Mom has joked about her sons, where she’s flipping back [and forth] with the remote. I tell her now with picture-in-picture if it happens, and when it happens, again she doesn’t have to do that.
GW: Sweet. That’s great. So were you a fan of science fiction?
GW: Not at all?
PF: I [became one] once I got into the show, but before I started … I always liked Star Trek and just sort of something that was playing with the dimension that was outside of this world. I always I enjoyed that, but it wasn’t my number one choice to go to on the remote. If I flipped around and saw, it’d be “Oh, wow, neat.” But I got back to my Three’s Company, or Gilligan’s Island.
No it wasn’t my first hit. But since I got into Stargate, and just watching a few of the Sci fi shows … And I think as I mature and get a little bit older as well, some of the concepts and the dialogue is intriguing, fascinating … as you know. So that’s made me more engaged in the Sci fi part of the world for sure.
GW: A lot of people say that sports and science fiction are kind of two completely different spheres of interest. They don’t usually meet very often.
PF: Yeah, for sure. And I guess maybe the maturing thing — I’m playing less sports and watching more Sci fi, so there’s the transition. Maybe there is a bit of a contrast, a bit of a clash. I don’t know. I’m sure there’s a lots of people that are very involved in sports that love Sci fi, and vice-versa. Maybe they just never came together at the same time for me. But I enjoy Sci fi now.
GW: So had you seen SG-1 prior to Season Five?
GW: OK. Just randomly on television, or did it perk your interest at all?
PF: I think being in the community of actors in Vancouver, there’s a few stable shows, and of course, Stargate was one of them and still is one of them. So from that standpoint, when you’re with other actors and you’re talking, that’s one of the shows that you want to be on. Because you hear that it’s s a very professional show, it’s been around a long time; the cast, the crew, everybody involved.
It’s just a good chemistry when you just take all the ingredients and put it together. Obviously, being on as long as it has is sort of proof in the pudding. Did I just say proof in the pudding? I did …
GW: I think you did. We’ve got that on file.
PF: I tried to stop halfway through, but where was I going to leave it after proof? [Laughter] You’ve got to finish that cliché, don’t you?
GW: Your first episode was a rather odd episode. A lot of people don’t consider this episode to be canon, it’s kind of like outside the normal sphere of episodes … Sphere? I’ve used sphere twice in this interview. It’s kind of not a normal episode. You said you had been seeing Stargate before this one aired. What did you think about “Wormhole X-Treme!”, the 100th episode, big milestone episode.
PF: I think the reason for the success of Stargate is that they took. If you have your platform as science fiction … the Stargate, the inter-dimensional one, different galaxies, different worlds, all that sort of thing … that’s a great premise. But to add all the different slants on it is what makes the longevity of the show.
GW: It’s very modern. It’s now.
PF: It’s now. Exactly. If you can combine that, and not be afraid to go out there … because you know when you take chances, especially in this industry, it can cost a lot of money, and a lot of time, and a lot of people’s jobs. So you want to make it right.
I think all the people involved in SG-1 did that, they came at it from many different angles and were successful every time they did it. Why? I’m not too sure, but it’s definitely worked. And I think that humor element in Sci fi is huge, and if you can combine those two, then I think you’ve got a winner. Which they do.
GW: Especially in Stargate. It’s not just, like, “winky-winky,” kind of stupid [like] how Sci fi humor can be, it’s kind of on the slant of Indiana Jones. Which is a little bit stupid in its own right, but I think it’s more intelligent, especially with someone like Richard Dean Anderson.
PF: Exactly. And intelligent humor in that format is engaging, whether you are a science fiction fan or not.
GW: How did your audition for Barrett come about? Was it a typical audition or was there something special about it?
PF: Nothing at all really.
GW: We want that guy! Peter Flemming — you’re Barrett!
PF: It was actually a two-line audition. Peter DeLuise was in the room. Yeah, I remember it was just a two-line audition for a possible recurring role for a man in black. I don’t think he was Agent Barrett at that point. Could have been, I can’t remember. I think he was.
GW: The breakdown said Man in Black?
PF: Men in Black or Man in Black I think. But it was one of those things where I had done a number of guest-star roles up until that point, and it was just like a few lines out on the audition. My agent says, “Well, you know, it’s Carol Kelsey [casting department], it’s DeLuise, it’s the whole SG-1.” I think I was on there once before, I can’t remember if I was. “You go in, it’s a possible recurring, just go in and do it.” it’s a couple of lines, Richard.” “Just go, just go.”
I’m glad I went.
GW: How many episodes have you done now? Seven? Eight? He just keeps on coming back. The Ark of Truth just recently came out and they didn’t have Robert Picardo and they didn’t have you. They had this brand new guy, and as soon as I saw him, I said to myself, “That’s why they didn’t bring them, because they wanted to kill this one off.” Instead of bringing you back, which meant you would have had to die, so you’re still ticking.
PF: Yes, yes.
GW: What did the original breakdown say about this character? So it was just like Men in Black?
PF: The character, Agent Barrett, is a pretty … in the beginning … what’s the word I’m looking for? Snide? Is that it, snide? Guys? Cheeky. Snide?
GW: Borderline arrogant?
PF: Thank you. So those, but in a real kind of flat sense, like in a … It’s like, “Give me all those things internally. I don’t want much movement out of the character. Give me all those things, but don’t give it to me. And, let’s roll the film please.”
I enjoyed that part of it, the subtleties of bringing those things out in the character. Because he’s an ‘in charge’ guy. You have to sort of toe the line –toe the line, I said toe the line. [Laughter.] That’s proof in the pudding, to toe the line when you’re in charge.
So, yeah, that’s Agent Barrett I think.
GW: It was something interesting about this character. At this point in the show all of his counterparts had been very shady, always had an agenda. The N.I.D. was always portrayed as very dark, to use a Star Trek cliché, very ‘Section 31.’ This must be done in order … The ends justify the means.
But then Barrett came along, he was like the first mainstay in N.I.D. who was actually law-abiding. I’m not sure if you were aware of that. But Maybourne was always getting into some crap. Not to mention Frank Simmons, played by John de Lancie. He wasn’t law-abiding at all, he was just a dirty guy.
And then here Agent Barrett comes along, and in Season Six, episode “Smoke and Mirrors,” Carter has been grown to be so cautious of the N.I.D. And then we find out “Wow, here’s an N.I.D. guy that’s actually honest, and is actually a good person!” Where in the heck did I go with that? Were you aware of this in the character?
PF: Somewhat. I didn’t read anything extensively. I watched a few episodes on the N.I.D. But I think that’s more simple brilliance of the writing and sort of bringing in new elements, always changing. It’s just part of the show. You kind of know what you’re getting, but you’re always excited for the next episode, because it’s going to be a bit different. And I think that’s a good example of that, bringing somebody who is forthright into the N.I.D. to give him some little bit of stability. Legitimacy.
GW: I think it was really interesting. We really didn’t see any chinks in his armor until season 10 in “Insiders,” with Cliff Simon [Baal]. It wasn’t until that point that he realized that the Goa’uld had gotten to him and made him possibly do something like give him a sidearm, that just made the whole situation kind of go underwater.
What have been some of your more favorite episodes so far? Any fond memories in particular?
PF: “Smoke and Mirrors” was my favorite. I’ve got to be honest, all the episodes that Agent Barrett was trying to get closer to Ms. Tapping. And there was a lot of talk, possibly, about these two connecting in a stronger way, so I just didn’t have to babble on. And in my kind of fun little way, try to get her off her doughnut.
GW: How are things with Pete [Shanahan]? Are you still together? Are you available?
PF: “So things are still going well with you, huh? That’s good, yeah. Yeah. OK, I’m going to get back to work over here.” But I think there was a lot of talk there about maybe bringing the two together. Up until now it never transpired. But for Amanda’s character, it’s always fun to have interest levels in other parts of the world.
GW: Well there’s a little bit of sexual tension there and that brings a lot of sub-text. A great one was … What was Michael Shanks’ script? “Resurrection.” That’s right. That was a really good one for that.
Who among the cast do you enjoy working with the most? I would imagine you would say Amanda, but …
PF: Well, yeah, but that’s who I’ve worked with the most. All the banter in the trailers, I really liked them all. There was really nobody that I rubbed elbows with at any time. They’re all so supportive and just honest and real when anybody comes to the set. They’re very welcoming.
I doesn’t take long to feel like you’re part of the family there, whether you’re there for a week, or for a bunch of episodes in a row. It’s a good supportive environment. And because they’re so professional, and I mean everybody involved in it, that it just makes it an easy fit when you get there.
GW: Is that fairly unique from the sets that you’ve been on? You’ve been on a lot of sets.
PF: You know it is. I’ve done a lot of different shows. And overall, there’s sort of glue that keeps a show together for a period of time, but there was just something about this show. Any kind of questions … nothing that really comes up. From the time you get there until the time you leave, you really shouldn’t have too many questions. Because everything’s already there and ready to go. You just go in and do your job. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about any time ever I’ve gone to set on that show.
GW: How do you strike the balance between getting the work done and having a good time? How do you personally?
PF: Getting the work done and having a good time while I’m on set? I don’t really know if I have a good time on set.
GW: He’s so serious, this character.
PF: A good time to me is just hanging out in my trailer, just hanging out. Or meeting somebody. Hanging out with one of the other cast, or one of the extras or one of the grips. Having those kind of chats, like opportunities where you get a chance to hang out and talk to people because you’re in the same arena. You have these little run-ins, little encounters with people, and you get to know them quickly, and then move on. That to me is a good time. And craft services.
GW: Ah, yes. No, it’s good food. It really is. [Laughter] In what ways have you strived for not making Barrett this cookie cutter government agent? You’d think it would be really easy to fall into that. I mean he’s behind a black suit and tie …
PF: Maybe that’s why they cast me, because maybe I just don’t have that in my bones to be that cookie-cutter kind of guy. [Laughter] Who knows? Maybe they tried to cast this guy and all they got was … I don’t know, bring Flemming in for that. [Laughter] He’ll be able to do it.
DeLuise makes that easy. I haven’t talked about Pete that much. Most of the episodes I did, especially in the beginning — all the directors are great, but Pete directed a lot of my first episodes that I had done. Again, he’s just part of the mix that makes that job really welcoming and easy. Welcoming to go into and to be a part of.
GW: What is it about his style that you resonate with?
PF: That combination of his quirkiness. Sort of intelligent quirkiness. It’s combining that, “We’ve only got two minutes, can you please get the hell over here and get this done. Look, I’ve got to do it, OK? Now go ahead, do what you’ve got to do. All right? Two, one. Can we go now?” That kind of element.
That’s a terrible impression of DeLuise. [Laughter] He’s much better than I am. But to have that serious side, and joking side, all in one. Good combo.
GW: What do you think is in store for this character’s future? Have they contacted you about Season Five yet for Atlantis?
PF: No. No, I thought maybe you guys might have some inside scoop on Barrett in Season Five. But we’re really hoping that he gets back. Because I think it’s always a good fit when Agent Barrett comes in and does a little bit when they come to Earth. It’s good. Bring him back.
GW: Do you ever think he’s perceived as, “Uh-oh, here comes Agent Barrett, what’s wrong now?” Do you think he’s perceived as a bad-news kind of guy?
PF: Yes and no. I mean there’s times when he does have to present bad news, but I think he’s a good go-to guy. I think he’s a good middle man that gives information that Stargate [Command] needs. I think that’s what I like about the character where he stays fairly neutral.
Being the guy that offers information and can also be involved in the activity as well. I mean you’re there to support. And when you’re there, you’re playing a supporting role. It’s good to have that neutrality about him but also engaging, of course. And I think that’s what Barrett’s all about. And I think he does a damn good job at it. [Laughter]
GW: Do you hope at some point that they’ll take this character into a more dark direction, where he’s not one hundred percent to be trusted all the time, or do you like the direction that he’s going?
PF: They can take him wherever he wants to go. They can take him anywhere. Anywhere!
GW: Amanda’s house …
PF: Yeah! Sure, Barrett will go anywhere, just about anywhere. I mean, who knows? But I’m definitely on board if it happens, for sure.
GW: If you could send a personal message out to fans what would you say?
PF: I would say to the fans: Thank you for whoever enjoys my character, enjoys the show, thank you for that. Thank you for the fans that I’ve met along the way. You’re so truly honest and fun to talk to.
And if you like my character, let’s get him back! Let’s get him going, because there’s a lot of development for Agent Barrett. He could be a good guy to keep around. So push for that. Thanks.