Ben Browder counts himself a lucky man. While his work has afforded him opportunities most people won’t get in their lifetimes — such as traveling to the Arctic — Ben has found himself in a position where he can still go home every night to be with those he loves. GateWorld got the chance to sit down once again with the actor behind Colonel Cameron Mitchell to hear about what’s currently going on in his world.
In addition to Stargate, Ben updates us on Going Homer, his story recently bought by the SCI FI Channel, as well as the status of the Farscape webisodes. We discuss filming in the Arctic for Continuum, his personal journey as an actor, and growing older.
GateWorld’s interview with Ben runs approximately 41 minutes, and is available in both video and audio formats. It is also transcribed below. Listen to the audio version you can listen online at your leisure, or download it to your MP3 player!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, I’m David Read.
Ben Browder: And I’m Ben Browder.
GW: Yes! And we are here … what beach are we at?
BB: Uh, that would be Santa Monica beach. We’re on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica.
GW: What’s up with you lately? It’s almost Christmas time. Professionally, what’s going on with you?
BB: Well, Christmas is going on, so there’s shopping to be done. There’s the tree to be put up. And I just came out of coaching football season, and we’ll start track season soon enough. And then, looking for work.
GW: Wow, yeah. Going Homer. That’s the project you have penned, I believe?
BB: Going Home is a project that has been commissioned by SCI FI Channel, that we sold to them. We’re still at the story stage. We’re in what’s called … I think development hell was the phrase someone else used. But what we’re doing is refining the story before we get a script.
GW: OK. Did it encounter any complications with the writers strike?
BB: Yes. The writers strike shut us down for a while. We received notes from the network about two weeks before the strike happened. And then once the strike happened, it’s pens down. And then we pick it back up after the strike. So we’re going through phases of drafting and redrafting the outline and the story, which is in itself is a forty page document.
GW: Wow. Now did you have to participate in that strike? Or because you’re an actor as well …how did that work out?
BB: I’m a member of the WGA (Writers Guild of America), so I participated in the strike.
GW: OK. I know some people already know the premise of this miniseries …
BB: Of Going Homer?
GW: Yeah. Can you sum it up for us?
BB: Going Home is about a twelve year old boy named Homer Jones and his family. Homer sees the Greek myths unfolding in the world around him. It’s basically The Iliad and The Odyssey clashing with the modern world.
GW: Cool. What gave you the idea to do this project? “This is the next thing I want to do.” What sparked that?
BB: One of my kids was interested in the Greek myths. It’s an area which we constantly recycle. In American culture, we recycle the Greek myths. We recycle the forms of government. We recycle the architecture. So it surrounds us, and it informs our culture. From that standpoint, it seemed like fertile storytelling area.
GW: Were you a fan of the myths when you were younger? Or was this something you encountered when you were older?
BB: When I was growing up, you tried to catch a Ray Harryhausen [movie] on a Saturday afternoon. At least in the very beginning. The Greek myths also informed the Christian myths, or the Christian stories that are told. There’s a great deal of cross-fertilization, culturally, between all of those cultures in the Mediterranean and in all of Western culture. I don’t know that you can be an American and not be interested in Greek myth.
GW: What is it that you want to do with this project? Do you want to inform people about these stories?
BB: I want to tell a good story.
GW: That’s great. Cool! So you don’t know when we can expect that?
BB: No. We’re in development, so that means that we keep working and refining until we produce the script that is agreed upon. And then at that point, we try to go to shooting and go to air. It’s a process.
GW: You know, I never asked you how you first started in this business. What did you want to be when you were very young? How did you get to be where you are now?
BB: I went through a typical number of phases. I was going to be a professional football player. I was going to be an astronaut. I was going to be a pilot. I was going to be a doctor. I was never going to be a lawyer. Which is probably why I don’t play them on TV. [Laughter]
Growing up in North Carolina, acting was not a career choice. I never knew anyone who made a living as an actor. I never knew anyone who went out to do it. It was only late in the day — I was graduating college — before I decided to try to become a professional actor.
GW: How did you find your way to Europe?
BB: I auditioned for an English drama school. I actually auditioned for three English drama schools. In New York. [It was the] first time I went to New York City. I sat around looking at the buildings.
GW: Yeah, we country boys. We look at New York City. “This is foreign territory.”
BB: I stepped off the bus at the Port Authority, back when the Port Authority was probably the seediest place in the universe, and had a guy offer to help me with my bags. And really didn’t know to say no. And then stepped out onto 42nd Street, where every other person asked you to buy something. And what they were selling was either a service of an illegal nature or a substance of an illegal nature.
I was struck by the city. I went and stayed at the YMCA. At the [singing] “Y-M-C-A!” Yeah, baby! There I was at the YMCA in New York. I auditioned for the English drama schools, and got into a couple of them. Ended up going to the Central School of Speech and Drama. And that’s how I ended up in London.
GW: What would you have done had you not gotten that audition? Where do you think you would have turned next?
BB: I don’t know. I probably would have looked at some of the American acting training programs. But I don’t know.
GW: [Pidgeons fly by in the background] Hello!
BB: We’ve got pigeons, too! Big loud pigeons. Healthy Santa Monica pigeons. [laughter]
GW: Farscape webisodes. Now, I personally not being particularly being a Farscape fan — I don’t know much about this — but, apparently you were in talks to be involved in some type of webisodes for Farscape?
BB: They’re still developing the webisodes for Farscape.
GW: So are you still open to being a part of them when they do come out?
BB: Hopefully, I’ll be involved with it, yes.
GW: When was the last time you heard updates on that? Anything you can share?
BB: The last discussion I had about the webisodes [was] maybe two months ago. A month and a half.
GW: So it’s not dead then?
GW: Cool, that’s good! What first got you involved in Farscape? Farscape was being shot in Australia. Were you in Europe when you auditioned for that role? Or did someone tap you?
BB: I was in LA. Do you mean did someone tap me like tap me on the shoulder and say, “Hey, here’s a job?”
BB: No. I auditioned like a couple hundred other guys. In fact, I was talking to Nathan Fillion about it down at Comic-Con. And he had auditioned for the same thing.
GW: He auditioned for “Crichton,” too?
BB: He had auditioned for “Crichton” as well. I was saying, “How come everything I go out for you get?” And he goes, “I auditioned for Farscape!” I go, “No, you didn’t!” “Yes, I did!” So, there you go. The one that got away from Nathan.
GW: Did you audition for Firefly?
BB: No, I was still working on Farscape at the time. But Nathan was great in that.
GW: Oh, It’s a fabulous show.
BB: I don’t think anyone could have done it any better.
GW: Nah. And isn’t it such a shame? All of these things come into play, but it’s not necessarily the great television shows that survive?
BB: It’s not a meritocracy.
GW: Yeah, it’s just business.
BB: I suppose so.
GW: You’re a writer. You’re not just an actor. Do you find yourself frustrated with this business? Or do you actually enjoy all the hoops that you have to go through in order to get a product on air?
BB: I couldn’t say that I enjoy all the hoops. But it is what it is. You make peace with that as you go through. To be frustrated by it is silly, because you would drive yourself to despair. I don’t have to be happy with it on a day-to-day basis. There are certainly days which are frustrating. But everybody has those frustrations.
It doesn’t matter what job you’re in. Most people don’t have this incredible linear journey which is on an upward slope for their whole life. The economy does it. Life does it. It’s just part of it. But I don’t know that I would choose anything else.
GW: Has the economy affected Going Homer‘s production?
BB: I have no idea. I have no idea whether the economy has impacted that or not. I think the economy impacts everything at a certain point. The ebb and flow of money, and the cycles of business. It’s an unavoidable part of our world.
GW: What do you think about that? All that’s going on right now? It’s a big-topic issue.
BB: We would be getting into politics, and I probably shouldn’t be going that way. I think that we’re at an inevitable phase, to a certain degree. And I’m surprised that everyone is so surprised at the stage that we’re at right now. I talk to people who haven’t seen anything like this in their lives.
My grandparents grew up in the Depression. I’m not saying we’re anywhere near that level. Because we’re not. But systems work until they don’t. And then you have to figure it out again. We have to recreate for ourselves.
GW: In the meanwhile, you just keep on ticking with your own projects and come what may.
BB: Do what you do and hope for the best. Realize that life isn’t contained simply by the world as it sits at that moment. Ths sun still came up today, and it’s a beautiful day. We could have tried to be here two days ago and it would have been rainy.
GW: How often do you find yourself getting recognized on the street for the various roles that you’ve done? And which frequently comes up more?
BB: Not all that often.
GW: Really? Okay. Do you find it frustrating when you do get recognized? You yourself said you got into this industry because you like the business …
BB: It’s not the business I like. I like acting. I like the storytelling. I like the craft.
GW: That’s what I meant. I’m sorry.
BB: The business is often a separate thing altogether.
GW: But you didn’t get into it to have people stop you on the side of the street and say “Oh, you’re so good in that!”
BB: It never occurred to me that anyone would ever stop me on the street or airport — or in the bathroom — at all, because of something that I’d done acting.
GW: I remember you said it took you awhile to even get used to signing an autograph.
BB: Yeah. I still internally flinch when someone asks for an autograph. Because it doesn’t connect. I go “Why? Why would you want an autograph?” I understand wanting someone else’s autograph. I just don’t understand anyone wanting mine.
GW: Do you say, “Well, maybe I’ll give it to them because in the end it’ll make them happier anyway. I’d rather have them leave happy then be frustrated that I didn’t give it to them?”
BB: You sign an autograph because they want one and it doesn’t cost you anything unless you’re running to catch a plane … or you’re trying to eat your dinner or something. Most people who have ever asked me for an autograph have been incredibly nice. And generous. It’s hard to imagine saying no.
GW: How long have you been in this industry now? Twenty-five years?
BB: How long have I been in Hollywood? I arrived in Hollywood in 1990. So eighteen years here. I’ve been a member of the Screen Actors Guild since 1986. So, 22, 23 years.
GW: What would you change — obviously, you’re mature now.
BB: I’m more mature than I was when I got up this morning, apparently.
GW: Well, you’re more mature than you were when you stepped into LA.
BB: I’m older. I don’t know that that equates with “mature.” I am older.
GW: Is there anything that you would have changed when you first came in. According to what you know now? Things that you took for granted in your life? Or things that you took for granted about the job?
BB: No, I don’t think so. I’m not gifted with clairvoyance. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. And judging what you would do differently …The things that I think that I would do different in my life are things where I have a regret about how I have acted. And there’s nothing in regards to my business life that I have a regret about how I have acted, or how I’ve conducted myself with other people. At least not off the top of my head. If I sat down and tortured myself about it, or really thought …
But to a certain degree, there’s a funny thing that happens when you have kids. It’s that you forget stuff. I can’t really remember what it was like before I had kids. To a certain degree, I don’t remember what it was like when they were small. Life propels you forward, and sometimes it’s hard to keep track of it all.
And then you have a revelation. “Oh! I remember when I did that!” I’d have to think about it and I’m sure I could come up with a laundry list of regrets. But most days, I wake up pretty happy with where I am and who I’m with. What’s to complain about?
GW: Exactly! Do you consider yourself successful?
BB: I consider myself lucky.
GW: Lucky? Are you at the point in your life where you want to be?
BB: I wouldn’t change places with anyone.
GW: Good. That’s great.
BB: I just wouldn’t. Which thread are you going to pull from the tapestry of your life to watch it fall apart? No, I like my life. I love my family. I wake up and I’m here and it’s beautiful. You can’t have everything.
GW: Right. Not all at once, certainly.
BB: Well, no. The typical thing — you want to be working. But when I’m working … say I’m working in Vancouver. Even when I was working on Farscape, I was living at home with my family … when I was working on Stargate and I was away from my family, the number of things that I missed. So yes, I want to be working. But I know once I’m working I’m going to miss something else. There’s always a trade-off in everything you do in life. You can’t be in all places.
Really, if they could just clone me, like six or seven of me running around … there’s a lot of things I’d like to do with my life. But I wouldn’t trade where I am right now for those other six or seven things.
GW: You’ve always said the most important job in your life is being a parent. Do you see more of yourself in them as they get older?
BB: I don’t know if I see more of myself in them. Maybe I just am incapable of seeing myself. I see aspects of members of my family. I certainly see aspects of my wife in them. But not being a terribly introspective individual, I don’t spend a lot of time examining myself. Or at least try not to.
You go to the dermatologist and he does the inspection for you. “You’ve got this little mole back here. I want to take it off.” “Really, but that’s part of me!” “Yeah, we don’t like it.” “Why?” “Well, it just looks suspicious.”
You’ve got other people to pick me apart. If I want to be picked apart, I can go on the internet.
GW: Oh, no kidding! Exactly. I know how that is too.
BB: I can find out where my shortcomings are. Or I can just talk to someone who knows me well enough. “What do I need to fix?” They’ll have suggestions. Self-examination and introspection, not necessary. I got lots of external input. [Laughter]
David, you want to fix yourself? Talk to your parents. They’ll have lots of ideas. “What you need to do is this. OK? You should.” I’m taking it all onboard. Send me an e-mail. How to be a better interviewer. Ben, you really should just focus in. Look into the lens a little more.
GW: Talk to me, Ben …
BB: Connect with the audience just a little more. Okay, got it. Good. I’m focusing. No blinking. [Laughter]
GW: So, Continuum? …
BB: Why did he have his hat on backwards?
GW: We couldn’t see his face!
BB: We couldn’t see his face! He put his hat on backwards. Why is he wearing Canucks? Is that like a “Michael Shanks” thing going on? It’s a homage to Michael Shanks! That’s what it is! I’m trying to confuse the audience. Quick, give us some glasses! [Laughter]
GW: OK. Point taken!
Tame Farrar: Have you ever thought of a comic routine? [Laughter]
BB: It’s all scripted.
GW: But Continuum. Stargate Continuum came out late July of this year, around Comic-Con. We saw each other on the [U.S.S.] Midway. Got to see the movie again.
BB: It was like a date. You, me and a few thousand people on the Midway together. It was romantic. I always go to an aircraft carrier when I want a romantic evening out. It would have been a good first date, though, wouldn’t it?
GW: Hey, you want to go to an aircraft carrier?
BB: Wouldn’t it have been good? You want to impress a girl? “You want to go to an aircraft carrier …and watch a movie?”
GW: You know, they have proms on the Midway.
BB: I’m just going to sit in this F-4. We’re going to pull it up. Watch real close. That would impress a girl. The next time you go to an aircraft carrier for the premiere of a movie, take a date.
GW: That’s exactly right.
BB: “Look! I know Richard Dean Anderson!” [Laughter] “Come over here and talk to me!” “David, how are you? Good to see you.” “Wow!”
GW: [Laughter] So what are you doing tomorrow night? You went to the arctic.
GW: Now I know you’ve talked about this a hundred thousand times.
GW: I’d like to make it a hundred thousand and one, because we’ve never specifically talked to you about it.
BB: “The Arctic Ad Nauseum” by Ben Browder. Just one more time. I actually have a PowerPoint presentation. I do.
GW: You really do?!
BB: I have a PowerPoint presentation. I taught a science class, a seventh grade science class in middle school and gave a talk about the Arctic. My experience in the Arctic. So I have a PowerPoint. I should have brought it along with me. A little visual aid.
GW: I’ll be darned. I’d love to see it.
BB: Yeah, uh-huh … The kids liked it. The favorite part that the kids always loved is the bit about going to the bathroom in the Arctic.
GW: Yeah, Rick really made that clear for us at Comic-Con.
BB: Well, it was an experience. Thirty-five below is an experience for going to the loo, for sure.
GW: So when they offered this to you … I know a couple of the cast who will go unnamed at this point said, “No, you won’t catch me there.”
BB: The Arctic is not for everybody. But I loved it.
GW:Did you know you were going to love it first thing?
BB: No, my first day there, when you step outside, you go, “I could die right now. I just have to make it to the mess hall.” You hunker down against the wind and make your way to another warm spot. I was concerned the first day. I thought, “What am I doing here?”
GW: Concerned for yourself? Like whether or not you could get through it? Or concerned for the people around you?
BB: No, I was concerned for me, I think. I thought I was going to wig out or something. It’s just an assault on the senses. It’s something entirely different. You realize it’s dangerous.
GW: It’s a hostile environment.
BB: You suddenly are dependent upon all the people around you. You realize that you really don’t know how to go to the bathroom. You have to learn how to triangulate with a negative fifty mile-per-hour wind. Just the simple things.
I have to go chip ice out of this chunk of frozen ice I’m standing on. I don’t know how deep the ice is and below me is three thousand meters of sub-freezing water and there’s polar bears. If I need to go to the bathroom I need to take a light for the polar bears. It’s overwhelming when you first arrive.
By the third day, it’s your world. There’s no contact with the outside world. It’s just you and those people doing what you do outside on the ice. And by the time you leave, you don’t want to leave. You feel like you’ve abandoned your family or something. It was really a quite remarkable experience. It was stunningly beautiful. It was really quite phenomenal.
GW: You went up there to shoot Continuum, did anything else …
BB: We didn’t shoot it there, we did it all back there on the sound stage. [Laughter]
GW: Well, I mean, did anything else come about, for you personally, that you went up there? Did you learn anything that you didn’t expect to, did you meet some people, some really cool people, that you just think “Hey, wow!”.
BB: Well, I had an experience that will be never be replicated for me in my lifetime. 5
GW: Until Continuum 2.
BB: Yeah, until whatever the next thing is. No, it’s such a rare opportunity to do something like that. How do you qualify it? How do you quantify it? How do you express something which is, that shifts your entire perspective?
You say “Well, I learned that polar bears are dangerous.” Well, I knew that already. I learned that your hand can freeze to a piece of metal. You know you get burns when you grab the metal. When you experience something it’s difference from knowing it. So for me, it’s more of an experience that lives somewhere in the grey matter, and in the circulatory system. [Laughter]
You need to be sitting outside in -40 degree when you watch the footage! That was one of the things when you watched it, the footage from a personal perspective, does not do justice to environment, or to the experience. Sometimes when you watch something you’ve done, the magic of Hollywood exceeds your personal experience. This was one of those occasions when the personal experience far exceeds the actual footage. It was a gift.
GW: I’ve talked with a few people, over the years, big Farscape fans, a lot of Farscape fans in Stargate. They say “You know, I liked Crichton, more than Mitchell. Crichton was psychotic, he was nuts, and Mitchell was the straight guy, “Yes sir, no sir”. I mean, Crichton offered you a great deal of acting range. You never knew what you were going to go into, I imagine, when the next script came in, what he could do.
BB: No, no idea.
GW: Was that, and I want to phrase this very correctly, this is, I don’t want it to sound like Mitchell sucked or anything, because Mitchell didn’t suck, I enjoyed the character, but Mitchell….. Crichton, and I said this to you a long time ago, Crichton had his heart to go on. He was an astronaut, and Mitchell was a military guy.
BB: Mitchell was more restrained than Crichton. Crichton was on the ragged edge all the time, was literally going insane through the process of the series. Mitchell’s focus was on his job, and on the fun of his job. But Crichton’s focus was on survival, and on the creation of a family. So, the emotional stakes for Crichton are higher than they are for Mitchell. And quite frankly, Crichton was the center of a series.
GW: Yes, exactly, and Mitchell was in an ensemble.
BB: Yeah, Crichton was, everything began and ended with Crichton on Farscape, for the most part. There wasn’t an episode that I wasn’t in, whereas everyone else on the series would miss at least one or two episodes. So, it was the beginning and the end of the story. It was Crichton’s story. Whereas Stargate is the story of the gate, and of the team, and members of the team obviously can change over time, not always for the better, but not always for the worse. Mitchell’s place in that story is what’s smaller than Crichton’s place in the story of Farscape.
GW: Right, exactly.
BB: Farscape was all about the leather. The leather, the bondage, the torture! They’re completely different kinds of beasts.
GW: Would you find yourself befriending someone like Mitchell or would you find yourself being attracted more to Crichton, if you guys were buddies?
BB: I think Mitchell would be a better friend. Crichton was too messed up! Crichton got to the point where he probably would have shot you before he talked to you!
GW: Well, considering the stuff he went through!
BB: Or done something to get you into horrible trouble. He was going to make the mistake that caused havoc for everybody. The liking and disliking of the characters, that’s an external viewpoint. I kind of liked Mitchell. I didn’t mind that he wasn’t crazy, it was kind of nice not to play crazy. It’s actually exhausting playing crazy for three and a half years.
GW: So dynamic.
BB: Well, it’s fun! Yeah, it’s fun. I don’t know if it’s the only thing you want to do in your whole life as an actor. Mitchell had different kinds of challenges, but also at the end of the day you work within the context of the script and the story and what is needed for the story.
I’m not sufficiently distant, really from either one of them, to judge the success of the characters. That’s for the audience, and it always will be for the audience to judge. Some people will like it and some people will hate it.
GW: You’re just playing your part, and it’s up to someone else to say “I like it,” or “I don’t”.
BB: And they will. Even if it was dead awful, somebody might like it, my Mother might. My Mom will tell me “I didn’t really like that.” Well, OK. Other people loved it, my Mother hated it! What are you going to do? Who are you trying to please, your Mom, the general audience? I don’t know. I’m just trying to play the role.
GW: If you had to focus on one thing, would you rather focus on writing or acting? What do you find gives you the most challenge?
BB: Well, I’m not faced with that choice, with focusing on either one. It would depend on what you’re writing; it would depend on what you’re acting. Not all acting jobs are [as] fulfilling as the one that coming or that one that was behind. Not all writing jobs are necessarily fulfilling, and I’m not faced with that choice, so I don’t have to make that choice, so I don’t have to answer the question!
GW: That’s OK!
BB: Until they kick me out of screen actors guild or the WGA I can choose! As long as I can get an acting job! Writing I can do in the dark of my room, but then I have to torture myself with, “Oh, I don’t have any good ideas! I don’t know how this scene works! They just don’t get it!”. [Laughter]
Tame: That’s messed up!
BB: Well, you do hear that! “They just didn’t get it!” What does that mean? “They didn’t get it.” Maybe I just suck! [Laughter] That’s entirely possible!
GW: [laughter] No, you don’t suck!
GW:You know, you’re a working guy, who puts his pants on like everyone else does, gets up goes and does a job, except …
BB: I saw a commercial where some guys were doing it a different way, “Yeah, I get up in the morning, I climb off my bunk bed, and I jump into my pants! Both legs at one time!”
GW: It’s like Wallace and Gromit.
BB: Yeah, that’s right. That’s what I do. I go for some cheese.
GW: [laughter] “Everyone knows the moon’s made of cheese.” Brad is working a third Stargate film.
BB: Oh, you have insight? You know what’s going on?
GW: A little, but I’m not going to tell you!
BB: Oh great! [Laughter] Just rewind the whole… I can’t pull the tape out of this thing!
GW: Yeah, it’s a hard drive!
BB: Hard drives are susceptible to magnetism though, right?
GW: Oh, I know, as soon as I’m done with this I put it in my laptop.
BB: The Acme magnet, that’s the one you need! You tell me or …
GW: So if Stargate says “Come back!’. Are you open to coming back?
BB: Yeah, of course!
BB: It’s a great experience.
GW: And until then you’re parenting, and writing. Are you actively auditioning right now?
BB: Yeah, yeah.
GW: OK, anything that you say “Oh, I would really like that,” without being too specific?
BB: Usually it’s the stuff that other people get. I go “Oooooo, why didn’t I get that?” No, I’m just looking for work. I’m on the treadmill. But at least I’m on the treadmill!
GW: I could title this interview “Actor for Hire” if you’d like!
BB: [Laughter] You’ve got to send it to the right people. Make me look good, edit me down! “Well, he’s really intelligent! A lot of range! Very, very handsome!” And squeeze it’s down — “And he’s thin too!” “What’s with the Canucks thing? Didn’t I see Michael Shanks with that on his head?”
Tame: Take out the whole thing about being in the Arctic then, too.
GW: Well, everyone’s heard that. That’s not going to surprise anybody.
BB: I don’t know that I say anything surprising. I heard it all before. [Laughter]
GW: When you read scripts, it is a job, but when you read a new script, what are you looking for specifically? How good the story is written? Obviously you’re not, I’m not going to put words in your mouth, but I would think that you wouldn’t be approaching it for, “how much screen time would I get if I had this character?”.
BB: When I read a script, I look for how much screen time I would get if I get the character …
GW: Touché! [Laughter]
BB: Very, very insightful David! I read it for the story. If the story grabs me, that’s the first thing. Then I read it to see, “Is there anything I can do with this? Do I see anything in the part that I can do, that I can add, or is it better off going to Michael Shanks or Chris Judge, or Amanda Tapping?” Or whoever. Really, you look for a good story, and if it excites you, if it attracts you, if it amuses you, you think, “Ah, I want to be a part of that!”
GW: Right. I remember seeing “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” about a year ago, and recently reading, actually this morning, or last night, in an interview that you thought it was one of the most incredible films. And you said that some people out there just don’t get it. And I was one of those people who just didn’t get it. I know what they were trying to do with it, but I …
BB: I love that movie. But I didn’t get the script! I read the script, I auditioned for the movie, for a part in the movie, and I read it, and I went, “What are they doing?!” I just read this script, and it was so far beyond me at the stage that I read it, maybe I was having a bad week or something, but I looked at it, and I knew the people involved, and they do some really interesting things, but I don’t quite get how this is going to be filmed. And then when I saw it I just …
GW: Oh, after the movie was done?
BB: Yeah! When I saw it, I thought “Wow, this is amazing”. But it’s not for everybody.
GW: No, it’s not. Nor is every part for every actor.
BB: But then, neither are the 007’s for everybody, and neither is Lost, and neither is The Office. People who love The Office, and others people who hate it go, “I don’t get it!” We’re not all cut from the same cookie cutter shape, and we don’t all wear the same fabric, and we don’t see the world in the same way.
If something was ever universally accepted in this world it would be a massive miracle. As a society we can’t even agree on a definition of marriage. We can’t agree on some of the most basic things. “Should the speed limit be 55 or 65, or 75, or no speed limit?”
Every day we get in our cars and we question the speed limit. “Someone else agreed to that speed limit, they thought it was a good idea, but David didn’t, that’s why he broke it!” [Laughter] “I think 65 is OK for the LA freeways, but you may not agree.”
Not only will you not intellectually agree, but you will emotionally disagree! Try getting someone to agree on going to a restaurant! “Which restaurant do you want to go to? No, no, I don’t like Chinese!” I love Chinese! You know, its taste and everything else, with television, with film, with books, art, with anything in our lives, right down to the underwear we wear, we’re going to have disagreements about what is good and what is bad.
What is quality and what is not quality, what’s entertaining and what’s not entertaining, what’s funny, what’s not funny. George Carlin, who recently died, is a comic genius in my opinion, and many people just find him offensive. So, quite frankly, if you’re looking for universal agreement, I haven’t seen it.
GW: But, at the end of the day, for you, Stargate was good entertainment?
BB: It was good entertainment, and I had a good time working on it! It was a nice bunch of people, and I had some great days at work!
GW: Stargate donut day!
BB: Stargate donut day, where finally the fast is broken after nine months! Chris Judge is laid out with insulin shock, overwhelmed by a Krispy Kreme donut, or two, or three or four.
GW: Exactly! [Laughter]
BB: Not everyone can handle the Krispy Kreme donut man! A big glass of milk!
GW: They’re intense!
BB: Laid him out. He did, he about passed out, laid down on the floor!
GW: Well, you guys deserved it! It’s not easy getting up in the morning and saying goodbye to your family, and getting home late at night and kissing their heads while they’re asleep, and before you turn around they’re grown up and gone.
BB: Yeah, but that’s the work, that’s part of the compromise, that’s part of it. And what are you going to do? Trade? I’m not trading with anybody!
GW: Even for a stay at home job, you wouldn’t go for that? Just to spend a little bit more time?
BB: I guess it would depend on the stay at home job. It would depend on the job that I was going to do. There will always be other factors involved. What’s going on at home … But sometimes you just have to go to work.
GW: Have to get out.
BB: Well, you have to make a living! You have to pay the rent! At certain point you got to go “Oh, the landlords knocking at the door, and the kids have grown out of the last pair of shoes.” You have to go, and there’s no way to avoid it. That is what it is.
GW: I love that the character is just a job to you.
BB: It is a job! That doesn’t mean you don’t love the job, it doesn’t mean you don’t obsess about the job, it doesn’t mean you don’t obsess about getting it right. It doesn’t mean I don’t walk into work some days and go “I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m panicking! Because it’s going on film and I know I don’t have it right.”
I had a day on Stargate somewhere in the first five or six episodes where I literally was lost, I didn’t know what I was doing, I was like, “Claude, I’m freaking out here,” and she said, “Really?” I said, “Yeah!” And Claudia knows me really well, and she couldn’t tell, maybe I freak out all the time! But it was one of those days where I went, “I am drowning here!” It was probably a day where I didn’t have anything to do.
GW: Oh really? Idle hands? It wasn’t too much dialogue or anything like that?
BB: Yeah, devil’s work and idle hands and all that other stuff. It was one of those days where you can fixate on one line, and go, “I just don’t know how to do this!”. And you can watch other people and go, “They do it so easy! Why am I struggling with this?” It doesn’t mean that every day is easy, but once you’ve done it you have to accept the fact that you’ve done it and now you have to hope that it worked, or that somebody saved your bacon.
Tame: It’s a philosophy of, “It’s done, move on?”
BB: It’s done, it doesn’t mean you always move on! There’s lines that I’ve said that I would take back! “Oh, I could make that work now!”. Brad Wright had a moment where he went “Did you hate that line?” and I went “No, no, I just did it, I didn’t really know what to do with it, so I just did it.”
He, said, “Because it looked like you hated the line!”
“Well, if I hate the line I’ll try to tell you, I just had one of those days”. It was just a two or three word line. Oh, he hated it, he hated the delivery, he thought I hated, it was my delivery he hated, and he was probably justified, because I either went off in the wrong direction or just didn’t have it.
There are days when you just don’t have it. There’s days when you think you have it, and you look at it later and think “Oh, Lord, what was I thinking!” I’m always worried, the notion of being confidant with something acting-wise, or even writing-wise, is a bit of a worry. Its life, isn’t it? Isn’t it life, where you wake up and you question what you do? But still, as far as I can tell life is good!
GW: As long as you’re doing the best that you can, and trying as hard as you can.
BB: Yeah. As long as you are, I think, morally, ethically, trying to be true to yourself, trying not to lie to yourself too much, and trying not to lie to the people care about you. At the end of the day, what I think is that you want to be a good person. And you want to do well with what you do, and hopefully you’re not lying to yourself too much.
Then again, a few lies sometimes get you through the day. I don’t think I could step in front of the camera without a few good lies! [Laughter] “God, my hair looks good!” Then you look at it afterwards and go, “Boy, I was lying to myself!”.
GW: But it got you through it.
BB: It got you through the day. Just pull out your high school yearbook and look at what you were wearing. You thought you looked good. You were lying to yourself! “I can’t believe I wore that shirt!” Tastes change. A little self affirmation!
If you don’t feel good about yourself, look at your high school yearbook! And here’s the thing! When you look at your high school yearbook, you look it and go, at the time you thought you either had too much acne or you were too fat or too skinny, and you were unhappy with what you are.
You look at yourself, “Look at the beautiful young person.” And you look at them, and that beautiful young person was wracked with doubts. Didn’t even realize how stunning and amazing they were. You look at them and you think, as you look back on your life, you hope you spend less time wracking yourself with doubts and engage with the world a little more.
“Philosophy 101!” I’ll be teaching at the UCLA extension this year, screenwriting and philosophy!