When you’re in the right places at the right time as an actor, you’re occasionally lucky enough to capture lightning in a bottle twice when it comes to the genre roles you’re associated with. Actor Hugo Weaving is a prime example of that synergy theatrically with his roles in both the Matrix and Lord of the Rings trilogies. But as a genre television actor, the list becomes shorter. And one of the few actors to make an indelible mark on two distinct science fiction television franchises — Farscape and Stargate — is Ben Browder.
After almost three years, GateWorld finally got the chance to chat up the actor when he was a guest at this fall’s Chicago edition of the Creation Entertainment Official Stargate Convention. And despite a hectic convention schedule, Browder graciously took what few minutes of time he had to sit down and talk shop about what he’s been up to post-Continuum. In our interview with Ben Browder, the actor talks about his strongest SG-1 memories, lighthearted versus serious sci-fi, his willingness to revisit the Farscape world, his newest projects and more!
GateWorld: Ben, thank you for taking time to sit down and chat with us.
Ben Browder: My pleasure.
GW: How have you been? How’s life been treating you? It’s been a little bit since we’ve talked to you.
BB: I … yeah, I guess it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been –
GW: Last time, I think David Read met up with you in Los Angeles.
BB: Yes, but that was, uh … I can’t remember if that was before or after the movies came out. It was before the movies came out. So, yeah, I guess it’s been three, four years.
GW: What’s been going on with you in the interim? You’ve stayed a busy man!
BB: I’ve been variously busy. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff at home and dealing with, you know, life and raising kids and having family and parents, wives and all that stuff. And the constant process of looking for work. That next round that you go through. Going, “What’s next?”
GW: Um, let’s talk a little bit about – and we’ve got the fifteenth anniversary of SG-1 coming up, actually, next year already. Obviously, it was towards the tail end that you joined on. But looking back at both Season Nine and Season Ten, and the movies … is there certain things your focus goes to when you look back at that time period?
BB: Wow… [long pause]
Well, I’ll remember a lot of it forever. You know, I’ll remember the first time I saw the gate. I’ll remember the last time I saw the gate. [Laughter]
I remember the end of Season Ten. The most, I guess, impressive thing about Stargate and about being on it and coming on so late was how warm and welcoming and talented the cast and crew of SG-1 were. It really … it was a remarkable place. And it was a remarkable team that was assembled to put that show together.
GW: Did you get a chance to check out Stargate Universe when it was airing at all?
BB: I have seen isolated episodes of Stargate Universe. I haven’t seen the run of the series, but I didn’t see the run of Atlantis either because I was busy doing one thing or another. SG-1 is the only Stargate of which I’ve seen every single episode.
GW: One of SGU’s possible reason for not continuing to actually be around, I think, was the much different tone of the show. It was a lot darker than what fans of Atlantis and SG-1 were familiar with. And, in general, darker sci-fi seems to be having a harder time maintaining its presence and catching on. Do you think that’s more just current moods and tastes? Or is it evidence of something larger, whatever that may be? You’ve got shows like Eureka and Warehouse 13 that are lighthearted, have a family dynamic and perform well in the ratings. But in your opinion, is the darker and grittier and more emotional genre programming something that’s just hard to maintain an audience with right now?
BB: No, I think it depends on the needs of the network at that particular juncture. It depends upon a number of factors. There’s a lot of dark television which does very well.
One of the things about Universe is it was more serialized — which, for a network, is problematic with programming. Where as with Eureka and Warehouse 13, they are shows that were essentially episodic, at least to begin with. You know, everything was contained within the one episode itself. And that model seems to be working better on Syfy at this particular juncture.
Certainly, Battlestar [Galactica] was highly successful. It was highly serialized and dark. But do I think that there is a mood out there in the audience that wants something lighter? Perhaps.
The other thing, though, is that Universe was significantly different from SG-1 and from Atlantis. And so the natural carry-over audience — only a portion of the audience that came over to take a look would be in the taste range of SG-1 and Atlantis fans. And maybe more Battlestar Galactica fans would have liked Universe, but that’s not the natural transition.
So, I think it’s a very complicated question that has a lot to do with how things are programmed. It has a lot to do with what the network is looking for and needing at that particular juncture in regards to their advertisers. How they want to present their network. And also, you know, how much does the show cost to produce? If you can produce something for almost no money, then Universe has huge numbers. But if the show is more expensive, as most sci-fi shows are, then you need larger numbers to justify continuing making it.
So, what’s the real answer? I don’t know. I don’t know, but I don’t think that it is simply a question of light or dark. You know, there’s a lot of other factors that go into whether a show is successful.
GW: Fans have been continuing to clamor for some sort of continuation in the Farscape franchise. I know a couple years ago it was announced that some possible webisodes were gonna be put together for online. Has there been any movement on that? Is it dead? Or is there still interest in it?
BB: You know, that’s a question for Brian Henson and The Henson Company. And perhaps Rockne O’Bannon, the creator of Farscape as to whether there’s going to be more. I know that there has been a desire to see more on the part of the creative team.
With the webisodes, essentially what happened was the economic downturn in 2008. So, it depends upon available capital. Where are you getting your money to make something? All of these are essentially … every television program that’s made is made with red ink. Meaning, you spend more than you’re going to make on your initial order. And so, that’s a fairly high-risk investment.
When things are tough, banks don’t want to loan money. Investors are looking for more conservative investments. And, I think you’re seeing that generally in society throughout the United States. You know, money is — there’s a lot of money around, but money is still tight.
As to more Farscape? I think it’d be a great idea, but what form and how it’s paid for is a question beyond my reach. [Laughter]
GW: If you’re approached are you willing to come back to the role of Crichton in some way, shape, or form?
BB: Hell, yeah! Am I willing to come back and play John Crichton? Absolutely. Does that mean that it’ll happen? Who’s to say I would love to revisit Crichton where he is several years down the road. He’s a character that’s near and dear to my heart. I kind of want to know what he’s up to.
GW: You’ve got a couple of different projects that are floating around and coming down the pipe in a little while. The one I’m curious about –- because I’m friends with Chase Masterson [Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s “Leeta”] who is also attached to it -– is Naught for Hire.
BB: Naught for Hire. Naught for Hire is still in development or is it in pre-production? It’s at Paramount Digital. And it’s essentially, as a starting point, going to be made for the Web. So we have that contract with Paramount and technically we are in development with them. Hopefully, you know, we’ll be shooting it within a relatively short time-frame, but what that time-frame is I can’t say because I don’t have my hands on the strings.
GW: Right. What else do you have in the pipe or finished up that, uh …
BB: I just finished a low-budget film in Texas called Bad Kids Go to Hell, which is based on a graphic novel. Where, you know, I get to play something which is a bit of a departure for me. So that was fun. Nice group of – nice group of people down there. I spent three or four weeks in Texas …
GW: I’m sure that wasn’t a bad time. [laughter]
BB: Well, Texas is hot in the summertime. I’ll tell ya that! You know, when it’s 105, 110 degrees in the street you understand why people are driving around in their cars. [Laughter]
Downtown Dallas is an interesting place because on the weekends there’s — it’s as though it’s a ghost town. I can literally walk down the middle of a street. It felt something like in Omega Man. But it’s because it’s so hot! And it’s where people work so they’re off hiding in air-conditioned houses somewhere. That is a hot spot.
GW: Any message that you’d like to send fans that haven’t heard from you in a while?
BB: Just thank you. Thanks for the time and for the run that I had on Stargate. The fans have always been really wonderful to me. So I’m very appreciative of the fact that there are people out there that love the show, are passionate about it. And, you know, without them I would never have had a job. It would’ve been off the air after those eight years. The entire fandom — it’s an amazing group of people.
Interview by Chad Colvin
Transcription by Ungoaulded Unas