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GateWorld: And speaking of the character — Aset is different from a typical Goa’uld villain, especially if we’re talking about villains from the TV shows. Because they were very heavily featured in so many seasons of SG-1. She has an almost benevolent or nurturing disposition. She has a Harcesis, a forbidden child, as well. It’s so weird because she is a villain; she is an authoritarian. But she also has a very personable side. And that doesn’t make her the most amenable to other Goa’uld, and especially to her master, Ra.
Where do you think that philosophy comes from for the character? What did you see is her backstory, or her becoming this very dynamic “villain?”
Salome Azizi: Well you know, for me, I never saw her as a villain at all. She’s a goddess — the goddess Isis. And if you go back into the history of Egyptian culture you’ll see that this goddess is one of the main, first gods that was worshiped. And to this day this character is still worshiped in some cultures. And you’re right, she represents so much: she’s a mother, she’s the goddess of the underworld, she’s the goddess of the poor, the rich; she’s a protector; she’s brave. So all these elements were what I wanted to embody for this character. Because that’s who I was looking to.So for me she was never, never a villain. You know what I mean? She was just somebody who was fighting to keep her child alive, and to make this a better world for her people. And so she did whatever she needed to do. Maybe she hurt some people along the way, but it was really for the better of the people and her world. And Ra and her had had some issues in the past … [Laughter]
GW: A complicated relationship, right?
SA: Yeah, exactly. She’s super-smart to me, and she’s a diplomat. She’s a goddess. And that’s what I want to bring out. I didn’t look at any other villains in the Stargate family; I didn’t go there. Because to me this was not that.
GW: Well there was definitely a regality to the character, a royalty. She had this “presence.” And it’s interesting — Brücke and the Germans also have a real presence. But when you put them in the same room as Aset — one of the highlights of Origins was in Episode 6 where pretty much all of it takes place in that prison chamber, and it’s just a communication between Professor Langford, the Nazis, and Aset and Serqet. It’s so funny when you put the two together Brücke’s bluster is kind of diminished in the presence of Aset, because she just has this magnetizing personality — a larger-than-life personality, in my opinion.
SA: Damn, she’s a goddess! Of course she does! [Laughter]
GW: It’s different! And that was one of the highlights. When you do these kinds of shows, especially for a show like Stargate that has such an entrenched and storied history, you want to bring something that provides a familiar character or race of aliens, but gives it a spin. And yeah, she is a little less villainous. I think I said before: [she’s] not really like a mustache-twirling villain like we’re used to. It’s kind of like a villain who — I think at one point she says, “Let him speak” or “Let them fight it out.” She’s not a control freak. She has so much respect and emotional awareness for those around her, which I think ties into her motherhood I would suppose.SA: Yeah, absolutely. I think you’re right about that. And I’m glad she wasn’t mustache-twirling!
I’m really happy I got the opportunity to play this character. I think as a woman for me it was very empowering. Something they say is that you don’t choose the parts; they choose you. And I think it’s absolutely correct. As an actor it’s all a journey, and for me I think this character came across in my life at a time where I needed that more. It empowered me and it made me feel strong. And I hope that came across in the character [of] Aset.
But you’re right, yeah: I think she has depth, and she’s smart, and she has love and compassion. But also she will do whatever she needs to do to get the stuff done.
GW: And especially [to] protect her child, as well. When you become a parent it just becomes such a priority to protect your children and to guard them. With the character was there any references outside of Egyptian mythology or Stargate that you pulled on as influences? How you brought her to life as an actress, with her movement, her presence — you know what I’m saying? Extending beyond what you go to, which is Egyptian history, or what’s in the script, what part of yourself or other influences were you able to infuse in that character?
SA: This is one thing that I was quite aware of. I didn’t go to look elsewhere for like “villains,” you know what I mean? It was something that just came out naturally. It wasn’t something that I planned. And I think [for] a lot of actors it’s best not to plan — you have to sit with it and then let the character grow, and then whatever comes out comes out. You know what I mean? It’s not something that you plan.
So, no, I didn’t go elsewhere for it. I just really focused on the material and the script, and went into the worlds of my imagination.GW: Was there any highlights on set, like specifically certain scenes or character beats — or just experiences with the individuals that [hit you like], “Yes, that’s the moment I’m going to remember in three decades. That’s the cherished experience from shooting Stargate Origins.”
SA: Yeah! One of the ones that I will always remember was that very first day when I went on set, and I couldn’t remember the Egyptian that I had memorized. It was really bad because it was my first day, and they put those lenses on me and I couldn’t see anything, and it was really kind of stressful. Episode 8 is what we were doing; that’s the first one we shot. And all of a sudden I forgot — I couldn’t remember anything. I started to really panic. So I was like, “Sh–, I’m going to get fired and it’s my first day!”
People were trying to help me out. And it was lunch time and we were on break, everybody else was eating, and I couldn’t eat — I just wanted to throw up. I was panicking. And then at one point I was like, “OK f— it! You know what I’m going to do? I’m just going to make this sh– up!” Nobody else knows what I’m saying anyway, right? I’m going to get it as close as I can. And as worse they’ll just be like, “OK, let’s do it in post … say it again.”
And that’s exactly what I did. Because the whole time I was in my head going, “Oh my God I can’t remember …” So basically when my scene came up I just made up stuff. I just went on with whatever I had in my head. But nobody knew the difference anyway. At that point I was really liberated and empowered as an actor, because I was able to get into the character [and] not think, “Oh, sh– … what’s my next Egyptian line?” You know what I mean?
So for me that was a really important moment, because I felt I had made a choice, I got back into the character — it was liberating and I was fearless and I felt good about it! It was really, really good.
GW: It’s cool that you use that word “liberated.” Because that’s something I’ve heard you say a couple of times. The role really put you in a position where you could just act and go on instinct and emotion, and not do this precision balancing act.I think we can both agree that, first off, Aset is a dynamic female character. And that’s really important to have, because not all of them have that kind of empowerment and dynamism. So, perhaps as an actress, what do you see in your experience as the necessary factors or elements to create not just a dynamic female character but a dynamic leader who would be often classified as a villain but actually has more to them, and isn’t just kind of like a sexist cut-out of what a female villain would be?
SA: Well I think that’s down to the actor, really. Because you have to bring your own personal, life experiences, and make that character real. I know it’s sci-fi … and it was really important for me to make sure that Aset wasn’t like an “alien” — two-dimensional. Because for me she’s a person. And I think in acting it doesn’t matter what genre you’re in, really we’re just telling a story, and we want to be truthful. We want to tell the truth of that moment, of that emotion, of that speech or whatever it is that we’re doing.
So every character is a multi-dimensional [character]. You know what I mean? And I think it’s really important for the actors to bring that to the table, and not just go with stereotypes.
GW: It’s interesting — as I get older I start to notice there is less and less of a clear distinction between good and evil. Kind of like what we were talking about earlier. We’re brought up to look at movies and say, “That’s the good guy and that’s the bad guy. And the good guy needs to kill the bad guy to finish the movie and win at what he’s trying to do.” And in life there aren’t really very many villains; there’s just people who want different things, and are willing to use different methods to achieve that.
I think one of the interesting things about Origins was we don’t just have a hero and a villain. We have three parties: we have the Langfords and Captain Beal and Wasif, and then we have the Germans, and then we have Aset and Serqet. And I guess kind of a fourth group of people, which are the Abydonians. And you kind of start to realize it’s not all cut-and-dry. You have to ask yourself who is the villain in this story. And I think in this story it was more the Germans. But it put Aset in an interesting situation, because it’s not the baddie that is threatening Earth with a nuclear weapon. It’s kind of more intimate and personal to that specific character.SA: Yeah, and also that brings to mind [the idea that] one person’s “terrorist” is another person’s “freedom fighter.” It’s the same kind of concept. If you’re the German you are probably thinking you don’t see yourself as the villain. You know what I mean? Like for example in real life you and I don’t do something going, “Oh, God, that’s really bad … but I’m going to do it anyway.” That’s not how we think. Whatever we’re doing is justified, even if it’s conceived as wrong by other people.
And that I think is true of characters that you play, whether they are villains or not. You don’t judge yourself; you’re doing it because it means something to you. And then the story plays out, and the audience takes sides, or not.
GW: And Aset really wasn’t a threat until the people from Earth came to her homeworld. It wasn’t like an Independence Day situation where they come with big space ships over out cities. This is someone who — our characters from Earth are on your character’s turf, on Aset’s turf. Aset is balancing a very difficult platter of family and providing for her people, and also answering to a higher power.
I wanted to ask: Have you gotten a chance earlier in your career to play any other kind of — I guess we can’t use this word — “bad guys” or villains in the story who are perhaps viewed as the antagonist?
SA: No! God, I wish I had more opportunities to play the bad guys. I think they’re so much fun! Because you can do so much more with them. You can get away with so much more. But no, I think Aset is probably my first villain.
GW: That’s so cool.
SA: I know. I want to be a villain.
GW: So what has it been like to join the Stargate community and be ushered into that family? Have you gotten to know the fans, or do any interviews? What has that experience been like, to do a sci-fi franchise? I think this is your first, if I’m correct …
SA: Yeah, this is my first! It’s been a really welcoming community. I’ve made lots of friends on Facebook and social media. And everyone’s been really friendly and lovely and supportive. I’ve got fan art, which I really appreciate. And I love [that] — I think it’s amazing. People have just been lovely. I really love it.
GW: Well we’re so glad that you a part of the Stargate family. And thank you again for doing this interview and shedding a bit of light on your character.
I want to ask before you go: Any future projects you have coming up? Can we put your Twitter in the bio of the video and direct people to your social media? Where can fans follow your future career?
What have I got coming up? I have a movie coming up called American Fighter. And I’m not sure of the release date yet, but it’s either going to be in the summer or the beginning of next year. It’s a sequel to another movie that we did which is really good.
GW: Well we look forward to seeing you in many more movies, and perhaps many more “villainous” roles as well!
SA: Yes! I want to play a serial killer next.
GW: Oh, so you’re really going for it! You’re just going all-out. Let’s try the craziest villain we can possibly find.
SA: Let’s go crazy. [Laughter]
GW: Awesome. Well, best of luck — thanks for taking some time to talk with us today.
SA: Thank you so much! It was a pleasure.