To say 2020 has not been the year any of us anticipated would be a huge understatement …
Literally overnight, life was turned upside down and ever since people have had to try and find ways to readjust and carry on as best (and as safely) as possible. Between working from home and home-schooling, to those pesky DIY projects, it hasn’t been an easy time. Yet amid all of this there have been those who have provided a sense of normality, using their own time in lockdown to bring a little joy to others.
For fans of Stargate, this enjoyment arrived in the form of “Hathor Hosts” – a weekly “in conversation with” series from Hathor actor Suanne Braun. Starting back in April, the series saw Suanne sit down (virtually) with a number of her fellow Stargate SG-1 actors (along with a few others from the Canadian and British film and television scene). Almost immediately, the project became a hit with fans.
And as Season 1 wrapped up last month, Suanne kindly spoke to GateWorld to discuss the project, life in lockdown, and of course, her time on Stargate.
“The main reason I decided to start [Hathor Hosts] was to give back to this incredible fandom as they have been – and continue to be – so supportive,” Suanne said. “When I saw event after event being shut down in March, and the realization of what lockdown would mean, I realised I had to do something.
“I’d actually caught a particularly bad Instagram Live interview, where the host was dreadful, and I had a brainwave! I felt I could combine my previous experience as a host to interview my fellow actors.”
However, Suanne also admits that she had “no idea if anyone would say yes. So I wrote to everyone I knew. Almost every single person agreed … and Hathor Hosts was born.”
The Hostess with the Mostest
Over the course of 25 weeks Suanne delivered a stellar line-up for fans, with 24 stars of the film, TV, and stage sitting down to discuss their lives and careers. While grilling her guests was second nature for someone like Suanne (who was previously a regular presenter in her native South Africa), delivering a virtual live show brought its own unique set of challenges.
“Every week was a learning curve, as many of the guests hadn’t done anything like this before either,” she explained. “Things like different time zones, lighting, and sound were issues we had to work through. But a lot of the frustration has been with things beyond my control.
“For example, the way Instagram compresses videos has been tricky with regards to sound and video quality. When I’d test the sound and lighting before each show it was crystal clear, but when I watched the interview on Instagram afterwards, it would be muffled and fuzzy. Producing the show live on YouTube has really helped, and I’m thinking of compiling a video with all the best tech blooper moments. We’ve had some major technical challenges along the way!”
Suanne’s gift certainly has been cherished by Stargate fans, who have subsequently expressed their thanks in many different ways. Most notable has been the daily chatter among the fandom on social media around each week’s new interview.
“I’ve been truly overwhelmed at the support,” Suanne said. “The fans have made posters, artworks, pins, flags, music and videos. It’s been really heart-warming and rewarding.”
When asking fans to pick their favorite moment from the series, the overwhelming answer is that there were just too many moments to choose from. It’s a nice dilemma to have, and one that the host herself also related to.
“I can’t pick just one [favorite moment] because there was always a surprise and a new discovery when it came to my guests,” she said. “So I genuinely loved every episode. But, as an actor, it was particularly interesting to talk to [executive producer] Joe Mallozzi and hear from a writer/showrunner perspective. And, of course, to have Amanda [Tapping] on the show – twice!”
Speaking of Amanda: the actress / director / producer behind Samantha Carter was one of the first guests to appear on Suanne’s show. (To this day this remains the most viewed episode of the series.) She has always been another fan favorite, and their interview proved to be so much fun for everyone that Amanda was asked to return later in the series. It was an invitation she quickly accepted – but for stars’ reunion the tables were turned, with Amanda taking center stage to ask the questions.
Suanne says: “It was initially very odd as I had to relax into being the one being interviewed. But I could not have asked for a better interviewer. It felt more like two friends having a chat and a laugh. I adore Amanda; she’s such a generous, warm, talented soul.”
Stargate’s Sense of Family
To watch those two particular interviews back on YouTube it really does feel like watching two friends catch up. Yet this sense of fun and camaraderie has extended to every single episode of “Hathor Hosts.” Even away from the interviews, a quick visit to Twitter reveals the closeness and sense of family that has remained between the Stargate alumni. From the main cast to guest stars, to the production and writing teams, it really is lovely to see everyone still on good terms.
“Oh, completely,” Suanne agreed. “It was a recurring theme in ‘Hathor Hosts’ – how we are all still friends, years later. Even the actors that I didn’t get to work with during Stargate, but have met several times at conventions, all talked about having the same experience. And that’s hugely down to the warmth of the lead actors and the creative team who unanimously welcomed us.”
As for Hathor: the Goa’uld queen may have only featured in a few episodes of Stargate SG-1 (“Hathor,” “Out of Mind,” and “Into the Fire”), but she remains one of the show’s most memorable characters and a fan favorite. That’s a sentiment Suanne, to this day, is often overwhelmed by.
“I am blown away by the love Hathor has received,” she stressed. “She was such fun to play as she’s quite different to me. She’s so self-possessed and calm. I loved the role – and then of course, there was getting to snog all the guys! I mean, any day at work that involves kissing Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, and Christopher Judge is a good day at work!”
The Goa’uld queen, sadly, met her end during SG-1‘s third season opener, so any opportunity to explore Hathor’s character further vanished. But it’s fascinating to hear Suanne’s thoughts on a potential character development had this not happened.
“I think it would have been really cool to explore other facets of her character and her mythology, but I would have loved Hathor to have developed to the point where she became their [SG-1’s] arch nemesis,” she said. “So, just when the team feels they’ve understood her and how she works, she adapts and changes her tactics — like a real cat-and-mouse game.”
There’s also a theory among fans that Hathor could have had the potential to be a real threat (she did replicate part of the S.G.C., remember). So, if she did have to go into battle with SG-1, does Suanne think she would go it alone, or perhaps team up with one of the System Lords?
“I love the idea of her forming an allegiance with someone, and I think Hathor and Baal would have been a really interesting combination,” she said. “Both were strong, powerful characters and it would be fascinating to see them forced together to try and take over.
A Star of the Screen and Stage
Today Suanne is also a successful star of the stage, and one of the roles she is best known for is as Tanya in Mamma Mia!
“It was truly one of the most rewarding jobs of my career,” she said. “Every night was a standing ovation. The wonderful songs; a fantastic cast, crew, and creatives; and playing Tanya was a dream. She has all the best lines in the show and gets to sing ‘Does Your Mother Know?’, which I loved.”
Interestingly, as of 2020 – and before COVID-19 shut down the world of theater – Mamma Mia! is the seventh longest-running show in the history of London’s West End, while it also has various international productions. (Its Broadway run lasted for 14 years, making it the ninth longest-running show in Broadway history.)
So, did Suanne’s path ever cross with ABBA’s Benny (Andersson) and Björn (Ulvaeus)?
“I was lucky to work with them a few times,” Suanne revealed. “When I was in the show, we celebrated its seventh anniversary and Benny and Björn came over for that. It’s also been wonderful to have played in the show in two different West End theatres: The Prince Of Wales and The Aldwych.
“Also, in 2019, I was honoured to be invited back for the twentieth anniversary show of Mamma Mia!, when all the ex-Dynamos came on stage for the finale during ‘Dancing Queen.’ It brought the house down and then Benny and Björn came on stage with Judy Craymer and made the most beautiful speech. It was truly momentous and so memorable.”
Two years ago, Suanne also starred in the stage musical Fanatical, which centers around the convention circuit. She was offered the role of “Trix,” the con organizer, a role Suanne readily admits she could step in to.
“I felt that I could use my knowledge of cons and the world of science fiction to step into that world,” she said. “It was also wonderful to spot fans of the genre in the audience as they understood all the in-jokes and references. Ultimately though, Fanatical is a show about finding your passion and the joy of belonging.
“We will always need stories and theater,” Suanne adds, “and I sincerely hope 2021 sees the re-emergence of live theater.”
Face to Face with the Fans
It’s been no secret that live theater (and the arts sector as a whole) has suffered greatly due to the current global pandemic. Conventions have also been cancelled and the move is completely understandable, but it is still disappointing for guests and attendees alike. Cons are an incredibly popular element within the Stargate fandom; the events themselves are a great opportunity for photos and autographs and panels, but the fans also enjoy interacting with the actors and discovering how down-to-earth they really are.
Sometimes, though, it’s easy to forget that the actors are working at these events, and so they don’t always have the same chance to relax. Thankfully, it doesn’t make the experience any less enjoyable for Suanne.
“We are kept very busy,” she said, “but I love being able to meet the fans, and just the whole convention experience. It’s such a place of acceptance and joy. And it’s always cool to meet fellow actors, but the [real] highlight is meeting fans from all over the world and hearing what the show and characters have meant to them.
“I sincerely hope in 2021, we can resume conventions again.”
Future plans in uncertain times
It feels a little odd to be asking about future plans when the future feels so unpredictable right now. But Suanne’s energy and hopefulness is so compelling that it’s hard not to get caught up in the optimism. At the time of writing, she was busy filming on location in Scotland for the next film in Netflix’s series The Princess Switch. (The second movie, which filmed at the start of this year, is streaming November 19).
“It’s so good to be back at work,” she said, before adding that there’s “still loads” that she wants to do.
“I would love to try my hand at directing – but not just yet. I’m still very drawn to the work in front of the camera or on the stage. I’d love to do a concert or solo show about my career and life, but I am interested in finding a new and unique way to do it. There are lots of roles I want to play, and [I] would love to do another sci-fi show and a police procedural as I’m obsessed with those sorts of shows. Imagine a new show that combines the two … and I’m in!”
In addition to her work as an actor, voice-over artist, and singer of both the stage and screen, Suanne is also a presenter. She has appeared on the stand-up/improv circuit … and in her free time she helps out at her husband’s bakery in London.
Suanne has also been using her lockdown to resume her French classes (when not producing a weekly talk show, that is). She is currently in the process of working out the final details for the second season of “Hathor Hosts,” with some great guests having already signed up.
While their names remain a secret, fans know they are in for another treat when the series returns soon.
Follow Suanne on Instagram: @suannebraun
Suanne Braun is coming to DialTheGate.com! Tune in live this Saturday on YouTube (November 14, 1 pm PT) and ask your own question in the chat.