Apophis wasn’t just the first villain on Stargate SG-1 – he was clearly one of the greatest of all time. Played with aplomb by Jamaican actor Peter Williams, Apophis was the SG-1 team’s chief antagonist for more than four years.
We caught up with Peter at this year’s Gatecon: The Celebration fan event in Vancouver, British Columbia for a live sit-down! In this conversation Peter talks about the early years of the show, his character’s surprise return in Season Three, and his appearance in The Expanse (where he played a Belter pilot).
He also reflects on a very special episode in Season Two’s “Serpent’s Song.”
“You have no idea where that episode meant to me,” Williams said. “I had become used to being used very sparsely, albeit splash-ily … but to have scene after scene after scene with the main cast members was a real joy.”
GateWorld’s interview with Peter Williams runs about 17 minutes, and you can watch it in full below. It’s also transcribed if you would rather read the interview. Or, to listen to the audio version, click the play button on the player above — or look for “GateWorld Interviews” wherever you get your podcasts.
Our thanks to Peter Williams, and to the whole team at Gatecon for hosting this year’s event!
GateWorld: The great Peter Williams – thank you for joining us on GateWorld and thank you for coming back to Gatecon this year.
Peter Williams: Hey, my pleasure. You know, they send me a ticket, I come.
GW: How has your convention experience been this weekend?
PW: Well, first of all, it’s been a little smaller than we’re used to. But I think that’s everybody reawakening out of the pandemic, so it’s understandable. Small, but sweet though. I tell you, it was more intimate than usual – and this is one of the more intimate cons. So it’s been excellent, just excellent.
GW: It’s a special event. This is only my second time but I know folks here already, and you meet new people every year. And what they say is true! Gatecon really is a family and it’s a special kind of event.
PW: Yeah. And you know what, you get younger and younger friends all the time, but it’s not limited to younger fans. There are a couple of couples here who were bringing their spouses for the first time I found. And that’s always interesting because sometimes spouses come, they’re skeptical of the scene … but they usually leave with a big smile on their faces.
GW: Well, we’re introducing our kids to Stargate for the first time, and of course they love Apophis. They love the big, colorful characters and the flanged voices of the Goa’uld.
PW: That’s right – the glowing eyes.
GW: So, even though it’s been a lot of years since you guys shot, everything is fresh for us who continue to enjoy it year after year.
PW: Yes, yes. I met a fan here who was watching who was only up to the third season. She’s got so much further to go!
GW: So much more Apophis ahead of her!
PW: Well, yes, at least for a couple of years. And then it will be some long breaks. But you know, you always find him again. He always comes back somehow.
GW: And they kept bringing you back for – they’re much more the cameos. They’re important roles in these episodes. Chris Judge writes you as a doctor in his hallucination in “The Changeling.” And then Apophis is [in] an alternate timeline in “Moebius” and you’ve got some fun stuff to kind of chew on and get back in play.
Well, you know when I see Amanda [Tapping] at cons people often ask her who her favorite bad guy was. And I don’t know if you’ve heard her say this, but she always says Apophis because you never forget your first.
PW: [Laughter] Yeah, it’s a bit of a cliché line but I have been knwon to throw it around from time to time myself. Yeah, you never do forget your first – and better if they’re a bad guy!
Amanda is probably the singular most popular Stargate character – Stargate actor. I find her fandom to be the most vocal, the most loyal, and probably the most extensive. Even on par with Richard Dean [Anderson], for instance. Yeah, Amanda Tapping has her Sanctuary people, she has her Make-A-Wish Foundation people. She has her … Samantha Carter! Her “Carter-ites!” And of course now she’s a director in her own right.
GW: She’s a hot director! She’s very much in demand.
PW: Yeah, exactly.
GW: When you look back on these years what are the feelings that surface? What are the memories of working with this cast and working with this crew and the directors that you’ve gotten to know so well over the years?
PW: First of all, I didn’t know most of the cast when I was actually shooting Stargate. I have gotten to know them afterwards at these these conventions worldwide. You know you run into somebody like David Nykl for example in Auckland, New Zealand. And he was in Atlantis and I never knew him. I never knew him before. He was a local actor, but we never went for the same parts or anything like that. But he’s become one of my best friends. I like to use him as an example because he’s such a cool guy.
Then you look at the Pauly McGillions and the David Hewletts. You don’t find guys that are as well talked about in the industry like those two. Amazing.
I tend to measure it, though, against my own feelings for Star Trek. I was raised on Star Trek – the original television series, before the movie franchise. You know, Spock and Bones and Shatner and Uhura. They were all my heroes. And I’ve gotten to meet all of them, too. I met most of them anyway. And to think I’m know like that for some of others is quite a trip – [a] head trip.
GW: For a lot of others. Stargate is a special show. Stargate matters to us.
PW: Yes, I can see that. So I made an effort to join up – I see you online, for example! I have made an effort to interact with the fandom on Twitter particularly, and Facebook. Not so much Facebook now … more Twitter.
GW: Yeah, you’re always joining in the fun. I posted when the 25th [anniversary] came up. I don’t know if I was the one who posted it but I used it a few years earlier – the image from when “Children of the Gods” first premiered there was the magazine cover that had Apophis on the front, and it was advertising “Children of the Gods.” The new Stargate show was premiering. And the little label next to Apophis is “Christopher Judge” …
PW: I know! [Laughter] Did I get it from you? I might have gotten it from you, actually. But I think I have a JPEG of that little misprint.
GW: Humbling, I imagine …
PW: But you know what, it opens me up to a story to tell the truth. When “Children of the Gods” first came out it was MGM and Showtime doing the publicity. For some reason somebody at the head office sent me three huge thick binders, each one that thick of all the clippings from all the TV stations in the United States. And all the write-ups from TV guides in little towns, big towns – all kinds of towns.
And I think I only kept one, but most of the images were either Richard Dean Anderson or Apophis. Even more than the regular cast. So the good guy or the bad guy. So I felt very much included. That’s never happened to me before or since, to be included in the marketing plan like that.
GW: That’s fantastic. Apophis was sort of a reincarnation of Ra. He was the big bad for the show for a long time.
PW: Well you know how the mythology goes: Ra the sun god, god of the day, [and] Apophis the serpent god, god of the night – enjoin battle. Ra always wins, [the] sun always rises. But night always comes as well. And they’re brothers in Greek mythology, I believe.
GW: Well, I told this story … we were up on stage together and I told the story of the role that you played in the formation of GateWorld more than 20 years ago. I was watching “Jolinar’s Memories” and your big comeback – the big, shocking reveal at the end of that episode in Season Three was Nao’nak reveals his mask and its Apophis reborn!
Such a fantastic moment of television, moment of science fiction … and it launched me on this grand adventure. So first of all, thank you for the part that you played in that.
PW: You’re welcome – and let’s also spare a mention for Dion Johnstone who actually played Nao’nak until the reveal. Dion Johnstone has gone on to some great things. He’s a much in demand actor now. I think he’s based in the States. But he played Nao’nak. I was busy doing something else during the days that they were shooting Nao’nak, before the reveal. So fortunately, I was free by the time of the reveal so they could use my real face.
But yeah, that reeled in a lot of folks. They tended to save Apophis for season openers, ratings week, double episodes, and season closers – that sort of thing. So I wasn’t around all the time. But when I came, boy, what a bang!
GW: And they trained us when they put “Serpent” in the title to know that it’s Apophis! And then of course not for “Jolinar’s Memories.” It’s a big surprise.
And is it true that to keep the secret you deferred your credit to the end of the episode?
PW: That is correct … that is mostly correct. It could also have been that the credit was deferred for me! [Laughter] But I wouldn’t have minded it anyway. I think it’s great. Super.
GW: Such a fantastic reveal.
Well, Apophis does so much – he’s an over-the-top villain, he’s very colorful. (He’s golden in particular.) He chews some scenery in his time, but then you get an episode like “Serpent’s Song,” where you see the dimensionality and the cracks in Apophis. And then of course we see the host in this episode as he lays dying in the S.G.C. infirmary.
PW: You have no idea where that episode meant to me. I had become used to being used very sparsely, albeit splash-ily … but to have scene after scene after scene with the main cast members was a real joy. The real pleasure, [and a] real bonus.
GW: And that was very significant to that episode. There’s a portion of the episode where they’re just taking turns coming in to have a scene with you.
PW: Yes! One after the other. And it’s interesting because I was not very mobile. I was actually on a gurney in a straight jacket for the entire time. And aged to a decrepit state, so really non-threatening.
And I think that aided in the pathos of the situation that the host found himself in. Every now and then Apophis would break through in consciousness and be a little more threatening. But yeah, it was a real dance – lovely, lovely episode.
GW: And the dynamic that I remember with Michael Shanks in particular was there’s one scene where he’s … he and Teal’c are just pretty happy to just watch this guy die. But then the host comes out, and Daniel ends up performing this sort of last rites ritual for the host. It’s such a beautiful scene.
PW: Yeah, I love that you mentioned that too. Of course at the center of that dynamic is the love of a woman. Sha’re, who I had actually stolen from Daniel, was his on-screen lady and it turned out to be his off-screen lady as well! So even as actors we had that little dynamic of two bulls and one heifer, if you will. It was art imitating life.
And I met her before he met her. He wound up marrying her in real life. But that’s the backstory. So there was that to draw on.
GW: Well, we should say before we move on from Stargate, there’s one more big reveal. It wasn’t a big part for you when they brought you back in Stargate: Continuum. But we’ve got Cliffy [Cliff Simon] and a room full of System Lords … and then we see in this alternate reality Apophis is there too, and he’s on his knees. Do you remember working on this scene at this point?
PW: I do. You know, the thing that sticks out most in my mind is that as a guy, who on the show had the benefit of the most iconic costumes … I was in all grey, a very bland costume for Continuum. Probably an attempt to depict how far Apophis had fallen.
GW: He had literally been brought to his knees.
PW: Brought to his knees. Just one of the pack. And vanquished in the end by a vengeful Baal.
I didn’t realize just how memorable that very brief scene would be. But it turned out to be [that] a lot of people remember that. And it was the last time we saw Apophis in the franchise.
GW: … so far.
PW: So far! [Laughter]
GW: Before I let you go, one of my favorite modern series is The Expanse. And Apophis – no, it’s not Apophis! Peter shows up on The Expanse. What brought you to this show and what do you remember about this role?
PW: A couple of things. I played a character – first of all, The Expanse is based on books. And the character I played in the show was a character in the book whose name was “Santichai Suputayaporn.” And in the books he is 82 years old. So when I read for that, I go, “You know what, they’re gonna have to take some license with that … because I’m not 82!” I get the part and it turns out they scripted him several decades younger.
So, Santichai Suputayaporn was a spaceship commander – pilot. And he and his wife had this little rust bucket, I think it’s been referred to as, that would ply the beltway in the universe. And the girl they cast as my wife had been cast as my wife in something prior to that.
GW: Is that right?
PW: Yes! Totally unbeknownst to either of us we were cast as husband and wife again.
I got a lot of attention from Stargate fans. I actually enjoyed The Expanse because the Belter dialect was based loosely on Caribbean patois, which I’m quite well-versed in, being from Jamaica. So the audition was a piece of cake. The read-through was great – people were scribbling down changes as I made them. And I feel like I took to the accent quite well.
However, it doesn’t translate very well to an actor’s reel because it sounds like I’m garbling everything I say. Unless you actually know the Belter language, you would think that these people aren’t speaking any recognizable language.
GW: Well what a great character, and what a great actor to see as a Belter.
PW: Listen, to this day I get people making comments about that and saying, “You shouldn’t have killed him!” But of course I’m used to dying. [Laughter] So it was no sweat, no sweat.
GW: Well, last but not least, what are you doing right now or what are you hoping to come down the pipe next? What do you look for in a role that you want to grab on to and say, “Yeah, this is one I want to do”?
PW: It’s pretty much a common fallacy that we have a choice of what we do. Things come your way, you either take them or you don’t. I’ve actually had the largesse recently to turn down work.
The next thing on my plate is I am doing a Hallmark romance when I go back.
GW: Is that right?
PW: Yeah. So this month I’ll be doing a show … I probably should keep the name under wraps because it hasn’t been said. And it sounds like a porn anyway! You know how these Hallmarks are … Alright, I’ll tell you! It’s called “All Aboard for Love,” I believe it’s called. It’s not been shot yet. It’ll be shot this month.
GW: Is that shooting here in town?
PW: No, it shoots in Toronto. I’m based in the east now. And I’m happy to say that I get auditions for silver foxes now. A little bit older, a little bit wiser. And I’m still in the game. So that’s good.
I’ll be doing that, and I have a couple other irons in the fire that I’m not at liberty to speak about at this point.
GW: Good, well we’ll be on the lookout! We’ll be excited. Peter, thanks so much for sitting down and giving us some of your time. It’s a real treat.
PW: Pleasure, Darren. Thank you very much. Gatecon, big up! GateWorld, big up!
On Twitter: @actualApophis