Cliff Simon is known for his portrayal of the vile and evil villain Ba’al on Stargate SG-1. The native South African, who wanted to be a swimmer early in his life, has become a legend with the Stargate SG-1 world for playing the ultimate bad guy but was nice enough to spare some of his valuable time to sit down with the Daily Dragon for a few words about Ba’al, his motivational CDs, and his future as a producer.
Daily Dragon (DD): Ba’al was known to wear elaborate leather costumes. How uncomfortable did they get?
Cliff Simon (CS): Terrible. But you know what? They looked amazing. They really were beautiful. They were tailored. They were made for me. They were just really thick leather, most of them, and long leather boots, so they were really hot. So most of the day shooting the shoot, with the amount of lights going, even with the air conditioning on, sometimes during summer it got to 100 degrees inside there. And one time, I actually got heat rashes all over. And they were heavy, too. One jacket I had weighed over 40 pounds.
DD: Do you have a favorite costume?
CS: Up until the movie, The Quest, that was my favorite, with that all black outfit. It was amazing. But the movie, Continuum, that was my best outfit. That leather jacket was…and just what it kind of portrayed looked a little Mad Max.
DD: What’s it been like playing a character like Ba’al?
CS: It didn’t matter if you went into work in a bad mood, it worked better for the character. Ba’al is the most interesting character I’ve kind of done because he’s so diverse and also the freedom that they gave me. Nobody ever told me how to play Ba’al. I came up with this character. I wanted to make him different from all the other bad guys and from bad guys generally, because bad guys are always bad, and if you’re always bad, it gets pretty boring. I needed to change that for this character, and I think that’s why he stayed in the show for so long. And it came across, and the writers started seeing that and started to write more humorous lines for him. They just write the dialogue, and it’s up to me to create the character.
DD: Do you think Ba’al is evil or just morally ambiguous?
CS: No he’s evil. Yeah.
DD: The first time you appeared on SG-1, did you think you’d still be playing the same character five years later?
CS: No, not at all. After the first episode, I thought that was it. I spoke with [Stargate director] Martin Wood afterwards, and he was like “Cliff, don’t worry, you’ll be back,” but we never know. And throughout the five years on the show, I never knew; at the end of every episode, I didn’t know I’d be coming back. So every time I said goodbye to all the guys, it was kind of like “Well, see you around, but I don’t know when I’ll see you” because they didn’t tell me, “Cliff, this year you’re doing six episodes or seven episodes.” It was episode by episode.
DD: You’ve spoken before about coming to the U.S. from South Africa and what a difference it’s made in your life. Was that the driving force behind your participation in the American Affirmations project?
CS: Yeah definitely, because I came to look for a new life and a new quality of life, and the quality of life isn’t all about money. It’s about being able to walk my dog at ten at night and not having to look over my shoulder, and my wife can drive around; we don’t have to worry about anybody trying to hijack her car. We found that quality of life, and I’ve started again from scratch. And I’m still building up to where I’d like to be eventually, but I’m very happy with where I am now, and I’m very lucky I have a lot of friends who’ve been in the United States a long time. I’m very lucky to have what I’ve got.
DD: What prompted you to do Stress: It’s All in the Mind?
CS: I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time. Patricia Bertran, who co-produced it with me, kind of kicked me in the butt and said, “No you’ve gotta do this now,” because she kind of got to know me, and she knew I wanted to do something like this. Through my years of training as a swimmer and a gymnast and in martial arts, I wanted to give back something. Because I look at kids in the United States, and now with video gaming and all this kind of stuff, kids aren’t getting out, and people are spending more time indoors and all this kind of stuff, and this is something that people can do indoors. It’s teaching people from the ground up how to focus with deep breathing exercises, because with deep breathing and the correct breathing techniques, it’s energy and it’s strength and it’s power and all those kinds of things. And if people are depressed [...] when you say to somebody “Oh just meditate,” that’s all very well for somebody to meditate, but how do you do it? This is the first step on how to meditate. This is what you do when you meditate because people are kind of scared of [meditation]. They think it’s kind of blah, and it’s not at all. All it is is about sitting down on your own for a few minutes every day and just taking time for yourself and looking into yourself and being aware of the internal and external machinations of the self. [...] There’s a definite connection between biology and psychology, and if you can get your mind right, it helps with healing. If people have got ailments or whatever, it really helps. I mean, we are a part of the universe, and it’s like we can create anything we want to create; just put it into your subconscious and forget about it, and you’ll work and certain experiences will come up, or opportunities, and you’ll grab them because of that thing in your subconscious. It’s like programming a computer.
DD: Is there any role out there that you want to or are eager to play?
CS: James Bond. That’s what I want to do. That’s all I really want to do. Any work is great. I’ll do any work, but James Bond would be…I’m at this time of my life where I think it would be the perfect role.
DD: Do you have any projects on the horizon other than Stress: It’s All in the Mind?
CS: Well, this month actually, I’m working on Stargate Worlds the video game, doing the voice-overs for Ba’al. It’s a great game. I’ve seen the screenshots from it, and I’ve watched a little bit of the video from it. It’s brilliant. The graphics on it are really brilliant. So I’m excited to do that because I’ve never done video gaming stuff before. I’d like to do a lot more voiceover work if I can, and I have another movie, a true life story; I have the rights to the true life story of one of the first African Americans to swim the English Chanel. He’s an amazing athlete. He revolutionized marathon swimming. He swims the butterfly only. He swam Manhattan Island in nine hours, butterfly only. He swam Alcatraz Island. His future challenges are, he wants to swim the English Chanel again in butterfly, and next year, hopefully, we can put out a challenge. He’s challenging the top ten butterfly swimmers in the world to swim around Manhattan Island twice, so you’re looking at like 19 or 20 hours of butterfly. And he’s 54 years old now. He’s an amazing guy, and I really want to get this movie made. It’s close to my heart because of swimming; it’s something I really want to do. I’m passionate about it because I believe people need to hear this story. It’s truly inspirational.
DD: You’ve said you’ve bought the rights to this movie. Do you want to get into more directing, writing, or producing? Do you want to get into the more technical side of things?
CS: I’d like to get into more producing. And, you know, eventually along with that may come directing, but I want to produce my own stuff. I want to create because there are so many good stories out there that should be told.
Desiree Jackson is no stranger to Dragon*Con and conventions in general. She's attended and worked in various capacities at different conventions for almost 15 years. Her devotion to fandom was sealed when introduced to fan fiction (by her mom) in high school. Although she mainly volunteers as a beta reader, Desiree has been known to write a story here and there. She's an avid science fiction fan and is excited to be working with the Daily Dragon this year. She is thankful to be working with her talented and devoted (both to her and to scifi & the Daily Dragon) husband, Jason.