Stargate Villains Take the Stage

Photo by Nancy Northcott
Photo by Nancy Northcott

The “System Lords of Stargate” panel at 1PM Saturday brought three of the most noted Stargate antagonists together for an hour with their fans.  The tone for the panel was set with moderator Jamie Poff’s first question to Suanne Braun (Hathor), Peter Williams (Apophis), and Jacqueline Samuda (Nirrti).  Poff asked what each thought were the best and worst parts of playing an antagonist.

“Playing?” Braun asked, raising an eyebrow.  “I wasn’t acting.”  As the crowd laughed, Williams said the worst part was having to die and the best was that there are no good guys without bad guys. “They’re yin and yang,” he said.

Samuda said her favorite part was playing subtext, that the villain always has secrets and motivations below the surface and always thinks he’s right.  As an example, she noted that Nirrti was a scientist and saw herself as working for progress “…though it did involve sacrificing planets.” She shrugged, and the audience laughed again.

Braun added that playing a villain lets actors explore things they wouldn’t get to do as themselves.  She noted, “Hathor was more sexually…forward,” a description that again drew laughs, and that the character came on to almost all the men.  Samuda commented, “I was jealous of that.”

Braun indicated that she enjoyed playing a woman so different from herself, agreeing with Samuda’s comment that villains always think they’re right and that making them real requires exploring their motives.

The actors all said they had no angst over doing things as their characters that they wouldn’t personally do.

Poff asked whether fans had ever been unkind to the actors in public.  Samuda answered that the fans always smiled when they told her how bad she was.  Braun added that she wasn’t often recognized, probably because of the wig she wore as Hathor.  She was once amazed to have a woman on a plane who’d been looking at her and smiling ask, “Are you Hathor?”

Samuda said she does a lot of voice work and that one project involved a conference call.  When she came on the line, the others involved, not knowing she was on, were saying things like “It’s Nirrti” and “Yay, we have Nirrti.”

Williams indicated that he was often recognized, especially when the show was on. He said he was once in Sydney and decided to walk to Bondi Beach, despite being warned by locals that it was a very long walk.  He thinks the best way to learn a place is to walk it, so he set out.  After walking for a while, he was feeling tired and ducked into a store to ask directions, only to have the clerk say, “You’re Apophis.” Williams was so pleased that he stayed there a while and made purchases.

Braun said one of the weird things about the Stargate family is being recognized when she doesn’t expect it.  She was on a flight to Israel with minimal luggage and underwent a stringent grilling by security there.  She tried to explain that she was in Israel for a project and was an actor.  The man asked what she’d done that he might have seen.  Only when she said, “I did a show called Stargate,” did he loosen up.  She happened to have photos of herself as Hathor and showed them to him.  “You’re Hathor,” he said, and all was well.

Williams reported having a similar experience in Puerto Rico with a US Customs and Immigration officer who was a Stargate fan but didn’t recognize him.  “I travel with the pictures for this very reason,” he said, as the crowd laughed again. When Williams pulled out the photos, the immigration officer melted, and Williams ended up signing an autograph for the man’s wife.  “It’s like a passport,” he said.

“Intergalactic,” Samuda quipped.

Poff noted that the Goa’uld were often over-the-top characters and asked the actors what were the most outlandish things they did.  Samuda said she enjoyed turning invisible.  She noted that Nirrti was featured in one episode but never actually appeared. Williams said he would pick the selection of Apophis’s mate in “Children of the Gods,” which involved full frontal nudity.

“I’ll be watching that tonight,” Samuda interjected.  Williams went on to say that there was such a backlash over the nudity that the scene was reshot and there was never again nudity on the show.

Braun described taking a bath in a tub full of shrimp-like things. She picked one up, licked it, and bit off the head.  The director liked the bit, but the network ordered it cut. She added that the tub was heated, which was nice at first, but then the shrimp started to melt.  “I smelled like funk from the swamp of Zorg,” she said.  At her hotel she got into the elevator, and a woman walked in.  “I knew she could smell me,” Braun said, “but how do you explain?”  The woman said, “I’m a huge, huge fan of your show.”

Williams put in, “What she really said was that the elevator needed a huge, huge fan.” As everyone laughed, Braun added that the woman went on to say she loved David Duchovny.  Shaking her head, Braun said the woman walked away thinking Gillian Anderson stank.

An audience member wanted to know whether the actors would be interested in playing their Stargate roles again if there were a movie or a reboot. All of them said they would.

Another questioner said one of his favorite system lord scenes in the show was Apophis’s death scene, in which he called out for his mate, Amaunet, and for a new host.  If Apophis had his choice of host, the fan asked, who would he pick?

“Dwayne Johnson,” Williams answered without hesitation, on grounds that any man or woman would find Johnson alluring.

“Gillian Anderson,” Braun said, again drawing laughter.  She added, “Angelina Jolie would be good.”

Noting that the show’s military uniforms were very straightforward, a fan sked whether the actors knew what costumes they would have and how they liked their wardrobes. Williams said he loved his costumes.  Samuda noted that the costumes were so developed that they helped form her character. Braun admitted to loving the look of her costume.  The actors all said there was a dedicated wardrobe crew, and Williams noted that the costumes underwent multiple fittings, which is a costly process.  He said his one regret about Apophis’s appearance was that he had to cut his shoulder-length dreadlocks.

Williams said that Apophis had two costumes for “Children of the Gods,” a ceremonial one with big ears and a warrior one for his entrance through the gate.  The ceremonial one had a big X over the chest and a bare midriff.  He revealed that he didn’t have six-pack abs at the time.  His six-pack was painted on, and he had to keep touching it up.

Another question elicited a discussion of the pronunciation of Goa’uld.  Samuda said pronunciation of that was largely the actor’s choice.  Richard Dean Anderson, for example, said ghould, the most casual form, while Michael Shanks meticulously said Goa’uld because Daniel Jackson would.

“I’m a respecter of apostrophes,” Williams allowed.  “I always said Goa’uld.”  Braun agreed, saying the more elaborate pronunciation gave the word more weight.

When asked which other system lords they would like to play, Samuda chose Hathor.  Williams chose Ba’al—noting that he had an apostrophe—and said he would’ve enjoyed turning the tables on him in “Continuum.” Asked about other villain roles, Braun said she would like to play a Bond villainess. Samuda said she would’ve liked to continue playing Nirrti because the character was so much fun.

A fan wanted to know whether the language helped the actors get into character and whether it was a challenge.  Braun said she had very little of it and “kind of guessed,” but noted that as the show went on, the language became more specific.  Williams said the lines were too short for him, and Samuda reported that she mostly said, “Jaffa, kree.” Samuda indicated that hearing her voice after it had been filtered in post-production led her to pitch her voice lower, which resulted in a sound more like her vision of Nirrti.

As the panel wound down, a questioner asked Williams how he made the transition from playing Apophis, the symbiote, to playing the host in his death scene.  Williams said he enjoyed the fact that the episode allowed his character to be so multi-dimensional. He had scenes with each member of the main cast and saw the death scene as a chance to “dig deep and try to prove I could do this.”

Braun then asked the audience to help make a Happy Birthday video for a friend of hers who was turning 40.  She had everyone wearing green, her friend’s favorite color, come to the front and squeeze in together. At Williams’s suggestion, she knelt in the front of the group while he filmed with her phone. After a few rehearsals, Williams gave the crowd a count of three, and everyone yelled, “Happy Birthday, Matthew,” with Braun adding a loud, “Mmmwah!” at the end.

The panel ended with the moderator asking what the actors’ characters would have chosen as vacation hot spots if the Goa’uld had won.  Braun picked Jupiter, and Samuda opted for Mars.  Williams said, “It’s gotta have a beach.” He added that Vaitiare Bandera, who played Sha’re, was a member of the Tahitiain royal family, which led him to suggest that Tahiti would be perfect.  With everyone envisioning lush beaches, the panel ended.

Author of the article

Nancy Northcott is the Comics Track Director for ConTinual. She's also a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction, fantasy, and history. Her published works include the Boar King's Honor historical fantasy trilogy and the Arachnid Files romantic suspense series. Collaborating with Jeanne Adams, she also writes the Outcast Station science fiction mystery series.