Beau Bridges Talks About The Ark Of Truth

Mark Wilson has published a lengthy interview with Stargate  SG1 star Beau Bridges in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section of  Beau discusses several aspects about his role as the “commander of the SGC” General Landry.

It seems like Ark of Truth is a second series finale for Stargate SG-1 — the finale they were on their way to, as it were, when they got trapped in the time dilation in “Unending” [10×20].

Well, sort of. I think that with these two two-hour movies that we made, Rob and Brad always seem to leave the door open a crack, in case we want to do any more.

We’ll wait and see how things go. If the people enjoy them and show enough interest, we may even make some more. I don’t know definitively whether that’s true, but they have such a loyal following.

As you know I joined at the start of their ninth year [in 9×1, “Avalon Part 1” (2005)], and a couple of the conventions — which, I had never done anything like that before — it was just amazing, the loyalty of these people who watch the shows. Who knows, I don’t know if it will go on or not. I know what you mean, it did wrap up a lot of stuff — the Ori kind of get their comeuppance — but they’ve definitely left it open so that more stuff can happen.

You’ve been a sci-fi fan, but the fan phenomenon and being part of a sci-fi franchise is kind of new to you.

Well actually, I think one of the reasons I got involved with Stargate was that one of the founders of the show [namely, Stargate SG-1 co-creator Jonathan Glassner] had hired me, I don’t know how many years before — I did a two-hour movie called The Sand Kings for Brad [(1995)], he had actually written it, which kicked off The Outer Limits franchise. [Note: The Sand Kings is credited to Melinda Snodgrass, but Brad Wright was on the writing staff of The Outer Limits from its inception.]

I did that with my father, Lloyd, and my son, Dylan, who at the time was only ten years old. That was about — Dylan is now 23, so 13 years ago now. So there were three generations of us in that show. It was an anthology, so that was the only one I did in the series, but that may be how Brad thought of me for this one.

But I know what you mean, I had never been in those conventions or anything. And what was interesting about it was, going into them I had heard all of these stories about people dressing up as the characters and this kind of crazy angle. But when you get into it, these are just loyal fans — they bring their families, they get to know each other. So the conventions are not just a way for them to see the actors that are in the show. They come to see each other, the fans themselves, and they have relationships and friendships over years. I did this one convention in London, and the people come from all over the world. It’s just incredible.

I was just talking to David Hewlett the other day, who said it’s very much like a family for the performers as well.

Right, exactly. I must say they were really gracious to me coming in in the ninth season. I didn’t really know anybody there. I had met Richard Dean [Anderson] years before, but he was not really doing them anymore. But the rest of the people, they were just so kind to me in welcoming me to the show, it made me feel really at home quite quickly. So it wasn’t a tough transition at all. And Ben Browder, who also was new to the show with me, we happened to live very close to each in L.A., so we got together before I even came out, which was nice. And we’ve become good friends.

You mentioned once before that Chris Judge helped provide an anchor on set as things changed those last seasons.

He provided a lot of the humor. Chris is a wonderful guy, he’s got a great sense of humor and he’s a good actor — all of those people that are regulars on the show I think are wonderful actors and really dedicated to the show. And that was important to me, because I like a real professional attitude on the set and people that work hard and they’re bringing it.

I think it all begins at the top though, and I think Rob Cooper and Brad Wright are great show runners and really talented writers, and they had a really good team of writers. It all starts with the written word. If that’s there, then it all falls into place.

These franchises have a way of evolving. Have you gotten a sense of how Stargate has changed even in the time you’ve been with it?

Well, sure. What was fun for me in terms of my own character, General Landry — when Rob and Brad asked me to be a part of the show, that character wasn’t even written. They just asked me if I would be interested in being the new general in charge of the Stargate, and I asked, “Well, what type of guy is he?” and they said, “Well, he’s not really created yet.” And so it was exciting because it was the first time I had been on a show where I was actually invited to help create the backstory for who this guy was.

So Rob Cooper, who had mostly to do with the Stargate part of it, he and I sat down and started fleshing out who this guy was: he was a decorated pilot from the Vietnam period and met a Vietnamese woman over there, had a child, then became estranged from his family — we felt that it would be interesting to get behind the scenes a little bit, as exciting as it would be to see the generals in action militarily, that these guys are human too.

And I actually researched American generals, from George Washington all the way up to Tommy Franks, and Eisenhower, MacArthur, and kind of worked out a lot of the qualities that I liked in these guys and also a lot of the things that they said, the quotes, and I gave that — it must have been a 40 page thing of research — I gave that to the writers to help create General Landry. So we had a lot of fun. It was great.

And when I came into the show — yeah, it was a transitional period, and as the new general coming it I felt it was time to kick ass and take names [laughs], and tighten the ship. So I was a pretty serious guy and had a short temper. As the show went on I became more relaxed as an actor in the show, and so did my character, and more of the practical joker aspect of his character came out — it was neat, you don’t often have a chance to have that kind of evolution for a character.

Stargate SG-1 could have ended any number of times — maybe a steady hand in the cast at the top of the ninth helped keep things stable.

Well maybe, but you also had Claudia Black [(Vala)] in there, and I thought Ben Browder was a wonderful presence in the show. He had all the adventure stuff to do, and all of the physical stuff, the fights, I thought he pulled that off beautifully.

And then of course there a whole new thing with Stargate Atlantis, which came out of that show. And I actually did a few of those, I think it must have been four or five.

Speaking of a steady hand, the trailer for Ark of Truth is very funny because it has all these action scenes and shouting and mayhem, and then it keeps cutting back to you in reaction shot, and each time you’re standing there looking calm and unflappable.

[laughs] That’s funny. I had two people in my personal life who I though of when I played Landry. One of them was my father, who has been gone ten years now, but he was certainly a leader in his profession. I saw many times that calm aspect under fire when things got tight, he would be steady. And the other was my college basketball coach, John Wooden at UCLA, one of the best collegiate coaches ever to play the game — he won 10 out of 12 national championships. His whole composure was just very even-tempered, he never raised his voice, and he said wonderful things like, “Make every day your masterpiece” and “Be quick, but don’t hurry,” that was another great one. And so I thought of both those gentlemen a lot when I was doing Landry. They were very impressive to me.

According to legend your dad was up for the role of Captain Kirk, so you might have had a much earlier immersion in sci-fi.

And he also did Battlestar Galactica [as Commander Cain in episodes 1×11-12, “The Living Legend” (1978)]. And he did one of the first sci-fi movies ever made, called Rocketship X-M [(1950)], about guys going to the moon in a spaceship, and they run into moon monsters and things [laughs].

So what was it like to come back and make Ark of Truth?

I was really pleased that they — at that point we knew that the series had been canceled, so to be able to come back and do some more was exciting. Because I felt that the fans were sort of owed that. So to come back and search for that ancient artifact and defeat the Ori knowing that the Ori are going to launch their final assault on Earth, that was great. And I think like most of them it was very well written.

Was this in the plans during season 10? Clearly some resolution to the Ori story was needed.

I’m not sure about that, actually. That’s a good question, probably more for Brad and Rob than for me. I was happy to do it. I really enjoy working with those guys, it’s a lot of fun.

The production values are ramped up from the actual series. Did it feel more like a feature than an episode?

Yeah. I love the look of it. I was pretty much relegated to the sets and the SGC. The guys went up to the Arctic and got into the underground passages there, that was pretty wild, but I didn’t get involved in that.

The Ori are an unnerving threat for the SG-1 team. What is it about the Ori that makes them such a dangerous enemy?

They’re sold on themselves, and they feel that their way is the only way. That’s always a kind of a scary proposition, for a culture to send that message out. I think that in terms of the real world, what matters is cultures respecting one another and trying to relate to one another. The most dangerous cultures are the ones that aren’t accepting of their fellow human beings. And I guess that’s where the Ori fit in.

The great thing about Stargate is that it’s very today. The Asgard tell us we’re the Fifth Race and pass the baton to us, and you get the sense even at the SGC there’s nervousness that humanity isn’t ready.

Well, and I think it’s not just Stargate, I think the whole milieu of science fiction is, the fun thing about is you can take on really heavy, modern problems and discussions and have fun with them, you don’t have to be so serious as you would if you were using the names and characters of people and cultures living today.

And I think also what really stands out with Stargate is they have such a great sense of humor about it. Richard Dean was one of the guys who had the most hand in that, and I tried to bring as much of that in my own way as I could to Landry. Because I think that’s what the fans enjoy about it.

You bring a lot of energy and presence. Landry isn’t reserved, he’s always right there, ready to act, ready to move.

Well, that’s good, I’m glad you feel that [laughs]. I would hope that that would be the case — I’d want a general that felt like that.

He’s a man who really loves his service to his country, loves his job. He’s sort of married to that aspect of his life. And because of that, that’s one of the reasons he had problems personally, with his family — he loved his job so much, he kind of short-shrifted his wife and his daughter. And I think he’s the kind of guy who — if you meet him out on the field of battle, he’s the kind of guy who’s going to enjoy the fight. And the tougher the odds, the stronger the enemy, that just jacks him up, because he’s that kind of a warrior.

And even though, because of his age, he’s not the young buck going out and killing the dragon, he still felt very motivated and very excited about the whole proposition of it and being a master tactician. And also he’s good at getting out of his troops the things that he needs, the people that work for him. I liked doing him. Because I think as a younger man, he had been there, done that. So it wasn’t a problem in terms of not being on the battlefield himself, because he’d been there. He felt that he owed it to the people he was sending out there to make sure they had what they needed, and gave them the best advice he could before the battle.

Do you think Landry will continue to have a big part to play as the Stargate program evolves?

I don’t really know the answer to that. I would like him to be. I always enjoy playing him, as the schedule permits. It’s been a while since I talked to Rob and Brad about what their plans are. What’s going to happen is, these films are going to come out on DVD, and it’s such a changing world in television, how things are distributed and seen now. Television and cable networks as we used to know them are vastly changing, and so it’ll be interesting to see what happens to Stargate with that whole mix. I think all of it will be determined by how these DVDs do. But I’m always up for it, if I’m free.

You’re actually filming something right now in Toronto.

I’m doing a Fox theatrical movie with Mark Wahlberg called Max Payne, based on the video game [(scheduled for October 2008 release)].

Lots of metaphorical slaying of dragons there, too.

Oh yeah. And I have a good role in it, one of the starring roles, and I’ll be up here through May. And I’ve been continuing to play Earl’s father on My Name Is Earl.

How is that going?

It’s fine. I just did one not too long ago, and I’m doing another one in a few weeks.

The great thing about this generation of television is that the previous generation keeps getting brought in to play everybody’s dad. You did the same on Will & Grace, too.

[laughs] Yeah, I was Sean Hayes’s dad.

People just like to go — hey, look, it’s Beau Bridges!

Well good, I’m happy to hear that!