Daily Dragon: This is your first Dragon*Con. How are you enjoying it so far?
Cliff Simon: It’s amazing. I mean, it’s overwhelming. I went to the San Diego Comic-Con, which is just absolutely huge, but it wasn’t organized like this. This is amazing. It’s just overwhelming. I still can’t believe the kind of sci-fi fans that are out there.
DD: A number of other cast members from SG1 and Atlantis have been to Dragon*Con before. Did any of their stories influence your decision to come?
CS: Uh, not really. I mean, they’ve all told me about it. Chris Judge who was supposed to be here—I was really looking forward to being here with him; we’ve been talking about it all year—he told me I gotta go. He said it’s absolutely amazing, “Just go and check it out. There are amazing parties.” I haven’t been to any yet, but I’m planning to go to a few tonight. [laughs]
DD: Were you a fan of sci-fi before Stargate?
CS: I wasn’t really. I watched sci-fi movies. I mean, I loved movies like Alien and Predator and those kinds of movies. I love them. I’d watched Stargate, a few episodes, only because I knew Richard Dean Anderson, and I loved McGuyver and all that. So I knew it existed, but I didn’t really follow it. I had no idea it had a fan base like it does. I had no idea this whole world existed. I had no idea.
DD: Are you personally more into sci-fi now that you’ve done Stargate?
CS: I am, because I can now appreciate more of what goes on and what goes into making a sci-fi movie. I mean, as far as technical and special effects [pause] it’s amazing. I just see what Stargate does, and it blows my mind.
DD: How does working on Egoli in South Africa compare to working on Stargate?
CS: It’s completely different. I was actually talking to someone yesterday and they said “Well, Cliff, you were like a big celebrity in South Africa.” You couldn’t go anywhere. Everyone knew me and all that kind of stuff. This is a whole different scene. You know, working in the United States, from the time you’re on a show, you’re international. I have letters from all over the world, and to have a fan base that’s all over the world, and not just in South Africa, it’s amazing. Egoli was a soap opera, this is a TV show. I prefer this a lot more. Egoli was an amazing training ground, but it’s completely different.
DD: Are there any particular fan letters that stand out?
CS: You know what? I have a girl from South Africa who writes to me very often, sort of on the verge of suicide. I just keep writing back to her. I make sure I write back to her because I know it’s all that’s keeping her going. I give her information on books to read and I tell her she needs to keep writing to me. I think if I didn’t—she tells me I’m the only one who actually listens to her. She has a very messed up family life. Those kind of people, when they look up to you, it’s sort of a responsibility you have. They look up to you and they think we’re hugely successful, which we are in our little world, so yah, those kinds of letters stand out. Letters from kids, you know, when you’re their hero, it’s like the greatest feeling on Earth. As someone they look up to, it’s your responsibility to write back to that person and let them know you’re listening to them.
DD: What do you enjoy most about Stargate?
CS: The family feel. You know, I love going up there. Whenever I go up there, I always get such a nice reception from the crew, the producers and all the actors. I just feel [like] part of their family now, and even though I’m a recurring guest star and not a regular cast member, I feel like I’m a regular cast member on the show. I don’t feel like I’m a guest star. Sometimes on shows, when you arrive, no one really knows you, you don’t feel part of the family, but Stargate, I do. I love going up there.
DD: How did you get the role of Baal?
CS: I know Michael Greenburg. I met him when I came out to the United States six years ago. He’s an amazing guy. Thanks to him, I got onto the show. We discussed it, and he said we’re going to wait for the right character for me to come along. I auditioned for the show, for no particular part. I just read for it with the casting directors and then about six months later, they created Baal and I said “That’s the character I want!” And yah, from there it just took off, and I got into the show. As you guys know, Michael Greenburg, who was executive producer, is no longer part of it with Richard. I’m still on the show, and the character grew, and I think I injected certain things into it which made him pretty likable, and that’s how I got into it. Thanks to Stargate and those producers because they’ve helped me build such a fan base.
DD: How do you prepare for a character like Baal?
CS: You know, all the Gua’olds are real mythological entities, and the producers gave me a lot of mythological stuff on Baal. I researched a lot of it on the Internet and came up with this idea on how to play Baal and see what he is. The reason I bring in some kind of sexuality to Baal is that he was the god of fertility as well. Besides being the devil, he’s just a bad guy, you know, and I think I brought that across.
DD: How to you handle being a bad guy role model, where people are going “Oh, he’s cool! I want to be like him!”
CS: Aaaahh! Don’t be like him! [laughs] We can’t in our modern society. I think people relate more to the sense of humor and the “If I get into a fight situation on the street, what’s the best thing to do?” I mean, I’ve always been like that. I’ve had fights, I come from South Africa; it’s an aggressive society. I’m the kind of guy who smiles before I hit somebody, and I bring that to Baal. He is a fantasy figure. No one could ever actually be like him. You’d be in jail in two seconds, or you’d be dead. Just enjoy him for what he is.
DD: Is there much in the way of rivalry or camaraderie between the SG1 and Atlantis casts and crew?
CS: I don’t think so. I mean, all actors talk about each other. They don’t talk badly about each other, but there is a certain amount of who’s getting more publicity, etc., and there there’s “Is Atlantis riding on the back of SG1?” or “Has Atlantis picked up all the SG1 fans?” SG1 has been cancelled, and they’re going to carry on with Atlantis. We sometimes mix with the Atlantis people, and no, there’s no real rivalry amongst them. They’re all family.
DD: Are there any particularly memorable moments for you?
CS: Not really. Nothing that really stands out. It’s all been good. I’ve never had a problem with them, ever. People have asked if I’ve had bad times on Stargate, and no, never had a problem with any of the cast members.
DD: Any particularly good moments?
CS: Um, nope. Well, yes. But I can’t talk about them. [laughs] When it comes to Chris Judge and Michael Shanks and me, no, I can’t talk about anything. [laughs]
DD: How do you feel about the show being cancelled? Are there still stories to be told?
CS: Oh, yeah. There’s still so much that still needs to be tied up. I’m going back in two weeks to shoot my last episode. I haven’t received the script yet, so I’m very interested to see what they’re going to do with my character, at least, and I don’t know how they’re going to wrap everything up. I don’t think they are; I think they’re going to leave a lot of things open. They’re talking about little spin-off TV movies and doing the huge feature film again, and I think that’s where they can actually bring it all together.
DD: Is there any chance Baal will be moving to the Pegasus Galaxy and the Atlantis cast?
CS: I spoke to them about it like a year ago, and they said once SG1 is off the air, there might be a chance. I’d love to work on Atlantis. I think it’s a great show, and that it’s going to build just big as SG1. And I think Baal can do that now. He has so many clones anyway; he could actually be in both shows at the same time!
DD: What are your post-Stargate plans?
CS: Nothing immediately now. There’s something in the works. It’s a feature film with Michael Greenburg. It has a great story, and I’d love to be involved in it. It’s a true CIA story that needs to be told. It’s one of those situations of the CIA being underhanded, and I really want to be involved in that. Hopefully, we can shoot that next year.
DD: Do you have any hobbies or interests you enjoy doing when you’re not being a System Lord?
CS: Oh, yeah. I kite-board a lot, every day if I can, and I do a lot of sailing. I charter boats out of the marina. I’ve got my skippers license. I used to teach windsurfing. Anything to do with the water. I’m always down at the beach, always swimming or kite-boarding or something.
DD: Are there any causes or organizations that you are a part of that you would like to share with the fans?
CS: Yes. The California Wildlife Center. They do rescue work with the whales, dolphins and seals. I used to work with the Santa Monica Bay Keeper, looking after the Santa Monica bay. It’s their job to keep it clean and re-grow kelp, but definitely the California Wildlife Center and anything to do with animals. Karma Rescue, which is a dog rescue company in Los Angeles that does amazing things with dogs, especially pit-bull kinds of dogs. People breed them for fighting and we try to fight against that, because they’re actually amazing dogs who got a bad rap. I love animals, so anything to do with animals, I’ll always support that.
DD: May we expect you back next year?
CS: Definitely. If I’m invited I’ll be back. And if I’m not invited, I’m going to call them. [laughs] I’d love to come back next year.
DD: Any final words for Dragon*Con goers?
CS: Definitely. I just want to say thank you to all the fans. I’m still overwhelmed by the whole thing, and I still get amazed when people just love my character so much. It’s been an amazing experience to be at Dragon*Con and thank you to all the fans for all their support. They’ve made my career in the United States. I’ve been here six years and to have the kind of fan base I’ve built up now, it’s very humbling for me. I can’t believe it.
DD: Thank you very much for your time, and we look forward to seeing much more of you, both professionally and at Dragon*Con!