Yahoo Chat/TVGen Chat/Prevue Online. September 9, 1998
DON S. DAVIS
We're here with Stargate SG-1's Don Davis... Get those questions in, folks... Welcome, Don!
Don S. Davis:
I am glad that we have an audience that is enjoying the show. We are trying to create a mythology that we hope people are understanding and are receptive to.
Question from SkidsPoppe:
Mr. Davis, do you like working a regular series as opposed to a movie?
Don S. Davis:
I enjoy working on a series. Any actor, especially a character actor, if he's honest, prefers working on feature films. Just as any actor who's honest prefers working before a live audience, because you have the luxury of rehearsal, which you don't have on episodics. Plus, before a live audience you have immediate feedback. The primary objective of any actor is to create a believable character with as much depth to the character as possible. And to create that depth necessitates the luxury of time, to create and to explore. You don't have that luxury in episodic television, except when you have a character that is developed slowly over a season's run. That is rare for a character player like myself. It is seldom the main character in any scene or episode. In a feature film or in a stage play they do take more time to develop peripheral characters, and that is why character actors prefer film or stage.
Question from Gooch_1:
This is for Don Davis: Will they be sending you on any Stargate missions?
Don S. Davis:
I hope so. But for my character to be real, he has to be framed within the restrictions that a general officer, a troop commander, would be framed in real life. And regardless of what you see in a Schwarzenegger or Wesley Snipes, or a star-driven character would indicate, in reality a general never goes to the front lines. He's back at headquarters planning the action. He can't do that if he is having a fist fight with the villains. In real life, a General Schwarzkopf or Colin Powell spends his time in headquarters, planning the overall strategy for the war. They aren't up there fighting the individual battles with the platoon. That's what Jack O'Neill does. He is the spearhead of the maneuvers that I am directing. I have to rely on him and his judgment, and I have to support him, but I can't be him. And he lives the actions that I dream about. He is like a super marionette. I pull the strings, but he performs actions that surpass the movements that I direct. And if he's good enough and if I have the insight and the guidance to let him be all that he can be, the battle will succeed. If I fail him, the maneuver will fail. The general is simply a chess master. His troops are really the heroes. Everyone loves a hero. But someone has to decide where to send the hero to do the deed. That's what the general does.
Question from MagdaPhil:
What has been your favorite show?
Don S. Davis:
I think my favorite so far was that episode early on in the first season when Jack met an alien who became his son, where at the end of the episode, he and this creature who he realized was simply representing his son, walked back through the gate. I think you have to realize, when you look at Stargate, that the person that I play had been a man of action who was in the twilight of his career, who was really in a job that he thought would allow him leisure time to write memoirs, and to color his career experiences in a way that would reflect glory on himself, and pass on his personal creed to any future generation that happened to read those memories, wound up intertwined with someone who embodied all that he admired about this military ideal that he had based his own career on, the man of action, the hero that goes out and fights the dragon, and then became that person's protector. That's all the general is. He's a man of ideals who realizes that he's got people who care more about principal, about what's right, about getting the job done, than they do about themselves, and he loves that and tries to protect them. He's a by-the-book character, he has to be, he's a general. You couldn't rise to his level without knowing how to play the game. But these people, Jack O'Neill, Daniel, Sam Carter, and Teal'c embody every facet of heroism that he has dreamed about, that he has idealized, that he has based his own life on. So he'll do whatever is necessary to let them succeed, to protect them, and let them do the job.
Question from Diorite:
Do you feel type-cast, playing military officers in both SG-1 and X-Files?
Don S. Davis:
Only to the extent that I play a military character. I also played a military officer in Twin Peaks. Major Briggs. I was a Captain in the United States Army during the Vietnam period. Fortunately, I was stationed in Korea rather than Vietnam, so I'm not claiming that I am a battle scarred veteran, but I was in the service during a period of great conflict, overseas in Southeast Asia, during that period. One of the things that I discovered, was that the kind of person portrayed by Hollywood in the John Wayne films or those type of films, had little or no relationship to real life, that the people who made the decisions about who was to live or die on a hill or on any given battle were the kind of people you run into in real life. They knew that if you put someone in danger you had to face the consequences of what happened to them because of your actions. And if you got someone hurt, it didn't matter if someone else did the hurting, you felt the guilt for placing them in that situation. And if you were fortunate enough to be the person who set forth the plan or activity, you might get the glory, but the glory if someone was killed because of your plan could never assuage the guilt of the knowledge that they were killed because of your mistake, or because of your need to sacrifice them to achieve a goal. We're all human. We all want to feel that if we had to stand before a judge we could say that we measured up to the mark. Because of an action that he put forth that was in the end really unnecessary, I think that is the real horror of war. It's never as simple as a homerun race, you know, or any athletic contest. The problem that people face today when they deal with terrorism or wars or injustice on any international playing field is that you make decisions that are politically correct but morally bereft. I think General Hammond is one of those that feels the pain of knowing the consequences of the compromise that his position at times forces him to make. I think that it's to his credit that he does back Jack O'Neill and Sam Carter and Daniel Jackson and this wonderfully heroic creature, Teal'c, when their integrity forces him to a decision that goes against the book that he normally lives by. We all look for simple stories about cowboys and Indians. If you are a cowboy, you're a hero for every Indian you kill. That's the old American mythology. If you are an Indian, you wonder who the hell these devils are that are raping your lands and going back on their promises for some purpose that has nothing to do with the philosophy that your whole heritage was based on. I think that's the beauty of science fiction. It shows both sides of that coin. And lets you know that both sides can be right and both sides can be wrong.
Question from _Starzy_:
Any clue on the leak in Secrets, and did the General have something to do with the reporter's death?
Don S. Davis:
I don't think so. In fact, we asked that when we were filming it. I think that both the General and Jack O'Neill knew that there was a damn good possibility, and indeed probability, that the reporter's death was an orchestrated accident. But I also believe, and it's the way we're playing these characters, and the only way we can play these characters, that both of these men, Hammond and O'Neill, are men of great integrity, and that they had to believe, regardless of their suspicions, that it was indeed an accident. I don't believe from the time of the original movie through the series to date that anyone who accepts either of these characters, could think that they would be party to cold blooded murder of a person who was simply trying to bring out the truth. I don't think that there is any argument that any superior could give to either one of those men, Jack O'Neill or George Hammond, that would cause them to sit blithely by and allow a man to be murdered. I also believe that neither one of those men is so naive that they would fail to see the possibility that that is what happened. I think it's one of those situations in which, if you are in battle, and a sniper is firing at you from a tree, and you realize that that sniper may be a wonderful person with two kids and a loving wife at home, who is only firing at you from that tree because he believes that everything he stands for and believes in depends on him eliminating you from the field of battle, makes him a target that you can't counterfire to. I think they realize that there are times when a person has to be eliminated in war, no matter how good that person may be. And that both of them, realize consciously how abhorrent and distasteful the act may be. There are going to be victims in war that don't deserve to die. They don't want to be part of their deaths, but they won't abandon the fight because of that death. I think that the reporter's death in Secrets, I think that was the name of the episode, became a questioning moment for each man. I think that was one of those times when the General became a father and said "No, Jack, that was an accident." I don't think the General believed that, or if he did, he wasn't 100% certain. But it was one of those times where Jack felt that there couldn't be any justification for it. I think Jack is one of those guys who believes that every life is sacrosanct. I think at times the General is more pragmatic.
Question from Liz_Bees:
What's your relationship like with the rest of the cast?
Don S. Davis:
Oh, I love them. I owe my whole career to Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Greenburg. I was a college professor who was semi burned out teaching, and starting out in the film business, and they gave me my first break, my first guest star role, they took care of me. Those two guys have more integrity than anybody I've ever met in this business. And I think that Michael Shanks is one of the best young actors in this business, and I've worked with some of the so-called cream of the business. And Amanda, the myth they created for Doris Day, that IS Amanda. She is warm, the camera loves her, and she can take a scene that really should never be in public and make it ring like a diamond. And I feel the same way about Chris Judge. You know we live in an age in which PR is everything, and heroes are just people that somebody writes pretty stories about. And then somebody digs beneath those stories and you find out there's nothing there. Well, Chris is a man. He's talented, he's got charisma, but he's got something else. He's the kind of guy that you just want to know, the kind of guy that you hope that your son will run into some day. Richard Dean Anderson is the same kind of guy. He's a good guy. I'm sure it's not what you expected to hear, and I just don't care. Richard Dean Anderson is the kind of guy you don't hear about anymore. He's the kind of guy that 20, 30, 40 years ago would be an adventurer, or the kind of guy that you would hope that your own kid would emulate. It's been my entire experience with him. He's not phony. He's got charisma, and that's what makes him a television personality. But he is the man he portrays. He's a man that does the things that we used to think a man was supposed to do. He's the kind of guy a man's supposed to be. I love this guy, I love Michael Greenburg. I'm damned happy to be a part of this show, and that it runs forever and ever, and that I get to be a part of it. My only fear is that they're going to kill off the General. I started with MacGyver, and I started out as the photo double for Dana Elcar who played Pete Thornton, Rick's boss on MacGyver, who is an actor whose shoes I could never fill. And now thanks to the largesse of Richard and Michael, I'm actually getting to play his boss on Stargate. It makes me a happy camper!
We'll be chatting with Christopher Judge in just a moment...
Online chat held at Yahoo Chat in conjunction with TVGEN and Prevue Online. September 8, 1998.