Cliff Simon Interview - Stargate Magazine #31Stargate Magazine, Nov 11th, 2009
An interview with Cliff Simon (Ba’al) featured in issue #31 of The Official Stargate SG-1/Atlantis/SGU Magazine.
Stargate Magazine: As someone who isn’t hell bent on galactic domination like Ba’al, how do you get into that villainous place?
Cliff Simon: I let the dialogue do the speaking for me, and I really try to play a lot of myself. For me, the best way to play a villain is smiling, because he comes across as a lot more dangerous. The dialogue gives me the words that are villainous, so I don’t really have to play it “bad”.
When you play a bad guy “bad” the whole time, he can get a bit boring, so when you play him with a smile, it actually makes him more conniving. That’s the way I play him. I loved it—the minute I put on the beautiful costumes that they made for me, Ba’al’s boots and all that kind of stuff, I just fell into the character—he really became a part of me. I think it was perfect—everything about it was just right. I could have carried on playing that character for another 10 years!
You played a villain for several years—what elements, in your experience, make for a really good villain?
First of all he has to be very cunning, highly intelligent, and he mustn’t be bad. I love watching forensic shows, and if you look at all the most notorious bad guys, the worst serial killers, they were all very charming people—they were predators.
They got people’s confidence by being nice and drawing them in. I think that’s the best bad guy to play, a guy who’s charming and who people think they can trust… then he turns and gets them from behind! That keeps a character interesting. You never know how he’s going to react in a certain situation; he might be very nice, or he might pull out a knife and stab somebody!
When a guy is bad the whole time, you know where you stand with him. With a real bad guy, you should never know where you stand. You should never know if he likes you or if he doesn’t like you, or if you can trust him or not. Those are the elements he has to have—there always has to be doubt.
Having played one yourself, you must have a favorite villain—who’s your all time ultimate bad guy, Stargate or otherwise?
Robert De Niro in Heat. That is my favorite kind of villain, because he was a villain, but he wasn’t really. He was a bad guy, but you felt sorry for him, you had some kind of compassion for him. That’s the kind of character that I would love to play. Characters like Ted Bundy—not that I think they’re great people at all, but characters like that are very dangerous.
In every movie or TV series that you see, it’s always the villain that’s remembered—the James Bond villains are what make the movies. There is a saying in this business: the good guy in a movie or TV show is only as good as the bad guy. So, the bad guy has got to be the extreme, he makes the good guy look really good. The good guy makes the bad guy look badder. They’ve got to complement each other in that way.
I think Ba’al and Jack as characters complemented each other. Jack would crack a joke and Ba’al would smile at it, so it worked well. It’s funny, actually. Richard and I have got the same-shaped face, and people in LA have mistaken us sometimes. Which is fine with me, I’m more than happy to be recognized as Richard! I wear a cap quite a lot, and one day Stargate had a big billboard up and Richard had a cap on, and I even had friends who drove past and were like, “Cliff you’re up on the board!” I see the billboard and I’m like, “Ah, it’s Richard of course!” I get compared to Jeremy Irons as well!
Read the full interview in issue 31 of The Official Stargate SG-1/Atlantis Magazine, on newsstands now!
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