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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Ben Browder

Taking a Browder
Paul Spragg, Cult Times Special #35, September 2005

Cover of Cult Times Special #35With Richard Dean Anderson gone, who better to take charge of SG-1 than fan favourite Farscape star Ben Browder? The last time I spoke to Ben Browder, we ended up chatting about phones, spam e-mail and, to a lesser extent, his involvement in Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. Now he's enrolled in Stargate SG-1 and up in Vancouver, joining the show in its ninth year as Lt Colonel Cameron Mitchell, the new leader of team SG-1. But first: bears. "There is a bear situation here. Every time we go out in the field we ask for live ammo so we can deal with the bears. Apparently they did have a bear situation a few years ago, but you'd have to ask Chris Judge about that. Chris and his love of bears. Most of them just wanna date him."

Ahem. So… Stargate SG-1. "Apparently someone screwed up somewhere and they hired me. Go figure, man," deadpans Browder. "I was surprised that they chose me. Look, I'm always surprised when somebody chooses me. It's like the eternal game of pick-up basketball, it's a shock when you get chosen."

Browder met, over time, several of the show's producers, who believed he was exactly what SG-1 needed. "I said, 'Well, I'll look at the show and see a few eps' and we all came to an agreement that I'll watch the entire series and I'm here."

Hold on: he watched the entire series? "Yes." In how long? "Two-and-a-half weeks." He's joking. "No." And he's still sane? "I'm sane but I'm potentially braindamaged. That amount of any kind of television is potentially damaging. The family were certainly fed up with me at a certain point. I said, 'The TV is mine for two-and-a-half weeks; go outside and play'. What a prime example of parenthood that is, huh? You spend your life trying to get your kids not to watch TV and then you spend two and a half weeks basically becoming a fungus on the couch. They'd come by occasionally and throw another bag of chips in me and a couple of sodas.

"I just felt it was necessary when you're coming into a show that's been going such a long time, to at least have a working hint of what it is they've done, so that when there's a conversation going on, which there inevitably is, about, 'Okay, this is blah blah blah blah blah,' you go, 'Oh yeah, I saw that one'. You're able to be conversant in the story as you tell it to each other off-camera and then on-camera. I actually think the staff probably thought I was nuts when they heard I was watching all the episodes. I did hear back at one point some people were a bit worried: 'He's doing what? That's… excessive.'"

Browder has mentioned in the past that he looks quite similar to one of his co-stars, Michael Shanks. The arrival of a beard on Shanks at the start of the season looks like a ploy to differentiate the pair. Browder laughs, insisting, "That hasn't happened, getting me confused with Michael since…" he pauses, then realizes, "about three hours ago. The first AD said, 'Get a close up on Amanda and on Michael,' and he was pointing at me. Oh, man. It happened a couple of times early on, it hasn't happened in a while, but it did happen three hours ago. We move differently, we sound different; actually we don't look that much alike on camera together, I don't think. I can still tell which one's me. Usually."

[Regarding Claudia Black] Was it difficult to alter their on-screen relationship and make it platonic? "No, it was easy because Claudia has created such a vastly different character with Vala, as have the writers. It's a completely different character. You just come in and react to what she does and then you're golden. It would have been impossible to confuse Vala with Aeryn." I wonder if he ever got confused and thought he should be kissing her. "I'm not gonna answer that question," Browder smiles. "I don't do the kiss and tell thing, man." That's disappointing. I was going to ask what the rest of the cast's lip-locking was like. "Chris is a reasonably good kisser," Browder replies immediately, barely managing to avoid laughing. "Beau [Bridges] is okay. Michael, there's no kissing going on; that's too narcissistic."

Outside the show, there's the demand from fans. So far the actor hasn't signed on to do any conventions, and he's unlikely to, as he'd rather spend some quality time with his family after being away from them for so long. "You don't get a second go round in life, so you make choices you think are best. I have two jobs, and one of them just happens to be more important than the other, and the one that's more important is the one at home."

He stops, and apologizes for the fact that we've not discussed phones this time, explaining that he has a simple approach to being interviewed. "As long as I talk enough and I say enough words and use the odd big word like concatenate and verbosity, you just take them and put them where they sound right."

I admit I have no idea what 'concatenate' means and he laughs. "I used that on set the other day at Judge and he went, 'What the hell???' 'You know, man, because the thing is, these scenes concatenate together in a really accelerated way'. And he went, 'What are you going on about?' I think that it's a good idea occasionally to rip off a big word. I recently read Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson. I can recommend it. Really fricking cool. Interesting for people who are into that kind of stuff.

[Some more non-sequitors follow, and squirrels are discussed.] It seems, as ever, we've strayed somewhat off the point again. "Well, you wouldn't want me to be too on point, otherwise it wouldn't be an interview with me, would it? The fans would say, 'That was just weird; he was actually talking about the show.' I have a trademark, I'm sticking with it. An interview with Ben Browder: it's not about anything."

© Visimag. All rights reserved. Buy the magazine and read the entire interview as well as many other Stargate features at Visimag.

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