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Stargate SG-1 Guest Cast Interviews: John Novak

Master and Commander
Carol Gordon, November 2004

Stargate SG-1 fans will recognise tall, suave John Novak as Commander Ronson of the Prometheus, but he will also be familiar to fans of 'MacGyver', '21 Jump Street', 'Highlander', 'The Outer Limits' and 'Sliders', as well as to theatre-goers at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada. During a recent visit to London for the Wolf 10th Anniversary event, he discusses his long, varied career with Carole Gordon.

Like most actors, he has to deal with the frustration of seeing some of what he considers his best work ending on the cutting room floor. When shooting 'Fight for Justice: The Nancy Conn Story', John had a highly emotional scene with Marilu Henner, whose character had been abducted and left for dead. Unable to deal with the physical and emotional damage done to her, Nancy's boyfriend, played by John, has to tell her that he is planning to leave town. The scene was shot a number of times in different interpretations.

"Unfortunately, in the arc of the story, it wasn't supposed to be a particularly important scene. It's a step onto the climactic point which has to do with the apprehension of the criminal. So when they actually cut the thing together, they took the least, the most passive scene of the bunch so that it wouldn't interfere with the arc of the story."

Although he accepts that there are valid reasons for using a particular take, it still hurts, he says.

"We had this amazing scene and they decided to go with the least affecting one of them all."

He also argues that producers and directors are often concerned that the star of their production should not be outshone.

"There's a concept, there's a show and it's built around the figurehead and the figurehead is the star of the thing. If they challenge his strength and focus by bringing in people who might overshadow him - it just doesn't work. You don't want guys who are taller than the hero, or necessarily, too affable."

On the other hand, he says with a laugh, you can have great villains.

"The better the villain, the more contrasting a backdrop it becomes for the hero. A hero looks really heroic if you've got a really, really really bad guy. So in many respects, in order to serve the drama, the responsibility of being the villain is a big one. You have to make them convincing."

In his most recent work though, John played the "good guy", starring alongside Daniel Baldwin in the movie, 'Irish Eyes'. The story revolves around two brothers who lose their father to the Irish mob at a young age.

"It's about family," he says. "One [brother] goes after them with guns and I go after them with the law. So the guy who goes after them with guns becomes an outlaw himself, but he's my brother."

He is especially pleased with a poignant scene at the end of the movie which, he says, "just floors the audience". But the scene nearly wasn't shot.

"The young guy who wrote, directed and produced the movie [Daniel McCarthy] came to me and said 'There's this pretty long eulogy at the end and I don't know if it will work or not. We've shot so much time of the movie already. What do you think if we cut it?' I said, 'If you feel like it's necessary to cut it, then that's what you do. But you can't cut what you haven't shot. And I think you did some good writing, so let's give it a shot and we'll see.' We shot the thing and it became the end of the movie, it was so potent."

John isn't entirely happy with the opening of the movie, which he feels is a little weak.

"It's set circa 1950s, so they went for a photographic style that suggests a home movie quality. We know that audiences are somewhat fickle and if you can't grab them quickly at the top, they can wander."

What's next? Well, he would be delighted to appear on Stargate SG-1 again, though he agrees that the Prometheus is not exactly the best-looking ship in space.

"It's a bit like a brick with wings," he says with a grin. "It's reliable though - it's the Volvo of space!"

Nevertheless, he thoroughly enjoyed working on Stargate SG-1.

"To be sitting at a commander's console, looking out into space, you go, oh my god, I've arrived! I've joined the world of Bill Shatner and Jean-Luc Picard!"

With grateful thanks to John Novak for his time, and to Katherine and Karen of Wolf Events for arranging the interview.

A list of all of John Novak's appearances in Stargate SG-1 can be found at: John Novak

Filmography: A detailed filmography for John Novak can be found at: IMDB

Wolf Events organise conventions and events around the UK and in other European countries. Full details of their current programme of events can be found at: Wolf Events

© Carole Gordon, 5 September 2004

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