the truth be told, Colonel Cameron Mitchell took his place
at the head of SG-1 rather reluctantly last year. Having earned
his right to choose any position he wanted after his bravery
over Antarctica, he was eager to join the team, but not so eager
to lead it. After a season of high-octane adventures in the
show's radically re-vamped ninth year, Mitchell begins Stargate
SG-1's historic 10th year by leading the galaxy's defence
against the Ori. But though he's proven himself more than
capable of lining up with the heroes of SG-1 in a fight, how is
the character gelling with the team otherwise? Actor Ben Browder
took time out from filming Stargate SG-1's 200th episode
to discuss the character's evolution and finding his own comfort
level within the series.
has season 10 contrasted to season nine so far?
it's much easier for me in season 10 than it was in season nine
-because I don't get lost when I walk around the SGC any more
[laughs]. I don't end up in the broom cupboard! It's literally a
maze, and it takes a while to learn your way around the sets,
and of course, learning people's names and getting the feel for
how the show is done. That's not something that I'm struggling
with this year, so that's good. It's much more comfortable.
being comfortable in that sense informed how you are playing the
character this year?
I'm still taking my cues from the writers. It depends on what
they need from Mitchell, and in what way I am going to service
the story. Story is paramount, it's the beginning and the end,
and so from that standpoint, I'm not trying to impose stuff upon
Mitchell that is not inherent in the scripts. I imagine there
are things that I will do that the writers will go, "Oh, I
didn't picture him doing it that way," but that's a
terms of what you have seen in the scripts so far, how has he
evolved this year?
think he's obviously more comfortable in his skin in regards to
being part of the SGC. I think he has a clearer picture of what
his leadership role is within SG-1 and how to deal with that.
Because the character, as introduced, wasn't expecting to be put
into that position, and it's a delicate balance.
do you a lead a team like SG-1?
the [200th episode] press conference, someone made the comment,
"So what's it like working with these legendary sci fi
actors?" [Laughs] But you know, within the Stargate SG-1
world, the characters that Mitchell interacts with are legendary
-at least the three members of the team, and O'Neill when he
shows up. So how do you become the leader of a team filled with
legendary characters? It's a difficult balance as to how you do
that, as the new guy, because you can't trample allover them.
You can't use classic military techniques to lead a team like
that -you're in a situation where you're dealing with an elite
unit, and there is a more egalitarian approach about it. Which I
think is the correct way to go. I've always felt that, but I
think you're seeing it more clearly in season 10 than in season
the character relationships evolved as a result?
think the character relationships are more comfortable and
settled, and that in itself is a kind of change. When Mitchell
arrived, the team members that were there had to be wondering
what the hell he was going to do. Whether that's the actors
wondering what I'm going to do or not is an entirely separate
issue [laughs]! We've had an opportunity in season 10 to do more
Landry-Mitchell stuff, which I think is really interesting. I
think Beau [Bridges] gives a really fine performance in one of
the episodes this year. He's a wonderful actor anyway, but I
think his best performance to date is in season 10.
have to look at it in retrospect in a couple of years, because
when I watch something, it's very often influenced by my
experience of shooting it on the day. So it's very hard to have
an objective view of Mitchell as a character. Plus, anything I
say about him is an internal dialogue that I'm having with
myself that is not necessarily what is reflected on screen.
actor, do you know when thats going to happen -when your
internal dialogue about your character isn't going to match what
appears on screen?
at a certain point, at least from my standpoint, I like to be
surprised. Often, the surprise will come in the editing or in
the camera angle. You have an idea of what it's going to be, but
as an actor in this particular medium, you hear all the time
about stuff that hits the cutting room floor. It could be the
stuff that you thought was critical to your character
development, and it's gone and you've hinged on that. But the
truth is, it's like knowing someone in life. People are kind of
a black box. Even if you know someone for a long time, they'll
still surprise you. You'll go, "Wow -where did that come
from? I've known you for 10 years and I didn't know this about
you." So in as much as people are a black box, characters
are a ]black box, in a way, as well. I don't particularly like
seeing the internal working of an actor, and on good film and
television, an actor's work is invisible. It flows in and out
with the story and with the character. All characters, at least
in television and film, are products of a collaboration. The
words, the directing, the editing, the lighting, the music -all
of that goes into informing what the character is. You could
make a choice as an actor and think you're playing a dramatic
beat, and they put in comedic music behind you. And you suddenly
go, "Wow, I didn't know that was funny!" We often do
know, [but] there are times that we don't. So the process can be
surprising, and that's kind of fun.
has changed again this year, with the permanent addition of
Vala. What has that done for the stories you are telling?
think the benefit of Vala is that she has a connection with the
broader universe that none of the other characters do. So it
gives you avenues and entry points to other stories. Vala as a
character herself is just a hell of a lot of fun, for the
writers and for all of us on set as well. She can say what no
one else is either willing or capable of saying at any given
time [laughs]. In some ways she serves the McKay function in
Stargate: Atlantis, in that he becomes the outrageous voice of
the writers, because he has no social register. Whereas Vala has
one, [but] she's quite happy to push those buttons. I think
Claudia does a magnificent job with that character. As far as
the team itself goes, it just adds opportunities.
of Stargate: Atlantis, The Pegasus Project gave the Stargate
SG-l cast a chance to cross over to that galaxy for an episode.
What was that like?
[Hewlett] is a joy to work with. He always brings game, and he's
an actor that always has something ready but at the same time
reacts and listens to what's going on around him. So if you
throw him a curve ball, he's ready to take a swing at it. And
that's a great thing. I had a great time working with him, it
was a lot of fun. It's all boring -I have no trash to say about
often say you don't like to pre-empt the scripts, but is there
anything in particular you want to explore about Mitchell this
afraid to even mention what I might want to explore about
Mitchell because I might find it in a script somewhere -they
might read it and take me seriously [laughs]! Mitchell will be
going to some self-help groups, he's got to deal with some
control issues... I don't know. You just take it as it comes. I
like the continuing development of the interaction between the
existing characters, and when they add characters, like when I
had the opportunity to play with David. I think it's interesting
to see how the chemistry mixes when you throw McKay and Mitchell
together. So it's really a question of what the writers throw up
you happy with the way the character of Cameron Mitchell is
going this year?
have to look at it down the line and go, "Oh, I like that,
I don't like that..." It's really impossible to separate
out so early on. When I was playing Crichton [Farscape], I was
notorious for years for not commenting on anything. I could say,
"This is the thing the show is doing," but the
commentary on characters- I'm a notoriously bad interview from
that standpoint. I was working with a director on Farscape,
Andrew Prowse, lovely guy. We were in discussion about a scene
and he was asking me what my motivation was. And I said,
"I'm not going to tell you." He said, "Just tell
me." I said, "No, I'm not going to tell you." And
he said, "You have to tell me." And I said, "No,
I don 'I." And he said, "I'm the director! You have to
tell me what your motivation is!" And I said, "No, I
do not have to tell you." And he said, "You don't know
what your motivation is!" And I said, "I know what my
motivation is -acting 101, I have a motivation!"
He said, "Well then, why won't you tell me?"
And I said, "Because you'll be judging whether I'm
achieving my motivation, not whether you think it's interesting
or not, or not whether you think it works. I don't want you to
be judging my internal mechanism." And from that
standpoint, I tend to not talk about characters, because it
leads an audience to expect something, or be looking for
something that might not be there. And they'll be going,
"He didn't really achieve it." [Laughs.] Because quite
frankly, when actors talk about their internal dialogue, it so
often bears no resemblance to how it comes across or what the
very difficult, because I don't have ownership of this show, in
a way. I haven't been here but for a year. I always feel that
I'm talking out of school when I'm talking about the show,
because people have been watching it and loving it for eight
years before I showed up, and people have been loving and
nurturing it for eight years working on it again, before I
showed up. So having come late to the party I always feel
slightly ill at ease in discussing [it]. You arrive and do your
thing, but it isn't as though I in any way invented Stargate