Don S. Davis as the one, the only General George Hammond in Stargate SG-1.
Once again, I have decided to open up the interview vault and revisit some of the many interviews I have had the pleasure of writing over the years and that just appeared in-print and not on-line. In today's interview, the extremely talented and versatile actor as well as a dear friend, the late Don S. Davis, talks with me on the Vancouver, British Columbia set of Stargate SG-1 about playing General George Hammond. Enjoy, and keep coming back for more familiar faces and shows!
It’s not easy being the person in charge. Take, for example, our world leaders. They usually end up looking (and feeling) a lot older when they leave office then they did when they first began their term. One person that the role of command does appear to agree with is actor Don S. Davis. His character of General George Hammond on Stargate SG-1 looks just as fighting fit today as he did nearly six years ago when he was put in charge of the Stargate program. Despite being the one who has to make the tough decisions, the general relishes his position with the SGC and would be hard-pressed to retire. According to Davis, he, too, is reticent to give up command and wouldn’t mind walking in Hammond’s shoes for a few more years.
“I hate the thought that it’s the final year,” says the actor. “As I’ve said before I really love this show and think it could go on forever. However, if it’s time to stop then so be it. This season, Hammond carries on much the same as before. I continue to like him not only as a character, but also a person. I appreciate the fact that he doesn’t compromise and that the general’s closeness to the SG-1 team is evident and uppermost at all times. We’ve been able to show that this is a man who, at times, has to send his people to places from where he knows they might not return. In fact, chances are great that they won’t return, either individually or as a group. He also sometimes has to decide when no rescue attempt will be made – it’s happened already in a couple of episodes this year – but he always does so reluctantly and with regret. So I like that he’s been able to keep his integrity without losing his humanity.
“This year has been a fairly calm one so far for the general. Of course, there have been these terrible dangers to the Earth but SG-1 has managed to save the day,” smiles Davis. “We’ve had some amazing guest-stars on the show this season, including Dean Stockwell who was here working on the story we just finished shooting [Shadow Play]. So that’s always pleasant. I think it’s great that the people at the Sci-Fi Channel and MGM are committed to maintaining the quality of the series by bringing in the best people they can to help us tell our stories. Naturally, we’re all waiting to see the script for the Stargate feature film and find out what it’s going to be like.
“Beyond that, I’m just continuing to have fun with my friends, who are also my co-workers. Yesterday I was at Chris Judge’s house for a barbecue. Amanda Tapping and Teryl Rothery were there as well as Carmen Argenziano. I have family here visiting me so I took them along and they got to meet everyone. I’m sure most people have heard by now that Amanda won a Leo Award for best actress. She is just an angel as well as a beautiful girl on the inside and outside. It’s nice when good things happen to good people, you know? When this series ends she’s really going to go on to have one hell of a career. So it’s been a very positive time for us all.”
At the end of the very first Stargate SG-1 episode Children of the Gods, historian and archeologist Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) returned from the planet Abydos to resume his work with SG-1. Although General Hammond admired the young man’s enthusiasm, he often had a hard time understanding his unorthodox and non-military approach to a problem. However, the general soon realized how important a “civilian’s” viewpoint was to SG-1’s mission and grew to respect as well as care about Daniel. Five years later, he watched his friend and colleague die and ascend to a higher plane of existence in the fifth season episode Meridian.
“When Michael Shanks told me he was going to leave the show I broke down and cried. Several of us did,” recalls Davis. “He’s a person you really enjoy being around and respect tremendously. So when we shot that episode it was very difficult because we all knew that that was it. If Michael did come back it would be occasionally and in Daniel’s new ‘ethereal’ form. Michael made a hard decision to leave the show. It’s the kind of life changing decision that once you’ve made it it’s one you have to live with. However, this is something he needed to do because he felt he’d gone as far as he could on the show.
“I think it’s sad about all the muck-racking and vitriol on the Internet about what’s happened because, again, it was Michael’s choice. He’s going to have – as I said before about Amanda – a super career and deservedly so.”
Stargate SG-1’s sixth season opener Redemption introduces SG-1’s newest recruit Jonas Quinn (Corin Nemec). As most viewers know, a series of events on Jonas’s own world caused him to seek asylum on Earth at the end of Meridian. With Daniel Jackson gone, General Hammond is looking for someone to fill his spot on the SG-1 team. Jonas ultimately proves himself worthy of being given a chance to do just that. However, as Davis points out, it is going to take a while before the young man is fully accepted as part of the team.
“There’s a stigma attached to Jonas,” explains the actor. “It was his planet, specifically his country, that was responsible for Daniel’s ascension. Also, Jonas was the liaison to the group that in effect not only got Daniel killed but tried to frame him, too. In life, if someone’s brother kills your child, best friend or other loved one you may do the Judeo-Christian thing and say you forgive them. However, you will never forget. I don’t think Hammond blames Jonas for what happened to Daniel but the situation does make it difficult for him to totally take the young man under his wing and embrace him like family as he has the rest of SG-1. That’s going to take time. I mean, look at Teal’c. Initially, Hammond didn’t accept Teal’c but when he saw him time after time willing to lay down his life on behalf of SG-1’s mission he came to trust, respect and love him like a son. The same thing will probably happen with Jonas but you can’t expect to see it happen overnight if this show is to remain in any way a true mirror of life.
“In any TV show, when you’ve had a character who was as essential to the story as Daniel Jackson was, for another actor to come in and fill that void is a very tricky thing,” adds Davis. “Corin is a wonderful young man with a tremendous personality and he’s had a great deal of experience working in the business. He’s well-liked by everyone and is doing a fine job. In the nine or ten episodes we’ve done so far, his character of Jonas has been slowly integrated into the story. It won’t be long before he’s a seamless part of the mix. That said, I don’t think you will ever not have the presence of Daniel in Stargate. He’s already been back for one episode [Abyss] and I’m quite sure he’ll be brought back again. I’ve no idea what the feature script is about or who’s in it but I’d certainly expect the character to be in evidence there, too.”
Although his character rarely gets a chance to go through the Stargate, Davis himself has found time over the past year to do some travelling and visit with Stargate fans at conventions both in Canada as well as overseas. “That’s been great for me,” enthuses the actor. “For some strange reason people picture me as this stable individual, but once I get up on stage they realize what a raving maniac I can be,” he laughs. “Seriously, it’s a lot of fun. I get to flirt with all the women – I do a lot of hugs and kisses – and the guys are kind enough to buy me drinks. What more could I ask for. Well, maybe one episode where General Hammond becomes a love slave. I’ve never understood why the writers won’t do it. I think the fans would get a kick out of it,” smiles Davis. “I know I would.”
Away from the SGC, the actor keeps busy pursuing his passion for art, which includes sculpting, woodcarving and painting. He also recently made a guest appearance on the Chris Isaak Show. “Music is a very important part of my life and Chris and his band are not only talented but also nice people, so I had a terrific time.”
Looking ahead, what are Davis’s plans after Stargate SG-1 finishes its run? “I know when this show ends I’ll be over 60 years old, and that in itself will make me less employable than I was five or six years ago when the series began,” he says. “Nowadays, when you audition you have to fill out a form that asks your age. When people see 60 most tend to think, ‘The only role we can consider him for is that of a grandfather.’ Hell, what they don’t realize is that inside I’m only 19! That’s another one of those facts of life I was talking about earlier,” he chuckles. “So we’ll see what happens.”