“It Was Lightning in a Bottle” Christopher Judge Talks StargateMarch 27, 2015
Maybe one of the more fascinating things to see in the world of sci-fi on TV in the past twenty years or so was the unexpected runaway success of the series Stargate. It was so successful in fact that it went on for ten seasons and spawned two more spin offs and while not as successful, there could be no denying the fans loved this franchise. I was able to sit down with Christopher Judge (Teal’c) while he was at Toronto Comic Con and we discussed the shows success, its very rocky start and how he started out in the acting business.
I wanted to ask you right off the top, what your thoughts are on the fans at these conventions and what is it like meeting the fans of not just Stargate but of you yourself?
I love it! I love it and it still humbles me each and every time I do one of these shows. The love the people have for the show and my character, their generosity, their kindness, it’s really very humbling. Not only that, but they come up with some great questions or scenarios from the show that make me really think sometimes, you know? Also, out of the last twenty odd years I’d say 14 of those years I’ve spent in Canada; just over two years in Montreal and eleven years in Vancouver so I’ve spent a lot of time in this country and I have really enjoyed it, Toronto this weekend is no exception, great people and fans here.
So what was it that got you interested in acting?
It was kind of a roundabout way, actually. It was the early days of Fox and I was at the University of Oregon and Fox didn’t have a lot of programming when they first started as a network, so what they did was they had four regional contests; West, Northwest, East and Northeast to host kind of your own old MTV style show. You would actually play music videos, you’d interview some celebrities who were in town, and I actually won the Northwest one so just straight out of college I had my own three hour morning show and that was really the genesis of my career. I always knew I wanted to act but knowing what you want to do and knowing how to do it are two different things. That’s what really opened the door for me to get into it.
What was your first day like on the set of Stargate?
Wow. Our first day was… well we had a cast read through and the pilot was directed by a lovely man, Mario Azzopardi, who I believe is now the Commissioner of Film for Malta. We used to call him Mad Man Malta and a more passionate man has never walked the earth than Mario and that was really the springboard for the passion and the fun that was all through the entire run of the show, but our first day of filming was just horrible. We were shooting outside in Vancouver in February so we ended up having to reshoot the entire first week because it was so wet and rainy that the costumes looked terrible, the makeup looked terrible, the hair, all because of the rain. We were shooting in French hours and what that means is you pretty much shoot for eighteen to twenty hours a day and the crew rotates and gets a break about every eight hours or something like that but we didn’t, so it was trying but that’s what really forged this trust and bond we had for the entire run of the show. It was tough in the beginning but out of that came these great relationships that persevered throughout the entire run of the show.
I think that is a big part of the success of Stargate; while it’s a sci-fi show and a successful one at that, the human element and the relationships between the characters comes through very well. It’s something people really relate to and you can tell by the fan base. Were you pleasantly surprised at how people grabbed on to the show so passionately?
That’s the one thing you can really never foresee; what will capture the imagination of the fans and anything can look good on paper. We didn’t have the same pressures that a lot of shows have had. We knew that we were going to have 44 episodes so that we would have a chance to get it right. We didn’t need to have huge numbers right out of the gate even though we did… I think the pilot was the most watched show on cable. We had a higher viewership then the Tyson/Holyfield fight which at that time was the most watched thing on cable, so it was like lightning in a bottle and we just happened to catch it.
“…It was like lightning in a bottle and we just happened to catch it.” ~ Christopher Judge
How enjoyable was it for you as an actor to be able to take the character Teal’c and develop him over the ten seasons that Stargate was on the air?
Oh very, and to know that we had a certain number of episodes guaranteed, it really allowed us to have a natural evolution in the characters. We didn’t have to make these huge character jumps in an episode; we could really take our time and make it seem like a more natural evolution of the character and not just my character — all the characters. Once again that’s because we knew before the pilot we knew we had 44 episodes and a week after the pilot, we found out we had another 44 so we had four years now to really move the characters in a natural way towards what they would become and as an actor in a TV series, you really can’t ask for much more than that.