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Gilles Nuytens

Bill Dow interview (2)

Date of publishing: 5th April 2006

Bill Dow interview - Dr. Lee Stargate SG-1 Bill Dow is an award winning actor and director (and occasional writer) in theatre, film, and television, with scores of credits over a long and varied career. Currently appearing in two hit television series, Bill Dow is a versatile and sought after performer. As Dr. Lee on STARGATE SG-1 he is the passionate, though sometimes slightly befuddled man of science who does his best to assist the warriors of Stargate Command; while on Da Vinci's Inquest, the award winning Canadian Drama, he plays Russ Hathaway, the mayor of Vancouver.



Don't forget to visit his official website that I build for him: www.billdow.net
This interview was conducted by UgzY during Chevron 1 Convention in Paris in December 2005.

You can also listen and download this interview.
Download the audio interview by clicking here (Zipped WAV file)
Disclaimer: Please, do not direct link to this file, link to the page ONLY.


TSW: How did you get your start as an actor? What led you to take your life in that direction?
Bill Dow: Well, I was going to university, and took a couple of years of university, and I was without direction…I didn't really know what I was going to do and I took a year off and traveled around Europe which was the last time I was in Paris actually, so that let's you know how long ago that was. When I came back I took a drama class just because I thought it would be an easy elective that would fit in with the rest of my program and I fell in love with the theatre and the people that were there and just the ability and the potential for communication and so as time went on, I spent more and more time in the theatre and in the drama department then conducting the rest of my studies until by the time I was supposed to finish university. I was fit for nothing else really. So I stopped going to school and carried on in the theatre and even at that point I hadn’t really committed being an actor, I just ... I found I wasn't much good for anything else. I wasn't technically inclined so I could run a saw or hammer or nail straight or any of that kind of thing. I wasn’t organized enough to be stage manager. So acting was about the only thing I could do. And fortunately for me, people saw some merit in hiring me and gave me jobs and I worked kind across the country, across Canada as an actor for a few years and then by that time I decided that this is in fact what I do and I will be an actor. And since then I've gone into directing, I've done a lot of directing in theatre, I've directed a short film which gained a certain amount of notoriety and then a few different things like that. Surprisingly enough and much to the delight of my parents I’m now back in university and doing a masters degree in humanities and cultural studies.

TSW: Can you speak about yourself, what do you like to do in your free time, what are your favorite things in the world?
Bill Dow: I love to be physically active, I run and I swim, I ride my bike, I do those kind of things. I also really enjoy watching sports- football mostly, I love watching football The English Premiere league is the one we get on television so I'm a Tottenham Hotspur fan and try to follow the Spurs and I like to spend time with my twin boys. Stewart whom you've met and Malcolm and we hang out together and just do all sorts of things. I love going swimming in the ocean, in Vancouver it's pretty cold but for three or four months during the summer I can swim in the ocean and I love that, that's one of my favorite things.

TSW: How do you see the evolution of Dr. Lee during the seasons? From season 8 his humorous side shows up; was it a personal choice or a request from the production team?
Bill Dow: I think it was like a mutual consent because, where we began with the character, there was a lot of pressure in all the situations in Stargate. The team is always under a lot of pressure and so there was a relief that seemed to be available trough my character because the other characters are more stern and have greater responsibility and feel the weight of their responsibility perhaps more. I'm a very human character I think. If I'm afraid I let it out and if things are troubling me and I let my worries show and I think trough that the humor comes. I think it's a real point of human connection and I think it's something that certainly the writers and producers picked up on. A number of them have come up to me and tell me how much they like writing for my character now, as it is developed over the years. I'm really impressed with the way they're able to pick up on qualities or impulses that you offer and give you opportunity to flesh those out so it's kind of a mutual working out until we’re at this place where it's great. So I’m very happy with that.

TSW: Which scene was the most difficult to play and the most enjoyable one?
Bill Dow: Well, there’s one that I don’t think you’ve seen yet. Where Amanda (Sam) becomes ... there’s a bunch of different worlds of her. A whole bunch of different versions of her.

TSW: Ripple effect?
Bill Dow: Yeah. That was tricky, just from a technical aspect because with each of those different characters we had to relate to them but they weren’t always there as the green screen so from a technical aspect, I found that very demanding and also I found it very limiting. It kind of hampers your freedom because a lot of where I can find the fun in the character, it's just trough the interaction with the other characters and so there needs to be a certain amount of freedom to do that. Yet if you are tied into a very tight time lock situation because things have to match up with people that aren’t there, it seems to take some of the life out of it. So I found that hard. In another way, one that I had a great time with. But it was difficult in another way, was Evolution, the whole physical demand, getting washed away with the water and going down the hole and jumping, you know just the whole thing in the ... one of the actors that was up from Los Angeles, was kind of going “I can't believe your doing all that stuff without a stunt man- what are you doing, what are you doing?" What's wrong with your contract?” And I went, “I love it, I’m having fun here, this is fun for me. It was fun but it was demanding.

TSW: How do you see the future of Doctor Lee? Can you describe how you see this character?
Bill Dow: Well, I keep joking with everybody on the set. I mean I want to get off world. The very first time that my character appeared, I was off world, and it was the one with the firefly, A Hundred Days, is that what it was called? The one with the little sparky guys around- I can't remember exactly what the name of the episode was but that was the first time I was introduced. That was a long time ago, probably season 5 or 6 (Note: actually it was season 4, "Prodigy") or something and then I didn't come back for a couple of seasons. And then more recently of course, I’m becoming more prominent in the show and so every time the SG-1 team comes into my lab and they get something that I created or something, and they’re heading off to save the world, at the end of every scene, I always go “Can I come" and they always say "NO!". So, (laughs) I'm hoping that one of these days, they will say "Oh all right come on", so that's what I want to happen. Can you repeat the second part of the question?

TSW: Yes, can you describe how you see this character?
Bill Dow: I think Dr. Lee has a hidden side where he actually considers himself to be like a super spy, or some kind of super hero. He wants to be a hero, he wants to be like an action hero, but his skills are not in that realm. I mean the skills are in the intellectual and scientific but he really thirsts to get into action. I don't think he is equipped for that at all but I think he has a great admiration for all the people that do that, and thinks "I wanna be like that, I wanna be like that!", so that's part of where I find the fun of it. Just the kind of worship I have of them and what they do. But I also think he is a very passionate man of science, and sometimes can loose sense of the real world to be engaged in the creation of some experiment or some device or to figure out some device- I think he is very single minded when he comes to doing what's he doing to the extent of not really being able to tell what's going on with the rest of the people. So, I think there are those two qualities but I think there is a great passion at the center of him.

TSW: Was it different to play with Richard Dean Anderson in MacGyver and in Stargate?
Bill Dow: It was you know. When I did MacGyver, it was at a time when Richard was kind of disgruntled with his life in general, he wasn't the happiest guy and he wasn't very warm personally I found, but there are probably people who had a different experience with him, but when I came back and started working with him again on Stargate we had a great rapport. I think both of our lives had gone a certain distance at that time. He had kids, and I had kids. We’d crossed a few milestones in our lives, and had some things in common too. We just had a great time, and I loved every minute of it, and I know he really liked the scenes we had together. I gave him a little bit of license, and he certainly gave me a license. He created space for me with the directors and producers, and I really appreciated that he did that, it was great.

TSW: Did he already have the same sense of humor when he was on MacGyver?
Bill Dow: In MacGyver… I think he did, but it wasn’t as easy to access. I think it wasn’t the top layer that you saw of him. I think he was more private in his life and a little more guarded about all sorts of things. I think the humor was there, because it’s an essential quality of his. I think it showed up on the show, that warmth and the humor, but I didn’t find it as much just in personal relations with him. And I think as time goes on, he just opened himself up. It was a great act of generosity for somebody in his position. Because there are a lot of demands put on you all the time when you are the star of a show. To make yourself that open and that available is a hard thing to do, and I really admired him for doing it.

TSW: What was the funniest thing you had to do or that happened when you were on the set of Stargate?
Bill Dow: There’s been so many. One of them was very recent. We were doing…. It might even be the last or second last episode of this season. Gary Jones and I were in the control room, there was some scene and we were watching people going in and out on a monitor, he was showing me the monitor. After the scene was finished, Peter DeLuise was directing that episode, he said to Gary, now do it as Captain Kirk. So Gary started doing it, and he and I went off on this long vamping improv of me and him doing this Captain Kirk thing. It was hilarious. There’s a tape of that floating around somewhere. That was a lot of fun. But you know what, I have fun almost all the time. Sometimes just the physical difference, for instance between me and Teal’c, just standing next to him is hilarious. We have fun all the time. There’s all sorts of just interplay and fun. It’s a great group of people to work with, so there’s always the opportunity for fun. Because the show is so good, and is so well organized and well received, there’s room for fun. No body is panicking and putting the hammer down all the time. That’s one of the things that makes it great too. There’s all sorts of things, and I’ll try to think up a few more as we go.

TSW: This season was the season where we saw you the most. What do you keep in mind from this year?
Bill Dow: Well, I loved doing Zero Hour. That was fun. That was an episode where Richard and I had a lot to do together. I had that crazy suit, the hazard suit. You can’t hear a thing inside there. You put that helmet on and there’s a fan going, and there’s lights in there. You have no idea what anybody else is saying. So you are kind of just guessing when you are supposed to say your lines in these scene. And walking around in those suits is very funny. With the visors too, with the goggles we had on, Richard and I had a hilarious time with those pretending we couldn’t see each other, and losing each other in the room. So that was a lot of fun. Also Avatar, that was good, we were locked in the room there with everybody for most of the episode. I just had a great time. Almost every episode has it’s own special function. Those two episodes I did at the same time I was acting in a play downtown in Vancouver, so my days were very long and I was very tired. But it was partially just the exuberance of the team, and my fellow actors and producers, everybody, that gave me the energy to keep me doing it. I just have completely fond memories of it all, I love it.

TSW: Are there already plans for Dr. Lee in season 10?
Bill Dow: I think there are but I’m not privy to them. They haven’t told me what’s going to happen. They keep telling me how much they like writing for me, so I know that I’ll turn up, but I’m not sure exactly how or where, or what’s going to happen with it.

TSW: Which Shakespearean character would you like to do? And why?
Bill Dow: Interesting question. I’ve done a little bit of Shakespeare. I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s a real test for an actor. It’s something to throw yourself up against and see if you’re up to the challenge. As you do it you just learn more and more. Shakespeare really invented the English language in the same way Moliere did with the French. There are so many phrases that become commonplace in the language, and you see them in Shakespeare, and you realize that he did them first, and that’s where they come from. That’s why I like to do it. I’m actually directing a production of Midsummer Nights Dream, there’s a new theater company opening in Whistler, and I’m directing their inaugural production. So I’m happy about that. That’s a character I’d like to play- Bottom in Midsummer Nights Dream. When I get old enough, I’d love to play King Lear. It’s a great part, and I think it’s a great test for an older actor. I had an opportunity to play Macbeth, but when that came around, I actually played Macduff. I wanted to play Macduff instead of Macbeth, but perhaps now, I’d like to play Macbeth. There are great parts. Iago, that’s a great part. It’s almost like any part has it’s own challenge that comes with it. I think King Lear is probably the one I’m looking forward to.

TSW: What draws you to a role in general?
Bill Dow: Usually, when you read the part, it’s the opportunity to find the human connection in a part. I recently did a production of the diary of Anne Frank, and I played Mr. Van Daan who was the father of the other boy. He’s often seen as the bad guy, he steals the bread out of the mouths of the kids, and he’s selfish and has issues. What I find is that it’s really a way to humanize the part and to let people see the whole spectrum of the dilemma. Instead of it just being the bad guy, it’s the trying to let the audience see the bad pares inside of them, that would be coming to light in that situation. So I look for those moments, I look for those very human moments, whether it’s fear or love or inspiration. That’s one of the reasons I love playing Dr. Lee. Because I get to do all those things. Whereas some of them, the more main characters, the more central characters, don’t have quite that much range, it’s hard for them to be afraid in a certain situation, it’s hard for them to show love, or get inspired by something. I find that with Dr. Lee, I get to do those, and I really like that. So it’s looking for that opportunity to allow the full range of the human spectrum to come out.

TSW: You are a friend of Gary Jones, what can you say about him?
Bill Dow: He’s sitting right over there. Gary is a nut. I love playing with Gary. We have so much fun together because our energy sparks each other. He is a very funny character, very verbal. I find that I can offer little points of inspiration. So we’re a great team that way. He loves to take something as far as it can go, and I have a great sense of when it’s time for something new, and I can just feed him a new line, so we have a great time that way. Gary’s a great person too. He’s just a very warm individual.. He’s a great father too. I know his kids. Our kids go to the same school, so we know each other through that too. And he’s just a really lovely guy.

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Interview by UgzY, questions by Gilles Nuytens, transcript by Gilles Nuytens & NetRanger for The Scifi World / Stargate Ultimate / BillDow.net


 



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