of publishing: 5th April 2006
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
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.
the audio interview by clicking here (Zipped WAV file)
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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?
Yes, can you describe how you see
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.
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
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
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.
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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