Peter Williams recalls the death and resurrection of Apophis, and his inside track on Stargate SG-1 in a revealing interview with Dial the Gate
“The very first convention I ever did was in Sydney, Australia. They had Christopher Judge down to appear and they had the presence of mind to go ‘I know somebody even better’ – they sold me to Sydney and I had a ball.”Peter Williams
Peter Williams is still having a ball and why not? After all, he’s come a long way to get here, right back to less enlightened era of TV casting on the Canadian teen drama Neon Rider, where he auditioned for a Chicano (Mexican American) role, confessing that, “There were a couple of Latino guys there, but in those days Chicano just meant ‘any minority’.” Fascinated by his soft Jamaican lilt, they asked him to play it up and he got the role of Pin, one of the many troubled teens encouraged to conquer their demons with the help of horses and the outdoors.
That sense of not quite fitting in defined the early days of Peter Williams, pre-Apophis:
“African-Americans don’t consider me African-Americans, Jamaicans don’t consider me Jamaican enough, and I’m clearly not white.”Peter Williams
Stargate SG-1’s Dr. Janet Frasier – the delightful Teryl Rothery – kicks off the post-Pandemic Gatecon with an emotional rollercoaster.
Getting the Apophis Role
“It goes back to Neon Rider. Neon Rider opened up a lot of doors for a lot of people. It was the early days of the film industry boom in Vancouver. We broke a lot of ground and hired a lot of new people in this industry – one of whom was an apprentice story editor called Brad Wright.
“We got very close. I shared my things with him and he shared his things with me, and he told me about Stargate. I’d seen the film and I was like ‘Yeah, right’, but somehow he got the rights.
“I got called in to audition for Stargate. It was for a character with a real funny name. It had an apostrophe in it – it started with a T and ended with a C. I thought I did a good job, but they called me back for another character with a funny name. I had no idea what it was until the script arrived – what an entrance. There’s stuff happening and it’s for my benefit.
“Wardrobe calls were epic because they had to build that damn thing on me, but it came with a price…”Peter Williams
Williams had to cut off his beloved dreadlocks.
“You know if I got Teal’c, I’d be richer, but you never forget your first bad guy.”Peter Williams
The Death of Apophis in ‘Serpent Song’
“After makeup, the aged look looked almost exactly like my father did when he died, and I drew on that. I was close to my dad but in my later years I saw him very little – but to see him deteriorate physically as well as mentally, was horrible. He was so thin – a real slip of a thing.
“As soon as I saw that in the mirror, I was able to go there instantly.”Peter Williams
Williams reveals that the Ancient Egyptian spoken in the episode, derived from the Coptic language spoken by the Coptic Christian community in modern Egypt, was as accurate as… well, as accurate as it could possibly be for a dead language, and translated for the production by the University of British Columbia. The problem was that their leisurely/thorough academic pace didn’t lend itself well to the feverish rate of rewrites and when the final pages came in for Apophis’s bilingual heart-to-heart with Daniel Jackson:
“Shanks was talking the real thing, but I was speaking gibberish.”Peter Williams
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Filming ‘Serpent Song’
“Ever since ‘Children of the Gods’ where I was in it all the way through but lots of little bits, I wanted to be in it more – but it was a hit here and there, and then I would be there for the season closer. Season 2 comes along, lots of little hits, I grew to recognize that as soon as an episode with ‘Serpent’ in the title comes on – I’m in it
“So ‘Serpent Song’ comes in and I’m in it, I’m in it, I get to share screen time with Amanda Tapping – you don’t realize how rare that is. So no, I didn’t know I was going to come back, but I have this vague memory of Brad Wright going ‘Don’t worry’ but I had no idea I was coming back.Peter Williams
The Wit of Richard Dean Anderson
“There were the readthroughs, that’s where you saw people’s personalities. You really see the innate, nascent wit that guy has – it’s natural. The guys from the script department who were watching the readthrough would immediately cross out the dialogue from Richard Dean and insert the witticisms, which made them look good and gave the show its flavor.”Peter Williams
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James Hoare is editor of The Companion. He has been “working in publishing” since the early 1990s when he made his own Doctor Who fanzine to sell in the school playground.You can find him on Twitter @JDHoare