David DeLuise on fandom, sci-fi, and Pete Shanahan
This is the third and final article in our series of stories based on interviews conducted at Gatecon: The Invasion, an annual gathering of ‘Stargate’ fans, stars, and behind-the-scenes creatives that took place in a Vancouver airport hotel in September 2018. For our conversation with Simone Bailly, click here; for our conversation with Martin Wood, click here.
When David DeLuise was a teenager, he was a hardcore Deadhead. He saw the Grateful Dead a whopping 50 times in concert.
We’re sitting in a small hotel conference room next to the packed ballroom where, moments before, DeLuise had answered questions about his experience playing Pete Shanahan on Stargate SG-1 back in the mid 2000s.
DeLuise whips out his phone and pulls up a photo from his Deadhead days: 16 years old; long blonde hair flowing; eyes sparkling with unadulterated Deadhead joy.
He recognizes something of his own experience in that of Stargate fans – how they fell head over heels for the family of characters on the show and then built a fan family IRL.
“I think what’s happened is the fans have made their own family, so it’s not so much about seeing us; it’s about seeing each other,” says DeLuise. “Every time they come to a convention, they’re seeing their friends. I think you have a lot of very unique people who are individuals and sometimes when you’re an individual, it’s very hard to be in society, because they’re expected to conform, and I think a lot of people here have a common interest in a show, and yes, it’s a great show, yes, it’s a lot of fun, but I think they’re interacting with each other – like when I was a kid, I’d follow the Grateful Dead. They were great concerts, but I didn’t go to 50 concerts just because of the music.”
DeLuise’s first experience with science fiction occurred when he was a kid and his big brother Peter (a veteran actor and director in his own right who directed 56 episodes of Stargate SG-1) introduced him to OG Star Trek. Says DeLuise: “Peter is five years older than me, so I’m watching what he’s forcing me to watch, and I just got hooked.”
DeLuise remembers watching blooper reels that his father – comedy icon Dom DeLuise – brought home thanks to connections at Desilu Productions, which produced the original series.
“We got to see all the blooper reels where Leonard Nimoy is saying – remember, it’s the 60s – ‘Hey, baby, don’t worry, I screwed up this one, too,’” he recalls. “You can see how many times the people ran into the doors, because the guys are just pulling the doors, and people would just run into them.”
Watching those early episodes of Star Trek (and the reels) made DeLuise love sci-fi all the more.
“It’s a whole other world,” he says. “You get to escape. We had a VCR – the kids don’t know what VCRs are today – and we burned through the Star Wars VHS tapes 1000 per cent. And then I got into Next Generation. I actually did a movie with Wil Wheaton, and I also did a movie with Patrick Stewart – I did a one-line thing in Robin Hood: Men in Tights. I’m a fan of this idea that we can go anywhere and do anything.”
On Stargate SG-1, DeLuise’s character, Pete Shanahan, “was not so much in the science fiction world.” Pete appeared for four episodes as Sam Carter’s love interest – and it’s somewhat fitting that his big brother Peter, who’d introduced him to sci-fi all those years ago, welcomed him to the set, albeit with some gentle sibling ribbing.
“I came to the area to start the show, and Peter said, ‘You know, you have to act like a grown-up,’ and I go, ‘Yeah, I know,’ and he said, ‘But really, you have to act like a grown-up,’ and I said, ‘I get it, Peter! I have two kids, a mortgage.’” He chuckles. “In his eyes, I wasn’t a grown-up.”
DeLuise – who co-starred on, and directed seven episodes of, Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place – has fond memories of working with Amanda Tapping (“She’s just amazing. I’m a big fan of hers. She’s so lovely and talented”) and of his character, Pete Shanahan. “I got to be a grown-up,” he says. “I got to have a romantic thing rather than just being a dad going, ‘What are you crazy kids doing?’”