Back to 'Stargate SG-1' with Simone Bailly
One rainy Saturday morning in September, I stepped into a Vancouver airport hotel in search of Gatecon: The Invasion, a convention for fans of the ‘Stargate’ franchise and the actors and creatives who brought it to life. Between 1997 and 2011, ‘Stargate’ was a seemingly non-stop sci-fi juggernaut; ‘Stargate SG-1,’ ‘Stargate Atlantis’, and ‘Stargate Universe’ accounted for more than 300 episodes of broadcast television, every one of which was produced right here in the 604. ‘Stargate’’s legacy is reflected in its actors and crew – many of whom continue to work in the local film and television industry – as well as in the passion of its fans. A confluence of both was on full display in Gatecon’s raucous panels, autograph and photography sessions, and imaginative cosplay.
I’ve interviewed a long list of ‘Stargate’ stars over the years – including Amanda Tapping, Paul McGillion, Sharon Taylor, Mike Dopud, and Joseph Mallozzi in 2018 alone – and I leapt at the opportunity to engage in even more conversations at Gatecon, as part of my (to borrow from another iconic franchise) continuing mission to understand the magic and impact of the ‘Stargate’ ’verse on the Vancouver screen scene. This interview with actress Simone Bailly was conducted that weekend, and is part of a series of Gatecon articles that will appear on YVR Screen Scene in the coming weeks. -Ed.
How big of a sci-fi fan is Simone Bailly?
The answer to that question depends on where you rank Star Wars-themed weddings.
At YVR Screen Scene, we rank them pretty damn high.
“We had Darth Vader and four Stormtroopers from the 501st Legion at our wedding,” says the actress, who portrayed resistance fighter Ka'lel for three seasons of Stargate SG-1. “They escorted our ring-bearer.”
Bailly fell head over heels for the original Star Wars films as a kid growing up in the 1980s. She shares this passion with her husband – writer, director, and producer Stephen Scaia – who wrote with George Lucas on the unmade Star Wars live action television series.
In the parlance of fandom, Bailly and Scaia are total Star Wars stans, and the couple’s reputation as stans was reflected in the gifts they received at their wedding. “George Lucas gave Steve a real Han Solo blaster from Empire Strikes Back,” she marvels. “Even my husband’s mother bought us a really nice Star Wars duvet cover from Pottery Barn.”
So yes: Bailly is a sci-fi fan; she’s married to a sci-fi fan; they sleep under a Star Wars duvet. Thus, Bailly knows what it’s like to care about a franchise. She understands Stargate fans. And she appreciates that she’s part of something that so many people care about – something that draws them to conventions all over the world.
Bailly attended her first convention in London in 2014. “It was a pretty new and unique experience to be exposed to that world in such a wonderful way,” she says. “I heard many, many stories from people of how Stargate has impacted their lives, and even met fans where generations of their family have found a love for the show as well.”
What was it about Stargate that inspired an intense passion that still burns bright despite the fact that the most recent Stargate series – Stargate Universe – went off the air in 2011? For Bailly, the answer lies in the franchise’s DNA.
“Stargate is timeless, and that’s why we still, after all these years, gather at these conventions to express our love and passion for the show,” says Bailly. “I think Stargate did a really great job of embodying humour, exploration, and humanity. It had a lot of heart, and I think everyone felt like they were part of that family, and it also dealt with a lot of good versus evil, and how can we work together as a society.”
On Stargate SG-1, Bailly – whose lengthy filmography includes Battlestar Galactica, NCIS: Los Angeles, a series regular role on Da Vinci’s Inquest, and a fan favourite appearance in the Need for Speed: Most Wanted video game – played Ka’lel, a Jaffa warrior who joins the Hak'tyl Resistance.
Playing a female warrior was a highly emotional and profound experience, says Bailly.
“When [my character] was on the high council on Dakara, I’m pretty sure I was the only female representative, and I think that’s such a powerful position to be in,” says Bailly.
What made it even more powerful for Bailly was Ka’lel’s narrative arc. “When I started acting on the show initially, [Ka’lel] was pretty low in the ranks, and it just seemed to evolve into a much more empowered role, which was really special for me as an actress,” she says.
Bailly learned an important lesson during her Stargate SG-1 years: don’t assume.
“Don’t assume that, as an actress, your role is just one thing, that you’re only going to do one episode,” says Bailly. This was also the case with another of Bailly’s career-defining roles: that of Constable Jan Ferris on Da Vinci’s City Hall.
“I’ve done a few projects where you start and you think it’s a one-episode engagement, and then somehow, either they like you as an actor or a character or it works for the story or both, but you start to blossom into this whole journey with that character, and the show, and that’s what happened with me on Stargate,” she says.
In practice, “don’t assume” means trusting your gut and being authentic, according to Bailly – a POV that’s applicable to life outside of sci-fi.
“Don’t be afraid to be you, because people like you,” says Bailly firmly. “I came from a theatre background, and I performed with a Shakespeare company, I toured, I was in a band, and because I used to pride myself on being a character actor, when I stepped into film, my mother would give me a note, not that she necessarily knew about acting, but she said, ‘You’re always doing characters; why don’t you just be you, with your voice, and just you? That’s enough.’ And I think that’s a great lesson for acting and life. It’s also very freeing, and then I could just step into roles and start to find a more grounded version of that character.”
Top photo by Kyle Cassie