Gary Jones Interview by M R Reed

Sel would like to thank Marla R. Reed for permission to post ~ THE YEAR OF WALTER ~ AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH GARY JONES.

Yeah, Gary's not Don, Tony or Carmen, but Sel likes him anyway, ok?

The TV series, Stargate: SG-1, which was based on the 1994 movie STARGATE, began back in 1997 on the premium network station ‘Showtime' where it ran for five seasons and then made a successful transition to The Sci-Fi Channe. Itl is now heading into its ninth season where it faces some major casting changes. This season marks the first time the show will go on without venerable star, Richard Dean Anderson who has played the character of Jack O’Neill since the character was carried over from the movie STARGATE along with Dr. Daniel Jackson who is played in the series by award winning actor Michael Shanks.

These casting changes and other things were the topic of discussion when I recently had the opportunity to catch up with the very busy Gary Jones, who has played Sgt. Walter Harriman, that guru of the gate also know as ‘Gate Technician’ for all eight season of the highly successful scifi series, and is continuing that role on into the upcoming ninth season.

One of the first things discussed was how the changes in the upcoming season have affected his character and how Stargate:SG-1 Executive Producer Joe Mallozzi has described it as ‘all about Walter’.

“Oh right the year of the Walter.” Gary Jones responds playfully at being told about Mallozzi’s comment on his character’s place in season nine before going on to share the fact he actually has been given way more dialog than ‘Chevron one encoded’ and that he has certainly already been in more episodes this season than previous seasons.

“I think like out of the first six episodes, I’m in five. Which to me is like kind of unheard of.”

While Gary Jones’ character is still ‘running the gate’, cast changes in the series necessitated by the departure of series regular Richard Dean Anderson, whose character of Jack O’Neill had been in charge of the SGC has brought about a new leader, General Hank Landry played by actor Beau Bridges. As in the past with General Hammond and General O’Neill, Jones finds his character becoming the assistant to General Landry. “I’m helping Beau Bridges because he’s the new general.”

Having a totally new character to play off of in this capacity has, according to Gary Jones created new dynamics for Walter Harriman in regards to interaction with Beau Bridges’ General Landry.

“ I think what they are trying to play up now is the fact, I’ve been there for so long that I really know how the place runs.”

Jones basically sees part of this new dynamic as it is Walter’s job to ‘break in the new guy’ since he has been there long enough to see generals come and go and he just takes it all with a grain of salt. At this point Gary Jones details a scene between his character and that of Beau Bridges that was just recently filmed between them where they are walking down a hall in the SGC and Walter hands General Landry a massive stack of files and says to the general ‘look you’re going to be in meetings all day’. In the scene Landry says ‘no I’m not, the hell I am’. Walter responds with ‘what do you mean’ and Landry goes ‘look this just housekeeping stuff and I’m sick of being in meetings, you can do it, you can sign these things for me’ with Walter responding back ‘are you kidding, no way.’

It ends with Landry just asking Walter to write up the highlights and put them on his desk. “It’s like he <Landry> knows that I can do certain things and he says ‘just do it, I don’t care, I want to do the exciting stuff’.”

Jones also confirms that they are pretty much going to continue the ‘Radar O’Reilly’ type interaction with Landry that was first established between Walter and General O’Neill and the irony is not lost on him that Radar’s first name was also Walter.

“You can get some laughs out of that and it was originally sort of adlibbed by Richard Dean Anderson and myself and we just wanted to carry it over because it is funny.” He also enjoys working with Beau Bridges because he is comfortable in front of the camera and that makes it so easy to work with him “It’s just fantastic to be in a scene with that guy because you can work better off that comfort level.”

  The Year of Walter

Besides working with Beau Bridges, Gary Jones has also gotten to work with almost all of the other new cast members, with at the time of this interview, Claudia Black being the only one he hadn’t had a chance to work with yet. He has been most actively in scenes with Beau Bridges and Ben Browder and the briefest of scenes with Lou Gossett Jr. whom he describes as a very commanding presence and a very tall man. Jones also had rave things to say about working with Lexa Doig, who plays the new CMO of the SGC Dr. Carolyn Lam.

“She’s great, very nice and she is a big laugh to hang out with off camera, wonderful sense of humor, just a very nice addition to the cast.”

Gary Jones also understood that these cast changes were going to not only be a new direction for the show, but were a big risk to take with the departure of Richard Dean Anderson whom Jones is very quick to point out has made a valuable contribution to the series as the star of the show for eight successful years and that he and his character of Jack O’Neill is very beloved by many fans. He knows that Richard Dean Anderson himself is aware of that popularity, but that he must also feel that there has come a point that the show can move on without him.

“ He must think so. For him not to come back, he must think that show can carry on without him.”

Gary Jones does temper this with the fact that they don’t know how season nine will go without Richard Dean Anderson until it actually airs and he is not making any predictions about success or failure for it. He says of Anderson and his contribution to the success of the series that because he was so popular, he helped build this show up to the point where it was literally like a template and he had created this model that could then kind of then carry on regardless of who was in it because it is about the Stargate and it’s about interpersonal human dilemmas and that kind of thing.

“And I think that is what they <the producers> are thinking, that it has such legs now that it can carry on.”

He also feels that this template created by Richard Dean Anderson’s participation is why, instead of them going for lesser name actors for the new cast, the producers chose to go with bigger names. “Combined with this template created by Richard Dean Anderson, you have the likes of Beau Bridges and Louis Gossett, Jr. who are high end movie stars who are now then doing television.”

For Gary Jones this decision to bring in this measure of talent creates this concentration of high level acting that is now being seen on the TV screen and he hopes will continue the success of Stargate: SG-1 that was created by Richard Dean Anderson.

Gary Jones knows that it is the fans of the show who will also play a significant part in deciding how things will go for season nine as far as how the episodes, the storylines and the cast changes will be received by them.

“Fans are very subjective, some have very positive reactions to episodes and characters while others will think it’s not so great. To me its really about whatever strikes that person on a personal note within that episode or character. It’s cool to see the special effects but it’s when people identify with what happened in the story, then they are gonna love that episode or that character. We just have to wait and see how it strikes them.”

On the topic of episodes and what he might want to see, especially for his character, I asked Gary Jones what he would write as a story line for Walter if he had the chance to do so. “If I could write an episode, I think he would go through the gate somewhere as I would love to see him go through the gate. Yet given my comedic background that naturally takes me to Walter going through the gate accidentally.”

Jones describes a scenario where possibly Walter is running after someone who is going on a mission to give them some vital piece of information they need to take with them, he trips and goes headlong through the gate. “That’s what I imagine and I think it would be good if the person he went through with was Sgt. Siler cause Siler and I could get into some real trouble together, “ he laughs while commenting that Dan Shea who plays Sgt. Siler is a great guy and they are very good friends.

Gary Jones says that all in all, the whole cast is really at a high point of excitement about season nine. Christopher Judge especially has more to do, more storylines and interactions with the other actors and that has made Judge feel it was worth his while to still have Teal’c around. Michael Shanks is looking forward to the challenges that the storylines are also offering to his character of Dr. Daniel Jackson.

Jones says that can’t say for sure which episode of season nine filmed so far will be the one fans will go wild for since he only sees the scripts and only sees what is filmed when he is on the set which makes it hard to judge how an episode is going to look before it is finished. However, what he has noticed most about the scripts for season nine that is different from previous seasons is that the comedic lines are being more evenly spread among the actors. “It’s a line or two more here and there and its not like the comedy is over the top or anything, just that it is kind of more evenly spread out, which is great because actors love it when they get to say the funny line.”

©2005 M R Reed