Christopher Judge is distinctive even when he’s out of character as the alien Teal’c on “Stargate SG-1,” given his brawny, 6-foot-2 frame and impressively rich baritone.
Ironically, viewers didn’t get to hear much of his voice during the early years of the science-fiction adventure, when his character with the stylish Jaffa species logo on his forehead was limited to a few words of wisdom.
That’s changed. As the series marks its 200th episode Friday, part of its 10th season, Teal’c has become a real talker. The explosion of dialogue created challenges for Judge, who’s been with the show since it started on Showtime and moved to the Sci Fi Channel.
A Los Angeles native, Judge attended the University of Oregon on a football scholarship and was a three-time All-American. He says he happily adjusted to life in Vancouver, where “Stargate” films, and is remodeling a house with his fiancee, actress Gia Patton.
The couple has a 17-month-old girl and Judge has three other children, ages 15, 11 and 9.
He and castmate Michael Shanks (Dr. Daniel Jackson) are close friends and have a production company together. Judge’s acting credits include the movie “Snow Dogs” and voicing the Magneto character on the series “X-Men: Evolution.”
During a recent vacation break in Las Vegas, Judge got on the phone to discuss “Stargate,” among TV’s longest-running scripted cable and sci-fi series, and the landmark 200th episode, which includes original series star Richard Dean Anderson.
AP: What do fans respond to in your character?
Judge: You’re always in a good position when you’re the alien on the sci-fi show. You’re going to have fans strictly from that.
AP: Why is playing the alien a good spot to be in?
Judge: I think it’s because everyone’s pondering, ‘Is there life out there?’. Well, you are the incarnation of what people wonder about. So how you behave, how you move, everything is something people have debated forever. I think there is a natural attraction to the alien character because you are the visual personification of what they are still wondering about.
AP: How did Teal’c change from observer to orator?
Judge: In all honesty, I guess it started around season six or seven, when Rick — Richard Dean Anderson — wanted to do less and take episodes off. Amanda (Tapping, who plays Lt. Col. Carter) and Michael (Shanks) already talked a lot, so somebody had to pick up the slack. It was the correct time to do it because the story line was introduced with the freedom of my race and them trying to straighten up their situation as far as establishing a new form of government.
AP: Did you welcome the change?
Judge: As an actor, a lot of times you have to speak so much exposition and my character didn’t have to do that. The great thing was everything that he said, because he didn’t say much, was important. And people would remember it, or take notice. Then it was kind of daunting: I’d look at scripts and have these three-page long scenes of straight dialogue. I was, ‘Can I have a little fight scene in here or something?’. Memorizing lines is like working a muscle. When you go years without having to memorize many of these long monologues, the muscle becomes weaker. So it was actually great for me to get back and start exercising that muscle again.
AP: Were you a sci-fi fan before you were cast?
Judge: I think I was pretty much the average sci-fi fan. I cut my teeth, as everyone did, on ‘Star Trek.’ Then ‘Star Wars,’ and so on. I think we’re all lucky to have seen ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Matrix’ in one life time.
AP: Critics have noted “Stargate” has gotten an infusion of humor. Do you enjoy that?
Judge: The 200th episode is really a love and thank-you letter to the fans. I think they will be wildly entertained. The 100th episode was more of a kind of an inside joke for us, a wink and a nod. But this is really for the fans and really accessible and they’ll understand what every joke is. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had in shooting an episode in the entire 10 years.
AP: Teal’c is one muscular guy. How do you stay in shape?
Judge: My 3½ months off I generally gain 60 to 70 pounds. Usually every Jan. 1 is when I start back. It’s a lot of workouts a day. I start with three, by the end of January I’m up to four workouts a day and by two weeks before the show I’m up to five a day. The maintenance is the worst part of it because of early call times (on the set). So I get up at 4 in the morning every day and do an hour of cardio and some weights.
AP: Have you and your fiancee set a wedding date?
Judge: We don’t have a date set but we did just buy a house, so I think the remodeling of the house is going to take precedence over the wedding. She knows I need a workout room, a theater and that’s about it. And she has the say on everything else.