We salute you, General Hammond
July 1, 2008 9:38 PM   Subscribe

Character actor Don S. Davis, known for his portrayal of Dana Scully's father Captain Scully on The X Files, Major Garland Briggs on Twin Peaks, and Colonel George Hammond on Stargate, passed away Sunday at the age of 65. Even if you don't remember him from those roles, if you take a look at his IMDB page, you will probably recognize him from something. He had a gift for taking stereotypical military roles and bringing a warmth and gentleness to them. One of his final roles was in the Stargate movie Continuum, which will premiere on DVD this month.
posted by rednikki (68 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
His dialogue for Briggs was outrageous, and he delivered it outrageously well.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:42 PM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ohh, that guy, I always liked his work.

posted by nudar at 9:53 PM on July 1, 2008

Nooooo! He was great!

posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:54 PM on July 1, 2008

Oh man, I loved this guy.

posted by OverlappingElvis at 9:54 PM on July 1, 2008

When I read this on Blue's News, I was actually legitimately saddened. As your post states, the man has an incredible body of work to his name. He will be missed. :(
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:58 PM on July 1, 2008

This is a bummer.
posted by tkolar at 9:59 PM on July 1, 2008

posted by jrb223 at 10:03 PM on July 1, 2008


at the very least for Best in Show.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:06 PM on July 1, 2008

He was one of those actors who's name nobody could really recall, but everyone can immediately recognize his face as "Oh, that one guy".

posted by Avenger at 10:06 PM on July 1, 2008

RIP, Garland...
posted by phunniemee at 10:07 PM on July 1, 2008

"Garland, what do you fear most... in the world?"
"The possibility that love is not enough."

posted by decagon at 10:13 PM on July 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

posted by mogget at 10:16 PM on July 1, 2008

He was a classic "Hey! It's that guy!" which is in no way a knock.

I liked his portrayal of quite a few characters but I never put the pieces together to realize they were all one guy, and I'm doubly sad to find out that the man who did all these wonderful roles has died.

posted by librarylis at 10:23 PM on July 1, 2008

I love that guy. When he called Scully "Starbuck" it made me tear up.
posted by tkchrist at 10:31 PM on July 1, 2008

Also, my fellow Australians may remember him for his memorable role in a John West TV ad a few years ago (which my google fu is failing to turn up right now, bar a few scant blog references due to today's passing)

(Delivered with enough playful sarcasm to melt one's meter)
"I don't know how he can live with himself!"
posted by nudar at 10:38 PM on July 1, 2008

He has such a wonderful voice. He could go from commanding and authoritative, to warm, rich and sincere so well.

This here: He had a gift for taking stereotypical military roles and bringing a warmth and gentleness to them, is so very true. I never thought of it that way, but it puts exactly the way I wanted to say.

posted by Snyder at 10:42 PM on July 1, 2008

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:43 PM on July 1, 2008

posted by Jade Dragon at 10:52 PM on July 1, 2008

this makes me sad.

(also, I just had a disturbing mental image of brad dourif saying a eulogy....)
posted by squasha at 11:03 PM on July 1, 2008

Aaaaw man, that sucks. Stargate Continuum, in which he reprises the role of Hammond, is just days away from screening too. Bummer.

Don Davis is the same kind of actor as Gene Hackman, in my opinion. He is one of those actors who is always getting work, never as a leading man but as someone who is close to and can steal the show from the leading man. But there is one part of his work that I'll always remember, and it's one not many of you will probably recall. I'll tell you what that is in a minute, but first, I want to speak a little about his work on SG-1.

I'm a Stargate fan. I wasn't for a long time. The original theatrical movie put me off for the idea of ever watching the SG-1 series. But then one lazy summer afternoon I happened to catch an episode of SG-1 airing on pay-TV and I thought it was just great. As it turned out, this was a fifth season episode so I had a bit of catching up to do.

Davis' General Hammond was a stand out character for me as I caught up on the series. Yeah, I thought Jack was great and so was Daniel and Sam was hot but Hammond, as their superior officer, exuded a fatherly element to the show which made you really warm to him. It was great going from Season 5 Hammond, where the SG-1 team respected him, back to Season 1 Hammond, where he was at odds with Jack's methods, and then watching him grow over the seasons to truly care for his team and for them to care about him. When they did a storyline about NSA agents trying to blackmail him, you were just as pissed off as the main characters were and wanted to help just as much they did. Davis' ability to cultivate this empathy for his character was probably one of the most understated elements of the show.

When Season Eight rolled round and Hammond was gone, SG-1 no longer felt the same. The later departure of Jack O'Neill was just as pronounced but for some reason, Hammond was more significant because the show lost that fatherly element that Davis exuded seemingly so effortlessly.

So anyway, it was Stargate SG-1 brought Davis to my attention. Without it I'd never have recognised him from his gues troles in The West Wing, Supernatural and those repeats of Twin Peaks I never watched. Honestly, I didn't, I swear.

But what do I remember him best for, for some strange reason? His role in a John West commercial in which, I recall, he convinces some guy he dosen't want any old salmon.. he want's John West's because it's the fish that John West rejects that makes John West the best. Whenever I think of Davis, I always seem to recall that ad before I do Hammond and I don't know why. But without Hammond and SG-1, I doubt I'd have ever recognised Davis in that ad.

I guess that was kind of a roundabout way of telling you I saw him in a John West commercial once, but there you go. Now you've read it, it's stuck in your head and you'll never forget it.

Anyway, this is very sad news. You have a go, Don Davis.
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:03 PM on July 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

I was just thinking the other day that Stargate wasn't the same without General Hammond.
posted by Mister Cheese at 11:03 PM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Damn you nudar!
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:04 PM on July 1, 2008

Damn you nudar!

It's a great ad, worth mentioning twice :)
Just wish there was a link to it - anyone? bueller?
posted by nudar at 11:20 PM on July 1, 2008

posted by Deathalicious at 11:46 PM on July 1, 2008

I'll always salute Major Briggs.
posted by dhammond at 11:48 PM on July 1, 2008

Beyond The Sea remains one of my favorite X-Files episodes. Brad Dourff is one reason. Don Davis is another. I've seen him countless times before and since, but when I think Don Davis I think Ahab and Starbuck. I think of Dana Scully's father. Such a small role. Such a lingering, haunting presence. Then a few seasons later when he revisted her in full white military dress and told his daughter it's not her time yet. I still get chills just thinking about it.

MacGyver. Stakeout. Wiseguy. Unsub. Look Who's Talking. L. A. Law. 21 Jump Street. Northern Exposure. Sometimes he was on screen for twenty minutes and sometimes twenty seconds. For a decade as Major General George Hammond, he proved to the world he was always capable of holding a major starring role in a television series. However, his power as an acting talent goes much deeper than being a star.

He could have overplayed his appearances when he was there, and hammed it up. He could have chewed the scenery and made you remember him with only twenty seconds of screen time: he didn't.

He could have just phoned it in. He could have memorized the lines, shown up on set, wore whatever costume given him and take his mark, then do just enough to get paid and go home: he didn't.

Don S. Davis gave just what the role needed every time he performed; not too much nor too little. He played off his peers and served them metaphorical meat and potatoes to chew on. He knew how to lend focus and when to take it, but most importantly he knew how to set his ego to the side, and serve the role.

When I was much younger, I used to want to act. I particularly liked character roles. I enjoyed taking a role that had maybe a half dozen lines and doing something memorable with it. I loved running on stage and stealing everyone's thunder, then I'd walk off the stage with everyone laughing and applauding. I'd make a big splash and leave them wanting more. I learned early on there are no small roles, only small actors.

However, I was wrong. One of the lessons I never learned was that it is not the job of a small role performer to be memorable. On the contrary, it is the purpose of smaller roles to make the entire production feel more real to the audience. Does that mean an extra is just scenery? Not necessarily. A small role is there to serve the script, and support the other performers, and keep the audience entranced in a magical spell.

If your character is a cop and your job is to walk in say a couple lines and exit, a good actor knows to do it as if he were really that cop in that situation. To draw attention to oneself makes the audience realize they are watching a show, and the magic spell is broken.

Don Davis knew this. That's why you probably didn't recall his name before this thread. That means he did his job very well.

His face was that of a man you thought you recognized before but couldn't quite place. He was familiar to you, but not in a way that would draw you out of the story and cause the suspension of disbelief to fade. His familiarity was a distant comfort, and a novel curiosity. He would wear the uniform and you believed he was a career soldier. He would pound the gavel and you'd believe he was a justice of the peace. Whatever role he was given, he embodies that role. He filled that space. He gave his directors one less thing to lose sleep over, by being dependable and consistent.

Don Davis provided to every role given him, just enough to make that role work. I don't recall a single time when he overacted, or stepped outside the moment. He was always there for the other performers, and his presence on screen jacked up the gravity of any given moment. He was a supporting actor in the truest sense of the word. Where he could have been a ham, he was instead an anchor. I can think offhand of no greater compliment to pay an actor than to say he made everyone around him look better than they were, because he was so damn good.

I'm not saying he would lose himself in the role. I'm saying he would serve the role, and therefore he served his fellow performers, the director, the audience... He made horrendous scenes watchable, and watchable scenes brilliant. Every time he appeared on screen, I was assured a great performance. I cannot recall a time when he disappointed.

Some aspiring actors want to be like Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis. They want to be superstars. They want to make blockbuster movies and be household names.

I wanted to be Don S. Davis.

posted by ZachsMind at 11:59 PM on July 1, 2008 [9 favorites]

posted by Pendragon at 12:30 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by lundman at 12:48 AM on July 2, 2008

Aw, boo. I watched the final two episodes of Twin Peaks once again just last night.

posted by painquale at 1:05 AM on July 2, 2008

I only recently got to watching some early episodes of Stargate. Overall I've not been impressed, but Davis was unquestionably one of the most awesome things about it. The stereotype of the stern military leader who turns out to have a heart of gold really works; one might call it the Picard Effect.

In any case:

posted by JHarris at 1:22 AM on July 2, 2008

He was also a talented artist.
posted by Orb at 1:26 AM on July 2, 2008

I hope Major Briggs found his way through the Black Lodge and is resting in the White Lodge.

posted by crossoverman at 2:19 AM on July 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

RIP Major Briggs. I always believed that character would have taken center stage if the show had been allowed a third season.
posted by jbickers at 3:01 AM on July 2, 2008

I saw him speak once at an SF expo in NZ. I was mildly surprised to learn, during his speech, that he'd been an actual captain in the Army and was stationed in Korea. I was even more surprised when he teared up, in front of a hall full of geeks, talking about how much his service meant to him.

One of a kind.

posted by Sparx at 3:14 AM on July 2, 2008

"In my vision I was on the verandah of vast estate, a palazzo of some fantastic proportion. There seemed to emanate from it, a light from within this gleaming, radiant marble. I had known this place. I had, in fact, been born and raised there and this was my first return, a reunion with the deepest well-springs of my being. As I wondered about I noticed happily that the house has been immaculately maintained and there had been added to it a number of additional rooms, but in a way that blended so seamlessly with its original construction that one would not detect any difference. Returning to the house's grand foyer, there came a knock on the door. I opened it, and my son was standing there. He was happy and carefree, clearly living a life of deep harmony and joy. We embraced, a warm and loving embrace, nothing withheld. We we're, in this moment, one."

Rest in Peace.
posted by brevator at 3:56 AM on July 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Damn. Great, great actor.

posted by Thorzdad at 4:13 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by ruelle at 5:05 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by Smart Dalek at 5:09 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by jepler at 5:12 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by magstheaxe at 5:34 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by griphus at 5:36 AM on July 2, 2008

Oh, man.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:10 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by OolooKitty at 6:27 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:43 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by The Great Big Mulp at 6:57 AM on July 2, 2008

I had the opportunity to meet him when when I was volunteering at an event. He was a really genuine nice guy as well as a fabulous actor. So sad to hear this.
posted by pointystick at 7:30 AM on July 2, 2008

stepping through the gate, one last time

posted by deejay jaydee at 7:30 AM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


and as noted, not only was he a talented artist, he had a PhD in Theater.
posted by idb at 7:31 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by effwerd at 7:32 AM on July 2, 2008

Ugh, a competent character actor for some b-grade sci-fi shows kicks the bucket, and we break out the periods? I mean, I know the periods are cheap, but ... well have I mentioned that my cat died about three years ago? Can I get some periods for her?
posted by Reverend John at 7:42 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by longdaysjourney at 7:45 AM on July 2, 2008


I was looking for the same clip buzzv linked to. That was one of my favorite parts of the series.
posted by Dr-Baa at 7:45 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by Tacodog at 7:48 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by Stynxno at 8:06 AM on July 2, 2008

I'm sorry for your cat, Reverend John. It sucks when a pet dies, so I feel for you. If you want a period for her, here you go:


I also liked Don a great deal. His role in Twin Peaks really helped the second season along, and his work all over the board was solid and likeable in a way that's been a joy to watch. I look forward to getting around to his cameo as Scully's (dead) dad in Season One soonish.

He was a nice guy.
posted by cortex at 9:29 AM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 9:46 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by cass at 9:50 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by Lord Widebottom at 10:20 AM on July 2, 2008

R.I.P. Hammond of Texas.
posted by Ber at 10:57 AM on July 2, 2008

posted by valis at 12:54 PM on July 2, 2008

posted by lonemantis at 4:04 PM on July 2, 2008

posted by edd at 4:40 PM on July 2, 2008

ReverendJohn, if other people get to have this when their favorite walrus kicks the bucket, then those of us who found Mr. Davis a MORE than competent character actor get to have a thread too.

Perhaps it's just my interpretation, but you typed 'character actor' as if it were an insult. The best actors are character actors. G W Bailey on a bad day can act circles around any Baldwin brother in their ingenue prime. Character actors rule.

As for your cat? Sorry. I'm a dog person.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:54 PM on July 2, 2008

posted by mindless progress at 9:59 AM on July 3, 2008

Ugh. I am still in denial.
posted by Fenriss at 7:50 AM on July 17, 2008

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