My earliest memory of Don S. Davis is of a charming, bigger-than-life individual who greeted me with a hardy handshake and a boisterous “Hellooo, Jooooe! Welcome to Stargate!” on one of my very first days on set. This was back in season four, sometime between our second script (Window of Opportunity) and our third (Point of No Return). In those early years, Paul and I spent most of our days in our respective offices, writing, spinning or, in one inspired afternoon, creating the lyrics to the Stargate SG-1 theme. We were busy and, most important of all, we wanted to look busy. The last thing we needed was to be seen hanging around set, gawking at the actors when there were scripts to be written, brilliant ideas to be spun. But several weeks in, it became apparent to me that sitting alone in my office (or, occasionally, Paul’s office for a little variety) would inevitably drive me nuts – and the loss of my sanity would no doubt be reflected in the quality of my work. So I decided to start taking little walks. Pitch document or outline in hand, I would pace – up and down the corridors, in and around the building, and through the empty sets.
Except for one afternoon when I inadvertently strolled onto an active set where they were setting up for the next shot. Realizing my error, I immediately turned on my heels, prepared to march right back out when Brad Wright spotted me and called me over. “Joe,”he said, “I’d like you to meet Don Davis. Don, Joe is one of our new writers.” Don, who’d been standing by, waiting for that next shot, threw me his trademark ear to ear grin, gave me a firm handshake and bellowed “Hellooo, Jooooe! Welcome to Stargate!”
“Hellooo, Jooooe!” It was a greeting I’d come to associate with the man, a good-natured, self-deprecating southern gent who always had a story to tell but, more than anything, always wanted to hear how YOU were doing. “Hellooo, Jooooe! How’s that script coming along?”. “Hellooo Jooooe! How’s your beautiful wife?” “Hellooo, Jooooe! How was your weekend?” Meeting actors for the first time can be a little daunting, especially for a newbie writer on his first big show, but Don’s down-home warmth and cordiality put me instantly at ease. And it was no different when he met the fans. I’ve seen convention-goers approach him with trepidation, perhaps fearful of overstepping their bounds and imposing upon him. But Don was never the type to be stand-offish or put himself on display. When you met Don, you weren’t meeting a t.v. star – you were meeting a regular guy. A regular, modest, kind-hearted guy who genuinely cared for his fans and the people he worked with. And, inevitably, those convention-goers who had, moments before, cautiously approached the man they knew as General Hammond would, moments later, be sitting, chatting and laughing, in conversation with good old Don.
Don loved his fans. He loved life. And he loved food. So I suppose it should come as no surprise that we enjoyed many a dinner together. At first, it would be just Don and I but in time, as Fondy got to know the man, she started to join us. Fondy has always been quick to bow out of any work-related outing, but Don worked his magic on her, putting her instantly at ease so that, in time, she would eventually ask after him. “What’s Don doing? We should go out with Don again.” Eventually, Don found Ruby and our dinners for three became dinners for four.
If there’s one thing I’ll always remember about the man, it was his willingness to put others before him. Back when Rick was reducing his workload to spend more time with his young daughter, and the writing department was scrambling to come up with in-story reasons for O’Neill’s off-world absences, Don came up to the offices and offered a solution. “Have Hammond step aside and let O’Neill be General,”he suggested. I was floored. Here was a guy, perfectly willing to walk away from a plum role as a regular on a hit series, just to (in his mind) make it easier on everyone else. Of course we thanked him for his kind offer, but we weren’t willing to let George Hammond go just yet.
Ultimately, the decision was made for us when health issues curtailed Don’s involvement in the show. But even so, he continued to maintain a presence in the Stargate universe, popping up in occasional episodes and then in his final appearance in Stargate: Continuum. And every time he was on set, he would always make it a point to drop by the office to say hello.
As the years wore on, I saw less and less of Don as he focused his attention on Ruby and his second love, art. Still, I’d run into him now and then and whenever I’d inquire about him, he was always upbeat. There was never a trace of bitterness or remorse that he was no longer a regular presence on the show. “I have no regrets,”he’d told me on more than one occasion. And, always: “I’m the luckiest man in the world.” It was a wild, fun-filled ride and, finally, it was time for the southern gent to settle back and enjoy his retirement.
The last time I spoke to Don was about five months ago when he called me up out of the blue after being tipped off that I’d mentioned him in a previous blog entry. In answering a fan who wanted to know why I didn’t keep in touch with Richard Dean Anderson, I responded: “We don’t talk a lot for the simple reason that he no longer works on the show. I don’t really talk to Don Davis that much and I love the guy. It’s nothing personal.” Less than twenty-four hours later, I got the call. As I wrote in my January 15th entry: “I answered my cell phone today to a low, southern drawled: “Ah luuv yoou tooo.“ What the hell? It took me a couple of seconds to realize who it was – none other than Don S. Davis, General Hammond himself. He‘d been tipped off (by blog regular Gilder) to what I’d said about him in my previous blog entry and wanted to touch base. “It’s always great hearing from my fellow gourmand,”I’d written. “Apparently, 2007 was a busy year for him (which is great to hear), and he’s now enjoying some much-needed downtime. Hopefully, once things settle down for both Fondy and I, we’ll be able to get together with him and Ruby for another culinary excursion.” It’s bitterly disappointing to know that day will never come.
In my many years at Stargate, I’ve worked with actors whose company I have greatly enjoyed, but only a few would I actually be bold enough to call my friends. And among those few was the magnanimous southern gent who used to greet me with that familiar “Hellooo, Joooe!”, the always affable Don S. Davis.
He’ll be missed.