Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 64 - CLIFF SIMON
ACTOR AND ATHLETE - CLIFF SIMON
"We are all Fueled By Death - We want to experience as much of life as we can. Live and let live." - Cliff Simon, Actor Stargate SG-1, Personal Space
ABOUT CLIFF SIMON:
Jeff: You started off as a kid as an athlete. You were a swimmer and then that kind of led you into performing on stage, is that correct? Or how did one kind of beget the other?
Cliff Simon: Yeah. I've kind of an interesting life. I've always been one for ... I mean, I love the title Fueled by Death like amazing because it was funny. I was talking with my wife last night and it's actually, when you think about it, we're actually all fueled by death. We want to get stuff done. We want to get on with our life. We want to experience as much of life as we can. We're all going to meet the same demise one day.
Cliff Simon: We want to live life and live and let live. Just like let me do what I want to do. I really had that in my mind from when I was kind of young. Growing up in South Africa, which was really ... We were really removed from the rest of the world and during the Apartheid area, everything ... We didn't see news of the rest of the world. Everything was censored there. All the media was censored. We never knew what anyone thought about us. We really got news from outside of South Africa. It was just a very closed society. They tried to protect their way of life, which is just nuts.
Cliff Simon: But yeah, I started off my mom was actually a swim teacher when I was young. So she got me swimming at a really young age. I started doing gymnastics as well, but by the age of about 11 or 12, I had to kind of chose which one I wanted to go further in because they two completely different sports. I'd always had Olympic dreams as a swimmer, even from a young kid. My life. I gave up gymnastics. At that time, I was a national level gymnast and carried on swimming. I won a few national competitions in South Africa and then my family immigrated to England in 1977 for a couple of reasons. One of them being that I could swim for or try to get into the British international team because in those days, South Africa was banned from all the Olympic games. It was a situation in the country.
We immigrated to England when I was 15 and carried on school. It was really tough, man. Leaving a sunny, beautiful country going to, I'm not running England down, but man, it just is drear and rainy the whole time.
Jeff: That's what I hear.
Cliff Simon: Yeah. I'd get up at 5:30 in the morning and scrape ice off my wind screen and off I go to swim training. Yeah, I spent six and a half hours a day swimming and made the British international team in my first year there. Ended up being I was seventh fastest in the whole of Great Britain through all the age groups. So I really had some ... I had an ex-Olympic coach who was training me. I got offered a scholarship to Houston University and to SMU, Southern Methodist University in Texas, which was unbelievable because they booked the Mustang swimming team, which at that time and I think it may still be now, the best swimming team in the United States.
I came over from England to swim in international competition against Canada and the U.S.A. I was swimming for Great Britain. I kind of saw at that time, I didn't place in any of my events, but I could see I had to step up my game. I watched the Southern Methodist guys, the Mustangs, and I was just dreaming. I was drooling. I have to be on that team. I have to be on that team. Yeah, went back to England and carried on swimming and got offered the scholarships and would've given me four years in the United States before the Los Angeles Olympics. Four years of training in the United States. I got out of the pool after three years of swimming in England. I just missed everything. I missed South Africa. I missed my friends. I missed the sunshine. I was 17 and I was just burnt out. I got out of the pool one day and sat on the side. My coach came up to me and put his arm around me and he look at me. He said, "You're going home?" I said, "Yeah. I'm going home. I want to go into the military." He just looked at me like I was nuts.
I just felt ... I don't know. At that time in life I felt I needed to get away from my family. Just in a good way. I needed to break the apron strings and be independent and start discovering life was all about.
If there's any other questions, just ask me because I can ramble on for hours.
Dustin: No, that's perfect. Well, it's great that you kind of broke that down for us because just looking over your Wikipedia page, it says that you wanted to pursue more of a social life. That was just so vague, but it was like what did he want to do if he didn't want to be an Olympian. It makes more sense now that you put it in that perspective.
Cliff Simon: Right.
Dustin: So when you left and you went into the military, it sounds like you went to pursue gymnastics again. Did you find what you were looking for?
Cliff Simon: You know what, I definitely found ... I mean, my parents freaked out when I told them I'm going back to South Africa and I want to go into the military. It wasn't that I wanted to go into the South African military and fight for the Apartheid regime. I had no idea at that time. I was just this innocent kid who spent all his life swimming. Didn't even have girlfriends because I could never spend time on the weekends with them. When I did have a girlfriend, she would come and sit at a swimming competition on a Saturday with me. That's what I wanted. I wanted a life.
I went back to South Africa. Yeah, my dad had to fly back from England and sign all the paperwork for the military because I was still under 18. I went into the Air Force. I chose the Air Force because they have a great sport's program in the Air Force. I could carry on swimming, which is did and I was Air Force victor ludorum two years in a row with them.
Cliff Simon: Yeah. We used to swim competitions against the Army and the Navy and all that kind of stuff. So as a way I was starting to live my life but still doing what I really loved. I mean, I loved the water and I love swimming to this day. I can't live without the water. The military really was an amazing experience. Of course, it was terrible just like two weeks off to being in there I was like, "What the hell am I doing here?" It's like, "This is crazy." But it was the greatest thing, greatest experience I could have had. I went in as a little boy and I came out a man, which all the guys do. Anyone that's gone into the military will understand that they break you down and they build you up. I got out of that and I just felt like the whole world was open to me and I could do whatever I wanted to do. I felt strong. I felt physically strong. I felt mentally strong. I got on with it.
I got a job down at the coast in South Africa in a town called [inaudible 00:07:10]. I got a job teaching wind surfing and basically taking care of all the water sports in the hotel. One day there was a group of dancers who were rehearsing in our conference room. I was out by the pool talking to guests. One of the girls came out and of course I had to go talk to her.
Yeah, of course. She started talking about ... We were just chatting. Then I said, "You know, I know how to swim and I used to do gymnastics and all that kind of stuff." She was like, "Oh, our choreographers looking for a acrobat for our show. We're rehearsing. Why don't you come in and meet him and chat with him." I was like, "There is no way I could be on stage." I hadn't even thought about that. I had no dreams about becoming an actor in those days. It didn't even cross my mind. I was just enjoying what I was doing. Anyway, of course, she influenced me to go in and chat with Neil Papi who was probably the best choreographer in South Africa at that time. I chatted with him and he said, "Well, show me what you can do." I walked around on my hands. I did a few somersaults and flip flicks and threw myself around the floor. He said, "Great. You're in. You start rehearsals tomorrow."
Cliff Simon: I have no idea what to expect. I started rehearsals the next day and two weeks later I was in my first stage show. It's a big cabaret show in one of the hotels. Back in those days, in the '90 ... What was that? Late '80s, mid '80s. Cabaret was huge.
Cliff Simon: So I got this gig. Money was fantastic. I was earning anything close to that teaching my water sports. So what I was doing I was up at six in the mornings. I would go and teach water sports all day at the hotel. Then go and do my show at night time. It was such an amazing life. I fell in love with being on stage. I mean, having this audience watching what you're doing and appreciating what you're doing and applauding for you. The bug bits really bits. So I carried on dancing. I ended up being, kind of long story short, I was a professional dancer for 12 years. I went and studied ballet to get a foundation. I wanted to learn. I wanted to do more. Eventually I started doing some shows overseas. I met a girl who's my wife today. We started working together in shows overseas. We worked in Portugal and of course the dancer's life is very short lived.
At the time, I was about 30, I needed to start moving on. But I wanted to work at the Moulin Rogue in Paris. That was like a dream for me just because it's such an iconic place. Not that the dancing is anything fantastic, but it's just such an amazing place to work and it's world renowned. A friend of mine, Gavin, was working there and he called me out of the blue one day and said, "Someone's broken their leg. They want a replacement. They've seen your picture and you're the right height," and all that kind of stuff, "Come on over." I sold it. I had a girlfriend at that time I was living with. I said, "Honey, I'm going. Sorry. This is the next step for me to go." I sold all I had was a car. Sold my little car. I enough money to buy an air ticket and off I went. I had close to eight years of dancing already under my belt in South Africa. So I was kind of confident. I knew what I was doing and all that kind of stuff.
I flew to Paris and it was unbelievable. After three months of being in the chorus there, I ended up being principal for the rest of the year that I was there. They offered that to me after three months because the principal had to leave for whatever reason. It was such an amazing experience, man.
Jeff: For our listeners and viewers out there, I'm going sync a link into this show too. You are an author as well. You wrote all about this in your book Paris Nights: My year at the Moulin Rogue, which is amazing because, like you said, it is such an iconic thing. You were there on the heals of basically the 100th anniversary of this club that is written about in songs. It is the dream of most dancers in the industry. I'm sure you've covered it all in the book, but is there a fond memory of the Moulin Rogue that you harken back to from time to time? Do you ever think back at that time in your life?
Cliff Simon: Yeah. It's so much ... It's all in the book, of course. But something happened to me in Paris, I got involved with ... I mean, it was night life and [inaudible 00:11:51]. You can't get better than that or worse depending on how you look at it. I got involved with guys who wanted me to smuggle diamonds and the whole thing from South Africa, which ended up ... I mean, it's all in the book.
But one of the great memories I have of the Moulin Rogue is that I'd been there about two or three months and I knew my dancing career ... This was probably the last show I as ever going to do and I wasn't unhappy about that because I felt I wanted to move on and start experiencing other things. We had a party back stage and I took a bottle of wine. This was after the show at night. So this was probably one o'clock in the morning. All the dancers were up back stage having a party up in the dressing room areas. I took a bottle of wine and walked down onto the stage, which the whole room was now dark but it still had the heat from the lights and the smell of smoke. It was quiet. There was no one there. I went and I sat in the middle of the stage with my bottle of wine and I just looked at the walls and the beautiful velvet curtains and all this kind of stuff. I felt part of something so big and so historical and I couldn't believe that I was working at the Moulin Rogue in Paris. I mean, I kept saying, "There's no way I'm good enough to be here. I can't be here." I didn't even think I would ever work there. It was a dream.
Jeff: Wow. I got goosebumps.
Dustin: Yeah. It sounds like not only are you the type of guy to be comfortable outside of your comfort zone, but it sounds like you constantly throw yourself outside of your comfort zone. Were you always like that? Where did that come from?
Cliff Simon: No, definitely. I have no idea where it comes from. My dad was a great businessman. He made a lot of money and he lost a lot of money. At the end of the day, he ended up with nothing. But it probably comes from him because he used to take on things that were just unbelievable. I always watched him. It comes from that taking chances and going for what you want or what you believe in. I'm a big believer in that. So I definitely got that I think from my dad. But yeah, being outside of your comfort zone, there's nothing better than that to get your adrenaline going and your blood boiling and just try new things.
I mean, I'll give you a quick example of that. When I moved to United States in 2000, I was driving all over the PCH up to Malibu and I saw a way out in the ocean what looked like a kite. I'm like, "What the hell is that?" I'd been teaching wind surfing for years and wife was with me. We pulled off the side of the road and waited. Eventually it's getting closer and closer to the beach. I motioned the guy hits the beach and he's kite boarding.
Jeff: Oh yeah.
Cliff Simon: I had never seen this. I was like, "What is that?" The very next day I went and bought equipment and got myself a lesson. I was like, "I have to learn that." I've been kite boarding now for 18 years. It's still the best thing on earth.
So that's just a little example of I saw something and I needed to do it. Back in South Africa a friend of mine and me we started paragliding off the mountains because we just thought, "Okay, let's just try it." Yeah, just scary but man, was unbelievable. So yeah, I'm a big believer in that. Getting out of a norm and doing ... If there's something you want to do, like I'd always dreamed about what it's like to skydive and fall through the clouds. So I did a tandem jump just to feel that. It was fantastic. It was fantastic. Yeah. So I enjoy that stuff.
Dustin: Well, kite boarding is definitely one of those things that you have to be a gluten for punishment because you can't just pick it up. It's an extremely, extremely difficult sport. I'm sure being as athletic as you are made it a little bit easier to deal with, but it's definitely not one of those things that you pick up easily. It has to be like, "Well, it's very difficult so I want to do it."
Cliff Simon: Right. Exactly. If it was easy, everybody would do it. That's funny. A guy the other day asked me ... He owns one of the surf shops in Venice. I often paddle surf with him and a few other guys, but he asked me the other day about kite boarding because about four months ago, I tour my pectoral muscle kite boarding. I did a big jump.
Cliff Simon: Yeah. I heard that thing snap, which is terrible. He wants to start kite boarding. He asked me how easy it is. I said, "Dude, I taught wind surfing for years and it still took me weeks of balancing down the beach on my backside to get it right." I said, "Get it right, there's no better feeling." Because it is, it's such a challenge. But once you've got it, it's just like, "Okay. I know something that's pretty unique to do."
Dustin: I feel like it's a closest thing to flying. It's pretty incredible watching the guys who are really good at it just flip around out there. It's pretty nuts.
Cliff Simon: No, it's amazing. I love wind sports. I'm a big sailor. I do a lot of sailing. Like I said, I paraglided. So kite boarding just made sense to me when I saw that. I don't like motorized sports. I like to be out there and I just want to hear the wind and the water and that kind of thing. With kite boarding, it's so amazing, dude. We got dolphins following us and swimming under the board. We flying along at whatever, 35 miles an hour. These dolphins are just jumping around in front of you. It's so exhilarating. To me, that's real life.
Dustin: You're not freaked out by sharks at all?
Cliff Simon: No, I mean, yeah we all think about it the whole time when we're out there. I've never seen a shark in the 18 years that I've been off this ocean here. They're here. I mean, we've got juvenile great white's out there, but they don't bother you.
Jeff: Jaws was just a movie.
Dustin: They don't bother you until they do. It's the first and last shark you'll see.
Jeff: Going back to when you left your dancing career, were you in another situation in your life where you realized, "Okay. I'm not going to do this anymore." But did you then think, "I am going to pursue an acting career," or did you kind of like find yourself in that position?
Cliff Simon: No, I definitely found myself in that position. When I had the dancing kind of wore off for me, I started modeling full time in South Africa. I was doing a lot of fashion shows and that kind of thing. Using my gymnastics in the fashion shows, which was kind of unique. I was doing very well. I was doing very well with TV commercials and all that kind of thing. So I started to work in front of the camera like that. Then after doing that for a few years it was around about 1991 or so, so I'd been full-time modeling now for maybe four years. It was a competition called Mr. South Africa, which was like an action man competition, body building competition. But more about personality thing and the kind of guy you want your kids to like meet and talk to. The guys I was doing fashion shows for said, "You should enter this. It's really good." So I looked at it and I saw one of the prizes was an audition with a new soap opera in South Africa called The Girly Place of Gold, which was doing very, very well. So I thought, "This is great. Well, I'm going to enter it because if I win, I can maybe get an audition or get onto that show." So that's what motivated me to enter that competition.
I ended up winning the competition, getting the audition, and then the producer said to me, "Okay. You'll have your walk on role." So it was just a one off walk on role on the soap opera. I said to him, "No. I don't want it." He just looked at me like I was nuts. I said, "This is what I want to do. I feel this is what's led up to it. My career up til now. This is what I want to do. I want to study acting and I want to act. I want to be an actor." He said, "Okay. I'm going to send you to acting school, acting lessons." So he paid and I had private acting lessons. My acting teacher told to call him when she thought I was ready to go on the show.
About three months later, she called him and said, "Okay. Cliff's ready to come on and do an episode." So they created a character for me and I went on. Did the show, did a couple of episodes and there was very good feedback from the fan base. They offered be a temporary contract for three months with like three episodes a week guaranteed. They said, "Well, what do you think you ... What do you want to earn?" Because normally actors who are experienced ... Like, now you kind of know what your day rate is. I had no idea. So I said to them, "I don't want three episodes a week. I want five episodes a week. I want to be in the show every single day. I don't care what you pay me. Pay me the ..." Because that's how it works. The more you ask for, they'll give it to you, but they'll put you in one episode. So what's most important to me now and when any youngsters who want to get into acting ask me these kinds of questions, I tell them it's not about the money. You want exposure. You want your face to be seen. You want to have 50 episodes under your belt, not five if you can.
So they did that. They gave me the minimum they would, which didn't bother me at all. But they put me in every single episode. After three months of working like that, the character took off. They offered me a permanent contract on the show. Then, of course, my money caught up very, very quickly. Throughout the ... I think the show ran for 15 years. They always used me as an example when actors came on the show and demanded a huge salary. They'd always use me as an example in saying you want exposure. You should do it the right way. Get the fan base. Build the fan base. One episode a week you're not going to build a fan base.
Cliff Simon: So that's how I got into acting, man. That was my first gig. I stayed with that. I did a couple of local South African productions and I worked on one American production that came out there. Yeah, I just built up my resume and built up my confidence and my skill. Stayed on the show for seven or eight years and did three movies in South Africa. Then moved to the United States.
Jeff: Then moving to the United States, obviously it's a different market. You're in L.A. You're working with this type of production and this kind of stuff. Some of the really awesome roles that you've done like through the years in television work and that kind of stuff. One thing that I notice is you are incredible at this but you seem to constantly be type cast as the bad Russian guy or the vaguely foreign guy who's going to have a gun and be a little bit scary towards the protagonist of the show. Does that ever get tiresome for you? I mean, you kill it every time. Do you ever get sad that you're type cast as that sometimes?
Cliff Simon: No. You know people ask me that the whole time. I got another good friend here who works as well. He's always the bad guy. We joke about it. We're like, "Who's died more times?" How about not for the show real, we're going to come up with a death real because every show we work on, we die. But I'll tell you one thing. Number one, to be type cast as anything, if you're an actor, you're lucky.
Jeff: It's true.
Cliff Simon: You know what I mean?
Jeff: Yeah. Because you got work.
Cliff Simon: You're lucky that you're recognized enough to be type cast at something. It doesn't bother me at all. Would I want to play the romantic lead? I'd love to in the right role. But I don't speak with an American accent good enough to do a show. They love the accent for the bad guys, of course. All Australians, British, South African, we're always the bad guy.
Cliff Simon: For me, playing the antagonist is so much more interesting because it's kind of like even when I watch a movie, I'm waiting for the bad guy because you never know what's going to happen.
Cliff Simon: You have the good guys in the show. You kind of know what's going on and it's ... But when the bad guy turns up, it's like, "Is he going to kill someone? What's he going to do? Oh, he's smiling, what's he going ..." You don't know. So for me it's a far more interesting character to play and I love playing the bad guys. But there's always to say Mike Greenburg on Stargate, he said to me, "Cliff, the protagonist in a show is only as good as the antagonist."
Dustin: Yeah. You were like the most loved antagonist on Stargate. They kept you there for ... We all loved you as Ba'al. It was amazing.
Cliff Simon: I mean, amazing. The way that character took off ... I mean, to go to into that, I started ... When I watched the show, I kind of had an idea how I wanted to play this character and I definitely didn't want him to be a standard bad guy. I didn't want him to be an alien bad guy at all. I kind of discussed this with Mike. Mike just said, "Do your thing." He hired me knowing the kind of person I am. He'd known me for quite a while before I went on that show. Ba'al, the character, was basically written for me with me in mind.
Jeff: That's so cool. Was it an interesting ... Let me rephrase this. Was there a difference in a job like Stargate as opposed to other jobs you've had because there's such a fan base behind that. There's such a body of history behind the movies and the television shows and stuff like that. Was that a different experience as an actor?
Cliff Simon: No. With acting, it's kind of a job as a job. You just do your thing as best as you can. I didn't really influence me. To be honest, I didn't know that sci-fi had such a huge worldwide fan base and do these conventions all over the world. I had no idea of that at all. I loved the original Stargate movie and of course Richard Dean Anderson, I knew of him because of McGyver and all that kind of stuff. So it was great that I was going to be working with him. But I had no idea how big sci-fi was worldwide until I got invited to my first convention in Germany. My mind was just blown. Then I started thinking, "Wow. This is huge, huge, huge." Even to this day, the show finished so long ago and it's as popular as it ever was because what's happened now is all the kids, all these people who were the original fans, have had families and these kids are growing up watching the DVD sets and all this whole new fan base.
Jeff: Yeah. It's awesome. I mean, I'm a huge sci-fi fan myself. So it's really cool to have a part of that culture because you're right, on the surface, you'd think that, "Oh yeah. It's just this another genre that exists out there." But that fan base can be so rabid.
Dustin: Yeah. It couldn't be more clear at the conventions. People are crazy. It's great.
Cliff Simon: But I've always said to other actors. I said, "You know [inaudible 00:27:19] or do you get dressed up when you go to the convention?"
Let me tell you something about the sci-fi fans. People run them down sometimes. They talk about them. They're all geeks and this and this. I'm telling you, I've sat at tables signing autographs and I've had real rocket scientists and people who work with the Hubble Telescope come to me asking me for my autograph. I'm like, "What the hell do you want my autograph for. I want yours. You guys are changing the world. We just entertain you." But then I realized, entertainment's very important for people. But yeah, I've met some amazing people who are sci-fi fans. Like the things they do, it blows their minds. I tell people, "Don't run down sci-fi and don't run down sci-fi fans." It's like we're very lucky as sci-fi actors to get to meet the people who watch up. We get feedback. If you're an actor who's never done sci-fi and stuff, you very rarely get to meet a fan. Maybe in the street you'll bump into somebody, but you don't get to meet 2,000 fans sitting in a conference room asking you questions and giving you feedback on the show. "Oh, in episode three, you said that." It's like, "Well, you tell me what I said because I can't remember."
It's amazing. So we are very, very lucky. I'm extremely lucky and thankful for Stargate because, of course, that's what gave me a kind of foothold in the United States as an actor and got me going here. So it's an amazing show and it always will be.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Dustin: Speaking on sci-fi shows, a big reason why we're talking to you today is an up and coming show Personal Space. We're really excited to see this released. I love the premise. How is this new project been for you? Is there anything that you can tell us as far as maybe like sneak peek information?
Cliff Simon: I know we're not allowed to talk about that.
Jeff: Good answer.
Cliff Simon: But number one, first and foremost, I mean, when I used to see Edward James Olmos or Richard Hatch at conventions, I always used to go and talk to them and say, "Guys, I'm dying to get onto Battlestar. I'd love to do that show." I always thought Battlestar was such a great show.
Jeff: It is.
Cliff Simon: Of course it ended. So first and foremost, with Personal Space I was just so happy that I was going to get to work with Richard again and actually meet him and talk to him and get to know him as an actor and as a person. We did work together of course and as you know, unfortunately, Richard passed away, but I got to work with him, which was amazing. I know this whole show is definitely in memory of Richard. He was a phenomenal guy. I mean, one of the last things he said to me was like, "Why do all you Stargate guys look the same? You all have the same Stargate thing about you." Of course he's met all the Stargate guys and I suppose you get into some kind of ... I don't know. It's like a mold. I don't know. It's very funny. I just said, "Oh, all you Battlestar guys are the same."
Jeff: Right. We're really excited for this too because we're both big Battlestar fans and seeing Richard for the last time is going to be really great. Working on this show though, we're curious because it's a sci-fi show deemed the first reality television show in space. Not to give too much away of the show and all that. But it is done in a very interesting way. In fact, it was done through a Kickstarter, fan funded, and then you guys did it on a budget basically but did a big time space shell. Was that an interesting experience?
Cliff Simon: Yeah. It was amazing. Tom Pike, the producer and writer, he's amazing what he was able to do with the limited budget he had. There's a lot of projects we get offered. Like I don't ... 99% of the time I don't do student films and I don't do web series stuff or ultra low budget stuff simply because a lot of it is not stuff I want to be attached to. They always say as an actor you're only as good as your last job and all that kind of stuff. It's unfortunately one of those things you got to kind of pick and choose what you want to do. Tom came along and my manager, Marilyn Atlas, knows him pretty well. She said, "Cliff, you got to work with Tom. Tom is ... You just got to work with him." I said, "Fine. I'll work with him." She wasn't wrong. What he can do and his writing is phenomenal. That's why the show ... It doesn't matter where we shot it, it is a great show. It's going to get even better when they get to season two.
So he's just a great guy to work with and I think Tom's going to go a long way in the industry. Hopefully I'll work on anything he's done. I just shot another movie, a short film, for him now called the Long Big, which was amazing. You see the shots he got was unbelievable. So stuff like this it's very important because this is ... I'm choosing kind of from an artistic point of view. It's something I wanted to do, and yes, the premise of this Personal Space blew me away. I thought, "This is brilliant. This is an amazing premise and if it ever became a TV show, would be unbelievable because it's the first time it's every done." Yeah, so working with him was great and working with Nikki Kline of course was fantastic.
We're also talking about disability in film. Kurt has got a prosthetic leg. So it's amazing to work with these people because that's what it's all about. So they're going to release the 28 episodes all at once onto Amazon Video in March. So that's going to be pretty amazing.
Jeff: Yeah. We'll put links up to that in this show as well. So with everything that you've got, with everything that you've been through in your life with all of the experiences you've had, all the different hats you've worn, the one question we always gravitate towards on this show is what fuels you? What fuels you, Cliff, to be Cliff, to keep getting out there and basically being motivated to find that new path, to strike that new way?
Dustin: And risk taking.
Dustin: Big risk taking.
Cliff Simon: Yeah. Wow. Fueled by death. There's a very good ... I've been reading a book. It's very good. It's about people. Are we fueled to be so ambitious that it's greedy? Are we being greedy? Why don't we just go about our day to day life, wake up in the morning, go to a job? Why don't we just do that? Why do some of us want more and more and more? Are we being greedy? But I don't see it as that. It's like I just feel some people have more ... They want to risk take. They want to experience new things. It's definitely not about the money. It's definitely more about life. The earth is such an amazing, huge place and why should we just live in one little city, in one little suburb, in one little house and go to the same little coffee shop every day? There's so much to experience.
I've always believed ... I have a video up on my website, which is just me doing a video about ... It was done for a hosting to host and I say the body is built to feel sensation. It doesn't matter what that sensation is. Whether you want to fall through the sky or whether you want to race cars or whether you want to be an actor, it's built to feel sensation. I'm a big believer in that you have to feel sensation. You can't just sit on a couch all day. You must go to gym. You must do whatever. Stay active.
So I think what fuels me is to experience different things and to experience a satisfaction in learning something new. One thing about acting is and why I was attracted to the acting industry in the beginning is because every time I got to a job, every time I'm on a set it's different. Even though I'm still being an actor, it's completely different. I'm playing a different character so I'm becoming a different person. I'm working with different people. I'm in a different work place. So I think that's what attracted me to this business right in the beginning and actually right through whatever I've done. Right through modeling and dancing and even teaching water sports. Every day was different.
Ambition fuels me, for sure. I'm never an ambitious person, and yes, I get very down sometimes when things aren't going my way or I'm not getting to where I think. But I think wherever we think we want to get to is probably not realistic. I've always said and I've always believed in the saying, "Shoot for the stars and you might hit the moon." It's like, okay, if your dream is to be a millionaire, aim to be a millionaire. Maybe you're make $200,000, but you got a dream really big to get anywhere. You might not get to what you think but you're going to get somewhere. My dream at one state was to become a United States citizen. I had no idea I would ever become a United States citizen. I became a citizen in 2005 and of course one of the best days of my life. I'd reached a dream. I'd reached a hurdle. It's just amazing.
I've always said, "Just go for what you want and never let anyone tell you you can't do something." A lot of teachers tell kids you can't do this, you can't do that. If your kid says, "I want to be astronaut," you must say, "Good. Go for it. Be an astronaut."
Cliff Simon: You've got to fuel people's belief in themselves.
Dustin: That's a pretty interesting way to put it. The way you were talking about it at the beginning where it's almost like greed. Like we just want more, but that is what drives human innovation. If we didn't want to just strive to create bigger and better things that are far beyond our understanding, we wouldn't be where we are today. We wouldn't have civilization. We wouldn't have iPhones or computers or just these technologies. We wouldn't have made it into space. It is what drives humans to be a bigger, better person. It's amazing.
Cliff Simon: It's amazing. I got so much respect for those people. I mean, take guys like Elon Musk. He's changing the world. Richard Branson. They change the world. It's got to be so satisfying.
Cliff Simon: I know for a fact, Elon Musk, it's not money that drives Elon at all. He's an ex-South African. He's a down to earth guy. He's ambitious. He wants to improve life. That's what he wants to do and he is.
Cliff Simon: It's unbelievable. Unbelievable. So yeah, just go for what you want. Don't let anything stop you. Always stay true to yourself by telling kids who want to get into acting, "Stay true to yourself. Don't become what you think they want you to be. Be who you are. When people are employing you, they're employing you. The person you are. Don't think, 'Well, this is how I should act.' No, just act like you, and the right work will come. When the work comes, it's going to be great work."
Jeff: I feel like you would probably have the best answer to a question like this. It is tough for a lot of people to understand who they are and because you have led the life you have, I know you probably don't ... You're not Cliff Simon the actor. You don't just quantify yourself in one way. How do you define who you are?
Cliff Simon: Well, that same video that's on my website. I say that I'm driving and I'm saying whatever. I'm Cliff Simon. I'm an actor but acting is not who I am. It's what I do. It's what I do. Who I am is I'm a person who loves the water. I love water sports. I love experiencing new things. I love animals. I'll do anything for animals. I do whatever I can to protect them and all those kinds of things. I'm a big supporter of Sea Shepherd and we're working on a huge project now called Land of the Free, which is about illegal hunting in Africa. That's who I am. Acting's what I do. I love it. It's what I do. Hopefully I'm kind of good at it. But it's definitely not who I am. I'd rather sit around a coffee shop all day with a bunch of other actors discussing the work I haven't got.
Cliff Simon: I get out there. I'm up at six in the morning. I go to gym. I go paddle surf. If the wind picks up in the afternoon, I'll go and kite board. I play with my dog. I walk my dog. That's who I am.
Dustin: That's awesome. Finally, for our fans out there and fans of you, what is the best way to follow what you do? Social media wise or maybe a website.
Cliff Simon: Yeah. So my website is CliffSimon.com. Very easy.
Cliff Simon: The best way is to follow me on Twitter. I have Facebook and Twitter. But I'm more active on Twitter because I like it's instantaneous and all that kind of ... So my Twitter name is CliffMSimon, M for Mark.
Cliff Simon: CliffMSimon. My Facebook page is Cliff Simon. Yeah, either of those two. I don't use them for personal reasons like to chat with friends. It's really just to update the fan base with what I'm doing, any work that's coming up, new photographs. So those are the best ways. Please follow me on that and you'll be updated. As I said, I've got two very good projects coming up. The one is actually a sci-fi project called El Mythia, which is going to be huge. I'm pinned for that. I'm not attached to it yet but I am pinned for it. Fantastic character called Gray Paul. It's a trilogy film series. It's going to be huge. If they do what they want to do with it, it's going to be huge. They plan to shoot like six movies over the next 10 years. I'm in the first three definitely. So yeah, very big sci-fi project, which is we're busy with at the moment.
So when the promotional video comes out for that, I've done the voice over for it. I'll post that on social media so people can be kept up about it and the website for El Mythia and Land of the Free and all that kind of stuff.
Jeff: That's so excellent. Well, I got to thank you one more time for taking time to talk with us on this show. It was an absolute pleasure to talk with you.
Cliff Simon: Thanks, Jeff. Thanks, Dustin. It's been great, man. Yeah, thanks for being behind Personal Space. Yeah, watch it. It's going to be fantastic. I can't wait for season two.
Dustin: I'm such a sucker for sci-fi. So everything that I've seen from you, man, I just turn to goo. You're definitely one of my heroes. So it was really great talking to you, brother.