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Cliff Simon, the actor best-known for his recurring role as the villainous Ba'al on the sci-fi series Stargate SG-1, died earlier this week at the age of 58. Simon's wife Colette announced the news Thursday on his Facebook fan page, revealing that he'd passed away March 9 on Topanga Beach, California, in a tragic kiteboarding accident.
"A small saving grace to this tragedy is that he was doing one of the things he loved most and passed away on the beach near the water, which was his temple," Colette Simon wrote. "I know this is a shock and will hit hard but we hope you can respect our need for privacy at this time."
A native of South Africa, Simon's first passion was actually sports. He was an Olympic-level swimmer, training for international competition after moving to England as a young man, and made the English International Olympic team in the mid-1980s. Instead of competing, though, Simon moved back to South Africa, where he joined the Air Force and did modeling jobs. Then, in the early 1990s, the acting bug struck when he landed a role on the soap opera Egoli: Place of Gold.
It took almost a decade, but Simon eventually found his way to California, where he landed a role alongside Don Johnson in Nash Bridges. That boosted his profile, and by 2001 he was a recurring member of the Stargate SG-1 cast, and thus a key player in one of the most important sci-fi franchises of the last 30 years. As the System Lord Ba'al, he joined the series in Season 5 and remained a major part of the series throughout the rest of its 10-year run, making him the longest-serving villain in the franchise. He later reprised the role in 2008 for the film Stargate: Continuum.
Simon continued acting regularly in the years since leaving Ba'al behind, making guest appearances on TV series ranging from Days of Our Lives to NCIS to Castle and providing voiceover work for video games like The Order: 1886 and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. As his wife expressed in her tribute to him, though, Simon also liked to be thought of beyond his acting work.
"But as he said, 'acting is what I do, it's only a part of who I am,'" Colette Simon wrote. "And he was SO much more - a true original, an adventurer, a sailor, swimmer, dancer, actor, author. There is a gaping hole where he once stood on this earth. He was loved by too many to mention and had a great impact on so many lives. He was an amazing and much loved brother, uncle, nephew, cousin and friend."