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Creation Entertainment Star Trek and Stargate Convention

August 28 - 29, 2004, Sacramento, California

by Michelle

Please don't re-use the images or text in public lists or web sites without permission.

I was lucky enough to attend the Sacramento Creation Star Trek/Stargate convention, though I only attended on Sunday since that's when the Stargate guests were there (all due respect to Star Trek, but I only have the energy for one obsession). After traveling as far as London to bask in the Stargate experience, it was great to be only a 2-hour drive away from home for this one.

Overall the convention was quite nice and well done, especially now that I've gotten the hang of how Creation does things. My biggest disappointment was the location of my seat, which was in the front row but almost to the edge of the room and definitely with a worse view than cheaper tickets that were further back but in the middle. So my pictures are not what I'd hoped but perhaps they're enough to give a flavor anyway.

Following are my notes and pictures from the brunch and the appearances by Don S. Davis and Michael Shanks, the two guests whose talks I saw.

A slight warning that there are some milder spoilers for Season 8 in the talks; nothing major in terms of plot development, though.

Sunday Appearances

Sunday Brunch
Don S. Davis
Michael Shanks

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The pictures aren't great due to my far-away seat; the Burbank ones are much better, here.

Sunday Charity Auction Brunch

Don S. Davis arrived at the brunch at the same time as the rest of us owing to a mistake on the actors' schedules. Offered the chance to leave and come back, he generously agreed to stick around and actually ate breakfast at the table next to mine. He was as usual very at ease and approachable, every bit the Southern gentleman.

Creation changed the rules for this brunch because recent brunches have run way overtime, messing up the day's schedule. So they insisted that everyone stay in their seats and that there would be no individual pictures with the guests. The time for each guest at each table would be limited to about 2 minutes. I think they overcompensated, as the guests were done visiting all of the tables in less than an hour in most cases. Don pretty much ignored the rules and posed with just about everyone, while the Creation guys kept telling him to stop. It was very funny seeing him agree to stop each time and then go about doing what he wanted to do.

The Star Trek guests were very nice as well (Nana Visitor, Connor Trinneer, Robert Picardo). Robert Picardo was quite at ease. I asked him if he'd be on Stargate again this year (he was in 'Heroes' and 'Inauguration'); he asked about the filming schedule and when I told him they were nearing the end of the filming season he looked quite disappointed and said he guessed not since they haven't contacted him yet. He told us we hadn't written enough letters asking for him to come back. Sorry, Robert!

Michael had a quick breakfast with the con staff before starting his rounds. He went from looking a bit tired to being totally 'on' and energetic in the blink of an eye, and that was amazing to see. At our table someone asked about Atlantis, and he said he enjoyed watching the pilot but hadn't seen the other episodes yet. A woman complained about the lack of quality Stargate merchandise for sale, and Michael said to keep writing to MGM since it's totally up to them to license merchandise. He certainly seemed familiar with the complaint. Hello, MGM? We have money, and we want to spend it but not on execrable bobble heads or boring logo t-shirts!

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Don S. Davis

Don S. Davis once again gave a lovely talk peppered with personal thoughts and experiences. He began by mentioning his lovely wife Ruby and how he'd called her the night before and wound up racking up a $52 charge to the hotel's telephone. It was an expensive way to say 'I love you.' He then spoke about a new once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do a one-man art show in France. They've given him two years to paint 50 canvasses. Referring to Stargate, he said he can't paint so much and work full-time, and if he passed it up he'd be passing up a dream of a lifetime. So for now art is his first priority. After Ruby, of course.

He talked about working on the show and what a family they have become and what a unique experience it was. He did do one episode this year ('Prometheus Unbound'). They'd like him to do the last two episodes but there is a scheduling conflict right now; he will do them if he can.

He was attracted to doing Stargate not because he knew much about the premise but because of Richard Dean Anderson (RDA) and Michael Greenburg, whom he'd worked with on MacGyver in the mid-80's. That said, he noted that much of great literature and plays are based on human mythology, and that connection makes such work timeless. Stargate is unique because of its basis in mythology. That's a key to its success, along with the fact that the star of the show is a guy who has attained an amazing career but who has kept his reality. He's just a guy. Don said, 'Rick couldn't be an ass if he wanted to be. He's got too much fun-lovin' in him. And he's too interested in sports, and people and in life. He's an amazing individual.'

Asked about the 'Maggie Rose,' the movie that he is planning to produce with Michael Shanks, he said they've sort of had to put it on the shelf. Michael loves Stargate as much or more than Don does, so as long as it's on, Michael will be tied up with it. The movie will be set in a 1950's fishing village in Newfoundland. He went on to summarize the plot and then explained that many of the scenes will be shot in the water, both on the surface and underwater as they film the salvage scenes. Because the water is so cold there, they have to film in the summer months, but that's when Stargate is filming, so they can't film until Stargate is finished. And Don said he's not going to do the show unless Michael Shanks is the star, so he will wait for Michael to be available.

He then went on to talk about how he was lecturing Michael on the flight from Chicago that he (Michael) is in the wrong game in television, and that he needs to be in feature films. 'He has that much charisma and that much talent,' Don said. To really stretch himself, instead of having one hour a week to tell a story, in film he would have 2 and a half hours and would be backed by an even stronger cast. And then we'd see the real range that Michael has as an actor.

Don then got choked up, as he is wont to do, talking about how wonderful the people from Stargate are. That they are the best group of people that you would ever meet. Chris Judge has a heart bigger than California and is great with kids from all walks of life. 'When Chris was born, God was having a good day,' he said. He feels that way about the whole cast and he misses them terribly. But he wants to paint a great picture, write a great poem, and carve a great sculpture, and now is the time to try.

He told the story of Chris gassing himself in the space suit and how everyone stood around laughing, because it was payback for Chris' many practical jokes. He went into an aside about how hard Chris works out, sometimes at 4 am, and that he was a 3-time all American football player. And he mentioned of course Chris' prodigious gas problems which he seems to have given up trying to control even in public.

Don prefers to paint landscapes because no one can accuse you of getting a likeness wrong like they can with a portrait; this was in jest of course. He was an abstract expressionist when he was young but now enjoys landscape painting the most. There will be a web site where we can see Don's paintings as he prepares them for the show in France, and it should be ready some time this Fall.

His favorite episode is now 'Heroes,' though he loves 'Cold Lazarus' and 'Bloodlines' as well. He loves episodes with kids and those with humor, and loved 'Urgo' for the chance to work with Dom DeLuise.

Someone asked what it was like when Michael returned full-time, and Don started by saying twice that no one wanted him to leave. So everyone was very happy and very grateful that he came back. Michael is an amazing guy, and while he was gone you couldn't talk to Chris about his absence without Chris breaking into tears, and the same for the others. And it wasn't just the fact that Michael is such a great guy and actor, but also that every show needs a hero. He went into a long aside the gist of which was that there is a big shortage of real-life heroes today because they are always torn down by the media. That's one reason that science fiction is so popular. And Daniel is a heroic character and it's important to society to have a character like him where a father can say to his son, 'I want you to grow up and be like him.'

He talked about his Ph.D. and background in teaching theater and set design in Vancouver, and how he went from that to being an extra and then a stunt man. Once he began to make more money as a stunt man than as a professor, he gave up teaching for good. He related some of the many connections he's made through his career, for example, his time on 'Twin Peaks.'

He said Teryl Rothery is like a daughter to him. She has been even busier since she ended her run on Stargate. She's one of the big voice actors in Western Canada, and she's very talented. According to Don's understanding, it was 'the people who bought the show,' in other words, SciFi Channel, who insisted that one of the regulars had to die, for dramatic effect. Fraiser was chosen and Teryl got the short end of the stick. This is interesting, because we have heard other stories where it was Robert C. Cooper who wanted a character to die permanently for dramatic effect, and that SciFi agreed to it.

He said a downside that is really an upside is that the cast has become too close over the seven years and that they don't want to be apart. They've been all over the world together, and not just for conventions. They book two- and three-week vacations together. It's gotten silly! But in spite of that he had to leave, even though it upset some of the people. He had no choice. He's getting older, and one thing that most fans never knew is that Don had a major health problem two-and-a-half years ago [which would have been during filming of Season Six]. He had an aortic aneurysm, and had to have a space-age tube placed into his heart in a major surgery. The show filmed around him, and he didn't miss a day's pay. He said it is an amazing company to work for and with, that they would write him out for a while and then write him back in.

He talked about his military experience and how much respect he has for the military structure and the way that merit is rewarded so that people don't get promoted if they don't deserve to. He feels the people at the top are not war-mongers, but rather are trying to succeed in their missions and take care of their people. He talked about the diversity of types of people all working together. He reminded the audience that the military doesn't make wars, the politicians do, according to their own agendas.

He talked about the actor who played young Hammond in '1969,' Aaron Pearl (also seen recently in Season Eight's 'Lockdown'). He is a Vancouver actor who was very professional, coming to the set for a couple of weeks before the episode started shooting to learn to imitate Don's portrayal of Hammond. Don said the only other thing he needed to do was shave his head.

Asked about playing Scully's father on 'The X-Files,' Don talked about how much he loved working with Gillian Anderson and that they still exchange Christmas cards. He thinks she is a wonderful actress with incredibly expressive eyes. He mentioned that he worked with David Duchovny's wife Tea Leoni in 'A League of Their Own,' so that is yet another connection he's made through his work. Maybe there should be a Six Degrees of Don S. Davis game :-).

A man asked in a somewhat challenging tone what Don had meant when he'd said an actor could more reach in a two-hour movie than while playing the same character for seven years, referring back to Don's earlier comments about Michael Shanks needing to be in movies. Don gave a very nice explanation, using the example of the movie 'The Fan' with Robert DeNiro. He talked about how they spent seven nights at Anaheim Stadium filming a scene that would take about a minute of screen time. They took the time to get every aspect exactly right, and that's a luxury you never have while shooting television, where you're lucky to have a minute to shoot a minute. In Stargate they have eight days to film an entire 42-minute episode. In a movie there is so much more time to break the scenes down to their smallest elements and to have time to try different acting choices. He talked about all of the different shots they do for each scene, from master shots showing everyone to other takes showing individuals or two characters at a time. And the continuity has to be maintained across all of the takes so it becomes very technical with not enough time to fully exercise your acting talents. So over seven years the audience might learn things about a character that it wouldn't learn in a movie, but a movie does provide more room for acting.

He talked about how little improvisation there is on set other than what RDA gets away with since he's a producer. Any changes to the script need the approval of the director and producers. Don feels it is a well-written show and coming from a theater background he appreciates that. And if an actor really objects to the words that are written, they have the option to approach the writers to convince them to change the line by arguing their point. But it's impossible to change things on the fly in general because it messes up the cues for the other actors, and leaves them wondering what to say to get back to a correct place in the script.

He talked a bit about the Air Force advisors who help the show represent the military aspects correctly. The Air Force loves the show, as evidenced by two Chiefs of Staff of the Air Force asking and them coming to appear on it.

That was Don's last question. When I got his autograph I told him to keep an eye on Michael and he said he always does. He's the type of person you'd want on your side, for sure.

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Michael Shanks

Michael Shanks was particularly on and funny during this appearance, which may not come across here since so much of it is hard to describe in writing. It made me all the sadder to have such a crummy seat. Of course I was still very happy to be there; goes without saying.

Michael started off talking about the addendum they'd received that told them not to talk about what's coming up for the final episodes of the season. Someone in the audience promised not to tell, but he didn't believe us, saying 'Some of you have laptops in here right now!' But he wanted to clarify a few questions he knew would come up. 'Don't rule out a Season 9 for the show. Last I heard SciFi wants one. They also want Season 2 of Atlantis. They want 20 episodes of both but now it's all up to the cha-ching [money] and all that stuff. So that means anything is still possible so it can go one way or the other.'

They will be making a 2-hour 'hidden episode' set in Season 2, with filming either in December or January. Michael has no idea how they are going to go back to their Season 2 looks, though he's sure he won't be shaving his head or wearing eye liner like Chris Judge. The movie will be available directly on DVD some months later.

Asked why Daniel descended, Michael said this will be dealt with in a season eight episode called 'Threads.' Right now Daniel doesn't remember why he descended, though he does have some ideas. It will be revealed in 'Threads' but Michael wasn't allowed to say more.

His favorite episode within the Stargate universe is 'The Fifth Race' and his favorite outside of that universe is the two-parter 'Heroes.' He knows people aren't happy Janet died, but he thought it was a very well crafted episode where everyone did a great job.

A little boy asked if he has fun with the other cast members. Michael said simply, 'No.' which cracked the little boy up and sent him laughing back to his seat. Then he said yeah, of course they have a great time. It's one of the only reasons they've lasted this long and that they haven't killed each other yet.

Asked what it's like working with RDA, Michael said 'he's a jerk' to much laughter. Then seriously he said they have a lot of fun together and whenever they work together it seems to be a little bit electric and it registers on screen. They have such a natural rapport now that they don't even really talk about the set-up of how they are going to do a scene. Now they just read each other and go with it. And the writers have picked up on the rapport and written it into the scripts. They have a lot of fun working together.

Asked how he keeps the character fresh, he said, 'Saran Wrap.' Really, he keeps changing the character because it would be silly to keep the character the same after all the experiences he's had. So, it's natural that he would change and evolve. And there is such a great following by the audience that they tend to go along for the ride.

A woman said how much she'd loved James Spader as Daniel and then that Daniel used to be sort of weak and milquetoast-y but now he's a buff action hero and why is that? This got Michael going and he very unsubtly flexed his muscles for the audience. Really, before returning he discussed with Rob Cooper the character needing to be more proactive in the action sequences because of RDA's reduced screen time and the need to balance the team. Also, that it made sense, once Daniel descended, for him to be less observational and pacifistic and more pro-active. Daniel wants to fight the good fight, and that's why he came back.

Asked how he prepares to play dark characters, he said he used to go home and kick his dog. Except he doesn't have a dog, so he wonders now whose dog that was. It's actually harder for him to play the 'altruistic, purist, puritanical, goody two-shoes scientist,' though he loves the dimension Daniel has taken on. But in 'Suspicious River' his entire five minutes of screen time was spent abusing a woman and that was hard. So it is hard to wrap your mind around that and all you can do is commit to the stakes of the character. You can never not like a character you're playing; you have to find a reason for him to be doing the things he does even if he's unsavory.

I asked if he's ever surprised by how an episode turns out versus what he expected while filming it, and he said usually the episodes are pretty true to how they are filmed. Sometimes a character can be cut differently or an actor can show up with an approach different than expected. He's never been truly surprised but to watch a rough version of an episode without the music or special effects is quite an experience. It makes you truly appreciate how much those elements add to the show, especially Joel Goldsmith's soundtrack. Stargate is unlike most television in that there is a lot of attention paid to the music. Even on Atlantis the music is so big, it encapsulates the spirit of the show and adds so much.

Asked what he like to have happen to Daniel, he said he'd like him to have a rocket pack like the one Bobba Fett had in 'Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.' After all, Sam got a boyfriend this season so why can't Daniel have a rocket pack? He never likes to answer that question seriously because he trusts where the writers have gone with the character. He's been asked if the character would go to Atlantis, and he thinks yes, of course Daniel would because he's meant for exploration and discovery, not for a happy ending. He's all about finding the end of the road, which is never ending. So he just wants the character to carry on on the same path and not to get entwined in relationships and whatnot, but to carry on the dream of exploration and discovery.

A little girl asked what his favorite thing to do is, and he said, 'play with my daughter.' Then he shook her hand and said, 'yeah, kids are okay.'

He went into a riff about Thor and how he should do his own voice, and what a diva he is on set and in his big trailer. He said Thor's bad attitude might be because he has no genitalia and has a little man's complex. But Michael does enjoy playing him, and gave a short rendition of 'I like the yellow ones.'

Asked if he's worried about being typecast into the science fiction genre, he said not at all. First, anyone can get typecast into various genres so it's not just a scifi issue. Second, the show just isn't that well known. Traveling with Don the night before, he realized that Don gets picked out and noticed a lot more than he does. So maybe this role has slipped under the radar of the mainstream, and the same for Chris Judge. He is grateful for the Stargate role and what's it done for his career and says if he goes anywhere afterward, he'll have to start over again anyway and that's just the way the business works.

A young lady asked if it's hard to make a scientist with glasses look so completely awesome in every episode, to great laughter. He said, 'You know, there's just never enough questions like that.' He then started posing as a cool guy while pretending not to be, saying it all operates on an unconscious level. It was very funny.

Asked if he'd like to do movies, Michael joked that movies suck — all that money for short hours. Really he's not seeking any one thing in particular but would just want to find something to get on with his career. It is still his intention to move to LA once the show is over, because that would be the smart career move.

A teenaged girl asked if he could change one thing about himself, what would he change? The audience laughed unaccountably, to Michael's confusion. Then he said, 'I have these sort of chicken legs,' and immediately someone asked to see them. He hinted that he would have to remove his pants to show them and said only Mrs. Shanks gets to see that, and 'you guys, in the Season 7 premiere.' But he wishes he had a bit more meat on his gams. Hey, they looked just fine from where I was sitting!

A woman asked about his worst experience on the set, and he told a wonderful, long story about his worst day ever shooting on the show. It was during the filming of 'Sacrifices' this year. It was the only time he's ever wanted to put a bullet through his head. It was called Scene 0A instead of the usual start of an episode, scene 1 or teaser. It was basically the explanation, or exposition, of how they got from 'Birthright' to 'Sacrifices' all in one speech, as Jackson and O'Neill are walking down the corridor to the Gate room to meet with Bra'tac and Teal'c. The entire exposition is a page and a half of Daniel talking. And as they were about to start shooting, Andy Mikita, the director, announced, 'Okay, we're going to shoot it in one,' as in one continuous shot rather than pieces fit together later. Of course this is more challenging since the actors have to get the whole scene right. They even built extra hallway so Jack and Daniel would have enough walking time. Mikita then said they could also shoot through the 'Gate so that the conversation in the Gate room would be part of the single shot, and this all would amount to over four pages of dialog, most all of it by Daniel.

Michael hadn't had the best sleep the night before they shot, and had only had the scene for a couple of days to memorize it. On top of that, as they started to shoot he saw they had a guy welding in the hallway as part of the scene, making lots of noise. The noise completely threw him off from remembering his speech and they had to stop. They needed five minutes to set up the scene again, and Michael tried again. At this point he started what he called the 'spiral of shame' where each take got worse and worse. So each time, he would take a deep breath and ask himself, 'okay, where does the speech start?' and his answer would be, 'I got nothin'.' And that's how it went for four takes, and between each one he had the five minutes of set-up time to get down on himself and think about how he was letting down 150 people on set who were waiting for him to do his job. He would go back sweating and in agony. And Rick was very patient but he didn't have a single line, and Tony and Chris were waiting in the 'Gate room for them to even get close to them.

When you watch 'Sacrifices' you'll notice in the first scene of the episode that Daniel is moving his hand a lot as he talks, as if he's trying to grab each word out of the air. Michael is half Italian so when he's lost in a speech his hands get moving and all of a sudden Daniel Jackson turns into someone from The Sopranos. And once he got one good take, Andy Mikita cheerily suggested they do one more for safety, but Michael said, 'seriously, man, seriously, I can't do that again.' So unless they needed another one he wasn't doing another one. So they kept the first take he got right, but there are five others that are just a massacre of the English language. So that was the worst downward spiral he's ever had on the show. And the fact that people were so nice and encouraging about it just made the pressure worse and gave him a higher ledge to fall off of. You really had to feel for the guy, though five takes doesn't seem like that many really!

A woman asked what Michael thought about anti-Daniel rant by 'Pierre' on The Conan O'Brien Show on ABC, to much booing from the audience. He said, 'I was fine with it; I thought it was really cool.' He was flattered that the show got that kind of attention since sometimes when they are making the show they forget that anyone actually watches it. Then he described how Pierre came on set and had a small part in 'Zero Hour' and how they filmed a bit for Conan's show where Daniel Jackson shoots the crap out of Pierre. So he was cool with it, and the more exposure the show gets the better, especially to people who maybe haven't heard of it before.

Asked whether we'll see more Jack and Daniel scenes as the season progresses, Michael said yes there are a bunch more. There is a great scene with the two of them at the beginning of 'Prometheus Unbound' when Daniel asks Jack for permission to go with General Hammond on the Prometheus on a rescue expedition. 'Prometheus Unbound' is one of his favorite episodes of the season.

As far as fun filming experiences, he wishes there had been a camera behind the scenes during the filming of 'Urgo' because it was one of the best times they've ever had filming. Dom DeLuise sort of made his own script and spent all of his off-camera time trying to get Chris Judge to laugh during every take, and the camera wouldn't stop rolling until Chris was laughing hysterically. It was great to work with a legend like Dom DeLuise.

The little girl from before asked him where his glasses were, and he said 'at home' and asked for a hug, which she granted.

And that about wrapped up another fun, insightful and very entertaining appearance by Michael Shanks! Autographs were next, and I had Michael autograph an 8x10 of a photo I'd taken of him at Burbank. He appreciated that I'd put him off-center in the image to make room for his autograph, and drew me a little Daniel picture to go with it, with cute little glasses. To top the day off, I had the winning auction bid for a big banner with SG-1 and Hammond, which both Michael and Don signed. It now adorns my office; my colleagues get a kick out of it, and I've already discovered some fellow fans I hadn't known about!

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