Eramo, TV Zone Special #38, Aug 00
Michael Shanks, alias Dr Daniel
Jackson, sits down in his trailer on the MGM Bridge Studios lot for a break
after spending the morning working on The First Ones, the eighth episode
of Stargate SG-1’s fourth season. The actor has been made to look ‘roughed
up’ by the make-up team in preparation for next scene with a creature called
an Unas. He recalls SG-1’s first encounter with this alien species, which
took place way back in the show’s first year.
that was a long time ago,” muses Shanks. “It’s funny, I’m going to be directing
an episode of our show later this year and because of that I’ve taken much
more of a visual interest in it, so I’ve been watching tapes of the old
stories. When I look at some of the stuff we did in the first season it’s
hard to believe that it’s the same group of people, and that includes myself,”
he laughs. “It really hasn’t been all that long time-wise, yet so much
ground has been covered in terms of a tv series. It’s amazing to see how
much our characters have grown.
“As for Daniel Jackson, I think
I’ve definitely made a break from James Spader’s interpretation of the
role in the Stargate feature film. That was the initial niche that my character
was put into. Rick was doing such a different rendition of Colonel Jack
O’Neill than Kurt Russell did in the movie, and since James Spader’s portrayal
of Daniel was successful it was decided I would stick fairly close to what
he did. This way, viewers wouldn’t have to get used to too many changes
right from the start."
“Since then I’ve taken the character
and made it more my own. I started off playing him with this childlike
innocence and then as each season passed the writers and I have delved
into darker aspects of his persona. Daniel has become somewhat less, I
hate to say halve, but I guess somewhat less innocent. However, he’s still
very passionate about what he does."
“Some of Daniel’s innocence
and naïveté was bound to wear off after a while,” continues
the actor. “We can’t continue to play our roles the same way all the time.
I think it’s a common theme in television that viewers become attached
to a certain character on a show and it becomes so successful that no one
wants to change it. Well, you have to remember Stargate SG-1 isn’t a film,
it’s a tv series. As such, our characters experience new things every week
that affect their lives and personalities in some way. After all, that’s
what happens to people daily in real life, right? So I’m thrilled that
Daniel and the others have evolved since day one.”
is especially pleased with the witty rapport and verbal shorthand that
has developed between Daniel Jackson and Colonel Jack O’Neill (Richard
Dean Anderson). “I love it,” he enthuses. “Rick and I didn’t really
know each other before we began working together on Stargate, but midway
through the first season we discovered we had a similar sense of humour.
We decided to play with this in the show and, once we saw that it worked.
kept it up. The writers picked up on what we were doing and began writing
lines for us in the scripts. For me, that’s one of the highlights of doing
this show. It's great that within the very serious genre of Science Fiction
we’re still able to poke fun at each other. Sometimes this can lead to
a bit of, let’s say, antagonism between Daniel and Jack, but I just think
that helps further define their relationship."
The Search for Sha'uri
As part of the SG-1 team. Daniel
Jackson’s standing orders are to help seek out new allies and procure new
technology to aid in the defence against the Goa’uld. However, beginning
with the show’s pilot, Children of the Gods, the doctor’s personal mission
has been to find his wife Sha’uri (Vaitiare Bandera), whose body was made
host to Amonet, a Goa’uld parasite and mate to Apophis (Peter Williams).
All that changed, though, when Teal’c (Christopher Judge) was forced to
kill Amonet/Share to save Daniel’s life in the third-season episode Forever
In A Day.
“Unfortunately, Daniel was starting
to relate everything to his quest to find Sha’uri,” explains Shanks. "It
got to the point where both myself and the show’s writers, and I’m sure
the audience to some degree, were saying, ‘Oh, my God, is he going on about
this again? He’s getting really pathetic and whiny.’ We finally decided,
OK, we have to poop or get off the pot. Either we get Sha'uri back and
find a way to work her into the show or around her within the show or we
just get rid of the character, which is what the writers did. Of course,
then the question became, ‘Well, now what do we do with Daniel?’ With Sha’uri
gone, he no longer had a storyline.
out of Forever In A Day came a new journey for Daniel, which was to find
the Harsesis child, who carries all the knowledge of the Goa’uld.
The difference with this mission was that it had more of a hate/antagonistic
feel to it, do you know what I mean? It allowed me to take my character
into a much darker place than in previous seasons, which I spoke of earlier.
This resulted in his encounter with Monk [Terry Chen] in Maternal Instinct.
He taught Daniel to let go of hate and how to rediscover the beauty and
joy in life. Daniel also realized once he found the child that he had to
allow it to be looked after by its guardian Oma Desala [Carla Boudreau],
but with the hope that they would one day again. It was, I felt, quite
a pivotal turning point for him.”
Another important episode for
Shanks' character last season was Crystal Skull, in which Daniel Jackson
re-establishes ties with his grandfather Nick Ballard. [Jan Rubes]. “Daniel.
for all intents purposes, has been booted around the block,” notes the
actor. "His parents died, his foster parents, well, we don’t really know
what happened to them because they're never spoken of, his wife is and
the Harsesis child is gone. You think, 'Jeez, the poor guy.' Something
positive had to happen in Daniels personal life, hence the discovery of
that one last thread of family. Of course. getting him and granddad together
Skull actually evolved from a script that [executive producer] Michael
Greenburg wrote involving Jack O’Neill’s past. When Rick decided that he
didn’t want to do down that road, Michael approached me about it.
I had been asking the writers to do a story about the myth of the crystal
skull for a while, so I suggested it to Michael. He and I worked together
to incorporate that angle into his script, which he changed to focus on
Daniel Jackson. I thought it worked out nicely and I had fun playing
out the emotional aspects of the story,” says the actor.
Driven by Character
Is the actor pleased with his
character's development so far this season? "I'm more a fan
of the character-driven episodes and we each get two or three of those
a year,” says Shanks. “The one we’re doing now is my first Daniel story
of the season and I'm having a great time. Overall, I’m quite happy with
how the series is going. We’re shooting on 35mm now and it looks visually
stunning. As far as character evolutionary points I think those are yet
to come, so we’ll have to wait and see.”