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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Michael Shanks

Who Is Daniel Jackson?
Ian Spelling, XPose Special #14 Yearbook 2000-01, Dec 00

"The time has flown by, but a lot of water has also gone under the bridge,” notes the genre veteran.  "So it is and it isn’t hard to believe that we’re into season four. It’s amazing to look back at everything that has been accomplished in what seems to be a short period of time, but which is also a long period of time."

"Everybody has gotten better at his or her job. The visual effects have come around ten-fold. The production values have increased. I believe that we are actually making the show for less money than when we began, but everything seems to have increased exponentially from the point of view of how it looks and how it feels. Stargate is just slicker and tighter."

"In terms of Daniel as a character, he’s very different from the guy you saw at the beginning. When we started, he was out of the mold of James Spader’s portrayal of the character in the film. Over time, we’ve shown a lot more dimension, a lot more of Daniel’s past. Ultimately, I’ve been able to put my own spin on him give him a little more edge and, hopefully, make him a little more three- dimensional.”

“In terms of the fourth season, I liked Beneath the Surface quite a bit. I’d also say that The Curse was quite good,” he comments, referring to an episode that aired back in September. “It gives a bit of Daniel’s back-story. It traces his days back at university.  And we’re shooting an episode now, actually, which is called Absolute Power. It continues the Harsesis child storyline and the search for that child [who is the son of Amaunet and Apophis] is consummated as we meet up with him again and he takes us, and Daniel, in a different direction.”

Double Jeopardy will be Shanks' directorial debut.   “It will be the 20th episode of the season,” he begins. “Directing is not something that I’m interested in jumping into full-time. It’s something that’s always made me curious, and the more I became involved in the film process, the more I became interested in directing from that perspective. Once you get the technical aspect out of the way —which I didn’t really have before Stargate — you start to become interested in it. To me, the opportunity to direct Stargate was one of comfort mixed with knowledge and experience. Here I am in a situation where I’ve been with the show for four years and, yeah, you get a little bored at times when the world doesn’t revolve around you every now and again. So directing lets you take on a different perspective and explore a new and exciting aspect of the show."

“It’s a new challenge, if you will, but I also have the safety net of knowing the back-story and the history of the show and the cast and crew better than most people who come in to work on Stargate. The people around me are so good and getting better every day. They can bail me out — and they’re willing to bail me out because they have the rapport with me. They don’t have to tiptoe around me. They don’t have to not step on my ego. They can just say, ‘You know, Mike, that’s not going to work,’ because I don’t have the experience. So we don’t have to waste time and, ultimately, the job will get done faster and better. It’s a great opportunity for me to step in there and to learn the process of directing without having the pressure of being a first-time director on a completely new entity."

“I’ve watched the show being shot, then watched the finished episode, and I’ve always had a perspective of how I might have done things differently,” he continues. “I’m not saying that I’ll be able to find some new way to shoot the briefing room, to make it more interesting. That’s ultimately a redundant task. My objective is to carve out the story in a more interesting fashion and tell the story as best I can. That was the reason I got the idea to direct an episode in the first place. It all rests within the story itself. I certainly looked at the whole process very differently once I committed to the task of directing. I look at it from two perspectives, as an actor and as a guy who’s going to direct an episode. I’m walking around the sets here and trying to think of things to do, where to put the camera, whatever. I’m also bouncing around ideas I’ve hashed in my mind for four years, [ideas] that I hope to use if the script allows me to.”

Shanks speaks highly of his co-stars and knows that they’ll support him when he rolls camera.

“The core of the cast has always gotten along well. We’ve become a lot closer and become much more like a family. We squabble more easily. We know each other’s pasts and back stories more and more. We’re like a family because we spend so much time around each other every bloody day. We can piss each other off at a moment’s notice, but we can also kiss and make up. Everybody still talks to each other and still gets along, which is kind of rare. Some of us even hang out and do extracurricular stuff together in our off time. It really is like a family. We’re dysfunctional and yet, at the same time, we have a lot in common.”

The chance to show his stuff, to spread his wings as an actor, has Shanks contemplating his future with Stargate. “I’m signed for one more year, for the fifth season,” he notes, closing the gate on this conversation.  “Beyond that, I don’t know. I’m still up in the air. A lot of me screams to move on to greener pastures. This year I’ll be celebrating my 30th birthday, and I don’t want to entrench myself in something for too long. I don’t want to get typecast and I’d like to take advantage of other opportunities that I’ve been missing. So there’s a trade-off. We’ll have to see. The bottom line is ‘Does the show have enough mileage in it?’ If it’ll be interesting, it’ll be more of a consideration to stick around, but if we’re just going to be flogging a dead horse, then I’d say probably not. So we’ll see.”

2000, XPose. Buy XPose Special #14 online

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