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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Michael Shanks

Michael Shanks Q&A at SydneyCon
Poss, BoBW con, Sep 01

Michael Shanks at Sydney Con - Saturday,  September 2001

Q: (What's the truth behind the rumour you're not returning for
Season Six?)

A: Ooooh.  (sepulchral tone) Troublemaker. (laugh) Yes, unfortunately it is true. Did anybody here go to Gatecon? Okay, one or two people. I don't know - is that a commonly known rumour or am I dropping a bombshell...? Okay, yes it is true. Um ... Brad was put on the spot at Gatecon. Originally I was planning on announcing that fact at these events that I was going to because I knew it was going to be a bit of a deal and a sad event but  - um - it is true.

My reasons for doing that are simply that I felt that the show had out-evolved the character. And - um - I know a lot of people won't see it from the same  point of view but from the trenches I realised that  - um - the show was going in a direction that - ah - didn't bring the character along with it very comfortably, and  - ah - as a result it was giving me less and less to do and - um - as an actor you want to be doing more all the time. You don't want to be doing less, and that's what was happening. It was happening all through the fifth season and about midway through I just said, "You know something - " You know, we talked about it before, because there'd been a discussion beforehand and you know directing was really the thing that was keeping me in the game - as well as my contract... (laughs from crowd).

But - um - I - I made the decision with a heavy heart and nothing came heavier than about a week and a half ago when I had to actually leave the show, but it was a decision that I think is best not only for me but for the show. Because I felt a lot of the time the character was becoming a bit of an anchor dragging behind the show and - ah - was holding it up a little bit. Another character could probably serve it in the direction that it was going. If you haven't seen the fifth season then you probably don't know what I'm talking about, but there is a certain - ah - 'military element'  - um -that is taking hold of the show, meaning that we're going off in a pseudo X-Filesy kind of direction some of the time that was explored in the fourth season. And I think the best way to put it is the character wasn't being - as well as it - it wasn't comfortable for him, he was not being allowed to slip into that groove comfortably. And I felt that - if that effort wasn't going to be made then it was time for me to move on.

Q: (What did you like best about your character?)

A: Ohhh... I think the joy of discovery was probably the most - the most positive aspect of the character, that I enjoyed to play the most. It was always - always whenever archaeology was involved, whenever he was within his element that it was fun to play that level of excitement. To get him out of the mode of standing in the background, which seemed to be happening a lot more in the last two years of the show than it did in the first three, and ah... For the first three years of the show there was a lot more discovery, and when I say about hanging in the background more, he was - the show  - what it did in the first three years was it created mythology, it created worlds. And budget-wise, and story-wise for the audience as well, the show started to move into uncovering more and more about the worlds we already discovered...  Or, or, dealing with the elements of warfare, or stuff like that, and the character just doesn't fit comfortably into those grooves, so it was always...

Like in The Tomb, in fifth season, or certainly Torment of Tantalus that was the most fun for the character to play is that joy of discovery, of something that's bigger than all of us to discover. And that's what I really felt that the show - when the show was peaking at its strongest was when we did episodes where that - that - that discovery was happening, that initial 'What's out there?' and - you know - how does it pertain to the questions we ask about ourselves in our society and archaeology like - Indiana Jones or whatever - 'What kind of questions of our own existence can we answer from looking out there?' And I think that's where the character fits strongly into the show and when it didn't go there the character seemed to fall out of place.

(As you can tell, he felt rather passionate about this!)

Q: (Now that you've left the show, do you have any new projects lined up to do?)

A: Not in the immediate... what the decision involved was to step away from everything and really decide what I want to do next and... um... Stargate is not gone away. Don't get the impression that Stargate is - you know, you'll never see me again on Stargate because that's not true. I've been told that (threatening hiss) 'It just won't happen'.   That I just can't get away. <grins> The door has been left very open. It's  - ah - a door that - is not, you know, engraved in stone or anything like that.

They do have a character that is stepping in to replace me, um - which I thought was kinda poor taste? <wry grin>  But - ah - but I don't mean the guy any ill-will 'cos he's got a real uphill road. They've got a guy when I - the episode that I finished, they had a fellow stepping in who - um - he was a very nice guy and I knew he had a tough job ahead of him so I wished him luck. He's only there on trial basis right now, so I don't know what's going to happen with 'that' particular character, or if they're gonna keep him...

But, ah, I'm just taking it as it comes right now. I have some plans for the future that involve theatre but there's nothing in stone right now and I'm sort of in the process of just looking at other offers and whatnot and seeing what happens ... But Stargate is still somewhere there, you know, hovering like a cloud over my head - or like, you know, a halo, I'm not sure which right now, but it's still very much there, so, um, I look forward to going back to seeing my family again there, so...

(Crowd member - You should have your own show)

Oh, thank you, thank you very much...

Well, apparently there is a spin-off concept in the works somewhere, but -ah - all these things, including the movie, are like - you know - <big breath> -you don't even want to say it because in this business nothing is secure for sure. So even the feature idea is simply an idea at this point. Everybody is saying, 'Yeah, we'd love to have this', but it's not for sure, spin-off is not for sure, it's all - anybody can pull the plug at any time.

Q: (News about the possibility of movie - is it going to be movie or series characters - possibility of you coming back movie?)

A: As far as I know - and again, it's very funny, because what you guys hear - through the internet or whatever and through other people - we're oftentimes not that far in advance of hearing. So, the last thing that I've heard about it - because this whole sixth season idea was up in the air up until two months before we finished shooting - so that wasn't - nobody knew what was going to happen with the future of Stargate. They wanted to do a feature - 'wanted' meaning the producers of the TV series wanted to do the feature - MGM is a different entity altogether, they're the ones who put the money forward and make the decisions.

As far as I know, if there is a second movie done it's going to involve the television characters. How that movie's going to happen, if it's going to be a TV movie - I don't know, I hope not, I hope it's a feature film but I don't know - whether or not it's going to happen at the end of the sixth season is an idea that I've heard lately but again... Nothing - when they say - somebody said it was green-lit, and that in Hollywood terms means 'It's a go,' but that's - that's such a load of malarkey when somebody hears that, it's all gossip and hearsay...

As far as I know, they want to do one at the end of the sixth season involving the television characters - I don't think it's going to involve bringing Kurt Russell and James Spader to play those characters again, not through MGM anyway. I know that they probably can't talk about it right now, because -ah - up until the end of this month I believe Devlin and Emmerich have an option on doing the feature of Stargate 2. That's why they're not probably talking about it much, because Devlin and Emmerich can still exercise that, so shhhhh! <audience laughs>

But as far as I know, if MGM were going to go ahead with another feature of Stargate they would involve the television characters, and as far as me returning for that - that's been a door that's been very left open to me to decide if I want to do that. And, um,  I already said that if that happened, I'd love to do that, so...

Michael Shanks at Sydney Con - Sunday,  September 2001

Q: Leaving the show...?

A: Yes, it is true. Is that a 'why'? To make a long story short, I think the show had kind of evolved from a place where the character would feel like he belonged any more, and it was continuing to go in that direction. We were exploring a lot more of a - ah, it's about a military man, and a military base, and the military people, and it was becoming about conspiracy theories and CIA and special agencies and things like that and involved in the politics behind it, and the civilian kind of got left in the dark a little bit a lot of the time. And I found that to be just something that wasn't a joy to sort of be wallpaper in the background a lot, so I knew that - ah - I could probably have better luck somewhere else and five years had gone by and I'd had a good ride and it was time to move on.

Q: Is there a possibility that you will get no work and are you making a wise decision?

A: Yes, there's a very great possibility that I won't work again. Um - that's always the case, and I think that's every actor's fear. Which is why actors continue to do something for probably longer than they should - why anybody, you know, maybe does a job for longer than they should. I, fortunately, have the benefit of - of what I consider youth right now, and ah - and smart aptitude when it came to doing something with my money, so I put myself in a position where I wouldn't ever need a job. I didn't need one right away. 

And you know, I'm blue collar from the ground up, I grew up putting myself through school doing construction and pouring cement and cutting down trees and making big ones into little ones, so  - ah - I - I know what it's like to do way better than you should be doing. And I'm quite content with the decision because I think it's  - uh - anything that makes you happy, or any situation that you find unacceptable, you have to use your best principles and put them in a place where you feel you belong. And - ah, that's what I chose to do, I chose to follow my heart in this particular case, and  - ah - it hasn't let me down so far, so I don't think it will.

Q: How did you feel about the way your character's leaving of the show was handled? (My question! <g>)

A: Um - I think it's fine. I think it serves the best interests of the fans, the best interests of me, the best interests of the people who make the show. I think there could have been a million possibilities that you could have done - had the same result without actually - you know - going to do that, but at the same time you want to create a dramatic situation so they did. They created a very angsty, dramatic situation to usher the character out.

I think they tried, and I warned them against it, I fought against it and I hopefully succeeded because I think there was an attempt to cop out on the emotional impact of the character leaving, because it was - it was - he was leaving, leaving a huge door open. 'He's not dead, he's not dead, he's not dead. No, no, no - no, don't worry, he's not dead,' but the truth was, nobody knows that, and if you didn't - if you leave that door open saying 'He's not dead, he's not dead, he's not dead,' right now, then what's the point? He's just leaving. He might as well be going to the grocery store and we're gonna see him later, so  - um - I don't necessarily think it is the - you know, I could argue it was the best, I could argue it wasn't the best, but I think it achieved the best result for all concerned.

Q: Would you like to be in the feature film?

A: Absolutely. That's something that I said, too - having done the series for a long time - and don't get me wrong, I'm not disowning (sic) myself away from the series at all, the door is open as much for myself -as much for them to welcome my character back, and it's all subject to their whims and my availability, and um - that's kind of a necessity. And I've been told as I walked out the door, they said, 'Look, your input is up to you, however much you want to be back in the series.' Now, that's what they say when you're leaving, don't they? <huge grin>

But, ah - the truth is I'm sure that they'll try to find some way. Brad told me that he wants the character in the feature if I'm up for it and available. And I said I'd be very open to that idea because there'd be nothing better than to take something that you've seen confined to the small screen for a long time, throw a lot of money at it and make - because it's, it is such a big concept show, that it's always been a dream of mine to take that concept and really give it some scope and really give it some big issues to contend with and see how those characters fare on the big screen, and of course I'd be interested in that. I'd be a fool not to.

2001, Poss.

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