MGM SCI FI Newsletter, Nov
MGM Sci-Fi Newsletter
had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Stargate SG-1's Michael
Shanks, to discuss everything from his roots in acting to his young daughter.
Here's the exclusive interview for Sci-Fi Newsletter readers.
Sci-Fi: You started your acting
career on the stage. How does doing television compare to your stage work?
MS: It's "real" different.
The main difference is on stage there's a lot more acting as part of the
process, whereas on TV there is a strong technical side, which is necessary,
but a lot more time consuming. Also, on stage there's that live audience
element which really gets your adrenaline going. Obviously being in front
of a live audience can compel and drive your performance more.
Sci-Fi: How old were you when
the acting bug first bit you?
MS: I must've been about four
or five. I watched way too much TV. I used to act out and role-play the
Six Million Dollar Man, Wonder Woman… not that I played Wonder Woman or
anything. (laughs) Those shows just got me interested in role-playing and
I guess my acting progressed from there. I started pretty young.
Sci-Fi: Where did you study
MS: At the University of British
Columbia. I was in the Bachelor of Fine Arts Acting Program. My major was
Sci-Fi: So when did you get
your first big acting break?
MS: Still waiting for it. (laughs)
Sci-Fi: Do you do anything extra
to psyche yourself up for a scene? Any tricks for bringing out different
emotions to the characters you've played in the past?
MS: It really depends on the
scene. I mean, I always do tricks. Once you've done the same type of thing
enough times, you find that the raw emotional part doesn't always work
necessarily as well as it did when you were younger. You get a little bored
with yourself, so you find different ways of coaxing yourself to play scenes
with a new twist. I like to draw from personal association. It's what makes
acting the most personal and gives the audience true access to true feelings
that you really feel or have felt in the past.
Sci-Fi: Getting away from raw
emotion and true feelings for a moment, have you ever done any comedy?
MS: Only on stage. I've never
done a sitcom, although I'm looking forward to doing that. But the only
comedy I've done so far is in the theater.
Sci-Fi: Since you've tackled
every medium, which do you prefer? Stage, television, or film?
MS: Each has its benefits. As
an actor, stage, definitely. But I do enjoy TV as a visual medium, and
film, well, it's great for capturing both of those. But I do prefer stage,
although I realize there's not a great living to be had there. And there's
certainly a lot of great stories being told on TV and in film.
Sci-Fi: There's definitely a
lot of great stories out there, and a lot of great actors too. Any actors
in particular that you admire?
MS: I have a wide range of admiration
for a lot of actors, but I guess if you were to ask me point blank, I'd
have to say Harrison Ford.
Sci-Fi: Do you ever make it
a habit of studying other actor's performances?
MS: Oh, all the time. Not to
steal their portrayals outright, but any smart actor will try to pick up
little ticks and twirls of an actor's personas. I think to study actual
actor's personas are important as an actor. As they say, steal from the
best, and if you can do that and make it your own I think that's the nature
of the craft.
Sci-Fi: Okay, let's get to the
juice. What's your favorite Stargate SG-1 episode?
MS: Favorite episode? I don't
know if I have "one" favorite episode, but the one that registers in my
mind is an episode from the first season, "The Torment of Tantalus". That
show sort of embodied all the aspects of Stargate SG-1 that I thought would
be successful. I thought that was the path that we should be going down,
involving that discovery of something that gives us insight into our past,
that basically asked more questions than it answered. That show is the
most prominent in my mind, though others have followed since. But that's
the one that registers strongest with me.
Sci-Fi: A good part of your
job on Stargate SG-1 is acting against the CGI special effects. What's
the most challenging aspect of that?
MS: I think just the idea that
we're not really sure what we're seeing. We do get pictures, but sometimes
it's just a big question mark of asking yourself, how would a person really
react to something that is that fictional? All you're looking at is a big,
giant green screen when you're doing CGI scenes. So all you can do is wonder
how that thing that you're supposed to be seeing would really affect you
even though you can't see it and can't really imagine how it's going to
be put in front of you. Yeah, the use of your imagination is constantly
the biggest challenge.
Sci-Fi: You have some directing
under your belt. Do you prefer acting to directing, or vice-versa?
MS: I prefer acting. Acting
comes easier to me, though directing is definitely something I want to
explore. I don't feel directing is something that I'm the most apt at right
now. I still have a lot of homework and learning before I'm really capable
of cutting my teeth with it. Acting's simply more fun at this time because
I'm more relaxed when I'm doing it, so it's definitely the road I want
to continue to go down.
Sci-Fi: If you weren't an actor,
what do you think you'd be doing for a living?
MS: Boy, that's a tough question.
I think I'd probably be a lawyer or a politician, some equally slimy craft
in which I could use my public speaking abilities for financial gain. (laughs)
Sci-Fi: Anything you'd like
to share with us that you do in your downtime?
MS: Yeah, I like to spend time
with my daughter, you know, watch her grow up. I'm also trying to get back
into playing a lot more hockey. Yeah, playing hockey, watching hockey and
especially spending a lot of time playing with my daughter, that's basically
what I like to do.
Sci-Fi: Sounds like you like
being a daddy?
MS: My daughter's the most important
thing in my life. She's given me a different perspective on life, made
me look at the world's issues a little closer. Being a parent, every cliché
that you've ever heard holds true. Once you've looked into your kid's eyes,
you really realize that they're the most important thing in the world to
you, and my daughter is certainly the most important thing in the world