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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Michael Shanks

America's Most Wanted
Diane McGinn, Starburst #286, May 02

"A bit of changing of the guard had happened on the production side of Stargate at the end of Season Three," Shanks explains, "and I saw early on in season four what was going to happen. They were trying to introduce this character of Anise, and all of a sudden this love relationship between Carter and O'Neill seemed to blossom, and I just went to the writers of the show and went 'What are you doing here? You're making it into a soap opera!' I knew that with all this going on, my character and Teal'c would be just left on the backseat, but they came back to me and said 'It's just something we're experimenting with."

[Starburst asked if this was about Stargate losing its focus or about Michael Shanks grumbling because he wasn't getting much to do.  They refer to what Brad Wright has stated in interview, that with Sha'uri dead, Daniel's story arc was over.]

Michael Shanks takes the point, but disagrees. "I think you can have that problem of writing a character into a corner, but at the same time you have the ability to bust him out of that corner. After all, with the character of Carter they managed to cross the 'mythical boundaries' with complete frivolity, saying 'We'll make her an astrophysicist, we'll make her a Captain and eventually a Major in the US air force. We'll make her a kick arse martial artist and an ace shot, and a field medic and an expert in technologies - not just knowing the basic principles of science, but understanding the technologies as well - and then she gets penetrated by a Goa'uld so now she has their inherited abilities! It's like 'Wow, she should have her own series!'"

"They seemed to do that pretty freely with that character, so I really didn't see how it would be too much of a stretch to find some justification for giving Daniel some added aspects. It would only be a matter of putting thought to idea and then pen to paper. But it just wasn't important enough to the writers. That wasn't for lack of me speaking out, saying 'Hey, I'm not doing nothing, I'm not active in this script.' Sometimes efforts were made, but more often than not they weren't and so after a while I knew that no matter how much jumping up and down I did it wasn't going to happen."

He adds a note of appreciation for the co-stars. "I think so, for the most part, with Don Davis, Teryl and Mandy and Christopher Judge and myself, we're all creative people and a good, grounded base of individuals, who've been somewhat emotionally effected by what's happened. Talking to them, they all relate to my standpoint. They in a way wish that they had the luxury to take the sort of stance...but at the same time I respect their decision to stay with the show."

[Michael Shanks refers to the NID/political/ conspiracy/military episodes in which Daniel tended to be sidelined.]

"That was really the moment of realisation that, regardless of whether it's a quality television programme, I'm not really doing much on it anymore, and that wasn't always my lot. If it had always been from the start, then maybe I would have accepted that, but the change that had happened, where I went from doing a fair bit on the show to doing less and less? Well, I didn't think that was deserved and I didn't think it was true to the original premise of the series, and that wasn't something I was going to tolerate, as an actor. I was told that it wasn't a conscious decision, but the result was still the same. So knowing that that wasn't going to change for the sixth season, I knew that I was going to get out then."

"Brad Wright has gone on record as saying he wanted Daniel to guest star in six episodes of this series, but did anyone come forward to me to talk about these six episodes? That was more a public relations exercise, something to throw at the angry fan response than it was to actually guarantee the fans the character would be back.  I don't think at this point they are even thinking of that," he adds, warming to the theme.

"It seems strange to me that a company which is so interested in forming a franchise, with a spin-off show and a film to come, could fail to satisfy one of it's main characters, and hold the door for him to re-appear. Is that good business sense? I don't think so. It's not that I'm desperate to come back, but their response was, 'You want to go? Oh, well, there's the door, don't forget to close it on your way out.' That doesn't seem very smart business sense to me. I could understand if it was just the last year of the show, end of discussion, but they're talking about a feature film and a spin-off franchise after that so to alienate their audience? It shows their complete disrespect to the character of Daniel Jackson and to me as an actor, it show that they don't seem to think he was that important to the show. But that was something which was already reflected in the writing, so there was nothing shocking to me about that."

[Starburst references how shocked fans are that Daniel's departure hasn't been announced by MGM.]

"What a surprise!" laughs Michael Shanks. "It's called denial, it's denying the character was ever important enough to warrant an announcement... I don't think the people who run the show really think the Sam, Teal'c and Daniel characters are too important to the show. They're just expendable assets, so that's just the way they've acted. They never really promoted us when we were on the show, so why promote us when we're off it? It's kind of like ignoring that we were there, and ignoring that we're going."

[Starburst asked about Michael's reaction to "Meridian".]

"Well, Brad Wright's gone on record as saying the important thing was to introduce a positive element in the midst of this tragedy, otherwise the audience would get depressed by Daniel's demise. It's like... when your cat dies, is the first thing you do the next day to run out and get a new kitten? But it's again a reflection of the corporation's attitudes towards the characters. 'Well, we'll just get another guy who's six feet tall and of fair appearance to play this sort of character.'"

"I wish I'd known how it would have evolved, and that's kind of what fuels my ire a little bit, that fact that I saw it coming but was told 'Don't worry about it . But I didn't get what was promised, and I wish I'd known to get out at that time.  It's a learning experience."

2002, Starburst.  Buy Starburst #286 online

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