Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Michael Shanks
Michael Shanks And Amanda Tapping
Creation Entertainment Grand Slam Event, Stargate Sunday, 28 Mar 04
I was lucky enough to attend this event, and what follows is my experience of the con events. What I've left out is all the other fun I had meeting up, sightseeing, and talking nearly incessantly with wonderful fellow fans. Certainly there was never a dull moment from the time I arrived Friday night until my plane left Sunday night. Suffice to say I was pretty much useless at work on Monday. I've purposely omitted the names of other fans to preserve their anonymity, but rest assured I'll remember all of them!
Creation held the Stargate Sunday brunch at lovely Delmonico's Seafood Restaurant, across from the convention center. They had promised a 'drop-in' by Michael and Amanda, and we were expecting them to arrive toward the end of the event for a quick hello. So we were very pleasantly surprised to see them arrive together right at 10 am, smiling, waving and looking lovely as they walked by, while we waited outside. A few minutes later we entered, and as we went looking for seats we saw Michael and Amanda sitting and enjoying a nutritious breakfast beer in the bar area. This turned out to be a good decision on their parts, as I'll explain later.
Some of us made our way to the back room of the restaurant so we could sit at tables near each other. This was lucky, because that was where Michael and Amanda started their tour. They stopped at each and every table and spent a couple of minutes chatting, then let everyone get group photos. They bravely tried to ignore those of us taking pictures from a distance and in general watching their every move, and were very warm and friendly to everyone. Some of us took advantage by taking pictures from angles that might otherwise be considered 'rude,' but I'm sure they'll understand that it was for the good of the fans.
When they reached my table, my brain shut down, but I did manage to introduce myself and ask Michael how filming was going. He said it is very hectic, and that they're working on four or five episodes at a time. I asked if Jack was unfrozen yet, and he smiled and said yes. They agreed that the strength of the Canadian dollar is having an effect on production, but Michael said somehow they always manage to find a way to make it all work anyway.
We did our group photos and they moved on to the next table, which had some familiar faces for Michael. They ended up staying there for a while, partly because Amanda had to make a trip to the ladies' room and Michael didn't want to move on without her. None of us complained! This is when he told us he was wearing sunglasses because he'd managed to scratch his cornea again, like he had while at the Paris con in November. He was sorry to have to wear them but his eye was irritated and light sensitive. He showed it to us. Poor boy.
At this table was also where he got a glimpse the infamous 'questions for Michael' list that fans on the Our Stargate forum submitted, and he even insisted on reading one for fun. Sadly there was a bit too much frivolity for him to actually answer the question, but now he knows what an organized group we are!
Eventually they moved on and we were able to get some food, though I have to admit I was not really hungry after all of that. What a fan girl! Unfortunately I think Michael and Amanda ran out of time and weren't able to chat much to the last tables, though I heard everyone got photos. Even worse, as I heard Michael say later in the autograph line, they never got to eat any of the wonderful food. So that beer had to keep them going all day, and it was an incredibly busy day as well.
The main hall was quite full as Michael and Amanda's talk started; there were hundreds of people cheering their entrance, which was great to see and hear.
This account is from memory and scattered notes, so it isn't complete, but hopefully I've captured the main points correctly. In general Michael and Amanda joked constantly with each other and the audience, to nearly continuous laughter, and it was all too much to capture in writing!
They started out saying they were filming Season 8, and gave a nice plug for Atlantis. One of them made it clear it doesn't actually take place under water, which is fortunate since that would play havoc with costuming.
Amanda talked about how much she enjoys doing cons and meeting fans, and they are both very grateful for fan support.
Someone asked about the Sam/Daniel kiss picture that got released with other advance photos from the Season 7 episode Resurrection, and Amanda said the photographer didn't realize it wasn't part of the real scene, so it got released and went all over the internet. Then they kindly re-enacted the kiss for us, twice for the slow photographers; everyone seemed to enjoy it until Michael said no more, because they're married, and not to each other!
One of the first questions was directed toward the producers but answered by Michael: why isn't there room for both Daniel and Jonas on the team? Michael looked around asking "Producers?" He said that the roles of Daniel and Jonas would overlap too much, and that the cost of an additional full-time cast member would be prohibitive. Nicely handled, Michael.
The next question, for Michael, was, are you related to the Professor Michael Shanks who teaches Archeology at Stanford University? Michael answered, "What you didn't know is, we're the same person!" He finds it very funny that he plays an archeologist while the other Michael Shanks is one, but no, they're not related.
The next question was about antics on the set. After some hilarious back and forth and stage whispering, Amanda launched into a lengthy description of Michael, Chris, and Rick and their flatulence, which is apparently frequent and a subject of contests. Michael indulges less than the others because he's "so refined." They have contests in which they judge the sound, scope, aroma, and visuals of each event. Christopher always wins. He can actually clear a room, and they've stopped carrying beans on the catering truck.
But Chris got his own back when he was locked inside a NASA-supplied space suit for one episode. It was payback time! There was a horrible sound, and Chris was in distress. The guy from NASA was trying to get the helmet off, and Chris turned white! The other time was when he was lashed to a bed in the infirmary (Threshold) and had a moment. He cleared the whole studio with that event, but was trapped with the smell himself.
Next a poor gentleman asked Michael if he was coming back for a one-time guest appearance, because surely he wasn't coming back full time. Michael asked him, "What season are YOU on?" He then he explained he is back as a series regular in Season 7, and there was much cheering and rejoicing in the hall.
Someone asked if Richard is as funny as Jack. Michael said he's a lot funnier actually. He then went on to describe Rick's flatulence skills. He is able to expel on cue, and often when the director yells cut, Rick does. He said to watch for the Season 8 opening two-parter, when there is the 'inauguration' of General O'Neill. As they are decorating this officer, or announcing that he's taking over the SGC, there is supposed to be a rumble followed by the lifting of a door. So when they go to film the scene, the rumble happens but the door doesn't open. Then the door opens and Rick enters, and he's fanning the odor around himself, saying "whoa!" So that was the true opening scene of General O'Neill.
The next question was for Michael, what was it like for Daniel to be ascended? And for Amanda, are we going to see Sam's cop boyfriend again, or are Jack and Sam going to get together?
Michael said in his off-camera mind, being ascended was all about golfing and being at a place called "Club Paradise" in Las Vegas. For Daniel the character it would be more soulful, but for Michael it would be strip clubs and golfing. He added that he improved his golf score by 16 strokes while 'ascended,' so he's quite proud of that. As opposed to poor Daniel, who learned a lot but can't remember anything.
As for the cop boyfriend... Amanda lamented that he's known on the internet as 'stalker Pete.' This causes the actor who plays him, David DeLuise, no end of angst. She tried to set the record straight by remarking that Sam is not aware that Pete did the FBI check. She knows he followed her to the stakeout, but she doesn't know the rest. She thinks he's a sexy guy. Pete will appear in Season 8, and hopefully they'll address the stalker thing. A bunch of us made sure to cheer about Pete. David DeLuise is a lovely man.
As for Sam and Jack, she said her ideal ending from the characters' perspective is that he finally asks her to go fishing and she finally accepts. There was mixed cheering and moaning from the audience. She said we all know what fishing means, and Michael asked, "What are you talking about?" Which of course was quite clear.
The next question was whether either of them would be directing again. They said that with the shortened shooting schedule it would be very difficult for either of them to direct in Season 8, because they are filming all of the time, multiple episodes at a time. Michael noted that writing can be done alone in one's spare time, but directing can't be done that way. They are both hopeful about directing in Atlantis, and Amanda seemed very interested in this.
Someone asked what the character Grace represented in that episode. She described that each of her teammates and her father appeared to her. She started to say "Daniel is..." and Michael chipped in with "Annoying?" to much laughter. She said Michael played it very excited. And Teal'c called her Samantha because in her sub-conscious she wants Teal'c to call her Samantha. The child Grace could be seen as Sam's inner child, or she could be the child Sam might eventually have if she were to get a life outside the SGC. So Grace could represent a good future, because after all, Sam hasn't had sex in seven years! Michael said, "It's all about Sam having sex, isn't it?" Then Amanda said Jack's appearance was meant to be her subconscious imagining Jack letting her go, and her letting go of Jack.
Someone asked about the missing scene Martin Wood mentioned on the Full Circle DVD commentary, a scene between Daniel and Sam. What was to be in that scene? Amanda said in that scene Sam would have been a bit annoyed and asked Daniel why he hadn't visited her. And Daniel would have said something about her not needing him. It would have played on the sibling rivalry dynamic, and would have explained why Daniel never appeared to Sam. It would have been nice, but it was cut before ever being filmed.
A fan asked if they ever read any fan fiction. Michael said he's been handed some fan fiction that he'd read, and that there's a whole other area of fan fiction that he won't go near. That it usually involves Jack and Daniel, and sometimes it even involves Teal'c, on a Friday night. He said this with great humor and to lots of laughter. Amanda then said she'd read a Sam and Janet fic, and seen some computer-generated images of Sam and Janet. She showed them to Teryl and they were laughing their heads off. Then Amanda joked that they sort of looked at each other and said, "How you doin'?" Michael suggested people look for the image on E-bay. Note to Michael: not necessary, dear!
Then a certain familiar fan told Michael that a bunch of people got together last night in the hotel and watched his new film Sumuru. Michael said with great emphasis, "I'm so sorry." But she assured him it was fun... fun. She then asked what he looks for in a character, and that the question has nothing to do with Sumuru. He said, "Good." He said he looks for a character that has three dimensions, and if it doesn't, then he tries to add it. He looks for things to enjoy about the character, and tries to make their actions make sense.
A woman then asked if they liked massages and offered to give them to them at Gatecon, where she will be the official masseuse. This went on far too long, but Michael and Amanda were good sports about it.
A fan then told Michael she would spare him showing the Puff and Ruffle if Amanda would explain it. She gave a great description of how she and Teryl would make bets and rate the men on their flirting with pretty women who walk onto the set. Michael is the most subtle. Rick tries to be subtle but he's so obvious. Chris is big and charming and out there and sort of irresistible. Rick acts very interested in the woman, asking where's she's from and the like. Amanda and Teryl rate their performances, with cards and everything. Don Davis is not able to be subtle at all; he's barely able to speak and might say something like, "My God, you're a beautiful woman." It was all very funny.
A woman asked what they'd like to be doing or are planning to do once Stargate is finished. Michael said he and Don Davis have formed a production company to make the movie "Maggie Rose" and they hope to do it in the next year. He said it was about a ship that sank on the eastern side of British Columbia, then corrected himself to say Eastern Canada, but only after Amanda said, "It's rocky there, no wonder it sank!"
Amanda said she has been invited to do a production of "Twelfth Night."
Someone then asked if there would be more Jack and Daniel banter in Season 8 than in Season 7, or would we be "SOL." After asking what SOL stands for, Michael said there would be a ton of it in the opening two-parter. He said there is a new dynamic where Daniel has to ask General O'Neill for permission to do things, and there is a lot of back and forth from that. Amanda agreed there is some very funny interaction.
A woman asked Amanda about her feeling on Sam as a strong television female role model. Amanda said she thinks Sam has come a long way. She commented that male writers don't always know how to write female characters as strong without being bitchy. She said since the pilot she's been more free to discuss her character with the writers, that they are open to it, and she asked them to write Sam as a man and let her add the femininity herself, if solely by virtue of her gender. She said they went too far for a while with Super Sam, but now they've added more fallibility to her character.
They then introduced Tony Amendola (Bra'tac) who entered and sat with them. Since Michael and Tony were dressed similarly, they decided to put Amanda in the middle and Michael called it an 'Amandwich.' There was much frivolity and joking around.
A man asked if Daniel would have any romance this season. He said there would be a little bit of romance in an episode called Icon, which we have separately learned will involve a Japanese deity/Goa'uld.
Someone asked why so many Star Trek actors appear on Stargate. Michael said, 'cause they're cool!' and Amanda said because they're really good.
A man asked what it was like to eat all that steak in Upgrades. Amanda said they only nibbled the steak, since they have to be on television week after week (and stay thin); they did really drink the beer, however!
A man asked about Michael's performance as Hamlet and whether he had more plans to do Shakespeare. Michael said he didn't but would certainly like to. Amanda complimented him on his performance as Hamlet, saying it was 'phenomenal.' Michael said, 'would you tell me if it sucked?' Then Tony popped up with, 'I would!' to great laughter and applause. Tony said he saw it and thought it was a wonderful performance, as well.
Someone asked about a possible Season 9 and a theatrical movie, and they said there were lots of studio and financial considerations and anything is possible. Michael said of course he would do Season 9 if there is one.
A woman asked Amanda if she'd ever done any kayaking in the Florida keys, which Michael managed to turn into a dirty question about 'doing it.' Amanda has never done it in the Florida Keys, apparently.
Someone asked what props or special effect devices they'd like to take with them once they leave the show. Michael said he's already stolen two pairs of Daniel's glasses so that might be enough. Amanda said she'd like the 'gate. Amanda then explained that the reason Teal'c stopped wearing a watch is that Chris would always take them home and refuse to bring them back, so the props department finally stopped giving him one to wear. Tony said he would take his helmet because that's how people identify him as Bra'tac.
The next question is whether Daniel is ever going to see Shifu again. He said he wanted to write a story about Daniel's time ascended, because he thinks Daniel spent a lot of time with Shifu in ascended-land. There are no plans now for an episode with Shifu but it's still early so maybe there will be.
Someone asked Amanda about her comedy troupe, and she said she hopes to get back to it someday.
And that was the end of the Q&A, which sadly was less than an hour due to all the other events Michael and Amanda had on their schedules.
Autographs and Photos
Here is where you see the machine that is Creation Entertainment in action. They moved people through the lines extremely quickly, and there was essentially no time to chat with the guests. So I was very grateful I'd already had my moments at the brunch. Michael autographed the license plate from Daniel's jeep in The Curse, which I'd bought through the Legends Memorabilia E-bay auction. Now I can frame it and hang it up!
Michael was very sweet in the photo session. Even though they were rushing so quickly, he took the time to shake everyone's hand and say hello. He called me 'hon'. Yep, hopeless fan girl, here.
When Amanda signed a photo for me, I took a moment to say I really like Pete, and she was glad to hear that and said she'd pass it along to David. I hope his angst gets alleviated.
I stopped by the Lightspeed booth to see Tony Amendola and get his autograph as well. I told him how much I enjoyed his fight scene in the Season 7 finale, and he spent several minutes explaining how they filmed it. At one point he had to kick the chest of a stunt man who was wearing a padded torso guard. They always tell the actors not to hold back, so Tony didn't, and he ended up knocking the guy back quite a bit, to both of their surprise! He was very generous in chatting and clearly loves his craft and the process of filming. He was also proud of being able to kick that high at this point in life.
I also saw Bryan from Wolf Events sitting at a table. Feeling cheeky, I walked up and said hi, and he wondered how the heck everyone knows who he is, since I wasn't the only one! He was in town to get contracts signed and thought he would check out a Grand Slam event. We chatted a bit about the Shanks/Judge European tour and how exhausting but successful it was. In response to another fan who asked, he said they found a company to make DVD's of the tour, so they will offer DVD's as well as video. But they haven't really started editing the tapes yet, so it might be a while.
It was a great event, and I'm especially glad I attended the brunch. It was well organized. The autograph and photo ops were too rushed, and I hope the Stargate-only Creation cons will be more relaxed, but certainly that will depend on how many people attend. I'm told that with Creation I shouldn't get my hopes up about the relaxation part. But at a minimum, it would be nice if they managed to feed the poor guests, who work so hard all day!
Michael and Amanda were charming, funny, and beautiful, and everyone seemed very entertained, even fans I chatted with who weren't very familiar with the show.
On that note, I met several folks in a category I didn't know existed: devoted Stargate fans who love the show, own all the DVD's and the companion books, and have never, ever interacted with any part of on-line fandom, including any fan web sites. These are happy fans who don't really notice how much the show has changed, who take the Jack/Sam feeling stuff in stride even if not with enthusiasm, who are very happy to have Daniel back, and who have argued with their spouses about the merits of Jonas.
I found this somehow refreshing and made a new resolution to try to enjoy the show the way those less critical but no less devoted fans enjoy it. For what it is - rousing good fun, with great characters played by great actors.