Boys, Boobs and Biscuits
Jayne Dearsley, SFX #117, May 04
Picture it. Two guys and a girl in
the basement of a building in Soho. It's not what you think,
honest- not some shady strip joint or lap dancing venue, but a
plain white room containing a table, four uncomfortable
chairs, a pile of Stargate scripts waiting to be autographed
and a plate of
Oh, and a copy of The Sun, which is currently drawing the
attention of Christopher Judge, who's sitting at the table
staring at page three and grinning from ear to ear.
"Did you see Janet Jackson's
nipple?" asks Michael Shanks. Judge nods still smiling. A few
days ago Miss Jackson famously popped out of her costume at
the Superbowl. A discussion of wardrobe malfunctions ensues,
although somehow SFX's tale of Judy Finnegan's sensible bra
saying hello at the National TV Awards doesn't carry that same
weight as Jackson's boob. Those pesky Yanks have overshadowed
us reserved Brits once again. It's been only a few days since
we last ran into Shanks and Judge at the slightly more
respectable signing they held in Swindon. Although
'respectable' might be the wrong word, considering that we
cheekily asked to measure their biceps while they were
"I still think that was an odd
choice," grumbles Judge, putting aside his newspaper. "You
could have measured anything you wanted."
But the room was packed with
people, we point out.
"They'd better stand back," Judge
rumbles, reliving the moment and making suggestive gestures.
Then he laughs so deeply that the room seems to
Shanks picks up the dictaphone
sitting innocently on the table next to the complementary
"You getting all this?" he mutters into the mike.
Perhaps the reason for the guys'
boisterous behaviour is that they were up all night clubbing
and are still pretty psyched. Or it could just be that they're
going stir crazy after travelling so much in the past few days
on a signing tour. "After Swindon we went to Glasgow, then to
Frankfurt and Barcelona," Shanks lists, taking another swig
from an ever present can of Diet Coke. "Apparently it ws the
first ever science fiction convention to be held in Spain. It
They certainly attracted the crowds
in the not so glamorous confines of Swindon. 5000, or
thereabouts. Both men look shocked when they find out the
number. "They did have to cut off the line because it never
stopped getting bigger" Shanks recalls.
"When we were three hours into it,
the line was longer than when we started, " Judge
Does that happen wherever they go?
Judge nods. "Really, it's flabbergasting to see how the show
has been accepted and embraced, and how we're..."
He struggles to find the word. We
"Well, that sounds kind of
egocentric." He chuckles again - not like his stoic alter-ego,
Teal'c, at all. It's something he does so often, and with such
relish, that you cant help but think of the Riddler from
Batman. ("Riddle me this, Anubis!") It's also an echoey room,
so every laugh lasts twice as long as it should.
"There was one particular
location," Shanks continues cheerfully, "That was minus five
degrees celsius in a snowstorm, and we still had a lineup of
people round the block. People were coming in with their hands
frozen. It was unbelievable that people would do that. It
gives you a tremendous sense of responsibility and an
obligation to make sure that those people get what they
"And to be somewhat sober when they
Shanks considers this. "You didn't
say anything about when we leave, though."
All that hero worship and adoration
following them around the world! Oh to be famous.
"Here's a good start," says Judge,
taking a less than fatherly interest in my career prospects
and picking up The Sun. "Just get a couple of shots of
yourself in here and there you go."
Erm...It's a thought. However,
that's not what inspires Stargate fans to stand in blizzards
waiting to meet their heroes (unless there's been a page three
shot we're not aware of) Why do people do it?
"Well we're both really good
looking, "Judge deadpans, and Shanks howls with laughter.
"What? People can see!" Judge emphasises.
"Yes, well...um..." Shanks
stammers. "I see, the court jester therows out a funny line
and then I have to actually answer the question!"
Yes, Michael, you act like you're
on Parkinson while we'll leave Judge being So Graham
"Somebody has to answer the damn
questions!" Shanks grins. " Because I'm from a small town, I
know that if we had the same kind of signing in London as we
had in Swindon (only an American could think of Swindon as a
small town) we might no cecessarily get the same kind of
enthusiastic crowd. It's very rare for people to come to small
towns. People are so chuffed that you'd actually go
"There so what?" Judge is bemused.
Judge looks blank, "What does that
"It means pleased," I offer. "It's
a Britishism. If, um, Britishism is a word..."
"Britishism is a language!" Judge
declares. He points to his newspaper. "This is
Yikes-perish the thought. Now,
seeing as Christopher Judge is proving to be absolutely
nothing like his onscreen persona (The hair poking out from
under his hat is testament to their physical difference, and
we've never heard Teal'c guffaw), we're wondering whether he
minds the fact that he gets an average of two lines per
episode? Does it annoy him when everyone else is saying stuff,
and he's just given, "Indeed" or "I concur"
"No, no, because it works the other
way too," Judge replies, good-naturedly. "To me, it's a very
enviable position as an actor when, every time your character
talks, it's something important. There's nothing thrown away,
you know, every line has some gravitas to it. And occasionally
I get a bit of exposition here and there, which is kind of
daunting to me as i have to learn more than one or two lines
of dialogue! The funny thing is, when I've written scripts, I
still had to go to the script supervisor and relearn my
That's a bit odd. "Of course, you
write it months before you actually film it," he adds. "We do
one episode and as soon as it's over, I can't remember what
happened. It's like my brain has been compartmentalised, so
that when one part's full, one has to be emptied to let
everything new be absorbed!"
Teal'c doesn't get many episodes to
himself, though, so there can't be too much to remember,
frankly. "It's difficult for the writers to write Teal'c
episodes," Judge agrees, "Because they're usually centred in
the world of the Jaffa. Peter DeLuise has taken on the mantle
of that. He's the one who writes the majority of Teal'c and
Jaffa episodes, season eight, though..."
"You know you want one."
For some reason Michael Shanks is
suddenly waving the plate of
under my nose. Not wanting to be impolite, I stash a Jammie
Dodger away for later consumption.
"You know you want one!" mimics
Judge, with much Sid James-ian relish.
Shanks sniggers. "That'll be in The
Sun by tomorrow morning! Sorry, you were talking"
Judge shrugs, "I dunno. That was
Last night the first part of the
double episode "Heroes" aired. We watched it too, on Sky,"
Shanks reveals, before going on a brief tirade about the
shocking placement of the ad breaks. Join the club, Michael,
join the club.
"Not that we're, like, you know,
these wankers that sit around and watch their own shows,
"Judge is quick to point out.
We briefly discuss Firefly's Adam
Baldwin, who, at the time of this interview, was rumoured to
be a possible regular on Stargate Atlantis after his
appearance in "Heroes" (Sadly it was just a rumour)/ At the
briefest mention of Firefly, however, a curious, cheeky grin
creeps across Judges face.
"Who was the space
Shanks blinks "What?"
"Dude, in the advertisement for
Firefly there was a space prostitute! She was hot!"
He's talking about Morena
Baccarin's character, Inara. She's trained in the art of
"Oh, boy," growls Judge.
So: Stargate Atlantis. O'Neill and
Jackson will appear in the pilot episode, but none of the
other regular SG1 members will. "It's some rule that I don't
completely understand," says Shanks, " But all I know is that
the only characters that can be in the pilot are Richard and
myself. The series itself is much more open."
"I think they want Atlantis to find
wings on its own as a viable commodity," Judge explains. "Rob
and Brad have worked on the pilot and it's
The writers work so hard on the
show that we have to wonder when they sleep. "In between golf
rounds, " Offers Shanks, and both guys laugh.
We know that Stargate is definitely
getting an eighth season. Could there be more? "I think
there's a possibility of a ninth season because of our rating
spiking in America," Shanks ponders. "I'm not saying that
that's a sure thing at all, I'm just saying that business
logic dictates that they say, 'Um, maybe we don't want this to
"It's show business, so you have a
responsibility to the shareholders and all that," declares
Would they sign up for a ninth
year? Noth men are evasive. It's far too early to know such
things. "Creatively, if the scripts for season eight are the
same quality and integrity as they have been this past year
then I'll be interested," is all that Shanks will say. In that
case, we think there's a good chance. The latter half of
Stargate's rediscovered some lost energy reserve, and all the
characters have had their moment to shine.
"That's because of Rick's lesser
involvement with the season," nods Shanks. "I mean, obviously
we miss Rick's everyday diatribe of humour and things like
that, but it's given us a lot more ability to see all the
things that really flesh out our world. We have a chance to do
that a little bit more without having one star there who's
always gonna be there, and always gonna be in every
Judge, to use a Teal'c word,
concurs. "Also it validates something that the fans have been
saying for a long time, something that we've been trying to
get across too. That the show is not always Rick. So the fact
that the ratings have been higher is lending credence to what
we thought all along."
Surely it's not that people don't
like Richard Dean Anderson. "Oh no, it's not that!" Shanks
corrects. "No, no, no, they tuned into him in the first place
and he's wonderful! He always finds a way of making it work.
Even in the smaller scenes, he finds a way fo making his
presence felt. And we do miss him. I certainly miss
interacting with him on and off the screen. However, rather
than getting down about that missing actor, I get up because I
get to do a scene every now and then."
There's a sudden clunk! as Judge's
armrest falls on the floor. "Some fat guy broke the chair!" he
So, anyway, um...er... what were we
Shanks laughs. "Look how easily you
Alaright, time to get
serious...about nookie. Is there any copping off on the
horizon for Daniel and Teal'c? Not together, obviously, I add
before Judge gets his chance. No need to worry. He's been
distracted. He has that puzzled look again, this time at the
phrase "copping off". "This is English right? We need a
"I certainly don't premeditate or
seek any of that character interaction stuff," Shanks gamely
tries to answer the question with some thought. "I don't like
getting dredged down with relationship stuff."
But don't they find it odd that
they're both playing characters who've barely had any action
for seven years now? Shanks isn't convinced. " I always like
to look at a series, especially a series like Stargate, like
this. The audience needs to see all the good bits. The
characters live all the slightly more life bits off
Hang on, sex is the good bits,
"Sex in front of the camera isn't!"
"Anyway I have no idea what's on
the plate for my character. There's a little bit of stuff
"This is gonna be a freaky season eight," Judge
states. "It's so good that this year Teal'c got hair, and
they've started writing the character a little bit
differently. It's always been my complaint, about Hollywood in
general, and in sci-fi especially, that the black man is
always the alien. And generally, he's not dealt with. He's
dealt with in strength and size, but never his intellect or
his sexuality. Season eight's gonna be very different. The
writers are showing more of that side of Teal'c. I'm excited
about that." (Fact fans will also be pleased to hear that
Jolene Blalock's Ishta will be returning, so Teal'c's
definitely going to be showing some of his
The actors have come a long way
since the show started seven years ago. "We have teenage girls
who come up to us and say, 'we've been watching your show
since we were five years old"' "Shanks recalls. "And we go,
'What? No, you did not just say that!' We look back on season
one episodes and think, 'Who are those kids?'"
"I was 26 and single when I started
the show," reflects Shanks, "and now I'm on my second
relationship and I have a five year old daughter! So a lot of
life has passed under the bridge. The work itself has been
relatively consistent and linear: it's how your life changes
underneath it all that you remember the most."
Judge finishes the thought for his
companion. "We mark the passage of time by the show. Like, 'Do
you remember when that happened, that was season two...?'
World events, you know - 9/11 was season five. It's amazing,
when you think about i, how much of our lives we have spent
with the show. Seven years later we're still loving what we
do, and to get that genuine love from people is just
Just check out the next blizzard
swept autograph queue for proof.
© 2004, SFX.
SFX #117 online.
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