Michael Shanks: Back And Loving It
Maureen Ryan, Chicago
Tribune,9 Jul 04
finding voices and making tables...
When "Stargate" started, Michael Shanks says, he was just
"looking for a job." Now, eight seasons later, he's the star of a host of Web
sites and fan clubs devoted to him and his erudite, crusading character, Dr.
Daniel Jackson. When Shanks left the show for a season, a campaign by helped
bring him back; Shanks addresses that below, as well as other Daniel Jackson-
and "Stargate"-related topics.
On why "Stargate SG-1" has lived long and prospered.
We were very fortunate not to have that pressure of immediate success thanks to
a guarantee of two years of run time right off the bat. So we could flesh out
the mythology. The networks don't really give you time to find your legs, they
pull the plug so fast. We have slipped under the radar and built up slowly and
quietly. We could fall on our face a few times and it wasn't going to come back
and bite us on the [butt]. We could find our voices.
With the ratings pressure, shows like "Enterprise" have to clear the slate or
shift directions, [the higher ups] want action now or they want more people to
tune in for this or that, and all of the sudden, [the show has] alienated [its]
loyal fan base.
MGM to a large degree has been hands off, even the Sci Fi Channel. We were
pretty much successful before, so they let us be. They allowed the people
artistically in charge to plot their paths.
It's actually quite flattering that we're about to give birth to another
franchise because of this one. None of us had huge expectations about this one
[lasting], we were just looking for a job.
On the relationship between Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson.
It's a great dynamic between Rick's character and Daniel Jackson, to have that
sort of earnest enthusiasm and this boyish naïveté and altruistic belief in the
concepts of science fiction, and then have O'Neill as the voice of the audience,
saying, "Oh, come on." It's fun to have one character believe and then have
another character mock that a little.
There is an element of moral debate there, though. It's great to ask the what-if
questions, we don't know what time travel or [travel to the stars] would be
like, why not take people from our present time and put in all the SpongeBob
jokes and see what would happen in those situations. As long as you don't take
the audience out of it by taking it to pure camp. But I love Rick's character's
sense of humor to escape the seriousness of a situation.
On leaving at the end of Season 5 and coming back permanently in Season 7.
I did have an idea that people would care [when I left], I think it surprised
all of us the degree to which they did. We are removed from the Los Angeles
media scrutiny, we're sort of an island unto ourselves, so it's great to realize
there are people who watch the show and care about it. I certainly never
anticipated that kind of advertising campaign in magazines and all that and it
was quite interesting. You feel more obliged to remember that people really
When I left it was at the right time and I'm glad I came back. I wasn't
necessarily anticipating the level of happiness that I have felt since I came
On the dynamic between the cast this year, with O'Neill not going out on
I think I'm a bit spoiled in my first series, we have this great dynamic
chemistry and in a way, it's like a table, you remove any of the four legs [and
We're feeling it a little, Rick being not around as much. He's such an enormous
part of the show. I've always said they put it out there too much that Rick's
not around as much, because then people start to notice it more. I do understand
[his reasons], Rick's been the star and the lead of a show for so long.
For us, a lot of our character's interactions still take place with him, and
it's great, we get to explore our dynamic tidbits here and there, it's been
fantastic, a great new exploration. At the same time, I'm sympathetic to those
who have been notice this rich character is not around as much.
For the odd episode here and there we've not had him at all, and we've had other
episodes as when other characters aren't present. As long as the story is
interesting and the characters are given something strong to do, you can get
away with that. But this year we do have scenes with all four of them in a room,
it's kind of the nostalgia reunion. If and when we go to a feature film, we can
relive the glory days [of all four going out on missions together].
© 2004, Chicago Tribune. Chicago
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