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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Michael Shanks

Wit And Wisdom
Steven Eramo, TV Zone Special #58, Jul 04

It's Thursday on the set of Stargate SG-1 and while actor Michael Shanks is aware of that, he's not quite sure what he, or more accurately TV counterpart Daniel Jackson, is supposed to be up to.  "We're shooting three different episodes this week.  So I'm constantly having to stop and ask myself, 'Which one are we doing at the moment?'," jokes Shanks.

"Today it's Covenant and we're filming the scenes involving O'Neill, and then tomorrow we'll be working on Icon, which focuses on Daniel.  We wanted to address the continuing issue of what happens every time SG-1 walks through the Stargate, arrives on another planet and turns everyone's lives there upside down.  We don't mean to, but sometimes the team's mere presence can trigger events."

"That's what we see in Icon.  Our simply activating this planet's Stargate creates a controversy there and Daniel feels guilty about that.  He decides to go back to that world and try to calm things down.  As a result, Daniel gets caught in the middle of a Cold War and stranded.  While trying to work through his feelings of guilt, he comes to realise that people are going to do what they want.  You can't always help those who don't want to be helped.  That's a pretty significant discovery for my character.  I mean, he constantly finds himself in the middle of these messes that TV always manages to find the right answers to.  It was refreshing to see us taking a different approach."

"Affinity is the third story we're currently filming and in it Teal'c is out and about in the world and living off-base.  Chris Judge and I call it the 'Superman episode' where his character comes to the neighbourhood and starts performing good deeds.  Teal'c is supposed to be keeping a low profile but instead is beginning to draw attention to himself.  Daniel has to step in to help Teal'c when he's framed for a crime he didn't commit.  He's forced to hand over some information to the NID because they're the only ones that can clear Teal'c's name.  That's been a fun story to work on, especially my scenes with Chris."

Shanks used Daniel's ascension and ultimate choice to return to Earth to put a little bit of a new spin on his performance and he's carried that through to this year. 

"It was recently pointed out to me that Daniel seems to be coming out of his shell more," says the actor.  "Last year I made a concerted effort to make my character more proactive, and the same holds true this season.  Daniel has always been a bit of a brooder but lately he's been finding more excuses to have fun.  I just think he's happy to be back among the group and accomplishing things he wasn't able to before.  His change in attitude could also be a reflection of me enjoying myself much more with the show."

"The SG-1 team has accomplished a great many things," he continues.  "For example, they've been looking for the lost city for so long and at the end of Stargate's seventh season they finally get access to it.  Our heroes have handed all that off to a new group of people that will carry on their work over on Atlantis.  Of course, that got me thinking, 'Where does that leave SG-1?'"

"Well, there are still bad guys out there including the Goa'uld System Lords. They're hoping to reconfigure their own power base in order to cause more trouble.  Here on Earth we're dealing with the different politics as well as the issue of trying to keep the Stargate, aliens, etc, under wraps.  The rogue NID division is also back and that's a concern.  We're finding that some of our biggest enemies actually lie within the ranks of our own population.  So there are still stories left untold and we're getting the chance to tell some of them this year."

Manoeuvring Space

Because he's so busy now as commander of the SGC, Jack O'Neill doesn't get the chance to see his former SG-1 teammates as much as he might like.  That arrangement seems to be working in Daniel Jackson's favour.  "I think Jack being up to his neck with work has played a part in Daniel's increased 'fun' factor this season," explains Shanks.  "These two people worked together for a long time and had a strong antagonistic dynamic that was also proactive and friendly.  Now all of a sudden they're off doing their own thing and come together every so often to exchange facts and figures.  That's resulted in a looser, more fun relationship.  There aren't as many issues coming up for Jack and Daniel to be fighting over.  Also, Jack is having to take on General Hammond's role of giving people more leeway and not being as opinionated.  This has allowed Daniel a bit more room in which to manoeuvre."

Before becoming too involved with work on Season Eight of Stargate, the actor made a brief appearance along with co-star Richard Dean Anderson in the Atlantis pilot.  "That was, for me, a flashing back to when we first started doing our series," muses Shanks.  "Here was this new group of people who were very excited about what lies ahead and also interested in any advice Rick and I might have to pass on to them.  The main thing I tried to focus on telling the actors that I talked to was 'Just relax.  Concentrate on the work as well as the big picture and let all the little things take care of themselves.'  The Atlantis cast has a great deal going for it in terms of acting and scripts.  I'm sure things will be just fine."

Although he relishes every acting opportunity, Shanks made a deliberate choice not to go out for any jobs during the last Stargate hiatus.  "I spent years worrying about work and getting that next step or even a different role just for some variety," says the actor.  "Along the way I made too many sacrifices with regard to my family and friends.  So this past hiatus, I spent time with my daughter [Tatiana] and new wife [Lexa Doig] and just enjoyed not having to work."

"That said, I'm thrilled to be back doing Stargate.  As I mentioned earlier, I'm having a lot of fun this year.  There were times when I didn't enjoy this show as much as I should have, and I hope to make up for that this season.  Stargate has been a big part of my life for a long time, and when it's over I'm really going to miss it.  I would hate to walk away from it feeling like I didn't get all I could out of the experience."

2004, TV Zone.  Buy TV Zone Special #58 online.

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