Thomasina Gibson, Cult Times Special #31, Sep 04
more planetwalker, but we're getting desperate for titles with a Jackson or non
dodgy Shanks reference. Michael Shanks talks about his delight at being back on
the Stargate SG1 set for it's eighth season.
He's been there (More worlds than a planetarium), done that (Been married,
bereaved, died, been reborn), and got (And lost), the T-Shirt in Fallen, so
you'd think Dr Daniel Jackson would be getting bored of the ring. IE: the big
spherical stargate hoop he jumps through every week, but not one bit of it.
Stargate SG1 is back for an eighth season and the lovely Mr Shanks is as eager
as the viewer to unravel the mysteries within.
"We're not really sure what the arc of the season is going to be, so it's really
exciting to get the scripts each day to see what unfolds."
It's particularly exciting, not least because the actor has to remember which
episode he's in on any given day.
"Various considerations mean we're working on several different episodes in the
same week," says Shanks. This is not, we're assured, to allow more time for the
cast and crew to go off playing golf.
"Actually, it's the result of budget constraints, Richard Dean Anderson's
limited availability and the fact that the creative team are working on Atlantis
at the same time as SG1. It all means we have a very interesting process going
on where both shows are running at the same time in more or less the same place
and we're all working to accommodate that."
In case you haven't a clue what Atlantis is, listen up.
"When Stargate SG1 finished at the end of last year, we'd kind of completed the
journey we've been on for years which was to find the lost city of Atlantis and
the secrets of the Ancients. At the beginning of this year, we help a whole
different group of people find this lost city and they take over the reins to
contiue that journey in Stargate Atlantis," explains Shanks. "There is so much
life left in the franchise, that I think Stargate Atlantis the show, and those
involved in it have a great deal going for them. Rick and I make an appearance
for two acts on the premiere episode of the new series and I know more SG1
guests are set to appear, but basically the concept is the Atlantis group are on
their own. They have a great cast and crew and, from what I've heard, scripts.
My wish is that they have as much fun and success as we have."
So with a new order beginning to evolve, the actor is especially interested to
see what happens with Stargate SG1 this year.
"I'm really keen to see what our new focuses are going to become and what our
new objectives will be. I do know we are offered allegiance from a surprising
source and that enemies old and new emerge out of the woodwork. I can tell you
the Goa'uld are pretty much in evidence, up to their old tricks. The shadowy NID
boys are back, which is a concern. It emerges the political situation on Earth
shows some of our greatest enemies lie within. Then right at the start of the
year, one of our most powerful of enemies comes back to haunt us, but I can't
tell you when, why and how. I'm as curious as the next person to see how it all
What the actor can share, is how pleased he is that his character is evolving
along with the show.
"I don't like to see anything happen to my character that isn't part of the
ongoing storyline of the show. The writers tend to have Daniel follow their lead
and that's the most important thing for my character, to be constantly
reactionary instead of a driving force in any particular way. That said, last
season I made a concerted effort to make the character a little more proactive
an will continue to do that throughout season eight."
Daniel makes a good start with an episode entitled Icon.
"The writers wanted to address the issue of what happens every time SG1 arrives
on another planet and turns everyone's lives upside down, and not always for the
best. It happened in Red Sky when our technical adjustments almost caused an
entire planet to explode, and in Beast Of Burden, when our intervention with
mechanical weapons could change the course of a struggle between two races. This
time, our activating the stargate has consequences that Daniel feels he has to
try to sort out before he finally comes to the realization that you can't always
help those who don't want to be helped. It's a pretty significant discovery for
Having the patience to let people get on with their own lives is not the only
revelation this year.
"Daniel is finding more opportunities to have fun. He's happy to be back with
SG1, working with the group, who have become more family than work colleagues. I
have to admit this is also a reflection of how I feel as Michael Shanks. I'm
really enjoying myself much more."
Aside from the challenge acting offers, Shanks insists the family element of
Stargate SG1 is one of the most positive aspects of working on the show.
"One of the big advantages of doing a show for this long is the sense of family.
If the show does end this year, (As in previous years, no decision has yet been
made), I don't think any of us really grasp the emotion that will come out when
we realise that this genuinely is the end of the journey. We've all changed so
much as people during the course of Stargate and have been through so much
In fact, when Shanks married Andromeda star Lexa Doig last year, Christopher
Judge was his best man and Amanda Tapping was the MC, indicating just how close
this team has become.
"The various members of cast and crew have become like extended family. We all
bring our kids, other family members, even our pets, to visit. It's great,
especially for the kids. Wray Douglas, our visual effects co-ordinator, has this
great big trailer where they do all the magical special effects stuff and they
show our kids how they do it. These are truly professional guys who are amazing
at their jobs and are basically grown men who can't believe people actually pay
them to blow things up and do cool stuff like that. You've seen the spectacular
stuff they do in the show, so for our kids to watch them do that is really cool.
The kids are obviously all drawn to the gadgets that they have to achieve the
Shanks is also proud that Stargate SG1's extended family definitely includes the
fans of the show.
"We have some very passionate fans, some very intelligent fans, we have a lot of
fans who understand and know the show. They get the show more than we ever will.
The flip side of that is that we have some fans who are a little too passionate
and put their energies into the wrong places sometimes. We get protected from
it, but we do get a little odd mail from people who tend to be a little too,
what's the word? Interested in our personal lives."
Insisting that nothing dangerous has ever happened to him, Shanks does reveal:
"RDA does have his moments. Given the previous productions with which he has
been involved, he has a lot more diversity of fans. He has people off the FBI
watch list who come up and stand outside the Bridge Studio gates and take
photo's, just to get a glimpse of him. The rest of us don't have that kind of
problem. Our Stargate fans have never disrupted our lives in any negative
fashion. We are very fortunate because our fans are very loyal and very
supportive. They rarely cross that line. Plus you have to take the good with the
bad. Any negatives are far outweighed by the positives. One bad apple does not
spoil the whole bunch in our kind of situation. Our fans have done a lot for me
and for the show. There is a silly notion in some quarters of the entertainment
industry where people complain about being in the limelight, but as far as I'm
concerned, that's part of my job. The people that complain in our business about
the negative impacts of fame and being in the spotlight, are not necessarily
weighing the proper balance. It's important to remember you stepped into that
world. You made choices in your life, and though you could have been anything in
the world, you chose to be an actor in front of a camera, or on stage or
whatever. I can't think of one negative experience that can offset the good
stuff that comes out of having your work admired."
Talking of having his work admired, Mr Shanks intends to stay well within the
confines of the Stargate Universe for the time being.
"I have gone off on other ventures in the past. A couple of movies, Andromeda,
and I'd love to do another, a different project with Christopher Judge, but
right now I'm happy devoting my energies to Stargate SG1."
Not that this might always be the case. There are other avenues Shanks may wish
"The sticky thing is that having come from a highly successful sci-fi show, the
only things you get offered have to do with capitalising on your fans, and if
you want to break out of that you have to start again. I like as much diversity
as possible. There's not one genre that I'm particularly drawn to, although I
would like to do a lot of comedy. We have a joke on Stargate that it's actually
a comedy but a lot of people don't know that, because all the funny stuff
happens off camera. Even with, and possibly because of, our increased workload,
production is going to be even more fun this year."
Of course, Shanks is involved in another production that will possibly have come
to fruition by the time you read this. Mr and Mrs Shanks are awaiting the birth
of their new baby.
"There's a bit of a baby boom going on right now. I think there must be
something in the water. Directors Peter Deluise and Martin Wood are proud new
fathers already and I'm about to join the club."
With so many little ones around, perhaps the producers should be thinking along
the lines of Stargate: The Early Years, and wouldn't that be a series worth
waiting for? In the meantime, we can sit back and enjoy an eighth year of
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