Michael Shanks becomes the voice of "Local Custom"|
Marla R. Reed, syndicated to Stargate SG-1 Solutions, 14 Feb 05
Michael Shanks recently embarked on a new project in his career, a
career that includes successful forays into classical theater,
television and film work. His latest project is as narrator of the
soon to be released Audio Novel version of the SF/Romance novel
"Local Custom," which is the
first of the seven books set in the Liaden Universe® written by
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, tells a tale of Master trader Er Thom
who knows the local custom of his people is to take a bride from a
high Liaden family and provide his most revered clan Korval with a
worthy heir. Yet a woman not of his culture or even of his world has
captured his heart, a woman whom he discovers has borne his child
and for which Er Thom is willing to risk his honor and reputation to
As a narrator of "Local Custom," Michael Shanks joins the
ranks of other fellow "Stargate SG-1" cast members who have done audio novels
before him. Ben Browder, who is joining the regular cast in season 9 as Lt.
Colonel Cameron Mitchell, narrated "Interlopers" written by Alan Dean Foster,
and veteran "Stargate SG-1" actor Tony Amendola, who plays recurring character
Master Bra'tac, co-narrated "An Unfinished Life" written by Mark Spragg.
Did they have any advice for Shanks going into this project?
"Tony Amendola, who I respect tremendously as an actor, was
telling me ‘don’t do that, I’m telling you don’t do it’," Shanks says with a
However Michael Shanks is also quick to inform you that he is
a man who knows and accepts about himself that telling him NOT to do something
is the quickest way to get him to do it or make him want to try it.
"And I said 'Wow - Tony saying that…' That’s something.
I better go do that cause I wanna see what he’s talking about and I certainly
found out the hard way."
By 'the hard way' Michael Shanks means that he found the
process of narrating "Local Custom" to be a challenge to both his classical
theater training and to his 'cold reading' skills as an actor. "Local Custom", a
well-written and beautifully told story, is filled with many words in the made
up language of Liaden.
Despite the challenges the words presented, Michael Shanks met
the task head on with his dedication to do the best work he possibly could and
to focus on what was most important, which was making sure he never forgot that
he was reading this aloud for listeners who trusted him to be their insight into
the novel and the story.
As Shanks himself puts it, "It’s not like they are sitting
there reading along with you. You are their insight and you have to be loyal to
the book, you have to be clear to them. When you are reading out loud you can’t
For the past 8 years on "Stargate SG-1", Michael Shanks has
been the 'voice' of the character of Asgard Supreme Commander Thor, who is
embodied in an animatronic puppet. When asked if his work doing the 'voicing'
for Thor was in anyway similar to the novel narration, Michael Shanks had this
"It's totally different, the only similarity at all between
the two is the fact that they are in a sound stage. That’s pretty much the only
similarity and I haven’t done a lot of voice work like my fellow actors from
"Stargate SG-1." Teryl [Rothery] and Christopher [Judge] being a couple of them.
They do a lot of voice work and Peter [DeLuise] too. He does a lot of commercial
voice over and Teryl used to be on radio actually."
goes on to explain the other difference between voiceover work and audio book
narration. "It’s a different medium where you have to communicate so much with
just the use of your voice. With Thor I am trying to match the puppeteers and to
keep the character consistent so it’s a very different ballgame. This one [the
audio narration] is about reading a story and basically you’re a one-man radio
play is what it is."
Michael Shanks' determination to make this audio narration a
good experience for the listener and his dedication to 'being with them and not
tuning out or betraying their trust in him as the storyteller' through all 307
pages of the novel, which took him 3 days to record at the sound studio in Los
Angeles, certainly shows in compliments like this one from Joy Poger of Buzzy
"Michael did a superb job narrating the audio and was a
complete professional. He is very bright, intelligent and a true scifi fan
"Local Custom," narrated by Michael Shanks will be available
for order at Buzzy Multimedia's
website in early spring. Meanwhile be sure and check out the other novels in
the Liaden Universe® at the
official Liaden Universe website.
Michael Shanks is next headed back to filming of "Stargate
SG-1" in mid March for its ninth season, and while he is going to miss the
presence of Richard Dean Anderson whom he has enjoyed working with for the past
eight years, he is looking forward to the new challenges presented by new
character dynamics and story directions.
© Article is Copyright 2005 to Marla R. Reed
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