Shanks For The Memories|
Ian Spelling, Dreamwatch #126, Feb 05
As tight as the Stargate SG-1 cast are and as hard as the writers strive to keep
the characters interesting and fresh, the show has concluded its eighth year on
air and is gearing up for a ninth. Shanks acknowledges that it's a tricky
proposition to come onto set every day motivated, with the necessary preparation
and intensity. After all, he quit before because he felt underutilized.
"The funny thing about it is that after this long with the characters, it's a
matter, quite frankly, of how interested are you in the show? How
interested are you in showing up in your daily life? The show has become this
sort of ongoing thing. It's no longer about the character. I've often said
lately that I forget sometimes where the character leaves off and I begin, we've
been doing this so long. But so long as we're not repeating ourselves and being
redundant, as long as we're doing new things it's always interesting."
Shanks has been on the lookout for the moment the show begins to cannibalize
itself, because he knows that when that happens, it really will be over.
"I think that once we start stealing and borrowing from ourselves for the
storylines and start repeating ourselves that way, that once you're basically
just doing it for the sake of doing the show, then it would become tedious.
We're not there yet. As long as the characters continue to evolve as people,
we're ok. As the actors get older and more experienced, so do the characters.
It's not difficult to get into the show, so long as we're doing something new
and having a different experience through these characters eyes."
"It feels like it's been a year already since we shot the second part of season
eight. In the latter part of the year, and I would say for the last five
episodes of the season, we darn near tie up every single major loose end that
we've had dangling around on the show. Obviously, that was done on purpose and
for a lot of different reasons. One of the reasons is that a lot of those
threads were dangling for a very long time, and it was about time some of them
got reconciled. The Jaffa, will they be freed? What happened with Daniel when he
was ascended? What's happening with Anubis? Will the Goa'uld come and destroy
Earth? What happens with the Tok'ra? All of these things will be dealt with in
the last five episodes of this season, and we'll also find a way to address
those people we sent off to Atlantis. We really haven't talked about them since.
So we'll deal with that issue and whether or not we'll launch a mission to go
and save them. There's a lot going on with the show's mythology in general."
"In a major way. In retrospect, I don't know quite how they did
it, but they found a way to take all those dangling threads and then bind them
all together in a group of story arcs that seem to be interweaving, which is
quite an accomplishment on the writers part. They've managed to do it and it
will certainly be , 'Don't miss last five episodes', in terms of the long term
viewers of our show, because a lot of the questions people have had will be
answered. For the first half of the season it seems we puttered along and told a
tale or two. Then in this last half we just get to the true meat of the entire
series and start hashing it around. So these episodes are quite significant
within the arc of the show."
Shanks will be back for season nine of Stargate,
which will mean he'll be sharing the screen with Ben Browder. In all his time in the
sci-fi universe, Shanks reports that he and Browder had only crossed paths twice
in the past.
"Claudia Black was on Stargate and she and I had many conversations about Ben.
The first time I met Ben and talked to him we'd run into each other at the
airport. I do know that he has great sensibilities. I do know that he's got a
great drama training background. We seem to have a common thought process about
how you can squeeze artistic notions inside a sci-fi television show, and you
could see that he was working towards that on his show [Farscape], before there
was even a twinkle of him being on our show. I think he'll bring great
sensibilities. I don't know too much about his work, but I've heard it's
excellent. So I'll look forward to that. He seems to be a team player in that
regard as well. I'm looking forward to a really positive, artistic and cohesive
Richard Dean Anderson's decision to pull back further this season in order to
spend time with his daughter has impacted Stargate SG1 in several ways. Yes, the
writers bumped O'Neill up to the rank of General, which in turn has given
Anderson a fish out of water playground in which to play, and which also nudged
General Hammond actor, Don S Davis, into the margins. It's also meant more
screen time for Jackson, Carter and Teal'c.
"Don is a unique and grounded force on our show and we miss him like the
dickens. He's always been a lot of fun to work with and his work has always been
solid and reliable. At the same time, Rick really has had some fun with the fish
out of water thing. For example, Daniel gets to pick on O'Neill a little,
because now O'Neill has to run a base and is overwhelmed all the time. O'Neill's
not able to go toe to toe with Jackson all that much anymore, so it's always fun
for Jackson to kind of snipe at him and all the bureaucracy things that he has
to go through. It's been fun for me, and for Rick, to play those scenes, because
we don't get to do that element of it too much."
"We miss Rick. We miss his sense of humour. It's fallen on the rest of us to
pick up the ball, in all aspects. We've all had to involve ourselves a little
bit more in the action aspects of it. We've had to involve ourselves in the
guest stars aspects too. It's meant a little less of the team dynamic, but for
us as individuals it's given us a lot more to do and a lot more involvement in
Shanks was very happy with how season eight eventually shaped up, but he doesn't
really keep track of the relative merits of each year of the show.
"I don't usually rank them. Each season has it's own tricks, and it seems that
every year there's some new element that's new that makes it unique in a
production capacity. Season eight has been interesting. I do know that
financially we've been restricted this past year, so we haven't had so much off
world stuff as we've had in the past, and that's limited us. I find the show to
be a lot stronger when we're exploring, but I certainly like our ability to be
introspective this year and to find out a little bit more about the characters.
It's almost like fan fiction. There are always some unique elements to Stargate.
So this season has been a lot of fun to do, regardless of restraints."
Looking a little further down the road, Shanks just wrapped Swarmed, a Scifi
Channel movie in which he plays a scientist battling a swarm of killer wasps.
He's about to record an audio book adaptation of the SF novel, Local Custom by
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.
"It's interesting. I'm not a huge reader, anymore. My wife is the reader of the
family. I'm not much into SF novels or anything else like that. It was just that
notion of, 'Oh, I'd like to read an audiobook,' and then once I started reading
the book I realized what it was exactly that I'd signed up for. It's one of
those books that has words with all the apostrophes in strange places and
because it's SF, you can't even draw on your experience of knowing how to say
Lithuania properly. It'll actually say, 'She's from the planet Alph'ha'hey,' and
you're thinking, 'What? Is somebody around to tell me how I'm supposed to say
this?' So I think it's going to be tricky, to say the least about narrating a SF
audiobook, but it's an experience I wanted to have. I appreciate the notion of
audiobooks for the visually impaired or, quite frankly, for those people who
would rather listen than read. If anybody is going to buy this audiobook just to
listen to me for three hours, well, God bless them."
On the personal side, he's spending as much time at home as possible with his
children, including baby Mia, who was born in September 2004. Peering even
further into the future, Shanks laughs when asked if in five years time, he'll
be talking about the 14th season of Stargate SG1, the latest Stargate TV movie,
the Stargate feature film, or perhaps the fact that he's regularly appearing in
non-Stargate films and TV shows.
"Oh boy! At this point, as I've said throughout the seven of eight seasons of
Stargate, I just take it one year at a time. I've always said that and I don't
see it changing. Where I see myself in five years, I don't know. There could be
an anvil dropping from the sky right now, that's aimed at my head and going to
get me soon. So I try to enjoy each year and each day as it comes and not make
any predictions. I do know that for the franchise there are many different
possibilities being discussed. So long as the show continues to hit well with
the audience, there's always going to be a life for the franchise and a
potential opportunity to continue to play this character in the Stargate
universe. So for now, I'm just going to say that next year we're going to have a
© 2005, Dreamwatch.
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