All In The Dynamics: Michael Shanks talks about the new direction for Stargate
SG-1 Season 9
Marla R. Reed, Stargate SG-1 Solutions, Jul 05
Michael Shanks has completed over half the filming of Stargate
SG-1's Season 9 since I had last spoken to him back in January when
he and wife Lexa Doig were helping new Stargate SG-1 cast member
Ben Browder get settled in Vancouver, BC, where the series is
filmed. Even back then, Shanks was enthusiastic about the new
direction and dynamics the long running series was taking.
These changes were necessitated by the departure of lead actor
Richard Dean Anderson. Anderson has left the series to devote more
time to raising his daughter and to direct his attention to
environmental causes he feels passionate about.
While Michael Shanks has stated that he will miss working with
Richard Dean Anderson, whose character of Jack O'Neill he feels had
a strong rapport with his character of Daniel Jackson, he says that
conversations with Ben Browder led him to realize they have the same
approaches to their craft as actors and that working together would
be a great opportunity for them.
Now with ten episodes under their belt at the time of this
interview, the actor says that Season 9 is looking pretty good
so far. Yet Shanks is the first to admit that with Anderson gone and
their other series regular Amanda Tapping missing for a bit (due to
the birth of her first child, daughter Olivia) this is not going to
be the same traditional Stargate SG-1 that fans remember, and with
the additions of new cast and characters to the long running series
there are going to be sceptics out there looking for reasons to
wreak highly critical ‘carnage' against the show's new directions
When asked what effect he thinks adding new characters to the
show to counterbalance these changes will have on keeping Stargate
SG-1 alive and successful, Shanks has a fairly blunt response.
"Bringing in new characters doesn't do squat for anything. Bringing
in dynamics that create drama, chemistry, entertainment, comedy,
action and all those things is what we are here for." The actor
says that he thinks Season 9 is going to be entertaining people and
that, he feels, is what they are there (on the show) to do. Yet
that's not to say he isn't excited about what the new characters
have brought to Stargate SG-1 in its ninth season.
the first five episodes we get to see a lot of dynamics developing,"
he says of the interaction being played out, most prominently
between his character Dr. Daniel Jackson and that of Vala Mal Doran,
played by Claudia Black. Shanks says we also get to see everybody
having a chance to play significant roles in the storylines as well.
The actor says quite candidly that he is not really looking to
focus on his own work at the moment in any individual episodes.
That's not to say he doesn't hope that people will appreciate it
but that he is "rooting for the whole show."
Shanks is just very proud of the way the dynamics of the
new cast and characters in the storylines are playing out. He says
that given everything that has been asked of the cast and put out
there as a test for all the new people, he feels very strongly that
it's "all succeeded with great flying colors."
"I am excited about the overall product we've got at this point
and I'm very proud to have people see it and that's the bottom
actor is also very amenable to sharing his perspectives
on the new characters in Stargate SG-1, starting with General Hank
Landry, played by actor Beau Bridges.
With regards to Gen. Landry, who is now in command of the SGC,
Shanks says that to him Beau Bridges makes Landry someone
who has a more old-school military feel to his character. That
General Landry is "this guy who somewhere in there has a heart of
gold, but has a little bit of danger to him as well." He credits
Beau Bridges' charisma and personality on screen for giving him this
perspective on the character.
On a personal level, Michael Shanks also has a very positive view
of Beau Bridges. "There is something about Beau that you just can't
help to think that since he is such a loving man himself, that part
of that is just seeping through in to Gen. Landry as he gets to know
the people he is working with." He concludes that Gen.
Landry is just a little bit more gruff up front as a general. He's
not somebody who comes in trying to be liked. He is very
professional and stern about it. "Which is kinda difficult until you
get used to it."
The most high profile addition to the new cast of Stargate SG-1
has been Ben Browder as Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell and Michael
Shanks has nothing but good things to say about the character and
about Ben Browder who plays him.
Shanks sees the character of Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell
not as some ‘ball-buster' with a hidden agenda or whatnot, but that
he is just somebody who is excited about what's going on around him
and wants everybody to be as excited as he is about it, which creates
a lot of fun and different moments.
He also says that it's always great to have somebody like that
who lends that forward-moving air to the show and also breaks down
some doors and solves some problems for them too.
"He's been a welcome addition because of that enthusiasm," Shanks
says with appreciation for Ben Browder and what he has brought to
Stargate SG-1 in a ninth season filled with changes and new
directions for the series.
For the first six episodes of the ninth season, actress Claudia
Black will be reprising her eighth season character, the conniving
and boisterous Vala Mal Doran whom Daniel first encountered in the
eighth season episode 'Prometheus Unbound'.
Michael Shanks has nothing but praise for the dynamic combination
of his character, Dr. Daniel Jackson and Black's Vala. A dynamic
that Shanks loves because he feels it brings back the kind of banter
scenes, pacing and comedic bits that made the Jack and Daniel
dynamic something that people always used to appreciate.
The actor says that what he feels the viewers will
appreciate the most in the interaction between Daniel and Vala is
the energy that is brought forth. Call it chemistry or whatever, but
when Shanks and Black worked together he feels that they quickly
fell into a dynamic of interaction that made things that had the
potential to be slow and dull play out a bit quicker and have a
little bit more fun to it "because Claudia and I have so much fun
While he admits to the possibility that Daniel might be attracted
to Vala, Michael Shanks thinks that Vala definitely has an
attraction to Daniel.
All of this is what Michael Shanks feels is the foundation of the
very intriguing relationship between the characters of Daniel
Jackson and Vala. That it gives them the potential to move forward
into a dynamic where two complete opposites who are somewhat
intrigued by each other are chipping away at each other's defences.
"So I think it's going to be interesting to see where we are going."
Shanks concludes with a smile.
Last but by no means least, especially to Michael Shanks, is the
dynamic added to the series in the form of the new character Dr.
Carolyn Lam who is the latest, and this time civilian, CMO [Chief
Medical Officer] of the SGC. Actress Lexa Doig, who is also Michael
Shanks' lovely real life wife, plays the character of Dr. Carolyn
Shanks says that "for the most part, the character of Dr.
Carolyn Lam has been presented as this base doctor who is new and
trying to learn the ropes so this newness goes through her head a
lot of the time in regards to situations that come up."
He goes on to say that for the most part she is just going about doing
her professional business and learning the ropes as fast as possible
because we need someone to fill that role as soon as possible.
"At a certain point, it will be revealed that she has this
relationship with Gen. Landry that dates back a long time and is a
significant relationship between them." Shanks is again trying to
couch things in terms that do not reveal spoilers and he is then
made aware that fans already know that Dr. Carolyn Lam is Gen.
Landry's daughter. Realizing that that he is not responsible for
giving anything away, Shanks breaks into relieved laughter. "But
we're (the audience) not suppose to know that," he explains, "it's
one of those secrets I guess everyone knows about but we're (the
cast) not really suppose to talk about."
Michael Shanks feels that it is good to have a strong character
in the role of the medical doctor on the show and it is always very
nice to make her character more dimensional by adding a personal
structure to it as well so that she is more than just this
functional person on the base. "She actually has dimension to her
and a relationship with the general that's somewhat borderline
antagonistic, but it is also a healing process that will ultimately
take a long time to resolve."
Sitting back slightly after sharing the momentum of enthusiasm
with which he's laced each of his perspectives on the new cast and
characters, Michael Shanks takes a moment of silence to think about
what comes next. Then with quiet conviction he says that while he is
the first to freely acknowledge that it's not the same personnel as
before, and even with all these new characters coming in and even
with the changes in dynamics that make up season 9 of Stargate SG-1,
he feels very strongly that "the heart of the show is still in the
At the end of it all, Michael Shanks feels certain that Stargate
SG-1 and its characters, both long-standing and new, still have a
lot of great stories to tell and he thinks this group of people "is
more than capable of moving forward and telling those stories."
His voice once more filled with that enthusiasm and respect for
his new cast-mates that has characterized his approach to being
interviewed about them, Shanks says "I think we can keep the
audience glued to the show every week."