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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Michael Shanks

Ultimate TV chat with Michael Shanks
Ultimate TV, 22 Dec 98

Can you name a defining event in your life that has made the biggest difference to you?
In terms of my career, failure of a calculus course forced me to get out of a business major and into acting.

What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you at Christmas?
My father got really drunk once and passed out on top of the Christmas tree about 10 or 15 years ago.

How long is your working day, and what does it usually entail?
It can involve 12-14 hours usually. It starts at 5-6:30am with makeup, hair, rehearsal, etc...

If you did not play Daniel Jackson on SG-1, what would you say your favorite character is?
Probably Teal'c because he is a real outsider and has a sort of alien perspective on what's going on.

What is your least favorite part about acting on televison?
The waiting. I tend to read, watch occasional parts of movies, and writing letters and scripts, whatever suits my fancy that day while waiting to go on camera.

What is your favorite actor or actress?
At the moment Ralph Fiennes. He plays characters like he perfectly understands, or like a character who may not perfectly understand what he is doing. He plays characters who may not be perfectly in love with themselves.

Michael, do you celebrate a Traditional Christmas? If so, are you celebrating it with family or some *one* special?
I celebrate a traditional Christmas and I am with my family right now.

What keeps you motivated to keep doing such gruelling schedules?
What keeps me motivated is the necessity of it. I am a perfectionist and whatever I just finished I am still motivated to do my best on the next project.

Actors tend to be a superstitious bunch - I haven't met one yet who can refer to "the Scottish play" by name. Do you have any superstitions or ritual about your work - I mean, ones you can tell us about?
I'm not superstitious about my work but I get bored really easily.

What is your favorite Sci-Fi show of all-time outside of "Stargate?"
Probably the "Star Wars" trilogy.

What other projects are you working on?
I just completed filming a TV movie for UPN about the first man to Mars and Hamlet.

Now, someone was bound to ask about the glasses thing. Do they create a problem? I'd imagine action scenes can be difficult!
Glasses can be a bit of a pain in the butt, but often they can operate as good eye shields. They can serve two purposes.

Christopher Judge stated that you do great impressions. Which (who) of your impressions do you do best and which is your favorite impression to do?
I do most of "The Simpsons" characters. I also do Jack Palance and a little bit of Marlon Brando, they are my favorites to do.

What would your favorite movie of 1998 be?
"American History X"

After 2 years, do you still find challenges in playing Daniel?
I think so because of the continuing evolution of the character as well as the actor. We're both growing so we're always growing together.

If you were to use three words to describe yourself and then your character, which three words would you use?
Persistent, stubborn, and genuine for myself. Curious, persistent and genuine for the character.

Do you get recognized a lot?
No not at all, I look very different in real life than on TV. I'm a big private person so I'm glad that I'm not recognized.

How did you get the part on the series?
Auditioned.

Do you still do theater?
I'm doing the stage production of "Hamlet" right now.

One of the members who couldn't be here asks "Do you have any tips on acting for beginners?"
Make sure that acting is what you want to do with your life. Be absolutely sure and if you love it enough, the rest will take care of itself.

Which do you like acting in better: theatre or television?
Theater better just by nature of concentration of acting, rather that the technical aspect of acting.

Who are your inspirations?
My father, my high school drama teacher, Winston Churchill.

What would your dream role be?
Winston because of his speech in which is said "Never give up. Henry in "Henry the Fifth" because he's the closest to me and I can see the world through his eyes.

What CD are you listening to right now?
I don't even know. I don't know his name. Sarah Maclachlan and lots of classical, Enya.

The fans in the UK have already seen "The Fifth Race" and say you are marvelous with your humor. Do you ever plan to do a comedy...like a movie?
I would love to. I think comedy is a lot more challenging than drama can be- it is underrated as a challenge.

What TV show would you most like to guest star on?
I think either on "Ally McBeal" or "Saved By the Bell."

Do you speak any other languages?
I speak a little French- that is it.

What is the hardest scene you have ever had to do on "Stargate"?
That's a tough one. I don't want to give it away, but it's a scene from an episode entitled "Holiday." It hasn't aired yet and I want to keep it a surprise.

Do you feel like a "star"?
No. I don't know what that means.

Are you yourself a sci-fi fan?
Presently yes, but it's very selective. There's so much sci-fi on right now that it gets boring easily. I can't wait to see the new "Star Wars" trilogy though. I think my role peaked my interest in sci-fi in the beginning, but at the same time took away the mystery. But it did make me more curious about some stuff I don't know yet- special effects. It's made me more curious to how they do certain things in sci-fi.

Have you found any common ground between the characters of Daniel Jackson & Hamlet?
They are both loners searching for something they don't really understand.

What TV shows did you watch growing up?
Everything from "Dukes of Hazzard" to "Battlestar Gallactica", and my pre-teen one was "The A-Team".

Who would you most like to have as a guest star?
Marlon Brando. I think he would play the quirky dictator of a far-off planet.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
On a beach in Tahiti with Marlon Brando.

Any hints on upcoming shows?
No.

Michael, one of the greatest things about live theatre is the camaraderie of the cast and crew. Is "Hamlet" a good cast and crew to work with?
From what I have seen so far from the cast of Hamlet. So far yes, they seem like a very good group-seems like a good group of enthusiastic people. The director is off the wall and very energetic. Opens Jan. 22 at the Stanley Theater in British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

Do you like poetry? Do you have any favorite poets or poems?
Yes, I like poetry. My favorite poet is Emily Hanson. I love that she never meant her work to be published. She was truly an artist doing it for the love of it. The modesty and introspection of her work is very pure.

What is your favorite episode of "Stargate SG-1"?
"Torment of Tantalus."

Do you impersonate Sean Connery?
I try, I am not very good.

What is your favourite place to visit?
My favorite place on Earth is my grandparent's house on the lake. It holds a lot of memories for me.

What kind of sports do you and your family like to do together?
Tomorrow we are going skating. My father and I play basketball sometimes. Insulting each other at the dinner table is almost like a sport. I like hockey too.

If you could get one thing for Christmas, what would it be?
Bill Clinton Doll- just kidding. Tickle Me Elmo.

If they made a story about your life, who would you want to play it?
I would want Marlon Brando to play me.

What do you do when you're not acting?
Hiding. I exercise frequently, I ski, I go for long walks, and I visit with friends and family.

Michael - Do you think Hamlet is the one with the problem or is he a victim of a crazy world?
Crazy world. He certainly isn't the one with the problem. His main problem is dealing with a world around him that has fallen in chaos.

What stunts do you do?
I do small stuff that won't bruise my face.

Have you ever been hurt?
Major injuries- cuts, bruises, scrapes, but nothing serious.

Have you changed your mind yet about directing an episode of SG-1?
That is something I am pursuing. Directing is something I want to move into, but for it to become a reality I have a lot of learning to do.

What have you learned from doing "Stargate SG-1"?
Patience and a sense of humor.

What sort of humour are you into? (i.e. Monty Python, The Far Side, MST3K, Dave Barry, etc.)
I don't really have one favorite - have many favorites.

If you didn't act, what would you do?
I would probably be in politics unfortunately.

Baby, you naturally brunette?
Originally I was a blonde, but I am naturally now a brunette. The sun does not get into my hair the way it used to.

What is your favorite food?
Sushi.

Who is your favourite charachter on "Star Wars"?
Han Solo.

What changes would you make to your character?
I wouldn't change him for all the tea in China.

Do you get any say in the scripts?
Dialogue yes- plot line no. If it doesn't feel like it comes from your character or fall from your lips as people speak, we move things around.

Do you like the "X-Files"?
Off and on don't watch too much TV, but if I do watch it, I find it very entertaining.

Happy birthday, Michael!!! What made you go into Shakespeare?
Thanks. Originally, it was a requirement of my program. That is how I got into it, but as time went by, the challenge of it and Shakespeare's achievement got me into it.

When you were little, did you know you wanted to be an actor?
Absolutely, school plays but professionally it didn't happen for quite some time after that.

I read you went to UBC. Do you ever go back there and see any of the Performances that are put on?
I saw one just this past year. If I had the chance I would go to see more.

What's your favourite world that SG-1 has travelled to?
I don't remember the name of it but it was the one on the beach. It had a lot of women in not much on.

What are you very, very BEST at doing?
Playing hockey and video games. Quake!!

What is your favourite song?
It's by Tragically Hip and it's called "Nautical Disaster".

What's the most embarrassing blooper you've done on the set?
Something with my fly undone.

Who is the biggest cut up?
Christopher Judge.

Do you travel a lot?
I've travelled more in the past two years than in the last ten years.

What type of mythology is your favorite?
I used to be a big fan of Greek- also Egyptian and Mayan.

Michael any chance of a promo tour of Australia?
I heard a rumor of a sci-fi convention in Sydney next Summer."

What was one celebrity you had/have a huge crush on?
Audrey Hepburn, Charlize Theron whose in "Mighty Joe Young" right now.

If you could change places with a person for a day, who would you change with?
Bill Clinton. I'd like to check out his shoes these days, I'm curious to see what he sees when he wakes up in the morning.

Is there another Shakespeare play you would like to try?
"Henry the Fifth".

You are contracted for like 6 years on "Stargate". When you started the series, did you think it would last that long?
I wasn't sure but I was hoping it would not since I don't like to do anything for longer than a year.

How do you compare yourself with your character on the "Stargate" movie's James Spader?
I try not to.

What characteristics in a person do you think makes a great actor?
Openness, honesty, self-conscious awareness with it being outwardly worn, and a sense of passion.

Would you like to play a bad guy? I think you'd be great as one.
I'd love to. I tend to be typecast as a good guy with my boyish face and gentle persona.

If you could write an episode of "Stargate", what would it be called?
"Quietus". I think because the episode I have in mind deals with staring death right in the face. Quietus is a word from "Hamlet" and deals in that subject matter.

What do you think about the whole Bill Clinton?
No comment.

Do you believe there is life on other planets?
Yes.

What magazines do you subscribe to?
I don't. None. I've never been a fan of magazines, not even "Sports Illistrated." I tend to read the newspapers instead.

So what is your favourite thing about Daniel?
The fact that he gets to have a cup of coffee all the time.

When SG-1 is cancelled, would you look into doing another regular television role?
I want to look more into films. I want to take the time where I can explore the character for more than a hour each week.

If you could live in any time period other than this one, which would it be? Why?
Probably I would like to live back in Egypt during the dynasty period since you would not have worry about parking so much. Parking up in Canada is tough now cause of the shopping, also if you live in the BC period- no Christmas shopping!

What do you think about the overwhelming response of your official fan club...MSOOF?
I'm very surprised and flattered by it, and I think I'm very lucky.

What is the most annoying thing about Daniel?
Those damn allergies!

What would be the last thing you would do if the world ended Today?
It's getting pretty deep. I think I'd call my Mom and Dad.

Is there some place in the world you wanna visit?
I can't wait to see London. England, I haven't been.

Who do you most relate to in the cast of "Stargate"?
Outside of my character- the technician.

Boxers or briefs?
Boxers.

Do you and the rest of the cast get along?
Very well.

Michael, will they ever cut Daniel's hair? or is that a look you prefer for yourself? Also.. Danny wont lose the glasses.. will he?
He will never lose his glasses. I think the viewers will be surprised to see his hair shorter.

Is there one character you'd like to see return on a future episode of SG-1?
Kowalski. At the end of the second season, I want to see him come back again.

What is the most unusual thing you have done to prepare for a role?
I've had to do method acting and do drinking for a role.

Is anyone else in your family in acting?
No.

Do you ever get to mingle with the big Hollywood Stars like Brad Pitt,Helen Hunt etc?
Occasionally, but being in Vancouver I am not much in the Hollywood scene. Occasionally special events will take place, but rarely. I still get star struck by my favorites. I was star struck when I met Sarah MacLachlan.

I loved your heartfelt performance in "Need", will you get more opportunities to show off your broad range of talent like that in future SG-1 episodes?
Hopefully.

Who is the funniest person you know?
My good friend Steven. I don't know what is funny about him - he is just on all the time and we have a riot together. He is very quick witted.

What is the biggest thing you got in trouble for at school?
Ha Ha. That would have to be something in Elementary school, where I was "chasing the girls around." I used to get in a little trouble with that- it has evolved into good trouble.

Any plans to do an "SG-1 outtakes show"?
That's not up to me but I'd love to see it.

Seasons Greetings everyone, we'll see you all in the new year. Thanks for taking the time.

1998, Ultimate TV.

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