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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Michael Shanks

Local Boy Made Good
Kate O'Hare,, Jun 01

His role on "Stargate SG-1," which airs on Showtime and in syndication, has led Michael Shanks to the far reaches of the universe -- without ever having to leave home.

A native of Vancouver, Canada, and a 1994 graduate of the University of British Columbia, Shanks spent two seasons pounding the boards at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, then made his film debut in a version of "Call of the Wild."

After guest shots on such Canada-based shows as "The Commish," "Highlander" and "The Outer Limits," Shanks took over the role of archaeologist Dr. Daniel Jackson on "Stargate SG-1," which begins its fifth season on Friday, June 29, at 10 p.m. ET, on Showtime.

Like many SF shows, "Stargate SG-1" films in Vancouver. "It's been very nice," says Shanks. "I was living out in Toronto when I got cast for it, but my family and friends are here. Coming back here was just great. It's kind of a dream come true, in a way. I can't imagine spending that much time away from the people I love."

James Spader created the role of Jackson in "Stargate," the 1994 feature film that inspired the series. For years, Shanks had to emulate Spader's look from that film, with round glasses and longish blond hair. Finally he declared his independence, at least as far as the hair is concerned.

"I took that on myself," he says. "I'd had enough. I've always had short hair. It was also a statement of saying, 'Hey, character's mine now, bye-bye.'"

"I was tired of dealing with long hair. I'm not used to it, and I'm not used to TV people bugging me with blow dryers and crap like that. I'm just not a high-maintenance person, so I just wanted to get rid of it and make the character my own."

"Stargate SG-1" has also been important personally for Shanks. He was involved with Vaitiare Bandera, the actress who played Jackson's wife, Sha're, on the series, and they have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Tatiana.

 Shanks recently did a guest-shot on an episode of the syndicated SF series "Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda," which also films in Vancouver. There he met series regular Lexa Doig, who plays the physical embodiment of the Andromeda spaceship. At last report, the two are dating.

"I played a love interest," says Shanks. "It was very cool. We got along very well, and continue to."

Is it odd, with both of you being on SF shows? "Believe you me," says Shanks, "she and I have made the joke ourselves, the geeky science-fiction couple. It is funny."

"It really hasn't created any awkward moments. I've chosen, for the most part, and I think she has, too, to downplay any personal relationships we have and just focus on work. It seems to work out."

"Certainly, science-fiction fans become the ones that are the most curious about it, because they relate to it as a viewer, they like both shows or something like that. But I've found the more you try to keep something quiet, the more likely people are to dig it up."

Perhaps they think there are fascinating secrets. "Which is just so not true," says Shanks. "I wish my life were that interesting. It really, really isn't. It's not bad. I'm not complaining, but it's not to too glamorous, that's for sure."

Shanks spends a fair amount of his time coping with fatherhood, a task he shares with series star Richard Dean Anderson, whose daughter, Wylie Quinn Annarose Anderson, was born at almost the same time as Shanks' daughter.

"It's very funny," says Shanks. "We're very, very much in the same boat. Our kids are eight days apart, so we went through the whole pregnancy thing, the whole expectation thing at the same time, both had girls. We're in exactly the same boat, two men saying they're going to defend their daughters to the hilt. Boy, oh boy, the boys, when they come over, had better watch out."

"Rick's chasing boys away from his daughter right now, and she's two-and-a-half. Rick's 20 years older than I am, and it's just so interesting to go through that similar experience with someone who's as naïve about it as you are."

"It's not like he's coming in armed with all this wisdom and all that. He doesn't know what the hell he's doing any more than I do. We have nice little chats about it."

Although Shanks isn't eager for his daughter to go into the business, Tatiana has already appeared on the series -- more or less. "Her first acting gig was as a fetus," he recalls. "When her mom and I were still together -- her mom played my wife -- and we did an episode where she was pregnant, when she was pregnant. So we call that Tatiana's first acting gig, playing a fetus, as herself."

"Once we start putting her resume together, we may list it, but we haven't decided for sure."

At this point, filming on season five continues until October, and no announcement has been made about any further seasons. If this is the end, what does Shanks want to do next?

"I don't know. I have absolutely no idea. There are a lot of things I want to do. I've started directing. I directed an episode last season, so I want to go down that road a little bit. I still have my theater aspirations. I want to go into films, obviously, as every actor says they want to do, but I actually do. I'd like to focus my attention on the film aspect first, shoot for that, and see what happens from there."


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