Steve Eramo, TV Zone Special
#42, Jul 01
Digging Up The Dirt
“The episode we’re shooting
now [The Tomb] is a great one for Daniel,” says Shanks. “As the archaeologist
on the show he gets a big charge out of being in his element, and for me
as an actor, the character is the most fun to play when he’s feeling that
way. So this story plays perfectly into that. Our heroes are sent on a
mission to investigate an ancient Babylonian temple or ziggurat.
In order to uncover the mystery surrounding the tomb, they first must decipher
an archaic Earth language. This is where Daniel’s problem-solving skills
come in handy. Even the door to the place itself is a puzzle and one that
my character is able to solve. Of course, once he and the others eventually
get inside they find a surprise or two waiting for them.”
“Our writers came up with a
number of story threads for Daniel in the first two years of the show,
all of which came to a natural conclusion during the third season,” notes
the actor. “In year four, the ‘Daniel stories’ focused more on him as a
person. One of the highlights for me was, without question, The First Ones.
A close second is The Curse. In it, Daniel pays a visit to his alma mater
and we uncover a bit more of the character’s history previous to the Stargate
movie. To top it off, you get to hear other peoples’ perspectives on what
Daniel was like back then, particularly his ex-girlfriend’s and old rival's."
Shanks also has high praise
for the episode Absolute Power. "That was a hoot on so many different levels,"
he says. "I remember the producers came to me and asked if I was
worried about Daniel being painted as the bad guy. I said, ‘Are you kidding?
It’s a great opportunity for me. First off, this is something that could
happen to Daniel, so it was fascinating to explore that potential danger.
From an acting standpoint it was a treat to twiddle the old ‘villainous
moustache’ and do something totally different and off-the-wall."
“I must admit I got a little
worried last season because there were times where I felt my character
was just there to be there,” continues Shanks. “That's not much fun for
an actor and it becomes a problem for the writers. Yes, Daniel is part
of the SG-1 team and should be there, but if he has no use in a particular
situation then what do you do with him? Sometimes he’d be standing around
in the background just waiting for something to happen so that he could
“This season, my character has
been involved more in the action. The writers have decided, ‘If the episode
is not specifically about Daniel or if we don’t have another storyline
for him, then we’ll throw him into the middle of things and see how he
does. Needless to say, I’m having a blast. I enjoy it much more when I’m
performing a function in a scene as opposed to just being window dressing.
I’m grateful to those in charge for making the effort to address my concerns.
Beast of Burden is the first
episode of the show’s fifth season in which Shanks takes centre stage.
In it, Daniel attempts to help his old friend, Chaka (Dion Johnstone) from
The First Ones, who, alone with his race, the Unas, have been made slaves
of by those they were once masters of. “Last year, whether by design or
not. I'm not quite sure, Daniel became a voice of morality for the SG-1
team,” explains the actor. “His is a non-military viewpoint, and I think
that’s very important given the nature of the military hierarchy. If an
officer says, ‘Jump’, a solider will ask, ‘How high?’ However, a person
who doesn’t fall under that hierarchy or who can’t be court-martialled may
ask, ‘Why am I jumping?
“So in the SGC Daniel tends
to be the voice of morality. However, there are some moral dilemmas that
have no right or wrong solution and this is true in Beast of Burden.
My character has to face the fact that his not always right and people
don’t always have to accept the ‘right’ way. Some things aren't going to
change no matter how hard you try. I think you’ve got to take a stand,
though, when it comes to an issue. It may not necessarily be the most popular
one, but it's what you believe in at the time for whatever reason.
Daniel is forced to do just that here. There are some ramifications
that follow from the action SG-1 takes in this episode and I hope we have
the opportunity to revisit this planet in a future story to see what's
Behind The Camera
Last season, the actor made
his debut as a director on Stargate SG-1. He was originally assigned the
episode Prodigy, but due to an unavoidable last-minute change ended up
with the far more complicated complicated story Double Jeopardy.
"Everyone was prepared for the idea of me directing but no one, especially
me, was prepared for the situation that I ended up in," he says. “I knew
I was going to be like a fish out of water, but I never imagined how much
so. However, I learnt a lot more directing an episode episode
like that than I would have done doing a far simpler one. It pretty
much introduced me to all the ups and downs of production. I’m glad
to say the experience has not discouraged me in the least from directing.
In fact, if the show is renewed for a sixth season and they offer me the
chance I’ll do it again.”
Michael made appearances in
acclaimed HBO movie "Door To Door," independent Canadian feature "Suddenly
Naked" and "Andromeda," where he met his partner Lexa Doig, who plays Rommie.
Shanks played Gabriel, an AI or Artificial Intelligence. He and Rommie
fall in love.
“It was fascinating to be part
of a series that was in its first year and going through the same ‘growing
pains' that we did when we began working on Stargate," says Shanks. “The
entire cast were constantly experimenting with chemistry and balance between
their characters. They’re a wonderful group of people and I’m sure the
same kind of team dynamic we achieved on our series will eventually happen
with them. Kevin Sorbo [Captain Dylan Hunt] is the head of that family
and a great guy. Lexa Doig was a huge help getting me used to my character.
We had some deep discussions about what it meant to be an AI and I brought
my own sort of philosophy to the table."
“Unfortunately. I stepped into
a pitfall when it came to playing an android in this specific instance,”
adds the actor. "First off, I loved the dual nature of the character
in that he was both master and servant. However, I tried too hard to make
him different from Daniel Jackson or any of the other characters I’ve played.
What I should have done was focused on the circumstances of the story and
paid more attention to that. Instead. I got too caught up in playing an
android and that was my big mistake. There have been some rumblings about
Gabriel possibly coming back at some point. If that happens, I’ll definitely
take a different route in order to avoid those same pitfalls with the character.”
Is there another year of Daniel
Jackson in Shanks should Stargate SG-1 go for a sixth season? “I’m game,”
he answers smiling. “My only worry in life is complacency. Whatever I continue
to do I want it to be moving forward. I don’t like doing things simply
for the sake of doing them, you know? I always want to be learning and
growing. So as long as that happens or it is believed that it will happen,
then yes. definitely. I'm here.”
2001, TV Zone. TV Zone Special #42
is sold out.