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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Michael Shanks

An Interview With Michael Shanks
Robert Vogel, TV Highlights, Aug 01

When TV Highlights visited the set of Stargate, our reporter Robert Vogel also interviewed Michael Shanks. The popular actor, who rather avoids the public, proved to be as sympathetic as his character.
TV HIGHLIGHTS: Are you often recognized or addressed on the street since you got your role in Stargate?

MS: No, there the dark sun glasses help me. So far I have been able to avoid such meetings quite well. That is also fine with me since I wouldn't know how I should behave or know at all how I should react, and that would be probably unpleasant for both parties. Since the series is so popular it could very well happen though. Ask Christopher Judge about it, he is naturally recognized more frequently than others.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: Do you even know what all the scientific words and terms you use means?

MS: Quite honestly: no! As a child I was interested in Greek mythology, but that was lost in the primary school.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: Are you then happy that Jack O'Neill always interrupts Daniel Jackson when he gets enough of the scientific babble?

MS: (laughs); Yes, that has been a well-worn joke/spoof on the set. Jack speaks for all the viewers who are just as lost as he is.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: Do you know of any bloopers or funny occurrences that has happened on the show?

MS: Ah, now the dangerous question comes. There are naturally some, which I cannot tell, because I would make a fool of someone. Spontaneously however, a scene occurs to me in 100 Days, where Richard was to get into the canoe with the woman and then row out of the picture. He totally screwed it up in the first shot and ended up falling in the water. The next hour or so he was busy getting himself dry again and getting laughed at and laughing himself.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: Are you also one of the notorious Golf players?

MS: Yes, but after the birth of my daughter I naturally no longer have so much time. It is amazing, how many of our television production crew play Golf. There one has opportunity to be with colleagues in a private atmosphere. It is quite funny, if one watches e.g. Don S. Davis (General Hammond) playing golf. On the set, he strives really hard to be as professional as possible, even if something went wrong and all are laughing themselves silly except him. But with golf playing it's like an old seal...

TV HIGHLIGHTS: Do you have any Hobbies?

MS: I have played Ice hockey for 22 years. Unfortunately I don't have the time to do that so often anymore. My physical fitness has always been very important to me so I take care of that and I also enjoy spending time outside in nature.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: You look much more like a sportsman here than in the series. How does that come about?

MS: That is make-up, in addition to loose clothing and the large eyeglasses. Additionally I am placed frequently beside Christopher Judge, and beside this mountain of a human everyone looks small.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: You have had a guest role in an episode of Andromeda...

MS: I believe that the series is still looking for its own direction and the right chemistry. It was naturally an interesting experience for me to take part in this show with my experience with another SF series. Additionally I met (the series is likewise shot in Vancouver) some familiar faces there. The atmosphere was very friendly, and I had the impression that the people there got along well with each other. The potential for a successful series is certainly there. In the episode I play a character with which the spaceship Andromeda falls in love.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: From where do you get the time?

MS: From where I can get it. I am also going to play in an independent Canadian film called Suddenly Naked.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: Ah, indeed somewhat quite different one!

MS: In the movie I play a slimy producer. It is good to have played different characters, that gives me a new view on all my characters.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: I saw you in the television film Escape from Mars.

MS: It was supposed to be called Mission to Mars, but the title was modified, when we heard Brian dePalma had a film of the same name. We were quite aware of the fact that with the Disney film's insanely high budget we wouldn't be anywhere near it, because we filmed our television film with only 2-3 million dollar budget after the end of the 2nd season of Stargate - it was relayed in November/ December in my hometown Winnipeg at different workstations. I can remember that it was very cold during the filming, but it was time to do something else and the technique shown in the film had nothing to do with Science Fiction really, instead it was based on what is possible nowadays. I wasn't absolutely happy about the movie Escape from Mars. The movie nevertheless came out better than I had originally assumed. A funny note in regards to the movie: two of my colleagues in this film also ended up with being astronauts in the movie Mission to Mars.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: Whom did they play?

MS: They were a part of the first Mars expedition and as you know, they where the first to go in the beginning of it. When they visited me during filming in Vancouver, we were very amused by it.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: You have certain background as a theatre actor.

MS: My last performance on the stage was in 1999 in Vancouver, when I was playing Hamlet for six weeks. I would like to do more the theatre; only it's difficult with my schedule to find suitable dates. This means that I still have no concrete plans for it in the near future.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: Was the step from theatre to television very problematic?

MS: Yes, very much, because I didn't know how important the technical aspect is. I went to the television with the specification and demands that it takes doing theater, and thought I could do it easily. In practice it naturally looked quite differently and much easier, that was why it took me two years to adjust to this new field. There is something new to learn each day on the set.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: I am going to ask you this on behalf on the many fans out there. Will we see you soon at a Convention?

MS: I am of the opinion that many of my colleagues can handle such an appearance much better than I. I will gladly admit that I have a very short attention span where projects are concerned. For about 9 to 12 months yearly I'm only involved with Stargate. I work hard and passionately participate in everything regarding work. However, the remaining time I have, I would like spend on other things.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: What do you do in your free time?

MS: It is of a great importance for me to be together with my daughter and take responsibility as a father. I have worked out this daily plan that I follow: At 5:30am I leave the house and at 8pm I'm again back. Then I still have about two hours for my daughter, one hour for fitness training and afterwards I still have to prepare the film script for the next day. However, I want to have more time with my family in the future.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: Then you are in the same situation as Richard Dean Anderson...

MS: One can probably say that. The birthdays of my daughter and Rick's daughter are eight days apart! It is really an interesting situation: two men, one of them 50, the other 30 years old, go through a same phase. The most funny part about is that my father is 52!

TV HIGHLIGHTS: Do you exchange good advice on e.g the best way to change diaper?

MS: Frequently yes…

TV HIGHLIGHTS: When I took a walk with Rick before the interview, he wanted to convince me of how great is being a father! Your "ex-girlfriend" played the woman you are married to in the series a character. Was that a coincidence?

MS: I got to know Vaitiare (Bandera) during the work on the pilot film. From this point in time that is also where our relationship developed. It was a very pleasant and funny to then find her as a recurring character. I also found it to be very nice of the writers that in the time of her pregnancy they wrote a part for her, where Sha're was pregnant as well.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: Are there plans to let Sha're come back again?

MS: Not that I know of.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: What actually drives Daniel Jackson since the death of his wife?

MS: For me he is a true " child of the universe ". He still possesses this large curiosity to experience what "is situated behind the next hill". In his heart he is a researcher. That is one thing he'll never be able to abandon.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: Often one thinks that Jack and Daniel are ready to go at each other's throats?

MS: The two of them want the same thing, they just disguise it differently, in the end what connects them is the fundamental friendship. They don't go around acting like typical friends, but that makes it all much more interesting.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: Should the fifth season be followed by another season or should it end with a movie?

MS: I find that if the authors and producer of the opinion are that there are still enough interesting stories to tell, then they should do another season. If not, a motion picture film would be the best opportunity to do one or more films. For me both possibilities are okay. Sometimes I have the impression, that the episodes are going to explode out of the screen, because they actually rather belong on a cinema screen. One may not forget that the Stargate saga began with a motion picture film, to that extent it would be great seeing it return to that medium, where everything began.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: How do your plans look?

MS: Since I began working on Stargate I try to treat each year in such a way as if it would be my last year with the series, in order to be financially prepared for everything. I send everything concrete to me. I am currently preparing to work on an independent Canadian movie, which is going to be filmed in the Spring/Summer time in 2002. The title is "The Maggie Rose," and the manuscript is based on the work of a Canadian author. The story takes place in a village society in East Canada and on a ship.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: What part do you have in this?

MS: As a Co-Producer and as an actor.

TV HIGHLIGHTS: Is that a new experience?

MS: Yes, it is as a Producer anyways, I haven't tried that yet. It is a part of my learning process in becoming familiar with the many aspects in the TV - and movie business when you look over the part with writing and and the puplicity. It is for me like most others, like going through different doors and every time what you see on the other site amazes you. I guess I have this curiosity in common with Daniel Jackson.

2001, TV Highlights.

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