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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Michael Shanks

Stargate SG-1's Descending Order
Kate O'Hare, 6 Jun 03

"I am sure there are those who think I'm a jerk, who aren't over the moon," says Michael Shanks about his return to Sci Fi Channel's "Stargate: SG-1."

In the intense world of science-fiction fandom, the normal process of actors joining and leaving shows becomes fuel for righteous outrage and escalating conspiracy theories.

Someone who knows this well is Shanks, who has played archaeologist Dr. Daniel Jackson for six seasons of "Stargate: SG-1." For the first five, on Showtime, he was a regular. Last season, the show's first on Sci Fi, Jackson appeared in three episodes, including the season finale, "Full Circle."

For season seven, which begins Friday, June 13, Shanks is back, full-time.

"Stargate: SG-1" follows Col. Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson, also an executive producer) and his team (Shanks, Amanda Tapping and Christopher Judge) as they use alien portals, called Stargates, to explore distant worlds and battle hostile species.

At the end of the fifth season, Shanks felt that Jackson was being underutilized. Wanting to work more, he recalls, "I said, 'OK, I need a break, but also maybe it's time to move on.' Production seemed to agree, so we parted ways."

 During his time off, Shanks played golf with Judge, shot a movie in South Africa and did TV guest shots, including an appearance on "Andromeda" with his girlfriend, actress Lexa Doig.

"She's great," he says. "She's just down to earth. She's Lexi from the block."

Asked if she'll return the favor on "Stargate," Shanks says, "We're trying to find her something. The producers said to me, 'Does she want to be on the show?' I said, 'Actually, yeah.' 'Well, get her on the show. Let's find her something.' She's waiting for the right role to pop around the corner."

Corin Nemec joined the cast last season as team member Jonas Quinn, and returns as a recurring character. In part, Shanks' return was prompted by Anderson's desire to scale back his involvement in the show, which films in Vancouver, and spend more time with his young daughter in Los Angeles.

"There became an opportunity," Shanks says, "for the other supporting characters -- myself, Christopher and Amanda -- to become more important and more necessary to support the show."

So, an offer was made and Shanks agreed. "I knew it was going to be a good year to come back to, so I said, 'Yeah, sign me up.'"

Jackson was written out by being "ascended" to a higher plane of existence, where powerful beings have a sort of "look, but don't touch" philosophy.

"It was Canada, not really a higher plane," quips Jackson about his "Stargate" hiatus. "Yep, that was me, floating in the ether, wearing a lot of cream-colored clothing."

In the sixth-season finale, when the destruction of his beloved world Abydos seemed certain, Jackson interfered -- but there were consequences.

"There has to be a catharsis for the character," Shanks says, "that could justify why he wants to come back. You know, you're sitting on a cloud, hanging with the gods. You get the wings, you get the space babes -- everything's smooth. Why would you want to go back to the mess that it was before?"

But, upon his "descent" in the season-seven opener, not even Jackson knows what's what. "He's been chewed up and spit back out," Shanks says, "shows up buck naked in a field in Surrey. It's very tastefully done. I'm not spread-eagled on a plate of grapes."

"So, he's spat back to Earth, and as a result, he has no memory of anything. The team comes across him at some point, as they're searching for the lost city to which he tipped them off [last season]."

"Over the course of the season, he gets his memory back of who Daniel Jackson was, but he still has no memory of the Ancients or where he came from -- a sort of heaven."

 "When he interfered, he was faced with the ultimatum of, 'You have a choice with us. You can either stop screwing around and interfering, or you can go back to being human.' And he chooses to go back to being human, because he believes his journey is not complete on Earth."

Shanks' return follows an intensive Internet campaign to bring Jackson back, and an equally fervent campaign by fans who felt Jackson was getting too much attention.

"The people that people are aiming at in this situation aren't necessarily the ones most responsible," Shanks says. "Everything operates from agendas, and everything flows downhill. A lot of people who are just simply employees, like myself, are just doing their jobs. They have nothing to do with political scenarios like this."

Shanks takes the criticism in stride. "The last letter I saw was quite funny, which was a picture of Rick, Chris and Amanda's characters, all little heads, and then my big head in the background. It says at the top, 'How can he fit through the gate?' I thought it was quite creative."

"There were also some theories that Rick and I didn't talk to each other, and we hated each other's guts."

When asked if the theory is true, Shanks says with a laugh, "Shut up. Rick and I, we're like two kids on the set, we have so much fun."

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