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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Michael Shanks

Michael Shanks: Back And Loving It
Maureen Ryan, Chicago Tribune,9 Jul 04

On finding voices and making tables...

When "Stargate" started, Michael Shanks says, he was just "looking for a job." Now, eight seasons later, he's the star of a host of Web sites and fan clubs devoted to him and his erudite, crusading character, Dr. Daniel Jackson. When Shanks left the show for a season, a campaign by helped bring him back; Shanks addresses that below, as well as other Daniel Jackson- and "Stargate"-related topics.

On why "Stargate SG-1" has lived long and prospered.

We were very fortunate not to have that pressure of immediate success thanks to a guarantee of two years of run time right off the bat. So we could flesh out the mythology. The networks don't really give you time to find your legs, they pull the plug so fast. We have slipped under the radar and built up slowly and quietly. We could fall on our face a few times and it wasn't going to come back and bite us on the [butt]. We could find our voices.

With the ratings pressure, shows like "Enterprise" have to clear the slate or shift directions, [the higher ups] want action now or they want more people to tune in for this or that, and all of the sudden, [the show has] alienated [its] loyal fan base.

MGM to a large degree has been hands off, even the Sci Fi Channel. We were pretty much successful before, so they let us be. They allowed the people artistically in charge to plot their paths.

It's actually quite flattering that we're about to give birth to another franchise because of this one. None of us had huge expectations about this one [lasting], we were just looking for a job.

On the relationship between Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson.

It's a great dynamic between Rick's character and Daniel Jackson, to have that sort of earnest enthusiasm and this boyish naïveté and altruistic belief in the concepts of science fiction, and then have O'Neill as the voice of the audience, saying, "Oh, come on." It's fun to have one character believe and then have another character mock that a little.

There is an element of moral debate there, though. It's great to ask the what-if questions, we don't know what time travel or [travel to the stars] would be like, why not take people from our present time and put in all the SpongeBob jokes and see what would happen in those situations. As long as you don't take the audience out of it by taking it to pure camp. But I love Rick's character's sense of humor to escape the seriousness of a situation.

On leaving at the end of Season 5 and coming back permanently in Season 7.

I did have an idea that people would care [when I left], I think it surprised all of us the degree to which they did. We are removed from the Los Angeles media scrutiny, we're sort of an island unto ourselves, so it's great to realize there are people who watch the show and care about it. I certainly never anticipated that kind of advertising campaign in magazines and all that and it was quite interesting. You feel more obliged to remember that people really care.

When I left it was at the right time and I'm glad I came back. I wasn't necessarily anticipating the level of happiness that I have felt since I came back.

On the dynamic between the cast this year, with O'Neill not going out on missions.

I think I'm a bit spoiled in my first series, we have this great dynamic chemistry and in a way, it's like a table, you remove any of the four legs [and something's missing].

We're feeling it a little, Rick being not around as much. He's such an enormous part of the show. I've always said they put it out there too much that Rick's not around as much, because then people start to notice it more. I do understand [his reasons], Rick's been the star and the lead of a show for so long.

For us, a lot of our character's interactions still take place with him, and it's great, we get to explore our dynamic tidbits here and there, it's been fantastic, a great new exploration. At the same time, I'm sympathetic to those who have been notice this rich character is not around as much.

For the odd episode here and there we've not had him at all, and we've had other episodes as when other characters aren't present. As long as the story is interesting and the characters are given something strong to do, you can get away with that. But this year we do have scenes with all four of them in a room, it's kind of the nostalgia reunion. If and when we go to a feature film, we can relive the glory days [of all four going out on missions together].

© 2004, Chicago Tribune.  Chicago Tribune online

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