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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Michael Shanks

Jackson Live!
Ian Spelling, Dreamwatch #122, Oct 04

Stargate SG1's Michael Shanks tells Ian Spelling why season eight is going to be a memorable year for both Daniel Jackson and the show's viewers.

Michael Shanks never expected SG1's journey through the Stargate to last anywhere near as long as it has. "When we first started Stargate SG1, I was 26 years old and just happy to have a job, and my attitude was to enjoy it for as long as I could keep it," admits Shanks with a laugh, during a break from playing Dr Daniel Jackson on the show's eighth season. "I didn't even think about the future. I only thought about the short term. I thought, somebody's going to fire me after the first year. I was never thinking about the grand scheme. Everybody's lives have changed so significantly. The world has changed significantly. It's been incredible, and I don't think anybody could have anticipated that we'd be in our eighth season of Stargate. Show's just don't run anywhere near this long normally."

Dr Daniel Jackson started out as SG1's linguist, and he remains that in season eight. Daniel's still providing the heart, soul and wit of SG1, and continues to serve alongside the newly promoted Brigadier General Jack O'Neill, Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter and Teal'c. But on a more personal note, he's had to face everything from losing a wife to a season long ascension to a higher plane of existence.

"At the start of the show, Daniel was very much a reflection of who I was at the time, which was sort of naive, idealistic, innocent, wide eyed and all those other things," say's Shanks, as he begins to chart his characters development. "That's where the character began. It was a good match of the character and actor. I think over time, the idealism has remained consistent, but the character has become a little bit more harder edged. I wouldn't say he's cynical, but he's no longer always expecting the best from other people. He's hoping for the best, but being prepared for the worst. I think Daniel's become a little more action orientated, which has been a wonderful dimension to play. He's also become a lot more independent. I'm a big fan of the team dynamic, but I think he's now more capable of handling himself in certain situations that in the past he would have been dependant on others to help see him through."

Just as Daniel has changed in many ways since the start of Stargate SG1, so too has the show's set up as it enters season eight. Not only is O'Neill now heading the SGC and no longer a full time member of SG1, but a tremendous shift in the show's mission statement takes place at the start of the season.

"Our main throughline over the first seven years was finding the Lost City and the home of the Ancients," notes Shanks. "Now we've taken our big, overall super objective and we've thrown it onto a completely different cast for a completely new show, Stargate: Atlantis. We were kind of left in the lurch at the start of the season, going, 'Oh, yeah, we've got a season to do. What do we so? What are our goals?' But we still have a universe of threads out there that need to be cleaned up and that's our main focus this year, to take the dangling storylines and give them some resolution. And along the way we're opening up a few new threads. There have been hits and misses this year, in terms of the episodes," he admits. "But I thing season eight is going to be very satisfying for the character, for myself and for the show as a whole."

Black Magic

Shanks reports that his most rewarding experiences on season eight so far, came with Prometheus Unbound. The episode sees Daniel being trapped aboard the Prometheus when it is stolen by a mysterious alien, Vala, who is played by Farscape star, Claudia Black.

"Prometheus Unbound was one of my favourite episodes to shoot so far this season.", say's Shanks. "It's a stand alone episode, but it was probably the most satisfying filming experience I've had on the show this season, ad maybe in the last few years, because it was a hoot to work with Claudia. She's such a talented actress and we had a great, natural chemistry. It was a really funny, well written and well crafted episode, with a lot of eye candy visual effects and a lot of humour. I really enjoyed doing it. It almost felt like we were doing a different series, because a lot of the SG1 team wasn't really present in that one."

Daniel also takes centre stage in Icon, which propels him into a civil war on an alien world. But Shanks admits that he has mixed feelings about the widely acclaimed episode.

"Our writers loved Icon,"he explains. "It was a story they had been dying to tell and they were satisfied with the end result. But after it was done, I was sort of going, 'Well, it doesn't feel like a Stargate episode.' For an independent show it was an interesting look at a different storyline, but from the team perspective, there was no emotional attachment to the ongoing story. And I think that's where we sort of faltered. You need your main cast and characters be emotionally involved in the story, and I think although Daniel was involved, he wasn't as strongly involved as he could have been."

When asked to name some of the misses he referred to, Shanks points to the political intrigue episodes like Covenant and Endgame. "I've never been a big fan of those stories, because I love the more external stories, the off-world stories, the discovery and exploration stories, rather than the stories where we discover some agency is trying to break into this or that. I'm not a fan of the conspiracy stuff, but that's a matter of personal taste."

Eight Expectations

Ultimately, however, Shanks maintains that Stargate SG1's eight season is shaping up nicely. "There are a lot of very good episodes in the second half of the season. Reckoning, Parts 1 & 2 and Threads are basically the resolutions of so many ongoing threads. Carter and O'Neill, will they or won't they? Will she get married to this other character, Pete? We'll be dealing with the creation of a Replicator Carter villain. We'll deal with the whole what happened to Daniel when he was ascended question. We'll get into what's going to happen with Anubis. All of these things will be brought to an end, or an end of sorts."

Just like all of his co-stars on the show, Michael Shanks has no idea if season eight will mark the end of the show. But he's certainly open to the prospect of starring in a ninth season, or appearing in Stargate SG1 TV movie or even a big screen adventure.

"I think we'll be back in some way after season eight," he states. "I know that something will happen down the line. We're far from done. It comes down to the money people. If the US SCI FI channel are content with just having Atlantis, maybe we'll just to two hour movies. For me, I still love the cast and crew and the character. I think it's a stranger concept for me to actually think about life without this show than to think about doing one more year. When I'm asked if I'd like to do one more year now, I go, 'Of course I would. What the hell else am I going to do?"

"I didn't go to university for this long," he concludes. "So I'd be willing to sign on and embrace another year of the show."

2005, Dreamwatch.  Buy Dreamwatch #122 online.

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