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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Michael Shanks

Beyond the Gate: Michael Shanks
DVD Volume 32 featurette

Becoming Daniel Jackson

[Michael's trailer]

MS: [interspersed with clips of MS getting his 'Daniel' style hair] I wake up in the morning, you know, usually late. I come driving in, Mach 9 with my hair on fire and put out the flames when I reach the front gate. I come strolling into my room half-conscious. And then I go waltzing in, still in some sort of semi-coma, into hair and make-up and come out looking like a million dollars. Well, okay, a buck-o-five. But the guys, actually the gang's really good, but they can only do so much, you know, without using plaster.

MS: That's how I get into character. Make-up stuff takes about 15-20 minutes and from there we waltz off to set and do our blocking. Blocking is this chaotic period where half-awake people try and direct other half-awake people to stand in certain spots and are only able to do so by putting tape marks on the floor, especially colour coded tape marks, and mine is blue. Blue, I have blue tape. So that's where I'm supposed to stand. Sometimes we can actually, if it's important to us, move around, but you know, we try and keep a limit on our motion because we've got a lot of stuff to do during the day. We finish blocking, come back out here and then if we haven't done so already, like the true professionals, we panic and try and learn our lines.

[Clip of Enemy Mine]

MS: We go in and set up usually what starts off being a master shot. And then we zoom in for close-up coverage of everything, especially here at the military base, and then we go in and we shoot it. Masters, close-ups, all sorts of stuff like that, and we do this for about eight pages of dialogue a day. We shoot episodes in around six or seven days now so....

[Clip of Enemy Mine]

MS: So seven and a half pages a day. That's a lot of pages. That's a lot of words. I've gotta get to work, could you turn that off? Usually the time when you actually get a scene is right after when you've finished shooting, going, Oh God! That's what that scene was about. That's what I do anyway.

Then I come back in here [his trailer] and beat my head against the wall, and then we go onto the next scene.

MS: You're still there.

MS: And we do this until about 7.30 at night, sometimes 8 o'clock and we drive back home and try and memorise our lines for the next day and do anything like live a life, personal life, try and say hi to friends and family that we've alienated over the past seven years and that's about it. That's a day in the life.

His Fellow SG1 Team

A long time ago, in a not so far galaxy. Actually it was seven years ago, so I guess it was a long time ago. We all went down for a screen test for a series based on a feature film called Stargate. People just sort of gravitated towards one another, and that was a man named Christopher Judge, a woman named Amanda Tapping and some dude, some dweeb who didn't know his A from a hole in the ground, named Michael Shanks and we all seemed like to find solace and laughed with each other and lo and behold, a few weeks later after finding out that I had gotten the part, we arrived in Vancouver to begin shooting and I find out that Christopher Judge and Amanda Tapping had also got their parts.

[Clip of Chris and Michael in a car on the way to a filming location.]

CJ: We shot the Nox here.

MS: We shot the pilot here too. We shot the opening...

CJ: Yeah, cos we had to run up and down that hill. When I was wearing 180 pounds of armour.

MS: This was our first day of filming, right in this location.

CJ: French hours.

[Michael's trailer]

MS: Amanda's like a, you know, she's like a mother-hen big-sister type, where she, as much as she's, she likes to have fun but keeps herself within the confines of rules of the game so to speak.  And she's very, almost Britishly proper and she's almost like a big sister to Christopher and I 'cos we're bad kids. Christopher's the worst of the bunch and I'm somewhere in between, so Amanda acts as this big sister to the two of us. Christopher is just a jokester, he's a prankster.  He's the instigator of the trouble that *we* seem to share. And Amanda's there to be able to shake her head and pat us on the back and be able to say, "Yeah, nice one guys".

MS: Chris and I for the most part, I mean it's very rare that you get people who work so often, so many hours a day, after so many years, still like one another. Because you learn way too much information about each other. Chris and I are still going, we watch a hockey game and he's become a very, very, very close friend and it's amazing that the chemistry and that original dynamic that sparked in an audition room so many years ago has managed to remain consistent. And as bonded as close together as family, so it's been a wonderful experience to share it with those people.

MS: Richard, he's a little bit, he's kind of like, he reminded me of me a lot when I first met him, because you know he's just a very private person. But once you get on the inside and you spend so much time around him, you realise he's like the biggest kid on the block. He's like the embodiment of a fifty year-old man, who's been through the wars and has all the wisdom of that. He's like an eight year-old kid just busting to get out. If it wasn't for the social proprieties that make him do certain things. I think you'd just see this whack job running around. Anything for a joke and I think the sense of humour that we share is the most both on and off the set and I think that he's the one. We seem to be on a level playing field when it comes to a lot of different things and especially sense of humour. I think that we find our strongest bond is not only working with that, enjoying that off camera and joking with one another, but working with one another, to always be laughing and I think that whenever we're working together, there's never, there's rarely a serious moment.

[RDA approaches the camera.]

RDA: Playing around with the zoom? That's always the sign of an amateur. Zooming a lot.

MS: That's what's made it so much fun, is to find one of these people that, like the close group of friends where you have a subconscious communication with. I mean that's an incredible strength and it makes for a good friendship.

[Clip of Jack and Daniel talking to the receptionist scene from Space Race.]

His Other Passion

I used to play hockey. I played hockey for about twenty-two years and played up to university and being someone who's a Canadian, it's kinda what Canadians do. Stargate had a hockey team and I've sort of organised the troops and it's amazing to see all the people that come out of the woodwork that actually have played before and are enthusiastic about playing. It's great because it gives you time to not only just socialise with everybody outside the environment of the Stargate set, to see everybody in their natural surroundings, you're just on an even playing field and it's always been a great workout and you don't really know you've been getting a workout at the end of it. But it's so much fun. I miss it so much.

MS: We get to play all the other teams in town, we get to play the Smallville guys and the Twilight Zone guys and the Chris Isaak guys and you get to see some faces that you haven't seen in a while and so it's nice to go out and make some new friends and make some new enemies. Our guys are, as much enthusiasm as we have, our skill level doesn't necessarily meet our enthusiasm. But we always get a good group of people out and rub a few faces with our gloves and swear a little bit too much and I usually end up in the penalty box, so that gives me my designated rest time.

[MS is sent off in disgrace to the penalty box.]

MS: So this is when you use your stick like this or your glove like this, you go to the penalty box and you feel shame. Two minutes for bad attitude, too much spitting on the bench, no gum chewing and not enough use of clichés.  I'm gonna go out and play again hopefully.

[MS returns to the ice.]

MS: When I get back to playing I really see why I miss it. We're good. Our team's a little, you know, we're learning each other's little ins and outs and whatever, but it's one of these great social sports. Even if you do it, I don't think anybody, you say you do it for fun but I don't think anybody really does do it for fun, because everybody wants to win so it's kind of, you know. But the good thing about hockey players is that when it's all over, they do leave it on the ice and whatever friendly rivalries that you've built up within the course of the hour of playing usually gets left behind and you have a beer or twelve with the guy you've just finished rubbing his face into the boards or whatever.

If He Wasn't On Stargate

MS: If I wasn't doing Stargate, I'd hopefully still be acting somewhere. I was trained as a theatre actor in things like Chekov and Shakespeare and Moliere.  So after I graduated from University, I started doing film and TV and stuff like that, but my love has always been to carry on with Shakespeare and to keep a hand in and it is one of those things that you kinda have to keep doing it to remember exactly what you learned in the first place.

MS: TV can be very, it takes up all your time and there's not a lot of room for side projects, so one of the things I wanted to do and will always remain doing is to keep involved in doing theatre and so I think in 1999, a local director asked me if I wanted to participate in a local production of Hamlet and I said sure, what part? And he said Hamlet.  And after I cleaned out my drawers I said 'Okay, I guess I can jump at that challenge' and I think I got everything I asked for in terms of it being a challenge.

MS: It's one of those roles that every actor says that they wanna do and once faced with it they wanna go running, screaming, in the other direction and stage fright became all too common an occurrence on every opening curtain.  So hopefully that's something later on down the line I'll be able to do again, but in the meantime I just want to keep visiting the roots of where I came from and to be able to re-experience the joy of why I first got into it and what your first love was and to re-experience the appreciation of the art of acting.

The Fans

MS: Sci-fi fans are probably fans of all different genres and are probably the most passionate, intelligent group of fans you could ask for. I mean the best thing about them is they keep you honest. Because they follow the show as closely as the people that make the show do. It's important that we have fans that are that reverent and that intelligent. It brings our game up. I think it brings the writer's game up, it brings the actor's game up and everybody's all of a sudden paying a lot more close attention to all the details that go into it, which is essentially what will end up making a better show anyway.

MS: When I left the show at the end of Season Five, you know, it's one of those things, the decision that you make and to me it's a job that you move on from and I've moved on from many.  And when you make that choice, there's a lot of other people that are onboard for that decision-making process as well, and I guess there was a strong reaction from a lot of people that weren't happy with the fact that the character had stepped out of the realm of being a regular character on the show and they let their feelings be known and it was great to know, to get that kind of expression, because you realise that regardless of what you think you may have accomplished, that you've touched a chord with a lot of people and a lot of people are very reverent to the character that has been created on the show and that's flattering in a way and it comes with it where you all of a sudden realise that there is a bit of responsibility that goes with playing a character on television.  So fans at the end of the day will make you or break you and apparently there's a lot of fans out there who are very supportive of the work that I've done on the show and that's fantastic.

MS: Thank you all for watching "Michael Shanks Beyond The Gate" and we'll see you all sometime. If not you'll see me. I'll look occasionally at the screen, but I probably won't see you. So I'm gonna go now because I've run out of things to say.

[MS gets up from his seat and begins to walk away.]

"You're following me."

[MS runs away.]

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