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Stargate SG-1 Cast Interviews: Michael Shanks

Michael Shanks becomes the voice of "Local Custom"
Marla R. Reed, syndicated to Stargate SG-1 Solutions, 14 Feb 05

Actor Michael Shanks recently embarked on a new project in his career, a career that includes successful forays into classical theater, television and film work. His latest project is as narrator of the soon to be released Audio Novel version of the SF/Romance novel "Local Custom."

"Local Custom," which is the first of the seven books set in the Liaden Universe® written by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, tells a tale of Master trader Er Thom who knows the local custom of his people is to take a bride from a high Liaden family and provide his most revered clan Korval with a worthy heir. Yet a woman not of his culture or even of his world has captured his heart, a woman whom he discovers has borne his child and for which Er Thom is willing to risk his honor and reputation to be with.

As a narrator of "Local Custom," Michael Shanks joins the ranks of other fellow "Stargate SG-1" cast members who have done audio novels before him. Ben Browder, who is joining the regular cast in season 9 as Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell, narrated "Interlopers" written by Alan Dean Foster, and veteran "Stargate SG-1" actor Tony Amendola, who plays recurring character Master Bra'tac, co-narrated "An Unfinished Life" written by Mark Spragg.

Did they have any advice for Shanks going into this project?

"Tony Amendola, who I respect tremendously as an actor, was telling me ‘don’t do that, I’m telling you don’t do it’," Shanks says with a gentle laugh.

However Michael Shanks is also quick to inform you that he is a man who knows and accepts about himself that telling him NOT to do something is the quickest way to get him to do it or make him want to try it.

"And I said 'Wow - Tony saying that…'  That’s something. I better go do that cause I wanna see what he’s talking about and I certainly found out the hard way."

By 'the hard way' Michael Shanks means that he found the process of narrating "Local Custom" to be a challenge to both his classical theater training and to his 'cold reading' skills as an actor. "Local Custom", a well-written and beautifully told story, is filled with many words in the made up language of Liaden.

Despite the challenges the words presented, Michael Shanks met the task head on with his dedication to do the best work he possibly could and to focus on what was most important, which was making sure he never forgot that he was reading this aloud for listeners who trusted him to be their insight into the novel and the story.

As Shanks himself puts it, "It’s not like they are sitting there reading along with you. You are their insight and you have to be loyal to the book, you have to be clear to them. When you are reading out loud you can’t tune out."

For the past 8 years on "Stargate SG-1", Michael Shanks has been the 'voice' of the character of Asgard Supreme Commander Thor, who is embodied in an animatronic puppet. When asked if his work doing the 'voicing' for Thor was in anyway similar to the novel narration, Michael Shanks had this to offer:

"It's totally different, the only similarity at all between the two is the fact that they are in a sound stage. That’s pretty much the only similarity and I haven’t done a lot of voice work like my fellow actors from "Stargate SG-1."  Teryl [Rothery] and Christopher [Judge] being a couple of them. They do a lot of voice work and Peter [DeLuise] too. He does a lot of commercial voice over and Teryl used to be on radio actually."

Shanks goes on to explain the other difference between voiceover work and audio book narration. "It’s a different medium where you have to communicate so much with just the use of your voice. With Thor I am trying to match the puppeteers and to keep the character consistent so it’s a very different ballgame. This one [the audio narration] is about reading a story and basically you’re a one-man radio play is what it is."

Michael Shanks' determination to make this audio narration a good experience for the listener and his dedication to 'being with them and not tuning out or betraying their trust in him as the storyteller' through all 307 pages of the novel, which took him 3 days to record at the sound studio in Los Angeles, certainly shows in compliments like this one from Joy Poger of Buzzy Multimedia:

"Michael did a superb job narrating the audio and was a complete professional. He is very bright, intelligent and a true scifi fan himself."

"Local Custom," narrated by Michael Shanks will be available for order at Buzzy Multimedia's website in early spring. Meanwhile be sure and check out the other novels in the Liaden Universe® at the official Liaden Universe website.

Michael Shanks is next headed back to filming of "Stargate SG-1" in mid March for its ninth season, and while he is going to miss the presence of Richard Dean Anderson whom he has enjoyed working with for the past eight years, he is looking forward to the new challenges presented by new character dynamics and story directions.


© Article is Copyright 2005 to Marla R. Reed

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