Amanda For All Seasons
Love! Death! Three-inch heels! Stargate SG-1's leading lady AMANDA TAPPING, otherwise known as Major Samantha Carter, discusses the highlights of the show's seventh season and tells Sharon Gosling why she's looking forward to an eighth year of adventures with SG-1...
After seven years of playing scientist/soldier Samantha Carter on the hit sci-fi show Stargate SG-1, you could be forgiven for thinking that Amanda Tapping might be ready to hang up her rifle and lab coat. But the actress couldn't be more excited about the prospect of rejoining fellow SG-1 stars Richard Dean Anderson (Colonel Jack O'Neill), Michael Shanks (Daniel Jackson) and Christopher Judge (Teal'c) for an eighth season of intergalactic escapades.
"I'm really happy about it," says Tapping, who recently signed up for season eight along with the rest of Stargate SG-1's principal castmembers. "I just think we need to finish up. There are stories that have been left hanging that we need to conclude, so I think another season was necessary in order for us to do that. The way the last season ended was just so up in the air that we just have to go back!"
Although Stargate SG-1's eighth season - and, possibly, final - season isn't scheduled to begin shooting until mid-February, Tapping already has plenty of ideas about what the season needs to cover. "I think we really need to find out more about the Ancients," she notes, referring to the mysterious builders of the Stargate system. "I think they're going to be a pretty huge thing throughout the new season, although we don't know anything about that for sure - I don't even think the writers know yet!"
"And what will happen now that other nations know about the SGC?" she asks, hinting at events in season seven's two-part finale, The Lost City. "It's become a global issue. I can't really tell you what happens at the end of season seven, but it's a pretty huge and ambiguous ending. It's opened up a can of worms and we have to go back and tie that up!"
Stargate SG-1's seventh season was a particularly challenging year for the show's makers, who were forced to deal with Richard Dean Anderson's decision to reduce his involvement in the series. Although some viewers have complained that the season has been O'Neill light, Tapping is quick to dismiss such suggestions.
"You know, there's a lot of talk about Rick not being in it very much, but he really is," she insists. "He doesn't shoot a lot of days, but we work the schedule in such a way that he is very much present in the season. Richard Dean is still very much present in the show. We ended up shooting three episodes a time, so that he was in all of them.
"I don't think it has impacted negatively on the show at all. It's just a natural progression on the one hand, and it's also great to delve into everyone else's lives. What it has done for the rest of us is give us a lot more to do. It's given the other members of the cast the opportunity to shine. We get to see a lot more of Teal'c this season and we get to see more of Sam. We get to see a lot more of the personal aspects of their lives. So as an actor it's great to play - it's been a very interesting year for all of us."
"The second half of the season is really very strong," she promises. "There's a lot of great drama."
Another important aspect of the current season was the return of Michael Shanks as the much-loved Dr Daniel Jackson. While Tapping is full of praise for temporary Stargate SG-1 star Corin Nemec (Jonas Quinn), she makes no secret of the fact that Shanks' return added an extra shine to the year.
"Corin did an admirable job coming in," notes Tapping. "It created a very different dynamic on the set, and I think it was actually very good for all of us. But having Michael back seems to have brought us all full circle. It's just comfortable; it's the way we started out. We've got the team back together again. For all of us, it was great.
"I felt bad for Corin," she admits, "but it was good for the dynamic and what was happening on the show, and bringing Michael back was also very natural. From a personal perspective it's been wonderful."
Wheras fellow castmembers Michael Shanks and Christopher Judge both used season seven as an opportunity to exercise their writing skills, Tapping felt that her own creativity wasn't best served in that direction. "When we started doing the show I was very interested in writing," she explains, "but now I'm leaving it to the experts! I found that when I tried to write a Stargate episode, I was almost too close to the characters. I had a hard time doing it - I could come up with really great stories, but I couldn't come up with the dialogue. So I think if I were to write anything, it would have to be something that wasn't Stargate."
Instead, season seven saw Tapping make her directorial debut with Resurrection. Written by Michael Shanks, Resurrection focuses on a covert project to create a Goa'uld/human hybrid and was actually the last episode of the season to be shot.
"It was highly stressful, but really fun," says Tapping of her experience behind the camera. "It was difficult in that I was shooting beforehand. Normally a director gets seven days of prep before shooting an episode, but because I was acting in the previous episode I didn't have as much prep time.
"But I absolutely loved doing it. Michael Greenberg, our on-set executive producer, was there every step of the way for me. If I wanted to talk through any of my ideas for a shot, I knew he was there. He was phenomenal. Michael Shanks and Christopher Judge were so supportive, as were the guest stars and the crew. Everyone was great. And being so comfortable with the crew and knowing how talented our camera department is, I was able to come up with some really crazy shots and I knew that they would be able to pull them off."
Tapping labels her directing stint as one of her highlights of season seven. She also particularly enjoyed working on the episode Chimera, in which the perpetually single Major Carter gets a love interest.
"The episode is mostly about Daniel and Osiris, and then you have this storyline where Carter gets a boyfriend," elaborates Tapping. "It's very funny because when we finished that episode I turned to Michael and said, 'This is so not a Stargate episode!' In Chimera I'm in a very sexy dress with three-inch heels!"
Yet while Tapping enjoyed playing romantic scenes on Stargate she doesn't want that to become the norm for her character. "I had a chance to show that other side of her - the sexy, flirtatious and fun Carter - but I don't want her to be the 'girly girl' all the time."
Another of Tapping's highlights of the season was the episode Grace. "Grace is very Carter-centric," she notes. "Carter suffers a head injury and she's stuck alone on a ship, and she starts to hallucinate. Through her hallucinations, different members of the team come to visit Carter. That forces her to confront her demons - she asks some pretty tough questions of herself, like 'What am I doing with my life?' So that's a good one!"
Having invested more than seven years of her life into portraying Major Samantha Carter, it's hardly surprising that Tapping relishes the idea of playing new characters in different projects one day. "You know, I'd love to do a classical play, or a period piece on film - something really different," muses Tapping thoughtfully. "I would like to do something just a little bit more feminine, something with a bit more sex appeal. Typically, though, I can see myself playing the role of a lawyer or something. My career has always been directed towards really very strong and smart women. I've been lucky - I don't play bimbo well!"
Despite her understandable enthusiasm to take on new acting challenges, Tapping reports that she wasn't ever really tempted not to sign up for an eighth season of Stargate. "There was a part of me creatively that said, 'OK, how much further can I take this character? How much further can we go?' she admits. "But we were all of the mind that we wanted to finish what we had started, and that leaving - especially with the way season seven ended - wouldn't have been right. It wouldn't have done the characters justice. It didn't feel right to walk away from it.
"Michael, Christopher and I all did want to come back. If we hadn't come back, I would be down in LA right now trying to find a job!"
Now that we know for sure that Carter will be back next season, what does Amanda Tapping want for her character in Stargate SG-1's eighth year?
"It's funny, I talked to [head writer/executive producer] Rob Cooper the other day and he said, 'If you can think of something you would like to have happen with Carter next year, let us know.' And I was like, 'Oh, wow, that's hard to think about!' I don't know really, as long as I'm still being challenged. I'd like them to bring back her boyfriend! I think we've opened up an entrance into her personal life, and I'd like to see that explored more.
"Teal'c and Carter have had some great moments over the years, and I hope that continues to grow. And I'd like to see the dynamic between the team keep growing.
"I love the character, and I think she's come a long way," she declares. "It's so refreshing to play someone that strong, and she doesn't make any apologies for it. She's strong without being bitchy. It's going to be hard to hang up those boots!"
Dreamwatch Issue 113
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