Amanda Hug 'N' Kiss
Amanda Tapping, major star (well, okay, colonel now, but that didn't work so well) of Stargate SG-1 talks about clothes and the lack of them and what's coming up in Season Eight.
Visits to the Stargate set are always fun, but there's a lot more hilarity than usual when Cult Times makes is bi-annual pilgrimage to the Bridge Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia. Now, this heightened state of frivolity could be due to the fact that there are less than two weeks to go before the end of the eighth season of Stargate SG-1, or it could be that one of the many episodes they're shooting this week looks like being the most amusing of the year. However, Amanda Tapping (Sam Carter) has a very serious comment to make. "You can never have too much brown is what I say," she declares, as she stares down at her brown stockings, tucked into brown sensible shoes. The crew standing around nod sagely before snorting with laughter.
In a break from the norm, the actress has been cloaked from head to foot in what could be described as tweed - without Vivienne Westwood's panache. Pulling a loosely-fitting brown cardigan further over a beige blouse and brown skirt, she keeps an entirely straight face and shrugs, "I mean, who could go wrong with brown?" You'll have to wait to see the episode to understand how 'wrong' the look is for both Tapping and co-star Michael Shanks (Daniel Jackson), but it's well worth the wait. In a fantastic double act, Shanks and Tapping get in touch with their inner geek with hilarious results. "Michael and I have had soooo much fun playing this. We've laughed our way through it. This is not highbrow. This is pure schmaltzy humour and that is so very wonderful."
The scene they are working on before our eyes has Carter and Jackson discussing their rather dramatic change in style and demeanour whilst sitting at a table in the SGC canteen. During the break to reset the lights and cameras, Tapping shares a little known Stargate secret. "Not many people know about this, but we've discovered that there's a pineapple grove 28 floors down under Cheyenne Mountain." Nodding her head at the incredulous expressions this announcement receives, she says, "We try to put the pineapples in as many scenes as possible. Will Waring, one of our camera operators and an outstanding director, has a thing about pineapples so we try to sneak one into as many scenes as possible in all sorts of places where they shouldn't be. You usually see them in the cafeteria scene. It's something people have to look out for. Every time you see the cafeteria, there will be a pineapple. Every time there's a fruit basket, whether it's in season or not, there will be a pineapple. They can't be tinned, they have to be natural and fresh and that's a homage to Will Waring whom we love very much. So look out for them in this episode."
There are all sorts of cameo appearances to watch out for in this episode. Almost every regular character who's ever appeared in the series turns up in some form or other. "It's been a bit like a school reunion, only better," Tapping insists. The actress maintains that getting re-acquainted with previous guest stars is one of the best things about working on Stargate and ranks the experience alongside the moments when the four members of SG-1 get to play the subtle, comedic scenes together. "For instance, way back at the end of Season Seven when we shot Lost City, one of my favourite scenes was the one with all of us chatting over a beer in O'Neill's [Richard Dean Anderson] house and Daniel is trying to convey how intellectually deep Teal'c [Christopher Judge] is. Those kinds of scenes, for us, are the best. They just capture a brief moment of normality in our lives but that moment is all the more special for its rarity."
Chuckling, Tapping recounts a more recent moment that will remain dear to her heart. "Daniel and Carter, as these dorky versions of themselves, have to interact with this crusty old sea captain. Peter DeLuise, our director on this one, made us sit on this character's boat, which would never leave the harbour, wearing life-jackets. Now I'm not talking the fancy new slimline jackets. Oh no. It was the old, thick, pull-over-your-head-with-a-big-collar type. The visual is absolutely hysterical because we are wearing terribly bad clothes with bad glasses and bad hair and are totally dorky versions of ourselves, and this sea captain, who decides to take us even further down the evolutionary ladder, gives us these gunky, crappy old life-jackets. We looked so ridiculous I fell on my knees on to the dock laughing myself silly. Michael and I played the geek factor up to the nines. Then when our characters go to get off the boat and I try to take my life-jacket off, it gets stuck round my head. So she's there with this life-jacket stuck on her face and trying to pull it off and the captain is determined she must keep it on 'til she steps on to dry land before giving it back to him. It's simple but hilarious. I turned to Peter [DeLuise] and told him it was a stroke of genius. It's one of those classic genius moments where you go, 'I love doing this job'.
As previously stated, Stargate SG-1's gruelling shooting schedule has meant that sections of umpteen different episodes are being filmed in the same week, with several crews working in different locations. The day after our trip to the Bridge Studios, we were out in a residential area way across the city filming the final scene of Citizen Joe. Although much mirth was in evidence, the overriding emotion seemed to be professional admiration with this one. The whole cast, particularly Ms Tapping, was thrilled to have Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson, in their midst. "I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be working with one of my all-time heroes," she grins. "He plays Citizen Joe and is the most charming, unassuming, talented individual. I'm so star-struck by him that when I finally worked up the courage to speak with him, all I could think of to say was, 'So, do you enjoy doing the Simpsons?' in the dorkiest voice ever. Going slightly pink at this revelation, Tapping continues, "Poor man replied that he enjoyed it very much and then I blurted, 'You do such a fantastic job. It's my favourite show.' And it is. Rick [Dean Anderson] and I love it. So getting to meet and actually work with one of our heroes is a major perk of the job. I just wish that I had the guts to not be so star-struck by him." Sighing, Tapping confesses that she's had a similar reaction to a few of the guests appearing on Stargate this year. "Isaac Hayes was another one who set my heart racing. We have had the best guest stars on our show and what makes it even better is we then get to hear that they are fans of our show and it's all very cool."
Modest to a fault, the lovely Ms Tapping comments, "I just can't imagine what it must be like for people to go that ga-ga every time they meet you." But a recent photo shoot for Femme Fatales magazine has ensured her place in the 'Phwoooarrr' department. "Oh yeah," she giggles, "They ran a great interview but also did this wonderful shoot for the artwork to go with it. The photographer was incredible, the hair and make-up people did a fabulous job and I was wearing... well, almost wearing, the most beautiful clothes. It turned our really well." That has to be the understatement of the year. That particular issue, showing the lovely Ms Tapping draped in nothing more than an American flag and her trademark smile was the highest and fastest-selling issue in the history of the publication. "What's really funny is that my husband Alan and I have been married 10 years this week and he keeps getting phone calls from his old friends back in Toronto asking, 'Is that really your Amanda? No wonder you're still married.' I find it all hilarious as they are all so used to me in jeans, big ol'fleece-type sweaters and hiking boots no one can quite believe it."
Tapping also finds it very amusing they didn't have such a positive reaction to her body when she appeared in the first episode of Season Eight. "In New Order, Carter gets captured by Fifth [Patrick Currie], the Replicator, whom she has betrayed in the past. He invades her mind and does all manner of unpleasant things and, of course, there was the nudity. We filmed on a soundstage, which is the largest soundstage in North America, but in this tiny little set, and heating a stage of that size in February/March is well-nigh impossible. So there I am, half-naked and frozen, which added a certain... er, perkiness to proceedings. Then they had to cover me in goo." Pausing for a moment, she muses, "I never understood why I had to be covered in goo because there is no goo on a Replicator ship unless you give birth to a Human Replicator apparently."
Moving on, she says, "They can't heat up the goo because it goes too viscous so they had to keep it cold. Now I'm not only wet with my hair slicked back and little tiny cups over my boobs and skimpy shorts which kept getting lower and lower down my hips, but I'm then covered in the freezing cold, thick goo. It was so not pleasant. I was suffering tremendously for my art, I'll have you know... but I like the shot. The shot was great. But it will be a long time before I expose my body again, I can tell you!"
Snuggling into her baggy brown cardigan once more, Ms Tapping reveals another very special reason for covering up her body in Stargate SG-1. "I'm expecting a baby," she whispers. "I'm 16 weeks pregnant and just beginning to show, so we have to have all these creative camera shots so you don't notice how big my boobs have grown and can't see my belly." Generously letting me stroke the little bump just visible beneath the tweed, she smiles, "I can't even begin to tell you how thrilled I am about this and everyone who knows us is just as delighted. The only downside is that I have had to postpone my trip to London to attend the GABIT fan event which was supposed to happen in February, but the baby is due in March and I'll be staying close to home."
Tapping's extremely happy news means she will have to do some serious thinking should the proposed ninth season come to fruition. "I'd love to do it," she insists, "but it depends on when shooting would start. We usually start back in March but I might just have my hands full with a little production of my own." Whatever the future holds, we wish her much health, happiness and success.
By Thomasina Gibson, Cult Times, Issue 111, December 2004
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