Amanda Tapping

SFX salutes newly promoted Air Force officer Samantha Carter, Stargate's very own wonder woman.

"You've caught me on a Friday and I can't speak," Amanda Tapping lisps, as she sits in her trailer part way through the final day of a particularly intensive week of shooting on Stargate SG-1. She's kidding - after eight years of interviews talking about her character, Samantha Carter, Tapping knows what questions to expect ("I do get a little tired of being asked what's going to happen between Sam Carter and Jack O'Neill," she mutters at one point), but she's lost none of the enthusiasm for the show that she's demonstrated since the filming of the pilot.

In recent years, Stargate SG-1 has changed each season, whether it's because Michael Shanks left the show and Corin Nemec joined, or Shanks returned, and Richard Dean Anderson's schedule completely altered the series' shooting structure. For its eighth season, the changes are more on screen. Anderson's Colonel Jack O'Neill is promoted to Brigadier General, which means that Major Samantha Carter also gets a promotion.

"Thank you very much," she laughs, as SFX throws her a mock salute at the news. "Carter's a Colonel, so that's all good." That puts Samantha Carter in charge of the group of explorers who form the SG-1 team, and in real terms means that Anderson's scenes can be shot separately, away from the rest of SG-1. "It doesn't change the dynamic within the team that much," Tapping points out. "The only thing is that Carter may have to make decisions on the fly as the commander of the unit out in the field. But it's still very much a discussion process between her, Teal'c and Daniel. She's not going to come in as some great big bulldozer and say, 'Well I'm the Colonel now, do as I say.' That's just not her.

"We didn't know how the writers were going to work this season," she adds, "and we've got episodes like 'Avatar', which have huge action sequences, but with some really nice character beats thrown in there as well. We seem to be marrying good characters and good action. SG-1 is going to be a three-part team for the most part. Certainly O'Neill will come out on some missions, but on the whole we will be exploring her ability to lead missions, and to be the voice who steps forward when they first meet a new culture. That's a whole new level for Sam to explore, and for me as well."

"After eight years, the actress unsurprisingly feels she knows the character really well, and enjoyed some of the new notes she got to play when the "love interest" of Detective Pete Shanahan was introduced during the seventh year. "He's a really great guy who digs her, and she digs him, and it allows her to explore another side of herself," Tapping says. "She's sublimated so much of her feelings and pushed them down as a function of what she does, and how she does what she does. She's away so much that she doesn't have time for facials and manicures. I like the opportunity to explore something else with her. I like the levity, the insecurity, and all the angst she goes through about being a girly girl with a guy. It's not the whole of her, just another part of her."

And the sublimated feelings between her and Jack O'Neill which Tapping earlier admitted to being tired of discussing? "It's a fairly big part of her heart, if truth be told," she says. "She cares so deeply about this man. They have to come full circle, or find some resolution. If this is the final season, I would love for them to go fishing - but not necessarily show them going, just have her ask them. There is a part of me that thinks Sam needs to come into her own as a fully realised human being, and as a woman autonomous to Jack, and autonomous to that whole relationship. She has to have a fully-fledged adult relationship with a man."

Does she think it is the final season? "We are starting to hear rumblings about a ninth season," she says. "But I think a lot depends on how Stargate: Atlantis does, and whether they take off in their own right." She doesn't feel threatened by the spin-off show filming on the same lot. "It's affecting us in odd ways, particularly scheduling and the key personnel who are working on both shows," she says. "Because we're shooting around Rick's schedule, we're shooting a lot of episodes simultaneously, and it's a nightmare for the art department."

"Tapping copes with the demands of the show by working out with the mini-gym of fitness equipment in her trailer. "And I hike every weekend with my dog in the mountains," she says. "I work out with a personal trainer whenever I can, which is an hour of brutal physical labour. You also have to take care of yourself emotionally and spiritually, and hiking in the mountains is a double whammy on that one. Kayaking also serves both purposes. I play the guitar a lot - when I get home, I play for half an hour then learn my lines."

"Even after this length of time, Tapping enjoys coming to work. "It's part of the reason our show is so successful," she believes. "The good vibe off camera translates on screen. For the most part, every guest star or background performer on our show has had a good time, and that's really important to us. The mythology and the tapestry of the show bring a lot of people back over and over again. People have fun on our show, and I hope that the buzz out there is that Stargate is a good show to come on."

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SFX, August 2004

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