Samantha Carter, Stargate SG-1
Words: Paul Simpson
If you ever visit the Stargate set, be prepared to kick off your shoes and relax.
"The atmosphere on Stargate is special," Amanda Tapping tells SFX happily. "I was talking to a crewmember a few months ago and she said that when she came onto the show, she only knew one person, but she felt more at home on the Stargate set than on any other show she'd worked on where she knew everybody. I don't know why it is - it's that je ne sais quoi: a combination of all the people and the creative forces from every department. Every guest star we've had who's chosen to say anything about it has said what a great time they've had on our show. And I'm so proud of that. We foster that. When people come onto our show, we want them to feel like they're coming into somebody's home, and that they're welcome in that home. It's just such a nice way to greet people - this is our house, come on in and kick off your shoes."
It's nice to know that they're that relaxed, but this isn't really the no-nonsense approach you might expect from Major Samantha Carter. Although, as Tapping reveals, one of her objectives for Stargate SG-1's seventh season is to portray some other sides of her character so the audience can understand what makes her tick.
"I talked to [writer] Rob Cooper about getting to the heart of Sam this year," she points out. "There are softer edges so Sam now. She started off very determined and very didactic. She had a message, and everyone had to know what her message was, and, damn it, they were going to treat her as an equal, and she was going to prove to everyone why they should.
"Now, after all this time, she doesn't feel that need any more. She's not afraid to show her softer edges. She has come into her own as a woman on this show, a lot more comfortable in her skin. She's a lot more centred as a human being - and I think that's partly as a by-product of me as well. I feel more centred in my own skin and that I'm coming into my own as a woman. It's partly Sam and partly Amanda - they're playing off each other. Sam has made Amanda a little stronger, and Amanda has made Sam a little softer."
Tapping is pleased that the actors have had the chance to develop their characters over the years. "That's the beauty of it," she says. "Think how much has occurred in anyone's life in the space of seven years which has changed them as a person. Our show has the luxury of showing that in real time."
The actress even feels that playing Sam has helped her stand up for herself a bit more: that the last few years have trained her to be more confident. "I always used to think that if I every voiced an opinion, or if I fought for something, that I was being a bitch," she says, "and that's not true. There are ways to do it. I choose my battles."
The experience will stand Tapping in good stead when she comes to don the director's cap later this year. "I was going to be directing right after the July hiatus, but now it looks like I won't be directing till August," she explains. "The crew has been so supportive of me on this."
Seeing as she'd never directed before, Tapping decided to shadow regular Stargate helmer Martin Wood on the set of Jeremiah during an episode.
"I wanted to learn how to take a script from prep, through production, through shooting and then through post-production," she says. "Martin's such a good friend of mine, and it was great to watch how he works. "He's so well respected, and crews love him. It's how he treats people - everything from the way he sets up the shots to how he talks to people. Even that was a lesson."
But until she's calling "action" on set, Tapping is happy to be working with the original SG-1 team, now that Michael Shanks is back on board as Daniel Jackson after a year's break. It seems she really missed the bespectacled archaeologist. Aw...
"We are so excited to see each other," she grins. "Recently we were together after a break, and we were gabbing away and giggling. The scenes were getting goofy because we were laughing so much. I said, 'Wow, this is great - this is just like old times! Missed you, man!' and he goes, 'Nah, you didn't - let's keep going.' That snarky sort of repartee that we have when we're together makes us realise how far we've come in seven years."
Tapping was surprised by the Sci-Fi Channel's decision to renew the show for a further year - "I was really pleased and utterly shocked, but I thought that we needed some sort of wrap-up" – but hasn't heard anything official yet about an eighth season. At the time we speak, she's not even heard the news that the live-action spin-off Stargate: Atlantis has received the green light. "We've been so busy plugging away doing our own thing that literally even the world news is eluding us," she admits. "We keep hearing rumours that it's going to end, but it's so far out of our day-to-day routine and what we have to do in order to accomplish our day, that it doesn't affect us. Once we reach the end of the season and they're starting to cast it, it will, I guess. But it's weird. It's like being in the original Star Trek and having it move on without you."
Season seven of Stargate SG-1 will be shown on Sky One later this year.
From SFX, issue 106, July 2003
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