Best of Both Worlds
Amanda Tapping is back for a ninth season of playing Sam Carter on Stargate SG-1. She talks with Steven Eramo about balancing
Carter's battle to save the universe with the joys of motherhood...
It's lunchtime for the cast and crew of Stargate SG-1. However Amanda Tapping, who plays Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter, has a task to perform before getting a bite to eat - she has to first feed her five-month old daughter, Olivia. The little girl has been with Tapping at Vancouver's Bridge Studios every day since the actress returned to work on SG-1 in late April.
"I can't believe how fast that time has gone by," says Tapping. "It seems like only yesterday that I was coming back to work and asking myself, 'My God, what am I doing?' Everything is going just great, though. Olivia is such a good baby. She's happy, healthy, and at the moment, very hungry."
Prior to breaking for lunch, Tapping and the rest of the SG-1 cast were filming a scene for the latest ninth season episode, Off the Grid, in which the SG-1 team is captured off-world while trying to make a deal with the Lucian Alliance. "This is a well-written, solid team story," notes the actress. "It's the four of us dressed up in these sexy, funky leather outfits and being taken prisoner by the bad guys. My character actually winds up being the hero in the end, and that's kind of fun. Yes, Carter is up to her old tricks again and saving the day.
"The episode we shot right before Off the Grid is called Ripple Effect, and in it a bunch of alternate SG-1 teams come through the Stargate and we meet up with some old friends, which is pretty cool. I play several versions of my character, and in one scene alone there are 15 different Carters. That was just one massive motion control exercise when it came to the filming of it."
During the first five episodes of SG-1's latest season Tapping appeared in only a couple of brief scenes so the actress could stay at home with her new baby. On the show, her character's absence was explained by Carter's reassignment to Area 51's research and development labs, where the colonel was working out the kinks of the Asgard hyper-drive fitted to the Daedalus. She also took some leave to visit the late Dr Janet Fraiser's adopted daughter Cassie. But by the episode Beachhead she'd reported back for duty at the SGC to help combat a threat by Earth's new enemy, the Ori. Having had an extended break from SG-1, it took actress Amanda Tapping slightly longer than usual to get back into the swing of things...
"In some ways I found it harder this year because I felt like my focus was split," she explains. "It used to be that I would literally arrive at the studio, put on my boots, and become Sam Carter. Back in April, I really had to work hard to 'find' Sam and feel like part of the team again, because prior to that it had been all about the baby and I'd come back to work so soon after Olivia was born. There's a cohesion that takes place at the start of each new season, and this year I missed out on that. So it was a bit of a struggle to find my footing, but I've since managed to settle back in nicely."
With the promotion and departure from the scene of General Jack O'Neill, Carter now reports to newcomer Beau Bridge's General Hank Landry, the new head of Stargate Command. Meanwhile, Lt Colonel Cameron Mitchell has been assigned to take over as leader of SG-1. "Mitchell has eased right into SG-1 and become part of the team," says Tapping. "However, he and Carter have very different styles, and because my character feels so at ease with Teal'c and Daniel, there are times when she does a double-take with Mitchell and is like, 'What did he just say?'
"So they're still 'feeling' each other out," she continues. "I think Carter genuinely cares about Mitchell, though, and there's obviously the back story with him being an integral part of helping save SG-1 in Antarctica," as shown in Season Seven's The Lost City. "It's also been noted that Mitchell has been at the SGC before and that we all know him despite the audience not having seen him until this season.
"As far as Carter and Landry, it's interesting. Beau and I have talked at great length about what we'd like to see happen with our onscreen relationship and, I guess, if the show continues and we continue with it, we'll explore that a bit further. There's certainly not the same level of comfort that was there with General Hammond, who was very much a father figure to Sam Carter. Landry is more of a general to her, and with him and Sam I think we're trying to find those intrinsic moments of closeness that she and Hammond shared. We're also trying to find moments of conflict, because it's not all a bed of roses. You definitely see times where Carter disagrees with Landry."
Besides the aforementioned Off the Grid and Ripple Effect, another of Tapping's favourite episodes so far this season is The Fourth Horseman. This two-part story sees the return of one of Carter's old flames, Orlin, who first appeared in the fifth season's Ascension. However, with Sean Patrick Flanery's busy schedule making it impossible for him to reprise the role, it's played this time around by 12-year old Cameron Bright.
"It was neat to work with Cameron and explore this weird duality where there's a whole history between Sam and this man, who comes back as a boy," says Tapping. "Clearly the attraction they once had for one another cannot be played out because Orlin is now a child. He's still interested in Sam though, and it's rather freaky for her to be dealing with him on such a mature level.
"Cameron is a wonderful actor and a sweet boy. He'd hang out in my trailer and play with the baby while running lines with me. This young man has worked with some big-name actors but has absolutely no pretensions about it. Cameron does a great job in the episode and I think viewers are really going to enjoy it and his performance."
All too soon lunch is over and it's back to work for Tapping. She has no complaints, though. "People who are parents will tell you, 'You develop a whole new sense of balance and purpose when you have kids of your own,' and you'll say, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah'. Well, they're right. There's a whole new balance in my life these days," enthuses the actress.
"Work has always been important to me, sometimes too important, but I've found a balance. I love what I do and feel extremely privileged that I can still do it and be a mom and, for example, hold my baby here in my arms while I'm doing an interview. I have the same level of professionalism and joy about my work but when I leave the studio at night I'm a family girl. I have much more of a proper perspective on things now, and that's a nice feeling."
Plumbing the Depths
Between working on the SG-1 episodes Ripple Effect and Off the Grid, Tapping filmed a guest appearance for a second season Stargate Atlantis story in which her character is reunited - sort of - with David Hewlett's Dr McKay. "It's a very similar spin on an SG-1 Carter episode from a couple of years ago called Grace," says the actress. "In fact, this one is titled Grace Under Pressure, so they make no bones about the duality of this storyline.
"I play an hallucination in McKay's mind, and he and Carter are trapped in a puddle-jumper that's sinking to the bottom of the ocean. So it's not only Carter and McKay, it's Carter and McKay wet. The script is by our producer Martin Gero and it's so clever as well as sexy and very funny. I cracked up the first time I read it. McKay says things like, 'If you're a figment of my imagination, why aren't you topless?'
"The director is Martin Wood, SG-1 and Atlantis's co-producer, so it was like old home week. I'm really excited about it and I hope fans will be excited too. David is phenomenal in it, and Carter isn't like the Carter you're used to seeing. Well, she is, but she isn't. When you watch you'll understand what I mean."
Steven Eramo - TV Zone Issue 194
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