Another season, and another chance to discover more about Major Samantha Carter. Will there be romance? And what is the 'Carter Special' gun...?
Time: present day. Place: an open field surrounded by trees. The sun is shining, birds are chirping and a squad of Jaffa soldiers suddenly emerges from the brush. Major Samantha Carter pulls Dr Jay Felger down on the ground and out of sight. Telling the scientist to hurry with his calculations to reactivate the Stargate, she runs forward and takes cover behind the crumbling remains of a stone wall. Raising her gun, Carter takes aim and, as the enemy opens fire, she yells out, "Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!"
"Cut!" says Stargate SG-1 director Martin Wood. "That's great. Let's do it for real now." Amanda Tapping, alias Sam Carter, is handed a clip of ammo and prepares to shoot a scene for the episode Avenger 2.0. Despite all the careful rehearsals, things don't quite go as planned, at least the first time around. The next day, Tapping recalls what happened.
"We normally use P-90s on our show but since the war [with Iraq] there's been a shortage of P-90 shells or blanks, so we can't use that particular gun as much," explains the actress. "So the props guys have made me what we call a 'Carter special', which is, in fact, an amalgamation of three different guns. It's an awesome weapon, quite powerful and much heavier and more cumbersome than the P-90. The shells eject out the side and little spits of flame shoot out the front.
"Yesterday was the first time I actually used the gun. I had to fire it as well as reload it while running. Now, I'm not the most coordinated person at the best of times, and this scene we were shooting was big. It had Jaffa coming out of the forest and bombs going off as well as special effects rigged all over the place. One mistake by an actor could screw up the whole thing. When I loaded the last magazine the clip suddenly exploded and bullets went flying all over the place. It was a little Stargate Barbie moment for me," laughs Tapping. "We're back in the studio today, though, which means I was finally able to run, load and fire the gun at the same time."
Facing off against a group of ill-tempered Jaffa warriors is all in a day's work for Sam Carter. In her six-plus years working on the Stargate programme, the major has, among other things, been taken over by a Goa'uld (In the Line of Duty); traveled back in Time (1969); and met her exact duplicate from an alternate universe (Point of View). These adventures along with many others have helped build her confidence as both a person and an officer. Such character growth can be seen in Tapping's performance week after week on the show.
"Each year my character seems to become more settled in her skin, and this year even more so than last," she notes. "Sam has a better sense of humour and is a bit more off-the-cuff with her remarks, which I feel is a natural progression for a Human being who's been in a situation for as long as she has. I talked with Robert Cooper recently about a story I'd love to do and it might just happen this season. In it, Carter is forced to confront her demons and we get to see what makes her tick. All the other characters except for mine have had that sort of an episode.
"Here's a woman who has dedicated her entire existence to her career, the Stargate programme and the people she works with. Does she ever lay her head down on her pillow at night and ask herself, 'What have I sacrificed in order to do all this?' Does Sam wrestle with that? I think she does. As loyal as Sam is and as jazzed as she gets about what she does for a living, there have to be moments where the loneliness sinks in as well as the reality of, 'I'm not getting any younger. I'm not in a relationship and I don't have children. Do I want any?' These are issues that I think she's going to grapple with this season."
Like most actors on a TV series that's long-running, Tapping is constantly on-guard against becoming complacent when it comes to playing her character. "The challenge for me is to keep my character interesting and real to the fans," says the actress. "I feel even more responsible having received so many letters from women, especially in the past couple of years, telling me what a wonderful role model Sam is.
"Honestly, there are nights when this keeps me awake. I know it's a TV show and I'm an actor playing a part, so the fate of the universe isn't hanging in the balance. It is, however, the state of my little universe, and if I ever become bored then I'd want them to kick me out. I never want to get to that point. When you're jumping from episode to episode it can sometimes be a little bit difficult to find a groove with your character. Every story has its own unique arc and rhythm. The trick is keeping it all together," smiles Tapping.
"Another challenge for me is to make sure everybody is happy. That's always been my role in life. It's really important to me, perhaps more so than it should be," she muses. "Every day I see the crew working very hard and busting their backsides. I want to wrap them all up and tell them how much I love each and every one of them. So I'm hugging a lot of people this year, whether they like it or not. This is a very committed group and I'm really proud of them. Everyone is pulling out all the stops to make this season the best it can be and it's going to show."
Despite her hectic schedule on Stargate SG-1, Tapping has found the time to work on a variety of other worthwhile projects. "I recently hosted the Women in Film and TV Spotlight Gala awards which celebrates the achievements of women across Canada. I'm also involved in a mentoring programme for actors, and back in May I flew to New York to be one of many honorees for a Wonder Woman On-Air award, which was completely unsolicited. So this year has been a fulfilling one for me, not only on Stargate but outside that world as well.
TV Zone Stargate SG-1 Special #52
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