Production on Stargate SG-1’s ninth season has drawn to a close, and Amanda Tapping (Samantha Carter) only has two things on her mind: A.D.R. (replacement dialogue recording in the studio), and the 8-month-old Olivia B. GateWorld is pleased to bring you an extra-long, two-part interview with the actress that has brought Stargate watchers boundless joy for over eight years.
While Olivia “reads” a story, Amanda catches up with us on all of the significant events from Season Eight and the first half of Season Nine, but also drops small hints for future episodes, including the SG-1 season finale “Camelot,” as well as Atlantis‘s “Grace Under Pressure”.
In the first part of our conversation, Amanda talks about the challenges of being a mother and a full-time actress, including having her daughter with her on set. She also describes her experience returning to the show and reintegrating into the cast, and filming her guest spot on Atlantis. Finally, she shares her thoughts on the addition of Claudia Black (“Vala Mal Doran”) to the cast and what it may mean for Sam.
Both parts of our conversation with Amanda are available in a single audio download for your convenience, which runs a little over 40 minutes. Part 1 is also transcribed below!
GateWorld: This is David Read and I’m on the phone with the lovely Amanda Tapping. Amanda, it has been too long!
Amanda Tapping: I know, way too long! What have I been up to that’s kept me away from you for this long? [Laughter]
GW: GateWorld recently received photos for “Grace Under Pressure,” and I can honestly go on the record right here. Since becoming a mother you look better than ever.
AT: Oh, my God. Thank you. That’s very sweet of you. I just watched “Grace Under Pressure” with (director) Martin Wood and David Hewlett. In that one fantasy sequence I went “Oh, my God, I look like a woman who just had a baby! What was I thinking?!”
GW: Aww. No.
AT: It was fun. That was a fun episode to do.
GW: Right. Well great. We’ll be discussing that one!
AT: We’ll be talking about that!
GW: Yes. Let’s get right down to it. How is Olivia and how is motherhood treating you?
AT: I love it. Olivia’s fantastic. She’s 8 months old now. Got teeth, and I’m still breastfeeding so, “Ow.” Still figuring that one out. But no, she’s amazing. She’s a really content baby. A joyful little spirit. Not a colicky baby. Not fussy. She’s really happy. I’m very, very lucky. I’m not sleeping through the night. Other than that she’s fantastic.
GW: Does she take a lot of tending to? Does she cry a lot? Do you find yourself up several times a night instead of just a couple?
AT: She’s teething and she wants comfort and — yeah. But she doesn’t cry. She wakes up and lets you know she’s awake. [She] does a little “Waah, waah, make sure you get up.” And because the house we’re living in right now is very small, she’s in our room with us. It’s not like you can pretend you can’t hear her.
GW: Right. Well, I hear her now!
AT: Yeah, there she is! She’s reading “The Hungry Caterpillar.”
GW: That’s a good book!
AT: Yeah. No, she’s great.
GW: You’ve been very fortunate to get to bring the baby on set with you this past season. It’s our understanding that you also have a babysitter when you’re shooting scenes. Were there any unexpected challenges, and did you find this year to be more of a joy with family literally on-set with you?
AT: Good question. First of all it’s hugely challenging because I came back when Olivia was six weeks old — not quite. I was exhausted. I don’t know I was thinking. [I’d] just given birth. I was still getting used to being a new mom. … Still figuring out the whole breastfeeding thing, my body and hormones. [Laughter] The wacky, nutty stuff. And I go, “What, what, what, what was I thinking?!”
But I do. I have a nanny who meets me at work and sits in the trailer and watches Olivia while I’m on set. But when I’m not on set I’m in the trailer feeding her, playing with her, changing her, so it’s full-on. I’m very lucky in that I get to be a full-time mom and a full-time actress. But I’m also very exhausted because I’m a full-time mom and a full time actress!
So the challenge was timing. That was the biggest challenge. Getting up at four in the morning to pump breast milk or feed the baby and try to learn lines. I’m sitting in the middle of the living room in the middle of the night thinking, “Oh, my God, this is my life.” Being totally shattered all the time, being completely exhausted. “Oops! Do we like these aliens?” [Laughter] That was a challenge.
I really didn’t want not to give a hundred percent to Stargate, because I’d agreed to go back. I didn’t want to be there on auto-pilot. And I’m too much of a perfectionist to have allowed that anyway. Because I’m a perfectionist I also had to be a perfect mom. I’ve now allowed myself the fact that I’m not perfect, that I make a lot of mistakes, and that that’s okay! But it’s all timing. It’s all timing. Trying to get this done, trying to feed the baby.
Literally there was one time when I ran from set, un-strapped my gun, ran from set to my trailer, unzipped my vest, unzipped my jacket, lifted up my tee-shirt, popped the baby on my boob and went, “OK, OK — we can do this! I’m a mom! Bye, Olivia! Mommy’s going to kill some invisible Jaffa right now!” Yeah, kinda goofy.
GW: Has this been the most difficult year for you because of this?
AT: It has been. It’s been the most challenging. It’s also, like you said, been the most joyful because no matter what’s going on, I can walk into my trailer and see this terrific little face.
It’s perspective-building — I’ll tell you that much. Part of the challenge, like I said, is balancing and finding the right timing. It’s also kind of a joy. It forces you to find balance. I’m not all Stargate all the time. I can actually disassociate myself from it, really enjoy being a mom, and then run back on set and enjoy being an actress. So I’ve got balance for the first time.
GW: Right. You popped on set every once in a while during your maternity leave.
AT: I did.
GW: Was it odd coming back into the show at “Beachhead?”
AT: You know what, honestly, it was so hard.
AT: Yeah, it was, because I really felt like the show had moved on without me. I got there and there was this whole established group dynamic, the four of them. Ben [Browder] was new, and Beau [Bridges] was new, and Claudia [Black] was new. I just thought, “Well, I don’t know how I fit into this new show.” Plus I was very insecure. I mean, I was coming back, like I said, as a new mom.
I’d have difficult days and I didn’t know how that was going to work. I was insecure about a lot of things, my physicality and everything. I was very emotional. But that didn’t last very long. It was just a matter of getting my feet back under me. Once I figured out where I was I figured out Sam Carter again. “Oh, yeah — oh her, oh yeah.”
GW: “That one girl!” [Laughter]
AT: “Yeah, that one!” So yeah, then it was good. But initially at first it was very difficult. It was more difficult than I thought it was going to be.
GW: Right. Well most of the material that you have shot now we haven’t seen yet. So we’re all waiting for our Carter fix! [Laughter]
AT: [Southern drawl] Well, she’s goan’ be back!
GW: Right, good. There are a couple of great shows that we’ve been hearing about and I can’t wait to discuss them with you.
Claudia Black has been confirmed as a full-fledged cast member for Season Ten. How do you think this will affect Carter’s presence, and what do you think Vala’s contribution will be (besides the occasional snide comment) to make it perfectly logical for her to join SG-1? Because, as evidenced in the first five shows, she’s not quite yet team material! I know a lot of fans are going to hate me for saying that. “Oh, you’re a bad Stargate fan.” But as wonderful as Claudia is, the Vala element [in terms of joining SG-1] does not quite jive yet.
AT: Yes. It’ll be interesting to see how they work it. The way that the season ends is big. It’s a big revelation at the end of Season Nine. I’m glad Claudia’s back as a full-time cast member. She’s really awesome and her character’s amazing.
I don’t know how it will affect Carter. I hope that it doesn’t have a negative effect on my character or I’m diminished in any way because of this. But I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what the writers have in store.
I think it’s widely known that I’ve been asked to do both shows next year, but I have no idea to what capacity. Nobody’s told me. I’ve heard rumors that I’m doing ten [episodes of SG-1] and ten [episodes of I>Atlantis], but actually I don’t think that that’s true. All I was told when I negotiated was to be available for both shows. So I don’t know if that means that Claudia’s going to take on a bigger role and I will take on a lesser role in SG-1. I honestly have no idea.
It’s a little daunting, actually. I’m a little intimidated by the whole thought of it. I feel very much that my place is on SG-1 and not necessarily on Atlantis. I think Atlantis is a place where I can go once in a while, pop my head in and help McKay figure stuff out. I’m not sure my place is there. But again I don’t know. The writers are so incredible the way they do this tapestry that they’re building that I’m sure they’ll find a way to make it all work.
But to be totally honest with you I have no idea. And when I asked my manager when the contract was being negotiated, I said, “Well how many episodes of each am I doing?” They don’t want to say.
GW: I’ll be darned.
AT: Yeah, they don’t want to say. I know you’ve heard ten and ten, and I’ve heard ten and ten, but I’ve also heard five and 15 and I’ve also heard maybe only a couple of Atlantis, so I honestly don’t know. You may know more than I! [Laughter] I don’t know.
GW: Well, I hope not because we had you at ten and ten.
AT: Yeah, and that was the rumor that I had heard, and when I asked my manager they said, “No, they won’t disclose it.”
GW: That’s got to be both exciting and terrifying.
AT: It is! It is both exciting and terrifying. It’s exciting in that it opens up whole new territory for Carter. It’s terrifying in that “What does that mean for Carter and her place on SG-1?” That’s where my heart is. That’s where my home is and that’s where this character works.
And in terms of Claudia’s character, Vala, I don’t know whether Vala will become a full-fledged member of SG-1 or what that means, whether we’ll have a five-member team. I honestly don’t know. I hope that doesn’t mean the diminishing of Carter. But I don’t know. I just know it’ll be fun. The character is so well written.
GW: Right, it’s just a matter of how they’re going to do it.
AT: Yes, yes.
GW: What would Carter be doing in the city of the Ancients anyway besides being the Zelenka to McKay?
AT: You know what? Exactly. I don’t know. I don’t know. Carter and McKay have an amazing chemistry. David and I do as well, and we really enjoy playing off each other. Like I said, I can see her popping in every now and then and saying, “Hey, you need somebody smarter than you to figure this out?” [Laughter] But I don’t know. I don’t know.
I don’t know whether they’ll need the military expertise or what. It’s really interesting because they’ve got a really well-rounded cast of characters on the show. But there was never any discussion with me about moving over to that show. It was never, “Would you like to go to Atlantis,” or “This is how we can better service your character,” or anything like that. It was never argued. “Would you be happy going to Atlantis? Are you unhappy on SG-1?” Nothing like that has never, ever been discussed.
So it’s not like it was a calculated move. It was simply, “Let’s leave our options open.” This is the way I’m looking at it. Rob Cooper and Brad Wright never sat down with me and said “We really want you to go to Atlantis.” Ever.
GW: That’s probably a good sign.
AT: Yeah. It’s not like they’re getting rid of me or moving me over, or anyone from Atlantis is being replaced at all. It’s my understanding I can just pop my head in now and then.
GW: How was being on Atlantis, or being in the Puddle Jumper?
AT: It was really fun! It was fantastic fun. But really the only person I got to play with was David, which is fantastic because he is wonderful. And this episode, “Grace Under Pressure” — he did such a good job. He carries a full arc for the character. It was so beautiful and really fun. It was really fun to play with.
And it was fun to go over a lot of the … [Olivia coos] Hi, Olivia … [Laughter] Some of our Stargate crew has moved over to Atlantis, so it was nice to see some of those guys again. Yeah, it was a good time. I’m always happy when we get to dunk our heads under water and swim it up.
GW: It’s been since Season Six, I think!
AT: Yeah, it’s been a while!
GW: It’s nice to get back to the pool.
AT: Yes, exactly!
GW: I was talking with [Atlantis writer] Martin Gero a few days ago and he said, “Grace Under Pressure,” it is a spoof in terms of the title, it is a spoof of “Grace,” now that it’s under pressure, but it also is its own show. He kind of wanted to take a lot of those elements from “Grace” and throw it into a McKay dynamic. Did you feel that they were repeating themselves a lot or does it remain its own story?
AT: It remains its own story. It remains its own story in so many ways. Certainly the premise is very similar — and they called it “Grace Under Pressure.” They don’t make any bones about it. But it remains its own story. And Martin Gero is so funny.
GW: Isn’t he awesome?
AT: He’s so funny. The thing about all the writers on Stargate — I don’t know if everyone all understands, but they’ve all got wicked senses of humor. They may write this incredibly serious piece, they’re sci-fi writers, but they should all be writing comedy. Every single one of them. Martin Gero’s hilarious. Damian Kindler, you’ve got to meet him in person, he’s such a funny guy. So intelligent and so witty. Paul and Joe …
GW: Oh, the duo …
AT: They’re hilarious! Rob and Brad? They all have these great senses of humor, and we’ve got new people coming in! I don’t know if it’s a criteria for working on the show that you’ve got to have a good sense of humor. But it pays off. All of our writers are really, really funny.
GW: Maybe it’s just really infectious in the office.
GW: You’ve been doing this show for a quarter of your entire life.
AT: Thanks so much. [Laughter]
GW: Well, that’s a fact! It’s astounding.
AT: It’s true. Yes, a decade.
GW: Again, another one of those fan questions. “Oh, now, what is he trying to say?” Can you honestly see yourself doing this when Olivia is in grade school, wanting Mom to help her out with homework? At what point will the sacrifice be too great, Amanda?
AT: … God. Yeah. When she’s in school I can’t see myself pulling these hours. It’s a fantastic show to work on. I’ve never said anything other than that because it’s absolutely true. It’s an amazing experience. It’s been a great ride. But, there’s also a point when you say, “When is it time to move on?” And the fans, I think, will probably help that along. They’ll probably go, “OK, that’s been fun. Now everyone go out to do different things.”
But always, always, always, my priority will have to be Olivia. Always. It doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice. You know what I mean? But right now it works out. Last year when she was a baby it was wonderful to have her on set. This year she’s coming back with me every day. We’ll see how that goes with a little one-year old running around. And then we play it by ear. Right now they’ve sort of optioned us for a couple of years, and we’ll see what happens.
GW: Well, Rick worked with [his daughter] Wylie, and the studio worked with Rick, for what, seven years? And that was a country away. So thankfully you have her just a block away when you’re on set.
AT: You know what? It’s brilliant. It is totally brilliant. I panic when we’re on location and I’m a shuttle ride away from my trailer.
GW: They don’t let you bring her out there?
AT: Well she comes to location with me but she stays in the trailer, especially when there’s lots of gun fire and stuff. So if I have to shuttle for ten minutes to get to my trailer I panic. It’s ridiculous when I think, “Most mothers don’t have that opportunity to be that close to their child.”
GW: Yeah. So you really get the best of both worlds in that respect.
AT: I really do. Yeah, I really do. The only thing I’m sacrificing is sleep, which I think may be eating into my intelligence slightly. But other than that …
Amanda Tapping’s Official Web Site