Every interview we do for GateWorld comes with its own unique challenges, from scheduling to the inevitable technical difficulties. When GateWorld editor Darren Sumner made his first trip to the set of Stargate in 2004, he had the very great privilege of meeting one of his favorite actresses: Stargate SG-1‘s Amanda Tapping, who for nearly ten years now has played the brilliant and beautiful Samantha Carter. Alas, an interview that day was not to be.
He hoped to catch up with her that summer at a convention in Chicago, but again circumstances conspired against the interview. At his 2005 visit to the set, the actress was away on maternity leave.
Suffice it to say that his interview with Amanda this spring was long time coming, and a personal pleasure. GateWorld chatted with Amanda on the set of Season Ten’s “Insiders” late one Friday evening, and after she was quickly called away to film we caught up with her again to finish our chat at Creation Entertainment’s official Stargate convention the following Sunday.
In our interview, Amanda talks about the secure place that both she and her character have found with the SG-1 team in Season Ten after struggling last year. She also shares her hopes for Carter’s relationship with SG-1’s new female team member, Vala Mal Doran (Claudia Black), how she feels about the show’s new direction, and much more.
Our thanks to Amanda Tapping for her graciousness, and to the publicity teams at Stargate Productions and Creation Entertainment for facilitating our time together. Here’s hoping for 2007!
GateWorld: Amanda, Season Nine was a very different year both for you and for Samantha Carter. How do you feel about the show’s new direction this year, and Sam’s role in it?
Amanda Tapping: I actually feel more at peace this year, more like I have a place on the show this year. Last year was a very strange year for me — and for the character, too. I felt like so many things that happened at the beginning I think established this new mythology and established this new team dynamic. And I felt I struggled a bit to try to fit into it. Although by the end I felt very comfortable.
But this year it just feels like — with Vala being a permanent member and the team being far more cohesive than it was before — it feels a lot different. It feels good. I feel like Carter has a much more solid place this year — and Amanda too, for that matter.
GW: It’s wonderful to be here and to see Carter and Vala on screen together.
AT: Ohh, it’s fun!
GW: But tell us a little about Carter’s relationship with her.
AT: Well, we actually had a really lovely scene in an episode that we just shot, where Carter sort of reaches out to Vala and says, “I know this is hard for you, and if you need to talk to anyone I’m here for you.” And it was just a really lovely scene that Claudia and I were anxious to play because we wanted to establish some semblance of a friendship between these two women.
And they ended up cutting it from the episode because the episode was about 12 minutes over, this episode. So it was, of course, one of the first things to go — those little scenes that don’t drive the story forward. But just so the fans know, it was there. And, sadly, the producers had to cut it. And I understand why they did.
So we’re hoping. What Claudia and I have decided to do is just try to find moments where it’s just a look, and acknowledgement of each other, a subtle nuance that connects us in some way. We do not want, like what so often happens, is the women become bitchy adversaries and the guys are buddies with secret handshakes and the whole bit. The guys are buddy-buddy and the women don’t like each other. We said from the outset we do not want that.
They’re two very different women, but there’s no reason why they can’t work together and actually kind of have fun doing it. Hopefully that will progress more as the season goes on.
GW: You and Claudia are both wonderful comediennes. Is there hope for a more humorous twist to what you’re doing?
AT: Well, wouldn’t that be nice? I hope so. In fact, I talked to Joe Mallozzi and I said, “You know, I think Carter’s a lot funnier than you guys are letting on.” Of course, not everyone can be funny. The show’s not a comedy. But they are writing some things for me now; and Joe knows my background is comedy. So they’re writing some stuff, and I think it will come out. More and more the humor will come out.
And I think because Vala brings it out in all of us, right? Because she’s such a wacky character — you either sink or swim with her. You either go with the flow or you play the straight man to her jester. I hope I’m not always the straight man. I hope they let me play the fool a bit. It will be fun.
GW: What do you think Season Ten will contribute to the overall Stargate saga? The mythology?
AT: It deepens it. This Ori, this new threat that we have is even a bigger deal, it seems to me, than the Goa’uld. It’s just deepening the whole mythology of the show. There’s a heightened political sense to it, there’s a heightened emotional sense to it. And there’s a new dynamic. There’s this whole crazy, new dynamic that we’re all trying to filter and figure out.
It’s kind of fun! It’s really fun. The characters — and we actors are enjoying it, too. We’re enjoying this new energy that we’ve all found just by being in the same room together.
GW: Tell us, does it feel on the show like the show is winding down this year? Or is it the same sense that you had last year, that you are starting a new thing?
AT: No, starting a new thing. It doesn’t feel like it’s winding down at all. You know, maybe I’ll be eating my words after we’re cancelled after Season Ten! But it feels very much like a fresh, new show.
GW: Looking back on almost ten years, what do you think have been some of the show’s greatest triumphs so far?
AT: Gosh, I don’t want to name individual episodes so much as … I think the mythology, the great tapestry that we’ve woven is what’s made this show. The proudest thing for me is that we’ve created this whole amazing mythology, and the characters are still vital and interesting and the storylines are still compelling.
And we’re still dealing with kind of cutting edge — politically or socially — I don’t want to sound too heady by saying “cutting edge social issues,” because it’s not. It’s a sci-fi show. But I do feel like we’ve dealt with things that are fairly topical. And I’m kind of proud of that.
And I’m just proud of the width of it. This is a massive tapestry, you know? I think that’s the thing that we should be the most proud of is that we’ve continued this show for as long as we have.
GW: You had a chance in Season Eight to delve into Sam’s personal life. Are you satisfied with how we’ve gotten to know her better through that? Is there something you still want to explore in her personal life?
AT: I always want to explore the interpersonal relationships between the characters — between these three, between Mitchell, between Vala. I think the interpersonal dynamics of this show are what sell it in a big way. That’s something that I always think we need to explore more: how the dynamics are changing, what the team means to each other. I think that’s always compelling and interesting. You know what I mean?
GW: Does the show still give you opportunities to really push yourself as an actor, to explore the boundaries of your craft?
AT: Yes. Not always — sometimes it feels very much like I’m facilitating this scene by explaining everything.
GW: Have there been any recent moments where you really felt, “Wow, this is something I’ve never done before?”
AT: It sort of happens — you know, Darren, it happens in little moments. It happens when you least expect it. You know, Friday night it was the last scene of the night and I just — I remembered why I am an actor. Because I had to pull it all up. I was exhausted, and it was late, and it was the end of a 15-hour day. And it was just like, “How are we going to get through this scene? And where am I going to find the spark?”
And then suddenly there’s that spark. And you go, “Oh, that’s why I do what I do!” Know what I mean? In little ways.
They can give you big, challenging moments, and personal scenes that are very full of depth and very challenging. But it’s the little moments where you really have to work hard at it, and then you get that little joy of discovery in a scene, in that little moment. So still it keeps you vital as an actor — still keeps it interesting.
GW: What has been your favorite moment on camera so far this year?
AT: That’s a tough one. That’s a tough one. Like I said, Vala and Carter had a nice scene, which I really enjoyed. And again, it’s when we’re all together. There’s been moments where we’re all together — you know, all hashing it out in the briefing room with our different opinions, or trudging through the woods. And that, to me, those are the moments that I treasure.
I can’t give you specifics because I can’t give away storylines. But it’s the whole team and the way we interact, and the way people interject and cut off each other.
GW: It’s something you’ve all become very good at over the years. One last question: Tell us, are you still enjoying your interaction with the fans of the show?
AT: Oh, my gosh — yeah! That’s the best part of it. It’s the best part of it. And I’m still meeting new people and new fans, people who have just recently joined the Stargate fandom. It’s amazing to me. Of course — I’m loving it. It’s fantastic.
Today I saw a lot of people I’ve been seeing over the years. And that’s wonderful. Absolutely. I love that. That’s the best part of it, is the interaction with the fans. It’s amazing.
The Official Amanda Tapping Web Site