Life after Stargate SG-1 cancellation goes on for Dr. Daniel Jackson, as Michael Shanks returns to the role in this year’s two DVD movies — Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum. Now that both films are available, we wanted to catch up with the actor once again to get his thoughts on these two projects.
GateWorld’s Chad Colvin sat down with Michael back in April, just hours after Shanks had sat down to watch Continuum with the cast, crew, and a handful of fans from Creation Entertainment’s Vancouver Stargate convention. In the interview he talks about both DVD movies and Daniel’s role in those stories, and also gives us a status update on Rage of Angels, his upcoming project with former co-star Christopher Judge.
GateWorld’s interview with Michael runs 8 minutes. Listen online at your leisure, download it to your MP3 player, or subscribe to the iTunes podcast. The full interview is also transcribed below!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, this is Chad Colvin, and I’m here today talking with Mr. Michael Shanks. Michael, thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
Michael Shanks: My pleasure, Chad.
GW: Congratulations are in order. The Ark of Truth has jumped out of the gate with extremely strong sales, and it’s continuing to perform very well. How do you feel about its success?
MS: I think it’s great. I don’t think anybody knew what to expect with us going out into the DVD format. I know that, obviously, we were aware of the sales for the boxed sets of the seasons. But to have something that didn’t have the pre-condition of a release on TV, as well as a limited advertising budget, we weren’t sure what to expect for domestic sales. As far as I know it’s been fantastic. I was just hearing from our audience members here in Vancouver. That they’re dying to see being released more internationally in other markets in the U.K. and Europe and Australia.
So I think with those as added bonuses to the bottom line as far as MGM, I think that bodes very well for the future of the franchise.
GW: Many reviews have mentioned your performance as Daniel as the “heart” of the movie. Most dramatically, the scene where Morgan Le Fay comes to Daniel in the prison cell and tries to get him to do even more. We see a Dr. Jackson that is ready to give up and is spent, both emotionally and physically. Do you feel that the character had truly reached that point?
MS: I think when I read that scene, from reading the script, and seeing what had proceeded with the torture and whatnot, I think that was the only place to go. In an episode we did in the tenth season, “The Pegasus Project,” he had a very similar conversation with Morgan Le Fay. About asking her to drop all their “high-falootin'” values. He’s had that conversation numerous times with Oma Desala beforehand. In this environment, it seemed like the natural place to take the character. To this place where — oddly, this being the climax of the storyline — it seemed like a good place for that character to be.
To have that conversation with (Morgan). To have Daniel, who’s the ultimate optimist out of the group, to be at that place of ultimate despair, seemed like the best place. In order to convince her to take the step that she does. Which is basically to sacrifice her own life to take on Adria in that light. That was the only weapon left in the arsenal to take that character to that place.
So, in that way, we’re not doing the same old, same old over and over again. It was a way to take the same argument to a different place, emotionally.
GW: One of the underlying issues Daniel raises briefly in the film is the concept of the Ark itself. Using it may have saved millions upon millions of lives, but Daniel feels that it isn’t a right that they had, to use it. It’s a thought provoking concept. What is your opinion of it?
MS: I would certainly have loved to have seen more emotional ramifications, both before and after, when using that piece of technology. I think that, in light of the circumstances, with the impending invasion of the Ori army, that whatever tools we have at our disposal you’d have to use. But I think there’s certainly room afterwards for the moral discussion about whether that was the right thing to do.
Oddly enough, and I don’t know if anyone has ever talked about this, there was a scene cut from Ark of Truth. I haven’t seen or heard anything discussed anywhere. The scene where Daniel talks with (General) Landry about what’s happening with the Ark and where it’s going to be. It’s somehow very incongruous with “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Where they take the Ark and put it away in some storage facility. There was a scene after that (with Daniel and Landry) which was cut. Where the team actually goes to Area 51 to retrieve the Ark and take it away. It ended up not being in the finished product. I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about that, but it’s out there, so … [Laughter] Yeah!
I don’t know if there was something left in that argument, meaning there’s still a future there for that storyline. Or if we were just simply telling an ending too many times for the ending of the movie. That there were too many endings and we just wanted to cut one of them. Because it’s more interesting sometimes to wonder what’s going to happen than it is to tie it up in a nice little bow. So there’s a little tidbit for you. That there’s a missing piece in there. That conversation leads somewhere — where Daniel convinces the team to steal the artifact out of Area 51.
GW: We finally have a release date for Continuum, and fans are anxiously awaiting a bit more detail. Without giving away anything spoiler-wise, what can you tell us about it?
MS: I think that it’s been talked about a lot, just in terms of describing the basic concept of the show. Ark of Truth wraps up the Ori storyline, and what Continuum does is demonstrate how much gas is left in the tank of telling SG-1 stories. I think that after watching the screening today with a group of fans — they aren’t allowed to talk about it, but they saw it — seeing their reactions demonstrates that there is very much longevity. That the characters are key with the story. And that there’s a lot of stories left to tell.
It’s a great stand-alone story that doesn’t disrupt the Stargate universe the way we know it. It shows these characters still have a lot of chemistry in their relationships. And a lot of mythology left in the Stargate universe to mine, both past and future. So, I think we have the legs I thought we would have and hopefully more stories will be told as the basis of that.
GW: How prominent is Daniel’s role in it? Will we see any sides of Jackson that we haven’t seen before?
MS: There is one interesting side of the character that, initially, I don’t think was intentional. I couldn’t go to the Arctic when we were filming that portion of the movie. So Brad Wright, the author of the screenplay, had to find a way to take Daniel Jackson out of the scenes shot in the Arctic. So the easiest way he had to do it was to have Daniel have an injury that prevents him from being there.
It’s tracked throughout (the film), and I get to play aspects of how that injury has affected the character and his life. Who this new person is and who he becomes as a result of this. The circumstances of how he got it and the circumstances he’s living in now and who he’s become. Maybe a bit cynical. Maybe a bit jaded. Maybe a bit “I told you so.” Maybe a bit dark in some places. So that was fun to play because it was a strictly a problem solving thing for Brad Wright and an emotional undercurrent for me to play that I truly enjoyed.
GW: Any updates on Rage of Angels and where that stands now?
MS: I just ran into Christopher Judge today. The last thing I heard — a few weeks ago, right after the writers strike ended, the script was bought by MGM, so it’s now a MGM property. Christopher’s acting deal was worked out. They are working on the contract for the director, Brad Turner, right now. Then after that, my contract will be worked on. These are all the initial phases…you’re like “Ay yi yi” and you get all that done and then they’re like “Make the film!” But before that, you can spend years in the process of negotiating.
So, that’s moving along. Where we’re at right now, Chris was trying to tell me something (at the premiere screening). When we were there, he’s like “Oh, dude! I gotta tell you all this stuff! You have to call me!” So I know there’s been some headway made. We’ll have to wait and see. We do hope that we’ll be in pre-production and production of it this year.
GW: If you could give one message to Stargate fans, what would it be?
MS: Thank you! Thank you for staying with us. Seeing that movie and being with fans of the franchise in that theater. Seeing the reactions to it shows that there still is the love for those characters. That there still is a future for it. I think with “Ark of Truth” people went “Oh…okay…that’s it. I guess we’re done telling SG-1 stories now,” and seeing this story that way. Seeing the reactions of people showed that we still very much have a future in this. And it’s been a lovely ride. The fans are the reason we do it, and without them, we wouldn’t be anything. So, thank you.