Even after Stargate SG-1‘s cancellation, and the successful release of the first two in a series of planned SG-1 DVD movies, Michael Shanks continues to remain in the public eye. In addition to his current recurring role in the series Burn Notice, the actor returns to the role that truly launched his career when the character of Dr. Daniel Jackson comes to Atlantis in the mid-season two-parter, “First Contact” and “The Lost Tribe.”
GateWorld’s Chad Colvin sat down with Michael at the end of August, while Shanks was a guest at Creation Entertainment’s Chicago Stargate Convention. In the interview, Michael discusses his final thoughts on Continuum, the Atlantis episodes in which he features, his memories of Don S. Davis, Burn Notice, and Rage of Angels!
GateWorld’s interview with Michael runs nine minutes. Listen online at your leisure, download it to your MP3 player, or subscribe now to the iTunes podcast! The full interview is also transcribed below.
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, this is Chad Colvin, and I’m here once again today with Mr. Michael Shanks. Michael, thank you again for taking time to talk with us.
Michael Shanks: My pleasure.
GW: How are Lexa and the kids doing?
MS: Very good! The kids [are] a bit neglected at the moment because Lexa’s working, and I’m here. But I’ll be back tonight. She’s actually shooting nights. But everybody is doing fine. [We’re] in good health and everything’s great.
GW: Now that Continuum is out, we can talk about it in a little bit more about it without the “red tape.” Were you happy with the finished product and Daniel’s role within it?
MS: I loved it! I thought that, certainly, it was one of the strongest things I think the show has ever done. I knew reading the script that it was a good show. And then when I saw the first screening of it I absolutely loved the finished product. It was everything we could have hoped for, given the time that we shot it in and the budget. And I’m not even saying that facetiously. We exceeded expectations in that regard. I think there’s a lot more stories to tell and a lot of stuff down the pipe. In terms of a good testament to the people that worked there and what that show is capable of, I think it’s a great calling card for it.
GW: Fans are looking forward to seeing you in the upcoming two-parter on Atlantis with “First Contact” and “The Lost Tribe.” How easy was it stepping back into Daniel’s shoes after such a long period between the end of Continuum‘s filming and now?
MS: You know what? Daniel is like a comfy sweater. It’s never too difficult. As long as the writers can remember how to write for him, the voice comes really easily to me. It was odd with such a big break to step into that character, stepping into a different world, to not have the usual players from SG-1 there but to actually go to Atlantis after not playing the character for close to a year was a little bit odd. But fortunately, in regards to Daniel’s fast talking, David Hewlett managed to warm me up relatively quickly.
GW: [You are] the two fastest Stargate characters … [Laughter] What brings Daniel back to Atlantis?
MS: There’s a specific character. I don’t know the episode very well, but there’s a character named Janus, who’s an Ancient, who had done some research. Is it Jaynus? Or Janus?
MS: We said Janus. Jaynus? Hmmm. Something about “anus.” I don’t know! [Laughter] But there was a character called Janus who was an Ancient who was a scientist for the Ancients on Atlantis. And Daniel, as his hobby of studying the Ancients, has been doing some research and comes to Atlantis with the idea that he might actually be able to track down this secret lab that Janus had that has is yet to be discovered on Atlantis. And he needs some help doing that. So he enlists Rodney McKay to help him track this thing down.
GW: Let the butting of the heads commence?
MS: Yeah, exactly! Well, I don’t think Hewlett’s character gets along famously with anybody. So it’s kind of inevitable that there’ll be a bit of butting of heads. That’s why Daniel comes there, to search for this lab and the possibility that there is Ancient weapons knowledge or otherwise that they haven’t discovered, somewhere locked within the city itself.
GW: Will we get a chance, in addition to the McKay and Daniel interaction, a chance to see some interaction between him and the other characters? Are there any stand-out scenes?
MS: No, there’s very little interaction. I worked near just about everybody on the show, except for Rachel [Luttrell]. I worked near Jason Momoa and Joe Flanigan. And of course, Robert Picardo. And Jewel Staite. I worked near them. And I do say near because we crossed paths literally in a hallway once. And Joe is in it for a couple of scenes. So there’s not any famous interaction with those characters. We sort of cross paths.
I realized very quickly that my character had never actually met either Jewel or Jason’s characters in the history of Stargate mythology. I treated them like they were extras when they went walking by. They were having this scene and I can’t even — usually with McKay or something, you can at least nod and go kind of “Hey, how you doing?” in character. And I went … I don’t even know that my character knows these people exist so I’m just going to walk by like they are just people in a hallway.
GW: Fans were saddened earlier this summer to learn of Don Davis’s passing, and over the last decade you spent a lot of time with that man, both onscreen and off. Do you have any favorite memories of him?
MS: I think that moments spent with Don [was] a plus. I mean, for standout memories, those are the ones that I will probably keep for me. Because they were the quieter moments or the more intimate humorous moments that you share when you get to know someone very well over the course of working with him as intimately as we worked together with that group. The greatest moments are not something that the audience will see.
MS: The moments of real-life emotion and conversations over a couple of drinks that really are going to be near and dear to my heart that really give me insight into who Don was from the ground up. From a work standpoint, Don was one of those people [who] every day, along with the rest of our group, we had a good laugh. I’ll always remember his desire to get everything right and his constant inability to do so. And how it frustrated him so much, but [it] became a way for us to blow off steam and have a good laugh.
Don and I, a few years ago, were planning on producing a movie together. Don’s passing has reminded me of my pledge to do so. I intend to make sure a movie called The Maggie Rose gets produced and gets dedicated to him. So that’s something that his passing has reminded me of …
GW: It’s something to look forward to.
MS: For me, it’s something that — when someone close to you that you’ve worked with so well passes suddenly — that you really realize how short time that we have here is, and how constantly putting something off just because you think that there’s all the time in the world for it is not necessarily true.
I had always planned on doing this movie with Don, and I guess that will never happen. But to take advantage of the circumstances that you have and to let nothing stand in your way and do it now is something that is very important to me. In a lot of aspects of my life. But to do that movie in Don’s memory will be something that I look forward to.
GW: Your episodes of Burn Notice have started to air. After living with the character of Dr. Jackson for over a decade, is it invigorating for you as an actor to be branching off in new directions, character-wise? The character of “Victor” on Burn Notice is so far removed from Daniel.
MS: [Laughter] Yeah! It’s great! I love that show. I was just saying to some people that I’m not capable of playing too many bad guys in earnest. Or even heroes in earnest, in terms of that straight, jaw-clenching kind of way. I need them to have a layer of irony to them, or something like that. And Burn Notice is the perfect show for that.
I love the writing on that show. It’s wonderful to be able to play a character that is so far removed from Daniel that you yourself don’t feel like you’re stealing from yourself to go do something. That you can invent something completely different. I think that character is going to be a lot of fun in that regard. To create something from the ground up that is going to be as interesting and memorable as Daniel was, possibly.
It’s a lot of fun to be able to play a character like that. There’s very few instances I’ve had, in my career, where you get to actually play a character that gets to have the straitjacket taken off, so to speak. The freedom to be the bad guy and do whatever you want is wonderful. So I look forward to exploring that character more.
GW: How are things proceeding with Rage of Angels? Any new updates?
MS: I don’t want to comment on it. I’ll leave it for Chris [Judge] to comment on. There’s been a really, really positive development. He’s in Vancouver and in Los Angeles working with someone right now in terms of developing the series even more. There’s a show-runner, that once his contract is done, we’ll be able to announce that we can do it.
It’s all progressing. I’m always very conservative about it, but it’s moving in the right direction. There was a period a couple of months ago where I thought this was going to be in development hell forever. And it seems to be moving forward in a very positive way. So I look forward [to] the ability to speak more frankly [Laughter], and less cryptically in the future.
GW: Are there any other upcoming projects that we can look forward to seeing you in?
MS: No, I’m going back to Miami in about two weeks to finish up the season of Burn Notice. And like every other actor, [I’ve] been up auditioning for stuff, and getting really close to a lot of things. But there’s no points for second-best in our business — for second place, I should say — I shouldn’t say second best. So, we just carry on and get back in the mix. There’s always something. There’s always something lurking around.