Saving the galaxy on a weekly basis can be dangerous work. Sometimes you can’t make it through an hour without getting a little roughed up. And for many years, one man has been either getting roughed up or been the one in charge of making sure others do it safely — Dan Shea.
As both Richard Dean Anderson’s stunt double and Sergeant “Sly” Siler on-screen, or as SG-1‘ stunt coordinator off-screen, Shea has been instrumental in making all the fights, explosions and other stunts both fun to watch and harmless to those performing them.
GateWorld sat down with Dan earlier this year at the Creation Entertainment Stargate convention in Vancouver — and it’s the first time we’ve gotten the chance to talk with him. Due to time constraints, the interview is brief. However, in that brief time, Dan opens up about how he got into the stunt business, what brought him into the Stargate franchise, how he wound up in front of the camera as “Siler,” and more!
GateWorld’s video interview with Dan runs approximately 6 minutes, and is also available in audio format. It’s also transcribed below.
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, this is Chad Colvin and I am here at the Stargate 2008 Vancouver Creation convention with Dan Shea. Dan, thank you for taking a few minutes with us.
Dan Shea: Thank you for having me.
GW: Dan, tell us a little bit about how you got into the stunt business.
DS: First of all, this is one of the best looking French fries you’re ever going to see. It’s crunchy and it’s warm and it’s great, it would be better with gravy and lots of salt and pepper. But, that’s going to be a little later. Sorry. How did what?
GW: How did you get into the stunt business?
DS: I think it was way back in MacGyver, and I stood in for Big Boy [Richard Dean Anderson] and this guy named Steve Blalock was his double. He’s double[ing] the lead on Lost right now. And I thought, “That’s kind of cool, they’re doing some motorcycle stuff and falling down and getting beat up.”
So, I started my whole coat tail thing with Big Boy. We play hockey two or three nights a week and shower in separate stalls. I sort of [started] humping paths. There’s a big coordinator in town called Danny Virtue, a producer, and I started carrying his big Port-A-Pits on my back and started training, doing some martial arts stuff and doing some driving and slowly started working my way into it.
GW: Is there anything in particular about the profession that you love?
DS: I just like working. [laughter] like the idea of having to focus, because you get ten thousand people twitching and doing your hair and all this kind of stuff, and just fiddling, and all you’re concentrating on is hitting your mark or not anticipating the punch or not having your squibs go off early so you look like an idiot.
I remember one guy blew a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar shot because he ran too early. All the cameras were rolling and all of a sudden he go all excited and away he went, and everything started blowing up, and he was in everybody’s way, and they all got cut with glass.
GW: An expensive mistake.
DS: Very expensive mistake, and also they all went to the hospital. So this whole idea of the eye of the storm, the calm, with all the chaos going around you that I think is cool. What’s even cooler is being a stunt actor where you have to hit your mark, do some dialogue and have a little tiny bit of connection, my limited version of that, and then having all of that chaos and stuff going on at the same time.
Being the dope that drives the car, or slides, because in the scene, there’s the actor guy and the stunt guy. The actor guy says his lines and then the stunt freak gets shot. And plus, I like getting paid. [Laughter] It’s cool, too. If you’re doing features, it’s more dough, the bigger gags and the more money. So the money is good.
GW: You were Richard Dean Anderson’s stunt double during the MacGyver years, and the…
DS: No, not during the MacGyver years. I was a stand-in on the MacGyver years and I stunt doubled for him during a couple of hockey episodes.
GW: Ok, alright. And also his stunt double for SG-1.
GW: Did he bring you into the production at all, or did he recommend you?
DS: Recommend me? No, he recommended not having me. But I made them do it anyways.
No. I sort of became his guy. It was kind of an unwritten thing and it was more [Michael] Greenberg. Greenberg was his partner and he would get stuff done, affiliated through Rick. But no. Once MacGyver was over, they did a movie of the week in Toronto. It was like minus thirty, and that’s where I got my foot destroyed, and that was my first time actually being his official double, after four years of watching the other guy do the fun stuff.
GW: The fans have seen a lot of fantastic stunts on both series, ones that you’ve coordinated and ones you’ve performed yourself. Do you have a favorite?
DS: Favorite stunt on all of Stargate? No. It’s hard to be definitive, because there’s cool stuff like fire. Fire stuff is cool, because it’s really dangerous. And a lot of wire stuff is cool, and we’ve had those hundred foot gas mortars exploding. Those are cool. So I just think all of it. I think big battle scenes where you’ve got air rams and ratchets and stuff blowing up and so on. Those are cool where a whole bunch of things are happening.
GW: Has there ever been a particular stunt that was planned that was either cancelled or postponed because there was no way to pull it off either practically or safely?
DS: No, because we’d know ahead of time. We’d have our concept meeting and production meeting. You can do anything. It’s just whether you have the time and money to do it. We generally pulled everything off.
We did a car gag that was pretty cool, a nitrogen ram where we slide the car and you press a button and the ram propels the car and it was in this tiny little intersection out by Boundary Bay airport. And that was pretty cool, but it was so tight. On the day the E brake wasn’t working. They never seem to work, these E brakes, and what you need to be working to lock up the tires and slide the car. So we were throwing sand and stuff down on it to make it actually slide, and it did slide and it was all cool, but those things are fun.
GW: How did you end up in front of the screen as Siler?
DS: There was just an audition and I remember, I went upstairs, and I started joking around. Brad was in there, and Martin Wood, and I thought, “If you’re trying to be funny, they’ll like you and give you the part.” The problem was, the guy was a computer geek, not funny. And so Greenberg gave me hell. Michael Greenberg. He said, “You fool, you have a chance to get this part. What are you doing, you blew it.” And I thought I did good because they were laughing. Well, it was a serious role, so he made me go back and do it again, and spew out the techno-jargon, and I got it.
GW: Since the end of SG-1 you’ve also, as you said earlier today, taken on the role of Stunt Coordinator on Psych, on USA.
GW: How different is that environment? Are the stunts easier there because the show isn’t necessarily so science fiction based?
DS: No, well, not easier. It’s just that there’s not as many of them. See, when it was Stargate and Psych, it was kind of difficult because I was driving across the bridge trying to go to meetings at both places and trying to be in ten thousand places at once. But Psych, although they don’t have as many of them, when they do, they do some pretty cool gags. We did this civil war thing, we did this high fall, we’ve done car stuff and motorcycle stuff, and so overall, so to speak, it’s still the same deal when we do stuff.