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Michael Shanks - Away from the GATE

The actor talks about the "Ascended" Daniel Jackson

By Miwa Hirai     May 05, 2002

STARGATE: SG1's Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks)
© 2001 Showtime
Michael Shanks plays Dr. Daniel Jackson on the popular television series STARGATE SG-1. He leaves the series this season by way of a much-publicized, much-lamented character death ("Meridian"). But no one really dies in science fiction, and Dr. Jackson will be back for the Season 6 episode titled "Abyss", where Colonel Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) is captured and tortured by the Goa'uld Ba'al (Cliff Simon). Daniel, now in civilian clothes, comes to O'Neill with an offer to "ascend."

Shanks relaxes in his trailer on the set. "It's a very emotional, character-driven episode," he says. "It's all related to the Jack and Daniel friendship that began in the movie. Brad Wright (executive producer/writer) told me last year that he had an idea of the story that included the Daniel character. I asked him if I could read the script and I thought it was a beautiful way to have Daniel back. The character retains much of who was before, no matter what spiritual journey he's on now. He is different physically, but inside he's the same. So I signed for it."

The Earth-based "stargate" at the top secret SGC facility

As Shanks has voiced in older interviews, Season 5 is his last season of STARGATE because he is dissatisfied with the direction the show has been taking.

"I've been playing the same character for a long time," says Shanks. "I felt that the character was a regular and should be utilized like that. I thought that would be appropriate, but I felt that wasn't going to be the case. I was going to become a useless actor on that show. I felt that I should move on and do something else as an actor, so I decided to leave."

"But," adds Shanks carefully, "our disagreement about the course of the show is not related to the wonderful years I have worked with these people. These people are great. STARGATE gave me a great benefit."

Shanks comments that he knew there would be some reaction to his departure, but he never imagined that the show's fans would be so vehement over it.

"It's been lovely, but it's also been difficult," says Shanks thoughtfully. "Some of the criticism, some of the overly passionate defenses of the character and the actor. People are very upset, and that hurts me too because I think of it that way. But I believe that I made the right decision at the time."

The actor admits that he felt it was time to find a new path, perhaps to discover a new opportunity to develop his acting career. What would he like to express to viewers through his acting?

SG-1 team member Daniel (played by Michael Shanks) uses the dialer to plot a course back home

"Oh boy, it's a philosophy question!" Shanks laughs. "I think a variety of things are important. In the past I wanted to do different things all the time. I got to play a number of different characters, and also different aspects of the same character. I think I've done well. I've learned a lot from the years I have spent as Daniel Jackson in STARGATE. In the future, I want to be able to be a part of telling the story, to move people that way."

Apart from building up his acting career, Shanks made his directorial debut with "Double Jeopardy" in STARGATE Season 4. He does not hide his eagerness to direct again in the future.

"Directing is something I really want to explore," says Shanks. "But I have a lot of work to do in regards to understanding the technical process behind that. I have lots of great ideas running around my head all the time, but I don't know how to make them come to life. I need to learn more about that. I think that's the best position to be, to be able to show others that picture in your imagination."

It is a given that once actors become involved in a popular series, they invariably pen an episode of the show. STARGATE is no exception. Amanda Tapping (Samantha Carter) is in talks with the SG writers to write a script. Christopher Judge (Teal'c) is in process of writing a Teal'ccentered episode with Daniel's return as a spiritual guru.

"I'm not much of a writer!" Shanks laughs. "I don't have the patience to sit down and flesh out ideas detail by detail. If somebody asks me to write a script of STARGATE, it'll probably take me about three years to finish it off. There are some very good writers out here, and I've always been very envious of their talent."

After shooting "Abyss," Shanks will travel to Ireland for an independent film project.

STARGATE: SG1's Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks)

"I'll be leaving for Ireland in late April or early May," says Shanks. "I'll be there for four weeks and then for two weeks in Toronto. It's called MYSTERIOUS LAND. It's a little bit of political poetry about love and spirituality. I'm a little intimidated about it all, given the present political climate over there."

While Shanks is busy beefing up his acting career, anxious fans await the second return of Daniel. "I don't expect that," Shanks says in a low voice. "We'll see one, anyway. I think it's a step-by-step process between the producers and myself, how they feel, how I feel. It's a kind of ball game."

Brad Wright has commented that he already has an idea of what the series finale will be, but it all depends whether STARGATE will be made into a feature film. He also mentioned that Daniel Jackson would be in the feature film script.

"I'd really like to be involved in that," Shanks says, leaning forward. "I think it's such a great concept show to come from a big screen and go to a small screen and then back to the big. But, again, I think that's one of those decisions where I wouldn't just do it to be doing it. I'd want to be involved with the character, if that option presented itself. I hope everything will work out for the best for both of us. I still very much like the show. I still very much like Daniel Jackson."

STARGATE SG-1 Season 6 will premiere on the Sci-Fi Channel on June 7. "Abyss" is tentatively scheduled for July 19.


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