VANCOUVER – Many Canadian TV viewers choose to click past Stargate SG-1, the weekly TV series filmed in Vancouver and based on MGM’s 1994 science fiction movie.
But watching any episode (on Channel 11, Thursdays at 10 p.m. and on other WIC stations across the country), they will see a blossoming, talented Toronto actor.
Honey-blond Amanda Tapping, who’s got a peaches-and-cream complexion, plays an intelligent character – for a welcome change – as the lone female co-star of an action-adventure show. Though it stars American Richard Dean Anderson, Tapping has been noticed most.
After the first two episodes aired in the U.S. in August, a casting director called her Toronto agent, Debbie Peck, asking about Tapping’s availability for Bruce Willis’ next movie.
“It was just an inquiry, not an offer,” says Peck. “But she is committed to Stargate (for 44 episodes now filming and an option for three more seasons).”
“‘Are you sure she had the right person?’” a delighted Tapping recalls asking Peck. “She did, and I did a little happy dance. I sent her a thank-you card. That still gives me a little boost.”
Until Stargate SG-1, Tapping, who graduated from the University of Windsor in 1988, had small parts in American movies filmed in Toronto, an infrequent role on TV’s Flash Forward series and was on one episode of CBC’s The Newsroom.
She is 31, the same age as her Stargate character – astrophysicist Samantha (called Sam) Carter, who with the other regulars walks through the circular stargate into worlds of the future to rout baddies and make scientific discoveries.
It’s typical TV hokum with special effects. But, notes Tapping, the producers allowed her character to be “average-looking, like I am.”
”Some of the show’s ‘higher-ups,’” she learned, “wanted to go the babe-alicious route and find someone who was the tall blonde (Tapping is 5-foot-8 1/2) with the beautiful long hair and the great figure. I’m pleased they didn’t. I’ve never considered myself a bodacious, ravishing woman.”
After auditioning in Toronto, Tapping wowed MGM personnel in Los Angeles with her off-hand sense of humour, says co-executive producer Brad Wright, who calls her terrific.
“I had nothing to lose,” she says about bantering through auditions. “It was important to be true to myself and with the character. She could be played a number of ways. But it was really important to me that she have a sense of humour.
That also helped Tapping bond quickly with Anderson, who owns a piece of the series and could have vetoed her casting.
“He read a line (at her final audition) and asked me, ‘What do ya think, babe? You don’t mind if I call you babe?’ I said, ‘No, if you don’t mind if I call you Dick.’
“I thought either I’d blow it with him big time, or he’d appreciate the witticism. But that was it; we became fast friends.
Given the role just two weeks before filming began, she plunged into research producers did not require – consulting military experts, some of them ex-U.S. Navy SEALs, reading Stephen Hawking’s book A Brief History Of Time and prowling the Internet for information about astrophysics.
Two characters, including Anderson’s, are separated from their wives and children, while another is searching for his lost wife.
Tapping’s character is unmarried, tough and determined – a relief, she says, because “I was afraid they would give me stories where I would cry.”
The show’s writers, including Wright, are giving her emotional scenes that show her character’s need for and her ability to love.
And she’s receiving fan mail, like the letter from a 26-year-old female science-fiction fan in Dusseldorf, Germany, who thanked her for playing one of the few women on TV “who I feel represents me.”
She has only one regret: the inevitable months away from her husband, Alan Kovacs, who runs a Toronto landscape construction company.
The series is also seen in Australia and several other countries, currently has good ratings on U.S. cable channel Showtime and is slated for Fox stations next year. For the first time, Canadian producers are sending her scripts for movies she doesn’t have time to do.
“That’s a good position to be in.” Tonight’s Prime Time TV grid.
Source: The Toronto Star