Sometimes, characters in television series will be written with a specific performer in mind. At other times, as StarGate SG-1 star Amanda Tapping is about to make clear, this most definitely isn’t the case. “My character is Captain Samantha Carter,” she tells Xpose. “She’s a captain in the US Air Force, but she’s also got her PhD in Theoretical Astrophysics. Carter is very strong and she doesn’t make excuses for that,” says Tapping, “but I also like the fact that she’s a very compassionate human being and very warm.” There’s a certain irony in Tapping’s words here. StarGate SG-1 is based on the 1994 movie StarGate, which was created by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. on release, the film was criticized for a lack of emotional depth, a complaint which has subsequently been aimed (with perhaps more accuracy) at the duo’s blockbusters Independance Day and Godzilla.
In contrast, the StarGate SG-1 series, while it has its fair share of spectacular effects, concentrates more on the relationships between characters. The series picks up where the movie finished. The StarGate, which provides an instant link between planets, is thought to be permanently closed. A team led by Colonel Jack O’Neill were under orders to destroy the StarGate with a nuclear bomb if it posed a threat to Earth. O’Neill (played by Kurt Russell in the movie and Richard Dean Anderson in the series) is recalled to duty to explain what happened. He is forced to admit the bomb was never used to destroy the link and subsequently leads to another expedition through the StarGate. As the only female member of the squad, Carter is called upon to justify her position on the team (despite being called in because of her knowledge of astrophysics), something the actress initially felt uncomfortable with.
“The only thing in the Pilot that for lack of better terminology, bothered me was that Carter felt she had to make excuses for being the only woman on the team,” Tapping explains. She felt she had to prove herself, so she dragged up the old feminist arguments and stood on her soapbox, which I guess was a necessary evil in terms of introducing all the characters because it was a pilot and you have to let everyone know who everyone is. But now, through the progression of the series, she doesn’t make excuses any more. She’s just a member of the team -she’s a fully realized, integral part of the team. I like it that she doesn’t keep standing up going, ‘Hold on! I’m a woman and I can do that too!” Events on O’Neill’s second trip through the StarGate lead to the formation of a series of teams to explore different worlds through the StarGate. O’Neill and Carter’s team is completed by Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader’s character in the film and now played by Michael G. Shanks) and the alien Teal’c (Christopher Judge).
As soon as the British-born Tapping, whose previous credits include an appearance on The X-Files, begins to talk about her co-stars, it’s obvious there’s a genuine chemistry between the cast. one anecdote, in particular, stands out: the first time Tapping, Shanks and Judge met. “At the final screen test in Los Angeles, they had all the actors who were auditioning for all the parts waiting in the same room,” she recalls. “So, there’s two or three Sam Carters there, two or three Daniels, and so on. Of all the people in this room, Christopher, Michael, and I hit it off, and just started talking. We all went in individually and did our auditions. They came out, said, ‘If we read your name you’re released, if we don’t, stick around, we’ll be asking you to come in again.’ Christopher, Michael, and I were asked to stick around, amongst other people. We just hit off, started laughing and talking, and said, ‘Hope we see you on set.’” As all three actors also express an admiration for Richard Dean Anderson, this chemistry carries over into the series which features some fine ensemble playing. However, has Tapping any favourite episodes which focus on Carter? “One of my favorite episodes for the character in Singularity in which the team goes to a planet where all the people have died from a disease and the sole survivor is a little girl,” she says. “This episode allows Carter to open up her heart. She becomes very attached to this child and the child becomes very attached to her. She has to make a difficult choice with regard to the girl. I like the episode because it challenges me emotionally and it allowed us to see Carter’s need to be loved and her ability to love, which, in the course of a Sci-Fi Action adventure, isn’t always possible.”
With season two now shooting, it’s these kinds of episodes which appear to have attracted an audience to the show. Another factor, according to Tapping, was the two-season commitment which the American cable channel Showtime gave to the project. This gave the cast and crew security. “We knew going into it, we had the luxury of a two-year commitment from Showtime which was an interesting position to be in,” she explains. “Normally you shoot a pilot and you wait and you see, and you don’t know whether it’s going to be picked up or not. We, however, had the luxury of a 44-episode commitment which allowed us a lot more leeway in terms of character arcs, development of the show, and development of the characters because we knew we had time.” As Showtime has already committed to a further two seasons (and maybe another two after that) it looks like the SG-1 team could be going through the StarGate for some time to come.
Source: Xposé magazine