…scattered, all over the shop, are gifts from adoring fans. Outside, sheets of rain steadily soak a huddled TV crew. Where else could we be but on location with Stargate SG-1?
Now we know what it’s like – being ordered around by Stargate SG-1’s Major Carter. “Come on over to my place,” said Amanda Tapping, “take a look at where Sam Carter lives.” Knowing what’s best for us, and naturally curious to visit the home where the Major wends her weary way after a hard day at Stargate Command, Cult Times immediately jumped on a plane to Canada. They say the sun shines on the righteous, so there must have been some seriously naughty people around last month. Having decided to ignore the smart advice about dressing for cold, wet conditions (Stargate SG-1’s publicist has recommended that for years and it’s never rained once) we found ourselves soaked to the skin and chilled to the bone, having arrived at their location site during what can only be described as a downpour of biblical proportions. Still, the warmth of the welcome extended by the show’s cast and crew made it all worthwhile. Take it from one who knows – production teams rarely break into smiles nor offer hugs to journalists who appear in their midst.
The residents of the city are used to carrying on in the face of the paraphernalia that accompanies a film crew, and the good folk living in the North Vancouver suburb chosen as the location base appeared oblivious to the activity going on in their seemingly ordinary street. Well, it would have been like a regular street had it not been for umpteen police cars scattered across the road; the big, white van disgorging space-suited figures carrying radiation detectors; and the arc lights illuminating the whole scene even though it was barely midday. Sam Carter’s home is actually a colonial style property belonging to a local resident who has given permission for the house to be used as a set. If you ignored the sight of the neighbours making valiant attempts to stay behind the drapes and blinds at their own windows, and the team of camera operators, sound technicians, runners and assistants scurrying to and fro between the very lovely house and a makeshift rain shelter opposite, it could resemble an average, quiet, suburban scene anywhere in North America.
Richard Dean Anderson (Colonel Jack O’Neill), who says he’d only popped outside to see what was going on, has managed to drench one of the crew. Apologizing profusely, Anderson innocently claims, “I was only trying to direct the water off the tarpaulin,” but the fact that he’d waited till the victim stood directly under the point where the water would run off did not go unnoticed. Meanwhile, we’re huddled under the barely adequate shelter observing executive producer Michael Greenburg direct the second unit. Eager to not get any wetter ourselves, we decide to venture inside Major Carter’s house.
Just inside the entrance to the two-storey building, the ‘bootie police’ pounce on us to make sure that no one ventures any further with wet shoes. Made out of the same material as disposable wash cloths, these very fetching, elasticated over-boots make sure that the flooring inside the building is protected at all times. Whoever said working on a film set was glamorous has obviously never had to wear these.
Squeezing past the numerous bodies packed into the hallway preparing for the next scene, we emerge into a very light, homely living room to be greeted by the major herself. “Don’t I have a nice house?” she beams. “Do you like my river rock fireplace? I built it myself. And I have an amazing car. Did you see my car?” I did. Silver grey and gorgeous, it’s parked outside the front door.
As excited as a schoolgirl, Amanda Tapping is thrilled to finally be given the opportunity to show a private part of her character’s life. “This is a huge, huge episode for Carter,” she begins. “We get to see where she lives. I get to wear normal clothes. I drive an amazing car. It’s sweet. You know what? I think Carter is very cool. She has a 1940 Indian motorcycle; a 1961 beautiful, mint, vintage Volvo and she’s got a Harley in her garage that she’s working on, too. How great is that?” Agreeing that it certainly is wonderful, we ask about an interesting rumour that we’ve heard about Carter’s life. Bashfully, she reveals, “I have a man. Of course, at first nobody believes he exists. He’s a bit like ‘my imaginary friend’. Actually it’s a great episode for me because everyone thinks I’m crazy and plays into the fact that Carter has no life outside the SGC. They play into the fact that she never relaxes, so they keep saying things like ‘take it easy’, ‘rest’ and ‘go home’. So you get to see her house and see that she does have a normal life.” Scoffing at the very idea the actress shrugs, “It’s not like she’s a complete loser, you know. Well, she might be a little bit of a loser, but not totally.”
Flapping the edge of her cardigan whilst waving her foot about, she goes on. “I’m loving this episode. I’m wearing funky clothes, well, normal clothes, and I’m out of my army boots!” she yells. “Look, I’m wearing ordinary shoes.” Clearly used to these impromptu outbursts, the rest of the crew give Tapping’s feet a brief glance before carrying on with their work, although make-up artist Jan Newman can’t quite smother a little giggle.
“What else can I tell you?” Tapping wonders, unperturbed. “The second episode in was a great episode for Christopher Judge [Teal'c] – he did a terrific job. We’ve got scripts up to episode five but that’s all I can tell you because, of course, actors are the last to know what’s going on. I don’t know if we’re doing a sixth season or a movie or both.”
According to her fellow actors and colleagues, one of the most endearing things about this woman is that she falls for any sort of joke. Teasing her, saying that we know what’s going to happen but won’t tell her, Tapping jumps up and moans, “Oh, for crying out loud. I’m going to have to wait till I read about it in this magazine, aren’t I?”
Tapping may not have been able to shed much light on the future of Stargate SG-1 but she has lots to say about the film she made in the hiatus between Seasons Four and Five. “I did a movie called The Void which has already been pre-sold to Europe.” Smiling, she says, “I had the lead and play a physicist again. I only get to play smart women, I don’t know why, but this time the character does have a life. She actually has sex – which Sam Carter never does.” Perish the thought!
“My boyfriend is played by Adrian Paul from Highlander, and there is a very rude scene.” Blushing to the tip of her head, she smiles, “Now I’ve only ever done one love scene before and that was for network television, so it was very safe. But this is a movie – which is not so safe.” Speaking very slowly so I don’t miss a word, she explains, “I have a very strict no nudity clause in my contract, so the boobies you see in this movie are not mine. I haven’t seen the finished piece yet, so can only hope they’re nice. It’s a very strange thing being an actress with a no nudity clause and then realizing that they are going to substitute your body and people are going to think it’s you. They are supposed to think it’s you.” Grateful for her co-star’s professionalism, Tapping says, “Adrian was wonderful to work with. He had done a lot of love scenes and knew exactly what was OK. He knew exactly where to put his body so that we didn’t have to touch, you know… bits. He’s a lovely person. Of course, there is no comparison to Richard Dean Anderson, who is the best, but he was lovely all the same.
Sparing her blushes – Tapping had become all flustered by this point – we turn to another source of delight, which was the actress’s first encounter with veteran actor Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange). “I was so terrified about working with him in The Void because he’s a legend, but it turns out Malcolm is one of the nicest and sweetest people I have ever met. In the first scene we rehearsed together he comes in and says in that wonderful, wonderful voice, ‘You’ve been a very busy and a very naughty girl’, and though I’d literally just met him I went to say my first line and just burst out laughing because Malcolm McDowell had called me naughty.”
The very thought sets her off again, so to calm down she concentrates on her present home. “Have you seen the pictures?” she queries. Indicating the photographs liberally dotted around the room, Tapping proudly shows off her real family. “There’s my grandmother, who is 100 years old, and my grandfather who is like an English version of Elmer Fudd. And that’s me and my twin.” Although she is only ten months old in the picture, Ms Tapping has hardly changed a bit. The smile and the sparkly eyes are clearly evident. “I wanted the place to look like my own home so I brought in some of my personal things.” Pointing to two quilts that cover the settee and chair she says, “Those were sent to me by a fan. Quite a few of the things in here were. I brought them because my fan mail is just piling up and I haven’t had a chance to answer everyone but then realized this is something I can do to thank people. I can have their gifts in my episode.” Tapping is most insistent that people refrain from sending her things and states, “This is just a general ‘thank you’ to acknowledge all the fans, all they’ve done for the show and the blessings they bestow on us. Nothing they do is taken for granted by any of us.”
It’s almost 7pm and most of the cast and crew have been here since early morning, but there are still some scenes left to shoot. Following Tapping down to the garage level, we’re there for a further hour or so whilst the ‘discovery scene’ is rehearsed and blocked. They may be nearing the end of a 14-hour day but humour is still high on the agenda. Privileged to find out what the big secret is, Michael Greenburg – this time huddled in a shelter outside the garage – warns that the publicist may have to resort to axe murder if we reveal said secret. He needn’t worry. All he has to do is threaten to stand us out in the rain for hours next time we visit Stargate SG-1. You’ll have to watch the episode on Sky 1 this autumn to find out for yourself.
Source: Cult Times