In today's Sci-Fi Blast From The Past, Amanda Tapping talks about her early days playing Sam Carter on Stargate SG-1.
In Stargate SG-1’s pilot episode Children of the Gods, the Stargate suddenly opens and the Goa’ulds’ guards, the Jaafa, attack the Stargate installation. The new commanding officer of the project General Hammond (Don S. Davis) brings Jack O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) out of retirement once again and orders him to take his team back through the Stargate and destroy the portal being used by the Goa’uld. The general also instructs the colonel to find Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) and bring him back with them. He assigns Air Force Captain Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) to assist O’Neill.
“I didn’t like my character that much in the first episode,” says Tapping. “I didn’t dislike her but I thought that her feminist diatribe was a little tiresome and I didn’t want her to be angry all the time. All I could see was this, ‘I’m out to prove myself,’ woman. I wanted her to be a well-rounded individual who is accessible and warm and someone who, especially young girls, could look up to and think, ‘Yes, I can relate to this person.’ Sam has become just that but she still has a ways to go. I think she needs to have a bit more of a personal life and maybe that will come in time, but right now she’s growing and becoming more fun.”
Although Hammond has every confidence in Carter’s abilities O’Neill is reluctant to have her on his team. The colonel tells her, “I like women, I’ve just got a little problem with scientists,” which relates back to his prickly relationship with Daniel Jackson. Carter, however, had been studying the gate’s technology for two years before O’Neill and Jackson first travelled through it, so, like it or not, the colonel needs her. The captain’s scientific background allows her to develop an immediate rapport with Jackson and, while it takes slightly longer, Carter and O’Neill eventually come to respect and trust each other as fellow soldiers and friends.
“General Hammond is very much like a great uncle to Sam because her father is very close to the general, but overall he’s the father figure of the show,” Tapping explains. “Daniel and Sam are more like brother and sister than any of the other characters. Jack is like, and I know this is going to sound really weird, the older cousin that Sam really admires and maybe has a small crush on, but I won’t dwell on that. I don’t want the viewers to think, ‘Oh, they’re sleeping together,’ or anything like that because that’s not going to happen, at least not that I know of anyway. I’m not writing the scripts, so who knows?” she chuckles.
The fourth member of O’Neill’s Stargate team is Teal’c (Christopher Judge), a Jaafa guard who rebels against the Goa’ulds and returns to Earth with SG-1 at the end of the pilot story. “The relationship between Teal’c and Sam is really interesting but I don’t think the writers have really explored it enough and it’s something that I’ve talked about with them. Teal’c is like family to Sam and she would do anything for him. I think you’ll see a lot more of their friendship in the next [third] season. She’s extremely loyal and protective of her fellow team members, however, and I think the feeling is mutual.
“It’s fun to come to work,” continues the actress. “The cast and crew get along famously. I don’t want to reveal too many secrets but we are a wacky and zany group. Everyone in the cast has a good sense of humour and we laugh a lot, especially at the end of the day when it’s someone’s close-up, usually mine. I’m the first one to crack when it comes to a joke and that happens a lot because the guys are all behind the cameras trying to make me laugh.
“I grew up with three brothers so working with three men is not completely alien to me, it’s more like coming home,” adds Tapping. “My brother’s names are Richard, Christopher and Steven and I also have a stepbrother, Michael. I work with a Richard, Christopher and Michael and, just to throw something else into the mix, when I was born my father wanted to name me Samantha, so all my life he’s called me Sam. Isn’t that weird? There must be a cosmic force at work here. Obviously, I was meant to play this part,” she says.
When Carter first meets O’Neill she tries to prove how tough she is by telling him that she logged one hundred hours over enemy air space during the Gulf War. While this is certainly impressive the captain has taken greater risks and faced far more perilous situations during her trips through the Stargate. “One of my favourite first-season episodes is Solitude in which Jack and Sam are stuck on a glacier. Sam demonstrates her intense loyalty to Jack and uses her smarts, ingenuity and physical strength but yet is also very vulnerable, so she gets to be strong and scared at the same time. That was great fun to play.
“There’s another episode I really like from the first year called Singularity. In it they rescue a little girl named Cassandra [Katie Stewart] from a planet and Sam becomes emotionally attached to her. During the climax Sam has to make a very intense decision about this child and it exposes her maternal instincts. It’s not a question that comes up on the show very often nor should it be - ‘Would Sam make a good mother?’ - but, in fact, she would.
“In the second season I enjoyed doing In The Line of Duty. Something quite extraordinary happens to my character and she’s possessed by a Goa’uld, so we see how Sam deals with that. In Secrets we meet Sam’s dad, who’s been an important influence in her life. Their relationship is further explored in a two-part episode Tok’ra.”
Imaginative stories, high-quality special effects and a talented cast of regular performers and guest-stars have all helped Stargate SG-1 become one of Showtime’s success stories. The show’s second season is currently airing on the cable network in the United States while its first year is making the rounds in first-run syndication. Tapping is ecstatic about the attention the series continues to get and flattered by the positive response her character has received from the viewers.
“Initially, I got quite a bit of mail from women and little boys and the letters from women are pretty amazing because they tell me that they’re thrilled to have such a strong female character like Sam on television and I think that’s terrific. I also receive many letters from Europe and the British Isles and now I’m starting to hear more from men, which is neat. The fan reaction has been wonderful and for the most part it’s been very much about enjoying the pivotal role my character plays in the show and that makes me feel good about what I’m doing.”
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