Stargate SG-1's Major Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping).
Once again, I have decided to open up the interview vault and revisit some of the many interviews I have had the pleasure of writing over the years and that just appeared in-print and not on-line. In today's interview, my dear friend, the lovely and talented Amanda Tapping, as always took time out from her workday on the Stargate SG-1 set to chat with me, this time about season six and playing Samantha Carter. Enjoy, and keep coming back for more familiar faces and shows!
It’s another Monday in the “glamorous” world of TV for Stargate SG-1’s Amanda Tapping. She, Richard Dean Anderson, Christopher Judge, guest-star Tony Amendola and a team of fellow actors along with the crew are out on-location at Mt. Seymour in North Vancouver. They are shooting scenes in a gravel pit – which is doubling as the SGC’s Alpha Site – for the episode Allegiance. It is pouring and a heavy mist shrouds the ring of trees surrounding the upper rim of the pit. Director Peter DeLuise yells, “Cut!” and some of the crew rush in with umbrellas to shield the actors from the downpour between takes.
The rain persists but Tapping’s mood never sways. She continues to smile and joke with those around her. In the past five years, her character of Major Samantha Carter has, among other things, almost been frozen to death in the Antarctic (Solitudes); possessed by a Goa’uld (In the Line of Duty); had her brain taken over by an unknown life force (Entity); and nearly ended up as a guinea pig in a scientific experiment (Desperate Measures). So a little (or a lot) of rain is not about to dampen the actress’s spirits. Three days later, the sun is out and Tapping is back at the studios working on the next episode, The Cure. In-between dealing with alien delegates, she happily takes time to talk about Sam Carter and what the major has been up to so far in Stargate SG-1’s sixth and final season.
“Sam has a better sense of humor this year,” says Tapping. “She laughs more and is cheekier at times, although not to Colonel O’Neill because he’s the commanding officer. There’s a more solid relationship in place between her and Teal’c, which Chris Judge and I have really worked at in terms of even just a simple look or the odd gesture between each other. This is partly, I think, out of necessity because the character of Daniel is now gone. However, Chris and I have also been pushing for the solidification of that friendship for a long time. It may not always come in the form of dialogue written into the scripts, but the writers are certainly giving us the chance to play it out through our actions.
“The introduction of Jonas Quinn [Corin Nemec] has also created another interesting dynamic between Teal’c and Sam. It’s the rolled eyes and ‘Can you believe this new guy?’ kind of thing going on with them, so that’s fun. Other than that, my character is still the techno-babble girl who does all the things that people have come to expect. Again, the big change in Sam is she’s a lot more fun this year and I think it’s because the work is much more fun. We’re really having a good time. A lot of that has to do with the fact that it’s the last season and we’ve more or less reconciled ourselves to the fact things are coming to an end. That said, I don’t know if I’ve reconciled myself to that fact,” she laughs.
In the sixth season opener Revelations, Sam Carter butts heads once again with Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett, who first appeared last year in 48 Hours). The two of them must reluctantly work together to figure out a way to stop Anubis from using the Stargate to destroy Earth. At the same time, Carter, O’Neill and Teal’c are still grieving the loss of their colleague and friend Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks). “Initially, I felt the need to not only talk about the loss of this major character in the series but also acknowledge that we were all feeling the same way and having a difficult time dealing with it,” notes Tapping. “Unfortunately, that aspect of it wasn’t really there in the story. In retrospect, though, it made sense that there’s a pragmatic nature to SG-1 and we just had to move on. I think it’s understood or at least should be understood that our characters have their own private moments of grieving over the loss of Daniel.
“The atmosphere was very different when production started up again in February,” continues the actress. “Again, we came back knowing that this was the final season. It was a case of, ‘OK, this is it. We have 22 more episodes left. Let’s just have a blast.’ As a result, the work, friendships, everything became heightened. There was a great sense of joy on the set. Oddly enough, I remember being really anxious the week before we went back to work. I kept wondering, ‘What’s this season going to hold? What’s Corin going to be like?’ To be honest, we really didn’t know him. He seemed like a nice person while we were working on Meridian. However, we were with Michael most of the time and really didn’t have much of a chance to talk to Corin. I actually apologized to him at the end of last season. I said, ‘I’m sorry about all this but I hope you’ll understand what’s going on here with us.’ For all the trepidation, though, the season started out great and it continues to be so.”
Of the three SG-1 members, Carter is the one Jonas Quinn feels most comfortable being around in Redemption. He is hoping that she and Teal’c can persuade O’Neill to give him a chance to prove himself worthy of a place on the team. Jonas manages to do just that by helping stop Anubis from destroying the Earth. By the end of the two-part episode he’s walking through the Stargate with the rest of SG-1 and off on his first mission. While Carter can respect him as a fellow teammate, she is not yet ready to call him her friend.
“There’s a hesitancy on my character’s part to be too familiar with Jonas,” explains Tapping. “If I can crawl into Sam Carter’s head for a minute; she is not about to make this big emotional investment in Jonas because he’s not Daniel. Still, Carter is not at all cold towards him. She wants to help Jonas along as well as protect him while they’re on a mission. At the same time, you get the feeling that every now and then she wants to say to him, ‘Look, why don’t you keep quiet because you don’t necessarily know the situation. This is how we’re going to deal with it because Colonel O’Neill is in command and he knows the score.’
“Carter loved Daniel. He was like a brother to her as well as one of her best friends, and then he died. She’s not ready to open up her heart again to another person so quickly, you know? Carter still has O’Neill and Teal’c and that’s fine with her for now. In some ways, Jonas has inadvertently brought the three of them closer together. It’s a case of if it can happen to Daniel it can happen to any one of us. So there’s an even stronger bond between these people who’ve spent the last five years together running around the universe and experiencing all sorts of beautiful and also horrific events. When someone new comes on the scene they can without knowing it shine a mirror on a relationship like that and get those involved to realize it shouldn’t be taken for granted.”
Of all the Stargate SG-1 episodes shot so far this season, Descent is one of the more memorable ones for Tapping. In it, Carter and the rest of SG-1 are trapped aboard a Goa’uld mothership that is slowly sinking into the ocean. “There’s a cool factor to working on this show,” smiles the actress, “and filming those underwater scenes was one of those times. I wasn’t scared at all. I’m not afraid of the water, so I was totally excited. When it came to the actual filming, Rick and I got into the pool, swam into the set, which was then lowered further into the pool. The water then slowly began to rise and stopped about six inches from the ceiling of the set. So each time you went under the water and came back up you had to find that air pocket. You also had to remember to tilt your head back so you wouldn’t swallow any water.
“Well, for whatever dumb reason, every time I’d come up I never managed to tilt my head back enough. So I’d get a mouthful of water and end up choking because I couldn’t bend my head forward to spit it out. I think I was just concentrating too hard on the tilting thing. I was getting a little nervous but that was fine because that fear carried over into my work. Also, I kept thinking, ‘My job is really cool.’ I knew I wasn’t going to die. We had divers all around us and there were signals we could give them if we got in trouble. Damned if I could remember any of them, though, as I was choking, but I figured that if necessary putting my hands around my throat would be a good last resort,” she laughs. “As scary as it was, it was so much fun. I love that kind of stuff.”
It is no secret that the Sci-Fi genre is rarely given consideration when it comes to mainstream industry awards. Fortunately, excellence in areas such as directing, lighting, visual FX and music is, in fact, recognized and rewarded, but the same cannot be said of acting. However, Tapping recently took a giant step forward for all Sci-Fi actors when she won a Leo award for her performance on Stargate SG-1.
“The Leo is a British Columbia film and TV award that recognizes the talents and work associated with this province,” says the actress. “First off, I was completely surprised to be nominated. I’d been nominated once before and just to be considered is great. This year, I fully excepted another local actress to win. I was actually presenting two awards, so I went to the Leos as a presenter and a nominee but thinking, ‘I don’t have to worry about a thing because I’m not going to win.’ I was totally convinced of that.
“Andy Mikita, who was nominated for best director, turned to me at our table and asked, ‘Have you got a speech?’ I said, ‘Andy, don’t worry, I don’t need a speech.’ Then, of course, when they read my name I freaked out. Everyone at the table was jumping up and down and I thought, ‘What am I going to say?’ I don’t remember my speech but apparently I was funny. Afterwards, a complete stranger came up to me and said, ‘You’re adorable,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, what was it I said up there.’ I have to say that it felt really good to be recognized by a group of my peers. As much as I don’t put any stock in awards in terms of they don’t make me a better actress or person and they don’t change my career path, it’s still a nice thing. In fact, it’s the icing on what’s already a pretty damn delicious cake.”
Besides her work on this season Stargate SG-1, Tapping made a cameo appearance in Angelina Jolie’s latest film Life or Something Like It. Back in March, the actress finished shooting an independent film called Stuck with JR Bourne, who played Martouf on Stargate. “JR and I play boyfriend and girlfriend,” she says. “My character is very different from Sam in that she’s a drug addict with a long history of abuse. She shoots up heroin in the movie and has sex with JR’s character – some Stargate fans might like that. It’s a very bizarre, dark, decline of the human condition-type of movie. It was a wonderful challenge to be able to crawl into the skin of such a totally screwed-up character. I had so much fun acting again with JR. I just love him and I felt totally at ease experimenting with different ways to play a scene because I knew I wouldn’t be embarrassed if I made a mistake.”
Looking back at her time on Stargate SG-1, how has playing Sam Carter changed Tapping? “Sam has taught me to stand up for myself more and to throw an idea out there,” muses the actress. “It may not be the right one, but I should at least throw it out there and not be afraid of what people might think. Thanks to Sam, I feel a little stronger and a little more solidly placed on this Earth, and that’s a good thing.”