SFX PROFILE: RICHARD DEAN ANDERSON
Patty and Selma's pin-up boy gets ready for Stargate's farewell season...
Having a phone conversation with Richard Dean Anderson is a little like being a child again. You feel as though you're seven years old and stuck in a room with some distant, fabulous uncle you've never met before, who answers every one of your questions with such deadpan humour that half the time you don't know what to believe.
Everything Anderson says is usually accompanied by a twinkle in the eye. And, of course, twinkles don't travel down phonelines. It makes life very difficult; you have to read the nuances of his voice to see if he's getting a bit shirty or not. For example, ask him about fame and he says, "It doesn't freak me out. I'm a big boy." He proclaims that the oddest thing he's ever read about himself is "the truth. That's the weirdest thing that's ever happened to me. Once I gave this interview and the guy actually wrote what I had said. He hadn't interpreted it or put his own spin on it. That was just bizarre." Is he just trying to be funny or is he delivering a thinly veiled warning about this interview? Anyway, we've since dropped our cunning plan to cut and paste his words together until he says, "I'm a big girl's blouse". Oh well.
Anyway, Anderson has spent five years playing Colonel Jack O'Neill on Stargate SG-1, and as we speak he has just embarked on its final season. "After six years things are pretty much in order," he says happily. "We have a new character in the show; there are some growing pains there, while we're making the transition. Michael Shanks is coming back for an extra episode. Everything's cool." Does he find it a bit weird, filming without one of the show's original actors? "Well, obviously it's different, but weird probably isn't the word. Michael and I worked very well together; we knew each other's rhythms. And Daniel Jackson was a really good character."
He has high hopes for Corin Nemec, Shanks' replacement -- although, to be honest, Anderson's not going to be around that much. The last year of Stargate SG-1 will be O'Neill-lite. "It's complicated," he sighs. "Given that there was a request of six years for me to do the show, and I'd done a series before for seven years, I was kind of... well, not running out of gas, but... I have a three-year-old daughter, and I wanted to spend some time with her. That was my only requirement about doing a sixth series: I needed more time at home. I didn't need more money or anything like that, I needed time."
Whilst we admire his commitment to his family, and also the many environmental causes that have sent him gallivanting around the world to highlight Earth issues (in fact, he has just returned from a trip to Chile), his attachment to SG-1 isn't over yet. There seems to be a movie on the way; possibly, a whole series of them. Anderson sounds oddly underwhelmed by the idea, although he could just be playing "inscrutable" again (an eye twinkle would have been welcome at this point to really suss him out).
"These features... has that been firmed up? I don't know," he mutters, with rather frustrating elusiveness. Luckily, he soon changes tack and sounds just a little more enthusiastic. "Nothing has been worked out yet. We've got a go ahead; Brad Wright is writing the script but it remains to be seen. I tend to be sceptical about those things."
He's also extremely evasive about the supposed spin-off show, Atlantis, and the (subsequently confirmed) rumours of an animated series: although he does confirm that he'd be happy to help out with it for Brad Wright (Stargate's executive producer).
There can be no doubt that, during its run, Stargate SG-1 has been extremely successful; it even reached its 100th episode, "Wormhole X-Treme!", last year ("I seemed to be the only one that was sceptical about the reception to that, but in the end I was delighted," he declares, with refreshing honesty). You can't help but wonder what the future holds. What will O'Neill be doing 20 years from now?
"Shovelling coal from his wheelchair?" Anderson muses down the line. "I dunno..." We suggest that stand-up comedy would probably be his forte, seeing as O'Neill is never short of a quip or two. Rather like the actor playing him, actually...
"I can't help myself!" Anderson laughs, of his pathological tendency to pun as though his life depended on it. "I don't know what that is. It's an affliction! It's a psychological problem. We have really very extreme..." He pauses, appalled at what he's just said. "'Really very extreme'?" he repeats, in a silly voice. "Don't you dare write that down! Anyway, we have wonderful writers who write, for the most part, really incredible dialogue, but -- and I hope this doesn't sound arrogant -- I know the voice of my character better than anyone, except maybe Brad Wright. Once I get a hold of it; I dunno, the rhythms, the tone or the attitude... I tend to know." He pauses, before adding: "In real life, I'm a bit of a smartass."
"Really?" we ask, pretending to be amazed.
"I'm glad you giggle at things like that," says Richard Dean Anderson, sounding insulted at our flippancy. At least, we think he is. It's so hard to tell if he's joking, you see...