Stargate SG-1's leading man Richard Dean Anderson sits down with Steven Eramo and looks back at the show's seventh season and ponders what's ahead for Year Eight.
Remember being a child and the feeling of anticipation you'd get a few days before summer break. Well, it's no different when you're an adult. With only two more days left of work on Stargate SG-1's seventh season finale Lost City, Richard Dean Anderson is looking forward to hiatus and spending time with his little girl Wylie. He and his fellow actors have already filmed the ending of the episode but there are still a number of scenes left to shoot, including a lengthy one at O'Neill's house involving all the regular characters.
"It's scenes like the one at O'Neill's house that I assume our longtime viewers always love to see," says Anderson. "The off-screen rapport among this group of actors is genuinely warm and caring and I feel that comes across in the show as well. Like us, our characters are Human Beings. When one of them is in jeopardy or in trouble - in this case it's the colonel - they're there to support him or her. O'Neill, Carter, Teal'c, Daniel and, of course, General Hammond and Doc Fraiser have always been a close-knit group and it's nice when we get to reaffirm this on-screen.
"I've got to tell you we're having a great time working on Lost City. Martin Wood is directing and he's the right man for the job. There are some intricacies to the storytelling that Martin is terrific at handling, and we're also dealing with a ton of visual effects. This episode is big and there's a vast scope to the filming of it. The script incorporates practically every aspect of this franchise that we've touched upon over the past seven years. The final scene is a fairly emotional one and it leaves some doubt as to the fate of Colonel O'Neill not to mention the universe.
"How's that for a teaser?" he smiles.
Two years ago, Anderson sat in his trailer contemplating a possible sixth season of Stargate. Needless to say, he never expected to be filming a seventh year with an eighth on the cards. "This has been an odd season for me," muses the actor. "My schedule was abbreviated to the point where my character was used fairly sparsely in the episodes and this was necessary in order for me to be a part of Season Seven. I needed to have time away from the show or more specifically I wanted to spend more time with my daughter. Once MGM worked that out it then became the job of [executive producer] Rob Cooper and the writers to do some innovative scheduling to pull it off.
"Things have worked out pretty well. That said, I realize the crew is burnt to a crisp. I mean, there were times we were shooting three episodes at once, so it's been a scheduling nightmare. Everyone has truly risen to the challenge, though, and done whatever needed to keep production running smoothly and, of course, keep things fun. I think the overall look of the series continues to improve. Peter Woeste and Jim Menard [directors of photography] do an amazing job. They may be more under the gun than some people because they have to work fast but at the same time take the care required if these shows are to look their best.
"So on the technical end it's been a rough go. Story-wise, well, I haven't been around as much as in the past but when I am here I can sense the effects of my character not being a driving force in the episodes. It'll be much the same next year, although we're going to try to make some transitions in storylines and possibly the status of O'Neill. We want to incorporate him in a more credible way as opposed to someone asking, 'Where's the colonel?' and being told, 'Oh, he's recovering from his injury and is taking a couple of days off'. We'd like for O'Neill to be more of a dynamic presence in the eighth season. I don't have a clue as to how the writers plan to do that. I'm sure they'll figure something out, though."
Along with a passion for playing his character, another big reason for the actor's ongoing commitment to Stargate is the people he works with. "They've all been so patient with me. Ultimately, I'm sure I'll end up apologizing to some degree to each and every one of them for having to endure my eccentricities and somewhat 'problem child' personality," chuckles Anderson.
"There's something quite therapeutic for me about coming to work. Part of that has to do with the fact that this is a social community and a very familial one. Also, this place has an energy that allows me to connect and follow through on these ideas that come screaming through my head. The folks here have been more than receptive of that, and I know that hasn't been easy sometimes. Bottom line is that we've come to the support of one another and that's a good thing."
During the hiatus Anderson will still be busy. "Wylie starts kindergarten this year," he notes. "So I'll be there to help co-manage the beginning of that new stage in my daughter's life. Other than that I'm taking a ski trek in Valdez with Dean Cummings and his company, H20. I also hope to be doing some wreck diving in the Truk Lagoon [in the Eastern Carolina Islands]. So there are one or two adventures coming up. Before I know it, though, it'll be February and I'll be back in Vancouver working on Stargate.
One of Colonel O'Neill's least favourite people is US Senator-cum-Vice President Robert Kinsey [Ronny Cox]. The two rub one another the wrong way more than once this season on Stargate. "The relationship between O'Neill and Kinsey is shall we say abrasive," explains Anderson. "Aside from Kinsey being a pompous ass, O'Neill doesn't trust him, you know? My character doesn't like incompetence and he suspects, and I believe rightly so, that Kinsey is nothing but a bag of hot air. He's a politico with an agenda that is both selfish and self-serving. This guy is constantly getting in the way and trying to undermine the Stargate programme.
"Kinsey is the enemy and in some ways much more dangerous than the Goa'uld. The ironic thing is he's played by one of the gentlest, sweetest Human Beings on this planet, Ronny Cox. He does a great job of bringing Kinsey to life. It's often a challenge but a good one working with Ronny because he likes to try something new when we're doing a scene together. I'm the same way, so neither of us is ever quite sure what to expect from the other. That works perfectly given the relationship between Kinsey and O'Neill. I like Ronny a lot and it's always a pleasure to work with him."