RICHARD DEAN ANDERSON ON RETURNING TO STARGATE
The actor discusses the 200th episode of "SG-1," appearing on "The Simpsons" and the comedic side to "MacGyver."
Since its debut in 1997, Richard Dean Anderson played the lead character Jack O'Neill on "Stargate SG-1," before departing the series last year, after its 8th season. Now in season 10, "SG-1" has achieved the extremely impressive feat of becoming the longest running U.S. science fiction series in television history, and is about to pass another huge milestone, as it reaches its 200th episode. It only seemed right for Anderson to play a part in this momentous occasion, and Jack O'Neill will indeed make his return on the 200th episode, and then stick around for a multiple episode arc, which will also include appearances on the spin-off series "Stargate Atlantis."
Recently, at a SCI FI Channel party celebrating the 100th episode -- they'd actually transported the full size Stargate prop from Vancouver to Los Angeles for the occasion -- I was among a group of journalists that spoke to Anderson about his return to "Stargate."
Asked what brought him back to the "Stargate" universe, Anderson recalled being contacted by producers Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper. "Both Brad and Robert called and asked me if I'd like to be in the 200th episode. It was a milestone and I'd actually been off the show for a fair amount of time, and it was good timing, for one thing. I really, honestly, missed the environment and missed the cast and crew; missed that sense of community and family we have on the show. And I said, 'Yeah, of course, I miss you guys! I'll come up.' And in subsequent conversations, there was an opportunity to add like four more episodes, and everybody said sure."
As to how he felt getting back into character, Anderson smiled and remarked, "I was a little rusty, to be honest. I didn't stretch, let's put it that way, and I should have. My wind was a little low. But you know, once I got back there, with the group that I grew up with, let's say - the "Stargate" franchise - everything just fell back into line and we all remembered each other right away."
Commenting on what exactly O'Neill's been up to, Anderson said, "Apparently that's a big question on the Internet and all over the place with our general audience, is, first of all, what happened to him? Where did he go? What's he doing? And why is he all of the sudden back here, conveniently? And I don't have an answer for it. I don't think I ever really pressed them for an answer for it and I don't know, they just may have wanted to keep the idea of me alive and not have to answer that question."
As to whether he might return again on the series, following this story arc, the actor said, "I can't tell you anything now. I'd love to be able to, but we haven't been talking at all about coming back or anything. I think everyone's being pragmatic about it, because realistically, they don't know if the show is going to go again; be picked up for an 11th year or not." But pressed if there was at least an opportunity left open to see O'Neill again, he did reveal, "Well, let's put it this way: They didn't kill me. Not that that would be a factor anyway in sci-fi!"
I asked Anderson if he would like to be on the series finale, whenever it may be, to feel a sense of closure with the show. "Not if it doesn't work dramatically. I'd hate to be wedged into something," he replied. Though musing about an out of left field appearance, he joked, "Suddenly, you know, I'm floating... that would be nice though. Everything blew up and suddenly you just see O'Neill somewhere in the distance, just floating in space, somehow waving goodbye."
As to whether he was surprised that "Stargate" has lasted for ten seasons, Anderson replied, "I'm not surprised, and certainly not shocked. After the first two seasons, it became apparent to me that it had the potential of having some really strong legs. Because of the "Stargate" itself, the standing prop, through which you can go and create any story you want... you're unlimited in the access to your imagination and whatever comes out of it. So you have two very intelligent, creative guys like Brad and Robert, and it's a no-miss situation. So I knew it had legs. I didn't have a number for it, but ten is nice!"
Earlier this year, Anderson made a guest appearance on "The Simpsons" as himself, after a long-running joke on the series had Marge's sisters Patty and Selma constantly reference their love of Anderson and his famous character, MacGyver. Asked if he was aware beforehand of the references, and how the guest appearance came about, Anderson answered, "I became aware of it, when they started namedropping [MacGyver] and they were spending entire episodes just of the sisters defending his honor. 'He is not gay!' That kind of thing. So flash forward: [Homer Simpson voice actor] Dan Castellaneta came up and did an episode of "Stargate," and he asked me -- we got to be chummy, eating lunch together, working together -- and he asked me if I'd be interested in doing an episode of "Simpsons." And after I dusted myself off from falling down, I said 'Absolutely! It's only my dream.' He [Castellaneta] said he and his wife had written a script, and it was based around MacGyver. And so it all fell into line like this." Anderson summed up his feelings on appearing "The Simpsons" by saying, "I just... my career is complete. I can go no further!"
I mentioned to Anderson how gratifying it must be to be a part of two series, "MacGyver" and "Stargate," that have had such long-term fan support. "It had to be pointed out to me at one point," Anderson remarked. "My agent was telling me... She's been very protective and kind of paternal, as far as my career goes, but she said that if I ever wanted to go back to work again, whenever it was, just let her know, and I could have a job tomorrow. So I asked, 'Why is that? What's going on?' Because I have very low self-esteem. I don't get it. She said, 'Well, you've got to understand. Your name is associated with longevity, and with lasting energy.' There's "MacGyver," with 7 seasons and 139 episodes, and this show ["Stargate"], which has gone 10 seasons."
Recently, Anderson played the role of MacGyver again, in a well-received MasterCard commercial. Asked about the sense of humor and self-deprecation he showed in that ad, Anderson noted, "I would not do it otherwise. I'd had other offers to recreate or bring the character back in one venue or the other, but none of the scripts or the ideas ever had any levity to it. It was all MacGyver, as opposed to MacGyver's a little older, he's gotta buy his stuff and at the end of the day, he's [tired]... In fact, they didn't let me go quite as far as I wanted to go with the humor, 'cause I wanted to play up the aching knees and the bad back and all that stuff. If you can't laugh at yourself, you might as well, first of all, get out of the business, but also think about a different career all together. I've got to have fun or it's not worth it."
The 200th episode of "Stargate SG-1" airs Friday, August 18th at 9:00 pm ET/PT.