RICHARD DEAN ANDERSON MARKS SG-1's 200TH
TV Guide caught up with Richard Dean Anderson on the Vancouver set of SciFi Channel's "Stargate SG-1," where he was making his first visit back since he left the show one and a half years ago to spend more time with his young daughter. Sitting in a mock wedding chapel, Anderson looked just fine in a tux, as he waited for a nuptial scene to begin. (SG-1 fans, you'll love it.) The occasion was special not only because of the former star's return — the first of two SG-1 and three Stargate Atlantis visits this season — but because the episode was the 200th of the decade-old show (airing Friday, Aug. 18, at 9 pm/ET). Anderson talked to us about the anniversary, why he returned and what he's been up to.
TV Guide: You haven't been entirely gone from show business. I loved your MacGyver/MasterCard commercial.
Anderson: That really was fun.
TV Guide: Hadn't you always turned down offers to do MacGyver in ads before?
Anderson: Yeah, but this time they did it properly. I wanted to make sure that they had the right attitude about sending up the character as much as they could, not doing a serious version of it, because I'm all for making a fool of myself. It seems I'm put on this earth to do that, and so far so good. It all jelled.
TV Guide: And you did some of your own stunts, didn't you?
Anderson: In the commercial I did all of them. In one wide shot they didn't use me, but I got into a harness and came down, rolled in the gravel, and did all the running and stuff. It was so much fun, are you kidding?!
TV Guide: And there you were on "The Simpsons" as well.
Anderson: Yeah, that was my year of work. If I could do that for the rest of my life, it would be perfect.
TV Guide: You've said that "The Simpsons" is one of your favorite shows. How do you think you were treated on the episode? You were, to be gentle about it, made fun of.
Anderson: I was treated, I think, quite properly. Dan Castellaneta had done an episode of "Stargate," and he asked straight out if I would ever be interested in doing "The Simpsons." After I regained consciousness, we got to talking. He and his wife both had written a script that featured myself [i]and[/i] MacGyver, so I was just beyond flattered and honored. I just went in and did it — and fawned over them completely.
TV Guide: Do you consider yourself retired? Semi-retired?
Anderson: Well, I did. Initially. The foremost reason I left "Stargate" is because I truly wanted to spend time with my daughter. I'm a single dad, and she was 5 1/2 or 6 years old, so I wanted to make sure, especially at that time in her life, that I was with her.
TV Guide: Was it worth it?
Anderson: It was the absolute hands-down perfect decision to make. It has paid such dividends. We now have a spectacular relationship. She actually said, before the "Stargate" folks made contact with me [about a return], "Dad, if you want to go back to work now, you can, because I'm OK. I'm better now." I said "Wylie, what about me? Maybe I'll miss you too much if I go back to work." She put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Dad, you'll be OK." And I kept just brushing my proud tears from my cheeks. So it's all really good now.
TV Guide: After that wonderful year, did you just ache to come back to work? Or were you only vaguely interested?
Anderson: Something between the two. I'd been nursing some maladies — back injuries and knees and such — so it was good to have a physical rest. To be honest, [around] the time they called, I was kind of thinking, "I wonder what they're doing today?" [Laughs] The timing was impeccable.
TV Guide: I thought they had to beg you, but here you were, ready and able?
Anderson: I've had such a great relationship [with the show]. I've been a part of this unit for nearly 10 years. Basically, there was a lot to miss, because I'm not a real social human being. I don't have a big social circle in California. My whole perception of my work is that it's my social life as well. I want it to have that looseness and warmth and yet still be a professional, creative environment.
TV Guide: And was "Stargate" that for you?
Anderson: It was all of that. It's certainly kind of trite or cliché, but this is a family. I couldn't have been happier to have left, and I'm equally as happy to come back.
TV Guide: How many shows are you doing this season?
Anderson: Five altogether. I just found out the other day that they have me doing three episodes of that other show....
TV Guide: "Atlantis."
Anderson: "Atlantis" — [Laughs] how soon they forget — and two over here. So that kind of threw me a curve 'cause I was expecting to come back to my family. Not their family.
TV Guide: Did it feel like Claudia and Ben — from "Farscape," of course — were interlopers in your domain? Or was it fun to work with new blood, see new faces?
Anderson: Oh, God, yeah. I don't know whether I should even allude to this, but one of the ideas back then was that if I left the show, it would be the end of it.
TV Guide: Some fans were angry.
Anderson: I didn't know that part, but I was adamant with [executive producer] Brad [Wright]and Robert [Cooper] and anybody else who was in a position to listen, that it should forge ahead no matter what. It didn't matter who was going to leave the show, because the franchise is so strong, and it's been around a long time and it's been consistently well written. Sure, there were some stinkers along the way, which gladly we can all admit to. But we're the first ones to make fun of ourselves, to skewer ourselves.
TV Guide: That's clear, looking at the 200th episode!
Anderson: My assessment is that for the writers, this is their [way of] getting back at everybody — especially the actors. They skewer all of us. They've been able to allude to some of the personality problems and things that have happened along the way, to openly slap us upside the head, which we deserve. That's what makes it so much fun. If you don't have happy actors and people who have a sense of humor first and foremost about themselves, then it can be ugly.
TV Guide: As far as you know, is anyone hurt by the ribbing?
Anderson: I haven't taken a poll, but everybody seems to be here and saying the lines.
TV Guide: Are you a teeny bit hurt that the show continued to do well without you?
Anderson: Nooo... what are you thinking? No, no, no. In fact, I'm quite the opposite. I'm ecstatic that they've done well, and that it continues to do well.
TV Guide: Is it true that the writers are also giving the fans what they've always wanted? Jack and Sam getting together, for instance, is a major fan wish, no?
Anderson: Yes, you're right, the fan base always wanted this to happen, [though here it's] in a coma or a fantasy, or whatever this is. By the way, I'm doing an "Atlantis" [episode] simultaneously, bouncing back and forth all week. I'm the character comparable to Dr. Weir, but she's in a coma. And over here, I'm in somebody's dream or fantasy.
TV Guide: So you're not really in either place?
Anderson: Apparently not. Which means, I guess, they're not paying me. I never showed up.
TV Guide: Can we assume that in some of your episodes, Jack O'Neill will actually be interacting for real?
Anderson: Robert assured me [of that]. I voiced my surprise when I ended up doing more "Atlantis" [Laughs], [and he assured me] that there's one [SG-1] episode coming that will be meaty and substantial.
TV Guide: Did you feel as if you walked right back into something you knew very well? Did it feel like home?
Anderson: More than when I flew in to do the chess or checkers scene last year. The week prior, I had been in Prince Edward Island, and I was doing the seal-hunt protest....
TV Guide: You're an environmentalist in real life?
Anderson: Yes. So anyway, it was a week's worth of hiking out on the ice floes, really being exposed with a broken ankle, and then I flew in to do this thing and I was just miserable. I couldn't remember the lines, I couldn't really see or hear very well, we shot an exterior, the light was too bright for my eyes.... I was in bad shape. That was the last thing I did on the show and it just tasted bad.
Anderson goes off to rehearse the big wedding scene. Sam (Amanda Tapping) is the bride, and Daniel (Michael Shanks) is the best man. No doubt saluting the fans who want Jack and Daniel to hook up, they do a couple of "Brokeback" takes. In one, Richard takes the bouquet out of Amanda's hands and gives it to Michael. In another, Richard takes Michael's hand at the altar, which causes the assembled cast and crew to erupt in applause. (You'll just have to watch to see what ends up on air.)
TV Guide: That was cute, the hand-holding with Michael.
Anderson: [Laughs] Over the years, it's been alluded to, so we did that just for us.
TV Guide: Should Jack and Sam wind up together at the end of the series?
Anderson: I know it's a pressing issue for the fans, but luckily we've been able to justify not just doing it for doing-it's sake. There's always been something that's kept us apart, obviously. But I don't know whether there should be an allusion to it at the end, whenever the series goes its merry way.
TV Guide: Which may never be the way things are going now. So why has this series broken so many longevity records?
Anderson: I can only answer that by falling back on the answer I've used in the past, which is that I think it's the combination of the original movie's popularity, the existence of television's best prop ever in the Stargate and the concept behind all that, and that I probably brought some of the audience over from "MacGyver." I think that started us off in the right direction. And in the casting, they nailed it. But I think at the root of it all is there's a lot of respect and a lot of fun. My only demand as a producer was that everyone had to have a sense of humor to work around here, because it's not life and death. We're creating entertainment. First and foremost, get the job done and be professional about it, but my God, please be able to giggle at yourself and at a situation.
TV Guide: Can you see doing another four or five episodes next year?
Anderson: I hadn't thought about it, beyond this little run. I really would have to have a big conversation with my family, with my daughter and other people, because sitting here now, on a Wednesday, I won't see Wylie until Saturday, and it's that kind of thing that I miss. That really does affect me. Most of the time I can let that stuff bounce off me, but my relationship with her is so, so important. I'll work again, but what I do with "Stargate" remains to be seen. I'll really have to make my peace with certain elements of life before coming back as a regular.