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Stargate SG-1 Finale Focus: Richard Dean Anderson, Television Icon
While executive producer and series lead Richard Dean Anderson was filming Stargate SG-1’s 200th episode (April 2006) he took time out between takes to chat. He was self-effacing and ended the interview by asking me a little bit about myself and saying, ‘bless your heart.’ RDA is one of the most gracious celebrities I’ve interviewed.
So, in honor of Stargate SG-1’s series finale tonight, on Sci Fi Channel at 8p.m., here’s an unpublished snippet, some of which is straight from notes jotted down while watching takes of the 200th episode wedding scene.
The raw transcript from the RDA interview follows.
(UPDATE: Gateworld has 30 exclusive photos from Stargate SG-1’s final night of filming.)
Moments later, everyone scurries over to the medieval village where shooting is about to begin for a wedding scene that will undoubtedly have fans of every persuasion squealing. Amanda Tapping (Lt. Colonel Sam Carter) strolls by, elegant in strapless silk taffeta. The air inside the studio is rich with the scent of freshly cut pine. The set is abuzz with anticipation. Everyone asks me, ‘have you seen Amanda in her dress, yet!?"
Before filming begins, Tapping stops by to chat for a minute or two and talks about how unusual it is to be so opulently outfitted. "Olivia, my daughter. I’m sure she just thinks ‘my mother only wears army boots.’"
Richard Dean Anderson, (General Jack O’Neill) attired in U.S. Air Force dress blues, stands in front of the officiating minister. Anderson is shoulder-to-shoulder with Michael Shanks (Dr. Daniel Jackson) who is wearing a tux.
The cameras roll.
"If she doesn’t show, people are going to think you and I…" says Daniel.
"She’ll be here!" Jack cuts in.
Anderson - a street mime in his younger days - feigns bafflement, then gallops typically off script and Shanks breaks into laughter. During a second take, Anderson holds hands with Shanks. In another, he pulls the bouquet from Tapping’s grasp and slaps it into Shanks’ arms. Shanks manages to keep a straight face in spite of the antics. Tapping is indulgent. After 200 episodes, she’s probably seen it all before.
A true television icon firmly embedded in the American consciousness as "MacGyver" and now as "Jack O’Neill," Anderson has been subject to the whims of broadcast nets. Back in the early ’90s, UPN nixed his beloved Legends after only 13 episodes. "Potentially it was a wonderful romp, with elements of comedy, fun contraptions, historical referencing and theatre of the absurd," he says wistfully. "But we really weren’t allowed to feel out where we could go with the show."
"One of the reasons they gave us for not picking it up beyond the 13 was that the show was ‘just too dusty,’" he recalls, his voice tinged with dismay. Anderson was recruited to Stargate SG-1 by John Symes, previously a Paramount executive involved in MacGyver who later became President of MGM Television Worldwide. "Part of what John did out of the gate was demand a two season pick-up [from Showtime]…" says Anderson. "….then, in the middle of the first season we got another two year pick-up. So, before we finished our first season, we had an 88-episode commitment."
Through season eight, Anderson also served as executive producer and his sensibilities are imprinted on the show. "I was truly afraid if we tried to do what Kurt Russell and James Spader did in the movie we weren’t going to be around for very long," he says, "When Symes approached me I was clear that I needed the production to become our own Stargate."
Anderson says he "exercised the elements" of his title by editing scripts and scenes. "I would make changes on the fly, improvising dialog and collaborating with the directors to make my character lighter, less serious."
It never occurred to Anderson that Stargate SG-1 might someday reach the 200 episode threshold. "There are so many variables that can undermine your best plans. We just did our job as best we could. We continued to put out a quality product and we were fortunate enough to have a very cohesive, synchronistic cast."
A single dad, Anderson reduced his commitment in seasons seven and eight and finally stepped back entirely last year to focus his energies on his daughter. "I left the show specifically to be with, at the time, my six year-old daughter. She was in great need of having my presence in her life." Now that his daughter is a little older, Anderson is easing back into life on the set. He confesses that he "missed the communal feel of Stargate and the familial air that permeates our set."
After agreeing to participate in the 200th, when asked if he’d like to guest on even more episodes, he says his response was "’absolutely’ and adds, "I’m extremely happy to come back for whatever they wanted this season."
MGM is rolling out the red carpet . "I certainly wouldn’t rule out more [Anderson participation] in the future. " says [MGM’s Charlie] Cohen, "We love Rick. If this experience goes as well as I believe it will, he’ll probably want to do more. And we’re certainly open to it."
[Q: did you ever have a sense that this was a series that would eventually hit 200 episodes.]
"I have a tendency not to think in those terms. My thought process is generally week to week and, if I’m really feeling racy, it’s month to month. There are so many factors that can undermine your best laid plans. It’s better to just do the job as best you can and I think part of our success is due to the fact that we just continue to put out a quality product and that we have a very cohesive and synchronistic cast.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE INTERVIEW