Michael Shanks dishes Stargate Universe, other projects

Former Stargate SG-1 star Michael Shanks told SCI FI Wire that he's busy with a wide variety of projects, including a dramatic TV movie, a pilot with Donald Sutherland and Jacqueline Bisset and, of course, a Stargate adventure.

Shanks spoke exclusively with SCI FI Wire last week about his slate; following is an edited version of that interview. Stargate Universe debuts with a two-hour premiere in October on SCI FI. (Spoilers ahead!)

Let's start with Stargate Universe. It's official that you're in it, along with your former Stargate SG-1 castmates Richard Dean Anderson and Amanda Tapping, so tell us what you're up to.

Shanks: I can't talk so much about the details of what I do or anything like that, but it's obviously a very different show than the previous Stargates. There are some darker elements to it. It's visually stunning. Great cast. And I really look forward not only to seeing it [completed, with finished visual effects], but also the audience's reaction to it. It's not your father's Stargate. It's a very different kind of show. "It won't be quiet on the bulletin boards" is the best way to put it.

You'll be back as Daniel in the Universe premiere, but is it a supporting role or a cameo?

Shanks: It's a cameo. It's a popping in, popping out kind of thing. They've got a lot of cast that they definitely need to facilitate. Certainly the Stargate audience knows my character and Richard's character and Amanda's character and the others that show up very well. So they have to spend some time developing their world and fleshing out their characters. So I'm just a face.

Are your scenes with Rick and Amanda, or are they separate cameos?

Shanks: La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.

Will you be back for more in season one?

Shanks: Certainly through the first season they're going to work hard to establish what this show is and where it sits on the map. I don't expect to be popping in [again] anytime in the near future. Because it is such a different tone to the show, I don't know how disruptive it would be to have characters from a different-feel Stargate show come in. It's just a very different aesthetic to it and a very different emotional dynamic to it, that it would be very strange to see familiar characters in this environment, at least initially.

What's the latest on any SG-1 DVD projects?

Shanks: Everything I've heard is probably the stuff that's on the Internet, which is that [another] film has apparently been green-lit, which just means the financing has been approved, and that there's a fall shoot expectation, an October-November kind of thing probably, when Universe wraps. They want Martin Wood to direct it. They probably want Amanda in it, and her [Sanctuary] schedule probably goes through the fall as well. So that would make a lot of sense on a lot of levels, but there's nothing been confirmed, no contracts in place.

Your latest TV movie is Living Out Loud, which will air May 2 on the Hallmark Channel. That sounds like a major departure for you. Give us the setup and a sense of your character.

Shanks: The story is about a family, or more specifically a woman, played by Gail O'Grady. She's a music teacher, and I play her husband, and one day she wakes up to find that she has breast cancer. Obviously, there are ramifications for her and her husband and their two kids. There's a paradigm shift in her life and in the family's life that her illness causes, and it's all about how a catalyst can cause change in people's lives for the better. I don't want to call it a feel-good cancer movie, but it is a feel-good cancer movie that teaches the characters to live life for life's worth and to not go through the motions anymore. It's a touching story.

We know that you love all the sci-fi projects that you do, but how important is it to you to branch out and do things like Living Out Loud, your recurring role on USA Network's Burn Notice, the pilot [The Eastmans] you just shot with Donald Sutherland and Jacqueline Bisset, so that producers, directors and casting agents know what else you're capable of?

Shanks: It's very important. For your own sake and sanity you want to do as many different kinds of things as possible, to test your mettle as an actor and work on different kinds of projects and with many kinds of people. Doing something like Burn Notice, it's an action-oriented show with a very twisted character, and Living Out Loud is a very simple story, a very character-driven story, and a complex, realistic situation. Some shows are a lot of fun; some require a certain sensitivity. I'm blessed as an actor to have the options that I have to try out different things.

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