Gifted Group Behind Stargate's Success

Vancouver’s North Shore News conducted an interview with Stargate star Amanda Tapping to talk about her career with the franchise and other endeavors.

Live in Vancouver long enough and you’ll eventually stumble across a weedy crypt resting by a curb, a snow-covered lawn out of season, a New York cab parked in front of a bistro that wasn’t there yesterday, or the remains of a downed fake airliner strewn across Spanish Banks.

If you’re lucky, you may even find a portal to the farthest reaches of space.

That’s what happened to a co-worker of mine who one day came across a familiar, yet unexpected, decorated arch in the middle of the North Vancouver woods he visited regularly.

He had found a Stargate.

Before he was eventually shooed away by a security guard, this co-worker took the liberty of posing with his small dog inside the large set piece for a series of photos, one of which later found its way into the North Shore News.

Finding remnants of TV and film productions about town is nothing new, and odds are you or someone you know has a tale to tell about Stargate. The long running, popular sci-fi drama has been shooting here for more than a decade — starting with Stargate SG-1 and continuing with Stargate Atlantis — and one of the show’s stars, West Vancouver resident Amanda Tapping, says that’s a good thing.

“Aside from the fact that our funding comes from the United States and our first-window broadcaster is in the U.S., other than that it’s fully Canadian. This is really a local show. And all the ancillary, all the post-production is done here. Over the course of 11 years now that the Stargate franchise has been operating in Vancouver, it has employed a lot of people. I’m pretty proud of that,” she says.

Currently shooting season 5 of Stargate Atlantis at The Bridge Studios in Burnaby, Tapping finds a short window of time between scenes to talk about the longevity of the show. She attributes its success to a gifted group of writers, who “wove this amazing mythology,” and who have managed to keep the storylines fresh over the years.

“The show held up its production value, the quality was great and we had so much fun making it, and I think as hokey as that may sound it translated onto the screen, and it made it enjoyable to watch,” she says of SG-1.

SG-1 lived its first five seasons on Showtime and then moved to the Sci-fi Channel. It was quickly picked up for syndication around the world, and that drove the momentum of the show, along with the legions of fans who stuck by it, explains Tapping.

“And sci-fi fans are pretty stalwart in their support,” she adds.

Stargate SG-1 became the longest running American Sci-Fi series on TV, and it was the only series ever to receive the United States Air Force seal of approval. Tapping played Major Samantha Carter on SG-1 for 10 years alongside MacGyver alumnus Richard Dean Anderson, and a group of regulars who made up the military team exploring a network of Stargates that lead to other worlds.

Tapping then reprised her role for a full season of Atlantis, and is returning for a few of episodes in Season 5. She also appears in the straight-to-DVD feature Stargate: The Ark of Truth, being released Tuesday, March 11. The DVD (along with a second feature to be released in the summer) wraps up a major storyline (the Ori arc) from seasons nine and 10 of SG-1. The resolution of the storyline will allow for future stand-alone movies that don’t have to keep reaching back into the mythology of the show, explains Tapping.

She adds that it was “a blast” reuniting with the SG-1 cast.

“These people become not just your friends, but your family, and such a part of your life. It was fantastic getting back together for the DVD. It was so much fun.”

A native of Toronto, Tapping moved to Vancouver to shoot SG-1 and decided to stay. She has worked on various projects over the years, but admits when she first graduated from theatre school she vowed to stay working on the stage, or do only “really, really good art films.” She co-founded a comedy troop in Toronto, and followed the comedy circuit there before finally getting an agent and pursuing commercial work.

Tapping describes her path to success as “a slow build” that went from commercials, to one-liners, to guest spots, and included all the usual Canadian suspects (Kung-Fu: The Legend Continues, X-Files, etc.), as well as spots on American projects from big names like Disney.

She says when she auditioned for the role of SG-1’s Sam Carter in 1997 there weren’t many female characters on TV at the time that were so fully realized.

“She’s strong, she’s smart, she’s capable, she’s unapologetic for it,” says Tapping of the character. “I like her because she’s really well-rounded. Even from the start she wasn’t a stereotypical female sci-fi character. She had a lot more going on. And over the course of the years obviously the writers have really rounded her out as a human being and as a woman. And (she was) also just so physical too, which really appealed to me.”

Tapping played the role for the run of the show’s 10 years, and is appearing in only a few episodes of Atlantis this season.

She is scheduled to start shooting 13 episodes of a new show called Sanctuary, also a sci-fi series, at the end of March. She also serves as executive producer for the show, which had its premiere on the Internet last May, and has since been picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel and TMN. With a $4 million budget for the pilot, Sanctuary earned a nod from the Guinness Book of World Records for having the highest cost for a web-produced show.

“It’s such an interesting model. And I think it is the way that things are going to be going. We were riding the crest of that wave,” says Tapping of using the web to broadcast the pilot. “And I’m not going to say that TV will ever become obsolete because I don’t think that it will, but a lot of people are going to the web for their entertainment. We just wanted to try it out.”

After three sci-fi series, Tapping is looking forward to possibly more Stargate features, and says she is also itching to do a period piece.

“I’d love to do a period drama. Starting out on stage and doing a lot of classic theatre, I’d love to get back to that.”