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Feature: Stargate Atlantis

Amanda Tapping

Taking up command of the Atlantis base was a challenge Sam Carter expected, but Amanda Tapping had to face her own fears…

As Colonel Samantha Carter on Stargate SG-1, Amanda Tapping journeyed to distant planets, faced countless alien threats and more than once helped save Earth from destruction both Man-made as well as extraterrestrial in origin. On this particular morning, however, she is facing one of her most difficult ‘missions’ yet – making her little girl Olivia’s Hallowe’en costume. The actress is up for the challenge, though, and, in between cutting fabric, takes time out to talk about her work on Season Four of Stargate Atlantis and Sam Carter’s first year as the new commander of the Atlantis base.

“It’s been a very simple and smooth transition for Sam,” notes Tapping. “They [the writers] haven’t spent a ton of time on her this year, which in a lot of ways has been really good because I don’t think we’re ruffling any feathers here and haven’t had her ‘take over’ in any grand way. Carter just comes in quietly and sets about doing her job. They brought Teal’c [Christopher Judge] over in an episode [Midway] to help out with Ronon [Jason Momoa]. So it was nice for Sam to have her friend back, even for a short time, and Teal’c comments on her command and how well it seems to be going. Really, though, the only story this year that’s shown a bit more character development for Sam is one entitled Trio, which focuses on my character as well as David Hewlett’s [Dr McKay] and Jewel Staite’s [Dr Keller]. It’s basically a three-handed play on one set, so it was a cool episode to work on, and also a very character-driven story.

“But in terms of the overall arc for Carter this year, I think if anything what Season Four will show is a quieter, simpler version of the character. She allows the people under her command to shine. Carter isn’t into creating any waves while she’s on Atlantis. She’s taken over very quietly as a leader, and in a way that’s been a curious transition. What I realized at the end of this year is that Sam has been rather lonely because they haven’t developed a lot of relationships between her and the other characters. That’s partly due to the fact that she is the new leader, and because of that she can’t have many familial relationships with those she’s in command of. I mean, yes, they’ve developed a bit of a relationship with her and Colonel Sheppard [Joe Flanigan], along with the obvious one with McKay, and also given her some scenes with Dr Keller, but there hasn’t been a huge amount of relationship-building. So it’s interesting because it feels like I’m playing quite a different character.”

Tapping faced up to a very real-life fear while filming the fourth season Atlantis story Trio. “Not only were the three of us, David, Jewel and I, acting in one location for the entire episode, but it was a really tough location,” says the actress. “It was a large and very dirty box that was on a gimballed set and at an angle, which meant we had to do heights. We had to climb up onto the rafters of it, which, for me, is a big challenge because I’m terrified of heights. Of course, my character is the only one who’s not supposed to be afraid. So there’s David and Jewel lolling about on these rafters, and meanwhile I’m practically wetting my pants and trying to look confident.

by Steven Eramo

Read the full interview and much, much more on Stargate Atlantis in
TV Zone Special #80

Photo © The Sci-Fi Channel
Feature © Visual Imagination 2008. Not for reproduction

Taken from
TV Zone Special #80, see below for ordering options
TV Zone Special #80
Stargate Atlantis 2008
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