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SYFY WIRE Stargate

Stargate SG-1's Richard Dean Anderson on the 'happy brain surgery' that made franchise such a hit

Anderson sits in on the latest episode of Stargate producer Brad Wright's Conversations in Sci-Fi podcast.

By Nivea Serrao
Stargate SG-1 2010.JPG

The Stargate franchise is filled with strange new worlds and all kinds of alien technology, as well as colorful characters of every species. But what made the beloved science fiction shows so popular is that is was also just a whole lot of fun. According to series star Richard Dean Anderson — who played Jack O'Neill across the franchise — the cast and crew working on SG-1 strove to make sure that making the show was just as fun as whatever was being scripted and captured on camera. 

"The only demand I made on set was that everybody [should] have a good time," says the MacGyver actor in the latest episode of Stargate producer Brad Wright's Conversations in Sci-Fi podcast at The Companion. "It's gotta be positive. If you've got a problem, come to us... Air it out! It seemed to work out that way!" 

Anderson goes on to add, "Everybody was very bright and brought their own personalities to their characters and we all got along. There was a lighter environment in which to work and again, it went back to the only demand I had, [which] was: 'Let's not make this brain surgery.' Or, 'Let's make this a happy brain surgery.'" 

Part of what made the set such a fun environment was Anderson's lack of ego, despite having starred in a popular network series, as well as his tendency to improvise in scenes — at least in the early seasons of the show's run. However, as fans can hear in the exclusive clip below, Anderson does have a few regrets about having done that, as he also inspired other members of the cast to start improvising too. 

"In retrospect, when they were all trying to jump on the bandwagon, it was really annoying," Anderson laughs. "Is that what it's like to work with me?" 

Stargate SG-1 star Richard Dean Anderson would improvise a lot on set

What's interesting is that one of the series' most memorable lines, which is often attributed to being one of Anderson's ad libs, was actually a line written by Wright.

"I wrote a line that everybody in the world thinks is an ad lib, but it's a scripted line: 'It's my sidearm, I swear.'" Wright says about the Season 1, Episode 17 scene, which features SG-1 team members Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) and Jack O'Neill trapped in an ice cave. "I know it was a scripted line because I had to fight with the Air Force to keep it in because they were saying, 'Is this an insinuation he's aroused?' No. It's a sidearm, what are you talking about!? Get your heads out of the gutter guys!"

Wright and the show's writers had to get creative with the development of Sam and Jack's not-quite-romantic relationship a few times during the show's run, including for an episode that featured an alternate reality in which their characters were actually married.

"They said 'Absolutely not,'" says Wright of Season 3, Episode 6, which sees Jack kiss an alternate universe version of Sam. "I remember Robert said, 'What if it's Dr. Carter? And they went, 'Oh that's fine.' So you got to do the kiss!" 

As for fans hoping to see a new Stargate television show, Wright's still waiting to see if the pilot he wrote will be produced by MGM and Amazon. His plans for his new proposed series would not only see fan favorites like Sam return, having been promoted to general, but she'd also be joined by her science-minded colleague Daniel Jackson (Altered Carbon's Michael Shanks).  

"My goal was to create something that was new that also honored the existing universe, that lived in the canon of SG-1Atlantis, and Universe, and therefore included some of those characters." Wright says. "Bring in a new guard? Absolutely. But not at the expense of the preexisting characters, who I think would still be very much on their game and still firing on all cylinders." 

You can listen to the whole podcast episode featuring Anderson on The Companion here