Eric Ratcliffe brings us a massive Q&A interview with Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne of Syfy's Sanctuary, premiering tonight at 10/9c!
Hey guys, Doombug/Eric Ratcliffe here helping Nightfly with something very cool. For those that don't know. I'm a huge Amanda Tapping fan and have been watching Sanctuary since the 2 hour pilot. Nightfly got to be in on a phonecall for the premiere of the second part of season 3. Of course at the end of the first half of season 3, it looked like about half of our cast was dead after getting into the ancient city that they had hoped would help them find Magnus's father.
The show, on it's 3rd season centers on Abnormals who are basically mutants and cryptids mixed together. Creatures and humans with amazing powers who can basically change the world if they wanted to. Dr. Magnus (Amanda Tapping) is 160 years old. She is also one of the most intelligent scientists on the planet. She leads the Sanctuary network which both hunts down and protects abnormals from the dangers of the world, or the world from them.
Her apprentice is Dr. Will Zimmerman who is similar to Psych's Shaun Spencer in which he is highly intuitive (which is how he starts working for the Sanctuary network in the first place) Then there is master thief/trouble maker Kate Freelander who is a love interest for Will and has grown a lot since being introduced in season 2. Then there is Henry Foss, who discovered that he was an abnormal (totally a werewolf) and the teams tech guy. Finally on the main team and the recurring character list is the "Big Guy" who is a bigfoot and has been with Magnus for sometime.
Recurring characters have included Nicolai Tesla (Who was once a vampire and is now a living magnet similar to Magneto), John Druitt (also known as Jack the ripper to some) who has teleportation abilities and many more guest stars, characters who have come across our team mostly to cause complications. Sadly the team has also suffered loss when Magnus's own daughter was kidnapped and brainwashed to attack and shut down the Sanctuary network.
It's a show with a deep and rich mythology only 3 seasons in and is one of the first shows on television to take a very innovative stance on it's scenery and effects. Shooting about 90 percent greenscreen and certainly evolving as each new season comes out. It's a show that has done some pretty heavy things and the major question that has popped up is...what will they do next? Especially with a fourth season renewal!
The conference had Amanda Tapping (Magnus/Executive producer) and Robin Dunne (Will) answering questions from the press. I did my best to keep the most interesting bits of the Q and A in, including the two stars picking on each other a bit.
First up was a question on what their favorite moments were from the second half of season #3:
Robin: I think if I had to pick a favorite moment, we have an episode coming up that is the biggest episode we've ever done scope-wise, story-wise, everything. And it takes place in the past, back in World War II, and it was a really special episode to shoot. It's quintessential Sanctuary thinking outside the box. When we were on set shooting those things with tanks driving around, it was really quite an experience. So I guess if I had to pick one, I love every single moment, every waking and sleeping moment that I have on Sanctuary. But if I had to pick one, I think it'd be from that episode.
Amanda: Yes. The episode is called Normandy, and there was just something very special. There was an interesting vibe on set when we shot it. And the look is very different, but it's a really cool episode.
Question #2 – What has been the biggest challenge working on Sanctuary?
Amanda: Well, I had to direct Robin Dunne in an episode called One Night. I'm just going to stop there.
Robin: And I think my most challenging moment was being directed by Amanda. I mean, she's just a sadist. She made me do 750 takes of something once. She made me sing Hot Blooded in front of the entire crew for no reason. It was just to humiliate me. It's really been a challenge. (Editor's note: You have to wonder if there's a blooper reel of this somewhere on youtube)
Question #3 - So what is it about your characters that you still find interesting? That makes you want to come to work and play them you know for three - well, getting ready to start four seasons of the show now?
Amanda: For me, I still don't completely get Magnus. I find her to be such an enigma. And there's so many things about the decisions that she makes that I still can't wrap my head around, and to me that's fascinating as an actor to try to get inside somebody so complex and so kind of confusing.So, every time we start up the season, I'm like, "Oh, I've got to get back inside this woman's head." And it's so different from the way that I think sometimes, that that's the challenge for me. And, it's scary and it's fun to be scared.
Robin: I think for me, I really like the commitment that Will has. He's constantly terrified by what he's faced with at the Sanctuary, but is always putting that terror aside and committing to what the team has to do. And, I like that about Will. I find that a really good character trait. I also like coming to work every day and getting my share done, and also they feed me here, which is nice.
Question #4 was directly related to the season finale asking "When you guys were hanging there dead, were you really hanging?" To which both actors responded with an emphatic "yes" Amanda elaborated of course.
Amanda: It was really uncomfortable. No kidding. It was painful after awhile. We were in these rigs that kind of pulled up your back and stretched you out in this weird way, and then we had to have our hands out to the side holding onto these little wires that were hanging down and it really hurt. And in between takes, they would run and put apple boxes underneath us so we could take a bit of the pressure off our backs. But...
Robin: It's one of those things where you could - you think about at conception like how hard could it be? We've got harnesses on, we're hanging, and - but then you actually do it and you're like, "Wow. This is really tiring."
Question #5 - I wanted to ask what is the coolest about your job. Not necessarily a specific episode or anything. Just about going to work and everything. Robin, it's you getting your hair done, but Amanda what's yours?
Amanda: I think the coolest thing is the relationships not just between the characters, but honestly between the people that make this show. We've always been the little show that could. And this is going to sound hokie as all can be, but we've always been the show that people weren't sure we could ever get it made. It was this little web series. It's always been a struggle, and I think through that struggle, the relationships were forged even more strongly. And, there's a huge amount of trust on this set because we all kind of jumped into the fire holding hands together. And so the coolest thing is coming to work and seeing you know 70 smiling faces who all want to be here, and feeling a collective - I don't know. A sort of selective conscious to make this show really good.Everyone is committed. Like the location guys care about the script. Everyone's reading the script and everyone cares about what happens, and people help each other. It's a very special vibe here.
Robin: yesterday we had the first table read of Season 4. And we've been off for a few months, and just to get everybody back in the same room and reading together and instantly picking up where we left off; it's just such an amazing feeling to -- like Amanda says -- come to work and work with all your friends every day.
Question #6 - 20 episodes this season, 13 next season; are you guys relieved? Did it kind of kick your butts, or do you kind of wish you had 20 more?
Amanda: Honestly, I think 13 is a good number for us. Twenty was really hard. It was a great joy because we were able to flesh things out more. And I think had we been given more lead up to starting our season, although we had a network pickup early, we are the little independent television series that needs to get its financing together. So, we really only had five weeks to prep this entire season. And if we were doing 20, I think we'd all be in an insane asylum by now. Thirteen was like, we can do 13 with five weeks. There's no way we could've been prepared for 20.
Robin: And the classic thing with Sanctuary is that nobody says we can't do that. So, the Writing team will come up with these huge episodes and doing these things and everybody just stands together and gets it done. And we're not a huge show, so it really is an amazing experience to do these different episodes every week, but it is really tiring. So, I think 13 is...
Amanda: Thirteen will keep us all sane.
Robin: Yes. Ish. Ish.
Question #7 We saw Will take more of a leadership role this year, and there's even been moments where he sort of kind of questioned Helen and told her she was wrong. Is that him taking control or realizing that he can be leader? Is that something else we're going to see playing out the rest of this year too?
Robin: Well, somebody needs to put Magnus in her place you know? She can't just go run willy-nilly doing whatever she wants. And I think certainly Will is the guy to do it.I mean in all seriousness, I really like the relationship between Will and Magnus.
Amanda: Yes. I do too.
Robin: I think yes; Will being able to say to Magnus, "Look. I disagree with you respectfully," and even if it's something she doesn't want to hear. It comes out of a very deep bond between the two characters, and I think you're going to continue to see that throughout the next season.
Amanda: I think that that's one of the reasons Magnus chose Will, right? She doesn't want a yes man.
Amanda: She wants somebody who's going to be intelligent enough and ballsy enough to call her on what she's doing wrong. She didn't want to hire a patsy. So - and what's beautiful about the development of the relationship, and it's happened so organically; he has come into his own. He's realized what he does bring to the Sanctuary. In the first season, it was a much different relationship. And now, I think there's a really beautiful level playing field.
Robin: You all heard that. Will is intelligent and ballsy. I think...
Amanda: Will is Robin. Not you; Will.
Question #8 – Robin was asked if he was ever going to direct.
Robin: Funny you should say that. I believe I will be directing this season coming up. The Episode 6 of Season 4 I will direct, and I think that completely terrifies everyone involved in the show. But yes, it's going to be exciting. I plan to show up every day to work in a bathrobe and use a megaphone to shout out my directions. But I think that'll just be a good way to get everyone's attention.But in all seriousness; it's something that is scary, obviously since I've never done it before. But, I'm really thankful for the opportunity and you know I probably won't sleep the first couple nights before, but it's going to be a lot of fun.
Question #9 - what would you two like to see happen for your character, like character development-wise.
Robin: I'd love to do a musical. I think just to be on stage and sing, and I'd love Will to sort of get into more dance routines. I mean, we did a little bit of the Bollywood. I think it would be lovely to just show off some of my other skills that I have. I mean, I'm a juggler. I do magic. And I just think there's so many wasted opportunities that they haven't brought these things into the show.
Amanda: Wow. I was just going to say I hope Magnus gets a really cool love interest this year. I know what's beautiful is sometimes we're allowed to sit in with the writers, and I've been here for the last months sort of sitting while they've been developing the series. The stuff they come up with is beyond what we could even imagine happening. So they come up with stuff that's always so much better and so much cooler than what we think of. The only thing I asked for was that I hope Helen gets like a really interesting love interest. Not that I want it to be about Helen having a love interest; I just want to show that there's a very evolved, loving - you know sexual, interesting woman in there besides just this sort of analytic scientist that we've sort of been seeing for the last (few seasons).
Question #10 - I read that Edge is going to be in the season finale. What was he like to work with?
Amanda: He's a great guy actually. We were all kind of like, "Uh-oh. God. A wrestler. What's going to happen?"
Robin: He's going to beat me up.
Amanda : Yes. He did, which we paid extra for. But he's a really sweet guy. He's a good Canadian boy. He came up and I didn't get to work with him in the episode, but I got to do some promo shoots with him. And he's just a real sweetheart; down to Earth, and interesting, and intelligent, and yes - I don't know what we expected. I have no idea. We just expected this big chest-something wrestler to come raging through our set and he was just a very gentle footprint.
Robin: He's a mountain of a guy.
Amanda: Yes. He's huge.
Robin: He's enormous. But he gets to the set and he's just the most soft spoken, you know nice, quiet guy. It was quite a lot of fun. I had an entire day of just having the crap beaten out of me by him. And after every take, and you've got this big imposing guy on camera. He's like throwing me around and punching me and clothes-lining me and all kinds of stuff, and then Damien, who was directing that episode, would call cut and then he'd come over and be like, "Oh, man. I'm sorry." You could tell that he almost kind of felt bad about it. And yes; it was a lot of fun working with - he was a sweet guy.
Question #11 – Asked if Mark Sheppard had ever been interested in guest starring a very amusing conversation was sparked.
Amanda: No. Hasn't even expressed an interest.
(Abner Spence): Wow I guess he's just busy.
Amanda: Should we be offended?
Robin: Yes. What the heck you know?
Amanda: Yes. Gee. I'm feeling slighted.
Robin: I'm going to call him. I'm going to get him on the phone right now and just be like, "Hey..."
Amanda: "Dude? What up?"
Robin: "...what's up with that? What are we? A mirage?"
Question #12 - is the plan for Season 4 to continue the same sort of longer-term arcs, or would it go back to more originally - more what you were doing in the 13 episode seasons?
Amanda: It's hard to say at this point. And definitely, we're still dealing with a major story line, the Hollow Earth issue. That sounds terrible. But, the Hollow Earth story line is still being dealt with in Season 4. And, I think there are always - the arcs are now more prevalent because we have more draw on from our past. We now have 46 episodes of stories, and it's impossible not to find them interweaving. So, there will be arcs in our 13 episode Season 4, but it's more tied into what we've done in previous episodes that keep sort of coming back and hunts us.
Question #13 - What are some of things that you do? You're coming back for a fourth season now. You've had a break. What are some of the things that you do to get back into your characters?
Amanda: It's a really good question Michael, because for me it's really hard, because I don't - I find her very confusing and besides just going and getting my hair cut and dyed dark brown and getting rid of my blonde roots and learning how to walk in Stilettos again. There's sort of a physical transformation for Magnus. I kind of have to wrap my head around a different head space with her. And for me I always get very nervous at the beginning of the season as to whether or not I'll find her again. And the writing is there, and so you know as long as I know all of the scripts I'm pretty safe. But it is a bit of a panic at the beginning of every season.
Robin: For me it's the exact opposite. I have to learn how to not walk in Stilettos and wear regular - which is awkward. And sit ups I guess. I try to do at least 4 sit ups a day, and I haven't seen any results yet, but I'm sticking to it. But yes. I think also there is - you know, this is Friday. We're starting Season 4 on Monday, and every season, I have the same feeling of like, "Okay. Here we go. Back into the jungle for you know, more insanity."
Robin: So, there's a little bit of talking yourself off the ledge at this point.
Amanda: Yes. A bit of a panic.
Robin: And then once you're into it and you've got a few days under your belt, it'll be back on the...
Amanda :Yes. I've been taking kick boxing this hiatus. And I think - and I loved it for a lot of different reasons. But, I think now it's sort of become more technical for me, so I think - and that's been in preparation for some of the fight sequences coming up, and I've talked to our stunt coordinator. So stuff like that when your real life actually ends up leading into your work life in a positive way, that's been really fun. So, I've sort of been ramping up my kick boxing workout.
Robin: Purely just so she can beat...
Amanda: Kick your bum.
Robin: ...beat me up.
Question #14 - I was wondering if you had any advice for anyone, or your views as to possibly the future of where things are going with Web series?
Amanda: I think that the Web - we were I think a bit ahead of our time in terms of how to monetize on the Web, in terms of utilizing - social networking even has changed since Sanctuary first came out. I mean Twitter and Facebook and all that has blown up way bigger than what it was when we started.
So, I think the possibilities on the Web are far greater now than they were. And, I think it's an amazing tool. Riese is another prime example of a Web series done well - with good production value.
Robin: I just said - just to interject. Amanda just spilled some water all over the place, so - she's just so excited about answering the question.
Robin Now, do I have to clean that up darling?
Amanda: Yes, you do please, because I'm answering a question.
Robin: You spilled the water and I got to clean it up?
Amanda: Yes, you do.
Robin: See. This is what it's like working at Sanctuary.
Amanda: Thank you, darling. But I - and Riese - again, Riese is a prime example of this. They've got amazing production values and they were able to utilize the Web as an advertising tool. And it brought them the notoriety of the networks, which is much the same as what happened with Sanctuary. And I think it's just going to happen more and more. It's an amazing tool. But what I think is going to happen - I think the paradigm really is starting to shift, where shows will live and breathe and stay on the Web. That they don't necessary have to transition to television. That there will be a whole contingent of not just you know, the squirrel riding a skateboard on You Tube kind of shows, but real production value on the Web in ongoing series.
Sanctuary premieres tonight on Syfy and look out for me to be helping Nightfly with some more of this stuff in the future. It was fun reading through the interview to really get how well the cast mesh's together on a show that I really have grown to love. I'm excited that they are doing a 4th season and I'm sure I'll review the mid premiere episode for the outhouse when I get to watch it!
Below we have a preview of tonight's episode as well as some screen shots. Watch the clip and tune in to find out if Magnus is able to make peace with Ranna or if other measures need to be taken on Syfy this Friday at 10/9c.
Eric Ratcliffe writes various columns over at ComicRelated, including Why I Love Comics, Proof Positive, Controlling the Darkness, and R.E.B.E.L. Yell. Subscribe to his podcast or follow him on TWITTER! And don't forget to read his weekly webcomic, New Comic Day!
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Written or Contributed by: Jude Terror