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Feature Interview: Sanctuary's Amanda Tapping
Tapping Talks Sanctuary and the Future of Stargate
By Stephen Lackey
September 30, 2008
Amanda Tapping is Carter from Stargate and so much more. She’s a leader in real life as she proves with the many hats she wears on her new series Sanctuary but unlike Carter, she’s charming, animated and quite funny. Her enthusiasm at the Stanley Hotel digital press event for her new show is catching. She comments that she’s extremely proud of the series and “at the end of the day, the cool factor can’t be denied” she commented.
In the series she stars, executive produces, and directs putting her abilities in front of and behind the camera out there for fans to judge. In Sanctuary Tapping plays Dr. Helen Magnus, the leader of a team that investigate the monsters that live in the shadows of an alternate version of our world. While everyone else ridicules or fears these abnormalities Magnus and her team believe that these beings are the evolution of humanity. The series offers a dark modern take on the classic science fiction trope of “what is the true definition of humanity?” Tapping took a deep breath and sat down with us to talk about her new series, her new jobs, and the future of her first series Stargate:
Amanda talks about the new experience of being an executive producer:
“It’s a whole new stratosphere of stress that i deal with. I arrive on set about two hours before crew call and I don’t stop. Every single minute of every day is taken up with some aspect of the show. It’s a huge learning curve. I’m involved with casting, I’m involved with the crew, I’m involved with dealing with our financiers, and I’m involved now with post production and mixing the shows and color correcting and sound editing and all this stuff that I’ve never ever tried to do. Virtually every second of every day is full so I now have the completely biased opinion that actors are wimps.”
On her character in Sanctuary:
“She has this incredible back-story and history which is part of what makes her so interesting. I love the fact that she’s from Victorian England which is an era that defined so much of where we are today and defined women in such a huge way and the fact that she was a woman who thought outside the box, who pushed the envelope socially and scientifically. That so appealed to me in an era when it would have been so easy to toe the party line and be status quo - she blew it out - and that to me was so exciting.
Amanda further mentions that there’s a significant back-story involving the great love of Helen’s life John Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl). She also finds Helen’s decision to have a daughter even though Helen may outlive her to be intriguing.
“At the bottom of it all she’s (Helen) a 157 year old woman who’s incredibly lonely”
“When I read the pilot; I read it in less than an hour and I phoned in right away and said please I’m in, I’m in. I love the richness of the character and the fact that beyond just my character all of the characters have these crazy quirks. “
“”...in an episode called The Five you find out exactly what makes Helen what she is and who else is involved. The Five is actually the episode that really blows open the mythology in a lot of ways.”
“It seems to sort of be the package that has everything. It’s dark and edgy and like nothing that’s ever been done on television before.”
“ A lot of the mythology is based on our modern mythology, things that go bump in the night, the things that scare us; the vampires and the werewolves and the creatures in the woods. What we’ve also done is taken things that appear at first to be quite normal but society views as abnormal. For example we have an episode coming up called Edward and it’s about a young boy who’s an autistic savant for lack of a better word. He’s a human camera essentially. He pixelates images and draws them out in a way that is completely impossible. He’s like a computer.He would be viewed by society as highly unusual or abnormal and yet we take this character and we pull the heart out of him (not literally) and go okay what are you really all about and are you really that different. What I love about Sanctuary is at the end of the day we firmly believe that whatever we’re studying is in fact the evolution of our species.”
The Green Screen Work:
“Initially you literally have what I call chroma key green headaches because you stare at these incredibly bright green walls. It makes you nutty for the first few days but once you get used to it it’s like doing theatre and that’s where I came from initially so I feel really comfortable in front of a green screen. We sometimes get pre-viz effects so we can see this is what your looking at. I don’t know what to do on a real set anymore. Because of the nature of this show...we can go anywhere. We can be in a submarine in the Bermuda Triangle or in the catacombs under Rome or in a massive Cathedral or on a mountainside in the Himalayas, or on an island off of Scotland and we don’t have to leave the studio. We can create these incredible environments for this huge mythology with a really really cool look without having to go anywhere. We’ve all worked with green screen, we all understand how much it can provide and we also understand its limitations. I think that after spending 10 years on Stargate command and going to different planets and understanding the limitations of shooting practically I was ready to try something completely different.
“I’m actually the go to director so I have directed Sanctuary, not an episode, but Martin (series director Martin Wood) had to do a talk at the BAMF television festival and so I was directing that day. If our director calls in sick or there’s a second unit or an insert shot then I’m the go to director.”
The show’s launch on the web and then migration to broadcast TV:
“We actually started on the web with the purist intention of living and breathing on the web because Martin (producer), Damian (producer) and I all understand the fan base and be thought why not take the show straight to them. We’ll create a full social network site - Sanctuary fans will be able to interact with each other in forums, they’ll be able to create monsters together, they’ll be able to have a full interactive experience, we’ll make a gaming aspect out of it - it was a fantastic idea. In our naiveté launched it with this and we got a lot of money to make this really spectacular pilot which was way to expensive for the web but we were still able to garner international broadcast deals or interest from broadcasters.”
“The internet was not ready for us yet.”
“When we realized that all of our great plans - we just didn’t have enough money to pull them off anymore we had to find more practical solutions to sustain what we thought was a great idea which was the show itself. So, SCI FI came calling and it was a perfect fit. We said OK we all understand television, we know how to make television - let’s go back to a traditional broadcast model and then go back to the web and start implementing the ideas we initially had. Now I’d love to see if we get picked up for a second or subsequent seasons is to implement that kind of idea on the web. Walk down a hallway with Helen and there’s a door and she walks past it but the fan can click on that door and what happens inside that door. To create that sort of interactive experience would ideally be my goal. But right now we’re just focused on making the show and I’m actually really happy where we’re at”
The next Stargate DVD movie:
“I know nothing about it. I can honestly tell you, except that I have been asked if I would make myself available to do it and I said of course I would. Stargate is home. I may be off at University right now getting my Ph.D.. in craziness but I’ll always come home for Thanksgiving dinner, Stargate films. Rumor has it (that the film will shoot) in late spring, early summer of next year but I honestly couldn’t tell you beyond that. I know that Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis will be shooting movies at that time.”
Tapping goes on to explain that when season five of Stargate Atlantis was about to begin she was to come on board and become the leader of that team but she was at a “critical juncture” where she had to choose between Atlantis and Sanctuary. She says that had she left the Sanctuary project it would have been dead then and there so she chose to take the risk with the new series. Tapping shared the story of the very emotional moment that she gave the final word that she was leaving Stargate. She received a call while she was shooting a film and was told that she had to sign the Stargate contract immediately or it would be going away. At that moment her cell phone died. After getting her phone charged she tried to work out a way to do both projects but realized that she had to choose. She said she had to hold it together until after the movie shoot. On her way home the decision settled in and she broke down. “It was a massive thing to let go of that.” she finished
Sanctuary premieres Friday night at 9 pm on the SCIFI Channel.