Archive for December, 2009

Chuck’s Zachary Levi, Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak – Spy Stories

December 30, 2009

Zachary Levi (Chuck), Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah Walker) and Adam Baldwin (John Casey) in the season three Chuck episode "Chuck vs. the Three Words." Photo by Justin Lubin and copyright of NBC

NBC’s action-comedy series Chuck returns to the NBC lineup on Sunday, January 10th with all-new missions and two action-packed, back-to-back original episodes in its third season premiere (9-11:00 p.m. EST) before the series – starring Zachary Levi in the title role – moves to its regular day and time (Mondays 8-9:00 p.m. EST) beginning January 11th. 

In season three of Chuck, Chuck Bartowski continues as the Buy More electronics store computer geek who unwittingly becomes the government’s most vital secret agent. Chuck is transformed into the Intersect 2.0 after another data download into his brain. This time, he not only knows government secrets, but he is also well-equipped with deadly fighting skills. Chuck has the potential to become a real agent, but he has one problem – his emotions. Now he faces the battle of keeping his emotions in check in order to protect himself and the people around him. The ever-stoic Colonel John Casey (Adam Baldwin) returns with his partner Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski), one of the CIA’s top agents and Chuck’s dream girl. As Chuck assumes his new role as the Intersect 2.0, Casey and Sarah need to protect him but also help him become the agent he is destined to be. 

Also starring are Joshua Gomez as Morgan Grimes, Chuck’s best buddy; Sarah Lancaster as Chuck’s ever-supportive sister Ellie and Ryan McPartlin as Devon Woodcomb (also known as “Captain Awesome”), Ellie’s husband, while Chuck’s Buy More team consists of Big Mike (Mark Christopher Lawrence) and the Nerd Herd, which includes Lester (Vik Sahay) and Jeff (Scott Krinsky). 

Earlier this month, Zachary Levi along with Chuck co-creators/executive producers Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak took some time out of their day to chat with myself and other journalists on a conference call. The following is an edited version of that Q & A. Enjoy! 

What do you think of Chuck being able to fight now? Do you like that for the character, and is it fun for you as an actor as well? 

Zachary Levi – As far as Chuck being able to fight this season, I like it very much as an actor and a man. For two years I kind of sat on the sidelines and watched Adam Baldwin and Yvonne Strahovski, Casey and Sarah respectively, kick bad guys’ butts and was very jealous of that. Not that Chuck should have been able to do it [fight] at that point; he was much better at running away or screaming like a little girl. But now that he has these new abilities, he’s able to kind of lend a hand in the kick butt-ery, if you will. I think that Chris and Josh along with our other writers have crafted that very well, and it’s really changed the dynamic of the show, or more specifically the dynamic of Chuck and who he is. He’s still the somewhat bumbling hero, and I think that’s what brings so much of the heart and general premise of the show and keeps that there. So although Chuck now has these abilities, they’re fleeting, they’re in and out, they’re glitchy. And that lends this new door that we walk through now, and lends itself to more action as well as comedy, which I think is good all the way around. It doesn’t, however, change the heart of the show. 

Is pretending to be in love with Yvonne like your easiest acting challenge? 

ZL – It’s pulling teeth [he says jokingly]. No, it’s not. It’s very good, man. I mean, Chuck has gotten to fall in love with a few women over the years, and some really, really, really beautiful women. And that certainly helps in your process as an actor, to have to pretend that you’re attracted to these girls. So, yeah, it’s a good deal. 

You guys have a lot of great guest-stars all the time and this season looks to be the same. Besides Brandon Routh and Kristen Kreuk, doing multiple episodes, I was wondering if you can talk about some of the guest-stars, like Vinnie Jones and Stone Cold Steve Austin, and what they’ll be playing? 

Josh Schwartz – We’ve lined up hopefully a really fun and eclectic group of actors. We have these episodes where we don’t have a lot of time to spend delving into the very complicated and intricate back stories of our villains, so we find these truly great actors who can come in and really make an impression very, very quickly and bring so much of their body of work to the roles. So, for example, Vinnie Jones, I don’t think he’s really done any television before, so he’s coming in and playing a bad guy and bringing that sort of Guy Ritchie-type villain energy to the show. Armand Asante is hilarious, too. 

Chris Fedak – When you’re trying to cast the Castro-like dictator, Armand Asante is the perfect guy. You don’t need a back story to prove that. It’s like he can literally be that person. Also, when it came to trying to find someone to be the kind of ominous soldier from Casey’s past – well, we just finished shooting an episode with Robert Patrick and he is just fantastic. 

Josh Schwartz – And if you’re Chick on a plane and you flash on a bad guy that you’re going to be trapped with on a plane that you have to then defeat, and that person is as terrifying as Stone Cold Steve Austin, then viewers really get to go on that journey with Chuck. 

CF – And Steve Austin is actually a very nice man. 

JS – As for Brandon Routh and Kristin Kreuk’s characters, they’re obstacles for Chuck and Sarah, but we didn’t want to just bring in characters to merely be obstacles. I think you’ll find that the way that they interact in the spy story lines, and certainly in the case of Brandon’s character, is going to reveal complications and secrets throughout the season. 

Obviously fans were very excited when NBC announced that you’d be coming back in January rather than March. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the conversations that you had with NBC about why you were coming back early. And did you ever talk about perhaps being on another night other than the Uber-competitive Monday night in the 8:00 p.m. time slot? 

JS – Well, it was an evolving conversation. I mean, we were getting our information not that far ahead of when you guys were. And sometimes the opposite was true, where oftentimes we would learn about our fate from the blogs for answers of when we were coming back. We were actually thrilled to be coming back in January, because we’re the only thing premiering in January for the network, and we’ve all been really excited and impressed by the amount of promotion the network has thrown behind the show this year. We feel like the promos that they’re been putting out really tell the story of the season this year, that being no more Mr. Nice Guy is a very pithy way of summing up the season. Coming back with a two-hour premiere is, hopefully, for our fans exciting after this long drought – a flood of Chuck episodes coming at you, three in the course of 24 hours. And Mondays at 8:00 p.m. was our time period and it’s gotten us to season three, so we’ll take it. 

Zachary, I read that you directed an episode this season; what’s more challenging, being a first-time TV director or playing a spy? 

ZL – I would have to say 100% being a television director, and I can only say that because being a spy is completely fictitious, I suppose. Not that it doesn’t have its difficulties, being  spy on the show. We get to do a lot of fun stuff, but a lot of that fun stuff also requires a great deal of rehearsal and choreography as well as making sure that you don’t hurt someone else or yourself. And with my long, noodle-like arms that’s not always a guarantee. But directing an episode of television, and maybe even specifically our show, although I can’t speak of directing any other shows, so I don’t know by comparison, but from speaking to other directors who have worked on our show, it’s a very difficult one to direct. And people watching the show can tell, or you can sense, that there’s a lot to the show. 

It’s a cornucopia of genres, if you will, a horn of plenty, so it’s lot to take on in a very short period of time. Then on top of that, being in the show and directing it at the same time doesn’t make it easier. But being surrounded by, in my opinion, the best crew in Hollywood as well as the best cast, and feeling the support that I have from Josh and Chris and the other writers, editors and everyone in post-production, made it a really incredible experience. There were certainly moments where I felt like I couldn’t go on like this – I was very, very overwhelmed a couple of times. Overall, though, it was just the most incredible experience and I’m happy to be through it and really pleased with the product that we got from it. 

JS – The episode turned out great. We also decided for Zach’s first episode that we were going to give him one of the more ambitious and important ones in the series mythology. 

CF – We did Zach no favors. It’s an important episode, and he’s absolutely right, Chuck is an incredibly difficult show to direct because you’re doing comedy and action, which are really difficult in their own right and we try to do both of them. So Zach was really jumping into the deep end, and he was fantastic. He was swimming laps by the end of the day. 

We’ve heard about the Chuck character, but what are we going to see out of Buy More this season? 

JS – Buy More will always be a dysfunctional hotbed of competing bizarre personalities. They’re going to face their own challenges this year, cutbacks and potential management overthrows, including a new assistant manager coming into the mix, someone who you may know from the show. There will be a new comely young lady who’s going to come to work at Buy More this year, played by Miss Kristin Kreuk. She plays Hannah and is going to get multiple hearts aflutter, not just Chuck’s. 

How difficult was it to sort of plot out the back six episodes as the order for them came somewhat late in the game? 

JS – I actually think it’s a great thing for fans because basically the season was being built to have this incredible end of season run as you got to episode 12. And as I said to Chris, well, 13, what a great season finale that he wrote, and, of course, now it’s merely just another episode with the back ones. It was then incumbent upon the writers to top that. So the fans are going to get a whole extra dose of “insanity,” which I think is going to be really exciting and raises everybody’s game. 

Watching some of the preview material that was on NBC.com, I saw that Chuck will also be doing a little bit of Spanish guitar in addition to all the kung-fu and fighting moves. Is there anything else that you would like to see Chuck do that maybe you’ve never gotten a chance to do in real life? 

ZL – Well, considering I haven’t done much in my real life, there’s a whole lot. Gosh, I don’t know.  I mean, the writers certainly keep me on my toes, and we’ve been doing a lot of fun stuff. I would say most of it is fight-oriented and various forms of martial arts in different kinds of aspects, be it for a moment or for a whole full-fledged fight. But, yeah, you know, there are musical instruments, and as you see in the previews I may or may not speak Thai. There’s some dancing, too, and vehicle maneuvering. Skydiving would be awesome, although I don’t know how we’d fit something like that into the budget, but to have a little bit of that going on, or bungee jumping, would be cool. 

So I don’t know. I’m personally in my own life a very big fan of extreme sports and adrenaline and all that stuff. But, honestly, I think anything you throw at Chuck would be outside of his norm because he doesn’t do any of that. He experiences all of his adrenaline [rushes] through video games. So I think anything you throw at him would certainly be out of his comfort zone and make for good entertainment. 

Ratings are such a big deal and you kind of have to keep an eye on that stuff. Is that something you consider when you’re plotting out a season or thinking about the show, or do you just have to kind of put that in a box so it’s not really a part of the “game” for you? 

JS – We’ve made our peace with that a long time ago, and for us it’s just about trying to make the best show possible. And what was so gratifying last year was that people really connected to the show emotionally and just became very passionate about it. It wasn’t about trying to keep an eye towards ratings or write towards, you know, stunts.  I mean, certainly we tried to help ourselves by having great actors, guest-actors come onto the show and we wanted to do that 3-D episode when it was dangled in front of us. We don’t miss an opportunity if there is something presented to us that could help expose the show to the broadest possible audience because we do feel like the show is designed to be very broad and very commercially entertaining. It’s really supposed to be fun and something that people of any age can watch. 

Obviously this year and giving Chuck powers, we felt it was really opening up the show and even taking it one step further, making it even more exciting and more visual with bigger stories and really pushing he character into new territory. And I think NBC really felt inspired and excited by that, and that’s reflected in the promo materials. This year was really just about taking everything we’d done in the previous two seasons higher, and I thin, hopefully, that will be exciting for audiences as well. 

Zachery, in your role you’re kind of jumping across genres because you play some comedic stuff and you have to do the spy stuff as well. Has that become second nature for you to just kind of bounce between those two in your acting? 

ZL – I don’t know if it’s second nature, but after two years of being involved in a show that is such a multi-genre one, you would hope that you would start to feel how that works and how to go back and forth between wearing those hats. But that’s part of what was so attractive about the show, and why the roles in the show were so attractive to begin with. It’s an opportunity to be a part of something that’s not just this one [thing] that you’re playing. You get to be part of many, many styles and tones. So in some ways, yes, it’s second nature. Any actor given enough time with a character, you live with it, you live with it every day and our days are long ones, so I live with it all day, everyday for a long period of time. 

But also Chuck in his heart, I feel, is very similar to who I am. I mean, you know, we’re both geeks about video games and comic books and pop culture and great 80’s movies, so all that stuff helps lend itself towards feeling good in Chuck’s shoes. And because I love action and have to shoot guns since I was a kid, and even, you know, do karate and all that type of stuff, I very gladly take all that on. I’m really happy with the opportunity, especially this season, now that Chuck gets to be a part of all those things. Again, though, it never gets away from the heart of the series, which is still action-comedy. We definitely have some really kick-butt stuff, but we always maintain the funny bone in it. So it’s been awesome and challenging, but a great challenge. 

JS – One of the challenges about being an actor in a television series can sometimes be having to play the same character every week and having to play the same beats. We’ve really tried to make an effort to have Chuck evolve, and I think he’s a very different guy from that of season one. So we’re really trying to take advantage of Zach’s skills and abilities as an actor to really grow that character so that he’s not the same. I can imagine that it would be very frustrating if he was still sitting in the car and scared of everything like he was in the beginning of the first season. 

I just wanted to ask about what happened behind-the-scenes between the season two ending and the season three pick-up, and what were the emotions going on as you guys waited to hear what would happen? And what was it like waiting for that news? 

JS – It’s not fun. I mean, you know, look we love the show and were really proud of it last year. We were hoping against hope that the show would come back. We know, though, that we were on the bubble. The show has had some incredible challenges outside of itself – the writer’s strike in season one, and five hours [of programing] going away to The Jay Leno Show. There have been some really unique obstacles that keep getting thrown our way and yet here we are, which is exciting. I think for all of us it was pins and needles and mixed with incredible pride in the sense that we’ve put our best foot out there. And then all of a sudden and completely outside of our own power, this fan base uprising began. It started out small and it just grew and grew, and, suddenly, the show, which at times lived below the radar except amongst its most passionate fans, really found a narrative, I think, in the broader media. And it felt like it became undeniable through the support of the fans and critics. 

So we remained optimistic, although it took a while, and there were several twists and turns in the story and there were dark days and days when it looked like it was all coming up roses. And in the end, we got this third season. So that was incredibly gratifying, and there was the sense that everybody at the network wanted to bring the show back. However, they were facing their own kind of challenges, again, with the five hours [of programming] going away, budgets, etc., and it was a challenge to us to come back and say we can make the same show but do it in a way that would be less expensive. I don’t think, though, that anyone watching is going to be able to see that on the screen. I’m extremely proud of how everyone pulled together to deliver the same show. 

Zachary, can you talk a little bit about what it was like for you to see that fan-based reaction. Were you surprised by the mobilization of the fans and how they really rallied for a third season? 

ZL – It’s incredibly humbling to say the least. To just have a job is a great blessing, but to have a job that you know people care about so much that they band together and let their voices be heard. I mean, we knew we had fans and, furthermore, I knew we had really passionate fans. We’re fortunate to be kind of in this world of Comic-Con love. And Comic-Con fans, and fans of Sci-Fi and Fantasy are the most die-hard and will stay with you to the bitter end. They really know how to band together when it comes to the Internet and blogging and making sure that you don’t go down without a fight, and our fans did just that and continue to do just that. They’ve very savvy and very smart. One of our fans (Wendy Farrington) was the one who was responsible for the Chuck foot-long [Subway] finale campaign that really got so much heat last season and got everyone banding together to buy Subway sandwiches. And while that wasn’t, you know, the lynchpin of what got us back on the air, it certainly was a component of that, and people took notice – the studio, the networks, Subway themselves took notice. 

And it was interesting last season when we weren’t renewed along with everyone else. You get kind of bummed. You’re like, “Wow, I thought we were making a really great product that people really loved, so why aren’t we being renewed? what aren’t we coming back for another season?” But then all this stuff started playing out. It was very clear that we were on the chopping block and on the bubble, and all this fan support starting coming out and all the various media outlets began picking it up. And we got even more love and even more play as far as publicity is concerned then we ever would have gotten had we just been renewed quietly in the night. So I think everything is for a reason, and I think there is a lot of reason to how that all went down. And I’m thankful for the experience and that it allowed us to be very in touch and in tune with our fans throughout that experience and, again, just very humbling. 

CF – Agreeing with everything Zach said, the TV landscape has changed so much in that the difference between what makes a hit show and makes a show on the bubble is a thin line now. So for everything to play out the way it did was actually the best thing that could have happened for us because it really showed people that there was real life to the show and a really passionate audience. 

Zach, just to pick up on what some other people have asked you about with the new skills that Chuck has, does that pose any new physical challenges for you or required you to take any sort of specific training? 

ZL – Well, we train per fight as it were. With every episode, the fight coordinator and stunt coordinator break it [the fight] down and find out what we need to do. Then I will go in and learn every fight before we do it. We have a very ambitious schedule on Chuck and we have a lot to shoot and not much time to shoot it. But we do the very best that we can, obviously, and fortunately we’re in very good hands with our stunt and fight coordinators, Merritt Yohnka and Dave Morizot, respectively, both of whom are incredible. Merritt, our stunt coordinator, has won Chuck our first and to this point only, Emmy. He’s really kicking butt and taking names on all of our behalf. 

Initially I wasn’t really sure if we were even going to have a third season, and more than that, I didn’t know exactly the extent of the martial arts that would be incorporated into that third season. I was working on some other things over the summer hiatus, so I wasn’t really able to get into extensive kung-fu or other training over those months, but I feel confident in what we’ve been able to accomplish just in the week-to-week [doing] of it. And I feel like God has given me enough coordination and ability to remember the fight choreography where we can put it together and it looks good. So I’m happy about the process. 

As noted above, photo by Justin Lubin and copyright of NBC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

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Survivors Comes To BBC America

December 29, 2009

Is it the end of the world that they have come to know in Survivors? Photo copyright of the BBC

IMAGINE what would happen if a virulent disease scoured the planet, wiping out 99% of the human race. It kills every member of your family, your lovers, friends, neighbors and probably everyone you have ever known. Imagine the world stripped of all the conveniences of the 21st century – no law, no shops, no communications, no transport, no electricity, no clean water. This is the apocalyptic scenario facing the heroes at the center of this chilling new drama series, brought to you by the co-creator and writer of Primeval. Set in the present day, Survivors focuses on the world in the aftermath of a virus where only a lonely few are left to start over in a devastated world where everything that was once safe and familiar is now strange and dangerous. The 12-episode season of Survivors premieres Saturday, February 13th @ 8:00 p.m. EST/PST on BBC America, with subsequent episodes premiering at 9:00 p.m. EST/PST.     

In the middle of the story is a bewildered but resilient group of survivors led by Abby Grant, a woman whose strength comes from a burning need to find out if her young son is still alive. Other members of the group include Greg (a good man who hides the pain of his past), Anya (a doctor who has seen too many people die), and Al, a former playboy who becomes the surrogate father to streetwise urchin Najid. Then there is Tom, outwardly handsome and charming, but actually a dangerous and ruthless man who, unbeknownst to the others, was in a high-security prisoner before the virus hit.     

This brave new world brings an opportunity for new beginnings, but also terrible dangers – not just the daily struggle for food and water, but also a deadly threat from other survivors. The cast of Survivors includes Julia Graham as Abby Grant, Paterson Joseph as Greg, Freema Agyeman as Jenny, Max Beesley as Tom Price, Phillip Rhys as Al, Zoe Tapper as Anya, Nikki Amuka-Bird as Samantha Wills, Shaun Dingwall as David and newcomer Chahak Patel as 11-year-old Najid.     

Survivors is about what is means to be human,” says award-winning writer and executive producer Adrian Hodges (co-creator and writer of Primeval). “It asks questions about our nature and confronts us with our deepest fears. When everything else is stripped away, would we band together and find the best in ourselves, or would we fall apart and retreat into barbarism and savagery?”     

Hodges’ Survivors is a re-imagining of the classic 70s BBC drama series, and is based on the novel by Terry Nation. Hodges adds, “Survivors is about adventure, fear, love, loyalty and friendship. But above all, it’s about new hope.”     

Abby Grant (Julie Graham). Photo copyright of the BBC

Julie Graham as Abby Grant – Abby is a mother and homemaker to her son Peter (11) and husband David (Shaun Dingwall). Before the virus struck, Peter successfully defied a near-terminal illness and Abby had reluctantly agreed to let him go on an adventure holiday. She had also planned to resume her career and re-ignite her faltering relationship with her loving but exhausted husband. Fate, however, has decreed otherwise, and in the wake of the virus, Abby finds a strength within herself she never knew she had. Refusing to give way to grief and despair, she channels her energy into trying to find her son, who may or may not have survived. Joining forces with a few other survivors, she becomes the leader of the group and a living symbol of the resilience of the human spirit.   

Greg Preston (Paterson Joseph). Photo copyright of the BBC

Paterson Joseph as Greg Preston – A former systems analyst for a big multi-national, Greg felt trapped and dreamed of a new life. But his wife, who had grown used to a wealthy and comfortable lifestyle, was appalled by his Utopian vision of a new, hardscrabble future. Nursing bitter personal wounds, Greg is now a man who believes he can live without love, friendship or family, but human nature is not so easily denied.   

Jenny Collins (Freema Agyeman). Photo copyright of the BBC

Freema Agyeman as Jenny Collins – Jenny is a bright and lively young teacher in a primary school. Overwhelmed bu the chaos she sees all around her, she is determined to save the life of her dying flatmate Patricia. Nothing will stop her taking her friend to the hospital and saving her life. But fate intervenes to confront Jenny with choices beyond anything she could have imagined.   

Tom Price (Max Beesley). Photo copyright of the BBC

Max Beesley as Tom Price – In prison when the story starts, Tom Price is handsome, charming and capable, but also very dangerous. A man who will stop at nothing to achieve his own ends, Price finds himself locked in his cell while all around him people are dying. As the long night of the virus wears on, survival and freedom become the only issues that matter. 

Al Sadiq (Phillip Rhys). Photo copyright of the BBC

Phillip Rhys as Al Sadiq – A rich, good-looking playboy, Al has lived a life of priviledge. In the aftermath of the virus, he finds himself responsible for Najid. Al has never seen himself as the paternal type and he initially proves to be a disaster as a father figure. But strangely, this frightening new environment ultimately makes him a better man than he would ever have been if he had continued his old life. 

Dr. Anya Raczynski (Zoe Tapper). Photo copyright of the BBC

Zoe Tapper as Dr. Anya Raczynski – Anya is a young doctor who does her best to save as many people as she can when the virus hits. But with no cure and no vaccine, all her skill ultimately proves futile. While she struggles with the enormity of events, she is forced to stand by helplessly as her friend Patricia is among those brought to the hospital in the grip of the illness. In this new world, Anya knows that her skills make her a valuable commodity, the kind of commodity people might kill for.

Samantha Willis (Nikki Amuka-Bird). Photo copyright of the BBC

Nikki Amuka-Bird as Samantha Willis – Samantha is a junior minister delegated to handle the press in the midst of the crisis. Dealing as best she can with an anxious media and her own stunned colleagues, at first Samantha has no idea how serious the crisis is becoming. Forced to put aside her love and concern for her own family, Samantha becomes the last contact between the Government and the people whom it can no longer protect. Her journey from innocence to full knowledge of the truth is laced with bravery and horror. 

David Grant (Shaun Dingwall). Photo copyright of the BBC

Shaun Dingwall as David Grant – David is a self-employed builder and a loving family man who is competent, brave and determined. Abby and David’s marriage is a solid and loving one, although they have been worn down by the illness of their beloved son Peter. But nothing in David’s life has prepared him for the crisis which is about to sweep away everything he ever knew and loved.

Najid (Chahak Patel). Photo copyright of the BBC

Chahak Patel as Najid – Eleven-year-old Najid is a lively little boy with all the normal interests of kids his age – football, his Gameboy, school. He is also a devout Muslim. On the night of the crisis he and his family go to the local mosque, but in the morning, Najid is forced to grow up very fast when the virus causes a violent change in his circumstances and his life is transformed in ways he could never have anticipated. His relationship with Al is at times funny and poignant, but in the end Al and Najid need each other, no matter how much they try to deny it.

As noted above, all photos copyright of the BBC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Sanctuary’s Robin Dunne – A Will Of His Own

December 27, 2009

Robin Dunne as Sanctuary's Dr. Will Zimmerman. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

It was not that long ago that forensic psychiatrist Dr. Will Zimmerman crossed paths with Dr. Helen Magnus, but was it fate or happenstance that brought them together? It was, in fact, no accident that the scientist sought out Will and offered him the opportunity to become her protegé and part of the Sanctuary team. His curiosity got the better of him and he accepted. Since then, Will has been helping Magnus protect one of Earth’s oldest and sometimes most dangerous inhabitants, creatures called Abnormals. In Sanctuary‘s first season finale, Revelations, a mysterious group known as the Cabal set a plan in motion to turn Abnormals against humankind. Unknown to our heroes, this was the prelude to something far bigger, and for the actor who plays Will, Robin Dunne, it marked the end of what had been a challenging first year on the job. 

“I had never done a full season of a TV show before, and certainly not one like this,” says Dunne during a break in filming on Sanctuary‘s Vancouver set. “I loved it and it was so much fun doing the things that we did, but it was tough, too. There were some very demanding episodes, so by the end of last season I felt like I’d just crossed the finish line of a marathon. It was great to get to the finale, where we were wrapping stuff up and bringing in other characters. Not only did I get to work with our core cast – Amanda Tapping [Magnus], Ryan Robbins [Henry Foss], Emilie Ullerup [Ashley Magnus] and Chris Heyerdahl [John Druitt/Bigfoot] – but also Jonathon Young [Nikola Tesla], who came back for a visit, and Peter Wingfield [John Watson]. It was such an amazing story and brought together a number of loose ends.  

“Things felt like they were going so fast last season, and then we kind of hit a wall and stopped. It was strange for me because this show was, and still is, a huge part of my life. I was here every day and we were so immersed in the series and believed in it so much that, after we wrapped, I’d initially wake up every morning and think, ‘What am I going to do now?’ or, ‘How come I’m not in the Sanctuary?’ On top of that, I was on pins and needles wondering if that [first season] was going to be it. That’s another strange thing about doing a TV show and bringing its characters through all types of cliffhanger situations where certain things are left unresolved with them. We didn’t know for sure if we’d be able to resolve any of these situations. So it was amazing and weird all at the same time.  

Will and his new "boss," Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping). Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

“I remember on the final day of filming, I saw Martin Wood [executive producer/director], Amanda Tapping [executive producer] and Damian Kindler [series creator/executive producer], or the Holy Trinity as I call them, together in one of the offices. I thought it would be a good time for me to go up to them and thank them for the amazing thing they’d done for me as far as giving me a part on the show and having the faith in me that I’d be able to do the job. Within 10 seconds of me going into my, ‘Hey, thanks guys…’ speech, I was bawling. And suddenly I looked around at Damian, Martin and Amanda, and all four of us were standing around that office in tears. So it was a swirl of emotions and, thankfully, we’re back here and getting to do it all over again. And as you watch season two, you see that there are some big changes. There are ripples that began at the end of last year that have turned into huge tidal waves for us here in the Sanctuary.”  

In the aforementioned Revelations, Ashley is captured by the Cabal, who uses her to steal a vial of pure vampire blood that Magnus, Will and others risk their lives to obtain. With that blood, they are able to manipulate Ashley’s DNA and that of five others, changing them into super Abnormals. In Sanctuary‘s season two opener End of Nights, these Abnormals almost bring down the entire Sanctuary network. Magnus and her people manage to stop them, but not without great personal sacrifice. As they struggle to deal with their losses, they must also repair the damage done to Sanctuaries around the world as well as continue with their ongoing mission. No longer a newcomer, Will must step up to the plate even more as Magnus’ second in command.  

“The responsibilities that my character has are far greater this year because of what Magnus is going through and the things that are pulling her in all different directions, which is especially true in the first three episodes,” notes Dunne. “My approach to Will and the way he was written last season was sort of tentative. He was between two worlds and wasn’t sure if he really belonged here. The Sanctuary was intriguing to him, but at the same time there was the pull of his old life. So there was just a little bit of uncertainty with him, but that’s gone this year, and I think there’s more of a dive-in approach and aggressiveness to Will. He has a greater confidence in himself and feels without a doubt like he belongs here.  

Out in the field. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

“What’s gone as well are any of the situations you saw last year with Will being out in the field and going, ‘But I don’t want to use a weapon.’ He’s now resigned himself to the fact that, yes, he’s got to go out on missions, and, yes he’s got to be armed when doing so, and he’s just going to have to deal with it. There’s a ‘hardness’ with Will, and that’s because it’s crisis time. There’s no place for any of this, ‘Oh, God, what am I doing here?’ He and his teammates are dealing with some major Armageddon issues and it’s all business.  

“Also in season two, when Will has something to say to Magnus, he says it,” continues the actor. “There are times this year where there has been a slight butting of heads between the two, but not in an unfriendly way or one which suggests that they’re not getting along. My character is definitely the vice president if you will, and he’s not afraid to step into the president’s office and say, ‘Look, Madam President, you need to do this; you need to do that.’ He has some very strong opinions and there’s no longer any of that social etiquette or politeness between Will and Magnus. These are just two people who are pretty much in-sync most of the time and really speaking to each other and telling one another what they need to hear, whether they like it or not.  

“It’s funny how sometimes things are parallel in the fictional and real worlds. In the real world and with the making of this show, I feel like, OK, this is season two. We’ve cleared the hurdle of being a new show and now we’ve arrived. And I would guess that Damian, Amanda and Martin feel the same way, too. It’s like we belong a little more, and stylistically you’re going to know that you’re watching Sanctuary this season. There is some visual stuff that really pops out at you. So the overall feeling was one of, ‘Hey, let’s just go in there and blow the lid off this thing,’ and it’s exciting. Look, I hate to be one of these bumbling, overly positive Ed Flanders-type of guys, but you know what, we loved this program so much last season, but this year it’s gone to a whole new level. We’re like, ‘Wow, there’s Kismet in the air,’ and I think we’re doing something pretty cool.”  

Will Zimmerman, Sanctuary's "vice president." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Among the lives lost in the effort to save the Sanctuary from falling was Ashley, who sacrificed her own life to save that of her mother’s. Will also lost Clara Griffin (Christine Chatelain), the granddaughter of Nigel Griffin, who, together with Helen Magnus, was a member of The Five. Clara inherited her grandfather’s power of invisibility and died helping defend the Sanctuary in End of Nights.  

“There was definitely a little bit of a spark and an attraction between my character and Clara,” says Dunne. “Unfortunately, poor Will doesn’t have much luck as far as women go. When the world constantly seems to be falling down around you and you’re trying to hold it together with some glue and dental floss, your love life tends to suffer. Sadly, this is one chapter in my character’s life that has come to an end.”  

While no one could ever replace Ashley, Will and Helen have added a new member to their team this season, former con artist Kate Freelander (Agam Darshi). Having been involved with the Cabal in a scheme to double cross Dr. Magnus, Kate ends up joining the good guys when things backfire on her. Because of her past dealings, though, it takes a little time for Will and the others to completely welcome Kate into the fold.  

Will and his new co-worker, Kate Freelander (Agam Darshi). Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

“It’s an odd relationship that Will and Kate have,” explains Dunne. “It’s a slow build. At the beginning, there’s no real trust between either of them at all. They’re two very different people. Will is not someone who reacts to things without thinking them through first. He will analyze all the options and then try to make the wisest choice. Kate, however, has more of a knee-jerk reaction to things. She does what she thinks is right on the spur of the moment. So Kate and Will clash, and at first he’s not even sure whether or not she’s going to be around for long, or if she really belongs in the Sanctuary. But over time, there’s kind of a mutual, if not maybe a little distant, respect that develops between the two. Agam has brought a wonderful new energy to the show, while her character of Kate has really shaken up the team dynamic.”  

When it comes to the writing for season two of Sanctuary, Dunne does not hesitate to give it high marks. “One of the many great things about this show is the fearlessness and courage that Damian, Martin and Amanda as well as the writing staff have. Then there’s the Syfy Channel, who are right there supporting these ideas,” says the actor. “There is never a time where it’s like, well, let’s not push the envelope. Whenever you pick up a new script and start reading it, you’re thinking, ‘Wow, I can’t believe they’re doing this.’  

“Last year, Amanda and I did a couple of two-handers and it was a really terrific experience. It’s like doing a play in that we shoot them in sequence, which is fantastic. So in keeping with that theme, we have a couple of two-handers this season as well, one of which is set in the future and is called Pavor Nocturnus. In it, Magnus is basically ‘infected’ by this Abnormal that gives her a glimpse into the future. Needless to say, the future hasn’t gone particularly well, and when we meet Will in this episode he’s changed. He looks nothing like the way we know him to look, nor acts anything like the way we know Will to act.

“It was a terrific thing for me to be able to do, and at the same time a pretty tricky acting challenge because it was almost like playing a new character. A great deal had happened to Will; he’d seen so much tragedy and had to deal with a number of things. It was really quite daunting for me to do these scenes, and when they’d say, ‘Cut,’ I’d say to Marty, Damian or Amanda, ‘I don’t know what this is going to look like. It’s possibly going to come out looking terrible.’ As always, they were extremely supportive and said to me, ‘It’s great. Just don’t think about it. Just get out there and do it,’ which I did, and I think it turned out pretty well. It was just weird to take a character that you know and know how to play and try to approach it in a way that you’ve never played him before.” 

Will is not quite himself in "Pavor Nocturnus." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

At the time of this interview (June 2009), the Sanctuary cast and crew were shooting the season two story Veritas, in which Dr. Magnus is accused of murdering Bigfoot in cold blood. Besides playing scenes in front of the camera with Amanda Tapping, Dunne joined his fellow castmates in being directed by her as well.  

Executive producer/director Martin Wood and executive producer/Sanctuary leading lady Amanda Tapping during a read-through for "Veritas." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

“We’ve been having a good time on this one,” enthuses the actor. “Amanda is amazing to work with as an actor as well as a director, and it seems like our team here is getting to the point where it’s almost non-verbal communication. By that I mean everyone is so in-sync that not a lot needs to be explained. If, for instance, Amanda calls, ‘Cut,’ and starts walking over to me, before she even says anything, I’ll be like, ‘I know, less of this and more of that.’ She’ll say, ‘Yep,’ and then boom, boom, boom, we’re back to it. I think that’s the cool thing about working with such a tight-knit group of people. We’re all on the same page and believe in what we’re doing and know the show so well.  

“Again, this is season two, right? So not only do we know the program that much better, but the relationships between everyone are that much stronger, too, and that goes for us as people as well as our characters. Last year was smooth, but this season is that much tighter and more solid.”  

While working on Veritas, the actor was also busy prepping to shoot episode eight, Next Tuesday. “The next story is another two-hander where Will and Magnus are trapped in a helicopter that crashes into the ocean and they’re dealing with giant squids and all kinds of stuff,” he says. “The two characters are also having a difference of opinion on certain matters.  

There's water, water everywhere for poor Will in "Next Tuesday." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

“The fact that this episode takes place in water is a little intimidating, but at the same time totally exciting. I spent all day yesterday at the bottom of a pool learning how to scuba dive. It’s going to be five days of wetsuits and us floating in a water tank. Again, we’re just constantly pushing the envelope and crossing boundaries insofar as telling these stories.”  

Although Sanctuary still had a couple of months to go before wrapping for its second year, Dunne was thinking about one or two projects he was looking forward to during the hiatus between seasons two and three, including one of his own creation which is slated to start shooting in Spring 2010. “I wrote a feature film script last year that I sold to a company in Los Angeles,” says the actor. “It’s called B.F.F. and basically it’s a comedy about two girls who are best friends in high school. Then, however, one goes to New York and becomes a hotshot lawyer, while the other one stays behind in this small town. Ten years later she decided to go to New York to find her best friend, but their lives have taken different paths and they’re not the same people they once were. It was neat to write a sort of girl buddy comedy because you don’t see many of those. I think the script turned out pretty good and I’m really interested to see who they cast.”  

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Ghost Hunters International Returns To Syfy In January

December 23, 2009

The GHI team (clockwise, L-R) - Robb Demarest, Brandy Green, Barry FitzGerald, Joe Chin and Dustin Pari. Photo by Barbara Nitke and copyright of The Syfy Channel

THE Syfy Channel rings in New Year’s with the return of the hit reality series, Ghost Hunters International (GHI), premiering on Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 @ 9 p.m. EST/PST. The seven hour-long episodes will have the GHI team traveling to a different international country each week in pursuit of the truth behind bizarre supernatural claims. These real-life “ghost-busters” will globe trot to such locations as Argentina, Australia, Tasmania, Jamaica , Costa Rica and Malaysia. 

In the premiere episode entitled Hitler’s Ghost, the GHI team ventures to Miramar, Argentina and sets its sights on the Gran Hotel Viena, once the secret residence of many Nazi war criminals including rumored guest, Adolf Hitler. The hunt is on as GHI tries to debunk claims that the hotel is actually haunted by Hitler himself. 

Like their U.S. counterpart, TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society), GHI is a squad made up of everyday ordinary citizens who investigate and attempt to debunk claims of otherworldly activity. A spin-off of Syfy’s popular Ghost Hunters series, GHI has continued to cement the Ghost Hunters brand as the top paranormal franchise in cable since its January 2008 debut. The GHI team includes Robb Demarest, Dustin Pari, Barry FitzGerald, Brandy Green, Joe Chin, Ashley Godwin and GHI newcomer, Paul Bradford. 

As noted above, photo by Barbara Nitke and copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Doctor Who: The End Of Time On BBC America

December 22, 2009

Wilf Mott (Bernard Cribbins), The Doctor (David Tennant) and The Master (John Simm) in Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part One. Photo copyright of the BBC

THE final two Doctor Who specials, Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part One and Part Two, starring David Tennant as The Doctor, will premiere over the holiday season on BBC America. In Part One, it’s the Tenth Doctor’s final journey, but his psychotic nemesis, The Master (John Simm), has been reborn on Christmas Eve. With both determined to cheat death, the battle ranges from the wastelands of London to the mysterious Immortality Gate. Meanwhile, the alien race Ood, warn of an even greater danger approaching, as a terrible shadow falls across the entire Universe. 

It's the beginning of the end for the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant). Photo copyright of the BBC

Guess who's back???? John Simm as The Master! Photo copyright of the BBC

In Part Two, the Doctor faces the end of his life as the Master’s plans hurtle out of control. With the sound of drums growing louder and an ancient trap closing around the Earth, the Doctor and Wilf Mott (Bernard Cribbins) must fight alone. But sacrifices have to be made, and the deadly prophecy warns, “He will knock four times.” 

Bernard Cribbins as Wilf Mott (Donna Noble's grandfather). Photo copyright of the BBC

This is not Bernard Cribbins’ first journey aboard the TARDIS. The veteran British TV, feature film and stage actor played Tom Campbell in the 1966 Doctor Who movie Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., which starred the legendary Peter Cushing as The Doctor. 

Written by Russell T. Davies and directed by Euros Lyn, Doctor Who: The End of Time also guest-stars Catherine Tate (as Donna Noble), Timothy Dalton (as The Narrator), David Harewood (as Joshua Naismith) and June Whitfield (as Minnie Hooper). Part One airs Saturday, December 26th @ 9:00 p.m. EST/PST on BBC America, with Part Two airing the following week, Saturday, January 2nd, 2010 @ 8:00 p.m. EST/PST. 

MASTER FILE – The only other survivor along with the Doctor of a long-dead alien race called the Time Lords, The Master, first played by Roger Delgardo, made his debut in the 1971  Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor) adventure The Terror of the Autons. For three seasons, the two Time Lords matched wits, until the Master’s final appearance in the season 10 Doctor Who episode Frontier in Space. Delgardo was scheduled to guest-star in one more story, but, sadly, was killed in a car crash on June 18th, 1973 while working in Turkey on another project. 

The Master was not seen again until the 1976 episode The Deadly Assassin. Portrayed under heavy make-up by actor Peter Pratt and in his thirteenth and final regeneration, the now grossly disfigured Time Lord was defeated by the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker). In one last bid to save himself, The Master (still a husk of his former self and now played by Geoffrey Beevers) returned five years later in Baker’s penultimate story, The Keeper of Traken. Taking over the mind and body of Tremas, a scientist from the world of Traken, The Master was reborn in the guise of actor Anthony Ainley. Following the death and regeneration of Baker’s Doctor in Logopolis, The Master carried on with his quest for power and domination of the Universe, his schemes continually thwarted by Doctors Five (Peter Davison), Six (Colin Baker) and Seven (Sylvester McCoy). Ainley’s incarnation of the character made his final appearance in the Seventh Doctor’s swan song weekly TV adventure, Survival

Feature film actor Eric Roberts reprised the role of The Master in the 1996 made-for-TV Doctor Who movie, which starred Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. It was in the Tenth Doctor episode Utopia, that our hero crossed paths yet again with his old enemy, played by Sir Derek Jacobi. This incarnation of The Master, however, was unaware of his true identity, and only when prompted by a piece of technology did he recall his past lives as a Time Lord. When mortally wounded, The Master regenerated into a much younger version of his former self (actor John Simm). In what later appeared to be one final battle between him and  The Doctor, The Master refused to regenerate and died… or did he? John Simm is back as The Master to cause more chaos and destruction in Doctor Who: The End of Time

The Doctor meets up again with a representative of the Ood. Photo copyright of the BBC

Wilf and The Doctor are on the move! Photo copyright of the BBC

Into the TARDIS! Photo copyright of the BBC

Guest-star David Harewood (center) as Joshua Naismith. Photo copyright of the BBC

Former companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) returns. Photo copyright of the BBC

The Doctor can't quite believe his eyes! Photo copyright of the BBC

Hello world! Yes, it's me, The Master. Photo copyright of the BBC

As noted above, all photos from Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part One are copyright of the BBC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

This Week On Sanctuary – 12 – 18 – 09

December 17, 2009

Will (Robin Dunne) and Magnus (Amanda Tapping) cross paths with one of Magnus' old friends and colleagues in "Sleepers." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

SPOILER ALERT!! – Magnus (Amanda Tapping) and Will (Robin Dunne) investigate a number of inexplicable teenage disappearances. The common denominator in the case seems to be that they all recently spent time at an exclusive rehab clinic in Mexico. Paying a visit to the clinic, Magnus and Will are surprised to meet the program’s director…none other than a disguised Nikola Tesla (Jonathon Young), one of the original Five.  

Jonathon Young reprises his role as Nikola Tesla. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Tesla portentously explains he has been working on a treatment that cures the teens of their addictions in merely a week. Magnus and Will know Tesla has an ulterior motive and press him to disclose the real purpose for the clinic. Unable to hold back his excitement, Tesla reveals that he is actually turning his patients into vampires. His treatment is designed to create a time-release of the vampire gene, evolving his unsuspecting patients into vampires over a 30-year period. But when one of his patients discovers the formula to speed up the process, they find themselves up against a powerful and determined group of new vampires. Unless they can be stopped Magnus fears Tesla may have unleashed the resurrection of the deadliest race of Abnormals ever to roam the Earth. Sleepers airs Friday, December 18th @ 10:00 p.m. EST on The Syfy Channel.  

Tesla and Magnus must try to contain a seemingly unstoppable threat. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

 For a sneak peek of this episode, see the following link – https://rcpt.yousendit.com/790568392/4c16aa8df2707921b9c59177e6028d7a  

As noted above, all photos by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

This Week on Ghost Hunters And Ghost Hunters Academy – 12 – 16 – 09

December 16, 2009

This week, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson close out their fifth season of the hugely successful Ghost Hunters. Photo by Cheryl Senter and copyright of The Syfy Channel

ON the fifth season finale of Ghost Hunters, Hindenburg Crash Site, TAPS travels to the site of one of history’s most infamous disasters. Meanwhile, on Final Exams, the season one finale of Ghost Hunters Academy, audiences will find out which of the fledging ghost hunters receives a passing grade. Hindenburg Crash Site airs Wednesday, December 16th @ 9 p.m. EST, followed by Final Exams @ 10 p.m. EST, on The Syfy Channel. 

And over on Ghost Hunters Academy, Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango reveal who makes the cut in their search for new Ghost Hunters. Photo by Michael Perez and copyright of The Syfy Channel

For a preview of Ghost Hunters click on the following link – https://rcpt.yousendit.com/788477090/81d0119644ada10185628f1a9b8dcf03 

And for a preview of Ghost Hunters Academy check out this link – https://rcpt.yousendit.com/788477018/2509fff0353da65346b1f5149a0df29c 

As noted above, photos by Cheryl Senter or Michael Perez and copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Sanctuary’s Martin Wood – Season Of Change

December 15, 2009

Martin Wood (front left) on the Sanctuary set. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Having honed his craft directing such Sci-Fi TV shows as Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, Andromeda, Jeremiah and Earth: Final Conflict along with helping produce both Stargate series, Martin Wood has brought all those years of experience to his role as an executive producer as well as writer and director on Sanctuary. Debuting last fall on The Syfy Channel, Sanctuary began on the Internet as the story of Dr. Helen Magnus, who operates a worldwide network of facilities, or Sanctuaries, that were established to provide shelter for, and in some cases imprison, creatures called Abnormals. The series returned this past October for its second season, and while its overall premise remains the same this year, it has further grown and developed, as Wood explains. 

“When we came back this year and talked about where we wanted to go with the second season, we all knew that we now had an idea of what this show could be,” recalls the director. “The direction that Damian Kindler [series creator/executive producer], Amanda Tapping [who stars as Dr. Helen Magnus and also serves as an executive producer] and I wanted to go in was to make Sanctuary bigger and better. And everyone here took that to heart and ran with it, which I think is great. 

“We went through a whole range of different things as far as how we were going to start the season and what we were going to do. That included looking at a bunch of audience reactions to season one, because we wanted to react to what the viewers felt. As a result, we decided, ‘We have to shake things up a little bit.’ You know my philosophy on major characters; I always feel that they have to be expendable because the only thing that keeps a TV show alive is if its characters are in real jeopardy. If not, every time one of them gets into a dire situation, you know they’re going to come out OK on the other end. 

Emilie Ullerup (as Ashley Magnus) and Martin Wood. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“We decided to take the Ashley [Emilie Ullerup] character and ‘Sci-Fi’ kill her, meaning she could come back in other episodes and different incarnations. After all, we have a 158-year-old Magnus, so her daughter could possibly come back. There are a number of things we could have done in terms of introducing jeopardy into our story; this is the way we wanted to go and Emilie embraced it with both hands. She was outstanding,” praises Wood. “In the first two episodes, she utters one word, ‘Mom.’ That’s it. The rest of her acting is done with just her face, which is tough, but Emile did it beautifully. I told her at the end of shooting the second episode [End of Nights, Part 2] that it was some of the hardest acting she had ever done on the show and she did a terrific job.” 

At the end of Sanctuary‘s first season, Dr. Magnus’ chief rival, the Cabal, manages to turn Ashley against her mother and everything Magnus stands for. In the two-part second season opener, End of Nights, Ashley and five other individuals are transformed into super Abnomals and used in a campaign to bring down the entire Sanctuary network. Wood was given the monumental task of directing this story, which, among other things, has a fast-moving action sequence featuring new series regular Agam Darshi who plays con artist Kate Freelander. 

“I thought, ‘If we’re going to open things up, let’s really open it up,'” says Wood. “I said to Damian, ‘We need to have a car chase,’ so in the script he wrote the words Magnus chases Kate. Then we decided that Henry [Ryan Robbins] needed to be there, too. OK, Magnus and Henry chase Kate, but in two separate cars, and Magnus had to drive something hot. So I asked Damian if we could use his BMW and he said, ‘Sure.’ 

Martin Wood (back to camera) with Amanda Tapping (Helen Magnus) and Robin Dunne (Will Zimmerman). Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“The idea was that if it was a sunny day we could have the top down on the car and Magnus with her hair blowing in the wind and driving this convertible. Then we found a place where we could actually shoot the scene, and without Damian knowing it, I set up this type of camera called the Ultimate Arm, which is a Mercedes SUV with a giant crane hanging off the side of it. You can stuff six people into this thing, and as the director I get to sit in the back sideways, because there’s a little hatchback in the rear. We travel twice as fast as the cars in the scene in order to beat them and get in front of and beside them. By doing it this way, we could have Amanda driving Damian’s car, Ryan Robbins driving a car, and Agam Darshi driving a car as well. 

“So we were able to drive beside them like that, but when we got into the hot and heavy stuff, Amanda said to me, ‘I’m going to keep driving.’ She’s used to driving a sports car anyway, so that’s what we did. We were shooting for about six hours and halfway through the day, Damian came out to see how things were going. The first words out of his mouth were, ‘My car!’ as he watched Amanda winding around a corner. And he had just put on his good tires, too,” chuckles the director. “Damian had no idea it was going to be a minute-and-a-half chase sequence, so that was fun to do.” 

Although it has been known since season one that Magnus’ Sanctuary organization is a global one, it was felt in year two that this fact needed to be visually reinforced to the audience. Wood and his fellow executive producers also wanted to give Abnormals a greater onscreen presence this time around. “One of the things we decided to do in season two was put more Abnormals into everything we did,” says Wood. “So, for example, in the season opener there was the fight with the big giant Abnormal. We had a huge stunt guy dressed in a green suit. He was only half the size of the Abnormal you see on the screen, but we still had more stunt guys jumping on top of him during that scene. It was pretty cool. 

Martin Wood running through an action sequence with Robin Dunne. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“We also showed our Sanctuaries in London and Tokyo. We had talked about them before, but now we were actually in them. There’s that great scene with the nine monitors and Magnus talking to nine different Sanctuary heads, including Medusa in Japan, who you see after the Tokyo Sanctuary is attacked. There’s also the actual attack, where Ashley and two other super Abnormals drop through the skylight. I had talked with Lee Wilson [visual effects supervisor] about doing that practically. We went through all the machinations of what the set would look like and all that, and he said to me, ‘You know what, just let me do it [using VFX].’ Lee then took it and just ran away with it, and it was so amazing. It really was a remarkable visual effect for something done completely through a computer, and the entire process took about two weeks, too. 

“That’s something else that happens with our show. We end up getting so little time to do feature-film-like effects. You hear some people saying, ‘But it doesn’t look like it does in the movies,’ but it sometimes takes up to a year to do movie VFX. That’s why these sorts of things aren’t done very often on TV, because of the time involved. Sometimes I’ll be sitting with our visual effects guys, who will show me things on the computer, and my only reaction is, ‘Oh, my God, that’s so cool. OH, MY GOD, THAT’S SO COOL!’ And I’ll keep amplifying that response until everyone in the office is hearing me. They never hear me say, ‘Oh, that doesn’t look that great.’ We’re fortunate to have some really good [VFX] artists working on Sanctuary. I love the fact that in our first two episodes alone this year we have half the number of visual effects as we had in all of season one. That’s one of the ways we ramped up the show this year.” 

In End of Nights, Wood enjoyed the opportunity to direct some complex fight sequences, including one where John Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl) battles Ashley and two other super Abnormals. “Damian said, ‘I’d like to do a sword fight,’ and I said, ‘OK.’ So we set it up as a serious sword fight with Chris using two swords, and that came from our fight coordinator, Rob Hayter, and our stunt coordinator, Marshall Virtue,” notes the director. “It was one of those things where you get into the shooting of it and think, ‘This is either going to be the coolest fight we’ve ever done, or the most unbelievable one.’ 

Setting the stage for the big fight sequence. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Chris Heyerdahl (John Druitt, dressed in black, back to camera) in "action-mode" with Martin Wood right beside him. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Martin Wood (right) checking out the shot. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions.

“Chris Heyerdahl came in and started rehearsing, and on the day leading up to the sword fight, whenever he had a break, he’d walk over to the side of the set, grab the practice swords and fight. He had the [stunt] guys there the whole time so he could practice, so when the time came to shoot the fight, it was mostly Chris doing it. Mike [Desabrais, stunt player] and the two stunt doubles were there for a couple of shots for when it got really violent, but otherwise all the activity you see on the screen is Chris. When we cut it together and I watched the scene for the first time I was like, ‘This is definitely worth it.’ It was very convincing and unlike any fight I’d ever shot before.” 

In the final moments of End of Nights, Ashley regains control of herself from the Cabal just long enough to save her mother’s life, but in order to do so, she must sacrifice herself. Not surprisingly, it was an incredibly moving moment for all involved. “Damian, Amanda and I massaged that scene in so many ways,” says Wood. “We sat down and looked at all the different scenarios for how Magnus could come across Ashley and how she couldn’t shoot her. Amanda then came up with the sequence of events, and then I said, ‘Well, Magnus has to put her gun down at some point.’ And that’s how that whole scene came together – the three of us sitting in Damian’s office and deciding how we wanted to play it out. 

“Then during the actual shooting of the scene, Amanda collapsed on the floor like she was supposed to, and I was standing behind the cameraman, who I kept pulling further and further back. It was so hard to watch Amanda cry like that. She was so distraught [in the scene] and the entire crew was waiting for me to yell, ‘Cut!’ Amanda was also looking at me as if to say, ‘Why aren’t you saying, ‘Cut!’ But I just kept pulling the cameraman back and having him continue to shoot way longer than is comfortable in a situation like that. I really felt, though, that that’s what was needed at the end of this episode where Magnus is saying goodbye to her daughter under the most heinous of situations. It was very emotional and we don’t shy away from that on our show. We allow that to happen as opposed to keeping it light.” 

Green screen work on the Sanctuary set. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Following Sanctuary‘s season opener, Wood directed episode four, Hero, in which a very ordinary man is unexpectedly thrust into a very extraordinary, and life-threatening, predicament. “This story shows us that, yes, human beings can ‘fly,'” says Wood. “It’s an amusing romp as well as a standalone story and a chance for our characters to take a bit of a breather from all that’s been happening to them. 

“Damian wrote a Stargate SG-1 episode called The Other Guys, and it was the first story of his that I directed. It was a great deal of fun, so he did the same kind of thing with Hero.  It’s like Sanctuary‘s The Other Guys. Chris Gauthier from Eureka guest-stars in it, and his character [of Walter, “The Adjuster”] is one that we would like to bring back in the third season. 

On-location with Martin Wood. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“We’ve done a lot more 3-D creatures as well in season two, and Hero has one in it called a Coleanthropus, and it looks great. The first time you get to see it in all its glory is in-between two garbage bins. Then it stands up and you’re like, ‘Yikes!’ There’s a huge fight with it during the climax of this episode that’s neat.” 

The director had been slated to shoot the episode Pavor Nocturnus, but the schedule subsequently changed and Brenton Spencer, another name very familiar to Stargate and Sanctuary fans, directed it instead. “When we finished the episode, we looked at it and said, ‘It doesn’t quite end the way we wanted it to,'” says Wood. “So we rewrote the final two scenes to give the story a bit more of a twist and I then shot those. Brenton did a fantastic job of directing what is a really, really dark story that includes a scene where Magnus gets physically abused. 

“My next episode was number eight, Next Tuesday, which is this year’s Requiem [referring to a season one story], and it’s Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne [Dr. Will Zimmerman] in the borehole of an oil rig in a crashed helicopter. They spent five days with me in a pool of water that was 72 feet across and 20 feet deep. Everything was done with Amanda and Robin, no stunt people, and it was quite incredible. I wanted to see one morning how long I could tread water without holding on to anything – I went four-and-a-half hours directing from a treading water position. And Amanda and Robin were in and out of the helicopter, in the water, underwater, you name it. It was a very hard shoot for them, but it turned out to be a beautiful episode.” 

Martin Wood directing Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne in "Next Tuesday." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Treading water for four-and-a-half hours! Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Something nasty is lurking behind the door...Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Behind-the-scenes shot from "Next Tuesday." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Wood’s final directing credit for season two of Sanctuary is the show’s two-part season finale, Kali, and it might surprise some viewers to learn that the episode has a Bollywood dance sequence in the second half that feature Robin Dunne. “It’s very much part of the story and it comes off perfectly,” says Wood. “I think episode 13 is probably the best show we’ve shot so far. And we actually did some filming in Japan for episode 12 as well. We were invited over there for a quick press conference and were going to be in Tokyo for a little over 72 hours. I looked at Damian and said, ‘Let’s shoot something while we’re there,’ and he said, ‘Sure.’ 

Singer, songwriter, artist and industrial designer Tatsuya Ishii, Robin Dunne and Amanda Tapping shooting in Tokyo. Photo courtesy of and copyright of Martin Wood

On-location in Tokyo with Robin Dunne and Damian Kindler - who have been up for 74 hours. Photo courtesy of and copyright of Martin Wood

“We’d been flying for 11 hours and after arriving in Tokyo we went on a little tour of the city and thought, ‘OK, we can shoot something here, and we can shoot something there.’ We even arranged to use a celebrity from there, Tatsuya Ishii; he’s a pop star as well as a Renaissance man, a beautiful sculptor and just a really cool guy. We wanted him to play the head of the Tokyo Sanctuary. 

Martin Wood, the director, as the cameraman ("I was the only one who knew how to use the RED camera"). Photo courtesy of and copyright of Martin Wood

Damian Kindler, Martin Wood, Robin Dunne and Amanda Tapping in the pouring rain! Photo courtesy of and copyright of Martin Wood

Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne shooting in Shabuya. Photo courtesy of and copyright of Martin Wood

“Damian wrote two scenes, and when we got to the filming location there was a soundman along with a camerman, but the cameraman didn’t know how to operate the RED camera [ultra high-definition camera] that we use. So it kind of fell to me to say, ‘OK, I’ll do the shooting.’ Damian was sort of wrangling things from a production assistant standpoint, so we filmed the scenes and just had a ball.” 

More shooting in Shabuya with Martin Wood. Photo courtesy of and copyright of Martin Wood

Final touches! Photo courtesy of and copyright of Martin Wood

With a second season of Sanctuary under their respective belts, Wood and the rest of the show’s cast and crew cannot wait to start work on number three. “This year has been just spectacular,” enthuses the director. “Amanda Tapping went further [as an actress] than I’ve ever seen her go in anything before. Robin Dunne, Ryan Robbins, Chris Heyerdahl, Agam Darshi, Robert Lawrenson, who plays a new character, Declan Macrae, and Jonathon Young, who came back a couple of times as Nikola Tesla, all really pushed themselves creatively as well and I loved that. 

Sanctuary DOP (director of photography) Gord Verheul and Martin Wood. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“As for season three, we’ve talked a lot about that already and are very much looking forward to it. In the meantime, we couldn’t be more pleased with the show, and the fans seem to be happy with it, too, so it’s all good.” 

Cut and print! Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

 Steve Eramo 

As noted above, all Sanctuary photos by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions, and all on-location Tokyo photos courtesy of and copyright of Martin Wood, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of ANY kind. Thanks!

Stargate Universe And Sanctuary Renewed By Syfy

December 14, 2009

THE Syfy Channel has greenlit production on a second season of Stargate Universe (SGU)  and a third season of Sanctuary, it was announced today by Mark Stern, Executive Vice President, Original Programming, Syfy & Co-Head, Original Programming, Universal Cable Productions. Sanctuary, the network’s groundbreaking new hit series and SGU, the highest rated premiere of the Stargate franchise in four years, has ordered 20 new hours for each show. SGU and Sanctuary commence production in Vancouver, B.C. in winter 2010 with a new season premiere slated to debut on Syfy in the fall of 2010.

The Syfy Channel’s Annihilation Earth – 12 – 12 – 09

December 11, 2009

Luke Goss stars as David Wyndham in "Annihilation Earth." Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

WITH the world on the brink of both economic and ecological disaster, a brilliant physicist, David Wyndham (Luke Goss, Tekken, Hellboy II), must discern whether the destruction of a cutting-edge super collider facility was the work of terrorists or his own miscalculation. Under intense pressure from a U.N. diplomat (Marina Sirtis – Star Trek: The Next Generation), David leads a team of scientists into the radioactive wasteland once known as France, and soon begins to suspect that he’s the unwitting pawn in an international plot to reshape the political landscape of the globe. The real danger, however, now lies in the heart of the energy-producing super collider network itself. Unsure of who he can trust, even suspecting his own best friend and partner, Raja (Colin Salmon, Resident Evil), of conspiring against him, David must race against time to solve the mystery and stop the expanding Higgs boson field from not only destabilizing the planet, but tearing apart the very fabric of space and time. Annihilation Earth airs Saturday, December 12th @ 9:00 p.m. on The Syfy Channel

Dr. Wyndham and his team try to unravel an international mystery that is becoming murkier and murkier. Photo copyright of The Syfy Channel

As noted above, all photos copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!