Posts Tagged ‘Blood Ties’

David Winning Directs Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil For Space

May 11, 2010

PRODUCTION is wrapping soon on Canada’s SPACE Channel’s newest original series Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil, which was shot over 10 weeks on-location, in Winnipeg. The result will be a 13-episode, half-hour supernatural comedy that brings the age-old phrase “high school is Hell” to life. First developed for television through the National Screen Institute’s Totally Television Program, Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil was developed by SPACE with the assistance of the Canadian Television Fund. David Winning directed two episodes of the series.

Directing film and television for over 20 years, this production marks Winning’s 21st series. He is a veteran of 13 feature films and over 100 episodes for TV including Stargate Atlantis and the vampire-themed series Blood Ties for the Lifetime Network as well as multiple seasons on Andromeda with Kevin Sorbo. Winning also recently directed a trilogy of monster movies for the Syfy Channel, starring such actors as Robert Englund, Bruce Dern and Kevin Sorbo.

Above photo courtesy of and copyright of David Winning, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Kyle Schmid – Peak Performance

October 3, 2009
Ready for a fight - Henry Fitzroy (Kyle Schmid) in Blood Ties. Photo copyright of Lifetime TV

Ready for a fight - Henry Fitzroy (Kyle Schmid) in Blood Ties. Photo copyright of Lifetime TV

In show business it is not unusual to wish someone good luck before a performance by telling him or her to “break a leg,” metaphorically speaking, of course. Ironically, Kyle Schmid did just that many years ago, and while it meant the end of one potential career, it led to him pursuing a very different line of work.

“I played very high-level soccer in high school and during that time my mom also got me interested in the acting industry,” says Schmid. “However, it was something I did for fun and never really thought it would take off or lead to anything serious. Then when I was 17 years old I broke my leg, which more or less ended my chances of a soccer career, but at the same time they say that everything happens for a reason.

“When I was working on a movie, [producer] Debra Martin Chase, who has since become a dear friend of mine, took me aside one day and said she would like to take me out to lunch. Debra had this look in her eye and told me, ‘This [acting] is probably something you might way to pursue.’ I laughed and said, ‘This is a hobby. It’s a way for me to make a little money to save for university.’ She said, ‘No, you’re good. You’ve got something.’ Debra had me go to Los Angeles where she introduced me to a great acting coach who taught me just how far you can go with exploring your craft. Since then, this [acting] is something I’ve fallen in love with and been very passionate about.”

Henry gets a little long in the tooth. Photo copyright of Lifetime TV

Henry gets a little long in the tooth. Photo copyright of Lifetime TV

Schmid made his debut in the 1996 feature film Spill (a.k.a. Virus), in which the lives of everyone visiting a U.S. National Park are threatened by an out-of-control truck filled with biological weapons. “My character got to fire a double-barreled shotgun, became infected with a virus, was given a tracheotomy, died and was subsequently carried down a hill by [football player-turned-actor] Brian Bosworth,” recalls the actor. “He actually carried me on one shoulder and a 220-pound guy over the other shoulder while going down a 45-degree slope at a full sprint. As a 13-year-old boy I was thinking, ‘Holy crap, this is pretty neat!'”

Fast Food High, The Pacifier and The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants are among the actor’s other movie credits. On the small screen, he has appeared in several made-for-TV movies as well as guest-spots on such TV programs as I Was a Sixth Grade Alien, Odyssey 5, 1-800-Missing and CSI: Miami. In 2007, Schmid was cast in his first series regular role as Henry Fitzroy, a vampire with a conscience in the short-lived Lifetime TV series Blood Ties.

“Creating a character like that was an interesting challenge because you look at all the portrayals of vampires in movies, but don’t want to copy them,” he notes. “You get an idea of what a vampire is, but the last thing you want to do is play, for example, Tom Cruise in Interview with a Vampire. Quite the opposite; you want to create something new, especially for someone like me who, at 22 years old, was portraying a 450-year-old.

Henry takes on yet another demon of the night in Blood Ties. Photo copyright of Lifetime TV

Henry takes on yet another demon of the night in Blood Ties. Photo copyright of Lifetime TV

“Working on Blood Ties and having the audience enjoy what we did was one of my coolest experiences so far as an actor. The fan base is very dear to me and I’m extremely appreciative of all the support they’ve given our cast as well as the writers, directors, etc. Without them there wouldn’t have been a show. It was a ton of hard work on everyone’s part, but it was a situation where we all arrived onset with smiles on our faces. We had a real family and the chemistry among the cast and crew made the series something special.”

This month, the actor can be seen in the Sci-Fi/Horror movie The Thaw (released October 6th, 2009 on DVD) playing Federico Fulce, one of four ecology students who accompany Dr. David Krupien (Val Kilmer) to a remote Arctic research station to examine a thawed out Wooly Mammoth. Unknown to them, the animal is host to a deadly parasite and, after being infected, they must figure out a way to destroy it before it is unleashed on the rest of humanity. The real-world issue of global warming is behind the discovery of the Mammoth in the film and is what initially attracted Schmid to the project.

“I found the whole global warming aspect really interesting because it’s a subject that is becoming increasingly prominent on everybody’s mind nowadays, and the fact that it’s examined within a Sci-Fi type of movie was something that I thought was quite clever,” says the actor.

Federico (Schmid) uses anything at his disposal to stay alive in The Thaw. Photo by Diyah Pera and copyright of Anagram Pictures

Federico (Schmid) uses anything at his disposal to stay alive in The Thaw. Photo by Diyah Pera and copyright of Anagram Pictures

“As for my character, I’m always attracted to those that start in one place and end up in a completely different one,” continues Schmid. “With Federico, he goes through quite a journey during the film, from a levelheaded top student in his class, to dealing with the loss of a loved one and, ultimately, the Sci-Fi elements of our story. Our characters’ situation becomes one of fight or flight, a kind of natural instinct to survive and realistically what a person would do under such extreme circumstances.

“We shot the first half of the movie in a great location [in British Columbia] called Williams Lake. It’s absolutely amazing country and we actually filmed on a native [Indian] reserve, which allowed us to meet some of the most generous and fascinating people. Their history and culture are beautiful and the stories that they told us on the drives to set were just incredible. At one point, some of us got to go into a ‘sweat,’ which is a big thatched hut that is in total darkness. It has these hot coals in the middle of it that cause you to sweat, while people around you are playing drums and humming. It’s a very interesting out-of-body experience. They treated us so kindly and were wonderful to us. At the end of it all I think everyone had a very spiritual experience in the sense of them taking us in and allowing us to become part of their culture.”

When asked about his Thaw co-stars, Schmid has nothing but good things to share. “Val Kilmer is a fascinating individual and it’s clear to see where his talent lies,” he says. “He plays a major part at the end of the film with my character and it was cool having the chance to work with him. Martha MacIsaac [Evelyn Krupien] is a terrific actress and someone who has been in the industry for a long time but our paths had never crossed before this. Viv Leacock [Bart] always had such an amazing and positive outlook. He’s a family man and he brought his children – a baby boy and three-year-old daughter -to set.

Federico and Ling Chen (Steph Song) in The Thaw. Photo by Diyah Pera and copyright of Anagram Pictures

Federico and Ling Chen (Steph Song) in The Thaw. Photo by Diyah Pera and copyright of Anagram Pictures

“Coincidentally, prior to this movie, Aaron Ashmore [Atom Galen] and I finished shooting Deep Cove [a.k.a. Fear Island], so between the two projects we got to hang out together for basically two-and-a-half months. We went from that movie, which was a fun but gruelling project to shoot as well, to this one, and to work with someone who you know is going to be right there with you is like going to war with someone who you’ve already been to war with. You want this person by your side, so it was fantastic.”

The actor is equally complimentary of Thaw director Mark A. Lewis, who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Michael. “Mark and I got together during the audition process and were able to chat and toss ideas back and forth to each other,” says the actor. “I think we both realized we were on the same page with a number of things, so when it came to working on the film, he was very open to, if necessary, rewriting a scene. And because he wrote the script with his brother, it was like being directed by someone who’d already envisioned the entire process, which he had. So everything flowed. We’d look at each other during a scene and I would know exactly what Mark was thinking, which was great.”

Federico finds himself in a tight spot in The Thaw. Photo by Diyah Pera and copyright of Anagram Pictures

Federico finds himself in a tight spot in The Thaw. Photo by Diyah Pera and copyright of Anagram Pictures

As the actor mentioned, before starting work on The Thaw, he and Aaron Ashmore (Jimmy Olsen in Smallville) were in front of the cameras filming the upcoming horror thriller Deep Cove. In it, five college students spend spring break marooned on an island where they are stalked by a crazed killer.

“Like Federico in The Thaw, my character of Tyler in Deep Cove is someone who also has a great story arc,” enthuses Schmid. “He’s completely different from Federico in that Tyler is a spoiled little jerk who has had everything handed to him and gets away with everything he does wrong, which is probably every adolescent’s dream. It’s tough to describe his arc without giving away the entire plot of the movie, but basically he goes from realizing that having everything handed to him without being penalized for what he might have done wrong is a very ignorant way to live life. I mean, without any real-life experience of knowing what’s right and wrong, you’re never sure how far the consequences might go.”

No matter what character he is playing, Schmid is all about turning in his best performance and having a good time along the way. “When it comes right down to it, the most rewarding part of acting is walking off a set every day knowing you left your best work on the dance floor, so to speak, and smiling while you’re doing it,” he muses. “For me, it’s about taking it all in as well as appreciating the fact that I get to do a job that any number of people would love to do and that at the same time I’m enjoying myself.”

For more info on The Thaw, check out the following Facebook link – http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Thaw/44321861106

Steve Eramo

As noted above, Blood Ties photos copyright of Lifetime TV and The Thaw photos by Diyah Pera and copyright of Anagram Pictures, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Defying Gravity’s Christina Cox – Scientific Method

August 14, 2009
Defying Gravity's Christina Cox as Jen Crane. Photo by Kharem Hill and copyright of Fox Studios/ABC

Defying Gravity's Christina Cox as Jen Crane. Photo by Kharen Hill and copyright of Fox Studios/ABC

It is far from an ordinary day onboard the spaceship Antares for Defying Gravity‘s biologist Jen Crane. Rather than running experiments on plant samples or reviewing the progress of frozen animal embryos, she is standing on the ship’s observation deck and helping deal with a life and death situation unfolding before her eyes. It is an emotional scene and one that actress Christina Cox, who plays Jen, is obviously relishing. Having fought aliens as Major Anne Teldy on Stargate Atlantis, chased demons as Vicki Nelson on Blood Ties, and hunted down Vin Diesel’s Riddick as mercenary soldier Eve Logan in The Chronicles of Riddick, blasting off into outer space seems the next logical step for Cox. However, while Defying Gravity may be set among the stars, it was the story’s more down-to-Earth elements that initially attracted her to the part.

“I’d heard about Fox Studio’s plan this year for different shows, including one being shot in Vancouver involving eight astronauts – four women and four men – and I thought, “Hmm, Vancouver, plus Sci-Fi or spatial, and Christina; perhaps there’s something there. What are the odds that I might be going into space?'” says a smiling Cox during a break in filming on the Defying Gravity set. “I asked my manager to keep an eye out for this show because I always like coming home and the idea really intrigued me, which is the exploration of human relationships n such an extreme situation and the types of personalities that wind up in these kinds of jobs. Obviously they’re going to be pretty extraordinary people, and yet human beings with flaws, issues, baggage, damage and all that, which we learn about as we go along.

Jen Crane in ISO's (International Space Organization) Mission Control prior to leaving on her mission of exploration. Photo by Sergei Bachlakov and copyright of Fox Studios/ABC

Jen Crane in ISO's (International Space Organization) Mission Control prior to leaving on her mission of exploration. Photo by Sergei Bachlakov and copyright of Fox Studios/ABC

“When I eventually read the script I thought it was fantastic, and contrary to what some people are going to think when they see that we’re astronauts on a spaceship, it never read to me like a Sci-Fi show whatsoever. I’m often asked why do I do so much Sci-Fi, and I really don’t have an answer. It’s just a coincidence. It’s not like I look at a script and go, ‘Ah, ha, oh, no, it’s not Sci-Fi. Forget it.’ It just so happens that I’ve done a lot of Sci-Fi, but, again, this never read to me like a ‘space show.’ On the contrary, it read to me like a relationship drama with a light touch and a fair degree of humor and sensibility, and that’s something I was interested in exploring. I’ve had a great time doing straight Sci-Fi shows and firing 50 clips with my P90. I love that training and all that action, but I was really looking forward to getting my teeth into a character-driven show, and that, to me, is what this is.

“Probably more than anything else, Defying Gravity is about the alien within all of us and that we’re trying to get to know,” continues the actress. “We only learn to understand that [alien] self through experience, and this is such an extreme experience. Everyone’s issues are going to rise to the top and they’ll be forced to confront them. I think that’s what a situation like this does, and one of the issues that we’re dealing with right now [in the real world] as far as trying to plan long-term space missions, is what will something like that do to the human psyche? How will we cope if we’re out there longer than six months? On our show, these people are facing six years of isolation from their family, friends, social network, etc., and it’s going to have an effect on their psyches. Will they lose it? Will the ship come back empty with a bunch of blood smears on it? That’s not Science Fiction, that’s hardcore reality, and as human beings are we equipped to survive that?

“Acting-wise, I liked that the character of Jen that I’ve been give the opportunity to play has some real issues that are actually going to be confronted. Why is she so messed up? We’re going to find out, and I was really looking forward to playing someone a little more flawed, a little darker and a little more sympathetic. There are so many great characters on this show, and one of the things I enjoy about Jen is that she can be slightly less together than, say, Vicki [from Blood Ties] was. Although in truth, Vicki was not truly together at all. She was just better at putting on a front.”

Jen senses that something is not quite right onboard the Antares. Photo by Sergei Bachlakov and copyright of Fox Studios/ABC

Jen senses that something is not quite right onboard the Antares. Photo by Sergei Bachlakov and copyright of Fox Studios/ABC

In Defying Gravity, the straight-talking yet compassionate biologist Jen Crane is part of a team of astronauts who, in the near future, are chosen for a six-year mission to explore Venus and other planets in our solar system. Although she had plenty of scientific credentials required for such a task, Jen still had to undergo an intensive physical and mental training program with the rest of the prospective Antares crewmembers. Like her TV counterpart, Cox did her own “training” before going in front of the cameras to play Jen.

“In my research for this series I was lucky enough to speak with the psychiatrist who is on the selection committee for the Canadian Space Program, and, in fact, had been my neighbor from the time I was around eight years old,” she notes. “His current job is helping pick candidates for the Canadian Space Program, and the thing is they really don’t know what the long-term effects of this kind of isolation might be. Their studies include profiling for the personality types best suited for the sort of mission that we’re seeing on our show. One of the big questions is will they be able to have social interaction among a small group of people for six months, a year, two years, six years? Also, are they media savvy Do they put on a good front? They have to be able to communicate with the public and be sympathetic to them because the space program relies so much on public funding.

“On our show we have two groups on the ship – the engineers and the scientists – and they have very different objectives in the way they process information and search for answers. As an actor, this is my first time being on the science side of things, which is the ‘what if?’ as opposed to, ‘OK, how do I handle this? How do I fix this? How do I contain it and make it function in a reasonable and tangible way?’ which is more the engineering side. I’ve played law enforcement types, lawyers, federal agents and other people who need solutions. They’re a little bit more linear in their thinking. They don’t want things to keep extrapolating beyond the realm of their knowledge, and the thing is, Jen is looking for evidence of life outside of Earth. It’s her belief that we’re not the only sentient beings in the universe, so she’s hoping to prove that. And in the process, she’s also trying to figure out if we as human beings can survive out of our [familiar] environment for extended periods of time.”

A bit of downtime for Jen in the Antares galley. Photo by Sergei Bachlakov and copyright of Fox Studios/ABC

A bit of downtime for Jen in the Antares galley. Photo by Sergei Bachlakov and copyright of Fox Studios/ABC

During the Antares training program, Jen befriends geologist Zoe Barnes (Laura Harris), who, after a one-night stand with astronaut Maddux Donner (Ron Livingston), ends up pregnant. Meanwhile, Jen becomes romantically involved with astronaut Ted Shaw (Malik Yoba), but later falls in love with astronaut Rollie Crane (Ty Olsson). The couple marry two years before being assigned to the mission, but when Rollie and a second crewmember are subsequently grounded due to a medical condition, Donner and Shaw are ordered to replace them. Needless to say, all these prior relationships make for plenty of riveting space drama.

“It turns out that Jen’s primary relationship is not with her husband, but her best friend Zoe,” says Cox. “It’s an interesting journey personally because at the beginning of the series, Zoe and Jen meet during training, so their friendship is new, just like the friendship between me and Laura Harris. So it’s been evolving and developing story by story, and the more information that Laura and I get, and the more shared experiences our characters have, only helps further inform us when it comes to our performances.

“Jen believes that she’s going on this mission with her husband and her best friend, but by the end of our first episode, complications arise and now she is going to spend the next six years with her ex-boyfriend and her best friend, while her husband Rollie is back on Earth. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be trapped anywhere with an ex-boyfriend for six years,” chuckles the actress. “Can you imagine, your ex and six other folks onboard a spaceship. Never go on a cruise or get into any type of vehicle where you may be stuck somewhere for a long period of time with an ex. This is my advice. After all my years of life experience, that’s what I’ve come up with.

L-R (front row) - On the Antares observation deck: Maddox Donner, Zoe Barnes and Jen Crane; (back row) Dr. Evram Mintz (Eyal Podell) and Nadia Schilling (Florentine Lahme). Photo by Sergei Bachlakov and copyright of Fox Studios/ABC

L-R (front row) - On the Antares observation deck: Maddox Donner, Zoe Barnes and Jen Crane; (back row) Nadia Schilling (Florentine Lahme) and Dr. Evram Mintz (Eyal Podell). Photo by Sergei Bachlakov and copyright of Fox Studios/ABC

“With Ted and Jen, it depends on how long they were together and how difficult their break-up was. We’re still discovering as we go along on the series exactly what happened with them as well as Rollie and Jen. So it could get a little awkward up there in space, and maybe a little weird, too, but it’s all good. Again, there are human issues being dealt with in a heightened situation involving these characters, and there are secrets that they’re discovering. It’s like the Lost world. People describe this show as Grey’s Anatomy in space with a touch of Lost. I have to say that I like the idea of secrets in the story. It makes it more compelling and it’s definitely going to be quite a trip for audiences to follow. The secrets are causing our characters to reflect on their own issues and life experiences, which I think is fantastic. It’s done with a light touch as well, and I don’t mean in a shallow or insubstantial way, but rather not hitting you on the head.”

When asked about her work filming the first episode of Defying Gravity, one word immediately comes to Cox’s mind. “Terror,” she recalls. “It’s such a big show, and my first ensemble show, and everyone blew me away because they’re so flippin’ talented. You’re surrounded by this group of people, each of whom are very special and bring so many different things to the table, and suddenly you realize that you’re in a situation to create something quite special and interesting. The casting process for this program was a long one, but the result has been a particular type of alchemy that’s needed for a TV series to work.

“A studio can cast a movie by numbers, bring in blockbuster stars and then hope it works, but there are films where that’s been done and they fall flat because the chemistry isn’t there. Of course, I’d like Defying Gravity to be a huge hit and have a long and lovely life, but ultimately what I’ll get to take away from it is an extraordinary experience with an incredible group of actors. When we shot our first episode we could feel that alchemy coming together. When you see the work that everyone around you is doing, you want to match it and hope you are, but you don’t know. I don’t watch dailies. I can’t stand watching myself, so you have to trust your directors, and that if it [a scene] doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, so you have to figure out how to make it right.”

Jen suits up for a bit of space walk. Photo by Sergei Bachlakov and copyright of Fox Studios/ABC

Jen suits up for a bit of space walk. Photo by Sergei Bachlakov and copyright of Fox Studios/ABC

Unlike most new shows that film a pilot, which may or may not then be picked up by a network, Defying Gravity shot a 13-episode first season which is airing Sunday nights in the States on ABC. Cox’s previous series, Blood Ties, also had that same distinction, having made 26 episodes that then aired on the Lifetime Network. It is a rare creative situation that the actress is incredibly grateful for.

“This business is so up and down and I’m really fortunate to be able to do 13 episodes of something,” she says. “I’ve done a bunch of pilots and it can be heartbreaking. You grow attached to the people as well as the premise and the story that you want to tell, and then you sit on your butt for 10 months while the network decides whether or not they want to move forward with it. If they decide not to, then it’s back to the drawing board. So this [Defying Gravity] was like winning the lottery. Now that we have the 13 episodes, we’ll just have to wait and see where that takes us.”

Steve Eramo

Defying Gravity is produced by Fox Television Studios and OmniFilm Productions, in association with the BBC, Canada’s CTV and Germany’s ProSieben. As noted above, all photos by Kharen Hill or Sergei Bachlakov and copyright of Fox Studios and ABC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!

Veteran Sci-Fi Director David Winning Signing At Comic Con 2009

July 9, 2009
David Winning on the job! Photo courtesy of and copyright of David Winning

David Winning on the job! Photo courtesy of and copyright of David Winning

DIRECTING film and television for over 20 years, David Winning is also a veteran of 20 TV series and over 90 episodes of such shows as Stargate Atlantis and multiple seasons on Andromeda starring Kevin Sorbo. He was the 2002 recipient of the Director’s Guild National Award for Excellence in Television Drama, and was nominated again in 2006. Winning also spent four months in Hungary shooting the ABC Family series Dinotopia, which is now out on DVD. Most recently, he directed Kevin Sorbo, Robert Englund and Bruce Dern in a trilogy of monster movies for the Syfy Channel and Hallmark Entertainment, as well as episodes of the Lifetime Television vampire-themed series Blood Ties.

Winning will be appearing at Comic Con 2009 from Thursday, July 23rd – Sunday, July 26th and signing autographs from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Table AA14.

For more information on David and his work check out www.DavidWinning.com

As noted above, photo courtesy and copyright of David Winning, so please no unauthorzied copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!

Emilie Ullerup – Growing Pains

May 22, 2009
Emilie Ullerup as Ashley Magnus in Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

Emilie Ullerup as Ashley Magnus in Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

When we were children, most of us probably spent at least one night looking for monsters under our bed or in the closet. Fortunately, they always turned out to be imaginary. As an adult, Sanctuary‘s Ashley Magnus risks her life searching for very real monsters. An expert in advanced weapons and technology as well as hand-to-hand combat, she is the daughter of Dr. Helen Magnus, head of the Sanctuary, a global network of facilities dedicated to studying and, if necessary, capturing and detaining creatures called abnormals. As if Ashley does not have enough on her plate, she takes on even more when her father, John Druitt, comes back into her life. It has been quite a head trip for our leather-clad heroine, as Emilie Ullerup, who plays Ashley, explains.

“Ashley already had a huge journey in the two-hour [Internet] pilot,” says the actress, taking time out for a chat while shooting the first season Sanctuary episode Warriors. “My character went from living her life as she had through her twentysomething years to being hit in the face with the fact that she has a dad and he is, or was, a monster.

“So overnight her whole world changes and becomes a scary place for a young woman who has never had to deal with anything, really. Emotionally, she’s cut off and focused on her lot in life, which is every day she gets up and might die because she’s going to go fight monsters. Then, all of a sudden, her dad shows up and forces her to think about what she’s doing. I think that’s what took up a lot of her time in the web pilot, but her journey has since changed with these 13 [first season] episodes that we’re doing.”

Ashley and her estranged father John Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl) have a somewhat unconventional reunion. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Ashley and her estranged father John Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl) have a somewhat unconventional reunion. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

The two-hour Internet pilot for Sanctuary was filmed in early 2007, but its creator Damian Kindler along with his fellow executive producers, Martin Wood and Amanda Tapping (Helen Magnus), began prep months before, and that included, among other things, Ullerup’s audition for the role of Ashley. “When I originally went in to read I knew nothing about the project other than the three scenes that I’d been sent,” she recalls. “I had that first audition and received a callback relatively soon afterwards. The second time around was pretty much like the first, except after I did the scenes, I think it was Martin Wood who said to me, ‘The show’s stunt coordinator Bam Bam [James Bamford] is here. We’re going to put together a little something for you and we just want to see how you do.’ I said, ‘OK, let’s go.’

“James came in and he and I did a very simple hand offensive [move] and I walked out of there feeling good. A couple of hours later I got a phone call telling me, ‘You’re good to go,’ and I was super excited. We shot the trailer that summer [of 2006] and then seven months later we began filming the web pilot. For me, that meant a whirlwind of learning the fight sequences and putting it all together. I had never had any fight training before in my life, so it was a matter of rehearsing a scene and then walking on-set dressed in leather and high-heels and trying to pull it off. I actually did everything myself, but we had a [stunt] double on-set who would also do the fights in case there was something that I couldn’t sell properly. Bam Bam brought in great stunt performers who I was able to practice with and get a feel for having five people around me that my character would have to take down. So I had all these things working in my favor.”

Along with the onscreen fights, another of the more memorable moments for Ullerup when filming the Sanctuary pilot  is where Ashley learns that John Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl) is her father. He and Helen were born in Victorian England and were part of a group of scientists called The Five. Back then, Helen discovered that an injection of a serum derived from vampire blood would give all five of them extraordinary powers. Druitt gained the ability to teleport, but the drug’s side-effects turned him into a homicidal killer. This drove him and Helen apart, but not before they had conceived a child. When Helen and Ashley next saw John it was in the present day, much to their surprise.

Ashley and John Druitt "enjoy" some father-daughter time together. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Ashley and John Druitt "enjoy" some father-daughter time together. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“I went into that scene where Ashley finds out the truth about her father having made up my mind that it wasn’t going to be something that we glossed over easily,” says Ullerup. “Once we started filming that day, the cast and crew didn’t know what to expect with that scene and we took it in a direction that was a little deeper and darker than perhaps anyone had anticipated. It made it so much better for all of us, though, because our characters really connected, and in the process it got frightening, too.

“I remember doing a scene with Chris and I was actually terrified of him that day, which worked great. The scene was quite magical and Martin Wood – I don’t know if he would want me to say this – but he had tears in his eyes. He and the other guys sat behind the cameras and they all started crying with us. We were exhausted beyond belief after 12 hours of doing all that emotional stuff, but it was just a really super day. That’s why we’re all so pleased to be back here. We knew we already had something special, and now we get to play with it more.”

The Sanctuary pilot received such a positive response from viewers that the Sci Fi Channel decided to bring it to TV. Its 13-episode first season was shot during the spring and summer of 2008 and debuted last October. The program’s new venue necessitated changes to the pilot, which was re-shot, and as the story unfolded, the characters’ lives once again experienced upheaval.

Mom and daughter team in action - Ashley and Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping). Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

Mom and daughter team in action - Ashley and Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping). Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

“Ashley’s world has been turned upside down this season, mostly just in terms of she’s been introduced to the idea of free choice and free thought,” notes Ullerup. “Yes, she’s had that in the Sanctuary, but she’s always been told what to do by her mom and never questioned it. However, with the introduction of her father, he tells Ashley that there is such a thing as choice and that she should think for herself and not simply aim, shoot and kill. So there’s a lot going on with her. I’m not sure where it’s all headed because there are so many different ways it could go, but there’s definitely a great deal of darkness in my character’s life.

“At the core of everything, Ashley loves her mom; she’s the only one who my character could trust up to now. This has provided me with plenty of [acting] challenges because I, personally, come from a very stable family, so trying to draw on not trusting your parents and not knowing who they really are is very strange to me. So I’ve had some big days with both Christopher and Amanda, lots of emotional pulls and tugs as well as a lot of anger and resistance, more than, I think, in the Internet pilot, which is really a thrill for me.”

Like the web pilot, the TV incarnation of Sanctuary uses a tremendous amount of green screen in its production, which allows its writers to set stories around the world. Also, Martin Wood, who directed the web pilot, has directed several of the TV episodes, and his presence behind the camera is much appreciated by Ullerup.

Ashley and Sanctuary's resident techno-whiz Henry (Ryan Robbins) infiltrate a facility run by a shadowy organization known as The Cabal. Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

Ashley and Sanctuary's resident techno-whiz Henry (Ryan Robbins) infiltrate a facility run by a shadowy organization known as The Cabal. Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

“Martin knows exactly what he wants all the time,” says the actress, “and that’s huge help, especially when you’re working with green screen, where we enter a world of not knowing. Even on the day of filming, we don’t know exactly what’s happening around us, but Martin is great at making sure that we at least know the broad strokes of where everything is. He’s great about taking us aside and informing us of our environment, and that helps us figure out what’s going on inside ourselves. There are days when I’ll be on-set and do something that I think works. Again, though, Martin knows what he wants and he’ll come up to you and say, ‘Listen, that was very good, but can you try it this way.’ As a result, the entire scene is transformed. Martin knows how to speak to actors, and that’s not always the case with a director.”

In the aforementioned Warriors, Helen and Ashley along with Helen’s protege, forensic psychologist Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) cross paths with The Cabal, a powerful shadowy organization that views abnormals to be a serious threat to the future of humankind. This episode also reunites Helen and Ashley with another family member.

“This story is basically about a fight club for abnormals, but it’s definitely not a voluntary one,” explains Ullerup. “It’s being run by The Cabal, who are looking to create the strongest, fiercest, scariest abnormal ever and are testing their candidates in the fight ring. We  become involved when one of Will’s friends is kidnapped, so we go looking for him and stumble upon this club. At the same time, we find Ashley’s grandfather [Gregory Magnus, played by Jim Byrnes]. My character thought he’d been dead for many years, so now grandpa gets tossed into the mix, too. This is a big episode insofar as family ties and raises the question of can Ashley trust mom? It turns out, though, that Helen had no idea that her dad was still alive either, but it’s still more confusion for her and Ashley and their relationship becomes a bit more tarnished.

Ashley and Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) on the hunt for an abnormal in the season one Sanctuary episode "Nubbins." Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

Ashley and Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) on the hunt for an abnormal in the season one Sanctuary episode "Nubbins." Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

“For me, the thing that’s been big this season is character development, which includes Ashley dealing with her own issues as well as other characters,” continues the actress. “Because she’s sort of the go-to gal who knows the town and all the contacts, I’ve been able to play opposite some really cool abnormals. I mean, I’ve had scenes with an abnormal we call ‘Squid Man,’ who’s this crazy looking guy with prosthetic tentacles hanging all over his face. So that’s been an odd sort of challenge.

“What also stands out for me acting-wise on Sanctuary is getting to do so much of the physical stuff. There are some episodes where it’s needed and others where not so much. Sometimes I wish there were more stunts and fights, but I understand there has to be a balance. It’s not a fight show and we need the story to drive the fights. So overall for me as an actor, I’ve been able to do the emotional scenes as well as physical ones. I’ve also had the chance to be in the background and watch other people play and see their characters develop. I just think it’s a very well-rounded way of telling a story.”

Ashley and Henry are caught in yet another tight spot. Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

Ashley and Henry are caught in yet another tight spot. Photo by Jeff Weddell and courtesy of the Sci Fi Channel

Prior to being cast on Sanctuary, Ullerup got plenty of Sci-Fi and Fantasy experience working on such shows as Battlestar Galactica, Blood Ties and the Canadian made jPod. “I was so green when I did Battlestar,” says the actress. “It was my very first audition and I was lucky enough to book it. I had never been on a [film] set before, so I had no clue where I was supposed to be or what I was supposed to do, other than I knew my lines and I was in my costume. Most of my scenes were with Katee Sackhoff [Captain Kara “Starbuck” Thrace], which was really exciting. She and I gelled very well and it was an amazing first experience. Everyone on Battlestar was terrific and it was a fantastic way for me to see how a well-oiled machine works.

“Then I went on Blood Ties. I did their pilot episode and it was a whole different type of set because it was smaller and new and you just got that sense of energetic first-time jitters. I worked with Kyle Schmid [Henry Fitzroy], who’s a fantastic actor and all-around nice guy. Our scenes together were relatively intimate and before we began shooting, Kyle said to me, ‘This could be awkward, but I don’t want it to be, so let’s just have a laugh and have fun,’ which we did.

“And just before Sanctuary I did jPod, which was originally a book written by Canadian author Douglas Coupland [executive producer] and then turned into a TV series. Unfortunately, it only lasted one season, which was a terrible shame because we went out with 15 Leo Award nominations and the series was also nominated at the Monte Carlo International Film Festival. I played a computer animator [Kaitlin Joyce] who was striving to climb the ranks, tended to ignore people and was sometimes a bit not-so-nice. It was a great show to do over the summer, and to then come to Sanctuary and be cast as yet another very different type of character is a real treat.”

Our heroine Ashley enjoys a rare moment of down-time. Photo by and courtesy of Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects

Our heroine Ashley enjoys a rare moment of down-time. Photo by and courtesy of Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects

In Sanctuary‘s first season two-part finale Revelations, Ashley is taken prisoner by The Cabal and undergoes a treatment that turns her against Helen and the others. Discovering that she has inherited her father’s teleportation power, Ashely steals a vial of vampire blood that her mother needs to cure a virus that The Cabal has unleashed on the abnormals. In the final moments of Revelations, Part 2 it looks as if she has gone over to the dark side. Like the show’s fans, Ullerup is curious to see what is next for Ashley when season two of Sanctuary premieres this fall.

“We were shocked to see where we thought our characters were going and where they ended up,” she says. “In the world of Sci-Fi anything is possible, and in the world of green screen even more is possible. We’ve gone to so many places and seen so many new things, and that makes it easier to stick with your character because nothing is ever the same. It doesn’t become routine when as an actor you’re challenged to explore new places with your character. It keeps it fresh, and I’m looking forward to more of that next season.”

Steve Eramo

As stated above, all photos copyright of Jeff Weddell or Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects and courtesy of Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects or the Sci Fi Channel, so please no copying or unauthorized duplicating of any form. Thanks!