Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Heyerdahl’

Sanctuary Begins Production On Season 3

March 18, 2010

Amanda Tapping and the rest of the Sanctuary cast return for season three! Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

THE Syfy Channel’s groundbreaking hit original series Sanctuary, commenced production on its third season in Vancouver on March 15th. The one-hour drama’s 20-episode season is slated to return to Syfy this fall.

Sanctuary is one of television’s most groundbreaking series, shooting almost entirely on green screen. The series was the first in North America to use the RED camera exclusively, and its stunning visual effects were nominated for a 2008 Emmy Award. Season three picks up from the adrenaline-fueled action of season two, which raised the stakes for the brilliant scientist Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping) and her team, who use their unique combination of instinct, medicine and cutting-edge science and technology to find and aid a clandestine population of beings that the world refuses to believe exist. Sanctuary also stars Robin Dunne as forensic psychiatrist Dr. Will Zimmerman, Agam Darshi as the quick-witted Kate Freelander, Ryan Robbins and tech wiz Henry Foss and Christopher Heyerdahl as the sinister John Druitt.

Created by Damian Kinder (Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis), Sanctuary is produced in association with Syfy and is distributed by Tricon Films and Television. Season three of the series will be executive produced by Damian Kindler, Amanda Tapping, Martin Wood, Keith Beedie and Tricon Films.

As noted above, photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions, so please no unauthorized copying or duplciating of any kind. Thanks!

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Sanctuary’s Robert Lawrenson – Soldiering On

March 8, 2010

Actor Robert Lawrenson. Photo courtesy and copyright of Velocity Public Relations

When Dr. Gregory Magnus originally founded the Sanctuary network, he did so with the intent of surrounding himself with like-minded individuals who were just as dedicated as he was to the survival, preservation and protection of Abnormals. Magnus’ daughter and fellow scientist, Helen, did the same when she took over the reins from her father. Among her most trusted allies is Declan MacRae, who became head of the UK Sanctuary after the death of John Watson. The handsome Brit is smart, techno-savvy and knows how to handle himself in a tight spot. Sharing his character’s UK heritage was a big help to Sanctuary actor Robert Lawrenson when initially stepping into Declan’s shoes. 

“I was very fortunate in some respects that Declan was a Brit,” notes Lawrenson. “I believe it was Michael Caine who said, ‘you only have to play the differences,’ and I take that to every role that I do. I start with me and compare myself to my character. I work out what the differences are in our personalities, then focus on those and think about where I need to extend my own personality in order to create the character. 

“With Declan, it’s nice because there are similarities between the two of us, with him being an authority figure and me being kind of a quiet, authoritative type in my general sort of persona. So that’s an extension of myself. However, I don’t have an ex-military/SAS background, so that’s a huge difference right there, and that brings with it [acting] challenges, too, because Declan is a very tough ex-Special Forces guy. He’s totally comfortable with, for instance, handling weaponry and storming into a situation where there are enemy targets, but those types of things are totally foreign to me. 

“Luckily on Sanctuary, we have some really good stunt coordinators as well as a team of guys called Def-Con-5, who basically taught me what I needed to know about Declan’s military side. I understand that these guys have an actual military/Special Forces background, so they taught us everything from handling a gun and how to hold your arms, to how to survey and secure an area. To be honest with you, I’m probably ready to go to war now because that’s how much they showed us,” jokes the actor. 

“Apart from maybe a couple of times in stage productions where I’ve held a gun, I’ve never had to be that kind of tough guy in terms of a military sense. So I had to present Declan as totally switched on and clued-in about every situation and totally confident walking into enemy territory. It was interesting to learn what the professional view of that is and then try to bring that to my performance.” 

It was a year-and-a-half ago that Lawrenson came to Vancouver, British Columbia from the UK and began working with an agent to pursue acting opportunities on this side of the pond. “Funnily enough, everything I’ve done over here so far as been Sci-Fi related,” he says. “I did an episode of Smallville [Abyss] as well as a Syfy Channel original movie, Beyond Sherwood Forest, which actually starred Robin Dunne [Dr. Will Zimmerman] as Robin Hood. I played his father before being stabbed to death about six minutes into the movie. 

Declan (Robert Lawrenson) confers with his colleagues regarding their next move. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Sanctuary then came up. I’d been looking at a few other projects when I received a call to come in and meet with Martin Wood [executive producer] and Amanda Tapping [Dr. Helen Magnus and executive producer]. At the time it was just a guest-star role to play Declan in one episode. It was literally for that week’s filming. I really hit it off straightaway with Martin and Amanda – I would challenge anyone not to because they’re fantastic individuals. It was a very relaxed casting session and they really enjoyed what I did, so they booked me for the role. 

“After a couple of days of shooting, Martin came over to me and said ‘I’m really liking this Declan character,’ and then he started talking in terms of recurring the role throughout the series. Martin mentioned a couple of ideas that he had about where the Declan character might go and when it might recur, so it just went on from there and I ended up doing four episodes in season two.” 

Audiences are introduced to Lawrenson’s character in the second half of Sanctuary‘s season two opener, End of Nights, Part 2. In it, Helen and her people help Declan defend the UK Sanctuary when it is attacked by a small group of super-Abnormals, including a transformed Ashley Magnus (Emilie Ullerup). Despite his military background, dealing with this type of threat is a brand new experience for Declan, and the same was true for Lawrenson when first starting out on the series. 

“On my first day of work I found myself standing on this completely green-walled, green-floored set with just the lighting rig above me and my fellow actors around me,” recalls the actor. “I’ve done some presenting and hosting on a green screen, but never a drama, so this process was quite daunting to me and I wasn’t quite sure how to react to it. 

“I told Amanda Tapping how I felt, and she said something to me that made it all click. Amanda explained that she looks at working on the green screen like working in the theater. Oftentimes in the theater, you’re working in an acting ensemble with no scenery or props, and it’s all about the script as well as the other actors and the communication between them and their characters. 

“That was the perfect thing to say because my background from childhood is theater, which I’ve done a great deal of. When I lived in England, I spend every year performing plays at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, so I tend to gravitate towards the stage. That’s where I found my love of acting. So what Amanda said to me made such sense and I thought, ‘Wow, you’re absolutely right. What does it matter that I don’t have an actual wall there. As an actor, it’s something that I can just visualize for a scene.’ It was incredible, and it still sticks in my mind because it totally put me at ease.” 

Will (Robin Dunne) and Declan contemplate their next move. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Declan’s next appearance is in the season two episode Hero, where he, Helen and Will pursue a flying do-gooder (Chris Gauthier), who has dubbed himself “The Adjuster” and has interfered in their efforts to protect an Abnormal. “Hero was a lot of fun,” enthuses Lawrenson. “Chris Gauthier is an absolute star and it was a laugh-a-minute the whole time he was there with us on-set. This was a big episode for Declan because the London Sanctuary had been heavily damaged, so he came over to spend some time at the Old City Sanctuary. This is when we really kicked off the relationship between Will and Declan in that they became sidekicks, which was then flipped on its head in a later episode, Veritas, where they were totally opposite of each other. 

“In terms of specific scenes in Hero, I remember me and Chris Heyerdahl [Bigfoot] wearing safety harnesses and standing on a warehouse railing on the show’s set. We were probably 30 or 40 feet up and pushing this old refrigerator over the railing and onto an imaginary monster that was going to be ‘painted’ in later during post-production. That was quite memorable because I wasn’t quite sure whether or not I was going to fall off with the fridge. 

“There’s another little scene at the start of the episode that I particularly like and it’s just after Will and Declan have been attacked on their motorbikes. They’re back at the Sanctuary nursing their wounds and the girls are laughing at them and taking the mick out of Will. I’d love to do more scenes like that. In fact, I got to talk with some of the guys at the Syfy Channel and they told me that they really enjoyed the comedy of this episode, so hopefully we’ll have more opportunities to see the lighthearted sides of these characters as well.” 

Amanda Tapping directed Lawrenson’s third Sanctuary story, Veritas, in which Helen Magnus is accused of killing Bigfoot. “I put Amanda Tapping on such a high pedestal; I don’t have enough blocks to raise her up,” says the actor. “She is an outstanding individual. To give the performance that she does week-in-and-week-out, and to give the performance she gave in Veritas whilst also directing, having only directed once before on both Stargate SG-1 and Sanctuary, was just amazing. 

“As an actor, this was my first time working with an actor/director, and Amanda has a way of connecting with an actor. I mean, so do the other directors. Martin Wood is a fantastic director and I’m not in any way comparing them, but Amanda has a different understanding of the process because she sees it from an actor’s point of view as well. So being directed by her on Veritas was brilliant. Whenever we were struggling to find the right way to pitch a scene, Amanda just seemed to have the right thing to say, and that was really great. 

“There’s a scene I played opposite Robin Dunne where our two characters are having a big argument in Magnus’ office. Will comes in and Declan has his feet under Helen’s desk and is sitting there tapping away on her computer looking very much at home. We had a scene prior to that, where Declan has his feet in front of the roaring fireplace in her office, and because of both these scenes, the audience is becoming suspicious of my character’s motives. Amanda just found the right away to communicate to me exactly what she wanted from my character’s point of view in this episode, so that made it a real joy for me to do.” 

A quiet moment for Declan - something rare in the Sanctuary world. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

With Dr. Magnus temporarily relieved of her lead Sanctuary position in Veritas, it may at first seem as if Declan is trying to “move in” on her territory. On the contrary, he is doing his best to protect Helen as well as those working directly with her and the future of the Sanctuary network. Lawrenson is looking forward to not only learning more about Declan’s and Helen’s relationship, but also uncovering more about his character’s background. 

“Declan massively respects Helen Magnus,” he says. “This is a very character-driven show and there has been a lot invested in the back stories of the characters. However, not much has been revealed about Declan. We had hints about him in End of Nights, Part 2, where Nikola Tesla [Jonathon Young] says to him, ‘James Watson [Peter Wingfield] must have told you about me before he died,’ So there is obviously a suggestion that Declan had been working with James Watson. There are other things as well, like the argument I spoke of earlier between Declan and Will in Veritas, where my character is suspected of trying to take over the Sanctuary network. He says to Will, ‘You have no idea of the political landscape,’ which implies that Declan is quite entwined with the politics of the network. 

“So to come back to what I was saying, that there isn’t much of a back story that’s been provided yet for Declan, and that’s really exciting for me. Again, we had the hints I just spoke of and also those in the two-part second season finale Kali, where Declan is mentioned throughout. Having laid all that foundation, I’m looking forward to seeing where our excellent writers hopefully go in terms of further fleshing out my character. As far as how I position Declan in my mind, I think he’s spent many years fighting other peoples’ wars, and to now be involved in what Helen is doing with the Sanctuary network, he’s found a ‘war’ that he wants to fight and a cause he truly believes in.” 

Born and raised in his native England, the actor made his stage debut at the age of 12, performing in musicals with a local youth theater group. A number of years later, he made his TV debut when he was cast in an episode of the long-running British drama series Heartbeat

“That was a fantastic first role for me because of the people I got to work with,” says Lawrenson. “I was on-set with great British actors such as Robert Glenister, David Calder and Celia Imrie, who was my mentor that week. We all stayed at this lovely manor house hotel in Yorkshire, and the night before filming began, everyone went out together for dinner. There I was sitting with these actors whom I had watched and admired for many years on TV and they were fantastic with me. The next morning, Celia sent me a note that said, ‘Don’t worry about your first scene, you’ll be wonderful.’ I’ve kept that card for years. To work with someone like her on my first scene was just amazing.” 

Holby City, Emmerdale Farm, Fat Friends, Where the Heart Is, The Royal and Doctors are among the other hit UK shows that Lawrenson has guest-starred in. Regular watchers of Coronation Street will also recognize him from his recurring role as PC Glaister. “That was another fantastic show to work on,” says the actor. “It’s very much like Sanctuary in terms of its friendly, good-natured, hard work ethic. 

Will, Henry (Ryan Robbins) and Declan race against the clock to try to solve a problem. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“At one point on that show, I ran into another of my screen idols, Sir Ian McKellen, who was in an episode that I was also in. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any scenes with him, but one day I rounded the corner from my dressing room on the way to the green room, and he was standing there in the hall talking to Johnny Briggs, who played Mike Baldwin. I thought, ‘There’s Gandalf [McKellen’s Lord of the Rings role] speaking to Mike Baldwin. Wow, that’s not a sight you see every day.’ I’ve worked in this industry long enough that I don’t tend to get starstruck, but when I saw Ian McKellen, I got starstruck for a moment.” 

Besides acting in front of the camera, Lawrenson also does a great deal of voiceover work for TV narration, advertising, corporate shorts and charity fundraisers, the latter of which he finds especially rewarding. 

“There was a charity project I did for the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool,” he says. “Yoko Ono is the patron of their society, obviously because of [her late husband] John Lennon. The hospital is around the corner from where he grew up. I think their charity is called Imagine [the Alder Hey Imagine Appeal], and she licensed the use of the Beatles song Imagine to them. David Morrissey had done the voiceover for one of their earlier videos and I was working with the production company that made it. David wasn’t available for their next campaign, so I offered to do the voicing for it. 

“I get personal reward and personal pride in the work I do. When I really nail a scene, I feel great, but I see that a selfish reward. When you’re able to contribute part of what you do for a living to a cause that’s going to make a practical difference in other peoples’ lives, that’s truly rewarding. I don’t do enough of that, and I’d like to do more. Amanda Tapping and Damian Kindler [Sanctuary creator/executive producer] have set up Sanctuary for Kids [S4K], and I’m hoping to help out with that charity in whatever capacity I can. 

Currently, the actor is busy doing more voiceover work, including some animation projects, as well as continuing to audition for various Vancouver-based productions. “I’m waiting to hear, too, about my possible involvement in a feature film, which would actually be shot back in England later this year,” he says. “And I’m also looking forward to finding out about Declan’s involvement in season three of Sanctuary.” 

To find out more about Robert and see clips of his work, check out his official website at www.robertlawrenson.com . 

Steve Eramo 

As noted above, Robert Lawrenson photo courtesy/copyright of Velocity PR, and Sanctuary photos by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Sanctuary’s Alan McCullough – The Write Touch

January 24, 2010

Writer/co-executive producer Alan McCullough in his Sanctuary digs. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

When Stargate Atlantis‘ TV run was brought to an end after five years, series writer/producer Alan McCullough, who had previously served as a writer/story editor on Stargate SG-1, relocated from the Pegasus Galaxy to take on a new creative challenge. He joined Sanctuary as a writer as well as co-executive producer and penned four scripts for the show’s second season. In his first one, Hero, Chris Gauthier, best known as Walter in Eureka, plays an ordinary man who is transformed into an unlikely costumed crusader against crime in the show’s fictional New City.

Hero was a really fun script to write,” says McCullough. “It’s a fast-paced and humorous episode, which I never really had the opportunity to do on Stargate. There was always humor embedded in the dialogue in Stargate, but it was rare that I got to write a comedic script. There were people who were sort of the go-to guys for that; Martin Gero and Brad Wright, in particular, and Rob Cooper also wrote a couple of great comedy scripts and Carl Binder wrote one, too. So when I came on Sanctuary there was a chance for me to do the same.

“In Hero, our people are on a mission to track down an Abnormal when all of a sudden they’re thwarted by a guy in a neoprene suit. He drops out of the sky, grabs the person we’re chasing and flies off, so we’re left wondering where the hell this guy came from and how he can fly. He’s apparently human and appears to be wearing a homemade outfit, but nevertheless seems to possess miraculous powers. Chris Gauthier played the part to a tee. He was hilarious in it and brought so much to the role.

“The actual shooting of this episode was difficult because there were a lot of stunts. We actually brought in a flying rig which, I believe, is one of the most advanced ones you can get. I’m not well-versed in the technology of it, but you sit in front of a giant computer screen and program in all the moves you want to do and draw all the vectors on the screen. The operator then turns the rig on and it flies you around in the exact way that it was programmed to. So they did a full day of shooting just with that rig and came away with some fantastic stuff, including a scene where, at one point, our superhero has to fight a monster.

“Again, it was a fun episode and Chris has a blast and we had a blast working with him. It was a nice break, too, in the season. We had just come off shooting the two-part End of Nights, which is an energetic and tension-filled story where we’re fighting for the survival of the Sanctuary, and if you saw the episodes you know that something big happens to one of our characters at the end of part two. Then in the following story, Eulogy, we’re dealing with the death of a character. It’s a very poignant episode, so it was good to then come in with episode four, which was lighter in tone and a total breath of fresh air. Personally, I think Hero is one of the best scripts I’ve ever written and one that I’m really proud of.”

There was a very specific idea in mind for McCullough’s next Sanctuary script, Veritas, but, as is often the case in the world of TV, it eventually evolved into something quite different. “We started out with marching orders to come up with a background story for Bigfoot [Christopher Heyerdahl],” explains the writer. “We pitched story after story to the Syfy Channel but there was always one thing they didn’t like, so we would go back and try to retool the script. However, by pulling out that one thing, the whole story collapsed.

“So we’d start fresh, and ultimately we came up with a story that the network loved but that had nothing to do with Bigfoot’s back story whatsoever,” chuckles McCullough. “It does, however, involve Bigfoot in a very major and pivotal way. At the very beginning of the episode, Will [Robin Dunne] arrives back from a trip and he’s frantic; he’s been told that Bigfoot has been killed. Will goes to the morgue where he finds Bigfoot lying there with two bullet holes in his chest, and we further learn that Magnus [Amanda Tapping] is the prime suspect.

“From there, it becomes a bit of a murder mystery that takes place within the context of the Sanctuary. They have specific charter rules for how they deal with situations such as this, including summoning what’s called The Triad, which is a group of telepaths that arrive on the scene and start questioning people. Within the Sanctuary network we have individuals with these incredible abilities, so why not use them to solve crimes. Will, of course, sets out to prove that Magnus had nothing to do with this, but the deeper he digs, the more evidence seems to mount that she actually did shoot Bigfoot.

“It’s a real mindbender of an episode where, quite honestly, all is not revealed until the very end. We designed it so that at every single turn you think, ‘Oh, they’re going to tell us who really did it,’ but you get no satisfaction until the story is nearly over. This was another fun episode for me to write and, coming off Hero, much more of a subdued, emotional type of potboiler. We had a great guest-cast, too, including Erica Cerra [Deputy Jo Lupo in Eureka], who did a fantastic job playing one of the telepaths. And Amanda Tapping did an incredible job directing the episode.”

The writer’s third Sanctuary script, Penance, reunites Helen Magnus with an old friend, Jimmy, played by Tapping’s former SG-1 costar Michael Shanks (Dr. Daniel Jackson). Although it would have been tempting to pair them up on the screen, Shanks actually shared the majority of his scenes with the show’s newest castmember, Agam Darshi, who plays Kate Freelander. Writing-wise, this one was a bit of a whirlwind for McCullough.

“We received notes on the outline last Friday night from Syfy,” he recalls, “so I started writing the script on Saturday and Sunday and, hopefully, I’ll finish it up today [Monday, June 1st, 2009]. It’s certainly the fastest that I’ve ever had to turn around a script. This one starts out with a really action-packed teaser where our characters are in Old City to meet an Abnormal who’s a ‘mule.’ By that I mean he has a pocket in his body that can transport hazardous or very sensitive material, and in this case he’s carrying a container for us in his belly.

“So we get there, but, of course, the bad guys are on our tail and all hell breaks loose. Our people get separated and Kate and Jimmy end up trapped in a derelict hotel room. Kate has been shot and the two of them spend a considerable amount of time together getting to know one another. In the process, Kate opens up to Jimmy and we discover a great deal about her past, including how her father was killed. With Kate being a new character this season, we felt this was a good opportunity for audiences to learn more about her. Meanwhile, Magnus and everyone else are out there looking for Kate and Jimmy, and it’s a bit of a chess match to see who’s going to arrive first and save the day.

“The neat thing about this episode is that we’re going to be doing some location shooting. We do almost all our filming downstairs in the studio, much of which is using a green screen, and we also shoot outside on the studio lot or in the nearby streets. We usually don’t have trucks to go out on-location with, but for episode eight [Next Tuesday], we’re packing up all our equipment to go film at a pool. Thanks to some scheduling magic, we have the truck for the rest of the week, so we’re taking advantage of that and going to shoot for two, possibly three days on the old Watchmen set. At least that’s the plan. We went out to look at the set, which is on Marine Way, and we’re going to use that as Old City. It’s perfect because the story has a lot of skulking around as well as gunplay and a bit of a car chase, so I’m really excited about that.”

Despite being a freshman with Sanctuary, it has not taken McCullough long to find the voices of the new characters he is writing for. “Obviously I’d worked with Amanda before, and although this is Helen Magnus and not Sam Carter, I still hear Amanda’s voice in my head, so it’s just a matter of finding the right words,” says the writer. “Ryan Robbins, who plays Henry, has a very distinctive voice, so I seem to be able to hear his voice quite easily, too.

“The character I struggled with the most was Will. I’ve since found his voice a lot more, but with my first script, Hero, I really struggled. Ultimately, I don’t think anyone picked up on that. The episode moves so quickly and there’s so much going on that I don’t think you would have the time to sit there and think, ‘Hmm, that didn’t quite sound like something Will would say.’ I noticed it, though, and when I’d write a line I’d think, ‘That doesn’t sound right,’ so I’d delete it and write another one. So it took me a while to get Will’s dialogue to sound right, but episode seven is wall-to-wall Will and I think I found his voice a little better for that one.

“It helps, too, that Damian Kindler [series creator/executive producer] is always around, and we go through the scripts with a fine-tooth comb. We’ll look at each line and if there’s one that bothers any of us, we’ll find another way to say what it is we’re trying to say.”

The writer’s fourth and final contribution to Sanctuary‘s second season is part one of the show’s two-part season ender, Kali. The germ of the idea for this episode came from a prior one, while the setting was the result of a previously discussed story that never came to be. Catching up again recently with McCullough, he was happy to talk about Kali‘s development.

“Earlier in the season we were breaking a story called Justice,” recalls the writer. “It was set in a small town, which is tough to do on our show as we don’t have suitable sets and didn’t want to go out on-location. So Martin Wood [executive producer/director] proposed setting Justice in a Mumbai slum, as that would be relatively easy to re-create. We loved that idea so much that we decided to save it for the [season] finale. Unfortunately, Justice never got produced, which is too bad because it was a great story.

“The idea for Kali came partly from Veritas, where we introduce an Abnormal called Big Bertha, who is capable of creating earthquakes. I’m pretty sure it was me who suggested that we use Big Bertha in the season finale as well. I proposed that Magnus had lied to the heads of the Sanctuary network about destroying the creature and secretly kept her alive in an enclosure at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. And then later on in the writers’ room, we came up with the idea for the Makri, the small spider that telepathically links to Big Bertha.

“We went back and forth for weeks with this story,” continues the writer. “It’s probably the toughest one I’ve ever had to break. We knew we were on to something and felt like it could be big, but we just could not find the story for the life of us. Eventually, and after numerous rewrites, we shaped the story into Kali, parts one and two. Later in the process I was reviewing part two, which Damian wrote, and went to him with a logic problem. Basically, something Will was doing made no sense. And I distinctly remember what followed next; Damian sat back in his chair, thought about it for a long time, and then said, ‘I think I know what to do – Will has to dance a Bollywood number.’

“I nearly fell off my chair. He was exactly right, of course, but I thought we’d be marched right out of the TV business for good if we tried to do a full-scale Bollywood number in a Sci-Fi show. Luckily, Mark Stern [Syfy’s Executive Vice President for Original Content ] bought into the idea and off we went.

“Also late in the game, Damian, Martin, Amanda and Robin were invited to Tokyo by Syfy Asia and decided to take advantage of the exotic locale to shoot a scene for the show. We brainstormed and felt it belonged in my episode, and it turned out to be a great way to start things off. Shooting the Mumbai sequences took place on our [studio] backlot, which is where we built a massive labyrinthine Mumbai slum, and it looked photo real. To top it off, it was over 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 Farenheit, pretty much the whole week we were filming. Everyone was dying from the heat, but it helped with the authenticity. I’m not sure how we’re going to replicate that in part three, which will likely be shot this coming February or March.”

Having thoroughly enjoyed his first year with Sanctuary, McCullough is eagerly awaiting the start of work on season three. “I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge of us doing 20 episodes and really pushing the boundary with our season [story] arcs,” he says. “And also somehow getting ourselves out of the conundrum we created at the end of Kali, Part 2.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, photo is by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Sanctuary’s Amanda Tapping – Bare Essentials

January 13, 2010

Amanda Tapping as Sanctuary's Dr. Helen Magnus. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Fans of Sanctuary will recall that at the end of the show’s first year, Dr. Helen Magnus and her team risked their lives to try to reverse the effects of a biological weapon unleashed by The Cabal that turned Abnormals against humans. In the process, they lost Magnus’ daughter Ashley to the enemy, who, at the start of season two, changed her and five others into Super Abnormals, whose mission was to take down the Sanctuary network. 

The second season opener End of Nights pitted mother against daughter as Sanctuaries around the globe began to fall. In the final seconds of End of Nights, Part 2, Ashley sacrificed herself to save her mother and stop The Cabal. This action-packed and emotional rollercoaster ride of an episode was one that Amanda Tapping, who stars as Helen Magnus, thoroughly embraced, but it was not without an acting challenge or two. 

“I always enjoy the physicality of the role and I’m comfortable handling a gun, so all that felt very easy to me,” says the actress. “Obviously, the end emotional scene between Magnus and Ashley [Emilie Ullerup] was really challenging. You want to give something like that the weight it deserves and make sure you’re honoring the situation without going over the top. 

Fighting side-by-side - Ashley (Emilie Ullerup) and Magnus. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“I loved the Kate Freelander [Agam Darshi] stuff and introducing that character to audiences. It was also fun shooting the scene where Magnus is in her lab and talking to the different Sanctuary heads around the world, including Cairo, Tokyo and, of course, London. That’s a big part of the show’s mythology that we’ve sort of blown open this season. I was worried at first about making things too global, and then I realized it made sense because you would need a large enough network to transport and deal with all these Abnormals. And it’s a far bigger network than people first thought. 

“Again, though, for me the hardest part of End of Nights was maintaining that heightened level of intensity and staying true to the story without becoming boring.” 

Despite having seen her daughter teleport into what supposedly is oblivion, Magnus is not totally convinced that Ashley is, in fact, gone. In the following episode, Eulogy, the scientist sets out to prove that her child is still alive. “Eulogy was a really interesting and hugely emotional episode,” notes Tapping. “Magnus is desperately trying to find answers, and I think being the scientist and kind of woman she is, she fights to the death to make sure she’s explored every avenue. 

Will's (Robin Dunne) and Magnus' relationship develops new and deeper levels this season on Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“This is the first time that Will [Robin Dunne] actually challenges Magnus. He’s mad at her and he yells at her. This season, the Will Zimmerman character has the courage to stand up for himself and what he believes. There’s a real honesty and raw emotion in the friendship now between Will and Magnus, and Eulogy kicks that off in a big way. And obviously he’s mourning, too. Will has lost Clara [Christine Chatelain], and we’re trying to figure out what happened to Ashley. She can’t be gone. What do we do? How do we find her? Can we save her? If she truly is gone, how do we deal with that? At the same time, you’ve got this other timeline going on with Kate and Henry [Ryan Robbins], and you see their relationship starting to develop as they deal with a situation involving an Abnormal. Everyone has such a sense of purpose in this episode, and the jumping back and forth between the A and B storylines keeps things moving.” 

Although difficult to accept, Helen ultimately comes to the conclusion that Ashley is dead. The loss of her daughter is not the only tragedy she has had to cope with in her long life. During the past 159 years, Magnus has experienced a great deal, and when she took over her father’s role as head of the Sanctuary, it came with a whole new set of responsibilities. All work and no play is not good, though, even for a fictional character, and Tapping hopes that season two of Sanctuary has seen the lifting of some of the weight off Helen’s shoulders. 

“What we’ve tried to do this year is lighten up Helen a bit, not that you see that in the first three episodes,” jokes the actress. “But I think what happens when you put a character in such an intense crisis and such a toxic, volatile situation is that you strip away a ton of layers of defense. So as a result, in season two, I think you’ve seen a far more honest Magnus. She still has her secrets, which is important, but she’s been stripped bare. So, again, you see an honesty about her. Helen’s sense of humor is a bit more prevalent as well, and her warmth is a bit more palpable, too. 

Season two's Helen Magnus - a little less emotionally guarded and with a burgeoning sense of humor. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“Magnus is such an amazing, eccentric character and I still need to honor that as well as the scientist in her and the adamancy with which she attacks everything because she’s so sure of herself. But there needed to be more levels of vulnerability in her, and you definitely see that. I mean, you see it in the way she deals with the whole Ashley situation, and again in an episode called Pavor Nocturnus. She’s literally stripped down and it’s scary. The first 10 minutes of the story will blow your mind. As in End of Nights, there’s this incredible level of intensity, and the trick as an actor is to find those moments of genuine warmth and humor. 

“There’s another episode, Next Tuesday, where Will and Magnus go through an incredible ordeal, and at the end you almost hear Magnus giggle. It’s partly borne out of exhaustion, fear and the situation they’re in, but there’s this real guttural laugh that comes out of her, and it’s so open, too. We weren’t sure whether or not it was going to work, but I said, ‘I want to try this,’ and in doing do we got to see more of the real Magnus bubbling to the surface.” 

Besides Magnus’ relationship with Will, those she has with Sanctuary’s technical whiz Henry Foss as well as her former lover (and Ashley’s father) John Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl) are also further explored this season. Magnus begins to establish a relationship as well with the Sanctuary’s newest team member, ex-con artist Kate Freelander. 

Magnus meets up with a future version of Will in "Pavor Nocturnus." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“We managed to get Ryan Robbins as a regular cast member this year, so you see a lot more of his character Henry’s journey and what’s happening with him,” says Tapping. “Henry is like a son to Helen and she will protect him to the ends of the Earth. She’s tough on him, like any mother is with her children, but there’s a wonderful relationship between the two of them and it’s developing beautifully and organically as well. 

“With Druitt, there’s an episode we did called Haunted where you get a glimpse into why Druitt is the way he is, and it’s not necessarily the teleporting that’s making him that way. It’s something else and we find out about that. We also get a glimpse of the real John Druitt, which helps explain why Helen would have fallen in love with him. So many people ask, ‘How can she be in love with Jack the Ripper [Druitt]?’ The thing is, they didn’t know him before he became Jack the Ripper, and that John Druitt was an incredible man. Suddenly, his and Helen’s relationship makes total sense, and it’s quite heartbreaking. 

“As for Kate, the relationship with her and Magnus is developing nicely as well, and there’s a healthy and logical distrust with it. Again, I’d hear from people, ‘Um, I’m not sure if we like Kate.’ The thing is, you’re not supposed to like her off the top. You’re supposed to mistrust her and think, ‘Hmm, I don’t know about this character. Are we going to invest in her? She’s a bit rough around the edges. She’s a bit too cocky; she’s a bit too this, she’s a bit too that.’ There’s an episode that Michael Shanks guest-stars in [Penance] where we find out a great deal about Kate’s back story. My character is the first to actually start to trust her and welcome her in, but in a very perfunctory way as opposed to a lovey-dovey one.” 

Will and Kate (Agam Darshi) search for Magnus in "Veritas." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

As Tapping just mentioned, she had the opportunity to be reunited with her former Stargate SG-1 costar Michael Shanks when he shot the season two episode Penance. For both actors, it was like old home week when getting back together, but it was agreed that the onscreen time they shared would be limited. 

“There’s a moment where Helen and Jimmy – the character that Michael plays – see each other for the first time, and the smile on both their faces is so beautiful,” says the actress. “When we were watching the edit, I said to Martin Wood [executive producer/director], ‘But that’s Amanda and Micheal looking at each other,’ and he said, ‘But it doesn’t matter, it’s beautiful chemistry.’ 

“It was really sweet, but we decided, and this was very conscious on our parts, that there would not be a lot of interaction between the two characters. We didn’t want to bring Michael on and make it the Michael and Amanda show, you know? Instead, we wanted to utilize a very talented actor and someone who we love, so it became a Kate and Jimmy episode and it’s a phenomenal one. I’d have loved to have done more with Michael, but I also understood and was completely onboard with developing the story the way we did, and I think the fans will appreciate it for what it is.” 

Behind-the-scenes during season one of Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Back in June 2009, the actress made her Sanctuary directorial debut when stepping behind the cameras to shoot the second season’s Veritas. “It was fantastic,” she enthuses. “I wanted to direct, but when it began getting closer to the time, I didn’t want to because we’d already had such an intense season. By the time we got to episode seven, I didn’t think I could physically direct,” chuckles Tapping. “I’m so glad I did, though. I love directing; I love the whole physical concept of it, and the prep. 

“For me, especially because I’m in this episode, it was all about the prep. It was about totally understanding my shot list and how I wanted to edit the episode. I practically edited it in my head before I shot it, so I knew exactly how much coverage I needed and didn’t need. I’m going to toot my own horn here because I’m really proud of some of the shots I came up with. There were some beautiful green screen shots that I talked with [visual effects supervisor] Lee [Wilson] and [visual effects producer] Lisa [Sepp-Wilson] about. I explained to them, ‘I have this concept for a shot, can you do it?’ And I was so excited to see how things turned out. I chose my moments, though, because you can’t always go for the cool shot. You have to stick to the story, and this one is such a nice one.” 

Amanda Tapping on-set directing "Veritas." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Discussing a scene. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Lining up the next shot. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Working with guest-star Erica Cerra...Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

...and series co-star Robin Dunne. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

It does not matter if she is acting or directing, as one of Sanctuary‘s executive producers, alongside Martin Wood and series creator Damian Kindler, Tapping always wears her exec producer hat at work. This time around, though, that task has seemed somewhat easier than last year. 

“During the first season, Martin, Damian and I were trying so hard to do everything, and what we realized later on is that we don’t have to do everything,” says the actress. “There are things I can take care of, things that Martin can take care of, and things that Damian can take care of. We don’t all have to be doing everything. This season we found a groove, and I have to say that the three of us are such a good team and so good for each other. 

“Because I’m on the floor shooting the actual TV show, I don’t get to step up to the plate [producing-wise] as much until post-production, and that’s where I truly enjoy it. I love doing sound mixes, film corrects and all the other piecing together after the fact. That includes editing, of course, and I run up to the editing suite every chance I get. It’s also my responsibility, because I’m down on the floor all the time, to make sure everything is running smoothly.” 

From season one - Magnus, Will and Ashley. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Prior to wrapping Sanctuary‘s second season, Tapping, Kindler, Wood and Robin Dunne took advantage of a quick prearranged press conference to Tokyo to shoot two scenes for the show’s year two finale, Kali. “We flew out on a Thursday, landed on a Friday night, did a location scout all day on a Saturday, and shot on Sunday,” she recalls. “We found this great location, and because it was on a Sunday everyone was out walking around, so we had thousands of extras on this street where we were filming. It was fantastic. 

“We also got to work with Tatsuya Ishii. He’s a singer, artist, sculptor, philanthropist and just this incredible Renaissance man who played the head of the Tokyo Sanctuary for us. The best word I could use is that it was an honor to have him on the show. 

“So we filmed all day Sunday at Tokyo Harbor, then did the press conference on the Monday, drove back to the hotel, picked up our bags and flew home. Because of the time difference it was like a 40-hour day for us. We were on the plane and I said, ‘Hey, in Tokyo time we’d just be starting the press conference now,'” jokes Tapping. “I then had to be at work at six the next morning, so it was a whirlwind, but so worth it.” 

Casting an eye to the future. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

It is not long now before Tapping and the rest of the Sanctuary cast and crew will start production on the show’s third season. Everyone involved is looking forward to taking all their hard work from the past year and building upon that. “The second season, for all of us, felt so much richer and deeper, if that makes sense,” says the actress. “I think we were all far more confident in our roles not only as characters but also producers. 

“Season one felt like we were gearing up and figuring it all out, and then this year it was like, wow, now we have this massive and beautiful playground that, again, we’re all really confident in. I was nervous, though. I get nervous all the time, but that’s good. I think it’s healthy to be scared a little bit, but as soon as we started shooting it was like, ‘Hey, this is a really good show.’ So it’s been wonderful, it really has.” 

Steve Eramo

As noted above, photos by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

This Week On Sanctuary – 01 – 08 – 10

January 7, 2010

Helen (Amanda Tapping) has a surprise reunion with Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl) in "Haunted." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

SPOILER ALERT!! – Magnus (Amanda Tapping and her team rescue passengers and crew of a sinking ship off the coast of South Africa and teleport them back to the Sanctuary for medical treatment. But when one of the peaceful refugees is brutally murdered, all eyes turn to Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl). Haunted airs Friday, January 8th @ 10:00 p.m. EST on The Syfy Channel.  

Kate (Agam Darshi) tries to help figure out Druitt's connection to a cold-blooded murder. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

Just another routine day at the Sanctuary for Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne), or is it? Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel

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!

Sanctuary’s Ryan Robbins – Wolf In The Fold

November 28, 2009

Ryan Robbins as Henry Foss in Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

When it comes to tackling problems of a technical nature, Henry Foss is your man. Whether it’s cracking a multi-digit encrypted code or breaking down a seemingly impenetrable firewall, there is no one better qualified or more likely to get results. However, as a member of Dr. Helen Magnus’ Sanctuary team, Henry is more than just a gifted cyber-hacker. A descendant of her father Gregory’s first weaponsmith, he has designed many of Sanctuary’s weapons and is in charge of its defenses. Our beloved techie also has some hidden “talents” that he calls upon only in the more extreme of situations.

Introduced in the Sanctuary webisodes, Henry made the leap last fall to the Syfy Channel’s TV incarnation of the show as a recurring character, and this (second) season is now a regular on the series. On this particular Monday afternoon in June, actor Ryan Robbins, who plays Henry, has been tapping into his character’s techie side while filming the season two episode Veritas. Although the dialogue seems to roll effortlessly off his tongue, it took a bit of practice for him to get to this point.

“To be honest, it was a little nerve-wracking at first because of the nature of Henry,” says Robbins. “As the tech and weapons guy, my character has a lot of tech-talk and scientific babble, which was initially intimidating for me. Also, he was supposed to be the comic relief, and while I’d done comedy before, having to get a handle on being the funny guy in an otherwise dramatic series was, for some reason, difficult and I put some pressure on myself.

On the job with Henry. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“Prior to this I’d been playing a lot of bad guys and killers, so this was a wonderful opportunity and a terrific acting challenge for me. So I just went with it and committed to the material and let myself have a good time, and so far things seem to have worked out.

“Henry changed quite a bit from the webisodes to the first season of the TV show. In season one of Sanctuary there was definitely more depth to my character as well as an air of mystery. Then later on, there was also a darker side to Henry that was revealed, with him being an Abnormal and having the werewolf beast inside him. That was a part of him that he couldn’t control and it gave me even more levels to play in terms of relationships with the other characters.

“So there were a lot of different directions to go in any given scene, which is a gift as an actor. Henry is such a neat character because he’s so complex and his humor comes out of , not necessarily positive things, but rather from his efforts to overcome certain obstacles. What’s the saying, ‘Tragedy plus time equals comedy,’ and I think Henry is the epitome of that in a lot of ways. It’s almost like this running joke that he always has to be overcoming something, otherwise he’s not Henry. Things can’t always go right for him, you know? So many things just go wrong, but he’s constantly trying, and that’s what you’ve got to love about the guy – he just won’t quit. At the end of the day, he’s going to take care of business, but it can’t be easy for Henry.”

There is more than the eye can see with Henry Foss. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Having first directed Robbins in the two-part Stargate Atlantis episode The Storm and The Eye, Sanctuary executive producer Martin Wood later called the actor about playing Henry in Sanctuary‘s two-hour Internet pilot. “My Atlantis character [Ladon Radim] was only supposed to have a two-story arc and then get killed off,” recalls Robbins. “However, Martin told me, ‘I like you, and I don’t want them to kill your character off.’ So instead they killed a background character, and I stayed on. Ladon ended up becoming the leader of the Genii people, which was great and a lot of fun for me.

“Martin directed most of my Atlantis episodes, and when Sanctuary came up, the story is that he told [series creator/executive producer] Damian Kindler about this guy named Ryan Robbins who he should cast as Henry. And Damian was like, ‘Ladon from Atlantis? But he’s not funny,’ but Martin said something along the lines of, ‘But the guy who played him, Ryan Robbins, is kind of an oddball. He would be perfect for the role.’ So they phoned me and I thought it sounded really cool, and being part of a show that was groundbreaking seems like a good idea, too. Then, of course, we wound up getting a first season on Syfy and now we’re doing season two, so hopefully we’ll be around for a while,” says the actor with a smile.

During season one of Sanctuary, Henry worked with Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping), her daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup), Magnus’ former patient and longtime friend/confidant, Bigfoot (Christopher Heyerdahl), and her new protegé, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne), in the preservation and protection of centuries-old creatures called Abnormals. In the episode The Five, the Sanctuary itself falls victim to a series of mysterious attacks. The culprit turns out to be a snake-like creature, and in order to stop it, Henry reveals that he, too, is an Abnormal, more specifically, a werewolf. Before shooting this episode, did Robbins have any idea that his character harbored a hirsute alter ego?

Henry and Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping) try to work through yet another crisis facing the Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“We talked at the end of the webisodes and leading up to season one about this being a potential storyline for Henry in the future,” says the actor. “Although it remained kind of vague for a time, I started off in season one playing Henry as having some sort of mystery, because I think characters with secrets are always more interesting to watch. So when it eventually came out that he’s a werewolf, it seemed very natural and not entirely surprising.

“If you go back and watch previous episodes, you can see that Henry is maybe hiding something about himself, and I love it. I think it works really well and creates lots of dynamics. For example, people living with an illness or other difficulty might go for days and days laughing an enjoying themselves just like everyone else around them. However, when they are reminded of that illness or situation they’re in, they will fall into a funk and realize, oh, yeah, I’ve got to deal with this. For the most part, though, you try your best to get on with life. Originally, I feel Henry looked at his condition as being some sort of disease, but he’s since been able to embrace it. I still don’t believe he’s entirely comfortable with it because he’s still learning how to control it.”

The following episode, Edward, – for which Robbins won a Canadian Leo Award for Best Guest Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series – finds Henry contemplating surgery as a way of exorcising his werewolf persona. He changes his mind, though, when his abilities help him and his colleagues save the life of a fellow Abnormal. “I really enjoyed Five and Edward because they were quite dramatic and, again, interesting background stuff. I’m a comic book fan and I love origin stories, and it was cool to see a hint of an origin story for my character,” he says.

Henry at work on yet another invention. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“I also had a lot of fun shooting Nubbins, which was directed by Peter DeLuise. I just felt like was taken to comedy school in all the best ways, and gratefully and happily so. Peter knows comedy so well when it comes to timing and rhythm and sticking to it. I can’t begin to explain how much I learned from him about hitting comedic beats, including stuff that you never even saw on the screen.”

In Sanctuary‘s two-part season one finale, Revelations, Helen Magnus’ archenemy, the Cabal, unleash a biological weapon designed to turn Abnormals against humans. Ashley and Henry are captured when infiltrating a Cabal weapons facility to try to stop the development of the bio weapon, and the Cabal attempts to permanently turn Henry into a werewolf.

“Man, were those ever intense episodes, especially the torture scenes with my character,” notes Robbins. “It was weird because although I don’t have a fear of needles, I don’t especially like them. There’s this scene where over and over again this woman had to inject a needle into Henry’s arm, and I just kept thinking, ‘Jeez, I know they’re prop needles, but if that thing seizes up even a little bit, then it’s going into my arm.’ So it wasn’t hard to play the fear of the needle,” chuckles the actor. “On top of that, I’m strapped into this chair and here’s Alex Diakun, who is a sweetheart of a guy, doing such an incredible and convincing job of playing the creepy and menacing doctor.”

Ashley (Emilie Ullerup) and Henry are cornered by the Cabal in "Revelations." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Thanks to Henry’s Abnormal abilities, he and Ashley are able to escape from the Cabal, but not before the organization turns Ashley against her teammates. At the start of  Sanctuary‘s second season, she and five others are transformed into super-Abnormals whose sole purpose is to bring down the entire Sanctuary network. Despite the dire circumstances facing their characters, Robbins and the rest of the show’s cast as well as crew could not wait to return to work.

“When we came back for the second season, it felt like coming home,” enthuses the actor. “There was this level of confidence and one of, ‘OK, people dug what we did last year, so let’s keep going.’ So I think we all felt like we were maybe able to take a few more risks. Last year was one of discovery for all of us, and the episodes were written that way. In season one, Will Zimmerman was not only the new guy, but also the viewers’ reference. He was seeing everyone and everything for the first time, and in doing so, we were introduced to other characters and discovered things about them for the first time through Will’s eyes.

“Well, this year, we hit the ground running. I mean, Will is here and he’s one of us. Now we’re a real team and we’re moving forward with a fury and on-fire. In the season opener [End of Nights], the action, the tension, the storytelling, everything was ramped up. Season one was cool, but season two is exceptionally cool.

Henry and Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) working side-by-side. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“As for Henry, I feel like I have an even better understanding of him this year,” continues Robbins. “I love playing this character and I feel now like I can trust in my acting as well as my instincts and not have to worry about whether or not this or that comes across or if my subtext shows. I actually like watching Henry on the screen, and that’s a big deal for me because I don’t like watching myself all that much.

“We just finished shooting a wonderful Henry episode called Fragments, which was directed by Steve Adelson and guest-starring Anne Marie DeLuise. To tell you the truth, all the episodes have been really good so far. There have been some nice Henry/Bigfoot and Henry/Magnus moments this year. We’ve played it that Bigfoot has always known Henry’s secret, so they’ve had a very close connection. And now that my character has embraced his Abnormal side and is trying to deal with it, there’s this amazing bond that has developed between them. Henry has an amazing bond with Magnus as well, and now he and Will get to be buddies, too.”

In the aforementioned season two story Veritas, Henry helps Will and new team member Kate Freelander (Agam Darshi) find evidence that will prove Helen Magnus is innocent of murdering Bigfoot. The episode is Robbins’ first time being directed by Sanctuary‘s leading lady, Amanda Tapping.

Ryan Robbins and Anne Marie DeLuise in "Fragments." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“She’s a tyrant. There’s the cracking of the whip and all the screaming and yelling, not to mention the potty mouth. Other than that, it’s been fun,” jokes the actor. “Seriously, Amanda is awesome. I’d work with her again as a director in a heartbeat and without question. Amanda is an exceptional and wonderful individual in everything she does, acting, producing, directing, it doesn’t matter. She’s one of a kind, and it’s completely inspiring to be around her. And the crew really loves Amanda, too, especially today. It was only a 10-hour workday instead of a 12-hour one. Look how happy these guys are to be getting out of work now in this fantastic weather.”

Robbins was 12 years old when his desire to become an actor surfaced, but like most people that age, he did not know how to go about it. “I went to a very progressive arts-oriented high school with an intense theater program, and there was a teacher there named Drew Kemp who was sort of the catalyst that inspired me to pursue acting,” he says.

“My first big job was as a circus performer, and following that I moved back to Vancouver where a friend of mine who was a stuntman, suggested I try that as a way to break into acting, especially given my circus experience. I had a martial arts background as well, so I gave it a shot. Unfortunately, it’s not a good way to break into acting, at least it wasn’t for me. I had an accident and ended up compressing my spine. From there, I helped form an experimental band called Hellenkeller, which took off. We had a good run for about six years, and during that time there was a filmmaker who was also a fan of the band and she put me in one of her movies.

Bigfoot (Christopher Heyerdahl) and Henry. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“I guess I did OK in the film because from there I got an agent and began getting acting jobs. When the band eventually broke up, I was working as an actor, so I feel that perhaps it was meant to be. I just kept following my gut. I don’t like to say no to any opportunity, so I had a series of opportunities that presented themselves and I just wanted to seize them. Fortunately, they led me to where I wanted to be, so here I am making a go of things.”

Walking Tall, Catwoman and Passengers are among the actors’ feature film credits, while on TV he has appeared in several made-for-TV movies as well as guest-starred on such series as Dark Angel, The Outer Limits, Smallville, Supernatural, The Guard and Battlestar Galactica.

“I actually worked as an audition reader for the Galactica miniseries,” says Robbins. “That’s where I got to know [producer/director] Michael Rymer, and he offered me a role, which turned out to be at the very beginning of the miniseries. I’m the old man at the armistice station, and Number Six [Tricia Helfer] comes in and asks, ‘Are you alive?’ My character tells her, ‘Yes,’ and she says, ‘Prove it.’ So they kiss and then the place blows up and it starts a whole new war. Forty years of peace ruined by blowing me up.

A contemplative moment for Henry Foss. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“I kept in touch with Michael, and in the show’s third season he brought me in to play a bartender called Charlie Connor, which I did on-and-off for two years. It was a blast and that show is one of the best experiences of my career. That cast was amazing and the crew was phenomenal. Mary McDonnell [President Laura Roslin] and Edward James Olmos [Admiral William Adama] are incredible forces. They love this craft along with the environment of being on a set, and I learned a ton from my time on that show. In years to come, I think people will look back and realize what a relevant piece of history that program was, even though it was set in the future.”

Besides Sanctuary, Robbins can also be seen in the web-based Sci-Fi/Fantasy series Riese and in episodes of the upcoming Syfy Channel series Caprica. He recently completed two films, Smile of April and The Masculine Mystique, and will soon start work on Wrecked. It has been a busy year for the actor, and that is music to his ears.

“I never had a back-up plan and I don’t have a retirement plan either,” says the actor with a smile. “I don’t want to retire. I want to drop dead on a film set when I’m 100 years old. I believe in my heart and soul that I’m supposed to be doing this and I don’t ever want to stop.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions, so no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Sanctuary’s Agam Darshi – Beneath The Surface

October 24, 2009
Agam Darshi as Sanctuary newbie Kate Freelander. Photo copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell

Agam Darshi as Sanctuary newbie Kate Freelander. Photo copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell

First impressions, you either love ’em or hate ’em. Sometimes they’re good, other times not so good. Kate Freelander knows that only too well. This young and beautiful con artist hardly endears herself to Dr. Helen Magnus and her colleagues when she first crosses their paths. In fact, Kate quickly discovers just how far Helen is prepared to go when she wants information, especially if it has to do with someone she cares a great deal about. Surprisingly, Kate is able to turn things around in her favor when it comes to relationships with our heroes on Sanctuary. That is a big step for this newcomer to Dr. Magnus’ world, as actress Agam Darshi, who plays Kate, explains.

“First of all, Kate is an amazing character,” says a smiling Darshi, taking a break in-between shooting scenes for the season two episode Veritas. “I really enjoy her just because she is so complex. Kate comes across as really tough and sort of a smart-ass, and it’s not crystal clear whose side she’s on. Does she work for the Cabal? Does she work for the Sanctuary? You’re not quite sure, but as this season progresses, we start seeing this vulnerable side of her. You don’t see that very often, but when you do, I love those scenes because that’s when my character really starts connecting with people.

“So she’s slowly developing relationships with people around her, and each relationship is very different from the other. For example, things with Kate and Henry Foss [Ryan Robbins] are somewhat lighter in tone, but with her and Will Zimmerman [Robin Dunne] it’s more cerebral because she wants to [mentally] challenge him and be taken seriously in the Sanctuary world. So the trickiest acting challenge for me this year has been figuring out how my character interacts with everyone while also revealing more of who this tough girl really is beneath the surface.

“When I read the [audition] sides for Kate, I immediately connected with her. I knew just where she was coming from. I think the danger when playing a character like this is going too far and making her, again, too tough and serious. Kate is also very funny and has a softer side, so I’m trying to show all those aspects of her. I did that in the audition room and everyone seemed to really like what I did, and I’m hoping the audience will as well.”

Kate - tough, clever, opportunistic, but deep down also has a conscience. Photo by Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell

Kate - tough, clever, opportunistic, but deep down also has a conscience. Photo by Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell

In Sanctuary‘s two-part second season opener, End of Nights, Kate is working for the Cabal, a powerful and mysterious organization that is plotting the downfall of the global Sanctuary network. While en-route to deliver a “package” to her employers, she is intercepted by Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping), Will and Henry. They believe Kate has information that can lead them to where the Cabal is holding Helen’s daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup). After a high-speed car chase, Kate succeeds in making her delivery, but in the process is caught by the Sanctuary team and interrogated in a nearby warehouse.

“I’m pretty sure we filmed that warehouse scene on my first day of work,” recalls Darshi. “It was really cold and I was overwhelmed because it’s such a big show. I mean, this is an amazing cast and there are also a lot of terrific behind-the-scenes people here who used to work on Stargate. So I was excited, but at the same time I felt like a deer in headlights. I had to try to balance my emotions and give myself confidence as well. Obviously, I understood this character, so I just went with my instincts and things worked out great.

“I had never held a gun before coming onto Sanctuary and I had to fire one in this episode, so I practiced on a gun range beforehand just to get the hang of it. The physical stuff that Kate does has been something else I’ve had to get used to, but I like to go to the gym and do all sorts of tomboy stuff, so that’s been a positive challenge for me. We did a ton of green screen work, too, in End of Nights and have since then. This is my first time working so extensively with green screen and it feels a lot like doing theater, which is where I started out. It’s just you and the other person and it gives you the chance to really connect and use your imagination.”

During the climax of End of Nights – Part 2, Kate runs some interference when Ashley, who has been turned into a super-Abnormal by the Cabal, tries to kill Helen. With the Cabal hunting for her, Kate needs a safe haven and ends up staying at the Sanctuary. When, in the following episode, Eulogy, Helen and Will focus on trying to find Ashley, Kate gives Henry a hand trying to find a runaway Stenopelabilis.

Henry (Ryan Robbins) reluctantly accepts Kate's help in "Eulogy." Photo copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell

Henry (Ryan Robbins) reluctantly accepts Kate's help in "Eulogy." Photo copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell

“There’s this fantastic B-story where Henry and Kate are trying to find this Abnormal that’s just been born and is growing at an incredibly fast rate,” explains Darshi. “In one of the scenes, my character is by herself in one of the Sanctuary labs and looking at these tusks on an Abnormal who she thinks is dead. The tusks are worth a lot and Kate is always looking for things like that so she can sell them on the black market. All of a sudden, I’m blasted by a bunch of goo and this little baby Abnormal pops out of the mother Abnormal’s stomach. My character then has to crawl around on the floor looking for this little creature. It was fantastic because I felt so in the moment,” enthuses the actress. “When you have a scene like that, you can’t think about it, you just have to react.

“We dealt with a lot of goo in this episode, along with a lot of rolling around and French fries. It’s a long story,” she says with a laugh,” but I would go home at the end of the day with French fries literally stuck in my hair from all the goo. It was so much fun.”

Despite initially being at odds, Helen seems to think that Kate is capable of turning over a new leaf, but she’s going to have to earn everyones’ trust. “There’s a lovely scene between these two characters that takes place a few episodes into the season,” notes Darshi. “Basically, Kate thinks that she’s in trouble and is going to get kicked out of the Sanctuary because she sort of went behind Magnus’ back. However, Magnus turns around and says to her, ‘If you want to stay, I’ll have Henry put your things in a more permanent part of the Sanctuary.’ Who knows where that’s going to lead? You don’t know if Kate is actually going to stick around for long, but after that scene it looks promising. At least it was a chance to bring out a side of my character where she can express thanks, in her own way, to Magnus. She and Kate don’t have a lot of scenes together, and this is one of the sweeter ones between them. It says a great deal about what Kate wants and how Helen feels about her.”

Having graduated with a major in visual arts and photography from the University of Calgary, Darshi once considered pursuing a career in photography. However, one of her teachers suggested that she should get an agent and give acting a try, so she did.

Uneasy allies - Kate and Bigfoot (Christopher Heyderdahl). Photo copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell

Uneasy allies - Kate and Bigfoot (Christopher Heyderdahl). Photo copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell

“That was six years ago and I’ve been working ever since,” says the actress. “I feel very lucky to be doing this because it’s what I love. My first job was a recurring role on a TV show called Renegadepress.com. It was shot in Regina, Saskatoon, which I’d never been to before. I was pretty nervous, but it was one of those situations where it couldn’t have been a better show for me. It was about young people in high school, so it was a very safe environment, and being my first gig ever I just tried to absorb whatever I could from the other people my age.”

Although she has only been in the business for a short time, Darshi has already amassed a long and impressive resume. Final Destination 3, Snakes on a Place, Deck the Halls, Watchmen and the upcoming 2012 are among her feature film credits. The actress has also appeared in several made-for-TV movies and done guest-spots on such series as Reaper, Kyle XY, The Dead Zone, The L Word and two episodes of Stargate Atlantis, including Suspicion, where she first worked with Sanctuary‘s Christopher Heyerdahl (John Druitt/Bigfoot).

“I only had one or two lines in that episode and Christopher [Halling] happened to be in the same scene,” says Darshi. “He’s so kind and there were so many extras there and he was trying to explain the story to them so that they could react appropriately. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow, you usually never see these big stars explaining anything to anyone.’ But Christopher was so into it and really believed that these extras, who sometimes tend to be ignored, deserved a chance to know what was going on and feel part of the scene.”

When she is not in front of the camera, Darshi wastes no time when it comes to her craft. “I’ve written three short films and produced them as well,” she says. “I find writing incredibly challenging, but I love it. Sometimes this industry can get a little crazy; sometimes you have work, sometimes you don’t. So it’s always really positive for me to feel like I’m putting energy into other creative outlets, and writing is one of them. It’s something I’m relatively new at, though. I know I can write a good short story, but can I write a good feature? That’s something I’m still playing with and learning about.

Come on, make my day! Photo copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell

Come on, make my day! Photo copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell

“I’ve always been a very creative person and it’s important for me not to slot myself into one compartment. I can’t just be an actor. I feel better when I’m an all-around artist, whether it’s writing, producing or even things like taking photographs or playing the guitar. It doesn’t really matter. Whatever I happen to be doing at the time makes me feel so much better. And what’s neat is that you learn from the different types of art. The skills you learn as a writer can help you as an actor, the skills you learn playing music can help you write, etc. That’s why I like to do it all.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, all photos copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions and Jeff Weddell, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

The Syfy Channel Annouces Its Fall Line-Up

July 20, 2009

ON the heels of its successful summer series launches, Syfy will continue its tradition of imagination-fueled original entertainment this fall with a strong line-up of series and season premieres, along with new episodes of some of its most popular returning shows. Syfy’s fall 2009 line-up includes:

Stargate Universe – New Series Premieres October 2nd @ 9 p.m. (2-hour premiere). Airs Fridays @ 9 p.m. beginning October 9th.

Syfy’s upcoming one-hour series, Stargate Universe, follows a band of soldiers, scientists and civilians who must fend for themselves as they are forced through a Stargate when their hidden base comes under attack. The desperate survivors emerge aboard an ancient ship, which is locked on an unknown course and unable to return to Earth. Faced with meeting the most basic needs of food, water and air, the group must unlock the secrets of the ship’s Stargate to survive. The danger, adventure and hope they find on-board the Destiny will reveal the heroes and villains among them.

Set to premire in October 2009 with a two-hur special, the series stars Robert Carlyle (Transpotting, The Full Monty), Lou Diamond Phillips (Che, La Bamba), Ming-Na (ER, Vanished), Alaina Huffman, Louis Ferreira, David Blue, Jamil Walker Smith and Brian J. Smith with special guest-stars, Grammy nominated artist Janelle Monae, Amanda Tapping, Michael Shanks, Gary Jones and Carlo Rota.

Edgier and younger in tone, Stargate Universe will take the franchise in a dynamic new direction, appealing to longtime Stargate fans and first-time viewers alike. The two-part premiere is directed by Andy Mikita (Stargate Atlantis, Stargate SG-1) and lensed by Ronn Schmidt (The Shield, The Mist). Robert C. Cooper and Brad Wright (Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis) serve as executive producers and writers on the new series. Stargate Universe is distributed by MGM Worldwide Television Distribution.

Destination Truth – Season Three Premieres September 9th @ 9 p.m.

This fall, Syfy will premiere the third season of its reality hit, Destination Truth. World traveler and intrepid explorer Josh Gates will return to host nine all-new episodes – each an off-the-map adventure in search of the answers to some of the world’s most intriguing unexplained mysteries. This season on Destination Truth, Josh will travel to some of the most extreme locations on Earth, including the isolated Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and the heart of the worlds worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl. Viewers will also ride along on unprecedented investigations, including the world’s first overnight exploration of King Tut’s cursed tomb and pitch-black dives in ancient Caribbean caves.

A graduate of Boston’s renowned Tufts University, Josh holds degrees in archaeology and drama, and was recently inducted into The Explorers Club, a prestigious global organization dedicated to the advancement of exploration and field research. An avid scuba diver, he has participated in sub-sea archaeological excavations in the Mediterranean and his work as a photographer has taken him from sweltering African villages to the icy heights of the Himalayas. In addition, he has scaled “the roof of Africa” on Mt. Kilimanjaro, climbed Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Americas, and set foot in more than 75 countries around the world.

Destination Truth is executive producer by Brad Kuhlman for Ping Pong Productions (1,000 Places to See Before You Die, Celebrity Rehab, FM Nation). Bechara Gholam will serves as co-executive producer.

Sanctuary – Season Two Premieres Friday, October 9th @ 10 p.m.

Syfy’s groundbreaking hit original series Sanctuary, the first TV show based on an online series to be picked up for a second season, will return to Syfy in October. Sanctuary follows the adventures of the beautiful, enigmatic and always surprising Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping), a brilliant scientist who holds the secrets of a clandestine population – a group of strange and sometimes terrifying beings that hide among humans. Along with forensic psychiatrist Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne) and her fearless daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup), Magnus seeks to protect those threatened phenomena as well as unlock the mysteries behind their existence. Joining the cast in season two is Agam Darshi as Kate Freelander, a con artist and thief who finds herself in an uneasy alliance with Dr. Magnus. Sanctuary also starts Ryan Robbins as tech whiz Henry and Christopher Heyerdahl as the sinister John Druitt.

Special guest-stars this season include Christopher Gauthier (Eureka) and Michael Shanks (Stargate SG-1). Created by Damian Kindler (Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis), Sanctuary is produced in association with Syfy and distributed by Tricon Films and Television. Season Two of the series is executive produced by Damian Kindler, Amanda Tapping, Martin Wood and Keith Beedie.

Scare Tactics – Season Three Episodes Return Tuesday, October 6th @ 9 p.m.

Syfy’s hidden camera reality show Scare Tactics is hosted by famed comedian Tracy Morgan. The hit series captures its frightened victims who have been set up by friends and loved ones. Unsuspecting victims are placed into elaborately staged scary situations involving movie-style special effects and make-up. The horror hoaxes are skillfully designed to tap into the wildest fears of the prank’s prey. Viewers laugh along to the hilarious reactions of the show’s “stars” as they are caught off-guard and on camera. Scott Hallock and Kevin Healey of Hallock Healey Entertainment are the executive producers and creators of Scare Tactics.

Ghost Hunters – All-New Episodes Throughout The Fall – Wednesdays @ 9 p.m. Featuring special guest-investigators Meatloaf and Josh Gates.

This fall, Syfy presents all-new episodes of Ghost Hunters every Wednesday @ 9 p.m. Get in the spirit with Jason, Grant and the rest of the TAPS team as they embark on chilling new investigations including a host of historic haunts as well as some of the most daunting locales featured on the show yet, such as the massive long-abandoned Essex County Hospital in New Jersey. In October, music superstar and longtime Ghost Hunter fan Meatloaf will join the team as a guest-investigator in a special episode featuring a home in Thousand Islands, NY, one of last year’s finalist locales in the Great American Ghost Hunters contest.

Ghost Hunters is produced in association with Craig Piligian’s Pilgrim Films and Television (Dirty Jobs, The Ultimate Fighter, My Fair Wedding). Piligian and Thomas Thayer, along with Rob Katz and Alan David, serve as executive producers.

Warehouse 13 – All-New Episodes Throughout September – Tuesdays @ 9 p.m.

Syfy’s newest one-hour hit dramedy series Warehouse 13 continues through September 2nd with a host of special guest-stars including Battlestar Galactica’s Micheal Hogan; Eureka‘s Joe Morton, Erica Cerra and Niall Matter and Stargate Atlantis‘ Joe Flanigan. Warehouse 13 follows two Secret Service agents who find themselves abruptly transferred to a massive, top-secret storage facility in windswept South Dakota, which houses every strange artifact, mysterious relic, fantastical object and supernatural souvenir ever collected by the U.S. government. The Warehouse’s caretaker Artie (Saul Rubinek) charges Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly) with chasing down reports of supernatural and paranormal activity in search of new objects to cache at the Warehouse, as well as helping to control the warehouse itself. Warehouse 13 also stars Allison Scagliotti as Claudia Donovan and CCH Pounder guest-stars as Artie’s boss, Mrs. Frederic.

The series is produced for Syfy by Universal Cable Productions. It is executive produced by Jack Kenny (The Book of Daniel), who also serves as showrunner. David Simkins (Dresden Files) is executive producer and Stephen Surjik (Monk, Burn Notice) is producer/director of the show.

Rachel Luttrell – Working Mom

July 4, 2009
Rachel Luttrell as Stargate Atlantis' Teyla Emmagan. Photo by Matthias Clamer and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Rachel Luttrell as Stargate Atlantis' Teyla Emmagan. Photo by Matthias Clamer and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Things are hot, really hot on the Stargate Atlantis set – literally. It is an unusually warm August (2008) day in Vancouver, which is not exactly ideal if you have to spend the day inside a Wraith spaceship, whose walls are made of latex. The Atlantis cast, including actress Rachel Luttrell, who plays Teyla, are doing their best to keep cool as they film the fifth season story Infection.

“Essentially, the premise of this episode is that the retrovirus gene, which Dr. Beckett [Paul McGillion] originally created and Dr. Keller [Jewel Staite] then modified and implemented, has been unleashed on a hive ship that is being run by Todd [Christopher Heyerdahl],” explains Luttrell. “The retrovirus has gone awry and created a disease amongst him and his crew, so great numbers of them have died. The survivors have put themselves into hibernation pods and sent out a signal to Atlantis because we’re the only ones who can help them. So we go to the hive to see what we can do, and it becomes a question of do we help the Wraith or not.

Teyla and Major Lorne (Kavan Smith) defend themselves against some especially nasty Wraith in the season five Atlantis episode "Infection." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Teyla and Major Lorne (Kavan Smith) defend themselves against some especially nasty Wraith in the season five Atlantis episode "Infection." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“The retrovirus is successful on the one hand in that the feeding opening on the Wraiths’ hand disappears, so they are forced to eat using their teeth and mouths. As a result, several of our Marines are attacked, taken away and eaten. Not only that, but because the Wraith hives are organic, this ship has also been infected. The hibernation pods are linked into the ship, and minerals and whatnot from the bodies of the diseased Wraith are transferred into the hive. So tunnels are appearing where walls used to be, walls are appearing where halls used to be, and huge caverns are forming because entire rooms are disintegrating. Our people are trapped onboard this ship, which is going out of control and heading into the atmosphere of a planet. Next to Rodney McKay [David Hewlett], who’s a genius, Teyla is the only one who knows how to operate the hive ship, and she does her best in terms of trying to land it safely. So it’s a pretty dark and exciting episode.”

Five years ago, handling the controls of a Wraith ship, let alone being onboard one, was the farthest thing from Teyla Emmagan’s mind. Her life has taken a very different path since she decided to leave her people, the Athosians, and join the Atlantis team in its battle against the Wraith. Along the way, she has also helped save the Pegasus Galaxy from a variety of other alien threats. In year four, Teyla fell in love with Kanaan (Patrick Sabongui), a fellow Athosian, and in the season five Atlantis opener Search and Rescue, she gave birth to their child. The experience has further changed her, and given Luttrell more to play with in her performance as well.

“If it’s possible, Teyla seems to me more grounded and there’s a deeper strength within her,” muses the actress. “And that, I think, is due to the fact that she’s a mother now. So all her subsequent missions have taken on that added concern of if she doesn’t come back, then she’s leaving behind somebody who’s not only very dear to her, but who is also this incredibly special being, which was hinted at last season. Because of what I’ve recently gone through in my life, and the fact that I, too, am a new Mom, I really do draw a great deal on who I am when it comes to playing certain aspects of Teyla. This has been a very challenging year for me, personally, just because I’m juggling a whole heck of a lot. However, it gives me a greater sensitivity to what’s going on in Teyla’s life in that’s it’s pretty much the same thing. There’s no downtime for either of us. She’s out there saving the world and then comes back to take care of her wee one, and I’m shooting a TV show and then I go home and take care of my wee one,” smiles Luttrell.

Teyla gives Dr. Zelenka (David Nykl) a helping hand in season five's "First Contact." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Teyla gives Dr. Zelenka (David Nykl) a helping hand in season five's "First Contact." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“In portraying a character for so long there’s an ease that comes with it because you really get to know how she will respond in any given situation, and that’s something quite wonderful for an actor to take on. You become protective of that character, too, because you’re their voice and eyes, which is lovely and fun as well. At the same time, you don’t want to become complacent; you have to try to keep your performance fresh. That’s always in the back of my mind because i genuinely care about this character so much. So how do I keep her fresh? I don’t want to sound silly, but I think it’s something that comes naturally to me. As I’ve come to know Teyla more and more, there are various textures and nuances that I’ve been able to add to her, and I guess that keeps her fresh. As the audience learns more about her, I’m continuing to grow into her as a person.”

Towards the end of Atlantis‘ fourth season, the half-human/half-Wraith Michael (Connor Trinneer) kidnapped Teyla with an eye towards harnessing the unique abilities of her as-yet unborn baby. Fortunately for mother and child, they were saved in Search and Rescue, but Michael was not about to give up. In year five’s The Prodigal, he invades Atlantis and threatens to destroy the city unless Teyla and her baby Torren come away with him.

Teyla and her child face Michael's (Connor Trinneer) wrath in "The Prodigal." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Teyla and her child face Michael's (Connor Trinneer) wrath in "The Prodigal." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“Once and for all we decisively take care of Michael, and with the help of Colonel Sheppard [Joe Flanigan], my character gets to deliver the final blow that sends him to his demise,” enthuses Luttrell. “When it came to filming the actual fight with Sheppard, Teyla and Michael, we were around 15 feet off the ground and standing on a portion of stage that was supposed to be the top of the Atlantis tower. I don’t like heights that much, but I had no idea how much I didn’t like heights until after I got up on this little ledge and [director] Andy Mikita yelled, ‘Action!’

“Prior to that, they said there would be a little bit of wind, but when I heard, ‘Action,’ there was this blast of wind that almost sent me flying over the ledge. At one point, Connor’s stunt double Simon told him to hang onto Joe’s jacket as an anchor because there’s a moment when, God bless him, Michael has to flail backwards. So he’s pretty much teetering on the brink of falling off the ledge. That was tough from an acting standpoint, but, of course, from a story standpoint it’s a wonderful moment and a very heroic one for Sheppard as well as Teyla. It’s also the last kind of desperate cling for Michael to his power, not to mention his life, and there’s absolutely no mercy whatsoever in Teyla towards him.”

Ronon (Jason Momoa), Dr. McKay (David Hewlett), Teyla and Colonel Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) end up trapped atop of a nearly submerged Stargate in "The Shrine." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Ronon (Jason Momoa), Dr. McKay (David Hewlett), Teyla and Colonel Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) end up trapped atop a nearly submerged Stargate in "The Shrine." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Not long after filming wrapped on the aforementioned Infection, it was announced that Atlantis would not be renewed for a sixth season. A few weeks later the series finale, Enemy at the Gate, was filmed, and Luttrell graciously takes time to look back at the experience.

“Well, unlike a lot of shows that get cancelled, we had the good fortune to know in advance that what we were doing we’d be doing for the last time,” notes the actress.  “So the whole mood of the set took on a very nostalgic feel. We truly had a wonderful sense of camaraderie on our show and the crew was very much a part of that, so we all felt the weight of the occasion. We continued to have a lot of laughs, but we also had the opportunity to say good-bye to all the amazing people whom we’d worked with day in and day out for five years, and still very much liked!”

Teyla in season five's "Ghost in the Machine." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Teyla in season five's "Ghost in the Machine." Photo by Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

As Luttrell mentioned earlier, her life has become considerably busier since the birth of her and husband Loyd Bateman’s son Caden Dar on October 12th, 2007, and the actress is enjoying every moment of being a Mom. “It’s just great,” she enthuses. “My Mom once told me that your children will take you to places you never thought you would go, and you’ll meet people who you would have never met if it weren’t for your children. She was so right. Something else that both my parents always said is that with the birth of your child, you come to truly understand love. I mean, everyone talks about love and they say that love isn’t really love unless it’s an unconditional love. If it’s a judgemental kind of love, then really what is that? Can it truly be love or is it just ego, but there is no ego involved in taking care of your own child. Regardless of what this person does, I will forever love him, which is amazing.

“I’ll share this one moment – during our last hiatus I was going to visit my husband, who was shooting a movie in Germany, and I was happily travelling in business class. I was waiting in the lounge, and no offense to those people who travel business all the time, but it can sometimes be a little bit reserved in there. Everyone is sitting back, drinking their cocktails and preparing for, in this case, a nine-and-a-half hour flight. And there’s usually this one woman with a baby, and I was sitting there thinking, ‘Oh, my God, here I am. I’m that woman.’ Well, my little guy just wanted to talk, so he hopped down from his seat, walked up to everyone in that lounge and melted the hearts of the sternest of businesspeople. Each and every person started opening up, and it was an encapsulated moment of what my Mother had told me. All of a sudden I was listening to stories from people who I probably wouldn’t have interacted with had it not been for my son’s spirit. He’s gorgeous and I absolutely love being his Mom.”

Steve Eramo

As stated above, all photos by Matthias Clamer or Eike Schroter and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!

Martin Wood – Into The Groove

June 11, 2009
Behind-the-scenes with Amanda Tapping (Dr. Helen Magnus) and executive producer/director Martin Wood on the set of Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Behind-the-scenes with Amanda Tapping (Dr. Helen Magnus) and executive producer/director Martin Wood on the set of Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Are you familair with the classic children’s tale The Little Engine That Could? It’s about this little engine that, despite being decidedly smaller in size than its counterparts, succeeds in pulling a long train over a high mountain, all the time repeating the motto, “I-think-I-can.” Our little hero’s efforts are not unlike those that are applied to many real-world challenges, including making a TV show. When the hit Sci Fi Channel series Sanctuary made the leap from the Internet to the small screen, some people wondered if it would be able to hold its own against slicker, bigger-budgeted programs. Although he experienced all the usual jitters that come with launching a freshman TV series, executive producer/director Martin Wood had every confidence in the final product.

“Right from the start I thought, ‘The world is not ready for this. People are going to be surprised,'” recalls Wood. “Reporters called us after watching the season one opener and I was like, ‘Man, you have no idea what’s coming up.’ I spoke to the head of Sci Fi Productions at the Stargate Atlantis wrap party last year and he said, ‘I had an idea about what it [Sanctuary] would be like, but I had no idea it would be this good.’ I haven’t heard a bad word about the series since we first began making it. Again, I think it really surprised people. It’s one thing to have them react to the season opener, but we sold the show on the Internet pilot, and from there we sort of said to each other, ‘OK, we’re taking the bit between our teeth and running with it.’

“For me, a big part of doing this was being able to show people that we could do this without a huge studio. The three of us – Damian Kindler [series creator/executive producer], Amanda Tapping [series lead/executive producer] and I – picked it up, collected Sam Egan [executive producer] along with our producer, George Horie, and just ran with it. We all embraced Sanctuary in the same way and together decided that we were going to make the series look better than anything we’d ever done before, and it does. And it all has to do with the fact that everyone here is working hard, really hard. I mean, I’ve spent 12 years watching Amanda Tapping go through an awful lot of permutations of Sam Carter [from Stargate SG-1] and even different characters, but I’ve never seen her do what she did this past year. It was exceptional.”

In Sanctuary, Tapping plays Dr. Helen Magnus, a 157-year-old scientist in charge of a global network of top-secret facilities called Sanctuaries. Together with her daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup), forensic psychiatrist Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne),technical troubleshooter Henry Foss (Ryan Robbins) and the legendary Bigfoot (Christopher Heyerdahl), she tracks down, studies and protects the strange and sometimes dangerous creatures (or abnormals) that live amongst us. Despite his years of experience as a director and later a producer as well on SG-1 and Atlantis, doing both jobs simultaneously on Sanctuary look a bit of getting used to for Wood.

Martin Wood reaches for new heights directing Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Martin Wood reaches for new heights directing Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“There were plenty of times during Stargate where I didn’t have to deal with anything outside of directing,” he notes. “I may have been producing it [the show], too, but there were always people above me who made sort of the tougher decisions and dealt with the bigger issues. On Sanctuary, however, if a situation comes up that you don’t have time to handle, there’s no one to hand it off to. So, Damian, Amanda and I will look at each other and go, ‘Oh, right, that’s me. I’ll deal with that.’ And I might then, for instance, have to leave the set to speak with someone from the network or deal with something else that’s unfolding behind-the-scenes. So when I’m trying to answer a question regarding a production issue, it’s all intertwined and part of the big picture. I can’t separate having to make the series as a director and also having to make it as a producer. It’s all one in the same, and every day you’re dealing with something unique.

“When I was doing SG-1 and Atlantis I would do back-to-back episodes, when you prep one, shoot it, and then prep the next one and shoot it. That’s more or less how it worked all the time. In this case, though, I never let anything go. You’re continually working on a story, and it’s a challenge because you wind up getting into situations where, as a producer, you’re not able to stop being part of a single episode. So when you’re watching the VFX [visual effects] being finished for episodes one and two, you’re also dealing with music and reviewing the VFX for episodes three, four and five. You can’t concentrate on one thing, you know? That took a little bit of getting used to for all of us, but it was a matter of moving forward and getting on with it. So each of us had to work at maximum efficiency and maximum capability, and I think it shows on the screen.”

Helen Magnus and her team may be based in one locale, but several of their missions during the first season of Sanctuary took them around the world. While some TV shows might be financially restricted to using their studio backlot to re-create, say, the Scottish Highlands or ancient catacombs beneath Rome, Sanctuary relies heavily on green screen to conjure up whatever exotic location a script might call for.

Director Martin Wood gets into green screen mode on Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Director Martin Wood gets into green screen mode on Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

“With virtually every show we had in season one it was a matter of ‘Can we pull this off,'” says Wood. “When you’re talking about stuff that doesn’t exist, it’s not a question of can we build it in time, but rather is there going to be time for the virtual artists to create a computer program that will make this place look believable. Luckily, we have Anthem Visual Effects, which is headed up by Lee Wilson and his wife Lisa [Sepp-Wilson]. who, together with Sebastien Bergeron [digital effects supervisor] have not slept since we started this show. It’s like having a construction company waiting in the wings ready to build things, and then you say, ‘OK, here are the materials to do your job, and can you finish this by next week because we have something else to build the following week. Oh, by the way, this is the most complicated thing you’ve ever done, and there’s a time limit involved.’ And their response is, ‘Sure.’ I’m very happy to  report that we haven’t ‘killed’ them yet,” jokes the producer/director.

“Besides our virtual sets, we’ve done practical ones as well,” continues Wood. “When we finished shooting [season one’s] Kush, which had the plane crash in the Himalayans, Damian and I looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, that looked cool.’ The crew, however, did not enjoy working in the set we had. It was a practical one because I didn’t want to lock us into a whole bunch of VFX when something could very easily be practical. Not only that, but I had to give the VFX gang a break because they had just finished Folding Man and had Nubbins coming up, both of which were huge creature shows. With Kush we had some big matte painting and things of that nature, but for the most part the entire episode was done practically. Well, the crew was used to working in giant stages, and all of a sudden we were in an airplane.

“We subsequently took that set and turned it into a submarine set for the next episode we filmed, Requiem. We then took Robin and Amanda into that set for the entire story. There’s a brief glimpse of Henry at the beginning, but for the most part it’s just the two of them simply acting, and it’s the best acting I’ve ever seen Amanda do. For me, Requiem was the hardest bit of directing I’ve done. It sounds so weird to say that because it’s two actors in a submarine. Damian Kindler wrote this incredible script and it was all about the acting, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done because I could not let a second go by where I was not on the ball. I had to figure out how far I could push the actors. The things we were asking them to do were incredibly challenging and you’re standing there saying, ‘I need you to do it again.’ Meanwhile, the actors are asking you, ‘Why do we have to do it again?’ but, ultimately, their efforts showed on the screen. Amanda had to go to a very strange place [with her performance] and Damian had to go there as well in order to write the script. So it was a really tough episode for all of us, but it ended up being an extremely rewarding one, too.”

Martin Wood sets up a shot in the revamped submarine set for the season one Sanctuary episode "Requiem." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

Martin Wood sets up a shot in the revamped submarine set for the season one Sanctuary episode "Requiem." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Sci Fi Channel

This chat with Wood took place prior to the start of filming on season two of Sanctuary back in February. At that time, the producer/director chuckled when asked what his hopes were for the show’s second year. “Season one was a year of scrambling, and I’m looking forward to not scrambling as much in the second season,” he says. “We have a groove that we’ve fallen into where we understand better how this show is supposed to work. We were all neophytes last year, so we’re hoping that the newness will have worn off and we can settle into what we really want to do, which is make the best show possible.”

I had the privilege of spending a day on the Sanctuary set last week and all is definitely going well with the filming of season two. Amanda Tapping was directing that day, and she, Martin Wood, Damian Kindler and the rest of the Sanctuary cast and crew have plenty of twists and turns in store for fans with these new 13 episodes. You can look forward to seeing much more Sanctuary coverage on my blog closer to the premiere of season two – Steve Eramo

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