Posts Tagged ‘Jonathon Young’

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 Robin Dunne – A Will Of His Own

December 27, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Eramo

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

This Week On Sanctuary – 12 – 18 – 09

December 17, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sanctuary’s Martin Wood – Season Of Change

December 15, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final touches! Photo courtesy of and copyright of Martin Wood

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

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

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

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

 Steve Eramo 

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