Posts Tagged ‘Martin Wood’

Q & A With Stargate Atlantis’ Paul McGillion

April 28, 2010

Paul McGillion as Dr. Carson Beckett on Stargate Atlantis. Photo copyright of the Syfy Channel

Last month, actor Paul McGillion (Stargate Atlantis‘ Dr. Carson Beckett) very kindly agreed to answer questions from the readers of SciFiAndTvTalk. We got through as many as we could, so without further delay, here are Paul’s answers. Enjoy, and thank you to everyone who sent in a question!

If Stargate Atlantis were to return, would you be in the series? (from Mischa Mipa)

PAUL McGILLION – Yes, but because Jason Momoa is now Conan the Barbarian, they’ve asked me to play Ronon. Seriously, I’d love to be part of Atlantis if they decide to come back, but it would be all up to the producers, though, and, of course, the fans.

When you look back on Stargate Atlantis, what moments/memories will always stay with you about your experiences on this wonderful show? (from Deb)

P McG – Tons of moments; the pilot, especially. Just stepping onto the Atlantis stage on the first day of filming had a real special feeling to it. One of the first people I ran into was Robert Patrick (Colonel Marshall Sumner), and I thought, “This is going to be really cool.” I was excited and I think everyone had that same sense of enthusiasm about the show and the possibility of it running for a long time, which it did.

So that was a great memory, and then just all my friends that I met through the show, David Hewlett (Dr. Rodney McKay), Joe Flanigan (Colonel John Sheppard), Jason Momoa (Ronon Dex), Torri Higginson (Dr. Elizabeth Weir) and Rachel Luttrell (Teyla), was great. We had so many laughs, it was really fun. And then there are moments that you can’t erase from your memory, one being a scene in the episode Duet where David Hewlett kissed me. I would consider that more of a nightmare than a memory – a recurring nightmare.

Honestly, there are just so many different things that we had the opportunity to do on the show. I always equate it to playing cowboys and Indians in space, and with each new script, the cast felt, “OK, what are we doing this week? Oh, I’m wearing a hazmat suit. Oh, this character is drinking a potion that makes everyone fall in love with him,’ etc.  Atlantis is just a fun show that’s full of escapism and I think that’s why fans like Stargate; it gives them an hour to escape into another world and I just think it’s fantastic.

Is there a chance you will work on other projects with some of your co-stars from Stargate Atlantis? (from Deb)

P McG – I certainly hope so. I’ve had the pleasure of working with David Hewlett on A Dog’s Breakfast, which was great. Again, I think they’re all really fine actors and hopefully our paths will cross again, if not on the Atlantis movie, maybe another TV series or film. It’s a pretty small world so I’m sure that will happen at some point in time and I look forward to it.

What is your favorite episode of Stargate Atlantis? (from Steven)

P McG – That’s a tough one. I would have to say that for me, personally, it’s the first season’s Poisoning the Well just because I think it’s the episode that kind of solidified Beckett as a regular in the series. It was a very meaty Carson story and almost a test of sorts for the character to see if he could handle that much, and thankfully it worked out really well and I was very happy with that episode. It was quite touching and it showed a lot of humanity as well as a great deal of the humor with Beckett as far as him initially going through the wormhole and walking through the tunnels on the planet and all the dialogue that went along with that. A lot of the comedic aspects of Beckett came out. And then you see the humanity of the character, especially later on when Perna (Allison Hossack) dies in his arms. So I think it was a really beautiful episode.

First of all, thank you so much for your work on Stargate Atlantis. Your character was what made it the most worthwhile to watch. I hope you will have the chance to play Beckett at least one more time in an Atlantis movie if/when it is green-lit. My question for you is, has playing Dr. Beckett affected your own personality/views as an individual? (from Rebecca S.)

P McG – Hi, Rebecca. Well, I was fortunate enough in that I was born in Scotland, so that really helped when I decided to come in and do a Scottish accent for Beckett. So I think when they chose me to play the part, they chose me with a Scottish accent, whereas a lot of other actors came in with different types of accents. But I just stuck to my guns and wanted to play him Scottish.

As an actor, you put a little piece of yourself in every role, and I think there are aspects of Beckett that I carry in my own life as well. He’s a very interesting character and I think the show’s writers gave him a number of opportunities to reveal a lot of different layers. So like I said, every character has a little bit of you in it. I’d like to hope so, anyway.

What was the most difficult Atlantis episode you did? (from Rebecca S.)

P McG – Duet, for obvious reasons, including those I previously mentioned.

Will you be doing any more Stargate Atlantis audio books? Those are just fantastic and keep the show alive for me. (from Wraithfodder)

P McG – Somebody actually mentioned the possibility of another one coming through and I’m certainly open to it. So if they were to ask me I’d be willing to do another one; they’re a lot of fun to record.

I’ve enjoyed your guest-starring role on Sanctuary; do you think it will be an ongoing thing? (from Qzee)

P McG – Well, Qzee, I appear in the first two episodes of Sanctuary‘s third season, which I just finished shooting a couple of weeks ago (mid-April), so we’ll see where it goes from there.

What is the weirdest Sci-Fi prop you’ve had to work with? (from Michelle)

P McG – The oddest Sci-Fi prop would be the Ancients drone chair in the first couple of seasons of Atlantis. The place you put your hands is made of a material similar to silicone and when you touch the silicone it reminds you of (…). All the crew would come by and put their hands on it all the time and squeeze it, and then all of a sudden in the last couple of seasons it was (changed to) hard plastic. I don’t know why they took it away, though, cheeky buggers!

You were great in A Dog’s Breakfast. Now that that’s out of the way, what was your favorite Carson Beckett moment on SGA, and your favorite scene to shoot? (from RodneyisGodney)

P McG – Thanks Rodney Is Godney for your comments about A Dog’s Breakfast. As far as favorite Carson Beckett moments, that’s another tough one because there are so many of them. It would probably have to be a McKay/Beckett moment. For example, in The Outsiders, David and I had a lot of fun trying to get into the cockpit of the Wraith dart, and McKay is telling Beckett that they both can’t squeeze into it. That was pretty funny and we were all laughing about that.

There’s another scene where Joe Flanigan punches my character in the arm and says “Buck up, Carson.” That was a really funny Carson moment, I thought. And then there’s the one where David Hewlett and I are standing outside on one of the Atlantis balconies at the end of Sunday and McKay is saying goodbye to Beckett. That was one of the saddest Carson moments.

What’s your favorite brand/flavor of chocolate? (from scaperfan)

P McG – Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.

If we had seen the inside of Carson’s room, what kind of decorations would he have had? (from scaperfan)

P McG – At one point we did see a glimpse of his quarters, but if it were up to me I’d have had a disco ball, a round bed with lots of silk sheets for the ladies, and a Martini bar. Hmm…I wish I had that life.

What action sequence would you have liked to have seen Carson in? (from scaperfan)

P McG – Our stunt coordinator, James “Bam Bam” Bamford, and I had always talked about trying to get Carson to give somebody a headbutt, or a “Glaswegian kiss” as they call it, but we never were able to fit that in. That would have been fun to do on the show. Bam Bam tried a couple of times, but the producers didn’t go for it.

Who’s your favorite superhero? (from zoewillsavetheworld)

P McG – I liked the Mighty Thor when I was a kid, and I’ve always had a thing for Wonder Woman, too!

Looking back at the SGA episodes, I noticed that you and Rachel Luttrell have great onscreen chemistry. Do you think the writers should have written in a little Beckett/Teyla romance? It definitely would have made for some deeply emotional and beautiful scenes (from Alexandria)

P McG – Thank you, Alexandria. Rachel Luttrell is just a sweetheart and a great actress and it would have been terrific to have more with Teyla and Beckett. Let’s face it, Carson needed some more lovin’.

You were awesome in A Dog’s Breakfast. The movie was absolutely hilarious. Any chance you’ll be working again with David Hewlett in the future? (from Alexandria)

P McG – David always has projects going on, so if he would like me to partake, that would be wonderful. I had a blast doing A Dog’s Breakfast and he mentioned a sequel at one point in time, and if that were to happen, it would be fun.

Last but not least, what’s your favorite movie of all time? You’re absolutely brilliant and incredibly amazing. I hope you come back to Australia sometime soon; I missed you the last time. (from Alexandria)

P McG – Thank you again, Alexandria. That’s really sweet of you and I would love to come back to Australia any time. I always have a great time there. Favorite movie of all-time, that’s tough. I’ll give you three – I love The King of Comedy, which is a dark comedy with Robert DeNiro, Jerry Lewis and Sandra Bernhard. I love The Indian Runner, which Sean Penn wrote and directed, with Viggo Mortensen, David Morse, Dennis Hopper and Patricia Arquette. And comedy-wise I love Stripes.

If you had the chance to play any movie or TV character, which would it be? (from Alena)

P McG – Bond…Pauly Bond.

You were named after Paul McCartney, so could you list five of your favorite Beatles tracks. I’m a huge fan of theirs, and yours, of course, so I would love to hear your answer to this one. (from Julia)

P McG – “Yesterday,” “Hey Jude,” “Come Together,” “Let It Be” and “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

What are your favorite Science Fiction books? (from Mara)

P McG – The Lord of the Rings books.

If you could be a superhero, which would it be? (from Zoe)

P McG – I think The Flash would be cool.

How did you feel when you found out that there would be no sixth season of Stargate Atlantis? (from Michael)

P McG – For me, having been killed off in the show and then brought back in the fifth season on a recurring basis, I was surprised to be honest. I thought the show would have gone a sixth year. I think a lot of people did and I think many of them were disappointed. But at the same time I thought, you know, in this day and age, to do 100 episodes of a television series is a huge achievement, so I think everyone should be proud of what they accomplished with the program. It was great to be a part of; it would have been nice to have seen another season, but at the same time everything happens for a reason.

First off, I wanted to tell you that I adore Carson Beckett; thank you for your wonderful performances and giving him so much heart. I also love your work in the very funny A Dog’s Breakfast, and I’m proud to be a member of your Thunk Thread on Gateworld. I’ve tried to acquire See Grace Fly as I’m very keen to see it, but the contact at the distribution company on the website said that they’re not sure they’ll be making any more copies. Do you have any say or influence in getting more DVDs made? (from dolfyn)

P McG – Thank you my lovely thunker from Down Under. I appreciate your nice comments about Carson and my characters in A Dog’s Breakfast. As far as See Grace Fly goes, it’s interesting that you mention this because right now we’re re-working the cut of the movie, so I would hopefully think within the next six months we should have a much higher-quality version available on DVD. We weren’t happy with the way the transfer-to-DVD happened, so we’re now in the process of redoing it and will be coming out with a new, modified version. Once we figure that out and the DVD is available, I’ll post the information on my website.

Will you be coming back to Australia (specifically Melbourne) for a convention any time soon? (from dolfyn)

P McG – I would love to. I had a great time in Melbourne; I adored the people and the city. It was just fantastic. So hopefully that will happen sooner than later, and rumor has it that it might.

Have you learned to embrace technology yet? (from dolfyn)

P McG – Ask Steve Eramo that because he’s the one who’s transcribing these answers for you guys (blushes Steve).

Having played a doctor and filmed operating scenes, can you handle seeing real medical procedures on TV, or do you get squeamish? (from dolfyn)

P McG – Definitely squeamish – I turn the channel immediately.

I’m the biggest fan of both Dr. Beckett and Mr. McGillion. I could never get enough of your concerned yet caring look, spiced with the charming Scottish accent. I sincerely wished for Beckett to somehow come back to his rightful post after “Sunday.” I have one simple question – why was Dr. Beckett written out of the series? (from Michael)

P McG – Thank you kindly for your great compliments, Michael. That, my friend, is a question for the producers, but the great part is Beckett came back, and for me as an actor it was great to reprise the role.

Along with answering your questions, Paul also took some time out to talk about some of the recent and upcoming projects he has been busy working on.

P McG – I just finished filming Fruition, the second to last episode of V‘s first season. I play a character named Dr. Lawrence Parker, a telemetry expert who gets himself into a sticky situation so to speak. So we’ll see where it goes from there. Most of my scenes were with Elizabeth Mitchell (Erica Evans), who is fantastic. It was a great set to work on with a terrific crew as well as cast. Prior to that, I returned to Sanctuary, and my character of Terrence Wexford comes back and opens up the first two episodes of the third season. He’s especially prevalent in the second episode, and some very dramatic stuff happens onboard the ship. The lizard is back and in full force and he’s got a lot of attitude. Terrence isn’t a very nice man and he’s got his problems. I think the word is “power-hungry.”

So it was great to be back and working with Amanda Tapping (Dr. Helen Magnus) and (executive producer) Martin Wood, who directed the episode. A lot of familiar faces from Stargate work on the show, too, so it was a real blast to be back and reprise my Wexford character. Again, we’ll see where it goes from there.

Prior to that I had a guest-starring role in a new Canadian series with Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica) called Shattered and I played a really quirky and interesting character named Victor Hugo. About the only thing I can say is he turns out to be a very bad man. I also just finished a short film called A Fine Young Man that we’re going to submit to the Toronto Film Festival. It’s directed by an up-and-coming director named Kevin Funk and co-starring a very good friend of mine, Wes Salter (Supernatural), along with Ali Liebert (Harper’s Island) and Cole Humphries. It’s a period piece circa 1962 and a bit of a political thriller.

I did an independent film as well called Hit and Strum that we’re hoping to get into the festival circuit, too. I’m a co-star in that alongside Kurt Cowat and Michelle Harrison. And I also shot another movie, a thriller called Confined in which I co-starred with Emma Caulfield (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica) and David James Elliot (JAG), and that will be coming out shortly. So it’s been a busy few months for me, which I’m really happy about. And as always, just a note to everyone who reads this blog, from my lips to you guys, Steve Eramo is the man.

Thank you again, Paul! Make sure to tune in to ABC on Tuesday, May 11th @ 10:00 p.m. EST/PST for V’s “Fruition.”

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

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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!

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!

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!

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!

This Week On Sanctuary – 12 – 04 – 09

December 5, 2009

Will (Robin Dunne) and Magnus (Amanda Tapping) get to spend some quality time together this week on Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

SPOILER ALERT!! – Magnus (Amanda Tapping) and Will (Robin Dunne) are needed to make a straightforward retrieval of a rare Abnormal off the coast of Louisiana. With a commissioned helicopter, the retrieval is successful and their cargo securely onboard. But as the pair starts heading back to the mainland, something causes the unusual sea creature to break loose. Unable to control the Abnormal and the helicopter simultaneously, Magnus and Will make a crash landing and find themselves entangled in guide wire and precariously dangling over an abandoned oil bore well several feet above the water in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. 

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

With the Abnormal, nowhere to be found, Magnus concludes it has made its getaway into the depths of the water. But their solitude doesn’t last long. Not only does the Abnormal return, it is even angrier than before. And Magnus and Will quickly learn they must escape or become its next victim. Next Tuesday airs Friday, December 4th @ 1o:00 p.m. EST on The Syfy Channel

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

Sanctuary executive producer/director Martin Wood hard at work on "Next Tuesday." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

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

Click on the following link for a preview of this episode – https://rcpt.yousendit.com/783402596/d2be717cc7fee71b75d3480db76c91a0 

As noted above, all photos by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions, 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 Damian Kindler – Creative Spirit

November 13, 2009
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Sanctuary creator, executive producer and writer Damian Kindler. Photo courtesy of Damian Kindler

Last fall, The Syfy Channel added a new face to their stable of strong heroic female characters, Dr. Helen Magnus of Sanctuary. As head of a global network of facilities, or Sanctuaries, she as well as her daughter Ashley, techie Henry Foss, and forensic psychiatrist Will Zimmerman, risk their lives to protect humankind from creatures called “Abnormals” and vice versa. Created by Damian Kindler and executive producer with Martin Wood and Amanda Tapping (Magnus), the series made the jump in October 2008 from web-based to the small screen. Season one was a hit, and earlier this year, Kindler was back on the show’s Vancouver set with the cast and crew to start production on year two, which began airing back in October. As with the first season, the prep process was an involved one.

“Alan McCullough [series co-executive producer], Sara Cooper [consulting producer], James Thorpe [creative consultant], who came to us a bit later on, and I spent last Christmas as well as this past January and February developing story ideas and inching towards Bethlehem if you will. And sure enough it all eventually came together,” says Kindler, taking a break in-between production meetings.

“So we went forth and came up with this big two-part second season opener, End of Nights. We’re very proud of the episode and the performances in it are amazing. Our story opens six weeks into Helen Magnus’ search for her daughter Ashley [Emilie Ullerup], and it’s quite revealing about the way the Sanctuary works in a larger sense. You actually get to see other Sanctuaries around the world because there’s a global threat that’s made very real. We’re also made privy to how the Cabal plays its hand, which affects our heroes in a bad way. Essentially, it’s a giant kind of worldwide James Bond-ish, action-packed chess match between Magnus and the bad guys. There are some really cool human moments and Martin Wood just directed the hell out of it in a very short time.

“At the end of part two, people who are interested as well as invested in the show are going to be blown away because things careen into this incredible shock. Look, this sounds like I’m playing up the PR spin on the show, but we’ve literally pulled our heads up from the rabbit hole recently, looked around and said, ‘The first four or five episodes we’ve done are terrific.’ Season two is rolling out in such a smooth and heightened way, and the network has been incredibly generous with their feedback and saying how there has been a quantum leap in the way Sanctuary feels and in the entire creative process.

“The episodes are ramped up, revealing and really good character stories with cool monster beats. I think the show has definitely hit a very important stride right out of the gate in season two, and I don’t say that because it was all part of the plan. I thought we’d just continue on, but there was something about the wind at our backs when we sailed into season two that was extremely confident. We had been given this chance to come back and do this all over again. It was such an amazing life-changing experience doing the first season and everyone was so excited about doing a second season that they’ve brought their A+ game to the table.”

Last season, Kindler and his fellow writers established Sanctuary‘s main characters, and this year they will be building upon those foundations with some big twists and turns to come. “This season really is about the characters,” notes Kindler. “In season one we played through the growing global threat and shift in power. It was all very Lord of the Rings-like. This time around, though, I felt that we really needed to get to know not just our characters individually, but how they work as a group and how they like or don’t like one another.

“There are changes that happen to our heroes in the first three episodes this year that are profoundly dramatic. I mean, at the end of the season opener Ashley is killed – she dies saving her mother. During the final moments of End of Nights: Part 2, Magnus watches as Ashley is blown up and the screen then goes black. So viewers are left with this very harsh vision and they subsequently need some sort of ‘let down,’ which comes in Eulogy. One of my favorite episodes this year, it’s written by Sara Cooper and has Magnus and Will [Robin Dunne] playing out the possibility that Ashley could have survived, but in the end, coming to the realization that she is, in fact, gone.

“When I initially showed the ending of this episode to a few people there wasn’t a dry eye, and there are two reasons for that. One being that there’s an actual memorial service for Ashley, and then there’s a little bit of a ghostly visit where Magnus has a vision of her daughter and they say goodbye. Also, there was a woman named Nora O’Brien who worked for both Syfy and NBC and who died suddenly. She was very close friends with a lot of us here at Sanctuary, so Martin, Amanda and I came up with the idea of dedicating a story to her this season, and we all agreed that Eulogy would be the perfect one.

“This is one of those episodes where I believe Sanctuary is at its finest because it deals with the characters in such a human way. The thing is, it’s cool to have a very structured plot, a clever plot twist or high-concept idea, but if it doesn’t service the characters, then it’s not going to feel like a Sanctuary. It’s going to feel like a CSI only with monsters. There are moments in this story between Will and Magnus where you expect things to get overwrought, but, instead, they become quite realistic. Eulogy also features a really neat hunt for an escaped Abnormal. So it’s fun, too, and it serves to sort of reset the series if you will.

“I’ve just written an episode called Next Tuesday where Magnus and Will are stuck in the central well of a decommissioned oil rig. They’ve been trying to transport a sea monster to the Sanctuary, but their helicopter becomes tangled up in the guide wires hanging above the well and this creature escapes. And to make matters worse, there’s a second monster, too. We shot the episode on this cool set where we got to spend some time with Magnus and Will. I wanted to give you a chance to watch these two people bickering about their lives. Yes, there’s a monster and how are our heroes going to get out of there, but more important is the question of what happens when you spend 30 or 40 minutes of almost real time with your two leads talking to each other as people. Our goal was to have an ongoing personal conflict between Magnus and Will and watch that get resolved while being sure we told a cool monster story.”

As if Ashley’s death is not enough to deal with, the dynamic between our characters is further turned upside-down in season two of Sanctuary with the introduction of a new character, con artist Kate Freelander (Agam Darshi). “I’m going to totally mea culpa here and say that every show runner is like, ‘I want a Han Solo on my series,’ and that was our idea with Kate,” admits Kindler. “There are obvious ways you can go with a character like this. You can make her tough, but there was something cool about making Kate a bit like Ferris Bueller, where she’s working for the bad guys because that’s who’s paying her. Deep down, though, she’s really a hero who has sort of been in denial and hiding for a while. All she needed was to find someone who she could trust.

“Kate Freelander is an opportunistic freelance operative who has been working for the Cabal as well as other people. She knows about Abnormals, is very good at what she does, and crosses paths with our gang in part one of End of Nights when she kind of mucks things up for our heroes. Basically we’re trying to get to an Abornmal before the Cabal does, but Kate spirits him way before we can do that. There’s a big car chase – they used my car, by the way, and drove the heck out of it – where Kate is eventually caught and interrogated by Magnus. There’s a very kind of gripping scene where Helen is pretty out of control when it comes to dealing with her. Kate manages to escape, but she eventually ends up at the Sanctuary, a bit out of an attraction for what they are doing, but mainly out of desperation because the Cabal has put a hit out on her.

“She’s somewhat reluctant at first to help Magnus, but slowly becomes more cooperative,” continues the executive producer. “Kate is sort of the person in the middle and you can’t quite trust her. She’s an opportunist who has a very selfish way of working, but she’s changing. Kate is inspired by our heroes, but she has a different style, and that’s important when it comes to our storytelling. She thinks outside the box. Where we might take a very scientific, academic or particularly structured approach to a problem, she’ll be like, ‘Why not just call this guy. He has what we need. Who cares where it came from.’ Kate gets stuff done, and I like that because it shakes up some of the pomp and circumstance of our story, making it a bit more streetwise and fun as well.

“We had auditioned Agam Darshi for roles in the past and had always been impressed with her work. She’s a great actress who brings a lighter, edgy, interesting, mischievous tone to a lot of the stories that we’re doing. At any given moment, Kate could potentially steal something for money and then turn around to Magnus and the others and say, ‘But I never saw it.’ Again, though, she slowly begins to realize the value of the work that the Sanctuary team does.”

Kindler chuckles when asked to talk about some of the more memorable episodes from season two of Sanctuary. “More memorable than hanging a real helicopter over a pool of water?” he asks with a smile. “Well, our season opener has something like 400 VFX [visual effects] shots, and Eulogy is beautifully done and well-directed. Episode four, Hero, is, I think, the first openly amusing episode of Sanctuary that we’ve ever done. Anyone who is a fan of comic book heroes will love this one. I’m guessing it will be a fan favorite; I know it’s one of ours this year and it guest-stars Chris Gauthier [Vincent] from Eureka, who is a wonderful actor. It has some really good monsters in it as well as some funny, rather poignant beats, and overall is just a good, back to basics fun romp.

“Episode five [Pavor Nocturnus] is an unbelievably unique experience. It’s what looks like an alternate future gone to hell. Magnus wakes up in the Sanctuary and it has literally been abandoned for years and years, and the outside world is in such disarray. The story is dark and strange and has elements in it that are very disturbing. There’s an interrogation/torture scene that some people will watch through their fingers. Fragments is a neat episode, too. It’s a strong Henry [Ryan Robbins] story that was directed by Steve Adelson, who did Instinct last year.

“The episode we’re currently filming [early June], Veritas, which was written by Alan McCullough, is wonderful and Amanda is directing it so well. She’s an incredible director, and that’s beyond just delivering cool visuals and amazing performances. Production-wise, Amanda is bringing this story in under-budget and early, which is very difficult to do on our limited budget.

“Like I said, I’m so happy with how things are going this season. Again, the show has found its groove, and it really had to because it’s been paired with Stargate Universe. So Sanctuary can’t sort of just keep bubbling its way upward. It had to find its legs and run, so the pressure is on for season two, and so far so good.”

Launching Sanctuary‘s original two-our pilot on the Internet was a huge accomplishment for everyone involved with the show, and then bringing it to TV was yet another major creative hurdle surmounted. It has proven to be a great deal of work, but you will not hear anyone complaining.

“We’re all exactly where we want to be, doing exactly what we want with exactly the people we want to be doing it with,” says Kindler. “As sugary sweet as that sounds, though, the truth is there’s nothing better than appreciating what you have. It’s been such an amazing, crazy train ride getting her, and there were so many moments where it should have gone off the rails and crashed into the river, but it didn’t.

“Every time there’s a problem, like, oh, boy, here’s another late night at the office, or, here’s another weekend I have to spend writing, or whatever, you realize what enormously high class ‘problems’ these are. This is what we want to do. We don’t have any big plans for global domination…yet,” jokes the executive producer, “but if the series could just keep building upon its fan base that would be great. That’s all we ask.”

Steve Eramo

As noted above, photo is courtesy of Damian Kindler, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!