Posts Tagged ‘The Sci Fi Channel’

Welcome To Warehouse 13

July 6, 2009
Saul Rubinek as Artie Nelsen, Joanne Kelly as Myka Bering and Eddie McClintock as Pete Lattimer in Warehouse 13. Photo by Justin Stephens and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Saul Rubinek as Artie Nielsen, Joanne Kelly as Myka Bering and Eddie McClintock as Pete Lattimer in Warehouse 13. Photo by Justin Stephens and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

THE Sci Fi Channel is pleased to present the all-new original one-hour dramedy adventure series Warehouse 13 starring Eddie McClintock (Bones, Desperate Housewives) and Joanne Kelly (Vanished, Jeremiah). The 11-episode first season premieres with the special 2-hour pilot on Tuesday, July 7th from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. EST/PST. After saving the life of the President, two Secret Service agents, Pete Lattimer (McClintock) and Myka Bering (Kelly), find themselves abruptly transferred to Warehouse 13 – a massive top-secret storage facility in windswept South Dakota which houses every strange artifact, mysterious relic, fantastical object and supernatural souvenir ever collected by the U.S. government.

Pete Lattimer is a handsome, athletic Secret Service agent whose impulsive, intuitive nature often leads him to leap before he looks. There is hardly a situation so dire in which he can’t find the lighter side. Secret Service Agent Myka Bering is a woman born to be a government agent. Organized and focused, she believes in hard work, solid planning and steadfast execution. Her buttoned-up approach is the opposite of Pete’s off-the-cuff style.

Warehouse 13’s caretaker, veteran Secret Service Agent Artie Nielsen, played by Saul Rubinek (Frasier, Nero Wolfe), charges Pete and Myka with chasing down reports of supernatural and paranormal activity involving new objects that “threaten to ruin the world’s day” and safely bringing them back to the vaults of the warehouse. Three-time Emmy award nominee CCH Pounder (The Shield) guest-stars as Artie’s boss, Mrs. Frederic.

Brilliant visual effects bring Warehouse 13 to life, making it a character unto itself. Filled with palpable energy, the Warehouse comes alive as viewers learn about the artifacts that possess extraordinary powers and untold secrets.

Back on June 12th, series leads Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly along with Warehouse 13 executive producers Jack Kenny and David Simkins very kindly took time out of their busy day to speak with me as well as several other journalists about the show. The following is an edited version of their Q & A with us.

The first question is for Eddie and Joanne – can you tell us a bit about the audition process for your roles and what first attracted you to this project?

EDDIE McCLINTOCK – Joanne and I went into the audition room together to read, and it was like I’d known her for years. We just kind of hit it off, so I think that there was just a natural chemistry that came across in the room. At least that’s how I felt.

JOANNE KELLY – I messed up a line and Eddie started making fun of me in the audition. So I stopped and tried to restart the audition, and there were our two characters. I mean, it was pretty much right on the money.

EDDIE – It was Joanne/Myka taking control and Pete/Eddie basically acting the fool [jokes McClintock]. As far as what attracted me to the role, for me, the Pete character kind of encompassed all the things in one character that I’d always wanted to play. I’ve been able to play pieces of this character at different times, but Pete gets to do everything. He gets to be smart as well as funny and heroic. That, to me, is a dream [acting] job, so I love this character.

JOANNE – It was the same for me. There aren’t a lot of women characters that are written as dynamically as Myka, so I was really excited to find that she’s smart, funny, dramatic, sad, etc. She also has a history and is vulnerable at times, and strong at other times. She really is such a well-rounded character and I was drawn to her right off the bat when I read the script, so I’m quite pleased about the whole thing.

For David and Jack, what would you say were some of the initial writing and/or production challenges getting Warehouse 13 off the ground?

JACK KENNY – Any new series involves similar challenges- where are we going to go with this, are we going to arc out the first season or is each episode going to be individual, what are we going to learn about our characters, etc. One of the things we did was bring Saul, Joanne and Eddie into the writers’ room and sat together with them for a session. We talked about their characters and let them talk about their characters as well. We also talked to them personally – what do they like, what do they do, what are their hobbies, do any of them speak other languages or play instruments, what are their relationships with family members, and other topics so that we could sort of mine who they are as individuals.

Every show I’ve ever done has been a family show, whether it’s a workplace comedy or an actual family show. So in building this family of a brother/sister/father team, we want to bring who they [as actors] are to their roles. I mean, once you cast an actor in a part and once he or she takes on a role, they bring who they are to it, so you want to mold that role to them. We were all very fortunate in that these guys were so much like these characters to start with, and in crafting the pilot, I think David [Simkins]  made these roles a nice fit for Jo and Eddie to slip into, and  Saul as well.

So the challenges were finding the directions to take these characters in, where they could grow and learn about each other and their relationships with one another could deepen. And then, of course, because it’s got all these elements, we didn’t want to do a strictly procedural show because there’s plenty of that on TV already. These actors are so much more interesting than just, you know, standing around with a notepad asking questions. Rather than have them investigate and just follow a trail, our challenge is to make them experience the adventure at the same time as we, the viewers, are. We don’t really want the audience to learn much about what’s going on ahead of when our characters do. We want our viewers and our characters to be on the same ride. That’s been something we wanted to do and we’ve done it kind of differently in every episode.  And rather than a challenge, that’s just been a goal of ours.

Joanne Kelly as Myka Bering in the season one episode "Resonance." Photo by Philippe Bosse and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Joanne Kelly as Myka Bering in the season one episode "Resonance." Photo by Philippe Bosse and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Pete and Myka have already been compared to Mulder and Scully [from The X-Files], so how would you describe your characters’ relationship and how do they approach situations differently?

EDDIE – I’ve been describing our relationship as Pete being kind of the younger brother who’s constantly pulling at Myka’s pigtails and she, in turn, is always punching him in the arm, and that’s actually how it goes, minus the pigtails. So that’s how I look at it right now, as them having a brother/sister-type relationship. It’s still in its infancy, too, so there’s the question of where will it [their relationship] go from here. It’s hard to say, but for the moment I think they’re brother/sister/great friends who have a tremendous amount of respect for one another, even though they constantly pick at one another. That, for me, is what makes it such a great, fun relationship to play.

JOANNE – I think Eddie hit it right on the nose. That’s definitely our [characters’] relationship, and the thing that I like about the way it progresses is that there’s so much that these characters, Pete and Myka, learn from one another. They’re so different and you see the gelling of two processes and the success that comes from that. My character is very isolated at the beginning, and Pete is, too, in a way, and you then see these two people gradually open up to one another, which I think that’s really special. And whether it be in a brother/sister way or a romantic way, you see these two people constantly learning more about the other and, you know, making fun of one another and helping each other. So it makes it very human and very real, I think.

JACK – Just in terms of my observation of noticing the different between Pete and Myka from Mulder and Scully. The thing I love about, for example, the character of Indiana Jones is that he always feels like he’s kind of, not lost, but vulnerable. He never feels like he knows much more about the situation than you know as you’re watching, but he manages to get through things and find his way. That’s the sense I get with Pete and Myka. They’re sort of thrown into these situations, a different one every time. They don’t know what’s going to happen. They don’t know how an artifact works, or all the ramifications or possibilities of what could happen, but they’re getting through it anyway using their wits as well as observational powers and all those things. That, to me, feels more like an adventure than what Mulder and Scully went on. Theirs had more of a darker kind of feel.

Eddie, what’s it like working opposite Saul Rubinek?

EDDIE – Not to sound too trite, but it’s like a dream come true for me. True Romance is one of my all-time favorite movies, and in it Saul plays a character named Lee Donowitz, and for years I’ve been quoting this man who I’ve never met. You know how guys do that; they love to quote movies. And on the day of Saul’s [screen]test, I’d been cast and he hadn’t been cast yet, and he came in and I was thinking, “Oh, I’m sitting here next to Lee Donowitz, this man who I’ve been idolizing.” Saul has done all these amazing movies and had such a great career, so the fact that I was possibly going to be helping him get his job [on Warehouse 13] was a mind-blower for me. And I continue to try to grab the pebble from his hand every day. Saul is kind of my actor’s sensi and he’s become a really great friend. So it’s awesome. Coming from Ohio and being an insurance agent out of college for seven months before I got fired by my uncle, to working in a great series with Jack, David, Joanne, Saul, CC, etc, again, I’m living the dream.

Eddie McClintock as Pete Lattimer in the season one episode "Magnetism." Photo by Philippe Bosse and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Eddie McClintock as Pete Lattimer in the season one episode "Magnetism." Photo by Philippe Bosse and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Have you guys been freaked out on-set by some of the stuff that you have to do? I know some of it is kind of freaky paranormal stuff. Have you ever thought, “Oh, no, I don’t want to do that.”

JOANNE – I think Eddie was pretty freaked out about the ferret that was trying to climb all over his face in the pilot. Sometimes when we’re walking through our set it’s like being a big kid because the stuff in there is so cool, and I can’t wait until people see the show and the artifacts outside of the pilot because they’re really neat.

EDDIE – Pete is in his own environment there. I mean, he’s in hog heaven. My character is basically a big kid and now he gets to play with adult toys, which is what he’s wanted to do his whole life, so he’s right at home there.

JACK – We keep coming up with really cool areas to explore in the warehouse, too. We’ve got the “Dark Vault” coming up where the super dangerous stuff is kept. We’ve got “The Gooery,” where the purple goo is pumped throughout the warehouse to keep objects in line with themselves, and “The Bronze Sector,” where the most frightening people in the world have been preserved, people you’ve never heard of. Not the Hitlers, but the people who would have become the Hitlers. 

Our production designer, Franco De Cotiis, is just a genius. Every week we’re on an entirely different set, an entirely different location, and he designs these big mechanical, scary looking things that are just the neatest things to work with and they look amazing. And then Derick Underschultz lights everything so beautifully. They’ve created this incredible world and every week we throw new ideas at them and they create more new things. It’s amazing.

Pandora’s Box is referenced in the pilot and you just touched upon the vault. Are there any artifacts that you’ve found just a little too daunting to actually build an episode around, or was there one in particular that posed the biggest creative challenge?

DAVID SIMKINS – There is an artifact that we’ve been kicking around the writers’ room for quite a while, and that’s Hitler’s microphone. It’s a really interesting concept to sort of take something from history that we’re all very aware of and the incredible, tragic worldwide consequences of that. But what would happen if somebody got hold of that microphone and it possessed some sort of ability or power to transfer the ability to convince people to do very, very wrong things? It was an artifact that circled the writers’ room quite a bit and I think it’s still circling.

JACK – It’s an interesting debate because some people felt that they didn’t want to diminish the evil that was Adolf Hitler by saying that it was, you know, because of a microphone. Then, however, we said it wasn’t because of the microphone, but rather the microphone became imbued with the evil that was Adolf Hitler. But David is right, we’re still circling it.

DAVID – In terms of other artifacts, when we’re sitting around the writers’ room trying to come up with something, it really comes down to what artifacts can we explore that will reflect on our two characters in a really cool and interesting way. And I think part of Hitler’s microphone – and this goes for other artifacts – is that when the artifact begins to swamp or take over the characters, story or relationship we’re trying to explore, the artifact may then get sort of pushed aside. If we can do an artifact that sort of forces Pete and Myka to look at themselves or at the world around them in a different way or get the audience to sort of reconsider something, then we know we’ve come up withan artifact that we can probably run with. It really comes down to the artifact serving the story as opposed to letting it run the story.

Saul Rubinek as Artie Nelsen and Allison Scagliotti as Claudia Donovan in Warehouse 13. Photo by Justin Stephens and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Saul Rubinek as Artie Nielsen and Allison Scagliotti as Claudia Donovan in Warehouse 13. Photo by Justin Stephens and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

For Eddie and Joanne, which artifact has been your favorite so far in season one, or what episode has been your favorite so far?

EDDIE There’s an episode called “Breakdown,” where we end up kind of trapped in the warehouse. That was a favorite for me because it was so much fun and we just had a great time. There was a lot of physical stuff or comedy for me to do it in, which I just love. Hopefully I do it well, but I know I that I have a great deal of fun doing it. And then there was “Burnout” where we discover this artifact called the Spine of Serafson. That’s an episode where I really got to explore where I am right now as an actor and who I am as an actor, so that was a great challenge for me.

JOANNE – I’d have to say that my favorite artifact so far has been Lewis Carroll’s mirror because the episode itself was a huge challenge for me and a lot of fun. I got to kick up my heels a little bit. Also, I’m a big Lewis Carroll fan and have been for years and years. Alice Through the Looking Glass and Alice In Wonderland are two of my favorite books, so that episode was really special for me.

Saul Rubinek as Artie Nelsen and Genelle Williams as Leena in Warehouse 13. Photo by Justin Stephens and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Saul Rubinek as Artie Nielsen and Genelle Williams as Leena in Warehouse 13. Photo by Justin Stephens and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

For Eddie and Joanne – did either of you come into this project with a particular buddy vibe that inspired you or informed what you did (onscreen)?

EDDIE – For me , I just come in with no expectations and, hopefully, I like the person that I’m working with. So with this I didn’t have any preconceived notions. It just so happened that Joanne and I click. It’s one of these things where there’s chemistry. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. In this case, it does.

JOANNE – The script that we auditioned for and what we ended up shooting – and are still in the process of filming – has gone through such a change. It’s grown as we’ve grown as characters and as we’ve worked more and more together, this relationship is blooming. Eddie and I are both different. Our processes are very different and the kind of energy that comes from that when two opposing forces “collide” is what you see onscreen. Eddie makes me laugh every day and I always have a great time on-set because he’s there and it’s just been a pleasure to work with him. He’s really great.

For Jack and David – was there an idea of how the buddy vibe was conceived of originally that maybe changed after Joanne and Eddie came in?

DAVID – You know, I don’t think it’s changed. I think it’s just become enhanced. The idea or the basis of these characters is something that the Sci Fi Channel had been sort of living with for a few years. They’ve had this project in development for a long time and were pretty clear about the type of relationship they were looking for. And when I came in to work on the pilot, it was just a matter of looking to them and then digging back into my own toolbox and pulling out as much of that stuff as I could. When Eddie and Joanne walked into the audition room and sort of took over these characters, it was a real eye-opening experience because I think Sci Fi and I felt we were on the right track and that where we were going with these two characters could definitely be done. And then when Eddie and Joanne took over the roles, Jack and I along with the writers have really been writing to them as well as their characters, their speaking styles and their attitudes. I have to say that writing for them has been one of the easiest things to do. It’s writing for the artifacts which is pretty difficult.

JACK – It’s interesting, too, because to me, 90% of the success of any pilot is the casting and finding the right people for the roles that are created. And then 90% of the success of a series is being able to write to these people who you’ve cast. We want to write to their strengths. We can hear their voices in our heads as we’re writing. The challenge of every writing staff in town is to key into their actors. It always takes a couple of episodes to get hold of that, but we’ve really gotten into Saul’s, Eddie’s and Jo’s rhythms and cadences as well as strengths and everything else we can find about them. The same thing is true with CCH Pounder and Allison Scagliotti, who’s joining our series later in Episode 4 [as Claudia Donovan] and Genelle Williams, who plays Leena. Writing towards their strengths is what will make the series strong, I think.

CCH Pounder as Artie's boss Mrs. Frederic in Warehouse 13. Photo by Philippe Bosse and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

CCH Pounder as Artie's boss Mrs. Frederic in Warehouse 13. Photo by Philippe Bosse and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Is there a Warehouse 12 or Warehouse 15 or a Warehouse 8?

DAVID – We just finished a document that sort of tracks the chronology of the warehouses. In our mythology, the first warehouse was created by Alexander [the Great] in an effort to keep hold of the artifacts that he collected on his wars. It didn’t last long, though, because Alexander died young, but then the library at Alexandria was a warehouse, too, where various books and other items were stored. So we’ve tracked the chronology of empires and our feeling is that the warehouse has moved from empire to empire throughout the ages, moving to the country that was best able to protect it. It was in the Western Roman empire, the Byzantine empire, all the way up to the Russian empire, the British empire and then, finally, the United States. In one of the early warehouses it was established that a board of directors called The Regents would be in charge of it. They were also in charge of deciding when and where to move the warehouse. So we’ve established this long history of the number of warehouses through the ages, and eventually when we get it all polished up, maybe it will show up on the [show’s] website or something.

As noted above, all photos by Philippe Bosse or Justin Stephens and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!

Rachel Luttrell – Working Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Eramo

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

The Sci Fi Channel Showcases Its Top Talent In “House Of Imagination”

July 2, 2009

AS part of the Sci Fi Channel’s brand evolution to Syfy on July 7th, a refresh of the look and feel of Syfy will be reflected in a ground-breaking two-minute brand film House of Imagination, which celebrates Syfy’s unique spin on imagination. Talent participating in order of appearance are: Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne (Sanctuary); Colin Ferguson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Jordan Hinson and Neil Grayston (Eureka); Lou Diamond Phillips (Stargate Universe); Josh Gates (Destination Truth); Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson (Ghost Hunters); Tracy Morgan (Scare Tactics); Eddie McClintock, Joanne Kelly and Saul Rubinek (Warehouse 13) and Alessandra Torresani (Caprica).

Link to video – http://www.syfy.com/imaginegreater/

The film invites viewers into a celebratory house party populated with rooms inspired by the Channel’s original programs and characters. Goldfrapp’s “Happiness” provides the soundtrack for the trip through the never-ending house where anything can and does happen in each one-of-a-kind room. Through high concept visual storytelling, each scene fuses a bold complement of visual effects with practical set design. “House of Imagination” was designed to be modularly deconstructed into a dynamic, long-running campaign of 10 and 5-second network identifications. The experience will extend digitally into Syfy.com/ImagineGreater beginning July 7th, where visitors will have a rich, fully-interactive and immersive experience as guests at the house party. They will be able to explore parallax rooms and discover exclusive content including games, behind-the-scenes and making-of-footage, cast interviews, downloadable wallpaper and much more.

Said Michael Engleman, Vice President, Creative @ Syfy and the key architect behind the brand film – “Coming off the most successful year in our 16-year history, we wanted to create a brand film that both celebrates the genre and also feels human, relatable , and wildly creative, highlighting the wide array of casts and characters who inhabit Syfy’s ever-broadening programming landscape. Through this unique creative collaboration we’re honoring and embracing a powerful global brand with deep roots in the popular culture.”

House of Imagination is produced and directed by the award-winning UK-based 4Creative team led by director Brett Foraker, who was joined specifically for this project, by Larry Fong (Director of Photography – Watchman, 300) and Tino Schaedler (Production Designer – Charlies and the Chocolate Factory, V for Vendetta, The Golden Compass) with visual effects by MPC (Watchman, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix).

Martin Wood – Into The Groove

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Through The Looking Glass

June 8, 2009

WITH production just wrapped in Vancouver, B.C. on the upcoming four-hour miniseries Riverworld, the Sci Fi Channel has once again teamed up with RHI Entertainment and Reunion Pictures and begun shooting its next four-hour movie event entitled Alice.  Having directed the record-breaking, Emmy award-winning miniseries Tin Man for Sci Fi in 2007, writer/director Nick Willing is back at the helm to put a new spin on the classic Lewis Carroll story Alice in Wonderland. Using Carroll’s books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass as jumping off points, Willing has created the modern-day story of Alice Hamilton, a fiercely independent twentysomething who suddenly finds herself on the other side of the looking glass. She is a stranger in an outlandish city of twisted towers and casinos built out of playing cards, all under the rule of a deliciously devilish Queen of Hearts, who is not happy about Alice’s arrival.

Academy Award winner Kathy Bates (Misery) stars as the Queen of Hearts and Caterina Scorsone (Crash TV series) plays Alice. Rounding out the cast is Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show) as Dodo, Colm Meaney (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as the King of Hearts, Philip Winchester (Crusoe) as Jack of Hearts, Matt Frewer (Watchmen) as the White Knight, Andrew-Lee Potts (Primeval TV series) as Hatter, Alessandro Juliani (Battlestar Galactica) as 9 of Clubs, Timothy Webber (Taken) as Carpenter, Alex Diakun (Sanctuary) as Ratcatcher, Zac Santiago (Kingdom Hospital) as 10 of Clubs and Eugene Lipinski (Animorphs TV series) as Doctors Dee and Dum. Alice is currently slated for a December 2009 premiere.

The Warehouse Job

June 4, 2009

LAST week, the Sci Fi Channel announced that a number of very familiar names and faces will be guest-starring on its new one-hour dramdy adventure series Warehouse 13. Premiering on Tuesday, July 7th @9pm EST, the program follows two Secret Service agents who find themselves abruptly transferred to a massive, top-secret storage facility in windswept South Dakota, which is home to every strange artifact, mysterious relic, fantastical object and supernatural souvenir ever collected by the U.S. government. The Warehouse’s caretaker Artie (Saul Rubinek) charges Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly) with chasing down reports of supernatural and paranormal activity in search of new objects to cache at the Warehouse, as well as helping him to control the warehouse itself.

Some of the annouced guest-stars include:

Ivan Sergei (Crossing Jordan, Charmed) plays Ross, an EMT from Unionville, New York who, along with some of the other townspeople begin to display bizarre behavioral symptoms, including involuntary (and potentially dangerous) expressions of their subconscious desires.

Tricia Helfer  (Battlestar Galactica, Burn Notice) plays FBI Agent Bonnie Belski, who clashes with Pete and Myka when they interfere with a case on her Chicago turf. However, after a third inexplicable bank takeover, she finds herself willing to make use of the agents’ expertise.

Joe Flanigan (Stargate Atlantis, First Monday) portrays the handsome, wealthy Jeff Weaver, whose charm catches Myka’s interest, but he finds himself under her and Pete’s scrutiny when a sculpture on which he bid, vanishes in an impossible heist.

James Naughton (Ally McBeal, Gossip Girl, Planet of the Apes) is Gilbert Radburn, a well-tailored, Donald Trump-esque high-profile entrepreneur. When a competitor threatens his intended acquisition, Radburn’s suspicious behavior attracts the attention of Pete and Myka.

Roger Rees (Cheers, The West Wing) plays MacPherson, one of Artie’s former Warehouse colleagues who has gone rogue and is now competing with the team to gather dangerous and powerful objects for his own use.

Erica Cerra (Eureka, The L Word, Battlestar Galactica) and Niall Matter (Eureka, Watchmen) portray Jillian and Gary Whitman, small-time thieves on the Las Vegas strip whose fortunes, twisted by the strange power of a luck-inducing artifact, take a fantastic turn.

Joe Morton (Eureka, Terminator 2) guest-stars as John Hill, a charismatic prison inmate and an extremist religious leader in a Florida prison.

Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica, The L Word) plays Myka’s father Warren Bering, who receives a dangerous object anonymously in the mail which puts his life in jeopardy.

Emilie Ullerup – Growing Pains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Eramo

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

Robin Dunne – Where There’s A Will…

April 30, 2009
Robin Dunne as Dr. Will Zimmerman in Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Robin Dunne as Dr. Will Zimmerman in Sanctuary. Photo by Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Words cannot quite describe the look on forensic psychiatrist Dr. Will Zimmerman’s face as he follows Dr. Helen Magnus out of a dark passage and into the central hub of a place called the Sanctuary. The circular room extends hundreds of feet into the air and has multiple levels with numerous cubicles, each of which is home to a very special occupant. With a feeling of trepidation as well as curiosity, Will follows Magnus as she gives him a closer look at her guests. Could his mind be playing tricks on him? From a beautiful mermaid to a reptilian creature and even a man with two faces, Will is understandably overwhelmed by what he is seeing.

“How many…more are there?” he asks Magnus.

“Many,” she says, smiling, and leads Will away to continue his tour.

“Cut! That’s great,” enthuses director Martin Wood. “Let’s do it one more time, only from a different angle.”

Those who saw the Internet Sci-Fi series Sanctuary will remember the above exchange from the show’s two-hour web pilot. In May 2008, this sequence was among those that were re-shot for the TV version of the show, which completed airing its 13-episode first season back in January on the Sci Fi Channel. In it, actor Robin Dunne plays Dr. Will Zimmerman, who is chosen by the brilliant and beautiful Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping) as her new protege. Together with Helen’s daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup), they find, protect and offer refuge to the many strange, and sometimes dangerous, creatures walking this planet. As with the Internet version, the TV adaptation requires its cast to act against mostly virtual or “green screen” sets, which has taken some getting used to for Dunne.

“It’s great to work on green screen because the possibilities are endless,” says Dunne, taking a breather while the cameras are being repositioned for a new shot. “You can do anything, you can create any type of creature or setting, so it’s amazing. It’s also not difficult to act in this sort of environment because I have the privilege of working with such a talented company of actors. The thing that I did have to get the hang of was the dimensions of space. We do a lot of stuff where we’re running through the Sanctuary and turning corners, and every now and then while filming the Internet pilot, Martin [Wood] would call, ‘Cut,’ and then say, ‘Hey, Robin that was terrific, but you just ran through a wall.’ And I’d be like, ‘OK, what are the dimensions here?’ and they’d put green tape down on top of the green floor to mark off the boundaries. So there were things like that to get used to, but once I did, it was really exciting because with every new script that came out, you never knew where your character was going to end up and what we were going to do.”

A graduate of the Etibicoke School of The Arts High School in Toronto, Ontario, the Canadian-born Dunne was enamored of acting since childhood. In 1994, he made his professional debut playing Judith Light’s troubled son in the made-for-TV movie Against Their Will: Women in Prison, and since then has appeared in several other TV movies as well as guest-starred on such series as Dawson’s Creek, Dead Like Me and CSI: Miami. The actor has also worked on a number of feature films, including a very early one entitled Teenage Space Vampires. It was directed by Martin Wood, who, 10 years later, contacted Dunne about a role in a pilot for a new web-based series called Sanctuary.

“Martin sent me a copy of the script, which wasn’t really a full script but rather a few scenes,” recalls the actor. “I read it and really liked it. I had actually worked with Damian Kindler [Sanctuary creator/executive producer] a few years ago in Toronto on another TV show, so I knew him, too. He and Martin said, ‘Look, we’re putting this pilot together and we’d like you to play Will. There’s just one thing, we’re going to shoot everything using a green screen,’ And I was taken a little aback. I had worked with green screen before, but just in piecemeal. Martin told me, ‘Don’t worry. We’re onto something here and we really want you to be a part of it.”

A very happy, or extremely relieved, Will Zimmerman (Dunne). Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

A very happy, or an extremely amused, Will Zimmerman. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

 “So I came to Vancouver to do the pilot, and it was my first time working with Amanda Tapping, which was great. The cast and crew were both wonderful and the experiences unlike anything I’d ever had before. Once we finished shooting, I went back to Los Angeles and then a couple of months later, Damian called me and said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to come back up here and see what the [VFX] team have replaced the green [screen] with.’ So I did and I was completely floored. I couldn’t believe how amazing the graphics were. It was like watching a 3-D graphic novel. From there it was the ups and downs of these guys working for a very long time to put this whole thing together. Every now and then I have to remind myself that it’s really happening because I still can’t believe it.”

The bizarre deaths of two police officers at the hands of what appears to be a young boy is what initially draws Will Zimmerman into the world of Helen Magnus and the Sanctuary. He discovers that the creatures, otherwise known as abnormals, she and her associates are looking for are, in fact, missing links to the evolution of humankind. While some people might be afraid of crossing into such unfamiliar territory, Will has no such aversion. Of course, he has plenty of questions along the way, which is a big part of who the character is.

“It’s Will who brings us into this world, and the audience is experiencing everything as he does,” explains Dunne. “So he’s looking at the Sanctuary and all these monsters in cages and processing this information at the same time as the audience. The challenge for me is that I always try to be very honest with my acting and come across as believable as possible. I want to make sure that my character is having these truly amazing mind-boggling experiences, while at the same time never letting the viewers get too far behind and allowing them to experience the awe of it, too. So that’s the kind of thing I really try to keep in mind when doing this show.

“I also think that the character has this faulting curiosity. He’s the type of guy who goes, ‘I know this is crazy and a really radical choice I’m making.’ Basically, Will enters into a world where, once he makes the leap, he can never look back. Nothing will ever be the same, but he still does it because he has this curiosity and is searching for something. Regardless of the perils of what he’s getting into, he’s always going to make that [same] choice and err on the side of, ‘OK, let’s find out more.’ So I always want to keep that fire alight in his eyes and make sure it feels really scary, because it should be. Yes, it’s terrifying, but at the same time I want to make sure that he’s going forward into this world.

Dr. Zimmerman works to track down the whereabouts of an abnormal. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Dr. Zimmerman works to track down the whereabouts of an abnormal. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Of all the people who Helen could have chosen to help her, why does Dunne think she picked Will? “There’s a strange relationship between Magnus and Will,” he says, “While she is this worldly individual with all this experience, there is something that she saw in Will and a reason she brought him into her fold. It’s as if she needs his brain as well as insight and ability to connect with these abnormals. At the same time, Will isn’t quite sure whether or not he and Helen are equals. Are they on the same playing level or is she his superior?

“So there’s that sort of murky environment he must contend with. Then there’s Ashley, who’s like, ‘I’ve been here all along and I know what I’m doing.’ However, she’s kind of a loose cannon, and Will wants to reach out to her and say, listen, I’m here if you ever want to talk. Again, as with Helen, my character has to try to find his place with Ashley.”

Let’s look back now to last August and a second visit to the Sanctuary set. At the time, the show’s cast and crew were shooting one of the final season one episodes, Warriors, in which Will is given a very personal glimpse of what it is like to be an abnormal. “My character is injected, I guess you could say, with the abnormal ability to grow into this huge, hulking mass, and tomorrow I will literally be 200 pounds heavier thanks to prosthetics.

Behind-the-scenes during the filming of "Warriors." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Behind-the-scenes during the filming of "Warriors." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

“Story-wise, one of Will’s friends goes missing and he tracks him down to an illegal fight ring made up of all abnormals. Of course, my character is sucked into it and forcibly turned into an abnormal in order to fight. It’s been a really interesting and cool experience for me because I usually don’t get to do a lot of the physical stuff. Will is all about shrinking the problems of the mind, so to be in an episode where I’m working quite a bit with the stunt guys to choreograph the fights and wear a muscle suit is a lot of fun. I’ve yet to combine the suit and the prosthetics with the intricate ‘dance’ that we’re going to do tomorrow. That should be interesting. The [muscle] suit itself is a full torso and looks really scary. As big as it is, though, I believe it’s quite an intricate piece of equipment with ventilation and all sorts of neat things, so I think I’ll be alright. Of course, I’m saying that sitting here right now in a nice cool set. This time tomorrow I might just have a different opinion,” jokes the actor.

A pumped-up Will takes on Double Dome (John Desantis) in "Warriors." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

A pumped-up Will takes on Double Dome (John Desantis) in "Warriors." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Prior to Warriors, the actor worked on another physically demanding episode called Requiem in which Will and Helen answer a call for help in the Bermuda Triangle and end up trapped underwater. “That story was a great deal of fun to do,” says Dunne with a smile. “It was very much a character-driven piece and almost like doing a play. We shot it in sequence, which is really neat from an acting perspective. It was also an episode that was completely free of green screen, so it was a blast working on such a cool set. It was a challenge, too, because, first of all, it was an extremely emotional episode for Amanda and me. Again, as an actor, it’s a treat to be able to delve deep into a story and turn out some really solid work, particularly for me working opposite such an amazing actress like Amanda.

“Another challenge was the fact that we were meant to be in a sinking submarine. There were pipes bursting and everything was getting flooded. So it was days and days of being soaking wet, but, yet again, we were telling another neat story. We shot scenes where Amanda and I were underwater in a tank and had to wear breathing gear. Martin Wood [Sanctuary executive producer], who directed a number of our episodes, was down there as well. They had a speaker underwater, too, so he was giving us direction while we were submerged. Man, that was crazy,” laughs the actor. “I’d never done any type of scuba diving so I was curious about what it would be like, and I loved every minute of it.”

Will fights to save Helen Magnus and himself from a watery grave in "Requiem." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Taking on an especially nasty abnormal in "Requiem." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Will comes up for some air in "Requiem." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Will comes up for some air in "Requiem." Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

As mentioned earlier, the use of green screen in Sanctuary allows its characters to travel to such faraway places as a crypt in Northern Scotland to catacombs beneath the city of Rome, and even the Himalayas where, in Kush, Will Zimmerman must relive an horrific childhood memory.

“In this story my character is dealing with his past and the loss of his mother when he was a child,” says Dunne. “On top of that is the fact that he thinks he saw something that, for his entire life, he’s been attributing to hallucination. However, when Magnus brought him into the Sanctuary, she told him, ‘Oh, by the way, what you saw that night when you were a child, it was real.’ So Will has been grappling with that for this entire season. My God, it was like a can of worms that opened up for him, and in this particular episode, Kush, there was a lot of stuff going on for Will. We were trapped out in the snow, there were tricks of the mind happening, and Will was having visions of his mother. That kind of stuff is challenging because it’s emotionally draining, but very much worth it.”

Although it had generated plenty of positive Internet buzz, there was no guarantee that Sanctuary would be a hit  when it moved over to the small screen. Well, it was, and before its first season finished airing, the Sci Fi Channel ordered a second, which is set to premiere later this year. That means more opportunities for Dunne to build upon his work in season one, which, for him, includes following a certain creative “regimen.”

“I’ve run a few marathons in my life and it’s not unlike making a TV show because it truly is a long race,” he muses. “You have to pace yourself in order to keep your energy level up as well as find the time to keep your character fresh and alive. I think it’s something I’ve been able to manage, but I haven’t been doing it for that long at all, especially if you look at Amanda, who worked on Stargate for 11 years. I kind of pull her aside every now and then and ask, ‘How do you do it?’ There is an art to conserving your energy while also bringing your game to the field every day and throwing strike after strike.

“We finished the submarine episode four or five days ago, and the night we wrapped filming I was almost in a little bit of a panic because I felt drained. I had nothing left, and we still had episodes left to shoot. So it’s been a challenge to really bring it to the table and make sure you’re not leaving it in your locker. My God, I’ve used every single sports metaphor I could think of. People reading this will be like, ‘Not another one,'” laughs Dunne.

Our favorite forensic psychiatrist finds himself in yet another life-and-death situation. Photo by and courtesy of Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects

Our favorite forensic psychiatrist finds himself in yet another life-and-death situation. Photo by Sanctuary 1 Productions/Anthem Visual Effects and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

“Again, as tiring and draining as if sometimes is, the truth is this is such a fun job and we have such amazing people here on Sanctuary. It’s like coming to work with dozens and dozens of your good friends every day, and that makes a huge difference. This is the greatest job I’ve ever had and I get by with a little help from my friends. OK, that’s not a sports metaphor, but I’ll let you have it anyway,” chuckles the actor.

Steve Eramo

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

The Summer of Sci-Fi (and Syfy)

April 25, 2009

This summer, the Sci Fi Channel (which becomes Syfy on July 7th), will be airing all-new original programing sure to satisfy even the more discerning Sci-Fi lover out there.

Following a Memorial Day Land of the Lost marathon is the 13-part Warehouse 13, which debuts with a two-hour pilot on July 7th @ 9-11pm EST/PST. As described in an earlier blog entry at this site, the series follows the adventures of two Secret Service agents who find themselves abruptly transferred to a massive, top-secret storage facility in South Dakota which is a scientific treasure trove filled with every strange artifact, mysterious relic, fantastical object and supernatural souvenir ever collected by the U.S. government. The caretaker of the warehouse, Artie (Saul Rubinek), charges Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly) with chasing down reports of supernatural and paranormal activity in search of new objects to add to the warehouse, not to mention helping him control the warehouse itself. CCH Pounder guest-stars as Artie’s boss Mrs. Federic, along with Allison Scagliotti as Claudia Donovan, a young, hip, brilliant techno-whiz.

The much-loved Eureka returns with 10 new episodes starting Friday, July 10th @ 9pm EST/PST. When we last saw Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson), he had been removed by the government from his job as the town’s sheriff, and Allison (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) announcing that she is expecting her recently-deceased husband’s baby. At home, Carter faces some challenging decisions regarding his relationship with his daughter Zoe (Jordan Hinson), while he is also given a new love interest when Dr. Tess Fontana (Jaime Rae Newman) arrives in Eureka to supervise the re-opening of Global Dynamics’ infamous Section 5.

On July 8th @ 9pm EST/PST, Sci Fi’s hit fledgling reality series Ghost Hunters International makes its second season debut with six new episodes that take its team of investigators to Austria, Ireland, Italy, Chile, Argentina and the Czech Republic in search of paranormal activity. And in August, the channel’s original “ghostbusters,” Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, return with their Ghost Hunters team to check out ghostly happenings on this side of the pond.

Sandwiched between all the above will not only be Sci Fi’s traditional Independence Day Twilight Zone marathon (running from Thursday, July 2nd through Saturday, July 4th), but also the original movies Malibu Shark Attack (starring Peta Wilson from La Femme Nikita), High Plains Invaders (starring James Marsters of Torchwood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel), Hellhounds (directed by Rick Schroeder) and Sand Serpents (starring Jason Gedrick from Desperate Housewives).

Ron Moore & Kate Vernon – The Fifth Element

April 22, 2009
Re-imagined Battlestar Galactica creator/executive producer Ron Moore. Photo by Trae Patton and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Re-imagined Battlestar Galactica creator/executive producer Ron Moore. Photo by Trae Patton and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Actress Kate Vernon - Battlestar Galactica's Ellen Tigh. Photo by Randee St. Nicholas and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

Actress Kate Vernon - Battlestar Galactica's Ellen Tigh. Photo by Randee St. Nicholas and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel

After the faces of four of the final five humanoid Cylons, or “skinjobs,” were revealed at the end of Battlestar Galactica‘s third season, fans longed to discover the identity of the fifth Cylon. Re-imagined series creator/executive producer Ron Moore kept them waiting until the second half of the show’s fourth year when, in the episode Sometimes a Great Notion, Colonel Saul Tigh, a humanoid Cylon, experiences a flashback of his past life on Earth, and realizes that his wife Ellen is the fifth Cylon.

“I’m not quite sure exactly when I picked Ellen,” said Moore during a conference call earlier this year with journalists. “It was some time in the third season. I think the option of presenting her as one of the final Cylons was kicking around for a while, but we really didn’t intend on revealing four of the five final Cylons in the season finale [Crossroads: Part 2] until we were breaking that actual episode. That’s when the identity of the fifth Cylon became a more pressing question. In-between the two seasons we went on a writers’ retreat and talked about everything in detail, and Ellen was the primary candidate to be the fifth Cylon. We discussed other possibilities but none of them really held water, so we stuck with Ellen.

“And I would say it worked primarily because of her relationship with Tigh [Michael Hogan]. It really sort of anchored that couple as something very special. Also, as a character, Ellen had been an off-camera presence right from the beginning of the show in the [2003] miniseries. We began hearing about Tigh’s wife and it was one of his key defining characteristics, so we knew she was important in the mythology of the show. I also liked the idea of saying that this couple had been together a very long time. Theirs had been this sort of eternal romance and love, which I thought was cool. It completed the framework of the final five and just fit. It also made the fact that Tigh had killed his wife back on New Caprica even richer and further complicated as well as filled with irony and more conflicted feelings.

“I liked Tigh and Ellen because they were both flawed and noble characters who tended to get in their own way, and I liked the bad choices they made as much as I enjoyed their good choices. I loved watching them claw at each other and the fact that they couldn’t bear to be apart from one another. Usually the two lovers who transcend time are people who long for each other and are such good and noble individuals that you hate them. Ellen and Tigh just feel like a legitimate twosome. They’re a married couple who have to go at it periodically as well as have major issues and this and that, but their bond was one that literally could not be broken. And I thought that that was a really interesting and, ultimately, positive thing to say.”

Saul and Ellen Tigh are among those colonists on New Caprica when, in season three of Galactica, the planet ends up under Cylon occupation. After her husband is imprisoned by the enemy, Ellen begins having sexual relations with the humanoid Cylon Cavil (Dean Stockwell) in order to secure Saul’s release. Cavil, in return, uses Ellen to gain information about the human insurgency. Her betrayal is eventually uncovered, and although Saul realizes that his wife’s actions were out of love for him, her collaboration with the enemy is punishable by death. Rather than have his fellow resistance fighters kill Ellen, he gives her a poisoned drink and she dies in his arms. Given her character’s demise, actress Kate Vernon, who plays Ellen, was surprised to subsequently be asked by Ron Moore to once again return to the show.

“Ron called me one day and he sounded really sad and kind of morose,” recalls Vernon. “He said to me, ‘I spoke with the [NBC] network and I’m sorry to say that they agreed to green light this project. It’s unfortunate, but you’re going to have to come back to work for us.’ Ron messed with my head right up to the very minute of actually letting me know that I was coming back.

“At that point I didn’t know what that meant. I was just elated that I was coming back, and then the conversation evolved into Ellen being the fifth Cylon. I wasn’t sure he was talking to the right person or teasing me again. My jaw fell open and I was waiting for Ron to say, ‘Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, I’m kidding.’ I had been invited back for a few episodes and was hoping to be invited back again, but I was not expecting this, so I was stunned.”

Once the actress was told about her character’s resurrection and true identity, was it difficult for Vernon to keep it a secret? “Oh, gosh, yes. There were waves of intense agony and frustration, and then I would completely forget about it,” she says. “I mean, it was quite a while before I was back on the [Galactica] set, so I actually did forget about it for a bit. For the most part, though, this was something I desperately wanted to talk about just because it was such an honor to be given this role.

“When Ron killed Ellen off, I went up to him, looked him straight in the eye and asked, ‘Isn’t there any way I can come back?’ He looked at me very gently and assuredly said, ‘No,’ so in Ron’s eyes I was done. However, in my heart I personally had a love affair with Ellen as an actress and this show, so I never let go of it. Ron can attest to that because I called him many times, and, bless you, Ron, for taking all my phone calls.”

Continues Moore, “I have to say that, creatively, killing off Ellen was a great move. It was one of those big sort of, ‘Wow, what an ending. Man, that’s going to be powerful.’ There was great excitement about what it was, but, you know, it was hard to let go of that character and know that Ellen wouldn’t be in the program any more. Honestly, probably my most difficult experience on the series was calling Kate Vernon and saying, ‘We’re killing off your character.’ It was really emotional as well as heartbreaking, and I think that on some level I carried that with me a lot. It certainly gave me the impetus to want to bring her back.”

Says Vernon, “I thank you for that, Ron. That’s a wonderful compliment.”

Adds Moore, “When it comes to keeping the secret, I know that a number of fan sites out there as well as several of the on-line communities fervently follow the series. Sometimes things slip out, and this one was really well-suppressed. However, we didn’t have to do too much to keep the secret because there’s so much bad information out there about the show in general. There was all this speculation posing as fact where people were saying, ‘I know who the fifth Cylon is.’ Occasionally one of them would say Ellen and we’d all be like, ‘Oh, crap, it’s out.’ Then on the same website or a site that it’s linked to, someone was saying it’s Boxy [a character from the original 1979 Battlestar Galactica series], and we’re definitely bringing him back. Again, because there was so much bad information out there, our hope was that the few nuggets of truth would be hard to sift out of the rest of it, and that’s what happened.”

In the fourth season Galactica episode No Exit, Ellen Tigh wakes in a fright, covered in goop and sitting in a Cylon re-birthing tank. The time line is 18 months ago and she has been reborn after her death on New Caprica. Ellen is on-board a Cylon base ship and being held there by Cavil, whose disdain of her and the four other Cylons who created him and the other seven existing humanoid models has only grown worse. When the Cylon resurrection ship is destroyed, Cavil orders Ellen to tell him how to reconstruct the technology, but she refuses, so he plans to cut her open and extract the necessary information from her brain. Ellen is in a very different place than any we have ever seen her in before, which provided Vernon with new challenges when it came to her performance.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to do,” notes the actress. “I needed the material, though, to see what direction Ellen was going in, and because the writers on this program are so brilliant and their imaginations so incredible, I just really had to open up and trust these words and this concept. I also had a couple of talks with Ron as well as the directors about where we were headed, but I’m a feeling actress. I didn’t necessarily go in there and intellectually just break it down on a mental level. I know who Ellen is and I took this new information, which was so rich and profound, and just let it guide me through the change that Ellen experiences.”

During the final moments of No Exit, one of the Boomer (Grace Park) models double-crosses Cavil and uses a Raptor to fly Ellen to safety on-board the Galactica. No one is more surprised to see her than Tigh, and the two of them waste no time in becoming reacquainted. Ellen is later shocked to discover that Saul and Number Six (Tricia Helfer) are involved and the Cylon is pregnant with their child. Reconnecting with her onscreen hubby Michael Hogan was a joy for Vernon.

“Michael Hogan has always been extremely encouraging,” she says. “At one point before I began shooting I was still a little worried and walked into his trailer. I was coming back as the fifth Cylon and felt a tremendous responsibility, which included quite a bit of dialogue. Michael looked at me and said, ‘Just know that you are Ellen and everything will be fine.’ Basically what he was saying was that I was already Ellen; I didn’t need to do anything more, but, again, just let the words guide me. It was the kindest and most supportive thing an actor or anybody could have said because I was quite concerned whether or not I’d be able to creatively answer what Ron and the other writers intended to reveal.”

There is no doubt that Ellen Tigh’s return to the Cylon fold causes further unheaval in what has been an extremely volatile period in their history. Although Ron Moore will be working on the Galactica prequel, Caprica, he promises that fans will not have to wait for the new series to learn what the future holds for the Cylons and humankind.

Caprica will explore how the people on the [12]colonies developed the Cylons and how all that came about,” explains the executive producer. “However, as far as the larger mysteries as well as mythologies along with the hows and whys and how everything plays out on Galactica, we set out to answer as many questions as we could by the end of the show, and that’s what we did. We didn’t hold anything in reserve and say, ‘Oh, well, we’ll deal with this on Caprica.”

With Galactica‘s fourth season also being its final one, that means the show’s actors have said goodbye to their alter egos. While sad to leave Ellen behind, Vernon will always be grateful for having had the opportunity to portray such a sexy, playful and intelligent character.

“Ellen is the best role I’ve had in my career,” says the actress. “I had no expectations when I auditioned for the part. I was told there might be two or three episodes, but they kept bringing me back, and with each new story I couldn’t wait to crack open the script because the writers seemed to really indulge the character’s naughtiness, feistiness, trouble-making, the complicated relations she had with her husband, etc.

“I found Ellen more and more fascinating as well as dark, delicious and misunderstood. So as an actress it was pure discovery, and I never expected to continue on as much as I wanted to. So it was just a wild ride.”

Steve Eramo

As stated above, all photos are courtesy of and copyright of The Sci Fi Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!