Catching Up With Amanda Tapping And Damian Kindler

Transcription by Katrina King. Second rule of Katrina King is you do NOT talk about Katrina King!

Season Two of the hit Syfy series Sanctuary brought several changes to the show as well as putting our favorite characters through the emotional ringer. Like many viewers, I had a few observations and questions regarding what went on. A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to catch up with Amanda Tapping and Damian Kindler, two of the creative forces behind the show. We talked about what has gone before, teased what is to come and also talked about the foundation the two have set up with Jill Bodie, “Sanctuary For Kids.”

AMANDA TAPPING: Hi Joe!

POP CULTURE ZOO: Hi guys!

AT: Hi, how’re you doing?

PCZ: Hi, thank you for talking to me today!

AT: Thank you.

PCZ: First of all, a belated congratulations on season three.

AT: Thank you very much

DAMIAN KINDLER: That’s a little late coming, where’ve you been man?

PCZ: Hey you know, been busy, been trying.

AT: Thank you, we’re very excited

DK: We’re stoked man.

PCZ: So Damian, when you first came up with this, did you have ideas that would go for three seasons, or a master plan for the show?

DK: No, when I first came up with this, I was just hoping to use it as a sample script to get on a different show. I mean who would have thought it would ever go this far.

AT: Damian wrote it as a spec script when he was just a struggling writer in LA.

DK: Yeah, like ten years ago!

AT: I don’t think you envisioned this madness!

DK: No!

PCZ: And so, going into this third season, you of course have seven more episodes to do. How does that throw your production schedule out of whack?

DK: Well, it’s a real champagne problem, right? I mean, it may play a bit of havoc with the production schedule and all that, but you get to tell some very deep, longer stories, and setup stories, and get some interesting character and story arcs into the show, finally, that make more sense to do with twenty than we could do before with thirteen.

AT: It just means that we have to take more vitamins. And eat better.

(laughter)

DK: Yeah, you need both of those things.

AT: It really does. We need to get more sleep, eat better, and take more vitamins.

DK: And exercise.

AT: And exercise! There’s not enough time!

DK: Nope.

PCZ: Well, I’m assuming, too, much like Stargate, they’ll [Syfy] probably split your season and give you a little bit of a break to catch up.

AT: Yeah, I think we’re going to take a wee bit of a break in the summer for at least three weeks..

DK: You will!

AT: I will; Damian will be writing! But as a little hiatus, just to give post a chance to catch up and give our crew and cast a chance to catch their breath.

PCZ: See, the writers never get a break.

AT: No…no.

DK: No, we’re constantly being abused!

AT: Yup.

PCZ: So does that give you, like you were saying, more freedom to kind of develop more subplots and maybe an ongoing arc or two for the season?

AT: Absolutely! Absolutely, and we’ve talked about sort of the bigger picture for this year. It’s such a luxury, to be given the twenty episode order and it’s such a gift. So it does give us the opportunity to spin out a much bigger backstory for a few of the characters.

DK: Yeah, to play some ongoing mystery, to bring them some bad guys who don’t just come in, we tangle with them and then they leave or die. They come in and a master plan is revealed over a few episodes. We’re setting up two very interesting story arcs over season three, that I’m not sure how they’re going to resolve or if they will resolve. But they are designed to essentially challenge and torture our heroes and thus our audience. Hopefully in a good way!

AT: (laughs) Oh God!

PCZ: (laughs) You guys are so mean to your characters! But I guess that’s a part of drama, right?

AT: Exactly, exactly. Take your hand and punch your face at the same time – it’s brilliant!

PCZ: Exactly! Well, in this show you guys have never shied away from pushing your characters as far as they can go, nor have you shied away from doing bad, even permanent things to them.

AT: It’s true, it’s true! I don’t know what that says about us as human beings but probably won’t delve too deep into that one.

DK: I just like to do anything that’s physically demanding for Robin Dunne.

AT: That’s true…

PCZ: That was going to be one of my questions; what kind of arm twisting did you have to do to get him to do the Bollywood number in the season finale?

DK: You know, that’s an interesting question, because the answer will surprise you. I fully admit I did that to torture Robin. But the joke is it was on me, it didn’t work. He went, “This is great! I’m so excited to do the Bollywood Dance! I’m gonna work hard and do it!” And I was like, “I failed!”

AT: Yeah!

DK: So I tried to get him and he was more than thrilled.

AT: You’d walk around the studio and come around a corner, and there was Robin practicing the Bollywood number. He was brilliant.

DK: Yeah, I’ll have to work harder next time.

AT: Yeah. It’s going to take more than a dance number to torture Robin!

DK: Yes, you’re right.

PCZ: Well, I’ve heard stories fro the Robin Hood movie he did, so maybe you guys could take it a little easy on him… (laughs)

AT: Exactly.

PCZ: And that was kind of another example of what sets this show apart. You guys aren’t afraid to do things like that, however, it never at any point felt cheap or laughable. It completely fit with the story and was kind of underlining a really dramatic, sad moment.

AT: Yeah, thank you for saying that.

DK: Y’know, we definitely aren’t afraid to fall flat on our face in public.

AT: But the fact is you never wanna throw a Bollywood dance number into a season finale of a television series unless it feels somewhat organic. And I think we actually pulled it off, so yeah, thank you for saying that.

DK: And you know it was Robin and it was Martin Wood directing it so beautifully and the choreographers and our editor Gordon Rempel filmed it. And obviously it’s worth saying, our amazing composer Andrew Lockington, found the right music that kept the story frothing while you were still being entertained.

PCZ: It was so interesting because not only did he have dancers with him in sort of the dream sequence, for lack of a better term, but then he also had to do it solo in the “real world.” So it made it even more kind of surreal.

AT: Yeah, and the crew had a blast I have to say. That day that was shot was just … the energy was just amazing. And we were going through a massive heat wave in Vancouver at the time that we shot all the Mumbai scenes, where it was actually ten degrees hotter in Vancouver, Canada than it was in Mumbai! It was like if only we were shooting in Mumbai, we wouldn’t be sweating so much! Yeah, it was crazy. Things seemed to come together in some little kismet.

DK: Y’know, it’s amazing, the USA Network executives asked to see a cut-together sequence early of it, once we shot it, and they showed it at a retreat, the head of SyFy and all the senior executives. And apparently they just went gaga over it. And that’s when I knew that we had accidentally failed upwards.

PCZ: Obviously, one of the biggest changes for season two was the death of Ashley, and I was wondering if you can talk a little bit about what led to the decision to write that character out of the show?

AT: Um, yeah… I mean, it was a multi-layered decision. It is never easy to get rid of a main character. Especially a character like Ashley, where she’s so closely tied to Magnus, where she’s so closely tied to all the other characters. It’s not an easy decision. I think that the misperception amongst some fans is that it was done very cavalierly, and it certainly wasn’t. There was a lot of fighting, there was a lot of back and forth, but it came down from a lot of different levels. And, I mean obviously we have to be somewhat politically correct in how we answer this question, but ultimately, we had to bow to higher powers. It came from a lot of different directions. And I think what we tried to do is do it as respectfully as possible, do it giving the character as much grace and as much of a hero beat as possible going out. And not to toss it off like it’s some small thing. I mean it’s something that still haunts my character and it’s something that still haunts all the characters in the Sanctuary, but at the end of the day it’s not an easy thing to do. It’s not an easy thing to let an actor go off a show. It’s not an easy thing to try to write out such a great character, but we really had no choice.

DK: And I think to be honest, it was a brave choice that we felt would deepen the show, where you think a central character like Ashley can die. It sort of adds to the stakes of that show. You weren’t sure that everything would remain copacetic at any given moment. I think that we wanted to deepen the way the show felt by making a bold decision like that. Ultimately, when we realized it made creative sense, we realized it was the right way to go, even if it wasn’t the easy way to go.

PCZ: Well, I think it didn’t come across as being just a cheap shock just for the sake of it.

AT: God no, I mean if it had, then we shouldn’t still be on the air. Yeah, I’m glad you feel that way. And again, I say it was not done cavalierly. There was a lot of discussion, and a lot of angst and a lot of back and forth and a lot of how are we, now that we have to do this, how are we going to do it. How are we gonna do it with respect to the fans, and respect to the actor, and respect to the character and respect to the show. So hopefully we pulled it off.

PCZ: It was very refreshing to not have a neatly tied ending. Even in defeating the Cabal, they lost.

AT: Right! Exactly, exactly. Nobody really won in that situation. Sure, we got rid of the Cabal to a certain extent, but nobody wins.

DK: I don’t think you believe that a big evil bad guy organization like the Cabal could be defeated and everybody walk away all clean and neat and happy. I think those kind of shows suck. The show where you go “we paid for this with blood” is way more interesting to me, way more believable.

PCZ: Like Amanda said, it impacts her character and all the rest of the characters throughout the season. Especially Magnus, who is now searching for a cure to immortality, which was kind of a shock.

AT: Yeah, and I said this before, but Magnus does not wear her heart on her sleeve. She’s not the kind of character that’s going to go around moping. She holds her cards so close to her chest that you almost don’t know what she’s feeling or how deeply she’s really feeling this, until you get little nuggets like that like “I was searching for a cure to my longevity.” What?! “Yeah, ’cause I wanna end it” or “Y’know next Tuesday’s Ashley’s birthday.” What?! It just bubbles up to the surface every now and again, because she’s so tightly wound. And, so when you drop these little nuggets, you go, “Of course, of course it’s something that’s destroying her heart on a daily basis” but she doesn’t necessarily always let it show. Which is interesting as an actor to play. Frustrating, sometimes, because you can’t let it all out.

PCZ: Well it almost makes me wonder, too, towards the end of the season especially with the in-fighting within the Sanctuary network, if Helen sort of sees at this point that she can almost walk away from this and go somewhere and live a quiet life for however long she has.

AT: There’s definitely a sense of that, but again, she’s too much of a control freak. She gave up everything for this, and now including her daughter. So I don’t think she would, although there’s a part of you that goes “Just walk away,” I don’t think she ever could. She lost literally the most important thing in her life for this quest and so she’s not gonna walk away. I think to leave it in the hands of people that she doesn’t trust would be such a slap in the face to her father and his legacy – in that sense she’s incredibly loyal.

PCZ: The other kick to the gut is you guys go and take Tesla’s vampire powers away, and he’s just a normal guy now. Although, he may have magnetic powers, apparently.

AT: Exactly! Don’t ever count out Tesla! And we hope to see a lot more of him this season.

DK: We adore Jonathon.

AT: We adore Jonathon Young. We adore the character he’s helped build. Yeah, don’t count Tesla out yet.

DK: Don’t count out the power, the power of the character isn’t the vampirism, believe me. It’s in absolute arrogance. He’s a genius. And his vulnerability, which is somewhere in there. That Jonathon plays beautifully. And his love for Magnus…

(brief pause)

DK: Oh! I just gave something away!

AT: Oh, dammit!

DK: And the fact that he’s pregnant…

(laughter)

PCZ: And I have to say, when someone new comes on the show, everyone’s like, “well let’s see how this turns out.” But Kate has turned out to be such a fantastic character, and it was really interesting to see how she evolved over the course of the season.

AT: Thank you, we think so too. We’re not only huge fans of the character, but we’re huge fans of Agam. She had a really tough job. She came in with big shoes to fill, creating a new character, trying to fill a hole that was left and we didn’t make it easy on her. The character starts out very abrasive, very difficult, untrustworthy and sort of flies in the face of everything that you’ve come to expect of our characters. Then slowly she softens. “Penance” is a great example of what drives this woman, and what informs her, and what her past is. We’re actually really very excited about Kate for season three, because we feel like in some ways she was so abrasive off the top, and then we tried to soften her to the point of almost homogenizing her a bit, and now we wanna go back to “What makes Kate tick?” She’s this feisty, fires on all cylinders, savy, sexy, smart, snarky character and I think that she can be so much fun. We’re really looking forward to exploring that with her this season, giving her a lot more intellectual beats, a lot more forensic kind of beats for her to play.

PCZ: There was a small scene in the finale. Helen is sort of distrustful at first of Kate and slowly warms to her [over the course of the season]. When she is so determined to find Will in the finale, Amanda, you give her this look. It speaks volumes that “Ok, now she’s part of the family.”

AT: Yeah, that’s great. Yes, exactly.

DK: But she’s the sort of member of your family that’s almost like the purposeful black sheep. If you’ve got the dutiful son and you’ve got kind of a quirky younger son, she’s like this kind of person who makes everyone kind of pull the pole out of their ass, is the word. She’s definitely, happily, the fly in the ointment. And I think that is very important.

AT: It binds you all together in a lot of ways.

DK: It does but it also prevents Sanctuary’s character and the dynamics of the story from becoming too antiseptic or Star Trek-like. That there’s someone in there who’s like “Ahem.”

AT: So just a little bit…

DK: …unpredictible, and has her own streetwise methods of achieving the same goals. It just creates a more interesting way in and out of stories and beats and approaches to problems and challenges. It gives you just more colors in the pallete of how you tell the story because of the character.

AT: But I think you’re right in saying that in that moment, that’s Magnus’s, “Yeah, you’re one of us now”, because it’s exactly what you’d hope Kate would do. She’s like, “No, wait a second… he’s still out there, I’m out there too” and Magnus, sort of says, “There we go, she’s in.”

PCZ: That’s another thing I think you guys really excel with in the show, particularly with Will. He started out in the beginning of the show unsure and freaked out about everything, wary of guns, and then starts out season two with “Lock and load, let’s go!”

DK: Yeah, very cool. And one thing I really wanted to do with Will’s character this year is, I think we’d almost like to see Will kind of get more into that kind of Commander Riker, Young Kirk mode, where he’s like “Ok, not only is this my career, but I think I know where I want it to go, and I’m gonna be the head of a Sanctuary one day.” See him starting to really grow into those shoes that Magnus is fitting him for, maybe even a bit too early, like he’s getting a bit overly cocky in certain situations. And just see him kind of feel those wonderful growing pains as his character embraces his destiny, sometimes not enough, sometimes too much. I’m feeling like we should head into the “too much” more this season, and have Magnus show him in amazingly cool graceful notes how you do this job. He may think, “Look I’ve done it for two years, here we go, I’m gonna go in and do this!” And she’s like, “There’s so many..”

AT: So many layers here!

DK: The graduate school is not for the faint of heart, I mean come on.

PCZ: Excellent! Also in season two you’ve really opened up the universe that these characters inhabit. We saw the London Sanctuary, we’ve seen several other Sanctuaries. Is that a kind of growth direction that we can look forward to in season three?

DK: Yeah.

AT: Definitely, I mean once we’ve opened up the global network, you’ll see it. We don’t want to become so far stretched that we lose home base, so having explored out, and knowing there’s Sanctuaries in Mumbai, and Tokyo, and London, and Cairo, etc. etc., there may be a bit of a shift inward for awhile, to sort of focus on what’s going on at home. Now that we’ve shown you what’s out there we need to come back in and revive that home base.

PCZ: Are you guys fully in the script writing stage at this point for season three?

AT: Yes, Damian is now losing most of his hair.

DK: I have a lot left though!

AT: Yeah, we are actually supposed to start hard-prep for our season opener on Monday.

DK: Still writing!

AT: Yeah… still waiting on that script Damian!

DK: Yup! I’m on it!

PCZ: Now did you have a rough idea of how you were going to resolve the season finale from season two?

DK: I knew exactly what we were gonna do to solve that tidal wave giant spider problem! I really thought I’d just be flipping burgers at that point, I thought after the Bollywood dance, the spiders that make earthquakes I’m never working in any town again ever. So when we finally got back together, we were like, “This is great!” We got the show going and then everyone looked at me and said…

AT: Okay, genius, get us out of this one!

DK: “…what kind of insane corner did you paint us into? We are all clinging to the edge of this rock that you put us on!” The person who hates me the most is Alan McCullough, our co-executive producer, who is actually writing the season premiere. I wouldn’t take on such a dangerous job. He’s writing it and I think it’s going to be an amazingly cool episode. It’s actually a two parter!

AT: Yeah, we’ve ended up sort of turning it into a two-parter. I mean just sitting in the room when all the writers got back, and we’ve got a couple new writers this year, sitting in the room and sort of thinking about the logistics of the speed of a tidal wave, and the physics of a tidal wave. The discussions have been very intense, but they figure it out and it’s neat!

DK: It’s cool! When in doubt, another dance.

(all laugh)

PCZ: Well, and after teasing earlier in the season, the coolest part in the finale was the reveal of Big Bertha. You had to show her and that was awesome.

AT: Of course we did, we had to show her. Yes, and I think Anthem [Visual Effects] did a great job there.

PCZ: So, as if you guys weren’t busy enough, you two have started the “Sanctuary For Kids” foundation. How did that come about?

AT: There’s three of us involved, there’s Damian and myself and Jill Bodie and it came about from an intrinsic understanding, first of all from my perspective of fandom, at how incredibly generous and connected sci-fi fans, unlike any other fans, are. Having done a bunch of fund-raisers for different charities that meant a lot to me, and realizing how amazing this group was, and hitting the current – I keep using this term, and it makes me crazy to say it – current financial crisis I realized that the bigger charities were suffering so greatly and the smaller charities were being completely obliterated. We sort of sat down and said, “What could we do to utilize this fan base that we have, and their generosity and their support, tie it to the show in a loose way, and create a charity that is so grass roots, very low overhead?” 100% of the money goes to these small groups. We really make a difference with groups where $10,000 makes a massive difference, $5,000 makes a huge difference. It was sort of born of that. It was born of a desire and an understanding that there was a need. We all have small children and we all feel really privileged. Our kids go to great schools, they’re clothed and they’re fed. I look at my 4 year old and I go not all 4 year olds in this world are as protected as she is and it scares the crap out of me. And the same with Damian and Jill, it’s like we have these beautiful small children, such potential, such amazing human potential and they have the opportunities, whereas there’s hundreds of thousands of children in this world who don’t. As a parent it just breaks your heart, so you just think, “I’m a chump if I don’t do something about it.” We realized we could do a very grassroots, successful campaign and so far, since our inception which was in the fall, we’ve raised $68,000. We raised $16,000 to Haiti last month, and the Canadian government matched it, so that’s $32,000 going to Haiti. It’s been based on our fans, it’s for the fans, about the fans, and it’s worked out really well. We’re really, really proud of it.

DK: You know, I think one of the things that you get exposed to when you start to work in TV and movies and entertainment is there’s a lot of charity work that you’re exposed to. I think what was a revelation for the three of us was that there are some people who have a lot of success, but they don’t maximize the impact that success could have on charity. Also, there are some people who are doing charity work that I think, without meaning to sound kind of too critical, are kind of inefficient. It costs a lot of money and uses a lot of stuff to throw a big gala charity party, where I think the three of us shared the same common vision, that it should be very, very small as far as infrastructure and cost and impact and completely efficient in how it gets the most money to the most needy hands quickly. It wasn’t self-aggrandizing. We didn’t need to kind of thump our chests and put on ball-gowns and say, “Aren’t we so good to the world?” We felt it was nice if it was quiet and efficient and focused on the problems kids around the world and locally were having. It felt more our style, I think is what I’m trying to say, to do it this way.

PCZ: It seems as if there are more and more “celebrities” or television and film people that take on charities. Do you think it’s sort of incumbent of someone that has a large audience to maybe point out some things that are going on in the world that are important?

DK: Yes, I think it is absolutely your duty if you are successful and have access to eyes and ears and audiences. I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t become actively involved in making the world a better place. Why wouldn’t you?

AT: Yeah, it almost becomes a duty or responsibility. No matter how many people you have listen to you for whatever reason, and celebrity is such a strange and fickle thing, but the fact that people actually listen to what we have to say, we better make what we have to say mean something. It’s like I said before, you’re just a jerk if you don’t. And so knowing what we have and knowing the privilege we have, and being parents, it’s a no-brainer; it’s an absolute no brainer. I think it’s a massive responsibility. You know, people complain about celebrity and the fans and the paparazzi, whatever. It’s like come on, seriously? Look at your life, and look at what’s going on in this world.

DK: We have the best jobs in the world.

AT: Absolutely!

DK: We have fun, I don’t have to shave, there’s no dress code. We’re so lucky and privileged, I mean there are people with tough jobs or no jobs who are helping make the world a better place. We actually have a way to do something very useful and meaningful with impact. I would love to see “Sanctuary For Kids” be like this template model for every TV show. Everybody should have their “insert-show-name For Kids” website. Fringe For Kids! Battlestar For Kids! I don’t care, but I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t do that. I don’t understand. I try not to be judgmental, I just know that it makes our jobs all the sweeter knowing that we’re actually funneling a lot of this exposure into a good place.

PCZ: I would agree, it’s a model that could go a long way for a lot of other groups. Start small and build from there.

AT: Absolutely, and it’s an easy template to work with. The online auctions are very easy. The fan donations have been phenomenal. It’s not brain surgery, it’s really not. It’s a little extra effort for a huge gain for people. I don’t wanna sound self-aggrandizing about it either, it’s so not about us, it really is about the charities that we’re helping and the fans.

DK: I mean, something like a hundred dollars saves a girl’s life…

AT: …in Nepal.

DK: …in Nepal. A hundred dollars!

AT: $5,000 and we built a house in Nepal called “Papa’s Gumba House.” All the houses at the Nepal Orphan Home are named Papa’s Something House, and we were able to build Papa’s Gumba House, which is Sanctuary…

DK: …Gumba is Sanctuary. I love that.

AT: …in Nepalese. We just received pictures of the house and the girls who have been transferred. There are sisters who were separated and are back together and in that house. It’s phenomenal. It’s phenomenal. It’s a gift to be able to do this.

PCZ: Well, thank you guys for starting this.

AT: Thank you. Thanks for supporting it.

DK: Well, to be honest, Amanda and I just sort of do what we can. Jill Bodie, who’s my wife, is the one who really just took the ball and ran with it. She has such an amazing quiet passion for this. It’s something she’s wanted to do almost her whole life. She’s just so meticulous and careful and thoughtful and generous with her time, and being a full-time mom, and so I really want to just give her the big shout out as well.

PCZ: Wives are great.

AT: (laughs) Yes we are!

DK: Yes they are!

PCZ: The last thing I had was really an observation. It occurred to me today that when Sanctuary first started it was always in the back of my mind that you, Amanda, were doing a British accent. “Ok, it’s Amanda doing a British accent and I can get around that and it’s ok.” But the show has come so far now that I actually watched an episode of Stargate the other day and it was jarring going the other way, not hearing you speak in a British accent.

DK: How cool!

AT: (laughs) Ah that’s great!

DK: Excellent!

AT: Yes, thank you my work here is done! (in British accent)

(laughter)

PCZ: Excellent. Well, that’s all I have. Thank you guys so much for taking the time to talk to me today.

AT: Absolute pleasure as always! Thank you!

DK: Thanks a lot!

Sanctuary will return for its third season later this year on Syfy!

About Joseph Dilworth Jr.

Joseph Dilworth Jr. has been writing since he could hold a pencil (back then it was one of those big, fat red pencils, the Faber-Castell GOLIATH. Remember those? Now that was a pencil!). As editor-in-chief and instigator of this here website he takes full responsibility for any wacky hi-jinks that ensue. He appreciates you taking the time to read his articles and asks that you direct any feedback, criticisms, questions about life directly to him by clicking here.

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