In Part Two of our interview with Amanda Tapping, we talk about the relationships on Sanctuary, some things that are coming up on the show and her other work, including Stargate. Part One can be found here.
PCZ: I noticed you are playing up in the early episodes the easy-going relationship between Helen and her daughter Ashley, which is obviously leading up to Ashley finding out who her dad is, and I’m assuming a fairly big falling out. Is that something we get to see before the end of the season?
AT: Oh, definitely. There’s an episode coming up called “The Five” (airing 11/14 – ed) that actually explains a huge part of the mythology of the show and a lot of things are blown wide open. There’s a cool twist with one of the featured characters [and] Ashley finds out a lot of information. It ties together a lot of the mythology that we’re weaving right now and the relationship between Ashley and Magnus is so interesting both before and after. It’s a mother-daughter dynamic in the truest sense in so many ways, but then it’s also completely off the map when it comes to how they deal with each other. There’s real discord and it’s tied together by incredible respect for each other.
You get the sense that it’s a tenuous hold and Helen’s made a really weird choice to bring this child into the world probably knowing that Ashley will in all likelihood die before she does. You’re bringing a child into the world where you’re going to watch her grow old and die, which is just a crazy choice for a woman, for a mother to make. So that tempers a huge amount of their relationship. So, you’ve got this sidekick in this woman, this young woman who she [Helen] totally respects and enjoys working with, and at times she’s the mom. It’s such a bizarre dynamic for me as an actress. It’s one of the more difficult and interesting relationships I get to play. But it does change through the course of the show for sure.
PCZ: I do like what Will Zimmerman brings to the whole proceedings. I speculated before that Helen is surrounding herself and Ashley with people that could be a family and not just a team. In that respect, in the episodes so far Will is at first reluctant to go into any supernatural territory, but he is like “If you can prove it to me then I’m willing to buy it.” At the same time he also keeps Helen honest and not just jumping to conclusions either. It’s a really interesting dynamic.
AT: Absolutely, it’s very cool. He’s trying to be everyman with a weird connective mind. He brings the audience with him on this journey, but he’s also got this very skewed way of looking at things. So, yeah, it is a very cool dynamic and what I love about the relationships on this show is that they are organic. The way they’ve developed between the actors, the way we’ve developed our characters, the way the writers have allowed it to play out, it’s so organic. The relationship between Helen and Will, there was nothing about it that felt forced. It’s the most important relationship in the show in so many ways because he’s bringing the audience into her world and she has to explain her world.
There’s an episode coming up called “Requiem” (airing 12/07 – ed) that we’ve talked about before that is defining for this relationship. The episode called “Kush”, which [was] our fifth episode, that again is a beautiful organic development between these two. That’s the thing I’m sort of most proud of. Nothing ever felt like we were forcing issues between the mother and daughter, between Henry and the team, between Will and Magnus. All of it felt really natural. It’s a treat as an actor because sometimes you don’t get this, sometimes we want to shoot so the audience understands the relationship between the characters. Kind of fitting a square peg in a round hole… we don’t do that. The audience is wondering about the relationship as much as we are.
“There’s an episode coming up called ‘Requiem’ that we’ve talked about before that is such a definer for this relationship…”
PCZ: Did the webisodes give you the chance to feel out early on how the characters were going to interact?
AT: Yeah, they did. It was a great stomping ground for us. I think we tried to pack so much into that two hours. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, but it certainly gave us a feel of where we could go with it.
PCZ: We also talked at Comic Con that you did a movie called Dancing Trees.
AT: Yeah, I shot that around this time last year.
PCZ: Sounds like a powerful film and a powerful role for you.
AT: I don’t have a huge part in the film but it’s sort of pivotal in that I play the mother of an autistic savant, who’s a remarkable young woman played by Katie Boland, a really cool actress. And for me having played Sam Carter and now Helen, there’s just something that was so different. She’s so soft and she’s struggled to raise this special needs child by herself. She has a quirky sister she has to deal with and at the heart of it all she’s trying to run this small business and trying to raise her daughter in a really difficult world. So it’s a very soft character. She’s very fierce and protective, but she also has this incredible warmth about her and is totally vulnerable and I loved it because it was just so different than what I normally get to play. She’s in pain a lot because she’s struggling. Not to say she isn’t strong, but she’s not afraid of her weakness whereas Helen is afraid to show her weakness and Sam didn’t always have the opportunity to show it.
The reason I did this film wholeheartedly was because Anne Wheeler directed it. Anne Wheeler is this Canadian director who I’ve wanted to work with for years. I just think she’s brilliant and a very cool woman and someone as a woman in this industry I look up to for a lot of different reasons… as a director, producer and actor. But she’s also just a really amazing lady to hang out with. So when I got asked “Would you do this part, it’s not a huge part, but it’s in an Anne Wheeler’s movie?” I was like “Whatever! I’ll do it, I don’t care!” Then they sent me the script after I said yes, I loved the script and got to work with some really cool actors. Anne Wheeler was the reason I took that role and I’d work with her again in a heartbeat.
PCZ: Are you still finding time to do things with your comedy troupe [Random Acts]?
AT: No! My god, we’re sort of at the four winds right now. Two of us actually live in Vancouver and one is in Halifax. we got together over the summer and we all have daughters, one child each, so we figure they might be Random Acts 2. (laughter)
PCZ: Just start training them now!
AT: Exactly! “Sit together in a room and be funny!” (laughter) I miss that. for me it was such an incredibly creative time with those women and at a juncture in my career and in my life where being around really strong, really smart, funny women was hugely important for all us. We were in our twenties and we were still trying to figure ourselves out and figure out this industry and we banded together with this crazy little sense of humor. It was just a really important, creative time for me. I would get together with them again in a heartbeat because I think we just have so much more to bring to the table.
PCZ: With your comedy background, I’ve noticed quite a bit on Stargate with the other actors there are always moments of easy levity to break up some of the tension. Being self-deprecating in acknowledging that some of the things you are doing on the show are absurd.
AT: (laughter) I think that one of the major selling points of Stargate was the fact that we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. There was a sense of humor that came from a real warmth and from a real connection between the characters, but also that we all kind of have this crazy sense of humor and we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. That helps Stargate work. We have that on Sanctuary, but it’s a lot different. Helen is not a particularly funny woman. She can be, she has her moments where she’s wicked funny, but it’s because she’s really smart and she’ll say something very dry and very quick. She bears the weight of running the Sanctuary on her shoulders and that’s a huge burden. She lets people like Henry be the funny guy, which is hard because my default mechanism is to always say something funny. Off camera I think I’m quite humorous. Actually, Robin Dunne is one of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with.
PCZ: Yeah, when I talked to him at Comic Con he was cracking me up. Also, I do see in Helen’s conversations with Ashley there will be these quips at the end that are very dry, but very funny.
“I would never say no to ‘Stargate’, it gave me so much and it’s honestly just so much fun to go back to that playground.”
PCZ: Going back to Stargate, it seems like it’s a case of just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in. You did the finale episode of Atlantis and it sounds like you guys will be shooting an SG-1 and Atlantis movie at the same time next year.
AT: That’s what I’m hearing, yeah. I haven’t gotten anything concrete about it, but I have been asked about availability. My understanding is that they will be [shooting both] in late spring/early summer. The timing of that might be interesting for me as hopefully Sanctuary will be picked up and I’ll just have to tear myself away. I would never say no to Stargate, it gave me so much and it’s honestly just so much fun to go back to that playground. When we shot Continuum, it especially just felt like a team episode and there were moments where I just looked at he guys and was like “Oh my god it’s like we’ve been doing this our whole lives!” And we have for a big portion of our lives. It’s just so comfortable. It’s like going home and sitting down with your family at the table for dinner, then the quips start and there’s peas flying across the table. It’s so natural.
PCZ: I mentioned to you at Comic Con that I thought the biggest part of Stargate is the characters. What’s great about you guys having done it for so long is that you are so at ease with your characters and each other. The dialog and interactions are very natural. I see that already on Sanctuary and I’m assuming that’s because you guys have been doing this for over a year now .
AT: There’s an ease to this cast. Sometimes it hits [on shows] and sometimes it doesn’t. I was lucky enough that it happened on Stargate and it’s now happened again on Sanctuary. There’s just an ease to us all working together. The cool thing about Sanctuary is to have guest stars come up and say “I had so much fun working on your show, what a great show to work on.” To me that is the biggest compliment ever and it happened on SG-1 too. It’s so nice.
PCZ: Do you have any other side projects coming up or are you mired down in Sanctuary?
AT: I’m mired down in Sanctuary-land. I just got offered a film yesterday I had to say no to just because we’re in post-production and if we do get picked up for a second season we’ll start prep, we’ll start breaking stories. Hopefully we’ll get a twenty episode order, which has been talked about, and we really need to have at least six scripts before we start shooting in January. It’s going to be an incredibly busy time. I’m also taking some time in the middle of it all to go away with my family.
PCZ: That’s very important. Ok, that’s all I have for now. I really appreciate you taking the time to give me a call and talk to me.
AT: My pleasure, Joe. It was really nice to talk to you again.
PCZ: And good luck on getting picked up for a second season!
AT: Thank you!
Thank you gain to Amanda Tapping for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk to us! Sanctuary airs Friday nights at 10PM on the SCI FI Channel.