Amanda Tapping is easily one of the nicest people in entertainment. Her humor and natural ease at speaking are traits that serve her well in the comedy troupe Random Acts, which she co-founded. Amanda is very generous with her time and is a supporter of several charities, such as The Canadian Cancer Society and the Waterkeeper Alliance. She has appeared on several TV shows and a few films over the years. For ten seasons, Tapping starred in the television series Stargate SG-1 as Samantha Carter, a role she continued over to sister show Stargate Atlantis. Currently she is both the star and Executive Producer for Sanctuary on the SCI FI Channel. I previously spoke to Amanda and her co-star Robin Dunne at San Diego Comic Con back in July. More recently I talked to Amanda by phone about Sanctuary and her other projects. In Part One of this interview we talk about some of the technical aspects of shooting in front of a green screen, the style of the show and a little bit about one of its more mysterious characters. Check out Part Two where we talk a little bit about what’s to come on Sanctuary as well as what else Amanda has going on in her very busy career.
AT: Hey Joe, this is Amanda Tapping calling.
PCZ: Hi, how are you?
AT: I’m good, how are you doing?
PCZ: I’m doing great. Thanks for taking the time to call and talk to me today.
AT: Absolutely, it’s nice to talk to you again.
PCZ: So, to start off, I think there’s big congratulations in order for the success of Sanctuary on SCI FI.
AT: Thank you, yeah. Fingers crossed, every week we’re like “Ok, let’s watch the ratings.” Never a relaxation moment for us.
PCZ: I’m sure. The premiere was a huge smash so that’s gotta be…
AT: It did very well. We knew there would be a drop the second week, but we were actually really happy with the numbers. The thing with SCI FI, too, that’s good to know is that it’s one of the most TIVO-ed or DVR-ed networks and their Friday nights are traditionally heavily taped. So they add a lot more to our ratings after the fact knowing that and that helps. We hope to find out in the next couple of weeks whether or not we get a pick up [for a second season].
“We hope to find out in the next couple of weeks whether or not we get a pick up [for a second season].”
PCZ: They’re going to decide that early?
AT: Yeah, we have a twenty-nine week lead time for delivery of the show, from when we start production – when we actually start shooting it – which is a long time. And if they want us to deliver in July then they need to give us the heads up a lot sooner.
PCZ: It’s got to feel pretty good after the webisodes – those were a huge deal and to really persevere and push through and make it to TV – now it’s a success on [TV] too it’s got to be doubly exciting
AT: It feels good, yeah, I mean the webisodes were a great experiment for us and served to put us on TV, which is great. It wasn’t our intention, but it is kind of a relief that we’ve actually gotten somewhere with it
PCZ: Now, knowing that it does well on the Internet is there any idea of maybe between seasons doing any Internet shorts or webisodes?
AT: At this point no, we’re just really heavily focused on getting the TV series made. I just left our sound post-production company. We’re in post literally until January and then we’d start shooting the next season so there really isn’t any amount time between to shoot new footage. In my perfect world what would happen eventually is we would start to integrate the show into the web and do things like – I don’t know if I talked to you about this before, but the idea of Magnus walking down a hallway and the fans could click on a door that she passes. That kind of thing would be awesome, if we had the opportunity to do something like that. But at this stage making the TV show is as daunting as can be, so we’re sort of focusing all of our efforts on that! (laughter)
PCZ: You’ve finished the live action filming on all 13 episodes?
AT: We finished shooting September 12th. Now we’re just in the post-production pipeline
PCZ: So, it sounds like that even though you guys are doing this primarily in front of green screens and you don’t have a lot of setups as far as locations, with all the post work, do you really save any time shooting each episode?
AT: No, not really at all. In the actually shooting of it, it’s the same as a regular practical set shoot. Seven days per episode, same number of hours in the day, so it’s sort of the same hours I was working on Stargate and number of days per episode. And I think the post production is actually – we could use a lot more post production time than we have because our viz effects team is just going full guns. But it doesn’t really save you any time, no.
PCZ: I asked Robin (Dunne) this at Comic Con. Being in front of a green screen frees you up to concentrate on the characters a little bit more. You’re not distracted by what’s around you and can really focus on the characters, do you find that to be the case?
AT: You’re absolutely right, yes. To me, shooting on the green screen feels a lot more like doing theater than anything else. Often times in theater you don’t have the full set, you don’t have the fourth wall with the audience there and the green screen feels a lot like that. It feels like you said, you’re exactly right, you concentrate more on the character and what’s actually happening between the characters and their relationship in the scene. It feels a little more immediate. We have one practical set that we shoot on a bit which is Magnus’ office. It still has green screen elements to it and it’s always fun for the actors to sort of go and play in there. When you’re sitting in front of the green screen it’s just us and the words. It’s fun, I’m starting to appreciate the green screen a lot more.
“To me, shooting on the green screen feels a lot more like doing theater than anything else.”
PCZ: There are scenes where I’ve noticed, like in the episode [right after the pilot] with the three witches where, for instance, in their flashbacks to where they’re remembering what happened to them, and they’re walking through the encampment killing the guys, that almost had a theatrical look to it in that it was almost a Shakespearian set. It really brings more of an atmosphere to it
AT: Well, we almost have the luxury of being able to play in the world’s biggest graphic novel. We can make it look like anything and we’ve chosen to go with that kind of style to it. So, like you said, we can have this very Shakespearian feel to it with the women running across the battlefield and this incredibly intimate, askew view of things like a graphic novel does. We have that luxury and it’s really fun. Part of the thing for us too is we don’t always know necessarily what it’s going to look like exactly at the end. For the actors there’s great joy when we get the script and go “Where are we going to go this week? Oooh, I wonder what this is going to look like!” which is why when we get the final viz effects it’s so cool. It’s a great playground. It’s like I said, the world’s biggest graphic novel to play in.
PCZ: I think it’s a definite credit to the team that’s doing all the post and fills in all the green screens because I find myself watching the episode again to see if I can tell what is and isn’t real. It’s not often easy to tell.
AT: Which is very cool. Lee and Lisa Wilson, who run Anthem [Visual Effects Inc.], our viz effects house, that’s a source of great pride for them. We’ve often said if you can’t tell what’s real and what’s not then that’s very cool. With Sanctuary we also have it where it’s very much not real because it’s not quite photo realistic to the eye. We kind of like that aspect of it too because it gives it a sort of edgier, different kind of look. So we play with that and play with the audience with that and the audience seems to thus far be enjoying that ride.
PCZ: You can do these sweeping pull backs that wouldn’t be possible if it was a real set that are just like “Wow!”
AT: Exactly, exactly. Unless we had a lot of helicopters.(laughs)
PCZ: I have to say I think one of the standout characters and performances on the show is Ryan Robbins. My background being a computer geek, it’s just great seeing the cool, wisecracking computer guy.
AT: (laughter) He’s awesome. I was just watching a mix of one of our upcoming shows and he’s got amazing comic timing and just sort of this wry view on things. You ‘ll see a lot more of the Henry [Foss] character and lot more of Ryan as the show progresses.
PCZ: I don’t know if this is intentional, but one of the mysteries outside of the show is who plays Bigfoot? I can’t find anything anywhere on the actor who plays Bigfoot. I know who he sounds like, if that’s his actual voice. Is that something you guys are intentionally playing up?
AT: It’s something where Bigfoot asked us to not say that it was actually him, so we’re honoring his wishes. He’s very reclusive as you probably well know, it’s hard to get footage on him, so it’s good that he actually has come up here to shoot.
“It’s something where Bigfoot asked us to not say that it was actually him, so we’re honoring his wishes.”
PCZ: This is probably the most footage anyone has ever had up close on Bigfoot so that’s…
AT: It’s close to home for him, we’re in the Pacific Northwest rain forest and that’s kind of where he hangs out.
PCZ: So he doesn’t have to commute back and forth to L.A. or anything like that?
AT: No, we didn’t have to pay him a per diem or location fee.
PCZ: (laughter) Fair enough.
Part Two of our interview with Amanda Tapping is available here. Sanctuary airs Friday nights at 10PM on the SCI FI Channel.