Tag: Stargate SG-1

Catching Up With Amanda Tapping

Now that Sanctuary has been renewed for a second season, we thought it was time to have another chat with Amanda Tapping. This time around we discuss season one, where production is on season two and what it was like shooting the final episode of Stargate Atlantis.

PCZ: First of all, congratulations on completing a great first season.

AT: Thank you so much. It was fun, it’s been a labor of love, but it’s been a lot of fun.

PCZ: I thought it was particularly interesting as the season progressed, much like drama, things started small and built. We discovered towards the end of the season how things fell into place. Was that always the plan or did things change as you went along, particularly from the webisodes to the TV season?

AT: Things definitely changed as we went along. We didn’t put the webisodes out there thinking that it would become a television show. We had a very pure vision of doing a full convergence of new media, interactive social networking site, gaming and the show all in one happy bundle on the Internet. Which is a great idea and very different to monetize and very expensive. So, what happened is the webisodes became a calling card, if you will, around the world for interest in the television series. We kept getting calls saying “Are you guys going to do a series?” and there was a broadcaster in England interested and a broadcaster in the states, so it sort of funneled down that way. I think we always knew it had potential for a TV series, but it ended up coming down to it very quickly. Suddenly we found ourselves going, “Oh my god, we’ve got thirteen episodes!” Damian [Kindler] has an incredible vision. We mapped out the thirteen episodes to introduce the villains and the new characters, but every week was a revelation, every week something would come out like “What if we did this?” We didn’t have as strong an ongoing vision from the top. We will for season two, but season one was a bit more of a scramble to be honest.

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PCZ: Having thirteen episodes as opposed to twenty or twenty-two, as is usual with most shows, does that give you more of a chance to focus on the story and where the characters were going with less “filler” episodes?

AT: You know what, it does. Thirteen for us is actually a really great number. Because our show is so post-production heavy and the post pipeline is thirty weeks to complete an episode, thirteen taps out all the departments pretty heavily. It forces you to focus, like you said, more on individual character stories. You’ve only got thirteen so they’d better be damn good. It doesn’t tap out your resources as much and gives you a bit more of a narrow focus, which is really good. Having said that, if the network turned around and said they wanted twenty, then “Woo-hoo” off we’d go!

PCZ: The characters we see as the season progresses, specifically the rest of “The Five”, did you guys always have clear characterizations in mind or was a lot of that defined by the actors you chose? I only ask that because the actors that played them seem to really inhabit the roles.

AT: Totally! What’s interesting is Chris Heyerdahl is one of my favorite actors. He brings so much to the table and is such a perfect Druit. Chris actually recommended Jonathon Young, who plays Tesla. He’s awesome, he’s so wonderful. He has played Tesla in a one-man show for a number of years, so he understands the eccentricities of this character. He could have come in and played that version of Tesla, but he brought a whole new game to it. Because he was so good, so compelling and brought such great chemistry we had to bring him back. Then, Peter Wingfield I had worked with before [on Stargate SG-1] and when we were looking at Watsons I thought Peter was just the perfect choice. All of them have this air of aristocracy about them and this grandeur. They all have a classical training and a classical feel to them, so…I loved watching the three of them in a room together. Magnus needed those sort of men around her in that day and age to do what she was doing. It’s worked out perfectly. I don’t think we envisioned Tesla being the way he was, but Jonathon brought so much more to the table than we could have imagined. The actors elevated the characters even more so than they were on the page. We will see more of them, for sure because the actors brought so much game.

PCZ: I hope so. As a Peter Wingfield fan of many years, I’m upset with you for killing him off.

“The actors elevated the characters even more so than they were on the page. We will see more of them, for sure because the actors brought so much game.”

AT: That doesn’t mean to say that we won’t be going back in time. I said the same thing, “You can’t kill him, you can’t kill him!” And they said. “Amanda, you’re 157 years old, we’re going to go back and look at some things.” and I said, “Sweet! Let’s do it.” You’ll definitely be seeing Peter again. He’s wonderful, just wonderful.

PCZ: Watson seemed to be possibly the most frail of the group, but he also sort of directly and indirectly affected everyone in the group and the decisions they made towards the end of the season. Peter Wingfield just pulled that off tremendously.

AT: What I also loved was the interplay between him and Chris Heyerdahl. They just played with it, the two of them. On set the crew would just be riveted with what those guys were going to do next. It’s on the page, but like I said, they just brought so much more to the table.

PCZ: Last time we spoke we talked a little bit about whether or not the season was leading towards a cliffhanger. Was the ending the one that you always envisioned or was there a contingency plan in case you weren’t picked up for year two?

AT: We didn’t have a contingency plan. I think we sort of kept moving ahead as if we were going to be [picked up]. I think that’s the hope of any show. Had SCI FI, ITV and TMN in Canada said you’re done then, yeah, I’m sure we would have done things a little differently, but it would have been an eleventh hour change. I’m not a huge fan of cliffhangers, having done them so much on Stargate. In this case, it needed it, the story was just too big. In order to do it justice it has to continue in some capacity. It’s just way too big a story to tell in two hours.

PCZ: When last we spoke you were talking about getting ready to break stories for season two, are you full-swing into that?

AT: We are. We’ve got scriptwriters on board and we’re all sitting here in the production office breaking stories. We’ve already figured out what we’d like the thirteen episodes to look like and what direction we want our characters to go. We are full-swing. We need to get money now! The only thing holding us back at the moment is some money, but otherwise we’re just writing for free at the moment.

PCZ: When do you start shooting?

AT: We’re still waiting on word, ideally the beginning of March so that we can deliver for early October. SCI FI wants us to air October 9th. We will run concurrently with Stargate Universe. I think they premiere with a two-hour episode and then the following week we will run together. Anyway, that’s the plan. We’ll hopefully start shooting at the beginning of march at the latest.

“SCI FI wants us to air October 9th. We will run concurrently with Stargate Universe.”

PCZ: It may be a bit early to talk about this, but is everybody locked in for coming back?

AT: Yeah, it is a bit early to talk about that. We’re still working on it. What we’d like to see more of is Ryan Robbins, who plays Henry Foss. I think you’ll see a bit more of him this season. He just turned out to be such a lovely character and such great comic relief.

PCZ: And he’s a werewolf!

AT: Isn’t that awesome? This are the things where you think you know what’s going on and then we turn it on its ear. Tesla’s a vampire, what? I love it, I love that we do that.

PCZ: That’s what was great about Henry, people wonder why he’s sticking around. Does he owe Magnus for something? Then you find out he’s a werewolf. I think that’s one of the things you guys did really well in the first season. Taking things like vampires and Watson and Tesla and taking the things we think we know about them and turning that on its side.

AT: I love that and I love the fact that there is the hint of politicians and artists in history that make you go “What? Hoover was into what?”

PCZ: Is that something we can expect to continue into the second season?

AT: Oh, absolutely! Like I said, we’d also like to go back to Victorian times. We’re breaking a story right now with Watson back in the early days. I like the idea of that because there’s so much to draw from. There’s 157 years of recent history to pull from that we can look at and see what shaped these people and see what they do.

PCZ: So, the other thing that aired recently was the final episode of Stargate Atlantis. What was it like going back and shooting that?

AT: It was really hard, I have to be honest with you. Stargate has been my home for such a long time that jumping out of that nest was such a big, scary leap to make. I’m glad I did it, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is creatively I feel revitalized. But to go back with that crew, that wonderful crew and that cast – they were all their in the makeup trailer. It was weird and bittersweet because it was their last episode and it sort of didn’t make sense to me why it was ending. So, it was bit weird. I had gone off and done my own thing and now I was coming back and there was this sense of sadness about the place. It was hard. I mean, my car knows how to drive to Bridge Studios. I walked into Joe Mallozzi’s office and had such a lovely talk with him. Brad Wright and Rob Cooper came down before my last shot and gave me a hug. But it opens the door for movies and there’s a certainly a lot of talk about that. I would jump back into the army boots any day.

“I remember we were at Don Davis’ memorial and I was standing in his kitchen with his wife, Ruby, and Joe Mallozzi said ‘We’re naming the ship the General Hammond.’ And we all just lost it. “

PCZ: My favorite part of the final episode was the little tribute to Don Davis and General Hammond. I think it speaks highly of the cast and crew that even in an episode where so much needs to get done, room is made to have a scene like that.

AT: Something had to be said that’s such a show of respect for an incredible man who…here come the tears…but something had to be said. I remember we were at Don Davis’ memorial and I was standing in his kitchen with his wife, Ruby, and Joe Mallozzi said “We’re naming the ship the General Hammond.” And we all just lost it. “Of course you are, thank you.” It’s a subtle, simple tribute, which is exactly – Don was a simple, beautiful man so that’s how they did it, it was lovely. You can’t overplay it, you’ve just got to say it. As an actor you wonder how you could possibly do justice to it. It one line and it’s so huge. So, it was just keeping it simple and lovely.

PCZ: Definitely a perfect moment at the right time. And it also takes Carter off in a new direction too. Hopefully we’ll get to explore that a little in the movies.

AT: I hope so!

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PCZ: So, to finish up with Sanctuary, we get an Invisible Woman at the end of the season who seems to be a love interest for Will. Is that something that might continue as well?

AT: Yeah, we’re looking at how we’re going to pursue that too. There’s so many balls in the air right now, you want to explore all of them, but you want to do them all justice. You don’t want to do a cheap one-off. The beauty of the thirteen episodes is it sort of gives everyone a chance to reveal. Characters have happened so organically and the relationships have happened so organically. We’re still trying to figure it all out. We’re literally sitting here breaking stories now. We come up with great ideas and then there are a whole bunch of other people who get to weigh in. So some ideas go, some stay and some are morphed. The interesting thing about this show has always been we don’t have a big studio backing us. We are our own studio essentially, so we have to go after private funding. That’s probably been by far the most difficult part of the whole process, trying to keep the show alive. We are a critical success and getting great numbers on the network and overseas so it’s “Yay, we got picked up for a second season! Yay, who’s going to pay for it?”

PCZ: Hopefully you get to stay out of all of that.

AT: No, sadly, I’m involved in all of that. There’s times when I go, “I just want to be an actor again! It was so much easier.” It was so much less complicated. I have a whole new respect for this side of things. I used to look at Sam Carter and her ten pages of techno-babble and think “My job is so hard.” Part of me looks back and says “You idiot, you don’t know how good you had it!”

PCZ: Congratulations again on the second season pick-up. Definitely looking forward to seeing how things get resolved and where things go from there.

AT: Yeah and hopefully we’ll be talking again part way through.

PCZ: Yes, I would love to do that, so we will be talking to you again down the road. And thank you for your time today.

AT: Great! Thank you so much.

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Shutting Down The ‘Gate: ‘Stargate Atlantis’ Ends Its Five Year Run

This week marks the final episode of SCI FI Channel’s original series Stargate Atlantis. Although there will be movies to follow, this marks the final weekly adventure of these characters barring any of them jumping over to Stargate Universe. However, the series finale, “Enemy At The Gate”, also marks the 100th episode of the series and that is certainly something to celebrate, especially in this age of networks canceling shows within hours of the debut episode airing. It would be easy to think of Atlantis as just a spin-off of Stargate SG-1, but that would be doing the show a vast disservice.

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From Beginning to End
The show started off with the premise of a group of adventurers taking what could be a one-way trip through the Stargate to the lost city of Atlantis, located in the Pegasus Galaxy. For the first season, the show kept the characters isolated from Earth and thus was able to prove itself without having to rely on familiar characters from the first series. And yet, Atlantis was able to maintain and refine the core meaning of Stargate, that being adventurous exploration. Only after the show went through its growing pains and stood on its own two feet did the creators finally allow more regular contact with Stargate Command and, eventually, appearances by characters from the sister show.

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One thing Stargate Atlantis became known for was several changes in the main cast. The series began with six main characters, John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan), Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett), Teyla Emmagan (Rachel Luttrell), Lt. Aiden Ford (Rainbow Sun Francks), Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson) and Dr. Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion, technically only recurring in season one, however he appeared in all but five of the initial twenty episodes). By the beginning of season four, only the first three would remain as main characters. Ronon Dex (Jason Momoa) joined the Atlantis Expedition early in season two and took Ford’s place on Sheppard’s team after the latter fled the city following becoming addicted to an alien enzyme. Dr. Jennifer Keller (Jewel Staite) was a recurring character through season three and became Chief Medical Officer after the death of Becket (don’t worry, he got better, kind of). Stargate SG-1‘s Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) replaced Weir as the leader of the expedition for season four, only to find herself replaced in the season five opener by Richard Woolsey (Robert Picardo). There were also several recurring characters that weaved themselves in and out of episodes, some becoming main characters with some primary characters becoming, or even returning to, recurring status. It may all sound confusing, but it is all surprisingly easy to follow and really enriched the whole Stargate universe.

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Speaking of the characters or, more specifically, those actors who portrayed them, I was able to pose a couple of questions to three of the principle cast recently regarding the end of the show and some of their thoughts. Below are my Q and A’s with David Hewlett, Jewel Staite and Robert Picardo.

David Hewlett
PCZ: Would you be interested in directing an Atlantis movie or an episode of Stargate Universe?

DH: Sure! When do I start?

PCZ: You portrayed Rodney McKay for over six years. Will it be difficult not to play him full-time anymore?

DH: I don’t so much find it difficult not to play him (though I do catch myself sounding like him every now and again!) as much as I just plain old miss the guy!

PCZ: What’s next for you?

DH: Dinner Theatre…a murder mystery or a bedroom farce or maybe something in tights.

Jewel Staite
PCZ: Are you interested in being on another sci-fi type show or going for something different?

JS: I’m mostly interested in doing quality projects and working with great people. The sci-fi genre has done great things for my career, so I’m not opposed to doing other sci-fi projects in the future. But interesting scripts and characters that are challenging and fun to play are my first priorities in choosing my future projects.

PCZ: What expectations did you bring to the job on Stargate Atlantis and what experiences from the show will you take with you?

JS: I knew the show was in a groove, having been running for so many years, so I expected a well-run set and a lot of camaraderie. And I couldn’t have been more on the mark. I’ve never worked with such a talented, easy-going crew! I was always amazed at how much we were able to achieve in a twelve hour day, and everyone really seemed to be enjoying themselves. Since I was the new kid stepping in to some hard shoes to fill, I was a little worried about fitting in, but they all made me feel so incredibly welcome, right from the very beginning. I’ll always remember the cast and crew for that.

PCZ: Are you looking forward to continuing as Dr. Keller in the Atlantis movies?

JS: Absolutely! Nearing the end of season five, Dr. Keller was just beginning to show her true colors. I would love to explore more of that in the future!

Robert Picardo
PCZ: Are you pleased with the overall character development of Woolsey, from his first appearance in season seven of Stagate SG-1 to the end of Atlantis?

RP: Yes I am. Mr. Woolsey went from an officious, self-important, arrogant think-tank guy with no practical experience in the field to a thoughtful and determined decision-maker and leader. And he did it in a relatively short time frame. Dick Cheney–eat your heart out.

PCZ: By the end of season five, do you think Woolsey has been fully accepted by the Atlantis crew and has he earned their respect?

RP: I do think Woolsey has earned the acceptance and respect of his crew. Not to rub it in but that’s Woolsey 2, Cheney 0.

PCZ: Would you be interested in reprising the role of Woolsey for guest spots on Stagate Universe?

RP: I have already been approached by producer Brad Wright and I told him I would be delighted to do the show. Thus far, no feelers have gone out to Dick Cheney (who will very shortly be on permanent availability).

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The Finale
So, how does it all end? Well, the very end I will let you discover on your own, no spoilers here. However, I will say that “Enemy At The Gate” works very well as a bookend to the entire series, while leaving the show in a very interesting place for the TV movies that are to follow. There are cameos by a few characters we haven’t seen in a while, including Colonel Samantha Carter and Colin Cunningham’s Major Davis.

There is a very touching scene between Carter and Sheppard in which Carter reveals her new assignment. It is a scene that very easily could have been cut given how much is going on in the episode. The fact that it is given the amount of time that it has and the dialogue between the characters is truly a testament to the class of the production crew. You’ll know the scene the moment you see it and I won’t reveal anymore of it.

My only real gripe with the episode is a pivotal moment near the end with Ronon that is reversed a few minutes later. I don’t understand why they did what they did, as the moment loses it’s poignancy on the reversal and doesn’t really serve any point to the story. Other than that, though, the story, while fairly dense at times, flows very well. Each character gets their moment to shine. The closing moments are both bittersweet and full of promise for the future. There’s one minor question as to a character’s fate left dangling at the end and one big whopping “what happens next?” plot point that will leave you wanting more. And that’s the perfect time to bring down the final curtain.

The Future
So, what happens next? Currently, scripts are being written for both a Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis television movie. The tentative plan is to shoot them simultaneously in the spring. No word yet on what characters are set to appear in the two films, but shooting them at the same time would afford ample crossover potential. Also in pre-production and in the casting stage is a brand new weekly series, Stargate Universe. Theoretically, this will feature an all new cast of characters, however, as revealed above, Robert Picardo at least has been approached about his willingness to appear in some capacity in the new series. It’s very possible we may have a familiar face or two along for the ride on Universe. After all, McKay, Weir and recurring character Major Evan Lorne (Kavan Smith) all appeared on SG-1 prior to Atlantis. All in all, the ending of this series only signifies the closing of a chapter as the Stargate universe as a whole will continue to thrive in new ways. Part of the fun will be seeing when or if a favorite character or two might show up. I will miss the weekly dose of Stargate Atlantis, just like I miss Stargate SG-1, but there are many more adventures of both series as well as intriguing new explorations from Universe to look forward to. 2009 will be a fantastic year to be a Stargate fan.

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The PCZ Interview with Sanctuary’s Amanda Tapping: Part Two

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.

AT: Good!

“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.

The PCZ Interview with Sanctuary’s Amanda Tapping: Part One

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.

Stargate: Continuum Teased

The teaser trailer for the upcoming direct-to-DVD Stargate SG-1 movie, Continuum has been released over at Gateworld and you can check it out below, along with the official description from MGM.  Out July 29th, the movie features the regular cast of Ben Browder, Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge, Claudia Black, Michael Shanks and Beau Bridges along with Cliff Simon reprising the role of recurring villian Baal.  However, the highlight of this movie has got to be the return of not only Richard Dean Anderson as General Jack O’Neil, but also Don Davis making an appearance as General George Hammond.  The teaser looks fantastic and the movie should prove to be a real treat. Watch it for yourself and be amazed.

“While SG-1 attends the execution of Baal, the last of the Goa’uld System Lords, Teal’c and Vala inexplicably disappear into thin air. Carter, Daniel and Mitchell race back to a world where history has been changed: the Stargate program has been erased from the timeline. As they try to convince the authorities what’s happened, a fleet of Goa’uld motherships arrives in orbit, led by Baal, his queen, Katesh (Vala), and his first prime, Teal’c. SG-1 must find the Stargate and set things right before the world is enslaved by the Goa’uld.”