“Sanctuary” Defiled: Part One

The cast of Sanctuary faces greater threats in Season Two.

The Sanctuary crew faces
greater threats in Season Two.
(Photo couttesy of Syfy.)


Fans of Syfy’s dark series Sanctuary have come to embrace the show’s wild blend of historical and fictional characters placed in fantastic contexts and edgy dramatic set-ups, not to mention the dynamic use of green screen technology to sculpt striking CG environments. Beyond all of the visual razzle dazzle, the characters drive the show, and what a menagerie it is, including a 157-year old heroine (Dr. Helen Magnus), a teleporting, reformed Jack The Ripper (John Druitt), a domesticated Bigfoot and a radio inventor turned vampire (Nikola Tesla), among many others. Stir in some off-the-wall plots involving a sanctuary for Abnormal beings and their hateful nemesis group the Cabal, and you’ve got a recipe for unusual and fun fantasy/sci-fi fare.

The show’s Season One finale certainly left many things dangling in the air as the sinister Cabal planned to wage chemical warfare on the Abnormal population with an airborne virus that would unleash their animal sides and make them uncontrollably homicidal. Naturally, the resultant death and devastation would make Abnormals a threat to humanity that would necessitate the organization’s ultimate goal: Extermination. Indeed — spoiler alert for those who have not yet caught up to the Season One finale — the fate of the Abnormal world rests with the source blood that The Five collected in India, but when it is stolen by Helen Magnus’ daughter Ashley, unwillingly under the control of the Cabal, the situation turns dire. Season Two has been set up with very high stakes — what’s bigger than life and death on a global scale?

Just as the Sanctuary: The Complete First Season DVD set was being released to stores (Season Two begins October 9th), ADD caught up with the two Sanctuary stars on a cross country conference call this week — Tapping (aka Dr. Helen Magnus) was in Vancouver, while Dunne (aka Dr. Will Zimmerman) was in L.A. doing ADR work — to discuss Seasons One and Two, their characters, their chemistry and playing pranks on the cast and crew. It is clear that these two actors love working together and take every opportunity they can to joke around and have a good time.

Magnus (Amanda Tapping) and Will (Robin Dunne) plot ways to take down the Cabal. (Photo credit: Jeff Weddell/Syfy.)

Magnus (Amanda Tapping) and Will (Robin Dunne)
plot ways to take down the Cabal.
(Photo credit: Jeff Weddell/Syfy.)

Amanda: Hello.
Robin: Amanda Tapping?
Amanda: The one and only.
Robin: Oh, my God. As I live and breathe.
Amanda: Robin Dunne? The Robin Dunne?
Robin: I’m right here.
Amanda: I can practically touch you. Except for the restraining order.
Robin: When we’re not working its a minimum thousand mile separation. Otherwise there’s way too much giggling and nothing gets done.

I noticed at the Syfy Upfront in March that you two have a very good chemistry. Not every show has that – some people work well professionally but choose not to fraternize when they’re off the set.
Robin: It’s all an act. We can’t stand each other. Oh my God, it’s just unbearable…
Amanda: We go on trips together, and all the other people on the plane end up getting mad at us because all we do is laugh. Or they want to hang out with us.
Robin: We went to Tokyo during this last season to do some promotional stuff. We ended up shooting some stuff, and I think the entire country of Japan wanted to institutionalize us because all of us were laughing and giggling. It was Amanda, myself, [producers] Martin Wood and Damian Kindler. It was like being in A Hard Day’s Night where they’re goofing around all the time.
Amanda: They were afraid we would never get anything done, but of course when it came time to shoot we all snapped to action, then dissolved into fits of giggles as soon as Martin yelled “cut”.
Robin [in British accent]: Because we are professionals.
Amanda [following suit]: That is exactly right, we are professionals.

Will looks like he's ready for that big, emotional outburst. (Photo credit: Jeff Weddell/Syfy/)

Will looks like he's ready
for that big, emotional outburst.
(Photo credit: Jeff Weddell/Syfy.)

Throughout Season One,  Will is very low key. He seems like he’s holding back emotionally, so I’m wondering if he’s going to have some sort of giant outburst in the near future?
Robin: I think so. I think maybe towards the very end of Season Two there might be an outburst of sorts.

An emotional meltdown, perhaps?
Amanda: Robin, if I could speak about you…
Robin: Please.
Amanda: I think in this second season all of our characters are much more fleshed out, but we have an episode called “Pavor Nocturnus,” which is this dark side, post-apocalyptic episode, and you see Will like you’ve never seen him. Robin walked on to the set and freaked me out, and this is a guy I’m infinitely comfortable with and giggle with and laugh with all the time. He walked on the set, and it was weird. It was just Will completely messed up. There are a few occasions where Will fights back with Magnus now. There’s a lot more weight to it.

Is he embracing his inner Road Warrior?
Amanda: Yes. Yes! With bad hair and everything.
Robin: The Bono-circa-Joshua Tree hair.
Amanda: That’s an insult to Bono, I just have to say.
Robin: Ohhh… Maybe Wayne Gretzky, I don’t know.
Amanda: There you go.
Robin: Speaking about that episode specifically, there was definitely a weird feeling, particularly because it was post-apocalyptic, and you see the Sanctuary in complete, utter chaos and disarray. For us, Magnus’ office is a real anchor and a center and where all the missions kind of start and end. So to walk onto that set and see what the amazing set deck people were able to do and make it look like, overall the whole feeling of that episode was definitely strange and uncomfortable to shoot.
Amanda: I think it was strange even for the crew.

Tapping with energy drink pusher Dunne at the SyFy Upfront, March 2009. (Photo credit: Gary He/Syfy.)

Tapping with energy drink pusher Dunne
at the SyFy Upfront, March 2009.
(Photo credit: Gary He/Syfy.)

What was it like to shoot the Cloverfield-like episode “Instinct” in Season One? How did that particular filming style affect your performances?
Amanda: It was cool actually because we did long, long takes, and it felt like we were all doing theater. Plus we were shooting at night – our call times were like 4:30 in the afternoon and we shot all through the night in that warehouse. You have this weird, heightened sense of reality when you shoot at night. You don’t quite feel fully centered, so it feels creepy and kind of weird. We were shooting in a style that we had never shot in before. Steve [Adelson] is usually our cameraman, and he was directing the episode. It was his first chance directing, so everything about it felt different, but it was kind of cool.
Robin: One of the amazing things about the show is that there are so many different things that we’re doing compared to other shows. In that episode specifically we were doing these long takes – entire scenes, pages and pages – which is an amazing way to act [on television] because it’s usually piecemealed up. It was a strange episode to shoot. That was the episode where we definitely became bonafide Rock Star addicts. We were casual drinkers of the [energy] drink Rock Star.
Amanda: Robin started it. He’s like a pusher.
Robin: It was all part of my plan. Throughout [filming of] the episode all of the actors were like addicts, searching through each other’s trailers and fridges and drawers. “Do you have another can of Rock Star? I need some more Rock Star!”
Amanda: You see it in “Instinct”. You can see moments where we’re all a little hopped up on goofballs.
Robin: Totally tweaked.

One of my favorite episodes last season involved the violent submarine incident [“Requiem”] because that was a big test of faith between Magnus and Will. Will you guys have bigger tests coming up in Season Two?
Amanda: Oh yeah. We have an episode called “Next Tuesday,” and for Robin and I it’s interesting to watch what kind of torture chamber Damian and Martin come with up for us. They sit in a corner somewhere, gigging manically, and saying, “What if we crashed a helicopter into the bore well of an oil rig that’s no longer in use, and they had to fight a giant sea squid and a sea scorpion? What if we did that?” Then they laugh. And then they find a helicopter and a 70-foot pool, and then we start shooting. So next we’re doing that, climbing in and out of this helicopter that’s hanging from these wires above this 70-foot wide pool that is 14 feet deep. We [already] spent five days in the water.
Robin: I still have sea legs and feel like I’m floating from that episode – 14 hours a day, floating and bobbing around in the water.

Magnus with Nikola Tesla, creator of radio and nasty bloodsucker. He's the forerunner of the modern energy vampire.

Magnus with Nikola Tesla, creator of radio, nasty bloodsucker
and thus the forerunner of the modern energy vampire
(in a manner of speaking).
(Photo courtesy of Syfy.)

Do either of you get seasick?
Amanda: No, but we did have these weird moments when we came onto land. They let us onto land for lunch, and we had these weird moments of looking like we were like drunken sailors.
Robin: Some of us were drunken, actually.
Amanda: That’s how Robin gets through the tough ones. It seemed like this was a much grittier, tougher season for us [with] episodes like “Pavor Nocturnus,” where we’re getting the crap beaten out of us in this post apocalyptic environment, covered in dirt, and getting rained on. Then we did “Next Tuesday,” where we’re getting beaten up by a giant vampire squid.

And not just a squid, a giant vampire squid.
Amanda: Not just a squid, a giant, mutated vampire squid.

Magnus and Druitt get close during a confrontation. (Photo credit: Jeff Weddell/Syfy.)

Magnus and Druitt get close again
during a confrontation.
(Photo credit: Jeff Weddell/Syfy.)

Care to add any other adjectives to that?
Amanda: I think that’s enough to scare the readers.
Robin: Season One was definitely about establishing this world and establishing the characters, and I think what you’ll see in Season Two, particularly between Magnus and Will now that that relationship has been established, is a deepening to the relationship.  I definitely think over [the course of] the season there are going to be times when the relationship is really strained, but they only have each other to turn to and depend upon many times for survival. So there are going to be times where they have to say things to each other that the other one doesn’t necessarily want to hear, but in order to try to keep everything together and literally to keep everything from falling apart. There’s a necessity for brutal honesty in there, so I think it’s definitely going to be a different relationship this season between Magnus and Will. What do you think, Amanda?
Amanda: I agree. It will be a much deeper relationship, a much more honest relationship. Will doesn’t take Magnus’ crap any more. He’s fully realized now, and it’s a very cool transformation for his character. The thing I love about the Will and Magnus relationship specifically is how organically it’s happened. It’s not like the writers say, “Now Will gets mad at Magnus, and Magnus fights back with this.” It seems to have happened so organically, where Robin and I have found our characters and found that relationship, and the story is tweaked towards that.

Part Two tomorrow: Amanda and Robin talk more about Season Two, the show’s upcoming musical number and the incredible practical joke they played on producer Martin Wood.

(Previous features here on Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne.)

4 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.