Sanctuary’s Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne Q&A

sanctuary_season2Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne star in Syfy’s Sanctuary, returning with new episodes Friday, April 15.

Do either of you have a favorite moment from shooting these remaining episodes in season 3?

Robin Dunne: The great thing about the second half of season three is that all the things that the team – the Sanctuary team – Magnus and the Sanctuary team have gotten into in the first half really, really become back to the ramifications they have to deal with in the second half. And it’s really quite a roller coaster ride the second half.

I think if I had to pick a favorite moment, we have an episode coming up that is the biggest episode we’ve ever done scope-wise, story-wise, everything. And it takes place in the past, back in World War II, and it was a really special episode to shoot. It’s quintessential Sanctuary thinking outside the box.

When we were on set shooting those things with tanks driving around, it was really quite an experience. So I guess if I had to pick one, I love every single moment, every waking and sleeping moment that I have on Sanctuary. But if I had to pick one, I think it’d be from that episode.

Amanda Tapping: Yes. The episode is called Normandy, and there was just something very special. There was an interesting vibe on set when we shot it. And the look is very different, but it’s a really cool episode.

What have been the biggest challenges working on Sanctuary?

Amanda Tapping: Well, I had to direct Robin Dunne in an episode called One Night. I’m just going to stop there.

Robin Dunne: And I think my most challenging moment was being directed by Amanda. I mean, she’s just a sadist. She made me do 750 takes of something once, just out of pure…

Amanda Tapping: Because we had the time.

Robin Dunne: Yes. She made me sing Hot Blooded in front of the entire crew for no reason. It was just to humiliate me. It’s really been a challenge.

After three seasons, what is it about your characters that you still find interesting?

Amanda Tapping: For me, I still don’t completely get Magnus. I find her to be such an enigma. And there’s so many things about the decisions that she makes that I still can’t wrap my head around, and to me that’s fascinating as an actor to try to get inside somebody so complex and so kind of confusing.

So, every time we start up the season, I’m like, “Oh, I’ve got to get back inside this woman’s head.” And it’s so different from the way that I think sometimes, that that’s the challenge for me. And, it’s scary and it’s fun to be scared.

Robin Dunne: I think for me, I really like the commitment that Will has. He’s constantly terrified by what he’s faced with at the Sanctuary, but is always putting that terror aside and committing to what the team has to do. And, I like that about Will. I find that a really good character trait.

I also like coming to work every day and getting my share done, and also they feed me here, which is nice. It’s the only time I really get a hot meal.

How will Magnus be celebrating her 164th birthday?

Amanda Tapping: Well, God. I can’t even say, can I?

Robin Dunne: No.

Amanda Tapping: No. I can’t tell you. It’s – again, it deals with the beginning – the end of Season 3 and the beginning of Season 4. Something unbelievable happens and I’m not sure that Helen actually really celebrates her 164th birthday.

Robin Dunne: One hint, just one little bone I can throw you is that Bigfoot will be jumping out of a cake.

Amanda Tapping: That was just on set Robin. That wasn’t going to be in the show.

Robin Dunne: Wasn’t that part of the show?

Amanda Tapping: No we didn’t film that.

Robin Dunne: Oh, God. So fun.

Could you describe the relationship between Helen and Will?

Amanda Tapping: I was saying this earlier that I love how this relationship has developed. It’s been a really organic transformation of Will’s character and Magnus. To actually bring somebody on board who initially it’s all about teaching him the ropes. And then as the seasons have gone on, he’s come into his own. He’s come into his own as a scientist. He’s come into his own in terms of his relationship with the people in the Sanctuary.

And, it’s now a very level playing field between these two characters. It can be combative. It’s hugely respectful. But, it feels now like it’s a much more interesting relationship to play because they’re two equals. I mean Helen outweighs him in experience and that’s just a matter of course, but he’s actually – he sacrificed so much for the Sanctuary and there’s a huge amount of trust between the two of them.

And she – I think he’s one of the few people who can call her on her stuff, so…

Robin Dunne: Yes. There’s a nice synchronicity that has formed between the two characters. And really, they’re two people that depend on each other for survival. And therefore, you know that’s where the respect comes out of. And yes; it’s a really nice thing…

Amanda Tapping: It’s a fun relationship to play now.

What has been the biggest surprise for you this season?

Amanda Tapping: That’s a good question. I think Normandy was a big revelation for us. It was something that sounded cool on paper, but we really weren’t sure whether we could execute it in a respectful and also in an interesting way, because it was something we were going to try that was totally different.

And I think that – when we finally got on set — and I know we’ve said this before — but it was something about being on that set, and I don’t know if it’s because we were playing a period that is very real and has a lot of lasting and a very tragic memory for people, but there was a reverence on set when we were shooting that episode to being true to the period. To being true to the story. In our own Sanctuary way into it, but to just really honor that time.

And it was for me, it was very – like we were shooting nights. We were up in the mountains. It was pouring rain. And there wasn’t a single complaint. There wasn’t a single bad feeling. Everyone felt really lucky to be there.

And I don’t know. I guess when you’re up there and you can have a warming tent, which the men and women fighting in World War II didn’t have, you feel like a bit of a loser when – you know. It (pays) to say it was interesting.

Robin Dunne: It’s no secret that we’re all kind of a bunch of goofballs over here and we like to joke around and laugh, and we do have a great time and play silly jokes on each other and we’re constantly laughing. But it was really interesting – there’s a behind the scenes of Normandy where we’re all kind of talking about what it was like to shoot that episode and I watched it – I actually watched it with Damien.

And as soon as it was over I said, “You know what? What’s really interesting about that is none of us in that behind the scenes footage are goofing around or making silly faces or laughing. It was really kind of a different feeling.” And I think it was just a reverence for the material, and just recognizing what a huge accomplishment that episode was.

And when you’re sitting – I remember sitting on set, which was – like Amanda said, we were up in the mountains and it was just absolutely pouring down rain in the middle of the night, and I remember Marty Wood said, “Okay. Let’s bring in the tank,” and this tank – this actual working…

Amanda Tapping: Period tank.

Robin Dunne: …period tank pulled around the corner. You could hear it coming for you know… miles. And just to sort of be in the middle of that and witness the scope of the show was amazing.

And also, the way Will was worked into that show…

Amanda Tapping: Yes. Will was worked in a really cool way.

Robin Dunne: Really cool way. Yes. I was…

Amanda Tapping: It was just one of those where it kind of snuck up on us, and that’s kind of the revelation. When the emotion sneaks up on you and you go, “Oh. Oh wow. Okay.” It’s beautiful when that happens, and we’re very lucky that we were open to that, or that we’re allowed to experience that.

Will Ashley be coming back in some way or form?

Amanda Tapping: We tried to get Emilie back this last season, in Season 3, actually, in an episode towards the end of our season, and she wasn’t available. And so it’s sort of the opportunities are getting smaller and smaller.

And my big concern – I mean, we wanted to bring her back in an organic and interesting way that didn’t feel like we were just trying to placate you know a contingent of fandom that were pissed off that she had – she wasn’t on the show anymore. We wanted it to be reverent to her character, to her as an actress, and to the story arc of the show.

And so we found a great way to do it and then she wasn’t available. And now it’s like I just – I’m loathed to stick a square peg in a round hole just to appease a small contingent of the fans, when I think that her character and her as an actress deserve more than that.

So yes. Of course there’s always a possibility that she will be brought back, but it will be in a way that honors her and isn’t just trying to you know fill a gap.

We were left with a huge cliffhanger last December…

Amanda Tapping: We really did, didn’t we? Small hint, big spoiler; we lived.