Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne return with a brand new season of their hit series Sanctuary, which debuts its second season on Friday, October 9 at 10 PM ET on SyFy. Both Tapping and Dunne recently held a conference call to discuss the new season, and here's what they had to say.
I'm curious how the dynamics are going to change between the characters and that and I don't know if I should say what happened, I don't know if everybody saw it, but how like things are going to be different this year with the characters relationships and everything?
Amanda Tapping: I think because it's our second season you're going to see a lot of changes in terms of the interpersonal relationships. I think Season 1 was very much about introducing everybody - introducing the Sanctuary itself, the creatures, what everyone does and where they come from. And so now Season 2 is just - now we get to play within those parameters. And obviously we start our season with a massive - we ended Season 1 with a massive cliffhanger and start with this very highly intense two-part episode. And not to tease anything up but it, you know, it looks like things are changing at the Sanctuary. Season - Episode 3 will be very much about trying to rectify that situation and I don't know how much we're allowed to say. There are changes and we are bringing in new characters. You'll see a lot more of Henry this year than you did last year. We're bringing in a wonderful new character named Kate Freelander. The relationship between and Druitt and Magnus changes and most importantly the relationship between Magnus and Will becomes, I think, so much deeper and so much more intense.
Robin Dunne: I think it's because like, you know, everything is really falling apart around us. There's going to be, you know, more of blunt relationship more of like a brutal honesty between all of the characters particularly Magnus and Will because really, you know, kind of our lives depend on it. We can't, like, we can't afford to be anything but, you know, brutally honest with each other. And I think there's going to be, you know, definite strains in the relationship over this season. But because of those strains, I think all the relationships will get stronger, you know, because of that.
So how do you guys feel about working - I know Amanda you've done it for awhile now but about working on the green screen and not really have a set. Does that affect a lot the way you act?
Amanda Tapping: I think it - I actually think it makes the work a little more honest in a strange way. I think that you get so used to having stuff around you and things to play with and, you know, you hear the expression actor's chewing scenery, we actually can't do that on our show. This is initially frustrating but I think what ends up happening is it becomes --and Robin and I have talked about this -- it becomes about the words and the moment and the actual true, honest interaction between these two characters. You can't - there's nothing else to play with so it really does become a little more honest in some ways. A minimalist theater.
Robin Dunne: Yeah I was just going to say you've used the analogy of that it's kind of like theater and it really is. I mean because there's no set there most of time or a lot of the time anyway, you know, we do - we just have each other to rely on. But also, the benefits that we get, I mean, this show because of the amount of green screen we use, we can go anywhere, we can do anything and the possibilities are limitless. So to have that luxury, you know, any small difficulties is - we have working with the green screen are well worth it when you see the final product.
For each of you, what lessons or experiences from Season 1 particularly shaped how you approached Season 2?
Robin Dunne: I mean I think my approach to Will, I mean, you know, Season 1 for Will was a lot about sort of coming into this world and not really being sure about it and having one foot in his old life and one foot in his new life and not really sure which way he was going to go. And I think definitely Season 2 for Will is he's let go of his old life and he's really resigned himself to the fact that he's - he lives in this world and, you know, he just has to own it because this is where he lives. And I think, you know, definitely the approach to this job for myself was much the same. I mean there was - I'd never had a job that's this size before, being on a series like this, particularly this type of series with the green screen and everything that comes along with it. And I think certainly Season 1 it was a lot about me, you know, trying to get used to being in this world and working on this show. And I think Season 2 from an acting standpoint was more about being comfortable with it and trying to take the character to a deeper place.
Amanda Tapping: Yeah, I think for both of us there was a lot of confidence going into Season 2. Season 1 I mean for me Magnus is such an enigma, she's such an eccentric, different character that I have. She's really like - I mean there's so many things that she does that I go, "What?" And it's like I have to wrap my head around her and go, okay, okay I can figure this out, it has to make sense to me. And Season 1 was a lot of trying to figure out what makes this woman tick. And also just the physicality of her, she's a far more sexual character than I've ever played and going literally from Army boots to stilettos was a transition. There's a lot of things about her that I have to get used to. And I think that...
Robin Dunne: So you call those Friday nights?
Amanda Tapping: Exactly. Oh, we just have so little fun doing this show.
Robin Dunne: Yeah, we don't have any fun.
Amanda Tapping: It's a drag. But Season 2 I felt more confident. And I think I felt more confident. There was a really beautiful, organic relationship development between Will and Magnus and between Robin and I. And I'm so comfortable with him; and I think that that was part of, you know, you start with a new cast and it's getting used to each other. And with Robin and I it happened so quickly and it just felt so natural and organic. And I mean we've traveled around the world together and I think that that informed so much of what you're seeing on screen in Season 2 is this level of comfort and this level of confidence with each other. I'm not afraid to try anything and I don't think Robin is either and so Season 2, what I've learned is just it's safe, it's totally safe.
Robin Dunne: Yeah. I definitely think like, you know, every day we work that the environment gets safer, it feels safer and out of that, you know, you're able to do your best work when you feel totally at ease with everybody around you and totally trusting in them and that's certainly how I feel as well.
Amanda Tapping: Yeah, it's a huge part of it.
I wanted to ask you coming back at the beginning of the second season, how was it to just like, I mean you jump right into it and not only take your characters to the breaking point but past that, both of them. How was it just to, you know, get into that meaty of a part for each of you coming back?
Amanda Tapping: It was scary. It felt like trial by fire in a lot of ways. We were I think - for all of us we were exhausted by the end of the third episode because it was this emotional, insane rollercoaster that we went on. But it was also trouble because that's that way to start a season right? Because you just start it full on. There was no, it was a true test of how comfortable we all were, everyone. I mean Henry and Druitt, everyone, Ashley, how everyone had settled into their characters, it was a true test.
Robin Dunne: Yeah there was really no kind of ramp - like slow easing into it, it's basically just, you know, push you off the cliff and away we go. But I - like there was also kind of a - it was weird there was a duality to it - I don't know Amanda if you felt this way but it felt like shocking and a little guilting to be sort of into this intensity right away. But at the same time it felt completely normal and like we never had a break between two seasons. It was like we were just, you know, we never left almost. You know, I can't describe it except to say there was both feelings at the same time.
So is story line with the Cabal and the consequences of the premier - does that play out over the course of the next 11 episodes?
Amanda Tapping: No. We - it's - we didn't want it to become the Cabal versus Sanctuary show. They're an interesting adversary and it's not to say that they've gone away completely but because we didn't want it to always be that dynamic. So we sort of take care of them. Or think we have, think we have.
Is there a (dun dun dun) in there?
Amanda Tapping: There is.
Robin Dunne: The lurking factor is definitely in there.
And so how was it you guys did, you know, the first season all of you together and then this season you add a new character and a new full-time actress. What - how does that play into the dynamic of the, not only the cast but the characters as well?
Amanda Tapping: I think anytime you bring a new character into a show it shines a light on all the relationships. It forces the other characters to look at themselves and the relationships they have with each other in a different way because you're looking at it from somebody else's perspective. Somebody else, you know, this Kate Freelander character comes in and doesn't mock us so much but she points a lot of things out to everyone. It's like - it starts off quite abrasive and I think that that's always a cool dynamic to bring in because everyone to reevluate themselves and reevaluate how strongly they feel about what they're doing. Bringing in a new actress was interesting but I have to say with Agam, she's so sweet and she has such a wonderful energy about her that, you know, she just slid right into this cast. There was absolutely no ripple, she's really lovely. And just to walk into the makeup trailer and have that kind of energy in the morning it's really nice. I mean it makes a difference, it makes a huge difference.
Robin Dunne: Yeah, like we're a pretty tight knit group and, you know. It's was not a huge group here and, you know, we're all very, very close. And I think that's, you know, one of the great things about the show is - one of the many great things about the show is that, you know, because we all get along so well, I think it makes the product that much better. And when you have someone new come in who just is able to fit perfectly right into the mix and, you know, be one of us immediately was - it was really, really nice and really, again, a testament to Agam how, you know, talented she is and also what a nice person she is as well.
What particularly struck me was even in that brief period it shows how much the series has evolved and expanded from when it first began. So when you were originally doing the original Webisodes, did you have a vision of how the story and your characters would evolve that stretched as far as the series has reached now; and if so, was it similar or different to the way things - the way that things have turned out?
Amanda Tapping: I don't think we could've ever predicted that it would be this big in scope, if that makes sense? I mean we were doing the Webisodes and we were so blown away by how cool it was and look what you can do with green screen and look what you can do with, you know, look how far we can push these characters just in those eight Webisodes. But I don't think any of us had any idea the scope that the show would take on and how far we could take it. And, you know, working now with Anthem and being able to go literally anywhere around the world and seeing things that we weren't even aware was possible to do virtually. And just in the last, you know, the last few seasons what's happened to our characters. I could never, I think that's the beauty of doing series too. It's like when I started Stargate I had no idea that it could go that far, you just don't know. So it's always a surprise.
Robin Dunne: Particularly with Sanctuary too is, you know, it's an anomaly in many ways and, you know, just to have been there as an actor from the grass roots very beginning where we were doing the Webisodes and then to see how it grew in scope from the Webisodes to Season 1 and then to have seen the same thing happen again from Season 1 to Season 2. It's really been a thrill to just see, you know, how far that this show can go and all the things we're able to do. And, you know, I keep using this word limitless but it really is. The possibilities for Sanctuary are limitless and it's just been amazing to see that progression through the, you know, through the Webisodes to Season 2.
Amanda Tapping: It sounds goofy as hell because it's - we are so definitely excited by it. But, you know, Martin, Damian and I were in a sound mix for the first episode a couple of weeks ago and we were freaking out. Like we were like "Oh my god, it really does look amazing!" You know, to have that level of childlike excitement when you're watching your own show and to be really blown away by what you already thought was pretty cool and then it's even cooler than you thought. I know I'm a complete geek and I'm...
Robin Dunne: We're total dorks. We are total dorks. There's just no way around it; we can't even pretend to be cool. We're just not.
Amanda Tapping: Can't even try to be cool. It doesn't happen.
Robin Dunne: It doesn't happen.
What new creatures or myths will we see this season?
Robin Dunne: Hmm, creatures, yeah we kind of ran out. We - there's no more creatures here.
Amanda Tapping: There's no more creatures here.
Robin Dunne: No creatures, yeah. Kind of yeah, we kind of like just spent the creature bank. No I mean I think this season is going to be, you know, we're going to have major fights between two creatures that, you know, Amanda and Magnus and Will will get in the middle of. I think we have a vampire squid this season.
Amanda Tapping: A giant mutated vampire squid.
Robin Dunne: Oh, a giant mutated vampire squid.
Amanda Tapping: And a sea scorpion.
Robin Dunne: We're going to like, we're going to get a glimpse into the not so happy future or possible future this season.
Amanda Tapping: We have a super hero.
Robin Dunne: We have a - yes we have a super hero this season that is very funny and kind of cool. I think, you know, the great thing about this show is that this thinking inside the box is just not something that happens here. So every script you pick up, you know, you expect the rollercoaster ride to take you away. And I think certainly that's what - that precedent continues in Season 2 maybe even more so than Season 1.
Amanda Tapping: Definitely. I think we have zombies too this season.
Robin Dunne: We have zombies.
So Amanda what can you tell me about directing the episode "Veritas?"
Amanda Tapping: I actually had a blast. I did not want to do it. In between the seasons we sat down with the network and it was - and we were talking about directors and my name came up. And they said "Oh yeah, yeah you've got to direct an episode." And so I got all excited and said "Yeah that would be great!" And then as we launched into this season it was intense for Magnus and so intense as a producer so many things were happening that I literally turned to Martin and Damian and said "I'm not doing it. I can't, this is ridiculous." I'm also a mother of a four year old. And I just - there's just not enough time in the day. And both of them said "No, you're directing." And so it worked out that it was an episode that even though I'm in it, Magnus starts to go insane because I was directing and very stressed out there was very little acting required for that which was good. So it was in some ways easier but it was a very much a Will story, it was a "who done it" essentially. Magnus is accused of murder and it's Will's job to try to prove her innocent. And so, it was - I had a great time. It was me working with Robin and I'm really proud of it. I'm not - I don't usually, you know, toot my own horn very loudly because I always can find fault but this episode looks really cool. There's some great shots and the performances are wonderful and it's a really interesting succinct little story. Alan McCullough wrote it and it's a nice little bottle show. It's a really great story. I rather enjoyed it, I'm rather proud of it.
Robin Dunne: And Amanda Tapping rocks as a director by the way, absolutely rocks it.
So Robin in the first season finale, Watson literally passed the torch to Will. And Will is now, I guess possessed of even more responsibility than he ever dreamed he would have. What does that mean for the character in Season 2? How will that be developed?
Robin Dunne: Well, you know, I think Season 1 was definitely about, you know, trepidation about coming into this world. And since that's all gone in Season 2 and I think you're going to see more of a weight, not physically, I don't think - I don't think I've put on weight, have I put on weight Amanda?
Amanda Tapping: Maybe a little bit.
Robin Dunne: Maybe a little bit yeah, a cookie here and there, Oreos now and again. But no, I think you're going to see more of the responsibility of Will needing to step up to the plate. That's going to wear on - you're going to see that wearing on him a little bit I think. You're going to see a darker side of Will this season. You're going to see a more blunt side of Will particularly in relation to Magnus because I think, you know, everything's heightened in Season 2. And basically we're depending on each other to be honest, brutally honest with each other in order for all of us to survive. And I think, so yeah, definitely you're going to see Will is now resigned to the fact that he lives - this is the Sanctuary, it's him home and he needs to be, you know, do his part to pro - do anything he can do to protect it even if that means, you know, saying something to Magnus that maybe she doesn't want to hear but she needs to hear. Yeah, definitely it's a bit more of a rocky road for Will particularly early in Season 2. And you're going to see it kind of, you know, wear on him a little bit.
Would you say then that he is going to live up to Watson's expectations although maybe not in the way someone might expect?
Robin Dunne: I think so yes. I mean I think he definitely he's going to live up to those expectations but it's not going to come easy and it's - you're going to see it's going to cost him, it's definitely going to cost him a little bit.
I mean with a show like Sanctuary obviously and what you've already said, pretty much just about do anything with it, go anywhere. But I'd like to know what if you could think about where your characters would like to go or what you'd like to deal with that you haven't done already.
Robin Dunne: The circus.
Amanda Tapping: The circus.
Robin Dunne: You know, I want to be - I want Will to be in a trapeze maybe, you know, jumping through that like hoop of fire, you know?
Amanda Tapping: That can be arranged.
Robin Dunne: That's not what I mean okay.
Amanda Tapping: In tights.
Robin Dunne: Awkward. In tights, yes, definitely tights, now that goes without saying.
Amanda Tapping: I have always wanted to go back in time with Magnus a bit because she has such an incredible history. I'd like to see just, you know, pop into certain decades and see what informed her in the 30's or the 40's or the 50's. You know, I think there's - she's met some of the most forward -thinking people in our history. She's seen the best of the human condition and the worst of the human condition. And she's been around the - some of the greatest politicians and writers and artists and I would like to just explore that a bit more. I'd like to explore her early relationship with Druitt and Watson and the, you know, go back to the five and what made them tick at that time. I mean I know that the show is not a historical show. But I think that there's opportunity to sort of plug in even it's just a scene here and there to inform how she got to where she is. How the Sanctuary developed to where it is.
Well on that note, how many of characters in the first season can we expect to see in the second season?
Amanda Tapping: You definitely see Tesla. You see Clara Griffin; you don't see Watson in the second season although we're thinking of a story to bring him back. Who else do we see from the...
Robin Dunne: I think we see pretty every - pretty much most of them except for Watson.
Amanda Tapping: I mean you see a lot more of Henry, you see a lot of Druitt, the Cabal obviously.
Robin Dunne: We also have a new character in Season 2.
Amanda Tapping: Yes of course with Kate Freelander, she's a whole new character. Yeah I think that's it. We see a lot more of Tesla. We see Tesla at the beginning and Tesla towards the end of our season. We see Declan, our head of the UK Sanctuary. And he figures pretty big in the Season. So yeah, there's quite a few characters that come back.
You know, one thing I've noticed from interviewing people involved with Sanctuary and Stargate. It - that they seem to be a very open, sort of down to earth and as you've said here way too serious all the time, rambunctious people.
Amanda Tapping: Yes.
I want to know if this is a result of the show being based in Vancouver which tends to be that kind of city. Or if this is - if you think this is a Canadian thing or if it's just something associated with this particular group of people because they've worked together on one of the other series for so long?
Amanda Tapping: I think it's a combination. It's interesting I'm going to name drop for a nanosecond but I had lunch yesterday with Ming-Na from Stargate Universe - with all the women from Stargate Universe yesterday we did a ladies lunch. And Ming was saying the same thing, is it a Canadian thing that you just don't get caught up in the sort of crap of the industry, you know, the - all the ancillary stuff that gets in the way of the actual work. That, you know, we're not up here going to premiers and we're not - we all don't have huge publicists and big machines behind us and it's not about celebrity, it's about the work. And is that what it is? And I think that that's partly true, we have the luxury of working in this beautiful city that's, you know, nobody cares what you do for a living and you just - it's about the work. And we're all lucky to be in this industry doing what we love to do and we don't have to worry about all the other stuff which tends to, you know, mess with your head as an actress. Like what you got invited to that movie premier and I didn't? And oh, what are you wearing and whose shoes are you wearing. And all that crap. We don't necessarily deal with it so much up here, so I think that that's part of it. But I think we had it on Stargate most definitely and Martin, Damian and I have vowed that Sanctuary would be the show that is not us and them but we. It's a, you know, there's not hierarchy, there's no above the line, below the line mentality on our show. Everyone across the board should feel like they are being treated with respect and being admired for what they're doing regardless of what your position is and we are very conscious of fostering that. So when somebody, crew or cast or whomever comes onto the show and is not playing with the team they don't last very long and we're actually very proud of that. We're proud of the fact that we want to be known as the nice show, as the show that people want to come and work on. You know, we have a lot of fun but we make a great product that we're really proud of. But at the end of the day it's a nice group of people to hang out with.
Robin Dunne: It's really nice to be out, you know, and be talking to other actors and have it coming - like hear it back that people are saying "Hey, you know, I did a guest spot on Sanctuary and what an amazing experience. And, you know, I had such a great time." When I hear people saying that about our show I feel very proud because that's definitely, you know, certainly and it starts with Amanda, Martin and Damian. It always starts at the top these kinds of feelings. And, you know, only when you have that kind of environment do you feel, you know, secure enough to do your best work. And so it's really nice to hear, you know, from other actors what a great time they had working on the show.
Going back to Sanctuary specifically, the show attracted a dedicated following even before the Webisodes debuted. Why do you think it struck such a cord with people even sort of way back then?
Amanda Tapping: I think it's a lot of things. There definitely was a cool factor about it which was wow; they're doing this green screen show. It's going to virtual. It's going to have a different look. It's brewing with mythology and monsters and things that go bump in the night. Like there was so many sort of cool factors about the show. I think part of it was the team that was bringing it together. Syfy fans, bless them, are so incredibly stalwart in their support. And, you know, if you have - a lot of Stargate fans came over. A lot of Sam Carter fans came over at least to check out Sanctuary. A lot of Martin Wood fans and Damian Kindler fans came over to check it out. So we were very lucky that the fan base, you know, followed us and supported us off the top. And that, you know, you can't say enough about how important that is. But I think initially it was the cool factor. And then once people realized, once the show actually hit the Web and people realized that the stories themselves stood out and the characters were people you cared about, and all that cool factor was great, but it wasn't the most important thing. But we sort of grabbed them with look what we're about to do and then held them with, and you care about these people, hopefully.
I mean and I guess too once it debuted then people got a real sense of the very high quality of product which was probably much higher than another Web series that preceded it. And so not only was it innovative and different, but the quality was also there and they were the characters that people could relate to.
Amanda Tapping: And I think now, I mean I look at the Webisodes and I go "Oh my gosh, we've come so far, technically." We're shooting it differently. We're shooting it on a different camera. You know, this television series technically is so much better than the Webisodes and we were really proud of what we were able to pull together in the Webisodes considering the very little amount of time that we had to actually render the vis effects. And now, you know, what we were rending in two weeks we're now rendering in five months and we have more money and, you know. So I'm proud of the little engine that could and from where it started and where it's come.
You can watch Amanda Tapping as Dr. Helen Magnus and Robin Dunne as Dr. Will Zimmerman when Sanctuary returns with its second season on Friday, October 9 at 10 PM on the SyFy network.