By Curt Wagner
8:34 PM CDT, April 15, 2011
When last we saw Dr. Helen Magnus and her Sanctuary team in “The Hollow Men,” they were hanging, lifeless, in the city of Praxis in Hollow Earth.
“Big spoiler: We lived,” Amanda Tapping, who plays Magnus, joked during a recent interview with her co-star, Robin Dunne, and TV writers.
But were Tapping and Dunne, who plays Dr. Will Zimmerman, and their co-stars Agam Darshi and Ryan Robbins really strung up while filming the scene?
“It was really uncomfortable. No kidding. It was painful after awhile,” Tapping said. “We were in these rigs that kind of pulled up your back and stretched you out in this weird way, and then we had to have our hands out to the side holding onto these little wires that were hanging down and it really hurt. And in between takes, they would run and put apple boxes underneath us so we could take a bit of the pressure off our backs.”
Dunne said he didn’t expect the stunt to be so difficult. “You think … ‘How hard could it be? We’ve got harnesses on…’ But then you actually do it and you're like, ‘Wow. This is really tiring.’”
The Syfy series returns at 8 p.m. Friday with “Pax Romana,” the first of 10 new episodes for Season 3. Magnus and her team are still in Hollow Earth, where Ranna (Polly Walker) quickly learns that they just might be able to help her with her super-abnormal problem—and with Adam Worth (Ian Tracey).
Having “Sanctuary” back after its long break is like welcoming an old friend back into your home. You missed them while they were away and are completely happy and fulfilled when they return.
Below, we pick up my conversation with Tapping and Dunne as they explain more about their “death scene.” With these two, its often best just to write up these interviews as a Q&A so readers can get the full idea of how they play off each other.
Amanda Tapping: Really uncomfortable.
Robin Dunne: On top of that, Martin Wood was pelting us with tennis balls while it was happening...
AT: Yes. That didn’t help.
RD: ...which did not add to the comfort.
Martin sounds like the true sadist out there. [From Curt: Answering another person’s question, Dunne joked the Tapping was a sadist when she directed an episode this season.]
AT: He is. He really is. It’s not me at all.
RD: We’ve all learned from him.
I also wanted to ask what is the coolest about your job. Not necessarily a specific episode or anything, but just the work, the place, the people.
AT: I think the coolest thing is the relationships not just between the characters but, honestly, between the people who make this show. We’ve always been the little show that could. And this is going to sound hokey as all can be, but we’ve always been the show that people weren’t sure we could ever get it made. It was this little web series. It’s always been a struggle, and I think through that struggle, the relationships were forged even more strongly. And, there’s a huge amount of trust on this set because we all kind of jumped into the fire holding hands together. And so the coolest thing is coming to work and seeing you know 70 smiling faces who all want to be here, and feeling a collective—I don’t know—a sort of selective conscious to make this show really good. Everyone is committed. Like the location guys care about the script. Everyone’s reading the script and everyone cares about what happens, and people help each other. It’s a very special vibe here.
RD: Everyone is committed and everyone should be committed.
AT: Yes. Definitely.
RD: But as an example, yesterday we had the first table read of Season 4. And we’ve been off for a few months, and just to get everybody back in the same room and reading together and instantly picking up where we left off; it’s just such an amazing feeling to—like Amanda says—come to work and work with all your friends every day. But I mean, also have to put up with Martin Wood and Damien Kindler. But, you know nothing is perfect.
AT: You know, there’s not. Right. That’s why they pay us.
You did 20 episodes this season, and will have 13 next season. Are you guys relieved? Did it kind of kick your butts, or do you kind of wish you had 20 more?
AT: Honestly, I think 13 is a good number for us. Twenty was really hard. It was a great joy because we were able to flesh things out more. And I think had we been given more lead up to starting our season, although we had a network pickup early, we are the little independent television series that needs to get its financing together. So, we really only had five weeks to prep this entire season. And if we were doing 20, I think we’d all be in an insane asylum by now. We can do 13 with five weeks. There’s no way we could’ve been prepared for 20.
RD: And the classic thing with “Sanctuary” is that nobody says we can’t do that. So, the writing team will come up with these huge episodes and doing these things and everybody just stands together and gets it done. And we’re not a huge show, so it really is an amazing experience to do these different episodes every week, but it is really tiring. So, I think 13 is...
AT: Thirteen will keep us all sane.
RD: Yes. Ish. Ish.
Well, don’t be too sane.
AT: OK. Absolutely.
Oh, Mary from the Czech Republic says hello. [That was @SamanthaMajka]
AT: Hello, (Mary).
RD: I love the Czech Republic.
I saw some of the little preview clips and it looks like Amanda, you're rocking a red wig. Is that true?
AT: It is true.
RD: And it’s hot.
AT: In an episode called “Normandy”...
RD: She’s wearing it right now actually.
AT: But that’s just for fun. It’s sort of an homage to my grandmother, who grew up in England and lived through two world wars. She was born in 1901 and lived to the ripe old age of 103 1/2. And, her entire life she had this red bob haircut and dyed her hair red up until she was 102, I think. And so, that was in homage to her, but I really liked it. So who knows? I mean the beauty of this character is she’s old enough and has been around enough that she can kind of do whatever she wants.
And Robin, are you ever going to direct?
RD: Funny you should say that. I believe I will be directing this season coming up. Episode 6 of Season 4 I will direct, and I think that completely terrifies everyone involved in the show. But yes, it’s going to be exciting. I plan to show up every day to work in a bathrobe and use a megaphone to shout out my directions. But I think that’ll just be a good way to get everyone’s attention.
Are you looking forward to getting back at everyone?
RD: Yes. Oh, I have a list. The list. So, it’s like a phone book, and I am just going to—Martin Wood and Damien Kindler are right at the top. So yes, it’s going to be exciting. No. But in all seriousness; it’s something that is scary, obviously since I’ve never done it before. But, I’m really thankful for the opportunity and you know I probably won’t sleep the first couple nights before, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.
AT: He’s going to do a great job. One of the things when Martin, Damien, and I formed our company was we really wanted to foster young talent and mentor people into positions where they might not have had the opportunity before. So, we’ve had a lot of first time directors on our show. Our camera operator Steve Adelson, Lee Wilson directed for the first time. I’ve been given you know three different shots now.
AT: Damien directing last year. And so when Robin asked it was like of course. This is what we do. And there’s a massive support network, but I think he’ll totally rock it.
Is there anything that really surprised you coming up about your character that you weren’t expecting or that happened earlier in the season?
AT: We had a cool episode toward the end of Season 3 that shows you a different side of our characters, and it’s a rather unexpected view of these two people. Magnus much more vulnerable and kind of freaked out than you've ever seen her, and...
RD: It’s like many episodes of “Sanctuary,” kind of unrecognizable but in a very different way. I think you could even say that the characters themselves—Will and Magnus don’t even recognize themselves. And it was a really interesting episode to shoot, completely different location. The lighting. Everything looked like a totally different show and it was very interesting to shoot—odd in a way because you're playing the same character but in a completely different realm. And yes, it was exciting. That’s coming up—what number is that? That’s...
And Robin, I’m looking forward to talking to you a little bit later or sometime about “Metamorphosis.”
RD: Yes. That was a really cool episode too. I just did the DVD commentary yesterday with the director, Andy Mikita, and just...
AT: Robin was amazing in this episode “Metamorphosis,” because he also acted as the cameraman. He wore a helmet cam, so a lot of the show is his POV. So not only was there a physical transformation in terms of prosthetics, but also Robin worked the camera. He was exhausted. I was so worried about him when we were shooting that episode because he was just doing everything. And, it’s an amazing performance.
RD: The one good thing about that was that I wear a helmet cam in my private life, just shooting my own life, so I was really used to using one of those things. So, yes; the learning curve wasn’t so crazy for me on that one.
AT: That’s why you have such a strong neck. OK.
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