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So what exactly does Helen Magnus see in John Druitt, her serial-killer ex, on Syfy's "Sanctuary?"

Get ready to find out.

"I think you finally see why Helen fell in love with this man in the first place," Amanda Tapping, who plays Helen, said over the phone on Monday. "You get a hint of the depth of their love and the trust, and his passion and intelligence. He was at one point and time a gentle soul, and you can sort of see a bit of that."

In the episode, called "Haunted" and airing at 9 p.m. Friday, Druitt (Christopher Heyerdahl) becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a refugee Helen and the Sanctuary team rescued from a sinking ship off the coast of South Africa. Helen also worries that he's causing some odd
happenings within the Sanctuary that have isolated the teams in pairs of two.

Helen and Druitt's rocky relationship continues."It's a real psychological thriller," Tapping said. "... We're all fighting the same abnormal but we don't know what it is that we're fighting. It puts
Helen and Druitt alone together, locked in, and it puts Will and Henry locked in with one of our patients and it puts Kate and Bigfoot locked in an elevator.

"So psychologically I just thought it was a fantastic exercise for all of us."

The episodes best moments are between Tapping and Heyerdahl, who seem to be dueling it out in their minds, not to mention physically. And despite their battles, don't think Helen could ever banish Druitt for long.

"Druitt is never gone for good. There's no way," Tapping said. "He's too big a part of Helen's life and Helen's heart, and he's too connected to everything, especially that's happened this season with Ashley ... Plus he's just such an amazing character."

When I suggested that it's easy for fans, or critics, to forget the bond Magnus shares with Druitt, Tapping agreed.

"I think [viewers] just look at this sort of maniacal killer guy and go, 'Well, why is she with him?' The fact of the matter is she never will; he's her paramour."

Tapping and I talked about the Jan. 15 season finale and the show's upcoming third season, which she and co-producers Martin Wood and Damian Kindler are just starting to plan. And she was more than happy to answer all of your "Sanctuary" Twitter questions.

Two chicks talkin' bout science fiction.  One, your trusty UGO television editor and the other, an iconic genre vet and the face of one of the most celebrated franchises in sci-fi history, Stargate.  That would be Amanda Tapping.  Perhaps the hardest working woman in sci-fi, I called Amanda at
the Sanctuary production office, where she took a break from working on post-production efforts on the hit Syfy show, which is poised to launch its second seasond on October 9th.  Not just the star of the show, Tapping also fills the role of executive producer.  Gracious and enthusiastic,
Tapping is as intelligent and insightful as the character she is universally known for, Stargate's Samantha Carter.  We chatted about her work on the beloved franchise as well as Sanctuary and state of televised science fiction in general.  I could easily pick Amanda's brain for hours but her
busy schedule only permitted us twenty minutes, for which I am much appreciative. 

UGO: Thank you for taking the time today, I know you're very busy there. Are you still shooting?

Amanda Tapping: You're quite welcome. No, actually we wrapped our second season at the end of July so now we're in post-production.

UGO: I see. And being that you're an executive producer on this series, I imagine you're pretty involved in that.

Amanda: Yes, I am!

UGO: The transition from Stargate to Sanctuary, obviously the characters of Samantha Carter and Helen Magnus are very different, but the visual difference is striking.

Amanda: Yes, that was very much a conscious choice. To completely transform myself physically for this new character. Partly as an homage to Carter I didn't want there to be any sense of crossover where the fans are going "oh Sam Carter is running a sanctuary." I wanted it to be obviously, completely different.

UGO: You work with so much green screen on this show. What is that like as an actor?

Amanda: It's interesting to me, because initially it's very daunting. As an actor, you still have to wrap your head around the scope and the scale and the size of the places that you're in. Especially the Sanctuary itself. It's got these fifty-foot ceilings and the library is massive. Often, we'll be
running down the hallway and Martin (Wood, director) will yell "you just ran through a wall!" and it's like "oh crap, of course, ok we've got to turn left here. You know, silly things like that where you literally have to understand the physicality of the space.

But once you get past that and once you get past the fact that you're staring at green which makes you a bit wonky, it actually becomes really intimate as an actor. It becomes quite a pure process.  You don't have these creature models around you or, quite literally, the scenery to chew on. It becomes about the words and the characters and the relationships and so you find that really you're much more focused on your fellow actor and the scene and what that's about. You don't have anything else to distract you. So in some ways, what we've all learned and come to appreciate with the green screen scenes is that it's really just about the scene. It comes right back to minimalist theater.

UGO: Wow, that's very interesting. I can see how it would feel like theater. Isn't it sort of ironic though. Sanctuary is easily one of the most visually advanced television shows to date and yet it feels like a theater production in some way.

Amanda: Yea it does. It's kinda cool.

UGO: I can't wait to see the show im HD.

Amanda: Oh yea, you think season one was good, wait till you see season two, I just sat through a sound mix yesterday with the first episode of the season and we were all going "ooh wow, oh my god! It looks amazing!'  It was quite funny.

UGO: Speaking of season two, what can you tell us about it?

Amanda: Well, season one ends on a really intense cliffhanger. Season two picks up where we left off, which is "what the hell happened to Ashley, how do we get her back?" How do we defeat this nasty organization known as "The Cabal." Everyone is on almost an individual journey but we
all have the same goal. But everyone is doing something. Druitt is crazed with the idea of finding Ashley, as is Magnus. Will is going through a different journey and so are Tesla and Bigfoot and Henry, so it's the fragmented organization desperate for the same goal.

And I think we start off on this incredible vibration at the beginning of season two. The first three episodes are so intense that when we finished filming episode three the whole cast and crew were like "oh my god, we're exhausted!" And so we gave ourselves and the audience a rest in the fourth episode which is, I think, quite hilarious and wonderful. And then we launch back into the darkside with this episode called "Pavor Nocturnus," which is this sort of post-apocalyptic "what if?" scenario. You sill will Zimmerman like you've never seen him before. And in fact, we've really started to see Robin Dunne come on the set as this crazy, beaten haunted Will.

Robin and I talked about it at the end of the season, what this crazy rollar coaster season two has been but I think it's some of our best work from every department. And I love season one. Season one is exactly what a first season is supposed to be. It introduced you to everyone so beautifully, to the Sanctuary, to the characters, to this incredible fantastical world. And now in season two, we know everyone and we know what the relationships are and we get to play in this really amazing playground.

UGO: I'm curious, were you guys at San Diego Comic-Con two years ago when the show was in its infancy?

Amanda: We were and this year too. It's great that you asked this, Hilary. Our first Comic-Con experience three years ago, we sort of squatted out someone's booth Martin and I were there promoting Stargate and we had been asked to have some presence there for Sanctuary so we signed autographs and gave some Sanctuary schwag away. We had a line of about 500 people, it was quite amazing to us.

The second year we went to Comic-Con, Syfy gave us a room and we did a panel and it was a small room and we filled it, thank god. So we did the panel and we had a small presence there. It was awesome, actually, the fans were really cool and excited about it. But this year because the show had aired for a season, they put us in this ballroom and we were all in a blind panic about whether or not we would fill it. And then to walk out and see this room full, with like two thousand fans, we were like "oh my god!" We think about where we were at comic con way back then and then to see this, it was great!

UGO: Well, Sanctuary started with just a series of webisodes...

Amanda: We started with eight webisodes, just a small presence. We garnered a lot of attention of the internet but we didn't garner a lot of money. But what it ended up doing was giving us enough attention that networks were interested.

UGO: When you say networks, it's hard for to imagine a better fit for this show than Syfy. Especially when other networks seem to fumble the promotion and placement of genre series.

Amanda: Syfy is the perfect fit for us. And we knew the network well because of our work on Stargate, so it was a comfortable fit, a really soft landing and so that was easy. So Syfy was one component of what brought the show to fruition. We also needed a Canadian broadcaster and we needed a British broadcaster, this triumvirate to sell it to the world and get the money to make this show. We don't have a studio backing us so we hobbled together a budget from all the licensees around the world, so that's why every year it's scary.

UGO: I think it's so important that a show like this one is on the right network.  When the Syfy brand relaunch happened, you guys were front and center. Were you at all a little nervous about that and how it would be received?

Amanda: I wasn't nervous about how it would effect Sanctuary but rather how the fans would react. When you listen to Dave Howe (Syfy President) speak, he's very impassioned about why they thought it was necessary. So it was like they understand how the genre has shifted.

They couldn't trademark "SCI FI," which is a problem with a network when you can't trademark the name.  And the genre has shifted so much that it's not your parents sci-fi anymore, it's not just spaceships. The genre is anything that pushes the envelope and defies imagination. I would never
have considered Lost a sci-fi show. And yet people consider it science fiction. It seems that the genre has been blown so wide open and I think that in rebranding, they're casting that net as wide and as far as the genre has been cast.

So in some ways, it makes sense.  They're like "ok, so we can't trademark this name so how do we change while honoring the sci-fi fans and also broadening the net so that people don't think our network isn't just about shows in space?" Sanctuary is sort of a perfect example of why we fit that brand. Some people would consider us a historical show or a graphic novel type show or drama or sci-fi.  Like anything, there was fervor when it first hit but eventually it dies down. And if there are good shows on the network people are going to watch.

UGO: You mentioned Lost. As someone so deeply involved in science fiction, I'm curious to hear what you're into these days. Any other television shows or movies that you've been excited about?

Amanda: That's a great question only because I have a four-year old and work fourteen to fifteen hours a day so I only watch The Backyardagins (laughs).

UGO: Bah!

Amanda: I don't know if True Blood would count. I think that's a really cool show right now. If I can stay up late enough, I watch The Daily Show. So that's the extent of my viewing, which is sad.

UGO: Well you spend the whole day making fantastic genre television so you can have a break.

Amanda: Well, when I'm away and I actually get a chance to turn on the televison, I will be drawn to the sci-fi shows. Just because I think it's such an interesting way to tell stories. You're not limited by reality and I love to see the way that people who are making television are pushing the
envelope. It looks entirely real and the situation may seem real and yet there is this fantastical element and people will react to that as if it's normal. I love that. I think really, in a lot of ways it's our generation's way of telling stories. We're not telling cowboy stories anymore and medical
dramas come and go and there's the cop shows but sci-fi seems to be one of those stalwarts that keeps coasting along becuase it keeps evolving.

UGO: That's interesting because my father loves westerns.  That's the setting he likes to see stories told in. For me it's science fiction.

Amanda: And that just  speaks to our generation and how much more advanced we've become technologically.

UGO: Before I let you get back to work, what can you tell me about your involvement in the upcoming Stargate projects?

Amanda: The only thing I know is that there's a third SG-1 movie that's been greenlit, as far I know. I don't know when exactly it's supposed to start shooting but the latest rumor, and it is a rumor, is late fall/early winter. And definintely, I'd like to be involved with that. And there was talk of me doing another episode of Stargate: Universe (Amanda appears in the pilot episode). I don't know whether we'll be able to work that out timewise but I'd love to do it!

At the Syfy Channel Upfront in March, I chatted up Sanctuary star Amanda Tapping for a story about Season 3 that will appear on AOL’s TV Squad page in the near future. (FYI, Season 2 arrives on video on June 15, 2010.) I also managed to squeeze in a little bit about Stargate and her non-Sanctuary projects.

Here’s a short ‘n’ sweet Q&A about topics unrelated to her hit show. It is laced with the actress’ usual humility and humor. Simply put, Tapping is über-cool.

In the interview with you and Robin for my blog last year, you guys revealed the Holden MacPhillips scandal. The question is, does Robin have his own Holden MacPhillips now?
I bet he does. You know…? [rubs chin in contemplation]

That’ll be a story for another interview.Don’t print it. Next year.

Can you tell us about the two upcoming Stargate movies?[stays mum] I’m not being coy. I really am not. I went on to IMDb and found out that I was in pre-production for a Stargate movie, and I was like, “Sweet! I hope somebody sends me the script!”

You’ve done plenty of things outside of sci-fi. Are there any performances that you think are underrated in your career?You know what?

I feel like my career has progressed slow and steady.
Things that I thought were really good back in the day, maybe not so much [now]. I look back at my work and think there’s a certain subconsciousness to it. So no, I don’t think so. There’s a movie I did called Dancing Trees, which I just thought was a really sweet film. I love the director so much. I don’t have a big part in it, and I die — well, I must say. That’s a good question. Damn!

Is there any project that you want to do that you haven’t tackled yet?

I want to do the Lion In Winter. I want to do a remake of that on Broadway in about twenty-five years.

Sooner than that, would you like to do Broadway?

I started in theater, and vowed I would never do television. Ha ha ha. I did. I said, “Only theater and very posh art films will I do. I am an actor!” Then I grew up. But I still crave getting back on stage.

Not so very long ago, an actor or actress who created a memorable television character had to wait at least 7 years before taking on another regular TV role. That rule doesn't apply to Amanda Tapping, a science fiction fan favorite who played Samantha Carter in the popular series Stargate SG-1, the Stargate Atlantis spinoff as well as some direct-to-DVD Stargate movies.

Tapping made a smooth transition from Sam Carter to Dr. Helen Magnus, the lead character on the SyFy channel series Sanctuary. "I have a very supportive and gracious fan base-bless their hearts. I have been very lucky, I have to say," Tapping told Associated Content via telephone.

"When I made the transition, we decided to do a physical transformation as well, so there was no vestige of Sam Carter in there. That was really important to me that in order to honor Sam, in order to create this new character, I have to completely change things up," she said.

Dr. Helen Magnus holds her cards close to the chest

In the simplest terms, Sanctuary is a show about all those things that go bump in the night and lurk under the bed. Dr. Magnus and her team search for those mysterious things, sometimes offering protection to scared creatures that lurk in the shadows for their own protection.

Tapping describes Magnus as a woman who holds her cards close to the chest. "The way I've chosen to do it, it's a survival technique for her. She has seen so much. The swing of Magnus, at the base of what she is all about, is incredible loneliness," Tapping said. "She's watched everyone she's ever really cared about and loved die--and she's still here. She has seen the worst of the human condition. She has been involved with the best and the brightest in our history."

"It's not about trying to kill off these crazy creatures"

In a departure from traditional science fiction stories, Sanctuary, as the name implies, offers protection to those beings that are simply different and scared. "They are very much in need of protection as we are. It's not about trying to kill off these crazy creatures and save the world. It is about saving them from the world," Tapping said. "We're also a revisionist history show where we are using these really cool characters from the past."

Season 2 of Sanctuary now available on DVD

As Tapping and the other cast members ramp up for Season 3, fans now can buy the complete Second Season of Sanctuary on DVD. "Every episode has commentaries, usually by Martin (director Martin Wood) and me, but we usually bring in guest stars. They are quite fun-you get fun little tidbits from that, but they are also quite humorous," Tapping said. "Starting late September or early October. Season 3 premieres and, because we have the luxury of 20 episodes, it actually gives us the chance to do some really big story arcs. I am so stoked about this season
and that we have more opportunity to play."

One of Syfy's top-rated series, 'Sanctuary' released its season 2 DVD recently and this fall, the third season will expand to 20 episodes. That's good news for fans of the Amanda Tapping show. TV Squad got the scoop from the actress about what's coming up for this intense adventure series.

"We survive the tidal wave, which is good," revealed Tapping of the cliffhanger ending season 2. "Because we have a 20-episode pickup, we have the luxury of doing really big story arcs this year, which is very exciting. So we have two major threads that we're pursuing throughout this season: one dealing with Helen's past a bit more, and one that is something that's much bigger than Big Bertha," the ginormous sea spider that plays a pivotal role in the season 2 finale.

Given that the third season will be nearly 50 percent longer than the first two, there undoubtedly will be some concerns for the cast and crew to deliver the goods and keep up the pace. "It puts more pressure on, but in some ways it's a luxury because I felt like last season was a bit too much
of an anthology," admitted Tapping. "Not all of the episodes connected. I think this year because we know we have that time, it's a lot more pressure, but it's also bit more of a luxury for us. That's how I'm choosing to look at it. Ask me in 10 months."

Perhaps one way to keep costs down and keep the stories rolling along would be to do more standalone episodes with protagonists Helen Magnus and Will Zimmerman, such as the deep sea submarine thriller in season 1 ('Requiem') and the vampire squid adventure ('Next Tuesday') in season 2. "We like to do those shows because it saves a bit of time, although it never saves money like it's supposed to," Tapping noted. "I hope we do at least one this season because it's just nice to reconnect those characters. But I don't think we'll do very many."

And for those who wonder if Helen and Will might ever develop romantic chemistry and a potential love triangle with John Druitt, don't hold your breath. "It would just be weird," Tapping said. "In part because Helen rescued Will when he was a child. I just think it would be too weird. We'll just leave it at that."

As one of the show's producers, Tapping would like to explore more of the 'Sanctuary' backstory, so fans can expect that next season as well. "I'd like to see a bit more of Helen's history and the history of The Five, what shaped the Sanctuary network," she said. "We are going to be doing that
this [coming] year. We're going to do a few historical episodes."

"Sanctuary" opened its third season with back-to-back dramatic episodes. In "Kali Part 3," the Sanctuary team literally saved the world. In "Firewall," they saved Will Zimmerman--and discoverd an intriguing secret.

Fans get a breather with "Bank Job," airing at 9 p.m. Oct. 29 on Syfy. According to star Amanda Tapping, we'll see a different side of her character, Helen Magnus--but it's basically a light, breezy episode.

"'Bank Job' is a romp," Tapping told me when I visited the "Sanctuary" set In Vancouver. "We've taken you through these two harrowing, massively huge episodes and 'Bank Job' is a rest for the audience to get to know the characters again...

"It's a great team-building episode."

Helen, Will and Kate go to a bank to retrieve an abnormal from a safety deposit box, but as you can see in the clip above, the abnormal has a very different idea. Agam Darshi, who plays Kate, said that this season Kate "finds her power." (Read "'Sanctuary' star Agam Darshi promises action-hero Kate--in spandex!")

According to Tapping, Kate acts quickly to bring the bank situation under control-well, almost under control.

"Kate kind of takes over in a very Kate way and it's a bit of a screw up, but also ultimately allows us to finish the journey," Tapping said. "It's quite funny. It's a funny episode."

Tapping feels the entire "Sanctuary" team in Vancouver--cast, crew, writers, directors and visual effects teams--all have stepped up for Season 3. When I teased her that I was waiting for her to say "Sanctuary" would be better than ever, she didn't miss a beat.

"Honestly, it is better than ever," she said. "I think that this is a show that just keeps finding itself, reinventing itself every year."

What follows is the rest of Tapping's explanation of that sentence, which I love reading. She loves and respects her co-workers and she's proud of all the work they are doing. She says it and I've said it since Season 1 about this show: All that love and passion shows on screen.

"I'm proud of the fact that we're a grassroots show that has become this. We have the best vis effects that we've ever had. Our stories are bigger in scope and yet more intimate in scope, if that makes sense. We're telling these massive stories in these crazy locations and still, you care what's going on inside someone's head.

"I just think that we have a great story department this year, great writers and everyone seems to have jumped on this. This is going to sound hokey as hell, but I'm going to own it: The fact that our crew is so excited at the end of scenes, that you actually have the crew clapping, means you're kind of onto something special.

"I think that feeling translates on to screen ... There seems to be this ground swell of genuine love for being on this show. Whether you're the dolly grip and Craft Service guy or the lead actor or whatever, everyone seems really, genuinely happy to be on set and that translates."


The phenomenal success of Stargate:SG1 and Stargate:Atlantis is due to many things. Good writing, good casting and sensible networks backing Sci Fi in prime time. Also - good casting. Amanda Tapping has played the character of Samantha Carter since the pilot, and now continues the role after 10 seasons of SG:1 with a full season of Atlantis.

Her warm personality and heartfelt geekiness shines through the role, and this has made her a firm fan favourite. Convention appearances by Tapping are traditionally barnstormers. With her first full season on Stargate:Atlantis looming, we had a cosy chat with the very real woman behind the very bright scientist.

SF:The daily grind on a fully fledged Sci Fi show tends to be really long days and months of nothing but work. Do you find yourself dropping out of reality when you work so hard on the Stargate set?

AT:My daughter is my reality check. My husband jokes with me at the beginning of each season – ‘okay then, see you in October!’ Not entirely untrue.

SF: You really have become Mrs Stargate, doing more episodes now than Richard Dean Anderson. More Sci Fi episodes than anyone, ever.

AT: This is the 11th year I’ve been doing it. I know, it’s really sad, I’ve become the Kelsey Grammer of Sci Fi. But being on Atlantis feels like Samantha Carter is a whole new character. It’s a whole new set of relationships. So you really feel like it’s a new start.

SF: Is there any point in time that you actually understand the technobabble that you speak?

AT: Sadly, yes. I cannot save the world from an asteroid or black hole, but in theory, I can. I study it, I really do. In the first fives season, I studied everything. I actually got into it. I would break it down into laymen’s turns and draw pictures and explain it to my husband.

SF: So you’re one of the few people who’ve actually read A Brief History of Time?

AT: Over and over again! You should see my copy! It’s so full of bookmarks and underlining.

SF: You’re Canadian, the show (and a great deal of other Sci Fi is shot in Canada). Tell us about your country. What’s it like up there in Canada?

AT: Vancouver’s great. There’s no Hollywood weirdness here. You can’t get away with it. I’m not a Hollywood girl. It’s great, I’m home, we go down to the beach...

SF: Hang on, you what, the beach? In Canada?

AT: Yeah!

SF: Surely, ice-covered beaches.

AT: We have beaches here, c’mon! Actually it reminds me a lot of Sydney, without the great climate. We have beaches, snarky bugger! We do!

SF: SG:1 finished in the 10th season, but not quite. For those in Oz, we haven’t seen the movies that finished the story off, although rumours are flying that we’ll see them on the Sci Fi Channel. Are there plans for more?

AT: The rumour is that MGM would like us to do some more, that would be great. We’re just finishing off the 4th season of Atlantis but we haven’t heard whether they want a fifth season or not but we finish shooting the 4th season in October and then we’ll see what happens.

SF: Just how Canadian is the show?

AT: Interestingly, we’re not considered Canadian. Stargate is a Canadian show, for all intents and purposes. It’s run by Canadians, it’s written by Canadians, it’s acted, for the most part, by Canadians, our crew is entirely Canadian, but Canada will not recognise it as Canadian.

SF: Do you still cook nice Thai food?

AT: I do! I’m now into French Country cooking. This weekend I marinated a lamb roast with rosemary and fresh mint from my garden, rubbed with salt and pepper pan seared and roasted. And fish. I’m big on fish. We just came back from a fishing trip with 200 pounds of fish so I thi-i-i-nk we’ll be eating a lot of fish in the future.

SF: Have you graduated to slow smoking? (Note to non chefs/fishermen– smoking your own fish in your own back yard in a big box or is the true test of the authentic woodsman)

AT: You know what, even as we speak, even as we speak - some are being slow smoked. Craziness.

SF: Truly a renaissance woman. It’s been a pleasure.
AT: And for me!