In advance of the premiere of Sanctuary on Sci Fi, star and executive producer Amanda Tapping talked with reporters about what viewers can expect from this incarnation of the show and how it evolved from a web-only series to a big television production.
On setting up the show for those who missed the webisodes: It's centered around my character, Helen Magnus, who is a 157-year old doctor from Victorian England who runs a sanctuary for all manner of abnormal creatures.
She's pulls into the fray a young forensic psychiatrist named Will Zimmerman who has always sort of thought outside of the box and has therefore been shunned by regular law enforcement agencies but in fact now realizes that the things that he's sort of tried to investigate are now real.
You're kind of seeing a lot of the Sanctuary and a lot of the creatures, and a lot of the mythologies through his eyes as sort of the everyman. But the show has a very graphic novel feel to it.
We're shooting almost photo real, half the time you're not sure if what you're looking at really exists or whether it's a visual effect and sometimes it's very obvious that it's a visual effect and we're shooting with a real graphic style.
I have this really kick ass daughter, Ashley, who is a weapons expert and a martial artist. And, you know, she's kind of the cool factor.
And we draw from characters in history and from this incredible mythology of my back-story.
On the season as a whole: Totally, totally proud of it. I'm really thrilled. I think we have some really killer episodes and I'm proud of the fact that our crew stuck around. We wanted to start in February. We didn't end up starting to shoot until May.
A lot of the people we have are feature quality crew members and features have tried to lure them away and they stayed with the show. And I think it speaks volumes about how much faith people have in this project. So I'm proud of the look of the show and the feel of it, and the attitude on set, and the fun that we had.
There's an episode called "Requiem" which for me personally was the bravest work I've ever done as an actor. And I don't think I would've been able to do that had I not felt so safe. So I mean, I credit the crew and the cast for a phenomenal experience.
On balancing effects versus story: That's the joy of working with people like Damian and Sam Egan because at the heart of it they write really great character centric shows. And Damian and Sam will often go to Lee Wilson, our vis effects producer, and say this is what we want to do. How doable is it?
And, you know, the vis effects sometimes -- and more often than not -- will take a backseat to what's really happening. And when we're shooting in the catacombs under Rome, it's basically it's, "Hey Lee, can you build the catacombs under Rome? Hey Lee, can you build a cathedral?"
But what's happening is really what's happening to the characters. So the hard thing, I think for the writers is sort of marrying more of our creatures and how to make that work because they're interacting with the actors.
And that's the hard thing. But really like I said before, at the end of the day it's about these people -- and even the creatures themselves are heartfelt and intelligent creatures.
So it's about them. It's not really just about the cool effect or what they look like. It's about what's at the heart of it. That sounds kind of hokey, but it's true.
On Helen Magnus's appearance: It was a really conscious choice [to maker her look different from Samantha Carter]. When I first decided to do Helen Magnus it was a real conscious choice to have absolutely no vestige of Sam Carter in this character in terms of everything from her appearance to her voice, to her walk, to her wardrobe, everything.
I just felt the end to completely reinvent. Partly as a woman, I just felt it was time and as an actress I just felt it was time to just try something completely different. And it's kind of great because I go places and people don't recognize me; people that I've worked with for ten years don't recognize me.
I just shot the final episode of Atlantis last week and I walked onto the set and half the crew didn't know who I was. And I was like sweet, I have accomplished what I set out to accomplish. And then of course I came back with a blonde wig and they went, "Oh hey, Amanda." It was funny.
On how Helen looks so good at age 157: She bathes in Botox. Actually, I'd tell you but I'd have to kill you. Wait until the episode, "The Five," and you'll get it -- you'll get the full meal deal on Helen Magnus and how she came to be who she is and why she's still around.
The beauty of being given a 13-episode arc for our first season is that we've been able to sort of pull these stories out, like just create this huge mythology that we couldn't do in, you know, the two hours of webisodes.
We sort of packed a lot into those two hours. But now we're able to sort of draw that mythology out.
On involving real historical characters: It's part of the mythology. The episode of "The Five" deals with these five characters from history who have come together, these forward-thinking scientists and how they've come to be who they are; Jack the Ripper being one of them, Helen being another one, and a few other very cool characters from history. We also bring in, and it's now common knowledge, Nikola Tesla is one of the characters that comes to light in the Sanctuary.
So we start with that as a jumping off point. But the main focus of the show is the creatures within the Sanctuary. And it can be anything -- we have a beautiful episode called "Edward" where it's a young boy who is an autistic savant and his ability -- he's like a human camera. Every episode has a very interesting focal character that we're dealing with.
So we're pulling from that. We're pulling from sort of the things that go bump in the night mythologies that we've all grown up with. We pull from that. We pull from history.
And then we're also just taking really remarkable human beings and sort of shedding a light on that idea.