Robin Dunne & Amanda Tapping Spill ‘Sanctuary’ Return

By Erika Blake

Multipleverses was invited to a conference call with the always charming Amanda Tapping and hilarious Robin Dunne to talk about the return of Sanctuary – all new episodes begin tonight at 10PM on Syfy. Here are the highlights from the call.

Question: So of the episodes that are still to come for the rest of the season – for the third season, do either of you or both of you have a favorite moment from shooting those remaining episodes?

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.

Question: And what would you say for each of you has been the biggest challenge for you 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.

Amanda Tapping: Yes.

Question: So what is it about your characters that you still find interesting? That makes you want to come to work and play them you know for three – well, getting ready to start four seasons of the show now?

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.

Question: (Regarding the last episode) When you guys were hanging there dead, were you really hanging?

Amanda Tapping: Yes.

Robin Dunne: Yes.

Amanda Tapping: It was really uncomfortable. No kidding. It was painful after awhile. 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. But…

Robin Dunne: It’s one of those things where you could – you think about at conception like how hard could it be? We’ve got harnesses on, we’re hanging, and – but then you actually do it and you’re like, “Wow. This is really tiring.”

Amanda Tapping: Really uncomfortable. (Pull me in).

Robin Dunne: On top of that, Martin Wood was pelting us with tennis balls while it was happening…

Amanda Tapping: Yes. That didn’t help.

Robin Dunne: …which did not add to the comfort.

Question: What is the coolest about your job. Not necessarily a specific episode or anything. Just about going to work and everything. Robin, it’s you getting your hair done, but Amanda what’s yours?

Amanda Tapping: I think the coolest thing is the relationships not just between the characters, but honestly between the people that make this show. We’ve always been the little show that could. And this is going to sound hokie 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.

Robin Dunne: Everyone is committed and everyone should be committed.

Amanda Tapping: Yes. Definitely.

Robin Dunne: 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.

Amanda Tapping: You know, there’s not. Right. That’s why they pay us.

Question: 20 episodes this season, 13 next season; are you guys relieved? Did it kind of kick your butts, or do you kind of wish you had 20 more? Or…

Amanda Tapping: 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. Thirteen was like, we can do 13 with five weeks. There’s no way we could’ve been prepared for 20.

Robin Dunne: 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…

Amanda Tapping: Thirteen will keep us all sane.

Robin Dunne: Yes. Ish. Ish.

Amanda Tapping: Ish.

Question: So with Will slowly almost dying towards the end of last year and Magnus actually facing mortality this year, I was wondering since they both have gone through that process, will that be something that we see play out for the rest of the year as well?

Amanda Tapping: Kind of. I mean, I think the cool thing about these characters is that they move on quickly, if you know what I mean. They’re not ones to sort of…

Robin Dunne: Yes. They can’t really – they don’t have time to dwell on the fact that, “Hey. I almost died there.”

Amanda Tapping: I almost died again.

Robin Dunne: Okay. Well, moving on. Got to – you know, got to keep (going on, it’s like a signal).

Amanda Tapping: Yes. I think maybe the ramifications for Magnus are a bit different because she was faced quite imminently with mortality. And I think you’ll see in Season 4 especially a decision being made that might surprise people.

But – and then for Will, I think it’s like everything that happens to Will it seems to me just gets worse and worse and worse, and he’s still hanging in.

Robin Dunne: Yes.

Amanda Tapping: So I think there must be a part of this character that just kind of goes, “Oh. Yes. Another day at the office, and today I was killed. Okay.”

Robin Dunne: I mean it’s not a caviler attitude by any stretch.

Amanda Tapping: No.

Robin Dunne: He certainly lives his life in – battling in – with the fear of working in the Sanctuary. But also, like Amanda says, you know we have to move on because there’s always stuff for us to do here, and you know trying to barely hang on with our fingernails.

Question: We saw Will take more of a leadership role this year, and there’s even been moments where he sort of kind of questioned Helen and told her she was wrong. Is that him taking control or realizing that he can be leader? Is that something else we’re going to see playing out the rest of this year too?

Robin Dunne: Well, somebody needs to put Magnus in her place you know? She can’t just go run willy-nilly doing whatever she wants. And I think certainly Will is the guy to do it.

I mean in all seriousness, I really like the relationship between Will and Magnus.

Amanda Tapping: Yes. I do too.

Robin Dunne: I think yes; Will being able to say to Magnus, “Look. I disagree with you respectfully,” and even if it’s something she doesn’t want to hear. It comes out of a very deep bond between the two characters, and I think you’re going to continue to see that throughout the next season.

Amanda Tapping: I think that that’s one of the reasons Magnus chose Will, right? She doesn’t want a yes man.

Robin Dunne: No.

Amanda Tapping: She wants somebody who’s going to be intelligent enough and ballsy enough to call her on what she’s doing wrong. She didn’t want to hire a patsy. So – and what’s beautiful about the development of the relationship, and it’s happened so organically; he has come into his own. He’s realized what he does bring to the Sanctuary.

In the first season, it was a much different relationship. And now, I think there’s a really beautiful level playing field.

Robin Dunne: You all heard that. Will is intelligent and ballsy. I think…

Amanda Tapping: Will is Robin. Not you; Will.

Robin Dunne: Well you know Will and Robin are very you know…

Question: So I saw some of the little preview clips and it looks like Amanda, you’re rocking a red wig. Is that true?

Amanda Tapping: It is true. It is true.

Robin Dunne: And it’s hot.

Amanda Tapping: In an episode that – in the episode called Normandy…

Robin Dunne: She’s wearing it right now actually.

Amanda Tapping: But that’s just for fun. I actually – 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 had this red bob haircut and dyed her hair red up until she was like 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.

Question: Right. Right. Are we going to see Declan back?

Amanda Tapping: Of course. Absolutely. He’s a huge part of the family.

Okay. Want to give us hint when, or…

Amanda Tapping: Well in the second half, when do we see – just going through the – we see him in Pax don’t we? And he’s in One Night, the episode I directed, and he’s in…

Robin Dunne: The great thing about Robert is he’s really become that solid…

Amanda Tapping: He’s in Carentan in a big way.

Robin Dunne: He’s always a member of the team, and…

Amanda Tapping: Yes. He’s – yes. He’s a big part of the show.

Question: And Robin, are you ever going to direct?

Robin Dunne: Funny you should say that. I believe I will be directing this season coming up. The 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.

Curt Wagner: Are you looking forward to getting back at everyone?

Robin Dunne: Yes. Oh, I have a list. The list. So, it’s like a phone book, and I am just going to – you know, 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.

Amanda Tapping: 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.

Robin Dunne: Damien.

Amanda Tapping: 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.

Question: I was wondering if in this upcoming season Helen will have a chance for some romance? Past? Present?

Amanda Tapping: Yes. Well at the end of season – the second half of Season 3 – it’s sort of weird, because we’re about to start Season 4, so that’s where our heads are at. In the second half of Season 3, not so much. So when we were going through – you see a little bit of it in Normandy, but no. Not a lot of love for Helen.

So when we were talking about Season 4 and playing out ideas, one of the things that I insisted on was that Magnus at least gets some love interest in Season 4. And, we’re working on that. I think it’s going to be really interesting.

Question: And how will she 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.

Question: Could you describe the Helen/Will relationship?

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.

Question: what would you two like to see happen for your character, like character development-wise. Not necessarily you know, story.

Robin Dunne: I’d love to do a musical. I think just to be on stage and sing, and I’d love Will to sort of get into more dance routines. I mean, we did a little bit of the Bollywood. I think it would be lovely to just show off some of my other skills that I have.

I mean, I’m a juggler. I do magic. And I just think there’s so many wasted opportunities that they haven’t brought these things into the show. I can do many things and I think I would just wish that the creative team…

Amanda Tapping: We’re wasting some of that…

Robin Dunne: Yes. I…

Amanda Tapping: …precious talent.

Robin Dunne: Yes. I wish they would just take some of the…

Amanda Tapping: We’ll take that under advisement.

Robin Dunne: …wealth of talent that I bring to the table. I wish just some of those – more would be – it would be used. It’s sad really.

Amanda Tapping: Wow. I was just going to say I hope Magnus gets a really cool love interest this year.

I know what’s beautiful is sometimes we’re allowed to sit in with the writers, and I’ve been here for the last months sort of sitting while they’ve been developing the series. The stuff they come up with is beyond what we could even imagine happening. So they come up with stuff that’s always so much better and so much cooler than what we think of.

The only thing I asked for was that I hope Helen gets like a really interesting love interest. Not that I want it to be about Helen having a love interest; I just want to show that there’s a very evolved, loving – you know sexual, interesting woman in there besides just this sort of analytic scientist that we’ve sort of been seeing for the last (few seasons).

Robin Dunne: And we’ve all kind of gotten a little bit of romance.

Amanda Tapping: Except for Magnus.

Robin Dunne: And Magnus is a little left out I think.

Amanda Tapping: Yes.

Robin Dunne: She’s feeling a little left out.

Amanda Tapping: You’re wasting good Stilettos.

Question: Now I read that Edge is going to be in the season finale. What was he like to work with?

Amanda Tapping: He’s a great guy actually. We were all kind of like, “Uh-oh. God. A wrestler. What’s going to happen?”

Robin Dunne: He’s going to beat me up.

Amanda Tapping: Yes.

Amanda Tapping: Yes. He did, which we paid extra for. But he’s a really sweet guy. He’s a good Canadian boy. He came up and I didn’t get to work with him in the episode, but I got to do some promo shoots with him. And he’s just a real sweetheart; down to Earth, and interesting, and intelligent, and yes – I don’t know what we expected. I have no idea. We just expected this big chest-something wrestler to come raging through our set and he was just a very gentle footprint.

Robin Dunne: He’s a mountain of a guy.

Amanda Tapping: Yes. He’s huge.

Robin Dunne: He’s enormous. But he gets to the set and he’s just the most soft spoken, you know nice, quiet guy. It was quite a lot of fun.

I had an entire day of just having the crap beaten out of me by him. And after every take, and you’ve got this big imposing guy on camera. He’s like throwing me around and punching me and clothes-lining me and all kinds of stuff, and then Damien, who was directing that episode, would call cut and then he’d come over and be like, “Oh, man. I’m sorry.” You could tell that he almost kind of felt bad about it. And yes; it was a lot of fun working with – he was a sweet guy.

Question: So what kind of a journey would you say – because you teased us a little bit with what’s coming up. But what kind of a journey would you say that your characters are on as the season progresses?

Amanda Tapping: It’s a bit of survival — parts of the season feel really hand-to-mouth. After what happens when we come back in Episode 311, the show that will air on April 15th, it’s sort of blown Sanctuary world wide open, and so there’s a massive amount of hand-to-mouth survival. And we do a couple of really small, sweet singular episodes within that, but then we just kind of keep getting hit.

It’s not like there’s a huge progression or an arc that we’re following in the second half of the season. We revisit at the very end of the season what we’re dealing with in Episode 311, and certainly there’s evidence of it throughout some of the episodes. But there’s a lot of kind of singular – just getting whacked in the side of the head with a 2×4 episodes. So it feels sort of very instinctual and survival.

Robin Dunne: Yes. It’s a crazy ride, and you’re going to see us in different times and in different dimensions and sort of how the impact that Magnus has had on history.

Amanda Tapping: Yes.

Robin Dunne: And it is really quite a wild ride. And it’s interesting too to be at this point talking about it, because the first half is really the lead up and the second half of Season 3 really is where things get crazy with Kate.

Amanda Tapping: It’s like at the end of the first half we have this massive explosion, and the rest of the season are the pieces falling out of the sky from that explosion.

Question: And what would you say as you’re going forth here has been your biggest surprise this season? What’s a thing you didn’t expect that just you know surprised the heck out of you?

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…

Amanda Tapping: Miles.

Robin Dunne: …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.

Question: I know it was a big blow to the series of course when Ashley died. I was wondering if she’s ever going to come back in some way – form? Because I know a lot of fans miss her.

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.

Question: Well on the plus side of that, I think a lot of the fan base has finally fully warmed up to Kate and she’s become a really good – great member of the team.

Amanda Tapping: She has. She really has, and it wasn’t like we were trying to replace Ashley with Kate. I mean, Kate – we really wanted her to be a very different character, and we wanted her not to be liked at the beginning.

We wanted the audience to go on the same ride that the Sanctuary team members were going on with Kate. Mistrustful. Not even liking her. You know, at times finding her annoying. And certainly, it’s taking the time to build trust. And that’s how the Sanctuary team saw here, and that’s what we wanted the audience to go on the exact same ride.

So to hear the negative comments at the beginning, it was almost like, “Great. We’re doing our job because we’re doing exactly what we set out to do and people are on board.”

And then to see the comments shift as the story lines were shifting and the characters were shifting, it made total sense to us. So I think we brought her in in the right way. It would’ve been you know easy and boring to bring in a character that was instantly likable and you know, had a lot of the same characteristics as Ashley. But, it would’ve been completely – a completely bogus way to do it.

And again, it would’ve been disrespectful to the character of Ashley, and disrespectful to the new actor coming in.

Robin Dunne: and also just to have seen the evolution of the character of Kate, coming from that place where she wasn’t trusted by anybody in the Sanctuary. Her allegiances were unclear as to you know, who she was – what – who’s side she was on. And to see where that character has come now, and the fact that she really is part of the team and really has a deep caring for the Sanctuary and the connection to the team, it is really nice. And, I think Agam’s done a great job of…

Amanda Tapping: Sort of bridging that gap. Like in you know, coming from one side of it into the other, and it’s happened really in a really nice way. We’re really thrilled. We’re thrilled at the way things have worked out.

Question: Well, I totally can’t wait until the next part of the season starts. You guys left it at a hideously horrible cliffhanger.

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