Media Musings

Q & A with Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne

Recently I was given the honor to join in on a chat with the lovely Amanda Tapping and the challenging Robin Dunne. Usually when people end up in a discussion with someone they have dogged in their recaps, they make apologies and dump piles of praise on the previously attacked person. I’m not going to do that. Heck, I didn’t even do that in the discussion. Robin is a good guy though, he is a real sport about it and has a nice sense of humor.

Amanda and Robin both were very excited about and upcoming episode called “Normandy.” The title alone is intriguing, but the excitement in their responses makes me a little eager to get to that one myself. The discussion overall was a bit silly, but it was pretty fun that Robin and Amanda are so comfortable with each other.

One of the highlights of the experience is that PRG gets the exclusive privilege of not having my name mistyped as Abner.

Here are some of the good bits from the conference call:

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.

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.

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.

Is there anything that really surprised you coming up about your character that you weren’t expecting or that happened earlier in the season?

Amanda Tapping: We had a cool episode towards 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…

Robin Dunne: 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 — are – 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…
Amanda Tapping: 19.

And Robin, I’m looking forward to talking to you a little bit later or sometime about Metamorphosis.

Robin Dunne: Yes. That was a really cool episode too. I just did the DVD commentary yesterday with the director, Andy Mikita, and just…

Amanda Tapping: Robin was amazing in this episode Metamorphosis, because he was – also acted as the camera man. 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.
Robin Dunne: 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.

Who would be your ultimate guest stars to have on the show?

Robin Dunne: Ultimate guest stars?
Amanda Tapping: Wow. We’ve had our ultimate guest stars.
Robin Dunne: We’ve had some great, great people on the show.
Amanda Tapping: We’ve been so lucky. I mean, I sort of jokingly said this once that I think it would be really cool if Helen Mirren came in a flashback as my mom. But, that’s thinking so far outside the box that it’ll never happen.
But we’ve been very lucky in that every guest star we’ve brought on has sort of been somebody for the most part who’s not that well known and who has ended up becoming a massive fan favorite. And you know I speak of Jonathan Young, and Ian Tracy, and Peter Wingfield, and Vince Gail; like all these incredible actors have come on our show – and actresses. We had Polly Walker and she was great.
We’ve been really lucky. Besides Helen Mirren, I’m not sure who to suggest.
Robin Dunne: I’d like to see Bill Clinton on the show. I think…
Amanda Tapping: Will’s like, “Yes!”

Okay. One last question. Let me side track and ask you both about different shows for a second. Amanda, can you talk a little bit about Riese? And then Robin, can you talk about working on NCIS?

Robin Dunne: Yes.
Amanda Tapping: Riese for me was sort of a gift that feel from the sky. I knew the guys who were doing Riese. I had met them – of course, we know almost all of the actors on the show. And, they had put together this really cool web series, and I had seen some of the Webisodes and I just was blown away by how well they had done it on such a small budget. And the production value was great and the story was cool.
And then I got asked by Syfy if I would be willing to do the voice over – sort of narration. And so yes – I said, “Yes. Are you sure the Riese guys are okay with that?” And they seemed pretty cool, and that’s how I got involved. It was really, really very simple.
And I was able to sit for about four hours one night in our sound booth in our sound stages at Shark Sound, and with a Network Executive and the producers of Riese and we just went through everything and narrated it. It was really for me a very small commitment, but a really great opportunity.
Robin Dunne: Thanks for asking about NCIS. I’m a child of the ‘80s. I grew up watching all those great ‘80s movies and you know, Summer School. And I was a big fan of Mark Harmon, so I kind of hounded the Casting Director of that show. I go, “Let’s go and do an episode of NCIS. I got to do an episode of NCIS.” And that was a truly amazing experience.
Mark Harmon – I can’t say enough about this guy. He is the classiest, most gentlemanly person that I’ve experienced in the business. He’s just a truly amazing guy, and it was really a wonderful experience working with him. I think every young actor should do an episode – should work with Mark Harmon just to have a lesson in how to comport yourself. A wonderful guy and it was such a lot of fun.
And again, I’m a big fan and I got to talk to him about Summer School, which was cool. Not going to summer school, which I did, the movie Summer School. So yes, it was a lot of fun and I can’t say enough about that guy. What a great guy.

What are some of things that you do? You’re coming back for a fourth season now. You’ve had a break. What are some of the things that you do to get back into your characters?

Amanda Tapping: It’s a really good question Michael, because for me it’s really hard, because I don’t – I find her very confusing and besides just going and getting my hair cut and dyed dark brown and getting rid of my blonde roots and learning how to walk in Stilettos again. There’s sort of a physical transformation for Magnus.

I kind of have to wrap my head around a different head space with her. And for me I always get very nervous at the beginning of the season as to whether or not I’ll find her again. And the writing is there, and so you know as long as I know all of the scripts I’m pretty safe. But it is a bit of a panic at the beginning of every season.
Robin Dunne: For me it’s the exact opposite. I have to learn how to not walk in Stilettos and wear regular – which is awkward. And sit ups I guess. I try to do at least 4 sit ups a day, and I haven’t seen any results yet, but I’m sticking to it. But yes. I think also there is – you know, this is Friday. We’re starting Season 4 on Monday, and every season, I have the same feeling of like, “Okay. Here we go. Back into the jungle for you know, more insanity.”
Amanda Tapping: Yes.
Robin Dunne: So, there’s a little bit of talking yourself off the ledge at this point.
Amanda Tapping: Yes. A bit of a panic.
Robin Dunne: And then once you’re into it and you’ve got a few days under your belt, it’ll be back on the…
Amanda Tapping: Yes. I’ve been taking kick boxing this hiatus. And I think – and I loved it for a lot of different reasons. But, I think now it’s sort of become more technical for me, so I think – and that’s been in preparation for some of the fight sequences coming up, and I’ve talked to our stunt coordinator. So stuff like that when your real life actually ends up leading into your work life in a positive way, that’s been really fun. So, I’ve sort of been ramping up my kick boxing workout.
Robin Dunne: Purely just so she can beat…
Amanda Tapping: Kick your bum.
Robin Dunne: …beat me up.
Amanda Tapping: Yes.

And then there were was me. Someone clearly knew the spelling was incorrect, because my name was the only one in parentheses:

(Me): I didn’t actually know Robin was going to be on the call, so I’m just kind of winging it with the questions now.

Robin Dunne: You’re just going to hang up now. You’re like, “What? He’s there? Oh, forget that. God.”
Amanda Tapping: Oh, man.
(Me): I thought about it. I really did.
Robin Dunne: I don’t blame you. I honestly don’t blame you.
(Me): Well, I had a – you said you loved going on set to get your hair done. Is it your fault that Will went from slightly nerdy to – as Kate would say, “coated in hair gel?”
Robin Dunne: Everything’s my fault I think. I just say it as there’s a blanket thing.
Yes. There has been – the hair has gone through many versions throughout the…
Amanda Tapping: There’s been quite an evolution.
Robin Dunne: Evolution of Will’s hair.
Amanda Tapping: It started sticking up so much that the Vis Effects team said, “Don’t put him in front of a green screen with that hair.”
Robin Dunne: Yes.
Amanda Tapping: Then we knew we had to do something about it.
Robin Dunne: Yes. When…
Amanda Tapping: That’s when we knew an intervention – a hair gel intervention was needed.
– We continued the tangent, but I forget the detail and the transcription wasn’t complete. –
Robin Dunne: When Lee Wilson, our Visual Effects guy and also one of our Executive Producers and Directors, kind of cornered me and just said in his voice, “You know, listen. We really got to do something about your hair.” I realized – okay. You know, maybe a change needs to come.
But, I think Kate was exaggerating. I don’t know that I really coat – was covered in hair gel. Maybe…
Amanda Tapping: You were.
Robin Dunne: A little bit. I mean we all need some product. I don’t know. But yes. Yes.
Robin Dunne: The hair is interesting.
I don’t mind what it looks like as long as I manage to keep it on my head, you know, which is a daily struggle.
(Me): I had some questions for you Amanda, but it seems like they were already answered or you can’t really answer them.
Amanda Tapping: Oh.
(Me): Some of them concerning your interest in – love interests I guess.
Amanda Tapping: Oh yes.
Robin Dunne: But the best thing about…
Amanda Tapping: The episode hasn’t actually been written yet, but I just put it out there to the writers and they seem to have embraced the idea. And, that’s all I can tell you.
Robin Dunne: And embrace…
(Me): I want to ask you if it has anything to do with the Comic-Con discussion that you had with Damien.
Amanda Tapping: Wow. Remind me.
(Me): I think it was last year’s Comic-Con. You were talking about a colleague from your past that came back.

-Transcriber missed this bit too, but we were referring to Magnus’ likely open sexuality.  –

Amanda Tapping: No. This is somebody entirely different.
(Me): Okay. Well you said interesting, so I was thinking back to that.
Amanda Tapping: Ah.
Robin Dunne: Magnus did have a fling with Elvis, but I don’t know that that’s going to — she was at Graceland for maybe three weeks or so in the late ‘60s.
Amanda Tapping: I just couldn’t find the door. That was the problem.
Robin Dunne: Yes. Awkward.
Amanda Tapping: Awkward.
(Me): Very. You guys were talking about the guests that you’ve had. And just one raging question is has Mark Sheppard ever signed to show up on your show, because he’s been on everything else.
Amanda Tapping: No. Hasn’t even expressed an interest.
(Me): Wow I guess he’s just busy.
Amanda Tapping: Should we be offended?
(Me): I don’t know. I mean, he’s been pulled in so many directions. He’s been on everything at least once.
Robin Dunne: Yes. What the heck you know?
Amanda Tapping: Yes. Gee. I’m feeling slighted.
Robin Dunne: I’m going to call him. I’m going to get him on the phone right now and just be like, “Hey…”
Amanda Tapping: “Dude? What up?”
Robin Dunne: “…what’s up with that? What are we? A mirage?”
(Me): That’s been requested many times by a lot of folks I know, so – he’s required.
Are there going to be more episodes like to go back to The Five?
Amanda Tapping: Yes. Yes. There are a couple coming up in the second half of this season. Normandy in particular, the episode we keep talking about, brings back The Five in a really, really cool way. Awakening is an episode where we have Jonathan Young, everyone’s favorite vampire.
(Me): Great.
Amanda Tapping: And our last episode, Into the Blue, or second to last episode, brings back Druitt in a weird way. So yes. The one that probably speaks to The Five the most is Normandy.
(Me): Okay. It sounded like it, but I had to make sure. So is there going to be a lot more of just you and Chris in particular?
Amanda Tapping: In the second half, there’s a couple. Yes. There are a couple of episodes that speak to that relationship, as you know dysfunctional as it is.
(Me): It’s like watching an entirely different show.
Amanda Tapping: Yes.
(Me): Yes. I think ran out of stuff. But yes, it was great talking to you guys. I think I’m done now though.
Amanda Tapping: Okay, great.
Robin Dunne: Cool.
Amanda Tapping: Thank you so much.
Robin Dunne: Thanks a lot.

There were a few more questions after that but I was busy messaging all my nerdy friends that I just got to talk to Amanda Tapping. I can admit this here because I am neither ashamed about being really excited about it, nor dishonest about gloating and because I wouldn’t have gotten to without the fine folks here at PRG.

It was fun times I hope that the season goes great