After 10 years of combat boots, she has to navigate the stilettos
Amanda Tapping is not an easy person to get a chunk of time with.
The Vancouver-based star of the long-running series Stargate SG-1, which ended after 10 years but is continuing life in made-for-TV movies, is also a recurring player in the spin-off Stargate: Atlantis, and most recently signed on as star and executive producer of the currently-shooting new sci-fi series Sanctuary.
So an interview we tried to schedule when the movie Stargate: Continuum came out last May finally happened last week, during breaks in shooting at Sanctuary’s Burnaby soundstage. Sanctuary’s 13 episodes wrap this week.
In sci-fi circles, what Tapping calls “the genre,” she’s the kind of name that can launch a series, as she’s doing now with Sanctuary. But hers isn’t the kind of fame that follows her home on rare days off with her three-year-old daughter and home-builder husband.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” says Tapping, who can draw thousands of fans to appearances at such events as San Diego’s annual Comic-Con. “I never went into acting to become a celebrity, I never got that culture, I still don’t get it. Working in Vancouver, raising my family here, it’s perfect, I get to do exactly what I want to do.”
And what Tapping wants to do now is switch sci-fi gears from Stargate’s guns-and-boots astronaut, to Sanctuary’s urbane Dr. Helen Magnus, a 157-year-old immortal who cares for “abnormals” — genetically mutated creatures trying to get by in an unspecified noir city. The series, which begins airing Oct. 3 on the Movie Channel and Movie Central in Canada as well as the U.S. Sci-Fi channel and all over Europe, is unique in that its creatures and most of its sets are almost entirely created digitally.
So Tapping and her castmates do most of their work against blank green backgrounds while the city, Magnus’s gothic sanctuary complex and far-flung locales from the Himalayas to Rome’s catacombs come to life in a computer.
Onetime Stargate writer-producer Damian Kindler conceived Sanctuary’s world and enlisted Tapping along with Stargate producer-director Martin Wood to make the new show, at first done as a series of 15-minute episodes streamed onto the Internet in 2006. They got private investors to bankroll that nearly $4-million project, which drew millions of hits and a high profile among sci-fi diehards.
“It was a huge experiment, a big leap of faith for all of us,” says Tapping. “We talked about the convergence of new media, how sci-fi fans live and breathe on the web. So we’d take a show straight to them. Do a social networking site, a whole community, an alternate reality game.”
Armed with a fanbase, they took the concept to TV networks around the globe, and have since reshot and digitally pumped up the eight 15-minute webisodes into the two-hour pilot for the TV series.
“On the business side, it’s very difficult to monetize on the web, but it made a lot of sense in the purity of our ideals,” she says with a wry laugh. “We garnered a huge amount of worldwide buzz and that got us to the television stage.”
As principal photography wraps on the show, Tapping as executive producer will turn her attention to months of post-production with visual effects producer Lee Wilson, who turned actor Jeremy Irons into twins 20 years ago for David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, and who this year has his fourth Emmy nomination for the U.S. miniseries Tin Man. Taking part in that work is a new wrinkle for Tapping.
“I don’t know as much about the post pipeline as I would like, because I’m always on set.”
The Toronto-raised actor was aiming for a career on the stage before Stargate came calling in 1997. Tapping says the new show constitutes a turn from Stargate’s military squad on alien planets. Sanctuary’s Helen Magnus got her start in the Victorian England of Dracula and Jack the Ripper, and some nemeses from that era have followed her to the modern world.
“I felt the need leaving Stargate to completely reinvent myself as an actor,” she says. “I’ve learned to walk in stilettos which, trust me after 10 years in combat boots — big, big change, as silly as that sounds. Helen is 157 years old, she’s outlived all of her friends, all of her lovers. There’s an element of melancholy.”
And meanwhile, it seems, you can never really leave Stargate. Another movie is planned to reteam the SG-1 cast. The most recent movie Continuum was replete with in-jokes aimed at longtime fans.
“A lot of the stuff is ad-libbed, we riff off each other really well,” says Tapping, who watched that film with fans on a U.S. aircraft carrier in San Diego as part of last spring’s Comic-Con. “We all enjoy it, it’s perfect to get the band back together for short little bursts of great fun, then off we go.”
Source: The Province (newpaper)