She’s been cursed with “The Black Widow Syndrome”, and the uncanny ability to speak technobabble flawlessly. She’s gotten to be both “The Girl” of the team and “The Man” of the expedition. We’ve literally watched her progress from Captain to full-bird Colonel. But despite all this, there’s still one question she can’t answer: will she ever be with Jack?! From Samantha Carter of SG-1 to Atlantis, and then to Helen Magnus of Sanctuary, Amanda Tapping has really done it all.
I want to apologize for how long it has taken to get this report up. As you’ll see, the report is very lengthy. It took over a week to finish it, and then when I was ready to post, my computer started to have a malfunction! So I want to thank you for your patience, and I hope you find the wait to be worth it!
I was SO excited to finally see Amanda. I missed her first visit to Chicago. I was forced to go only one day, so I had a choice: see Amanda and Christopher Judge, or Michael Shanks and Don Davis. As the actor who plays my favorite character, I couldn’t help but choose Michael’s day, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the late Don Davis. When SG-1 was cancelled I became afraid that the fandom’s followers would slowly peter out, and convention tours would end. Since Amanda hadn’t yet returned to Chicago, I panicked and splurged on a signed photo so that I would have it in case I never got to see her. Then the opportunity came to go to Vancouver, and lo and behold, Amanda was headlining! Little did I know that at the 2008 Chicago convention, they would announce that she would be once again in my own backyard, but I was going to drive five days cross-country largely to see her! I laughed at myself!
As my friend RadioStar and I have discussed several times since the convention, it’s one thing to see an actor on TV as themselves and to believe they’re really nice, and a whole other thing to actually meet them and discover that they really are that nice and then some. Amanda is one of those actresses. She’s completely down to earth, and so friendly! I thought I’d clam up once I reached her in the autograph line, but her smile was so welcoming I was able to tell her how long I’d waited to see her. She shook my hand, too!
Amanda really has a completely different style to answering questions than most of the other actors I’ve encountered. I can’t help but wonder if she practices! She stays so focused on what the question is that I don’t think it took more than five minutes for her to answer any one question! Consequently, she answered A LOT of questions, but she still had a ton of fun doing it! How could I tell? Well, she would literally crack herself up! Read on and you’ll see!
Amanda has always been one to show her gratitude to the fans, and she started off by doing so again. “I don’t really have anything to say except thank you so much for being here, and thanks to Creation for inviting me back, and I hope you guys had a great weekend. [Everyone gives their best cheer!] I’ve had a great time. It’s been nice to see some old faces again – (trying to correct her little blunder) not old as in ‘you’re old’, but old as in familiar faces, friendly faces. It’s been nice to see familiar face – aww! (Hangs her head in defeat, then laughs) It’s been nice to see some familiar faces and to meet some new friends, so this has been great. Um (shrugs), yeah, it’s Sanctuary shooting, me executive producing, mothering, acting, busy girl, happy! Yep, that’s my life. Anything else want to know? (Laughs)”
What kind of production differences have you found between making Stargate and Sanctuary? “On Stargate we used to get the scripts quite a bit out. There was a whole staff of writers so you’d have a good few weeks with a script so generally by the time we went to camera I’d read that script about six or seven times. And the actors would often get together and run scenes. If Michael and I had a really intense scene together, or Rick [Dean Anderson] and I . . . Um, (laughs) not so much with Chris [Judge] because he doesn’t say much, but he was there! No, he’s awesome. But with Sanctuary, because there’s been such a time crunch whenever we started shooting, I don’t have as long. So my husband Alan has become the guy – All the characters? – Yeah, and he did that on Stargate. He had a blast. He’s be Daniel and he’d be (drops her voice down as much as possible) Teal’c, and he’d be (with a Texan twang) General Hammond. Every single one sounded like an FBI guy. Even if he was playing Doctor Fraiser, it’s like, ‘you still sound like an FBI guy’.”
If Sam had been trapped in the timeloop with Teal’c in ‘Window of Opportunity’ instead of Jack, and realized there would be no consequences to her actions, just like Jack did, what would Sam do, and what would Amanda do? We ooooooh’ed and then Amanda looked at us slyly. “Carter, with no social constraints on her, would have done much more than a kiss, I’m telling ya! (Shrugs) So would Amanda, I’ve got to be honest! Amanda is way too conscientious. So is Carter, but I think if Carter had fully the opportunity (waves her hand like she’s clearing a board) with full impunity to do whatever she wanted, yeah. She would – he was doing that pottery thing, maybe she would have redone the scene from Ghost with him, I don’t know.”
Next, a fan came up and said to Amanda that a friend of his was on his phone, and that friend is a big fan of hers. He asked if she would say hi to him. Amanda, being as gracious as she is, said yes. She took the phone and said, “Hi, this is Amanda Tapping” and then stuck the microphone up against the phone so we could here he guy go “Ahhhhh . . . .!” She then chatted with him off the mic so we couldn’t hear. Since we had just been specifically asked not to make special requests or tell long stories, we all got bored very quickly. Everyone said, “Bye!” to tell the guy on the other line to let her go! I heard Amanda laugh and tell him, “They all say ‘bye’. It was nice talking to you! Take care! Bye!” She gave the phone back and said to us, “Russell in Calgary. Very sweet!”
Is there anything that you got to experience on Stargate SG-1 or Atlantis that you would normally have had the opportunity to experience? “YES. (Counting off on her fingers) Right after 9/11 I went to the Middle East on a USO tour. I would never have done that if I wasn’t on Stargate. Awesome. Sat in the cockpit of an F-16. Went to the North Pole, shot a movie. I got to run through the woods in North Vancouver, firing a gun, which if I weren’t on Stargate, would have gotten me into a lot of trouble! So yeah, it seemed like every day was some sort of wacky adventure. When we shot our pilot – and this s crazy going back this far – I distinctly remember looking at Michael and saying, – like this big explosion went off (shows us the explosion, arm going up in the air and making a “boosh!” sound) and we’re with our guns (shows us holder her gun) and I’m like ‘Oh my God, this is like we’re little kids, only we’re getting paid for it! And we have better explosions!’ It’s crazy. I got to experience so much because of it, but the things that stick out in my mind the most would be the USO tour and the North Pole.”
Do you have a favorite child actor? “We were just talking about that back stage. We had an amazing talent pool of kids in Vancouver. We still do. To have Katie Stuart and Colleen Rennison [both played Cassandra], we had Cameron Bright [young Orlin]. Honestly I don’t know that I had a favorite. They were all really amazing. Katie, because she was my first. (Laughs) you always remember your first one. The little girl from ‘Grace’? She was just the sweetest little – oh she is so so sweet. I couldn’t pick a favorite, I’m sorry. Because they were all really amanzing.”
What do you think happened to Cassandra? “Cassie is at University. She’s not going to join the AirForce. Might break our hearts and join the Navy or something. [Amanda must have seen some people – jokingly I’m sure – taking offense} I’m kidding! (waving her hands in an exaggerated ‘calm down’ motion) Whoa! Hey! . . . She’s still at University. She’s going to get her PHD in Fantasticness. [The fan asking the question says, “She’s following in your footsteps!”] (Shrugs) Pretty much. Yeah. (Laughs and does this funny little shrugging grinning thing) Am I blushing? (Feels her face and fans it) Woo it’s hot in here, right?”
After choosing him in ‘Trio’, has Neil Degrasse Tyson given you a personal tour? “No.” But you chose him! “He won’t even return my calls, which is awkward. (Laughs) I haven’t, but I’m a huge fan now. Like now I’m interested. [The fan who asked tells Amanda he’s been on another show.] Yeah, I know. (puts a hand up like ‘talk to the hand’) It’s a little bit of a sore spot (laughs).”
What’s a role that you would really like to play? Eleanor from ‘The Lion in Winter’ was Amanda’s pick. Then she was asked Who would play Henry? Amanda said Richard Dean Anderson! We laughed and she said, “What? He would! Going after the younger women, breaking my heart. (Hangs her head) That would be fun. We could actually do the whole Stargate cast for ‘The Lion in Winter’. Michael Shanks as Richard, and Chris [Judge] could be Geoffrey. And Teryl, we bring her back, and she could be Alaise Capet. (Thinking, starring up) Um, yeah.” Someone says, “Who would play John?” “Ben [Browder] . . . Ben! (doubles over laughing, and then pops up) Tempted to say Gary Jones, but it would be funnier if it was Ben. And Claudia, we’d have to find a place for her, too. Yeah, it’d be fun.”
Amanda directed an episode of SG-1 back in season 7, entitled ‘Resurrection’, which coincidentally Michael Shanks wrote. Regarding that episode, Amanda was asked, Can you tell us about what it’s like to direct for your own show? “Absolutely. The hard thing about directing on a show that you’re on is trying to find the prep time, because the writers then have to write you out of the script prior, which didn’t happen for me, because we were doing a big two-parter. And then you have to kind of be less in the script that you’re in so that you can shoot it, which didn’t happen to me because we didn’t have the time. And then you need to be sort of less in the script afterwards. So the basically have to take the actor out of three scripts so you can do the prep and the shooting and the post. So it’s a lot hard to get actors to direct episodes, especially of an on-going episodic like that. (Laughing) Having said that, I’ll be directing episode six of Sanctuary this year. (Shrugs) I don’t know how I’m going to do it! I’m crazy, is what it is.”
The next questioner came up armed and dangerous . . . with a lemon! He said, “The next time you see Brad Wright-” “Would you like me to do something?” Amanda interjected, seeing the lemon. “You’d like me to ask him to go suck a lemon?” She took the proffered lemon, and tossed it a few times. “(Laughing) He is writing the third Stargate movie, so I perhaps might not be the best person to ask him to do that. ‘Hey man, go suck a lemon! (Shocked) Carter is what? She’s teaching at the academy for the whole movie. What?! . . . She froze her leg off? What?!’ (Grimaces and laughs) I understand there’s a lot of disgruntled Atlantis fans, me being one of them, but I don’t think it’s necessarily correct to blame Brad. Persay. I don’t think that he was the guy that push the (blows through her lips, making a sound similar to the ‘boosh’ explosion sound she made earlier, only far more pathetic!) button on Atlantis. I think it came from a lot of different directions. It’s funny with episodic television. You don’t have as much control as you think you do. Or you don’t think that the creators – we all think that they have a huge amount of control, but now being one of the people on that side of the fence for Sanctuary, all is not what it seems. We are merely puppets with many strings being pulled by many different people. So, in his defense, and just so I don’t have to tell him to suck a lemon! (Laughs) But I appreciate the sentiment!”
What do you think is happening right now with Sam and Jack, and if you can hint for movie three . . . ? “Ah, you what, I am not lying when I say to you I know nothing about movie three. Except that, ah, hopefully I’ll be in it, that it’s shooting apparently sometime in the Fall-ish (waving her hands to go with that shaky approximation), and that um, ah, that’s it! That’s all I know! Rick will be in it, I’ll be in it, Michael and Chris, that’s what I’ve heard. I don’t know beyond that. But it’s all rumor and hear-say, except that – and I think they want Martin Wood to direct it. So yeah, it’s awesome. Because he’s great. So, oh, what are Sam and Jack doing right now? (Cocks her head at the fan who asked is if to say, “Do you really want me to explain?” To someone in the front, probably a kid) Jason, cover your ears. Um . . . I would like to think, to be perfect honest, that after all this time there is some pay-off. [We cheer!] I know some people don’t want to see that. And you don’t have to watch (laughs). But I would like to think that these are two intelligent, vital human beings, with healthy appetites, who have endured eleven-odd years of puritanical rule and it’s time to . . . go fishing! I mean watching us kiss in the video [the music video that proceeded Amanda’s appearance] I’m like (shrugs) ‘yeah, it works.'” The fan who asked replies, “From your mouth to the producers ears.” “Yes. . . at very least, just once, they should have amazing (stops herself, letting us fill in the blank for ourselves!). At least once! Just to say, ‘Phew! We finally did it! . . . Well we got that out of the way. See ya! Thanks! (waves)’ Well no, that would not be right. They’d date and get married and stuff. (Laughing and saying to so quickly and quietly it was almost hard to make out.) No I just want them to have s#%, that’s all.” Amanda held up an index finger and mouths, “ONCE”.
As a citizen of both Canada and Great Britain and having lived in both, what are some of your favorite places? “Vancouver is one of my favorite parts of Canada. I think it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. Having moved her for Stargate and now staying her for Sanctuary, it’s so beautiful here. It’s a perfect place to raise a family, it’s a perfect place to have a big dog, (laughing) both of which are important to me. Yeah, it’s got everything. The lifestyle suits me to a T. Outdoors, the woods, kayaking, so for me Vancouver is perfect. I don’t know if I have a favorite part of England. I love London as a city because it’s so different from here, and because it feels like home in a lot of ways. But my aunt and uncle live up in Lincolnshire and it’s beautiful country. And I’m also a fan of the South coast of England, so yeah, [Lists off a whole mess of cities/towns/provinces in England that I couldn’t possibly write down in a way I could recognize for what they are now because I’m an American and I can’t spell.] But you know what? I’ve never been – and this is insane – I’m from the UK and I’ve never been to Scotland. [Some people groan] I know, it’s a travesty. [Someone shouts “Wales?”] Or Wales. I’ve been close to Wales. (Waving) I’ve looked across at Wales. My stepfather was from Wales so I feel like I’ve been there. . . . No, I don’t. So I have to go to Scotland.”
Can you tell us about how the episode ‘Grace’, which was such a Sam-centered episode, came about? “At the beginning of that season , Rob Cooper sat me down and said, ‘What would you like to see happen with Sam?’ and I said, ‘She needs to explore what makes her tick and she needs to explore what’s missing in her life and she needs to have a sort of epiphany moment of exactly that, of what’s important.’ And ironically, he said, ‘Well Damian Kinder is writing this episode right now called ‘Grace’ and it’s about that. It’s about who she turns to and about what’s missing in her life. Should she have gotten married, should she have had children, dadadadadada.’ So, serendipitously I was thinking the same thing. And Damian wrote it and it was such a great episode to shoot. Really fun.”
Amanda is an actress, a mother of a young daughter, and an executive producer. This begs the next question: How do you do it all? “By working a 36 hour day, by flying backwards (windmills an arm backwards) and changing the rotation of the Earth. (Laughs) I wish I could do that! You what’s really funny is that I find that the busier I am, the more I get done. I think that’s true for a lot of people, right? You just like keep going and going and going and going. I – knock wood (knocks on her own head) – have found magically right now, at this moment, the balance. Where I don’t feel like my family, my daughter is compromised, I don’t feel like my job is compromised, I feel like I’m spread just thin enough that everything is being covered properly. But there are moments when I feel – the biggest problem for me is being a mom. (Putting up a hand haltingly) No no, poo. That’t not right! The biggest problem is being a working mom. The best thing in my life is being a mom. But that’s the thing that’s the hardest, trying to find that balance. But for some reason, right now, Happyville. So it’s all good. It’s just, (looks upwards and pretends to juggle) juggling balls, all the time.”
Do you think that, with all Jack’s idiosyncrasies, a real relationship between Jack and Sam would last? “(Laughs) Um, yes, we like to them his ‘idiot-syncrasies’. I mean that with all the love in my heart. . . . I do. I do think it would last, because I think they’ve known each other so long and they’re such good friends, and they’ve been through everything together. They’ve nearly died together. When you have that kind of bond with people, absolutely I think it would last. Otherwise the team wouldn’t have stayed together, if these four people didn’t love each other as much as they did, and understand each other as well as they do. So yeah, I totally think it would last.”
A fan had some questions for Helen Magnus, so, in her British accent, Amanda answered the following questions: What is your favorite activity? “Doing things with abnormals!” And when you want to relax and watch DVDs your favorite show is Stargate SG-1? “Clearly!” And your favorite character is Sam Carter, right? “Of course! (looks at us and shrugs like, “That’s a no-brainer!”)” You’ve probably noticed that she has developed this Black Widow syndrome? “Yes. Pathetic.” Are you worried about the same thing? You seem to have outlived all your love interests. “Yes, but I can’t help that, you see. They just keep dying before me. But you’re keeping that reputation! (Drops the accent, laughing) That’s such a funny question! Yeah, she can’t help it! She can’t help that she just doesn’t die! She just keeps going, she’s like an Energizer bunny. The Five, our little bunnies in The Five, Druitt of course, her paramour . . . It’s really funny, because I’m just going to reveal something really silly. I, Amanda, love working with Chris Heyerdahl. He’s a wonderful actor. And he’s so easy to fall in love with, like it’s so easy for Helen to fall in love with Druitt, because it’s Chris playing him and he plays him so beautifully and it’s so intense and it’s so (swooning, I guess it the best word) whaaaaaa. And Martin [Wood], every time he sees me sort of going that way where Helen is like (dreamily starring up at Chris Heyerdahl), he keeps coming up to me and going, ‘Amanda, he’s a mass murderer! He killed women!’ (Bopping herself on the head) ‘Ah, oh, yeah, yeah! But he’s the great love of Helen’s life. He’s her first love. This is passion at its finest and it’s transcended time and now, a hundred plus years later, here they are and he still makes her heart skip a beat.’ And Martin is like, ‘He killed women!’ So every time Chris and I have these moments, and of course we’re shooting right now so Helen and Druitt have had some pretty intense moments, we’ll be looking at each other, and Chris will go (dropping her voice to make it sound like his) ‘Remember I’ve killed women.’ So it’s kind of become a joke on our set. I can’t even look at Chris without him going, (takes her index fingers and makes an ‘x’ over her eye) ‘I’ve killed women’. Yep. So now Martin is embarrassed that he said that, but . . . (whispers) he’s killed women! It’s like haunting me.”
How was it to have two women against three guys instead of three against one? “Well, two very smart and powerful women! Against three boys. Will all due respect to my boys. No, the weirder thing for me was season 9. I was coming back, Claudia was there, I’d just had a baby and I was like a hormonal basket case. Olivia was like five weeks old when I went back to work. (Chokes back emotion as we go ‘awww!’) Yeah, so I hadn’t slept and . . . my boobs, and things . . . I was breast-feeding. That’s what I meant by ‘my boobs’. So, I walked onto the set and I hadn’t been there from the beginning and every season there’s a new sort of ‘first day of school’ vibe. And I missed that, so I felt like I had to catch up because they’d made this connection and had all these great adventures without me and it was really weird. Rick wasn’t there. It was like, ‘(running in and waving, with an odd high voice and a lisp, which is no doubt an impersonation of something I’m just not familiar with) High guys, I’m a new kid! I like chess and basketball.’ So I just felt like I had to catch up in season 9. And then Claudia left and I missed her because she’s really cool and it was nice to have another woman on the show. And then 10 didn’t feel like as much of a transition as 9 did for me. 10 was really easy, and it was great to have another woman. I really missed having Teryl on the set. Just to have somebody to turn to and just giggle like a giddy idiot. In the truest and finest sense, which I loved doing with Teryl. Like we could just look at each other and tears stream down our face and we’re laughing, so it was nice to have that again. Terleen and Minnie! We have still got so much hair to decorate!”
Oh dear. Apparently, the next fan in line had heard about a prank Chris Judge played on Amanda while they were filming ‘Unending’ and wanted to hear the who story from Amanda. “Do you want the visual? (Laughs) Ok, the scene is Beau Bridges’ character [General Landry] is dying, and it’s Beau and he’s so le gravitas. He’s so amazing. And Carter is by his side and she’s crying and then he passes and she goes to the door and the door opens and Teal’c is there. Chris and I decided, even though it wasn’t written into the script, that Teal’c and Carter, (juggles her hands) something happened. Something deepened their relationship. It doesn’t have to be specific. There was just a connection between the two of them that was more profound than it had been. So we played this hug and crying, and it’s this moment, and great. So we do the rehearsal and everything is amazing. Go to shoot the scene (with a voice the makes it sound like she’s crying) I’m crying, Beau is dying, Booooohohoho! Doors open and Chris is wearing this leather thong. With the SG-1 logo. And when they closed the doors he was standing there and he was wearing little sports track pants kind of thing, which I did not know were tear-away (acts out tearing) track pants. So he’s like, ‘Ok, (thumbs up) have a good one, I’ll see you!’ The doors close, we get great and shoot, (makes a motion with her hands to indicate the opening doors) there he is, ‘Hey baby!’ I was shocked. It was very funny. But I didn’t look, I was like, “Oh, oh! (covers her eyes and turns away) Oh Gosh! (Peeks quickly) OH!’ Yeah. One of the big ‘kick yourself’ moments. ‘You covered your eyes! What were you thinking?’ (Closes her eyes and shakes her head at us, then laughs) Am I blushing again? Good times, good times! Phew! (Fans herself with her scarf).”
A young girl asked, Do you have any advice for aspiring actors? Take classes and do theater. Yeah, that’s my biggest advice, take classes and try to get on stage. Community theater, anything that you can and read read read. Read a lot of plays. But if you can get on stage I think that’s the truest test of metal for an actor is treading the boards in the immediate moment. And take classes. I still take classes, because I – and I think I said this in an interview recently – things that work for you now as a young actress won’t work for you when you’re 30, and won’t work for you when you’re 40 or 50. Thinks change, so it’s constantly important to keep tuning in to your instrument and go, ‘Ok, that doesn’t get me into that moment any more. Now I have to find something else.’ So take classes, lot of them.”
A gentleman came up and commented on the changes that were made to Sanctuary when it moved to television broadcast after starting out as webisodes. If you’re familiar with Sanctuary from the very beginning, you know what he means. In particular, he mentioned a joke from the webisodes that was changed into something a bit more serious in nature for the TV version. Regarding such changes, Amanda said, “It’s like what we talked about before with Atlantis and The Powers That Be not having as much power as you think that they do. What we found when Sanctuary went from webisodes – which we thought was this cool kind of vibe and this edgy little show, and like you said some sort of cool jokes – that when we took it to broadcast we had to tone certain things down. We felt in some ways like Sanctuary had been homogenized a bit by being on television. (With a ‘hang-on-a-sec’ gesture) Having said that, now, the converse reaction, because it was so successful on SciFi and here in Canada and on iTV in Britain, we’re now having a bit more autonomy, so we’re going to take the show back to the direction of the webisodes. And everyone is in agreement that that is where we should have kept going. Also because we got 2 very different writers. We only had two writers for the entire season of a television series, it’s insane. We had Damian and Sam Egan, both amazing writers, both very different in their styles, so I felt like every second episode of Sanctuary felt different. There’s one style and then the other style and then one style and then the other, so it felt like an interesting disconnect. Where as now every script will go through Damian’s typewriter and we’ll have a single cohesive vision, and because the network as more faith in us, because we’ve proven ourselves, and because we’re doing well, we’ll be able to go back to what we want the show to be. Not that it was not what we wanted it to be, but more what we want. . . . (Joking) The phone is ringing right now in my purse, and it’s the head of Sci-Fi.”
Will we ever see Richard Dean Anderson at a convention? “Richard is an elusive fellow when it comes to conventions. But I think we’re convincing him now that they’re really fun and he’s done a couple and he’s more comfortable, so yeah, it’s quite possible. I’m not saying it’s going to happen. I’m saying it’s more possible now because he enjoys the experience. I think he was afraid of them. And we kept going, ‘No it’s really fun! Come on, check it out!’ And we did that one in England and he had a great time and he has done some since and he has really enjoyed it, so yeah, it’s far more likely now that he’s had the convention experience and enjoyed it.”
A young women came up and briefly told Amanda that she is her hero, and Amanda inspired her to loose about 70 pounds. She wanted to know who Amanda’s hero is, and who Sam’s hero would be. Amanda had to think for a few seconds before answering. “(Talking to herself) Who would be one of Sam Carter’s heroes? I think her dad. Really. Once she realized what he was up against, once she forgave him for something that wasn’t his fault. He definitely is one of her biggest heroes. And for me, Carmen Argenziano, because he’s such a lovely man. Truly. Have any of you met him? [A smattering of people cheer, including me.] So the case is made. For me . . . there’s so many people I could say. My grandmother, who lived to 103 and a half. It was awesome! Crazy lady! Funny funny funny. She was born in 1901 in Britain, lived through two world wars there, and at the age of 65 moved to Canada without any of her kids. Like my mom didn’t go. Off she went with my Grandfather and then forged a whole new life for herself in Canada. And she just was a ballsy, kick-@$$, funny, smart, well-read woman. She didn’t have anything in her obituary where you could say, ‘Oh, she found the cure for cancer or she did this,’ she just lived her life but she lived it really honestly and really gracefully. And was just funny. Even up until the end she was like 103 (in an aged little voice and a British accent, thicker than her accent for Sanctuary) ‘and a half!’ Because she really wanted to be older than the Queen Mum when she died. It was like it became a mission. And then when she surpassed the Queen Mum’s age, she said (in that voice again) ‘Mandy, what am I doing here?’ ‘You’re here to inspire us.’ And she said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t really have a purpose.’ (Shrugs and nods) ‘But you’re here to inspire us.’ ‘Yeah but what’s that mean I do every day?’ (Shrugs) ‘I don’t know, inspire us!’ ‘How? How do I do that?’ ‘Because you’re still breathing and you’re funny! You’re amazing!’ She would be mine.”
How did Sanctuary get started? “Damian Kindler wrote a spec script when he was living in L.A. in 2000 for this crazy little show. He never put it on the shelf, he just – writers write, and he just kept writing. And then in late 2005/2006 he gave Martin Wood a copy, and he gave me a copy. We shot a little test scene in July, 2006, we shot the webisodes in 2007. The company that had been build around the webisodes sort of fell apart because we really tried to do too many things at once. We wanted to be like an international multimedia conglomerate (laughing) on a small budget (shows us how small with her thumb ans index finger about half an inch apart). But then broadcasters came calling and we moved on to television. That’s the Reader’s Digest condensed version of the story.”
Tell us about Requiem. Requiem was the hardest work I’ve ever done, for all of us. For Martin and for Robin [Dunne] and for myself. Requiem was written in four days. It’s astounding to me that Damian wrote the script in four days. For those of you who haven’t seen it, or maybe some of you haven’t seen Sanctuary and that’s a shame so please watch it (laughs, and someone in the front asks when it will be on DVD). Soon, we hope, actually. We have to wait for all the first windows to air before we can put out DVDs. [Someone in front says something more to Amanda but I couldn’t hear it. Amanda let her mic hand fall, looked around like ‘oh no they didn’t!’ and said into the mic] I’m making a making a call to our distributor. ‘Why aren’t we sold in Mexico?’ Requiem, my character Helen, and Robin Dunn who plays will Zimmerman [Someone goes ‘Woooo!’ for Robin] Yeah, cute!‘ It’s part of the perks of being executive producer. (Lowers her voice and says dangerously) ‘Cast that one and bring him to my trailer.’ (Laughs) It’s only funny cuz it’s true! Ah, ok, so here we are, Robin and I, in a submarine, in the Bermuda Triangle, exploring why these merpeople have gone missing. And Helen gets this virus and goes nuts. As my brothers who watched the episode said, ‘It’s just like watching you at 15!’ (Laughs) I was like, ‘Thank you so much.’ She’s never far from the surface, that hormonal 15 year old kid. But she goes crazy. And you know what’s interesting? Martin. He’s an amazing director and he’s very intuitive and he really loves actors. You see it in the Stargates that directs, and you see he’s got this crazy vision of how he wants to shoot things. But he came on this journey with us. And Martin and I had our first ever fight on the set of Requiem. Because he was in my face about pushing the envelope and I was pushing the envelope, and in a rehearsal scene I did he said, ‘Just get that, just GO!’ So I was like, ‘ok. Yaaaah!’ Unleashed my inner 15 year old. And he came up to me afterwards and said, ‘You can take it further. Take it further.’ And we had a fight. We’re best friends and I was like, (in a high pitched workless squeak, strutting forward to confront Martin) and he was like (squeaks again, bouncing on her toes). Maybe it was more like (repeats the squeak about 8 octaves lower). And the whole crew kind of when, ‘oh’. I’ve never ever ever gotten angry on a set, ever. And it was the first time and it was so intense and so close to the bone, and he just pushed a button and yeah, and I think ultimately we got the best work because of it. I mean it lasted for like two minutes, the fight. And then of course afterwards we went up to our office and we cried and we hugged and said, ‘(pretending to be blubbering, and doing such a good work you could hardly make out any words) I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to yell as you like that’. And the whole drive home we’re talking, ‘(blubbering again, but softer) I’m so sorry, Amanda, I didn’t mean that.’ But it was actually a great connection because I realized, after the fact, on the way home, that Martin was going on this journey too and it was just as important to him that we push as hard as we do. And that’s why he’s a great director.”
Amanda was asked a question about Air Force promotions on Stargate. “It was the funniest thing with Ben. I was like, ‘full bird, dude. (Pointing to her shoulder where her rank would be) Full bird’. It’a a big deal. It’s so funny on our show, whenever someone gets promoted we’re like, ‘we’ve really been promoted!’ Like it sooo (clutching a fist to her chest). So when they said, ‘We’re making you a full bird Colonel’ I did a little happy dance and then I walked around the set like, ‘(Showing off her insignia) That’s right! That’s right! (Points to it) Right there! See this thing on my collar? It says ‘Colonel, full bird’. Yeah. And we have to get talked down. ‘Still just a Doctor, Mr. Jackson?’ (We all crack up as she indicates the top of her head and says) I just came up with that. He’s still just a doctor. Full bird, doctor!”
What was your favorite episode, one for Atlantis and one for SG-1? “(Biting her upper lip) There’s a lot of episodes of SG-1. No, it’s a great question. I’d have to say for Atlantis, it wasn’t when I was a cast regular, but when I did the episode ‘Grace Under Pressure’ with David Hewlett. There was just a moment then she’s trying to help him, I think it’s post-kiss, – that was quite nice. It’s like so funny ad a married woman to be able to kill with full impunity. ‘It is my job. I’m sorry, have to make it look convincing, it’s my job!’But I digress. I have trouble separating the fun we had filming the episode from what happened in the episode. So for ‘Trio’, we had such a great time shooting it, and it was such a crazy shoot and the three of us laughed our heads off so much, that it’s like I can’t separate that from the moment in the episode. I look at ‘Trio’ and I don’t see the show as much since it’s still so close for me, I see Stargate the Musical. (Laughs and then, without warning, with her free arm pumping the tempo, sings) The Wraith the Wraith, they’re a very bad race, they’re a very bad race, the Wraith! [We all nearly die laughing] David Hewlett is hilarious, if you didn’t know that, and we just came up with all these. So it’s hard for me to answer your question because I remember the actually filming of those moments. Rather than the moments. (Sings) The Wraith the Wraith, they’re a very bad race, they’re a very bad race, the Wraith! That was David. Imagine us doing Stargate The Musical at the Coquitlam Dinner Theater when we’re all in our fifties. ‘(Pretends to be in her fifties, discards a cigarette) Let’s go do this show. The Wraith the Wraith . . . “
Does Helen Magnus know President Obama? “She has an in with all the presidents of the United States, and in fact in Requiem there’s a reference to the fact that one of the former presidents was an abnormal. And Will was like, ‘He was an abnormal?’ and I was like, ‘Seriously, do you think a normal human being could do that job?’ It’s interesting because I think in her history, she was one of those forward-thinking women, still is, who finds herself drawn to powerful people and powerful people are drawn to her. She finds herself drawn to people of power, people of vision, and because of her wealth and her influence, she’s got an in. I’d like to think she knows President Obama. Hang with Michelle. It’d be so cool. So cool. But definitely she knows all the world leaders. And I think her thing is too, she’s really in with the arts community. That’s my backstory. Just because I think it would be cool.”
A fan came up and asked Amanda about that fact that she won the Woman of Vision Award. “I was shocked when I got that phone call. I was driving home, I was still trying to get the funding for season 2 of Sanctuary, it was a nightmare, we were depressed. Women in Film, one of the board members called me and said, ‘Just so you know, you’ve been nominated and we’ve decided to give you the Woman of Vision Award this year,’ and I was like (laughing/crying, doubling over). It was like the nicest thing that had happened to me in such a long time, it was so sweet. But yeah, I’m still shocked. But I have the award to prove it. Which Olivia says I have to share with her, which is ok.”
Are there any actors that you would love to work on a project with? “I say this every time. You’re not going to know who this is. Dawn French [which sounded like “Fringe” to me – Thanks to Bina for correcting me!] who’s a British comedian. I want to work with her. I want to work with Meryl Streep. Who wouldn’t? (Pretending to rub elbows) Just to rub up against her and hope some of her fairy dust rubs off on me! But male actor, Daniel Craig. (Looking at the banner on the stage which shows everyone attending the convention, and slipping into an odd British accent) And any of these really, given the opportunity!”
What’s it like to work on a set that’s all green screen? “What it does, what’s really cool about it is it becomes a much more intimate moment because you don’t have the trappings of the set. You may have a chair, and a lemon (holding up the lemon from earlier). That’s it. I’m taking this lemon on to every set! But this is maybe all you have. The rest of everything is green. So would have to act is if there was a full audience here and there’s a screen behind me. So what it does is it makes it more immediate. It’s like doing minimalist theater. You and your acting partner only have each other and the words and the moment. And so in some ways it’s almost more pure. Once you get an idea of the scope of the room that you’re in, and then beyond that it just becomes about the moment, which is actually way more intimate. So it’s really cool. Do you use tape or something to mark sightlines and stuff? We do. We have green tape on the green screen, which is confusing. (Steps forward and acts like she’s hit her head on a wall) Ah! Don’t run into walls! We have green tape marks. We have, sometimes, corners that are plywood sheets (gesturing that they are set vertically) of green. So you know where the corner is in a hallway, especially if you’re doing a running sequence and you have to come around a hallway. It makes a difference if there’s a wall there as to how play it, like literally, physically, you do something different going around an actual corner than pretending that there’s a corner there. So sometimes we will have little corners marked out. But Robin has gone through so many walls on the Sanctuary set. And like walked through half door frames. And I do to. But once you get used to it’s pretty cool. Actually a really pure feeling, once you get over the chromicy-green headache.”
Before running out of time, Amanda wanted to tell us, once again, how much she appreciates us fans. “I read every letter I get, and I’m gobsmacked, which is honestly my favorite word. Which means I’m overwhelmed by what people share with me, what people want to tell me, how Stargate or even me in particular has impacted them, and how open people are with me, how willing they are to share their hearts and stories. I’m just blown away by it, and I feel very blessed, so thank you very much. Especially women, I have to say, and this is not saying anything against the men, but so many women have shared stories that are particular to women in terms of what they have gone through with children or lack of children, and so I’m thrilled that in some way I can be a good sounding-board for people.”
There was time for just a couple more questions. I believe a Gateworld forum member asked this one. Will there ever be a convention for Sanctuary? “There’s been a lot of talk about it very recently. I think there’s one happening in England in the fall, and there’s the girls that run my gambit convention, my little fundraising convention in England, are talking about doing one for Sanctuary, which would be great. So yeah, absolutely. And I’m sorry I didn’t make the dinner [that Gateworld organized and that Sanctuary cast members attended]. I know that people were hoping that I took off and left set and didn’t come to the dinner, but in actually fact, when I leave the set I don’t leave the set. I actually go up to the office or to post, so I didn’t make the dinner because I was still working. While my fellow actors where off doing parties and (waves her scarf with a flare) galas!”
How was it to go from being “The Girl” on the SG-1 team to being “The Man” on Atlantis? Teasingly, Amanda answered with an odd drawl, “You gotta ask The Man, and I’m The Man. It’s really interesting for me because I found it really hard, as Carter, to play that side of her. Not that I as an actor found it hard, it’s just another way to go with the character. It’s always interesting to try something new, but I think Carter’s comfort zone is not being in that position. I think she’s much happier down in the trenches with everyone, figuring things out, getting her hands dirty, not shoveling paperwork and not reporting to the higher-ups. Let somebody else deal with the bureaucracy. She’s the kind of character who wants to get dirty. I remember too, me, the actor, standing there as the Atlantis team went through the gate and going, ‘Oh this is so wrong. (Squeaking) I . . . I . . . (muttering in a low voice, defeated) You have a go. Have fun. Be careful. Call me!’ (Laughs) Yeah, I don’t think Carter was in her comfort zone being (air quotes) ‘The Man’.”
Amanda was then told her time was up, but she just had to say to us first, “I say this a lot, and I mean it. I haven’t done a lot of these [conventions] for a while because I wanted to spend a lot of time with Olivia, but apparently I’m doing a lot of them this year. I don’t know how that happened but it’s exciting because I get to see you all. But I am constantly amazed at how giving you all are. You think that we come up here and give of our time, but we get so much more back from all of you. Just being here, just the energy that’s coming back, and the good will and the support and so thank you. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. You guys are amazing and I really appreciate it.”
As we applauded, cheered, and screamed for Amanda, she applauded us, waved off our gratitude, grabbed the lemon from her chair, and then did exactly what I knew she would do. Each guest as they left the stage signed the banners on either side of the stage for the two lucky fans who won them in the auctions. Amanda’s picture was at the very top of the banner about two or three feet above her head, meaning there was no way for her to sign directly on it. When I saw that, I thought to myself, “I bet she’s going to joke around and jump up and down, trying to reach it!” Man, did I call it, or what? Finally she reached up as high as she could and signed right between Michael Shanks and Joe Flanagan.
I always suspected that I would adore Amanda if I ever got to meet her, and I called that as well. She is every bit as generous, as friendly and open, and as amazing as you could possibly imagine. I can’t wait to see her again in Chicago!
This concludes WormholeRiders’s coverage of the guest star appearances at the Stargate Creation Vancouver 2009 Convention, but never fear! I have more to contribute in the coming months as time allows regarding merchandise, tours, contests, and more. For the immediate future, however, I must turn my attention towards projects pending before the Chicago Creation Convention! Don’t go away! We’re just getting started!