[caption id="attachment_4260" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Sanctuary creator, executive producer and writer Damian Kindler. Photo courtesy of Damian Kindler"][/caption]
Last fall, The Syfy Channel added a new face to their stable of strong heroic female characters, Dr. Helen Magnus of Sanctuary. As head of a global network of facilities, or Sanctuaries, she as well as her daughter Ashley, techie Henry Foss, and forensic psychiatrist Will Zimmerman, risk their lives to protect humankind from creatures called "Abnormals" and vice versa. Created by Damian Kindler and executive producer with Martin Wood and Amanda Tapping (Magnus), the series made the jump in October 2008 from web-based to the small screen. Season one was a hit, and earlier this year, Kindler was back on the show's Vancouver set with the cast and crew to start production on year two, which began airing back in October. As with the first season, the prep process was an involved one.
"Alan McCullough [series co-executive producer], Sara Cooper [consulting producer], James Thorpe [creative consultant], who came to us a bit later on, and I spent last Christmas as well as this past January and February developing story ideas and inching towards Bethlehem if you will. And sure enough it all eventually came together," says Kindler, taking a break in-between production meetings.
"So we went forth and came up with this big two-part second season opener, End of Nights. We're very proud of the episode and the performances in it are amazing. Our story opens six weeks into Helen Magnus' search for her daughter Ashley [Emilie Ullerup], and it's quite revealing about the way the Sanctuary works in a larger sense. You actually get to see other Sanctuaries around the world because there's a global threat that's made very real. We're also made privy to how the Cabal plays its hand, which affects our heroes in a bad way. Essentially, it's a giant kind of worldwide James Bond-ish, action-packed chess match between Magnus and the bad guys. There are some really cool human moments and Martin Wood just directed the hell out of it in a very short time.
"At the end of part two, people who are interested as well as invested in the show are going to be blown away because things careen into this incredible shock. Look, this sounds like I'm playing up the PR spin on the show, but we've literally pulled our heads up from the rabbit hole recently, looked around and said, 'The first four or five episodes we've done are terrific.' Season two is rolling out in such a smooth and heightened way, and the network has been incredibly generous with their feedback and saying how there has been a quantum leap in the way Sanctuary feels and in the entire creative process.
"The episodes are ramped up, revealing and really good character stories with cool monster beats. I think the show has definitely hit a very important stride right out of the gate in season two, and I don't say that because it was all part of the plan. I thought we'd just continue on, but there was something about the wind at our backs when we sailed into season two that was extremely confident. We had been given this chance to come back and do this all over again. It was such an amazing life-changing experience doing the first season and everyone was so excited about doing a second season that they've brought their A+ game to the table."
Last season, Kindler and his fellow writers established Sanctuary's main characters, and this year they will be building upon those foundations with some big twists and turns to come. "This season really is about the characters," notes Kindler. "In season one we played through the growing global threat and shift in power. It was all very Lord of the Rings-like. This time around, though, I felt that we really needed to get to know not just our characters individually, but how they work as a group and how they like or don't like one another.
"There are changes that happen to our heroes in the first three episodes this year that are profoundly dramatic. I mean, at the end of the season opener Ashley is killed - she dies saving her mother. During the final moments of End of Nights: Part 2, Magnus watches as Ashley is blown up and the screen then goes black. So viewers are left with this very harsh vision and they subsequently need some sort of 'let down,' which comes in Eulogy. One of my favorite episodes this year, it's written by Sara Cooper and has Magnus and Will [Robin Dunne] playing out the possibility that Ashley could have survived, but in the end, coming to the realization that she is, in fact, gone.
"When I initially showed the ending of this episode to a few people there wasn't a dry eye, and there are two reasons for that. One being that there's an actual memorial service for Ashley, and then there's a little bit of a ghostly visit where Magnus has a vision of her daughter and they say goodbye. Also, there was a woman named Nora O'Brien who worked for both Syfy and NBC and who died suddenly. She was very close friends with a lot of us here at Sanctuary, so Martin, Amanda and I came up with the idea of dedicating a story to her this season, and we all agreed that Eulogy would be the perfect one.
"This is one of those episodes where I believe Sanctuary is at its finest because it deals with the characters in such a human way. The thing is, it's cool to have a very structured plot, a clever plot twist or high-concept idea, but if it doesn't service the characters, then it's not going to feel like a Sanctuary. It's going to feel like a CSI only with monsters. There are moments in this story between Will and Magnus where you expect things to get overwrought, but, instead, they become quite realistic. Eulogy also features a really neat hunt for an escaped Abnormal. So it's fun, too, and it serves to sort of reset the series if you will.
"I've just written an episode called Next Tuesday where Magnus and Will are stuck in the central well of a decommissioned oil rig. They've been trying to transport a sea monster to the Sanctuary, but their helicopter becomes tangled up in the guide wires hanging above the well and this creature escapes. And to make matters worse, there's a second monster, too. We shot the episode on this cool set where we got to spend some time with Magnus and Will. I wanted to give you a chance to watch these two people bickering about their lives. Yes, there's a monster and how are our heroes going to get out of there, but more important is the question of what happens when you spend 30 or 40 minutes of almost real time with your two leads talking to each other as people. Our goal was to have an ongoing personal conflict between Magnus and Will and watch that get resolved while being sure we told a cool monster story."
As if Ashley's death is not enough to deal with, the dynamic between our characters is further turned upside-down in season two of Sanctuary with the introduction of a new character, con artist Kate Freelander (Agam Darshi). "I'm going to totally mea culpa here and say that every show runner is like, 'I want a Han Solo on my series,' and that was our idea with Kate," admits Kindler. "There are obvious ways you can go with a character like this. You can make her tough, but there was something cool about making Kate a bit like Ferris Bueller, where she's working for the bad guys because that's who's paying her. Deep down, though, she's really a hero who has sort of been in denial and hiding for a while. All she needed was to find someone who she could trust.
"Kate Freelander is an opportunistic freelance operative who has been working for the Cabal as well as other people. She knows about Abnormals, is very good at what she does, and crosses paths with our gang in part one of End of Nights when she kind of mucks things up for our heroes. Basically we're trying to get to an Abornmal before the Cabal does, but Kate spirits him way before we can do that. There's a big car chase - they used my car, by the way, and drove the heck out of it - where Kate is eventually caught and interrogated by Magnus. There's a very kind of gripping scene where Helen is pretty out of control when it comes to dealing with her. Kate manages to escape, but she eventually ends up at the Sanctuary, a bit out of an attraction for what they are doing, but mainly out of desperation because the Cabal has put a hit out on her.
"She's somewhat reluctant at first to help Magnus, but slowly becomes more cooperative," continues the executive producer. "Kate is sort of the person in the middle and you can't quite trust her. She's an opportunist who has a very selfish way of working, but she's changing. Kate is inspired by our heroes, but she has a different style, and that's important when it comes to our storytelling. She thinks outside the box. Where we might take a very scientific, academic or particularly structured approach to a problem, she'll be like, 'Why not just call this guy. He has what we need. Who cares where it came from.' Kate gets stuff done, and I like that because it shakes up some of the pomp and circumstance of our story, making it a bit more streetwise and fun as well.
"We had auditioned Agam Darshi for roles in the past and had always been impressed with her work. She's a great actress who brings a lighter, edgy, interesting, mischievous tone to a lot of the stories that we're doing. At any given moment, Kate could potentially steal something for money and then turn around to Magnus and the others and say, 'But I never saw it.' Again, though, she slowly begins to realize the value of the work that the Sanctuary team does."
Kindler chuckles when asked to talk about some of the more memorable episodes from season two of Sanctuary. "More memorable than hanging a real helicopter over a pool of water?" he asks with a smile. "Well, our season opener has something like 400 VFX [visual effects] shots, and Eulogy is beautifully done and well-directed. Episode four, Hero, is, I think, the first openly amusing episode of Sanctuary that we've ever done. Anyone who is a fan of comic book heroes will love this one. I'm guessing it will be a fan favorite; I know it's one of ours this year and it guest-stars Chris Gauthier [Vincent] from Eureka, who is a wonderful actor. It has some really good monsters in it as well as some funny, rather poignant beats, and overall is just a good, back to basics fun romp.
"Episode five [Pavor Nocturnus] is an unbelievably unique experience. It's what looks like an alternate future gone to hell. Magnus wakes up in the Sanctuary and it has literally been abandoned for years and years, and the outside world is in such disarray. The story is dark and strange and has elements in it that are very disturbing. There's an interrogation/torture scene that some people will watch through their fingers. Fragments is a neat episode, too. It's a strong Henry [Ryan Robbins] story that was directed by Steve Adelson, who did Instinct last year.
"The episode we're currently filming [early June], Veritas, which was written by Alan McCullough, is wonderful and Amanda is directing it so well. She's an incredible director, and that's beyond just delivering cool visuals and amazing performances. Production-wise, Amanda is bringing this story in under-budget and early, which is very difficult to do on our limited budget.
"Like I said, I'm so happy with how things are going this season. Again, the show has found its groove, and it really had to because it's been paired with Stargate Universe. So Sanctuary can't sort of just keep bubbling its way upward. It had to find its legs and run, so the pressure is on for season two, and so far so good."
Launching Sanctuary's original two-our pilot on the Internet was a huge accomplishment for everyone involved with the show, and then bringing it to TV was yet another major creative hurdle surmounted. It has proven to be a great deal of work, but you will not hear anyone complaining.
"We're all exactly where we want to be, doing exactly what we want with exactly the people we want to be doing it with," says Kindler. "As sugary sweet as that sounds, though, the truth is there's nothing better than appreciating what you have. It's been such an amazing, crazy train ride getting her, and there were so many moments where it should have gone off the rails and crashed into the river, but it didn't.
"Every time there's a problem, like, oh, boy, here's another late night at the office, or, here's another weekend I have to spend writing, or whatever, you realize what enormously high class 'problems' these are. This is what we want to do. We don't have any big plans for global domination...yet," jokes the executive producer, "but if the series could just keep building upon its fan base that would be great. That's all we ask."
Steve EramoAs noted above, photo is courtesy of Damian Kindler, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!
[caption id="attachment_4053" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping) finds herself in a very dark and desperate place this week on Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Syfy Channel"][/caption]
SPOILER ALERT!! - Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping) wakes up on the floor of the Sanctuary with no recollection of why or how she got there. Disoriented and bewildered, she discovers her office scarred with bullet holes, equipment broken in pieces and layered with dust, and the lab left only with devastating remnants of a horrific battle scene. With no signs of life to be found, Magnus is completely baffled and shaken. To gather her thoughts, she steps up onto the Sanctuary rooftop parapet, but is shocked by the scene before her. Instead of the lights of New City, she looks out to a dark,cratered landscape - the city is decimated.
Fashioning a makeshift weapon as her only defense, Magnus moves out into the city, determined to find some clue as to what has happened to the world. While surveying the destruction, she is attacked by a ferocious, inhuman creature with an ear-piercing shriek as its battle cry. Cornered and near defenseless, Magnus catches a glimpse of her attacker's face. It is scarcely human with pale skin, soulless eyes and shrieking with fury as it prepares to finish her. Suddenly, without warning, a sonic blast hits the beast from behind, killing it and saving Magnus.
[caption id="attachment_4054" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Helen is hoping to get some answers from a much-changed Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne). Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Syfy Channel"][/caption]
Relieved, she looks up to see two men, heavily armed. Before she can ask any questions, one of the men draws a stun gun and fires it at Magnus, taking her down. When she awakens, she finds herself in an abandoned warehouse with the same two men. They aggressively hose her down, scrubbing her skin raw and leave her soaking wet, shivering and distraught. Exhausted, Magnus curls up on the floor, confused and temporarily defeated. When a third man enters the room, she braces herself for another assault. However, she is both surprised and relieved when she realizes that the man standing before her, although hardened and battle-scarred, is none other than her colleague and friend, Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne).
Magnus starts to ask Will questions, but he forcefully shuts her down and accuses her of being an imposter. He explains coldly that she could not possibly be who she claims because Helen Magnus died three years before. Stunned and with far more questions than answers, Magnus knows only that she must escape from Will and find a way to understand the nightmare her world has become. Pavor Nocturnus airs Friday, November 6th @ 10 p.m. EST on the Syfy Channel.
[caption id="attachment_4056" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Will has a close encounter with some scary locals. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of the Syfy Channel"][/caption]
Click on the following link for a preview of this episode - https://rcpt.yousendit.com/760210945/6b577088f2279d403753e1f1710049eaAs noted above, all photos by Jeff Weddell and copyright of The Syfy Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!
[caption id="attachment_3826" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Agam Darshi as Sanctuary newbie Kate Freelander. Photo copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell"][/caption]
First impressions, you either love 'em or hate 'em. Sometimes they're good, other times not so good. Kate Freelander knows that only too well. This young and beautiful con artist hardly endears herself to Dr. Helen Magnus and her colleagues when she first crosses their paths. In fact, Kate quickly discovers just how far Helen is prepared to go when she wants information, especially if it has to do with someone she cares a great deal about. Surprisingly, Kate is able to turn things around in her favor when it comes to relationships with our heroes on Sanctuary. That is a big step for this newcomer to Dr. Magnus' world, as actress Agam Darshi, who plays Kate, explains.
"First of all, Kate is an amazing character," says a smiling Darshi, taking a break in-between shooting scenes for the season two episode Veritas. "I really enjoy her just because she is so complex. Kate comes across as really tough and sort of a smart-ass, and it's not crystal clear whose side she's on. Does she work for the Cabal? Does she work for the Sanctuary? You're not quite sure, but as this season progresses, we start seeing this vulnerable side of her. You don't see that very often, but when you do, I love those scenes because that's when my character really starts connecting with people.
"So she's slowly developing relationships with people around her, and each relationship is very different from the other. For example, things with Kate and Henry Foss [Ryan Robbins] are somewhat lighter in tone, but with her and Will Zimmerman [Robin Dunne] it's more cerebral because she wants to [mentally] challenge him and be taken seriously in the Sanctuary world. So the trickiest acting challenge for me this year has been figuring out how my character interacts with everyone while also revealing more of who this tough girl really is beneath the surface.
"When I read the [audition] sides for Kate, I immediately connected with her. I knew just where she was coming from. I think the danger when playing a character like this is going too far and making her, again, too tough and serious. Kate is also very funny and has a softer side, so I'm trying to show all those aspects of her. I did that in the audition room and everyone seemed to really like what I did, and I'm hoping the audience will as well."
[caption id="attachment_3827" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Kate - tough, clever, opportunistic, but deep down also has a conscience. Photo by Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell "][/caption]
In Sanctuary's two-part second season opener, End of Nights, Kate is working for the Cabal, a powerful and mysterious organization that is plotting the downfall of the global Sanctuary network. While en-route to deliver a "package" to her employers, she is intercepted by Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping), Will and Henry. They believe Kate has information that can lead them to where the Cabal is holding Helen's daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup). After a high-speed car chase, Kate succeeds in making her delivery, but in the process is caught by the Sanctuary team and interrogated in a nearby warehouse.
"I'm pretty sure we filmed that warehouse scene on my first day of work," recalls Darshi. "It was really cold and I was overwhelmed because it's such a big show. I mean, this is an amazing cast and there are also a lot of terrific behind-the-scenes people here who used to work on Stargate. So I was excited, but at the same time I felt like a deer in headlights. I had to try to balance my emotions and give myself confidence as well. Obviously, I understood this character, so I just went with my instincts and things worked out great.
"I had never held a gun before coming onto Sanctuary and I had to fire one in this episode, so I practiced on a gun range beforehand just to get the hang of it. The physical stuff that Kate does has been something else I've had to get used to, but I like to go to the gym and do all sorts of tomboy stuff, so that's been a positive challenge for me. We did a ton of green screen work, too, in End of Nights and have since then. This is my first time working so extensively with green screen and it feels a lot like doing theater, which is where I started out. It's just you and the other person and it gives you the chance to really connect and use your imagination."
During the climax of End of Nights - Part 2, Kate runs some interference when Ashley, who has been turned into a super-Abnormal by the Cabal, tries to kill Helen. With the Cabal hunting for her, Kate needs a safe haven and ends up staying at the Sanctuary. When, in the following episode, Eulogy, Helen and Will focus on trying to find Ashley, Kate gives Henry a hand trying to find a runaway Stenopelabilis.
[caption id="attachment_3828" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Henry (Ryan Robbins) reluctantly accepts Kate's help in "Eulogy." Photo copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell"][/caption]
"There's this fantastic B-story where Henry and Kate are trying to find this Abnormal that's just been born and is growing at an incredibly fast rate," explains Darshi. "In one of the scenes, my character is by herself in one of the Sanctuary labs and looking at these tusks on an Abnormal who she thinks is dead. The tusks are worth a lot and Kate is always looking for things like that so she can sell them on the black market. All of a sudden, I'm blasted by a bunch of goo and this little baby Abnormal pops out of the mother Abnormal's stomach. My character then has to crawl around on the floor looking for this little creature. It was fantastic because I felt so in the moment," enthuses the actress. "When you have a scene like that, you can't think about it, you just have to react.
"We dealt with a lot of goo in this episode, along with a lot of rolling around and French fries. It's a long story," she says with a laugh," but I would go home at the end of the day with French fries literally stuck in my hair from all the goo. It was so much fun."
Despite initially being at odds, Helen seems to think that Kate is capable of turning over a new leaf, but she's going to have to earn everyones' trust. "There's a lovely scene between these two characters that takes place a few episodes into the season," notes Darshi. "Basically, Kate thinks that she's in trouble and is going to get kicked out of the Sanctuary because she sort of went behind Magnus' back. However, Magnus turns around and says to her, 'If you want to stay, I'll have Henry put your things in a more permanent part of the Sanctuary.' Who knows where that's going to lead? You don't know if Kate is actually going to stick around for long, but after that scene it looks promising. At least it was a chance to bring out a side of my character where she can express thanks, in her own way, to Magnus. She and Kate don't have a lot of scenes together, and this is one of the sweeter ones between them. It says a great deal about what Kate wants and how Helen feels about her."
Having graduated with a major in visual arts and photography from the University of Calgary, Darshi once considered pursuing a career in photography. However, one of her teachers suggested that she should get an agent and give acting a try, so she did.
[caption id="attachment_3829" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Uneasy allies - Kate and Bigfoot (Christopher Heyderdahl). Photo copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell"][/caption]
"That was six years ago and I've been working ever since," says the actress. "I feel very lucky to be doing this because it's what I love. My first job was a recurring role on a TV show called Renegadepress.com. It was shot in Regina, Saskatoon, which I'd never been to before. I was pretty nervous, but it was one of those situations where it couldn't have been a better show for me. It was about young people in high school, so it was a very safe environment, and being my first gig ever I just tried to absorb whatever I could from the other people my age."
Although she has only been in the business for a short time, Darshi has already amassed a long and impressive resume. Final Destination 3, Snakes on a Place, Deck the Halls, Watchmen and the upcoming 2012 are among her feature film credits. The actress has also appeared in several made-for-TV movies and done guest-spots on such series as Reaper, Kyle XY, The Dead Zone, The L Word and two episodes of Stargate Atlantis, including Suspicion, where she first worked with Sanctuary's Christopher Heyerdahl (John Druitt/Bigfoot).
"I only had one or two lines in that episode and Christopher [Halling] happened to be in the same scene," says Darshi. "He's so kind and there were so many extras there and he was trying to explain the story to them so that they could react appropriately. I remember thinking to myself, 'Wow, you usually never see these big stars explaining anything to anyone.' But Christopher was so into it and really believed that these extras, who sometimes tend to be ignored, deserved a chance to know what was going on and feel part of the scene."
When she is not in front of the camera, Darshi wastes no time when it comes to her craft. "I've written three short films and produced them as well," she says. "I find writing incredibly challenging, but I love it. Sometimes this industry can get a little crazy; sometimes you have work, sometimes you don't. So it's always really positive for me to feel like I'm putting energy into other creative outlets, and writing is one of them. It's something I'm relatively new at, though. I know I can write a good short story, but can I write a good feature? That's something I'm still playing with and learning about.
[caption id="attachment_3830" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Come on, make my day! Photo copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions/Jeff Weddell"][/caption]
"I've always been a very creative person and it's important for me not to slot myself into one compartment. I can't just be an actor. I feel better when I'm an all-around artist, whether it's writing, producing or even things like taking photographs or playing the guitar. It doesn't really matter. Whatever I happen to be doing at the time makes me feel so much better. And what's neat is that you learn from the different types of art. The skills you learn as a writer can help you as an actor, the skills you learn playing music can help you write, etc. That's why I like to do it all."
Steve EramoAs noted above, all photos copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions and Jeff Weddell, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!