Amanda Tapping – Interview

From Due South to Stargate, Earthsea to Sanctuary, X-Files to Supernatural, Amanda Tapping is instantly recognisable. Numerous awards have been won during her acting career, and she has now also branched out into directing.

More recently, (from 2008 to 2011) Amanda worked on the groundbreaking show, Sanctuary, a web series that made the successful jump to being an equally popular TV show, but it’s legacy is far reaching with Damian Kindler, Jill Bodie and Amanda launching “Sanctuary for kids”. Straight from her own website, the description of “Sanctuary for kids” is:

This Charitable Foundation directs funds to projects where children are in need throughout the world and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars worldwide for such projects through online auctions of memorabilia and fan experiences.

It’s a charity also supported by the wonderful Ryan Robbins (who just like Amanda was terrific in giving up some of his time to do an interview with us) and Karyn Baltzer. The charity website is here: http://www.sanctuaryforkids.org/ . The foundation has had an incredible positive impact on young people and you can see their good work here –http://www.sanctuaryforkids.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=37&Itemid=136

Amanda had made the trek to Showmasters’ Collectormania event at Milton Keynes, and we were keen to speak to her. We rode our luck a little and opted to see her on the Sunday, and headed down en masse. We spotted Amanda, headed over and cleared the interview with the wonderful Showmasters Crew, Amanda and her representative, Julie (who we also managed to get an interview with, finally!). Reece and Brandon then pummelled her with questions! Hopefully she wasn’t regretting agreeing to the interview! Here’s what she had to say.

How’s the collectormania weekend going?

It’s been fantastic. What I love about these events is the collective fandom – everyone here feels safe, people dress up, everyone has a similar sort of passion and it has a family feel to it which I love. Actually it literally has a family feel because people are bringing their kids and introducing them to their passions. The thing I love about sci-fi fandom is how supportive it can be.

Do the crew treat you well here?

Oh yeah, they’re wonderful… except for her (JCB) *laughs*. No, it’s great and these guys have been going for seven events in a row or something so they’re just going like blazes and it’s been lovely. Everyone here is really wonderful.

Amanda Tapping 1

How does this compare to shows abroad, because the Showmasters crew are awesome, obviously!

Something like this where it’s more of a signing show is a little bit different so you’ve got a huge staff because you have a lot of guests and a lot of dealers. It’s interesting because normally a show like this would feel less intimate because you get less time with the fans but that’s not at all been the case because everyone takes their time and it’s really nice. I don’t feel like people are getting rushed through.

It makes a change!

It’s nice, really nice, because that’s why you come to these things. You want to take that moment with the fans; you want to be able to say hello and look them in the eye and have a conversation.

Have you had many instances where fans have broken down in front of you? It must be bizarre.

I think it’s really lovely, that sort of emotion, because I’ve fangirled over people before. I met Elton John at an event once and I literally could not speak, and so I get it, I totally get it. I just think that it’s that honest and that raw that it’s beautiful.

Does it ever take you by surprise, how much of an impact you actually have?

Yes, always. It’s incredibly humbling for me. The characters I’ve played have always been very strong, very smart women and very capable so I get a lot of women and young girls and parents who come and say ‘oh, my daughter did better in math because of you’ which is wonderful. So it’s a responsibility as well that I take quite seriously, to represent women well.

There aren’t enough strong female characters, and people get shoehorned into ‘sexy woman not wearing a great deal’. That’s fine if you want to do that, but not because there’s not enough choice.

I think it’s changing a lot and has changed a lot. I think that there’s a lot more women on television in lead roles, a lot more strong and capable women on television. Certainly from when I started Stargate to now it’s changed a lot. Science fiction has embraced it in a big way. Science fiction was sort of the start of it all. When Kate Mulgrew became Captain of a ship I was like ‘yeaaahh, ok, here we go’. I find British television is far more forgiving for women in that women are allowed to age on television here and they’re allowed to be real whereas there’s this odd standard on North America that women have to look a certain way and be a certain way, but again I think that’s changed, I really do. I think it’s getting better. Certainly with Sam Carter there was no option for me in terms of how she looked. They wanted me at one point to wear a low cut tank-top and a push-up bra and I refused and said ‘no, that’s not the character at all, and if you want to cast somebody else, go ahead, but I won’t play that’

So you stood up to them?

That was my very first wardrobe fitting. I left in a flood of tears thinking I might have just gotten fired from this great job but in fact they said ‘no, you’re right’. I think it was maybe just one network executive who said ‘let’s sex her up a bit’ and I was like ‘no you can’t sex up this character; she’s got to be one of the boys, she’s got to be able to hold her own, she’s a soldier. And even if I was in the full fatigues and a low cut top it would just have been weird. You can’t meet aliens and have your boobs showing, c’mon!

Unless you’re Captain Kirk. Let’s talk about Captain Kirk! Well, not Kirk, but the sci-fi community in general. Jonathan Frakes was great with us in the past, he’s a lovely guy, does directing and you do directing. Is it remarkably tight knit, the sci-fi community, and that’s why, because you all talk, you have a more level playing field?

It can be, especially coming to events like this where you get to meet other sci-fi actors. There’s that sense of community which is really nice. Vancouver definitely has a very strong sci-fi community. Sci-fi and Vancouver sort of went hand in hand for the longest time and still do. There are a lot of shows they shoot up there – they have a really good infrastructure for it and good crews that understand it so you jump from show to show. It started with the X FIles, they really got the ball rolling up there in a big way.

I’d like to ask about Sanctuary – how did you go about getting into that?

It was because sci-fi fandom is so socially aware and socially connected and they were so generous. Whatever cause I stood behind, the fans were just amazingly supportive and so when we started Sanctuary we thought we’ve got this great opportunity to do the show but why don’t we try to attach something to it? So Damian and myself and Damian’s wife Jill Bodie got together and we spent a year researching not-for-profits and how to go about it, how we were going to do it, what our mandate was, to make sure that we rolled it out properly. We wanted it to be something that, even when the show ended, the charity would be able to continue on, which it has. It’s built entirely on the support of the fanbase, they’ve been so amazing.

What I’m going to say could be a little contentious but I find that sci-fi actors are more likely to do that sort of thing. Getting the likes of Tom Cruise in is nigh on impossible. Is that because they’re really careful of what they’re associated with?

I guess so, I don’t know. I think it’s driven by the fandom. I had no idea when I started Stargate what sci-fi fandom was like and now I’m fully immersed and I love it. I really appreciate the fans of this genre because of all the amazing attributes they bring and their passion and creativity. It’s really been wonderful. It was a huge eye opener – they very first convention I went to, I was like ‘wooow…’

What’s the next TV series you’re working on?

Right now I’m directing mostly. I just guest starred in a show that I’m not allowed to talk about apparently. I just signed a contract saying that. Anyway, I’ve been directing a lot and I directed a new series called Olympus that’s coming out in the spring. That’s Greek mythology – all green-screen 3D environments, really cool. A show in Canada called Strange Empire. I directed Continuum, which is here. Primeval New World.

Continuum – that was Lance Hendrikson as well wasn’t it?

No, Continuum is Rachel Nichols and Victor Webster. Fun show to work on, really great. So, waiting for my next acting gig and still directing.

(Argh got confused with Millenium there for a second!) Which do you prefer?

I can’t decide. Directing is way more challenging, a lot more responsibility, but I love it. I love the creativity of reading a scene and going ‘this is how I’m going to shoot it’. Gives you a lot of freedom.

Which has been the most challenging aspect to your career so far, and the most rewarding?

Sanctuary was difficult because I was producing, directing and starring in it, so it was challenging on a regular basis. That’s a tough one, that’s a big question. Stargate was perfect for me at the time I was doing it. I grew up on Stargate and became fully realised as a woman, as a person during Stargate, and Sanctuary was the next level.

We’d like to thank the Showmasters Crew, Julie and Amanda for making this possible!

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