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SCI FI picks up Tapping's Sanctuary

Thursday - January 31, 2008 | by Darren Sumner

The SCI FI Channel in the U.S. has picked up Internet-based fantasy series Sanctuary for a full, 13-episode first season, the network announced today. The series was conceived and written by former Stargate SG-1 writer and producer Damian Kindler, and stars Amanda Tapping ("Samantha Carter"). Tapping is also an executive producer on the show.

The one-hour drama will begin filming in March, produced by Stage 3 Media in association with the SCI FI Channel.

Sanctuary premiered in 2007 as a one-of-a-kind Internet series, with eight installments adding up to the equivalent of two hour-long episodes. But the producers have always had their eyes on other mediums, including television.

Sanctuary is the first television series using live-action actors against mostly virtual, green-screen sets -- a new way of filming that contributed to the box office success of last year's historical action epic "300," for example.

Tapping stars as Dr. Helen Magnus, a 157-year-old scientist who runs a secret organization that seeks out extraordinary people, both to help them and to contain the more dangerous.

"Magnus is the antithesis of Carter," Tapping recently told Voices from Krypton. She's so completely different. She's a renegade. She's very sexual. From Army boots to stilettos ... the leap is enormous. Everything from her history to her accent, from how she walks to what she wears. Her whole outlook on life is just completely different. So as an actor, it's just totally invigorating."

Stargate director Martin Wood will also serve as an executive producer on the new series, as will Sam Egan (The Outer Limits, Jeremiah). Wood directed Sanctuary's 2-hour pilot, which was released online over eight installments last year.

Robin Dunne plays Will Zimmerman in the new fantasy series.
Also starring in Sanctuary is Robin Dunne (Dawson's Creek) as Will Zimmerman, a medical doctor and Magnus's new protégé, and Emilie Ullerup as her ass-kicking daughter, Ashley. Frequent Stargate Atlantis guest star Christopher Heyerdahl (Halling, "Todd" the Wraith) plays Magnus's murderous former lover, John Druitt. (Don't miss GateWorld's brand new interview with Heyerdahl!) The cast will remain intact for the television series, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The show will make use of a lot of footage from the Web series, according to the paper, with some additional enhancement of visual effects and computer-generated backgrounds, to improve the show's look on the TV screen.

"'Sanctuary' promises to be a totally fresh television viewing experience,' Mark Stern, SCI FI's Executive Vice President of Original Programming, said. "This stylistic approach to 'virtual sets' has proven hugely popular on the big screen, and we have been looking for a chance to use it on a television series. We've worked with Damian, Martin, Amanda, and Sam on numerous projects in the past, and think they are the perfect team to tackle something this ambitious."

Tricon Films and Television will handle the international distribution of Sanctuary, meaning it will likely show up in other countries soon.

What about Stargate Atlantis?
The new series will have a significant impact on Tapping's role in the fifth season of Stargate Atlantis, which begins production in late February. (That series is planning its own big, casting-related announcement this coming Monday, according to executive producer Joseph Mallozzi.)

"In addition to her producing and starring turns on Sanctuary, Amanda Tapping will also make guest appearances on several episodes of SCI FI Channel's Stargate Atlantis during its fifth season," the network press release reads.

Confirmation is still pending, but this statement seems to indicate that Tapping will not return to Atlantis this year as a series regular. But don't count Sam Carter out yet, as she is expected to make a number of guest appearances.

Whether or not that means Carter will step down as base commander, or the Atlantis writers will simply write around her schedule more, remains to be seen. The character appeared in 14 of Season Four's 20 episodes. The producers of Stargate have yet to comment publicly.

The actress crossed over to Atlantis last year as part of her 2-year deal with the studio, after Stargate SG-1 was not renewed for an eleventh season. Her long-term commitment to the show was never certain.

Learn more about Sanctuary at our new sister site, SciFi Stream! Explore the official Sanctuary Web site at

(Thanks to Morjana and Sheena for the tip!)

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