Amanda Tapping has a storied career. After 11 years on Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis she launched her own show, producing and starring in the fantasy hit Sanctuary. (That show actually just celebrated its tenth anniversary!) Dubbed the “Queen of Science Fiction” she turned to directing, cementing her role as a pillar of Canadian film and television.
Six years after GateWorld’s last conversation with Amanda we reunited with a sit-down conversation at Gatecon: The Invasion in Vancouver! In the years since we last talked Amanda’s directing career has exploded, now including work on Continuum, Van Helsing, Supernatural, Travelers (created by Stargate’s Brad Wright), and the period dramas X Company and Anne with an E. And she continues to appear in front of the camera as well, with recurring roles on genre favorites like Supernatural and Travelers.In our 11-minute chat Amanda talks about life after Stargate and Colonel Samantha Carter, including her work as a producer on Sanctuary and moving into directing — plus a hint at what the future holds for Season Three of Travelers. She also shares her thoughts on a new generation of young girls meeting Sam Carter for the very first time, plus what she thinks Sam and Jack are doing right now.
Our conversation with Amanda Tapping is available to watch in full on GateWorld’s YouTube channel! You can also listen to an audio-only version by clicking on the player above or subscribing to the GateWorld Interviews podcast. It is also transcribed below.
GateWorld: Amanda Tapping — one of my favorite people!
Amanda Tapping: Hi!
GW: Welcome back to GateWorld. It’s been a lot of years.
AT: Thank you! It has been a long time.
GW: So what I want to ask you about is, first — we got to talk to you a lot over the course of several years of the show, and the years after the show. I want to rewind a bit and talk to you first about Sanctuary. What part did that play in your life, in your career, as you were making this big transition from acting to producing and now spending most of your time directing?
AT: Yeah. Sanctuary was a big learning curve, to be honest, for Damian Kindler and Martin Wood and myself. We knew that there was something special in the entity that was Sanctuary. Damian had created a really interesting world. We also knew we were taking — as Helen Magnus would put it — a tremendous leap of faith to leave the comfort of the Stargate franchise and branch out on our own.
We were shifting the paradigm — (I keep using that term. Wow!) — of television, in terms of how we financed and how we distributed, which had never been done. And we were using the RED camera, which had never been used for television. So we knew we were breaking a lot of ground. And we tried to — we wanted to do it as a Web series, and then television came along which made far more sense.But it played a huge role just in terms of my growth, of understanding the whole picture. When you’re an actor on a TV series, no matter how much you try to learn about the other departments and jobs, it’s still a pretty limited vision. But when you’re looking at the full picture — you’ve got a budget, and you understand what “hot costs” mean, and you understand how each individual department has to connect — it was amazing. It was an amazing learning curve.
And I loved every step of it. I loved prep. And I also loved post. I loved talking to the composer and listening to — going through the episode and saying, “We need something like this here.” And then going through the final sound, and going through color-corrects, and going to the vis-effects house and talking to them about what we needed. Every aspect.
GW: You were wearing all the hats on that show.
AT: Martin, Damian, and I all wore all the hats. And you know I think people thought, “Oh, she’s an ‘executive producer’ because she’s the lead actress.” But we actually all did it.
My job was to talk to the network whenever the network had notes, and try to deal with them. And deal with our financers. Martin dealt with the distributors. Damian dealt with the creative. But we all dealt with the crew and any issue. And we each took episodes to take from start to finish.
GW: Now I want to put some of your directing résumé out here on the table. These are shows that we watch, shows that we love. Big Vancouver shows. Continuum; you directed for Dark Matter, Van Helsing, Travelers, Supernatural, the new Anne show — Anne with an E. What do you love about this phase in your creative life?AT: It’s challenging. It’s really hard. And fun! Don’t get me wrong. But I love the challenge of it, to take an episode from start to finish. To be responsible for every single shot that is made. To be responsible for how you think you’re going to put it together. To be cognizant of budget. To be cognizant of time, the way it’s scheduled, and knowing if I have 12 scenes to shoot in a day it’s going to change how I shoot each of those scenes.
And not trying to be too “tricky,” you know? Really, for me, my job is to tell the story in the most beautiful way I can. But also to make it cool!
So all of those aspects are challenging, and exciting. I would say “exciting” more than challenging. But to wear all those hats on any given day, and to have to answer a hundred questions a day — literally! Literally. It’s ridiculous. There’s no break. But I love it.
And I always go home tired, but fulfilled. It’s challenging, and I love it. I scares the sh– out of me, to be honest with you. It really does! Every time. Every time I start a new show I’m scared. Which I think is good.
GW: Do you have a show that you’re doing now that you get a buzz when you know you are invited back — you’re going to go do another one?
AT: Travelers, for sure. Anne with an E for sure, because Moira Walley-Beckett — who runs the show and writes the show — is like one of my superheroes. She’s just amazing. And she came off Breaking Bad, and then did Skin and Bone, and then went on to Anne. It’s like … ahhhh! She just has a beautiful mind. It’s amazing.I was excited when I got asked back to do X Company, because I loved that show. And Supernatural honestly is just such fun. And the challenge is trying to make it different and interesting. And I got a great episode last season. One of my episodes was a film noir episode. So it was like studying that genre. It’s always something.
But Travelers, for me, because it’s Brad. And I love Brad Wright. To the ends of the earth I love that man. He’s responsible for so much of my good fortune.
GW: And you’re on screen in Travelers now! You have a really interesting character …
GW: … possible spoilers for the end of Season Two, for anybody who hasn’t seen it. But your character … goes in a really interesting direction!
AT: She does! Uh-huh. And I was like, “Hey, Brad … what’s gonna happen in Season Three?!”
GW: You must come back in Season Three!
AT: I guess I have to come back! … [Laughter]
GW: I’m not going to push!
AT: Well actually I kind of blew it in my talk [at Gatecon], because I said one of the episodes I directed was called “Perrow,” which is my character’s name. So I guess … SPOILER alert! Perrow comes back!
GW: There is a new generation of Stargate fans.AT: Yeah!
GW: It’s been long enough that the “kids” will soon start to have kids. And we’re introducing our daughters to Stargate. I have a daughter — we’re going to introduce her to Stargate. New young girls are meeting Samantha Carter for the very first time. What do you hope that they see in her, and in that show?
AT: Just I hope they see the strength and integrity, and the desire to push boundaries. What I loved about Sam was there wasn’t a shrillness to her. There wasn’t a harsh aspect to her, even though she probably had to fight really hard in a man’s world. But she didn’t choose that route. She chose to just be and live in the environment that she was in, and prove herself by being who she was — without always waving the flag of “I’m a woman! and I’m just as good!”
And I just think that eventually that will change for girls, where they don’t have to do that. But that you can just prove yourself — prove your self-worth as a young woman without having to stand on a soapbox. I hope that that’s the case. And then I hope that there’s just no need for it all all, whatsoever.
I’ve got to ask this one: Ten years after we saw them on screen, what do you think Sam and Jack are doing?
AT: Oh, I think they’re together. I really do!
I don’t know if they’re married. I actually don’t know if they would get married. But I think for sure they’re together. And I think Sam goes off and does her missions and Jack probably retired, quite happily. And that when she comes back from missions they’re together.Like I said, she comes back into the cabin and he’s got dinner made! And the laundry is done! And the house is clean. And there’s hospital corners in the beds … tucked in properly, Jack. Just asking! [Laughter]
And there’s fresh fish! [Laughter]
GW: And you’re still doing conventions, obviously. We’re here at Gatecon. You keep coming back to the Stargate world …
AT: I do. I don’t do a lot of conventions …
GW: … and talking with fans continues to be part of your work.
AT: Yeah, I think because there’s just a huge appreciation for the fandom. And there’s a huge desire to say “Thank you.” And, like you said, there’s a whole new generation who haven’t heard the same story a hundred times. So … yay! Fresh ears to listen!
But I probably do like two conventions a year, maybe. And it’s just lovely. I feel so grateful to be able to meet people, and say “Thank you.” Because that’s really what it’s about. “Thank you” for their support. And it’s fun.
And like what we talked about in the [Gatecon stage] panel, was how great the fandom is — how friendships have been formed from around the globe. And how they come together to Vancouver from various parts in the world to hang out together. The show is almost ancillary at this point to the friendships that have been formed, right? Which is cool.
GW: If Stargate were to reemerge one day in some form, what do you think it needs to have the heart of what Stargate was always about?AT: I think it still needs to retain a certain sense of humor. I think that that “not taking itself too seriously” was part of the thing that made Stargate so accessible.
And I think it needs a great ensemble. That’s the one thing that they were always good at putting together — Brad and Joe and Paul and Rob Cooper were always good at putting together ensembles that made sense, and that worked together.
But now we could go so far with it. Like what David [Read] and I talked about: science fiction has fast become science fact. So much of the technology we were imagining is now actually being used. And so I think we can take it so much further. Which is cool.
GW: We just need a Stargate!
AT: We just need a Stargate. That, unfortunately has not been found!
GW: … It’s been moved.
AT: [Laughter] It’s been moved!
GW: Amanda, thanks so much.
AT: Thank you! It’s been such a long time. It seems so crazy. But thank you.
Follow Amanda on Twitter: @AmandaTapping