When I visited the Vancouver set of "Sanctuary" last year, I stopped in showrunner Damian Kindler's office to chat about Season 3 and found him deep into research about WW II.
"I'll start by saying please ignore the military maps of World War II that are sitting on my chair next to us, if you don't mind," he said.
He was finishing up the writing of "Normandy," the episode we've heard a lot about that premieres at 9 p.m. May 23 on Syfy. He wasn't eager to tell much about the episode at the time, but he did say, "We are going see [Helen Magnus] in 1944 Normandy."
Me: Driving a tank?
DK: Hunting Nazis.
DK: She won't wear army boots though. Not a chance. No.
Still high heels?
But will they be camouflaged high heels?
I'm not sure about the camo heels, but "Normandy" is a bit of a departure for "Sanctuary." Yes, we've see Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping) and The Five in the past before, but I can't recall an episode ever beginning and ending in the past, with no scenes set in the present.
Magnus, Watson (Peter Wingfield) and Griffin (Vincent Gale) are working with the French resistance to stop the Nazis from doing something—yes, an abnormal is involved—that could destroy the Allied forces rallying for the D-Day invasion. Tesla (Jonathon Young) is working for Eisenhower and the Allied Command.
"[It] is the biggest episode we've ever done, scope-wise, story-wise, everything," said Robin Dunne, who is worked into "Normandy" in a clever way. "It was a really special episode to shoot. It's quintessential ‘Sanctuary' thinking outside the box."
Tapping, who along with Dunne talked to reporters earlier this year, said at the time that shooting "Normandy" was a special experience for all the cast and crew. Unlike most episodes of the show, it was filmed on location in the mountains around Vancouver. There were a lot of challenges—night shoots, bad weather, etc.—but everyone was committed to telling the story.
"I don't know if it's because we were playing a period that is very real and has a lot of lasting and a very tragic memory for people, but there was a reverence on set when we were shooting that episode to being true to the period, to being true to the story," Tapping said. "[It was] our own ‘Sanctuary' way into it, but [we wanted] to just really honor that time."
Dunne recalled one night shoot in the mountains when it was raining and director Martin Wood called for the WWII-era tank to be brought in.
"This actual working period tank pulled around the corner," he said. "To be in the middle of that and witness the scope of the [episode] was amazing."
That was one of many emotional moments for Tapping, too, who wears a red wig in the episode in honor of her English grandmother, who lived through both world wars.
"It was just one of those times where it kind of snuck up on us, and that's kind of the revelation," she said of seeing the tank brought in. "When the emotion sneaks up on you and you go, ‘Oh. Oh wow. OK.' It's beautiful when that happens, and we're very lucky that we were open to that, or that we're allowed to experience that."
Read more from Tapping, Dunne and Kindler about "Normandy" below:
When I asked Kindler how he comes up with the episode ideas, he told this fun story about when he first pitched the idea for "Normandy" to producers Tapping and Wood:
I was out for dinner with Martin and Amanda a couple of months ago. We went to see Eddie Izzard and to the consternation of wives and husbands, I fell in step with them on a [story pitch]. I went, "So here's the thing: We go to Normandy and Helen Magnus is behind the lines with James Watson, and then they find this and this happens."
They're, like, "Oh, cool," but our wives and husbands were, "Oh, God, can't we have one night out for dinner, one night at the theater without it being Damian pitching a goddamn idea?"
It's often when I'm at my loosest that I come up with these fun things and I just love it. This is the thing. It's a toy box, isn't it? And Martin loves it. [With this idea,] he said, "I know how to do this" and "We can do that, we can build this like that … and I can find a tank." Martin found a tank and he texted me from inside the moving tank saying, "I love my job!" And you pictured him and Michael Dukakis in a tank. We're just like big kids, so yeah, I love the idea.
AMANDA TAPPING AND ROBIN DUNNE
I saw some of the little preview clips and it looks like Amanda, you're rocking a red wig. Is that true?
AT: It is true. It is true.
RD: And it's hot … She's wearing it right now, actually.
AT: But that's just for fun. It's sort of an homage to my grandmother, who grew up in England and lived through two world wars. She was born in 1901 and lived to the ripe old age of 103 1/2. And, her entire life she had this red bob haircut and dyed her hair red up until she was 102, I think. That was in homage to her, but I really liked it. So who knows? I mean the beauty of this character is she's old enough and has been around enough that she can kind of do whatever she wants.
What's your favorite moment from shooting these remaining Season 3 episodes?
RD: I think if I had to pick a favorite moment, we have an episode coming up that … takes place in the past, back in World War II … When we were on set shooting those things with tanks driving around, it was really quite an experience. So I guess if I had to pick one, I love every single moment, every waking and sleeping moment that I have on "Sanctuary," but if I had to pick one, I think it'd be from that episode.
AT: Yes. The episode is called "Normandy," and there was just something very special. There was an interesting vibe on set when we shot it. And the look is very different, but it's a really cool episode.
And what would you say as you're going forth here has been your biggest surprise this season?
AT: That's a good question. I think "Normandy" was a big revelation for us. It was something that sounded cool on paper, but we really weren't sure whether we could execute it in a respectful and also in an interesting way, because it was something we were going to try that was totally different… We were shooting nights. We were up in the mountains. It was pouring rain. And there wasn't a single complaint. There wasn't a single bad feeling. Everyone felt really lucky to be there.
And I don't know. I guess when you're up there and you can have a warming tent, which the men and women fighting in World War II didn't have, you feel like a bit of a loser when you say it was interesting.
RD: It's no secret that we're all kind of a bunch of goofballs over here and we like to joke around and laugh. We do have a great time and play silly jokes on each other and we're constantly laughing.
There's a behind-the-scenes of "Normandy" where we're all kind of talking about what it was like to shoot that episode and I actually watched it with Damian. And as soon as it was over I said, "You know what? What's really interesting about that is none of us in that behind-the-scenes footage are goofing around or making silly faces or laughing. It was really kind of a different feeling." And I think it was just a reverence for the material, and just recognizing what a huge accomplishment that episode was.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun