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Stargate Atlantis Season Four: Amanda Tapping in Command

Amanda Tapping, Stargate SG-1’s Colonel Samantha Carter, moves into position as commander of the Stargate Atlantis base this season.  Tapping’s fans will tag along, hopefully, enriching SCI FI Channel’sAtlantis with viewers from the now cancelled SG-1 who never quite transitioned to the sister series.

The fourth season of Atlantis premieres tonight on SCI FI at 10p E/9p C.

Last July, I caught up with Tapping at the SCI FI Channel Comic-Con bash.  We stood near the crowded, rooftop bar of the Hotel Solamar and chatted about her new position on the cast of Atlantis and her on-line virtual experiment - a sci-fi drama called Sanctuary.

Long-time Stargate producer/director and Sanctuary co-creator Martin Wood was nearby, so he joined in the conversation for a minute or two.

MM:  They’re not making you cut your hair!  It’s very sexy.

Amanda:  Thanks! Are we [the state of hair and the series] connected in any way? – because every year Stargate [SG-1] is threatened to be canceled and then we’ve done a cliffhanger and it’s come back.  And I had to cut my hair and there was no cliffhanger this year.  So I asked, what can I do [with my hair]?

MM:  The last time we talked, it had been a pretty stressful couple of years for you.  You had Olivia…

Amanda:  Yeah I had a baby!

MM:  And you came back into StargateSG-1 very quickly [after that], five episodes [into production] and the cast had gelled a little, and now you’re moving into Atlantis, into another cast that’s gelled …that’s a lot’s going on for two years.

Amanda:  Season nine, when we last talked  - season nine had been kind of weird for me and then season ten was really fun and then suddenly the show got cancelled and we all went…huh!!??

Now I’m on Atlantis and the cast has gelled too.  But there have been so many changes this year on Atlantis, with Paul [McGillion as Dr. Carson Beckett] gone and Jewel [Staite] coming in, and myself coming in.

MM: So you’re not just the only new kid…?

Amanda:  I’m not the only new person on the block.  And the cast has been phenomenal.  They’ve been really, really good.  And David [Hewlett] and I have a long-standing relationship. 

MM:  So it’s been a pretty smooth transition for you?

Amanda:  For me personally, the fact that I was able to do the [Stargate SG-1] movies at the same time I was doing the [Atlantis] series really helped.  I still have my family - I still have Michael [Shanks] and Chris [Judge] and Ben [Browder] – I still have my family close by.  I was able to branch off on my new adventure and then run back to my family again and then branch off.

MM:  And maybe you’ll guest on [Chris Judge produced backdoor pilot] Rage of Angels if it’s picked up.

Amanda:  And maybe Chris will guest on Sanctuary

MM – oh yeah.  I have to get on-line and watch some of that.

Amanda (laughing):  You have to get on-line.

MM:  I know!  Bad me!  Bad me.

Amanda:  I’m very excited about it.

MM:  Yeah?  What’s the traffic been like?

Amanda:  The traffic has been amazing.  Here at Comic-Con the response has been unbelievable.  We were kind of blown away.

MM:  Oh, that’s right, you have a booth here. 

Amanda:  I feel supremely blessed.

MM:  How many episodes have you done so far?

Amanda:  We’ve done three tv hours,  eight webisodes.  Or two and half hours -  A tv hour being – 44 minutes.    The webisodes are17 to 18 minutes each.  Martin Wood co-created w/ Damian Kindler.  Martin is one of the executive producers and the director. [motions to Martin standing nearby]

MM:  It’s all done in front of a blue screen, yes?  I’ve watched the first 15 minutes.

Martin:  A green screen.  It’s a virtual set - About 95% of it is virtual.  If you saw one of the earlier episodes you should see it now.  There’s been a massive evolution in what the episodes look like.  Webisode five is the second hour.  What’s happened on-line - it’s gone like this [makes a straight up motion with his hand] -  it’s just taken off.  There’s a half a million viewers right now w/out any advertising at all.

Amanda:  Before we even aired live we had 3 million hits on the website.

Martin:  The first episode that was monetized got the most hits.  There’s no logic to the way people are thinking.  When they can get it for free, they weren’t watching it the way they are now that they have to pay for it.

(see below for part two)