Character building with actress Amanda Tapping
Amanda Tapping has tackled numerous roles over the course of her storied career (see 'Tapping into Grace'), but it’s her long-running turns as Samantha ‘Sam’ Carter on Stargate SG-1 (and its spin-offs) and Dr. Helen Magnus on Sanctuary that cemented her status as the Queen of Sci-fi TV.
Sam Carter was an astrophysicist, soldier, and member of SG-1, an elite team that guarded and studied the ancient alien interstellar travel devices known as Stargates (and also liaised with whatever alien species travelled through them, be they friendly or hostile).
“Even though they tried to play up the sexual tension between Carter and O’Neill [portrayed by Richard Dean Anderson], which was fun and frivolous to play and quite joyful, really, but at the heart of it was this incredibly strong, loyal, smart woman, and I was so proud of her,” says Tapping. “And I was proud of how they transitioned her. She never compromised her belief system and she never compromised herself as a person or as a woman, and yet she was still this incredible woman.”
Over in another universe, Dr. Helen Magnus was a scientist and head of the Sanctuary network, a globe-spanning organization dedicated to the protection of Abnormals (think Bigfoot, vampires, werewolves, giant snakes and lizard people). Equally adept at performing delicate surgery and kicking indelicate ass, Magnus was also literally ageless: at the beginning of the series, she was 157 years old.
“I’m just so passionate about her, because she’s so unique,” says Tapping. “There is no other character like her, and I never always understood her. There were times where I’d be, ‘I wouldn’t do that... oh, it’s not you, Amanda, it’s Helen. She would.’”
But don’t expect Tapping to pick a favourite between the two characters that made her an icon.
“I think Helen is more me now, and Sam was me then. I felt very connected to Sam Carter at that stage of my life, and as I came into my own as a woman, she came into her own, and I feel like we grew up together, and now that I sort of have a different perspective, I love Helen,” says Tapping. “I don’t know that I could go back and play Sam Carter. She’d be a very different Sam Carter. She’d have a bit more of an edge, I think, whereas I was ready to play Helen.”