This afternoon’s cuppa: English afternoon tea (nice to be literal once in a while)

On the Sci Fi Channel series "Sanctuary," airing Fridays since Oct. 3, CGI effects are used to createNup_131262_1065_2

virtual sets and worlds that surround the actors, who work almost entirely in front of green-screen backdrops.

But just because a world isn’t real doesn’t mean you don’t need a guide if you choose to visit it.

"It’s a treat for me," says actor Robin Dunne, "because I’m entering into this world like the audience is. The audience is looking at this new world through my eyes.

"I feel like we’re experiencing things together. We can be in each other’s heads, myself and the audience — not literally."

Launched as a series of webisodes filmed in January 2007, then later picked up as a TV series, "Sanctuary" stars Amanda Tapping ("Stargate SG-1," "Stargate Atlantis") — who is also an executive producer and one of the guiding forces behind the project — as Dr. Helen Magnus, a 157-year-old English expert in xenobiology and cryptozoology that runs a "Sanctuary for All" that helps strange creatures living secretly in our world.

At her side is forensic psychiatrist Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne). In the history of science fiction and fantasy TV shows, there have been all sorts of scientists — even a few xenobiologists and cryptozoologists — but not that many forensic psychiatrists. They’re usually found on crime dramas, trying to figure out serial killers and terrorists.

"Here’s the thing with that approach," Dunne says, "my character is trained to look at these creatures not as freaks, that there’s nothing wrong with these beings. There’s a reason everybody acts like they do, and that’s true in life.

"It’s also true that we have all felt out of place or judged or like we didn’t belong. We have all felt that way. The theme coming through in the show is something that people will be able to relate to, and at the same time they’re going on this amazing roller-coaster ride in this fantastical world that we’ve made."

But when you’re dealing with these fantastical creatures, what baseline can be used to determine what is psychologically normal?


"You don’t (have a baseline),"
Dunne says. "But you’re taking behavior and trying to decipher what causes this behavior. We’re taking the approach that no being, no person, no one is intrinsically bad. They act a certain way because of certain circumstances."

(Note: Boy, I hope he never meets a Borg Queen, or a Sith Lord. Don’t think the shark from "Jaws" would be too up for a nice confab on the couch, either. But I digress.)

"What Will is trying to do," Dunne continues, "is get to the root of why a certain abnormal is coming through our doors, how we can help them out."

When he’s not acting, Dunne is also a writer. In 2005, he co-wrote, with James Kee, two films for Nickelodeon — "Roxy Hunter and the Mystery of the Moody Ghost" and "Roxy Hunter and the Secret of the Shaman."

The success of these films led to Dunne co-writing two more with Kee, "Roxy Hunter and the Myth of the Mermaid" and "Roxy Hunter and the Horrific Halloween."

Dunne and Kee also co-authored "The Roxy Hunter Files" novels for Penguin Books.

Will this lead to him writing an episode of "Sanctuary"?

"Possibly," Dunne says, "very possibly. I want to make sure that I complete this acting job. This is a really daunting task, and I want to concentrate on that. And yeah, if the future holds that, I’d definitely be open to that."

As to whether there might be a little spark between Will and Helen, Dunne says, "Yeah, a little. There’s definitely a little bit of a … the ingredients are there."

Posted by:Kate O'Hare