Helen Magnus



Sanctuary centers on Dr. Helen Magnus, a teratologist, born 1850 in Victorian England. She runs the Sanctuary network which tries to help and protect abnormal creatures all around the world.

Starring as

Dr. Helen Magnus

Episodes directed

Veritas (2×07) One Night (3×13) Uprising (4×02)


  • Amanda Tapping was one of the executive producers of the show.
  • The pilot script for Sanctuary was written by Damian Kindler in 2000. He gave Amanda and Martin Wood a copy some years later and she immediately agreed to be part of the show. She loved the character of Helen Magnus. In 2007, they shot several webisodes of 15-20 minutes duration, the idea being that they would sell the show directly to the viewers and create an interactive multi-platform website with gaming, social networking and content and merchandise, etc… This strategy did not work as they were trying to do many things and had a small budget. Still, it got them the attention of Syfy, which then commissioned a 13-episode season for 2008.
  • Sanctuary was primarily financed by the Beedie Development Group, a division of Beedie Industrial. 10% of the budget came from Syfy once they acquired the series.
  • Since Sanctuary was only an acquisition and Syfy did not take over production, the producers still had a lot of say in what they wanted for the show and Syfy’s influence was limited to making suggestions. During the first season, the producers complied more with these suggestions, so that Sanctuary was a bit toned-down, but because of its success, the network placed more faith in them so that with time the producers went back to the original spirit of the webisodes, including more dark humour. It was also important to the producers to assume the viewers’ competence and intelligence and not dumb down an episode and tell people what is happening as Syfy wanted. The only time there was an issue with Syfy was when Syfy changed the logo of Sanctuary, contrary to the wishes of the producers. For the screening, Syfy also cut down the opening title sequence down to 10 seconds from the original 30.
  • In season 1, they had Joel Goldsmith, the composer for Stargate, create the soundtrack but as they wanted to become a 100% Canadian show, they changed to Andrew Lockington from the second season on.
  • The photo of Helen Magnus with her daughter Ashley in the opening sequence is actually a photo of Amanda with her daughter Olivia.
  • Helen Magnus’ accent has been criticized by some for being a bad British accent. The accent was, however, deliberately chosen by Amanda who wanted to have it influenced not only by the Victorian-era English Helen Magnus grew up in but also by the fact that Helen had been all over the world for years, living in countries with many different languages.
  • Sanctuary did not only mainly work with green screen, the producers also wanted the show to become as green and environmentally friendly as possible (see: activism).
  • It was a very conscious decision on Amanda’s part to change her look for the role of Helen Magnus. She wanted to make sure to fully separate the character of Helen Magnus from that of Sam Carter.
  • While it was Damian Kindler who created the character, for Amanda – in line with the other producers – the show is about giving people a sense of belonging and a safe place, no matter how “abnormal” they might look and act. This desire stemmed from personal experiences with people who were marginalised – including Amanda’s own brother – and wanting them to be represented.
  • The sense of inclusion they wanted for the show also translated to the set where they tried to make everyone feel welcome and not to have a hierarchical mindset but to give everyone the same level playing field and respect, whether they were cleaning the stage or catering the food or producing the show.


Robin Dunne dropped his pants frequently, just for the effect of it. He also tried to make her laugh by making funny faces while the camera was on her.

In some ways, it was similar to working on stage, so for the most part it was not difficult. They did have some props.

She tried to do a lot of the stunts herself, which was a double-edged sword for the crew as it is easier to film but she is also known as being prone to hurt herself. However, doing stunts makes her feel alive and she loves it.

In the episode “Breach” she did nearly all of the stunts herself, except when Helen was swinging a metal pipe over her head and a handful of other sequences. In the scene where Adam throws Helen against a wall, she forgot to put her elbows out to prevent her head from snapping back and sustained a head injury – her neck was stiff for a long time, afterwards. Another scene where she suffered an injury was in the episode “Haunted” where Christopher Heyerdahl, as Druitt, accidentally actually kicked her.

She also has sustained other minor injuries during the course of the series due to stuntwork.

Sanctuary was cancelled due to an issue of bad timing. Syfy was interested in renewing the series, but were unable to make a decision in time, in part because they had been taken over by NBC which had been taken over by Comcast. The Sanctuary studio facility wanted the lease for the next three years in advance while doubling the rent. The financers were nervous about paying that without knowing for sure that the show would be renewed by Syfy. As a result, the producers had to vacate the studio, hence ending the chances for a renewal.

Amanda and the other producers do not own the show, the intellectual property rights lie with the company that financed the shows. The producers have tried several times to buy the rights back but have not yet been successful. It might work, eventually, so it is not totally off of the table, but for the moment nothing is happening.

As of April 2020 someone has bought the rights to create new content but Amanda doesn’t know what will happen with it.