Exclusive Interview: Robin Dunne on bringing Sanctuary to Australia, Space Milkshake and extraterrestrial life!

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Robin Dunne is quick to break the ice when we meet in the established ‘media room’ (read: hotel room) for the Oz Comic Con Adelaide press day.

“I was told I could lie in bed for this interview, is that okay?”

The Canadian actor, who stars alongside fellow Oz Comic Con guest Amanda Tapping in the successful sci-fi series Sanctuary is immediately at ease, as are all the guests I’ve come into contact with so far. Where other conventions will have guests in a city for only a few days, it seems like Oz Comic Con have given their guests a week or so in Adelaide in the lead up to the weekend of the convention itself. Dunne comments on his time in the City of Churches, having been able to experience Adelaide Metro like a local and soak up some South Australian sun.

“The very first day we arrived, it was so hot, it was 36 or something like that, it was beautiful. I made a point of getting on the tram and going right out to the beach for a couple of hours, so that was really nice. Obviously for us, it’s our winter, so it’s great to be able to get to the beach; my skin was the colour of that [white] sheet. I got a little bit of a colour!”

As Dr. Will Zimmerman on Sanctuary, Dunne has received much praise as the forensic psychiatrist opposite Tapping’s Dr. Helen Magnus. Although the show ran only for four seasons, it managed to reach television audiences around the globe and retain a sense of longevity in popularity that is still clearly notable today. Coming to Australia as a representative of the franchise is an element of his job that Dunne definitely hasn’t taken for granted, acknowledging the place Sanctuary has in the hearts of many sci-fi fans, himself being one of them.

“It’s amazing to see different parts of the world. I’ve been to Australia quite a bit, but to Sydney and Melbourne, so it’s great to get to this part of the country, to South Australia and to Western Australia. To see Perth and Adelaide has been a real treat. I love the Aussie audiences, they’re such a blast! I tend to have a demeanour that is unfiltered and the Australians love it! There are no awkward silences; I throw the ball out there and I say something that’s completely and utterly inappropriate and everyone just runs with that. There is no censorship and so there should not be.”

“It’s always a really rewarding thing, like you say, to travel to the other side of the world and to have people enjoy the show as much as they do. It’s very, very big here and the reach is quite amazing. To think that we were in our little studio just outside of Vancouver making this show and the fact that it has impacted people around the globe, really is quite a reward, as an actor who is part of the show. I also love coming to the conventions because, while it was my love and I was an actor on Sanctuary, I’m also a fan of the show and I’m a fan of the genre in general. It’s great to be able to come here and talk to fans on a fan to fan kind of basis and get a sense of what people’s favourite things were. What they liked, what they wanted to see more of…all of that is really quite amazing and the fact that it has had as much of a reach as it has, it really is testament to the show and the structure of the stories being told. I think that if you have a show about the acceptance of the differences in others – which is basically the main theme of the show – that’s something that travels well and speaks to a lot of people, a universal audience.”

Drop the word ‘universe’ into a conversation with a member of the sci-fi community, especially sci-fi television community and it can open up a whole new ballpark. What does Dunne think about the prospect of some other life forms scouring their version of the internet for Sanctuary torrents? He’s all over it.

“Well maybe not…I mean, I’m not talking about the ‘universe’, because we don’t even know if there is life out there, but you know, within the Earth. Imagine that! You’d go to Neptune and they’re just watching Sanctuary. That’d be awesome. I wonder if they’d be fans of Dr. Will Zimmerman? I bet you on Neptune, Will would be their favourite character, I would say. They’d be like, ‘What, Magnus?! No, no, no. That Will guy – that’s who we’re tuning in for.’ I think. Let’s go with that. Thanks to all the Neptunians. We could do a con there. I sound like a real nerd, don’t I? We could do Mars. I think Martians are all Amanda [Tapping] fans. They’re all Magnus fans on Mars. It’d be hot.”

Extraterrestrial life aside, Dunne has been working hard down on Earth, working TV show Defiance, as well as pushing for the release of Space Milkshake. Yes, Space Milkshake. If you’ve not heard of it, the sci-fi/comedy (which has already been screened at various conventions since it’s initial 2012 release), stars Dunne and Tapping, plus other names fans will note in Kristin Kreuk (Supernatural, Beauty & The Beast) and Billy Boyd (The Lord of the Rings).

“That’s [Space Milkshake] going to finally see its release this summer; the reason it’s taken so long is because we’re releasing it in a different model. We were raising money to create a website where you can download the movie directly, to skip the middlemen of the distribution companies. That took us a while to do; when you’re reinventing the wheel, that takes time. It’ll be out this summer though, which is really exciting. It’s Amanda, myself, Billy Boyd and Kristin Kreuk and George Takei, as the voice of the monster. It’s a lot of fun, that film.”

On the intriguing title of the film, Dunne laughs and explains the origins of Space Milkshake, as seriously as he can manage.

“The story is is that there is no story! When the script came to me, I read it and basically the movie is about four people trapped on a spaceship and a rubber duck comes to life and tries to kill everyone and then falls in love with Amanda Tapping’s character. As you would, right? I read the script and I liked it a lot and I called my producing partner Rob Merliees and said, ‘I love this, I want to be part of this, but what’s the title?’ and he’s like, ‘…I don’t know’. I said, ‘Well it doesn’t mean anything.’ and he says, ‘Exactly!’ and I thought, ‘Okay, I guess so…’ – so people see the title and they go, ‘What does that mean?’ and basically, it means nothing. It means nothing or it means everything.”

“It’s interesting and I think also, in this genre, people are more welcoming of breaking the rules and trying new things. People have been asking about Space Milkshake and you know, instead of limiting it to going through the usual channels like the distribution companies will decide when and where it will air, we thought, ‘Why not set something up where anybody around the world can go, type in spacemilkshake.com and download the movie?’ It’s cool. Another thing too, given the nature of the business…say, come to Australia and fans will be talking like, ‘We got something out of order’ or ‘The seasons were out of order’ or certain fans are still waiting for a series that’s already aired somewhere else because they’re on a different timetable. This kind of levels the playing field and hopefully everyone will be able to watch it and enjoy it as much as we did making it.”