The Purist Cast Member
By: Ted Gorospe
Date: December 10, 2003
Source: Galactica2003.net / bgstns.com
Aaron, we here at Battlestar Galactica 2003 really appreciate this opportunity to interview the talented actor who plays the character who keeps the Galactica and Vipers battle ready, Chief Tyrol.
I really enjoyed your performance in the opening episode of the miniseries. What was your initial reaction during the premiere when you saw your performance onscreen?
Thank you very much for that. My initial reaction was a good one. I was quite pleased with my performance and the amount of screen time that I ended up having. That is a hard thing to say because it may sound immodest but I am my worst critic and I would tear myself apart if I felt that I was poor. What many people don’t know is that because Tyrol was not in the original BSG he was not a large character in this one in the script. It was about two days into shooting my character when David Eick came to me after a take and told me to make up some lines as I had been ad-libbing, which i always do. From then on Tyrol was added to many scenes and many days and I ended up improvising about 60% or more of my dialogue.
During Battlestar Galactica: The Lowdown, you said you were a fan of the original show and kind of a ‘purist’. What did you mean when you said ‘purist’?
I do not believe that things should be remade. Period… If it was great the first time come up with a new idea and leave greatness alone. It would be like remaking JAWS or the original Star Wars or Gone with the Wind starring J. Lo and Ben. Having said that I really wanted to do the show from the get-go but I did not really want it done. The good thing about Tyrol is, again he was not in the original so I don’t have the venom aimed at me like some of the others. I ended up taking the approach that I did with Lord of the Rings. The book and the movies have become two entirely separate entities to me. You have to take them both on their own merits and enjoy them for what they are. The original BSG was fantastic and I loved it as a kid. I think this one is good to but it will never compare to watching the original as a kid filled with wonder and not having the advancements in technology to make the effects we have today. A remake of JAWS would look really cool and the special effects would be incredible but it would never compare to the original and would have to be looked at as its own show.
What was your reaction when you first read the script? Did you have any mixed feelings being a fan of the original show about certain changes like the Cylon origins, character gender changes, etc?
Absolutely. I felt the same as many of the fans on the websites. I thought, “Why does Hollywood do this?” Come up with your own freakin’ ideas. But I knew it would be huge and if done right would be great which I think it is. I like the ideas of the Cylons and some of the gender changes. I think it gives the ship a more humanistic feel. We are flawed, even way out in space. It is more ‘real’ I think than some of the other Sci-fi shows where the heroes are larger than life and their flaws are endearing whereas on BSG some people are just plain jerks. Don’t get me wrong I am a huge Sci-fi fan and love Star Trek, almost all of the incarnations, and I have done two Stargate Sg-1 episodes, also just finished an Andromeda episode and I love these shows and they were great to work. I think the lads at the top wanted to take Sci-fi in a new direction and give it a new feel.
When the producers said that you were going to be attending boot camp, what was your initial reaction? Did you enjoy your time at boot camp?
Scared to death…Exhilarated…Excited. I knew Ron Blecker from X2 and I knew he could be deadly. Great guy, love him to death but ex-US Special Forces Army Ranger is a frightening moniker to come at me with. I loved boot camp. I roomed with John Mann who is also the lead singer for Spirit of the West and we had a great time. Parts of it were tough but it was a tremendous experience that I would certainly do again.
What was the most memorable moment of the boot camp?
Wow! The two hours of hard core physical training brought to us by Ocean Bloom, Ms. Fitness Everything. Deadly! Mike Eklund and Nikki Clyne’s presenting the Vipers. Hilarious! After that, losing the obstacle race… I don’t like to lose… I’ll be fine… still think we won… never mind… just bitter and rambling… but I think they cheated, or paid Ron (Blecker) off with the stopwatch… jerks.
During the first day on the set, what impression did the sets make on you?
Just how huge they were. It is always cool to go to set for the first time and see they being created or having just finished. With the hanger deck being Tyrol’s place of work it was fun to go and move things around and make it his home.
What was your reaction when you saw the full-sized Viper Mk II? What kind of material were you given to become familiar with the Viper Mk II? If so, can you share some of your technical knowledge of the Viper Mk II?
It is wild to see what set-deck, props and those guys and gals come up with. More impressive to me was hanging out with the original Vipers which were shipped up from LA so we could use them. They gave us some ideas of technical specs but one of the exercises in boot camp was to do research and come up with the specs for all of the ships and weapons systems. We had David Dodge from the H.R. MacMillan Space Center in Vancouver come out and give a presentation on the properties of space and what would really be taking place out there. He dismissed a lot of what Sci-fi shows use as fact and really helped us understand the properties of space and space travel. We added a lot of that into our creation of the ships and they really became our own.
What is the big technical difference between the Viper Mk VII and Viper Mk II?
Ask Jamie Bamber or Michael Eklund or Nikki Clyne.
What did you think of the Raptor? Did you have to become familiar with Raptor as well? If so, can you share some of your technical knowledge of the Raptor?
I really liked the idea of a reconnaissance ship. It really makes sense to have a ship that is purely there to find the bad guys and all of its power and systems are geared for to that end. Grace and Tahmoh have all of the data on that.
As a fan of the original series, what is your opinion of the new Galactica?
I really like it. Not because I am in it but because I think it is quite good. I understand the ideas behind doing it and the way the director thinks so I think I ‘get it’ right away whereas it may take some a while to settle into it. It certainly is a departure from ‘normal’ Sci-fi.
Was there a technical manual to familiarize your self with the Galactica herself? If so, can you share some of your technical knowledge of the Galactica?
Just a very simple outline from the creators of the ship… The rest we created on our own through research and use of the web to see what the fans would expect. As a fan myself there is nothing worse than having things that do not make sense in technical shows. I know how frustrating that can be and it really takes the believability out of it. We really made sure that we only assigned properties that are founded in science and did not make things up for the sake of having something to say. I have notes on all of this but they are at the bottom of a storage room in a box. If I go to a convention I promise I will bring all of my boot camp stuff and all of my manuals and everything that they gave us and told us to keep secret until it aired.
How would you describe your character Chief Tyrol?
Loyal to a fault. Integrity, honesty and hard work are what mean the most to him. Tough on the outside but really cares…Do not cross him. Once he finds a reason to not like you it is over for you. Work hard and be fair to those around you. He surrounds himself with the best and expects their best. He hates weakness. (He) sees it as dangerous and a sign of poor leadership. If he believes in a cause he will fight it till the end. If he believes in a leader he will give his life for him or her. He is very good at what he does and likes to be left alone to do his work. Tell him what you need and he will get it done. He can often say too much and get himself in trouble, particularly when he is mad or frustrated. He can seem very cold and aloof but that is the wall around him. He is hard to read and understand but those who do ‘get him’ love him.
What is Tyrol’s first name?
Why do you feel has such a high respect for Commander Adama but seems to hold a much lower opinion of Colonel Tigh?
Adama is strong and fair. He is flawed but they are similar flaws to Tyrol. He is a good leader despite his shortcomings. He does not allow these to interfere with the job at hand. Tigh is a indecisive drunk who Tyrol does not respect because he is weak. He makes poor decisions and is rash and uncompromising.
Do you feel that the Galactica had the extra 40 seconds to save more lives of Tyrol’s men or do you think Tigh made the right decision?
Good question. Tyrol believes in the ability of his people to get the job done. Tyrol thinks that they had the 40 seconds and that Adama is covering for Tigh. He understands that Adama must and that it is not his place to push it further even though he wanted to beat the hell out of Tigh on the bridge right then and there. There is that little voice in Tyrol’s head that tells him to leave Tigh for now and go to his people. Taking him out right there would mean the brig and that helps no one. His crew needs him. I guarantee you this though, next time there is an emergency Tyrol will not be looking for orders. He will make the decision on his own. It is easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission. Tyrol does trust Lt. Kelly and may consult with him in future.
How does your character view the volatile Kara “Starbuck” Thrace?
Tyrol gets Starbuck and respects her. She pushes things a little far sometimes but Tyrol believes she is founded in her convictions and would never begrudge anyone that. She gets it done and works hard. She is straight up with him and he is with her.
How do you feel about Katee Sackhoff’s portrayal of Starbuck? Do you fans will accept her as Starbuck?
I like Katee, as a person and an actor. She was great to work with and a lot of fun. Time will tell whether or not people accept her. I think they will ultimately. The reaction is not unexpected. It would be similar if they put anyone other than the original cast in these spots. People will come to see that she owns this character and is a very good actor. After night 2 some opinions will change I think. I hope.
Onscreen, you have a romantic relationship with Boomer. Can you describe what it was like to work with Grace Park?
Grace is fabulous. She is very sweet and very professional. Grace is a lot of fun on set and always ready for a laugh. She will try anything once and is a damn good kisser. I wrecked a lot of takes just after the kiss. “Aw crap, sorry guys gotta go again. My bad.” The only unfortunate thing is for her. She got me. Yikes!
What was the experience like working with your fellow grease monkeys Michael Eklund, Alonso Oyarzun, and Nikki Clyne?
That should read ‘drunk grease monkeys’. Michael and I did a Budweiser commercial together about 2 years ago so we have a friendship from before. I had just met Alonzo and Nikki and we really became a team immediately. It is funny, at the boot camp we had team building exercises and although we were not separated into specific groups the officers went with the officers and the enlisted people went with each other. The tam was really created right then and there and it stayed that way throughout the shoot. I love those guys.
Many of your fellow cast members have commented that Edward James Olmos has a commanding presence on the set. Did you feel the same way and what did you think of his portrayal of Commander Adama?
He does and I think that is because of who he is and his professionalism. He knows that we are not saving lives so he doesn’t take it too seriously but seriously enough to do great work. He is a lot of fun on set. He can be a real prankster during takes so as an actor you have to watch out for that. He and I had a lot of fun and we have some great out takes. He is just very comfortable and confident on set and that I think translates into his portrayal of Adama. Adama owns the ship as Eddie owns the set. I though he is very good as Adama and I love the intensity he brings to the character without making it overdramatic. He is a very talented man and that shows through.
What was it like working with Director Michael Rymer?
I love Michael. I know everyone says that about every director, at least in public but I truly have a great respect and affection for the man. He really understands how each of us work and how to get the best performance out of us. At the end of the day I would look back and realize just how manipulated I was throughout the day. I would begin in one place and as each take went by he would bring me to where he ultimately wanted the scene to be. If he had tried to direct me there on the first take it would not have worked as well. He and I have a great understanding and shorthand with each other and we can work very quickly and effectively with each other. He had a really specific vision for the show and held true to that vision throughout and I believe he has set the standard for the series should it come to that. I look forward to working with Michael again and hopefully soon. The best part of Michael is that he understands that the best way to work with me is to loosen the chain, turn me on and let me go. Steer me gently in the direction you want me to go but just get out of the way. I really appreciate him for that.
What was the memorable moment for you during the Battlestar Galactica production?
When I realized that Michael and David were taking my ideas seriously and letting me improv and create Tyrol and make him more than what they had envisioned. That and I remember one time sitting alone watching all of the work happening and thinking, “Holy sh*#! I am really here doing this show.” I thought that Brent Spiner or LeVar Burton must have had similar moments in the opening days of Generation, the fact that you are there on something that could be so life changing and monumental. Not that I am comparing myself to them or this show to that but that was my thought process. The Sci-fi community is so large and the fans are greater and more passionate than any other medium and they can really take and show or a character and make it out of this world. That is very exciting to me.
Will you return to Battlestar Galactica if it goes to series?
That will depend on if they and the fans want me as Tyrol. I loved doing the show and I would want to return to the series but we shall see. It has been my favorite piece to work on to date.
What are your career goals?
The same as most actors I think. Steady work. I would love to do some really important shows that have a lasting effect and a real social commentary but not preachy. There are some great people I would love to meet and work with. I want a level of notoriety that would allow me to use my name to help some charities that are very important to me. I want to move people the way I have been moved. I want to touch people the way I have been touched. I want to have people come to me and say,” thank you for making me laugh or thank you for your work, you took me away for a few hours and it was fun.” That is the greatest compliment I could receive. People telling me that I have affected their lives. That is very cool.
What other productions are you working on in the near future?
As of last week I am unemployed, for now. It usually lasts a couple of weeks. I have recently finished Walking Tall, Riddick, White Noise, I-Robot, Paycheck, Andromeda and Cat Woman. Hopefully the new year will bring more work.
What is your message to Battlestar Galactica fans around the world?
Enjoy the show for what it is. It will never be the original. Nothing could ever be the original. Write to Sci-fi and go on chat rooms. Networks have entire staffs that go on-line to see what the fans are saying, they really do. Shows and story lines can and do change based on what you people have to say. If you like a character let them know. If you hate one let them know that too, as long as it is not me.
Thank you to everyone who watches the show and lets me into their lives for a few hours. It means a lot to me. See you at the conventions. Come and say hi.
Thanks once again Aaron for this interview and we here at Battlestar Galactica 2003 wish you continued success in your career.