Chief Tyrol Tells It Like It Is
Date: February 1, 2004
Source: Galactica2003.net / bgstns.com
You may have met him on line at various Battlestar Galactica fansites. Why does actor Aaron Douglas who plays “Chief Tyrol” make himself so accessible to fans? And while we were all anxiously waiting for official word on the Galactica series – how was he holding up? Galactica 2003’s Farvoyager talked with the actor himself to find out:
I know a lot of the fans are just so appreciative that you’ve just kind of been there and you’ve been accessible and you’ve been letting people know what’s going on.
As much as I possibly can.
Why did you decide to do that? Open up to them?
It just seemed like something to do. I don’t know. Its funny because everybody, I’ve been quite surprised that people say ‘no one ever does this’ and I just kind of go ‘why? Are we all so pretentious, that we think that our time is better spent elsewhere? I mean, actors other than the big-wig guys, are just kind of sitting around waiting to do something else. And its not like you don’t have time. When people say “well I don’t have time to go online for an hour” is just bullshit. To be quite frank. Unless, I mean, some people are doing plays, people are writing, some people are producing and all kinds of things like that, but for me, its just sort of, like last year I worked maybe 50 days, which sort of left 300 days minus evenings for hockey, and do really kind of nothing. And I should be more ambitious and do writing and other things but… no. And you know what? Once I got [online] and started talking and started reading and everything, it was just really kind of cool, to see how passionate people get about this. And I’m as equally passionate about other things, and so there’s that kinship and understanding of each other. And the fact that it means so much to people, its like, how can I say no? Its too much fun, these people take time out of their lives to watch your show and watch you, and really express how much it means to them and how much they enjoyed it. And most people never get that kind of recognition and thank you’s for their work. So we’re very privileged people to be actors, you constantly have people going boy I loved this and I loved that. Everybody else in life doesn’t really get that, ever.
Well celebrity is a mixed bag, you get the other side of it too. Like “I’d just like to go out and have a drink tonight and not have anyone recognize me.”
Yeah, well, hey, I got no problems with that right now.
Well you just wait, you will… But I can’t picture you ever being [pretentious], I think you’re pretty cool, pretty easy going.
I try to be. I mean, you have to understand the other side of it. The person that’s coming up to you, it means a LOT to them. And for you to blow them off, its really kind of a punch in the face. I know if I went up to somebody and they blew me off, I’d be really upset. And I’ve worked with a lot of really big names and there’s nothing better than, when you have that first feeling of trepidation as you go to work that first day, to walk up to Will Smith and you go “Hi how are ya?” And he is the nicest guy you’ve ever met in your life. Genuine, and fabulous and fantastic and great to everybody. You just kind of go, you know what? That’s very cool. ‘Cause I’ve worked with people who are just NOT cool, and people say “what was it like to work with so-and-so” and you just sort of have this blank smile and don’t say anything, and they go, “oh, great” and word spreads like wildfire. I would never want to have 4 or 5 people sitting around telling stories about Aaron Douglas, “Yeah I saw him in this restaurant and he was such an asshole and blah, blah, blah.” I mean, I’d be mortified! I never want to have people ragging on me, there’s no need for it, unless they’re idiots and then you can be an idiot back. But if it’s just, I’m being pretentious for the sake of being pretentious, that’s ridiculous.
What do you think of the controversy on the internet? Like the old Battlestar versus the new one?
It’s really astonishing to me that these people would be so BITING at each other and attack things, I don’t understand it. I mean I’m a huge fan of the original, I’m a HUGE fan, growing up as a kid, and this came out it was one of those, “Oh God, how can they do this, how can they make it?” I was so offended, but I really want to do it because I was such a fan of the original. And its like, for me – and I’ve told this story hundreds of times – for me its like Lord of the Rings. I loved those books, and I am SO offended that they made those movies. When they were making them and I heard about it, I was just like “this is ridiculous, you can’t do this!” But I decided to put it aside and go see the show, and they are absolutely fantastic, they are so wonderful…
Yeah, I think they did a great honor to Tolkien.
Oh absolutely! But, are they the book? No.
No. They couldn’t!
They couldn’t. No. Its two completely separate entities. And that’s what I encourage people to do with this. You have to look at it as separate things.
That’s what I say.
No, it will never match the old, cannot replace the old, the old is great, and just let it be great.
Yeah, it is what it was. It was written for a different time. Different generation.
And the continuation, not everyone would have been happy with that, because there would have been something that they didn’t like, people that they shouldn’t have used. And there’s really no pleasing everybody.
Nope, there isn’t. And change is difficult to embrace but its kind of like, you have to embrace it because that’s what life is about. Life is about change.
And here’s the big question. How do you feel, like, right now. With everything at least unofficially a go?
I’m sort of smugly pleased.
Did you do a happy dance?
Yeah, I did a happy dance… Its sort of that I know what I’m going to be doing for the next “X” number of months, should I be… I mean, the rumor is I’m in 13 of the 13, and its sort of a nice thing to know that that’s what you’ve got coming. At this point I have no idea when they’ll start shooting, there’s no kinds of money in the contract or am I gonna be a day player or what. So I have no idea about any of that stuff. But just to know that its going is so nice because I loved it so much, I loved doing it, I loved the cast and I loved the crew and I really want to go back and do it again, and also to flesh out Tyrol a little bit more because I really liked that character, and I really want to go to the convention! I want to meet all the fans. I hear all these stories from all of my friends who go all over the world for Stargate and Andromeda and everything and they say it’s the best time EVER. And so I’m really excited to go.
Some of us have been talking online about having a convention in Vancouver.
Yeah, ‘cause there’s Stargate and Andromeda and the new Stargate Atlantis and Battlestar and they could shoot Outer Limits so you could get a bunch of people from that up there. There’s all kinds of stuff. Yeah, you could have a really cool time Sci Fi Convention in Vancouver ‘cause there’s so much shot there. I, Robot just finished, and all that kind of stuff. That would be great fun. I’d be up for that for sure. But I do want to go around the world where people are, and meet in their environment.
Oh yeah, I mean so many International fans you’re gonna have. That’s gotta be exciting.
Oh yeah, there was some guy online the other day from Estonia!
Yeah! And that was wild, talking with this guy halfway around the globe. It was very, very cool. It still amazes me that people take time out of their day to watch me. I mean sometimes I still do this, I sort of lay in bed at night going, “I am Tyrol of Battlestar Galactica.” How cool is that? I was thinking, when Next Generation was first cast, and some of those actors officially got the pilot and then they found they were going to series, I wonder if they sat on the couch and went “this is really cool.”
I bet they did!
“This is really, really kind of cool.”
Well we know Shatner did…
Yeah, but even so because that Star Trek didn’t have too much preceding it. But now if you were sort of going out for Star Trek: Next Generation, you know that there’s this HUGE fan base out there and you’re all immediately going to have millions and millions of people watching you. And I’m sort of in that same position, although I would never compare what I do to those guys. But at some point they must have just kind of said, “This is really cool. This is WILD, because nobody else has that character. I am that character and I will forever be known as ‘that guy.’ “ Which is kind of, bizarre.
It’s very cool, totally cool. Absolutely. I’m very excited.
Gosh, you know I was talking with Grace Park a couple weeks ago and I was also talking with Ron Moore earlier this week and what I’ve heard from both of them is that the actors have so much freedom in terms of being able to do improv and just go with the flow, and I wondered if you had any moments like that where you did a little improvisation.
Oh God, read the original script. In the original script, Tyrol is just this relatively small character. There is not a whole lot going on. There’s not a lot of scenes and there’s not a lot of dialogue. I mean, he was there and he was in place and everybody understood who he was and everything like that, but oh yeah, David Eick was on the set as sort of helping us do the re-write as we go, constant communication was going on and Michael Rymer would just sort of say, “go Aaron, go.” And I am a big improver, if the line doesn’t make sense I’ll change the line, and originally I had nine days in the shooting schedule, and I ended up with 14 because David just kept adding scenes and adding scenes and adding lines, and I would show up and David would just go, “OK, I’m putting you to this scene, I’m not really sure what the dialogue would be but here’s the situation…” And then: Go. And I’d go out and just improv something and he would say “Fabulous! It’s great , do it again!” Or he would say, “Good. I really need this one word hit.” And so, a lot of my stuff is improved and ad-libbed. And they just kept adding me to more and more scenes.
You sort of MADE that character. You didn’t try to become what was on paper, you made the character into something even greater than that.
It’s funny because my friends and family watched it and they go, “You are SO that guy.”
You really are. I’ve gotta say you fill that role extremely well.
And they say they can tell it was ad-libbed because “That’s just something Aaron would say.” That’s what they all say to me and it’s really funny. I mean Ron Moore has a wonderful base to explore, and it’s very clear to me the direction he wanted to go, and what kind of person Tyrol was and all that, so he really gave me a nice framework. But Michael and David really gave me the freedom to flesh it out, and with their guidance to steer me down the path to where they wanted it to be and I think everybody’s happy with the way it ended up.
Oh yeah, tremendously. You know, there’s one scene that really stood out in my mind and I think probably the most memorable scene with you in it. And that is that very emotional scene where they had to close the doors, they had to cut off the people because of the fire, where you’re begging…
Yeah 40 more seconds, and where you’re begging Tigh to just please wait a little longer, and that was just so powerful. Were you doing a little ad-lib there?
Well, that scene is pretty much the way it was written originally I think, its just sort of the timing of it and we would sort of switch the lines, like as it was written it was his line, my line, and then his line. But it made more sense to go my line, my line and then to him, and then just kind of words, and a few of the lines got changed a little bit.
Where did you draw up all that emotion? Did you have to kind of go inside yourself to find it or, how did you do that?
When I have really, really emotional scenes like that one and the one that immediately follows it, when I find Cally and Prosna’s all burned up and I go to see Adama and tell him that “40 seconds, all I needed was 40 seconds.” Stuff like that I just kind of wander off by myself and just sort of settle in to what is the mood of what is really taking place, and really understand from an emotional what is taking place in Tyrol’s life at that point in time, and sort of liken it to what’s going on in my life. What I usually do is sit quietly and play a little mini movie in my mind and do some dialogue with somebody I’ve lost or am about to lose. I mean, its kind of sick. You end up having this emotional daze imagining that your mom’s on her deathbed and all that kind of crap. I don’t do that too much…
Yeah, but you’ve got to have something, you’ve got to find some way to conjure up that kind of feeling..
Yeah its gotta be real.
I mean, so almost have to convince your self that there were all these people who were actually dying.
Well, yeah. That’s what you have to do, or else it doesn’t look like you really cared that people were dying.
Well it looked very convincing, that scene. That was very well done.
Well thank you. I’m happy with the way it turned out. We shot that for hours, too, and that can be tough because its hard to maintain. And funny enough, the one where the three of us are standing there, Tigh and Kelly and Tyrol were standing there arguing about what to do, we had shot all my close ups, everybody’s close ups, and we went on and the cameras were off scene so I sort of dropped my big emotional investment, and then all of a sudden Michael Rymer says, “Oh and now we’re gonna come back and get this other shot of you,” and I just said, “I’m not there anymore and I don’t know if I can get back right now because I’m really tired, Michael, we’ve been doing this 8 hours.” And none of those shots ended up in the final cut.
Oh no its good though because what was left worked best. Michael always says he’ll always take the best acting no matter what the camera angle is.
That’s awesome. Its got to be nice for you to have Directors and Producers who are that understanding and allow you to do what you need to do.
Yeah, and I cannot express enough how for people who loved the show, the reason it is so great is Ron Moore had a great script, and Michael Rymer and David Eick on the day let everybody do whatever they needed to do to get wherever they needed to be, and allowed them the freedom to make the scene better, and didn’t argue or get offended that they changed the words or dialogue or anything.
That is so cool. Like they’re not on some big power trip at all.
No not at all. Some writers will kind of get ancie when you start changing their words, but nobody talks like this! NOBODY talks like this, I don’t know why you’ve written like this. Like Harrison Ford has that great line to George Lucas when they were shooting Star Wars, he said, “George you can write it but boy you can’t say it.” The dialogue is just awkward sometimes and its really funny.
You gotta make it conversational.
You gotta make it conversational, you gotta make it real, like something you would say.
Hey, is there any member of the cast that you especially bond with, that you felt kind of a kinship with?
Nicki Clyne who plays Cally, just because she was always around me, and she’s so sweet, not that she’s a little girl, but she’s like a sweet little girl to me and its like big brother, little sister. And so I really had great fun with her. And Grace of course, was just wonderful. And it’s weird, sort of the Officers and the Pilots went with the Officers and the Pilots and the Enlisted people went with the Enlisted people. So, I was hanging out with Mike Eklund, who is a friend from years ago, cause he and I actually flew to Toronto to do a Budweiser commercial three years ago for a weekend, so we know each other from way back. And Alonso Oyarzun, and all of us, were just sort of hanging out and having fun and then a couple of the background guys too would just sort of stand around with us and talk hockey and talk shop and talk about girls. Yeah.
[laughs] That’s funny. Can you kind of tell me what it was like when you found out?
I guess I can let it all out now. When we went to the premier on December second or whatever it was, Edward sort of said, “Oh its gonna go, don’t worry it’ll go,” and he’s an exec so you’re thinking OK, well it will probably go. And Ron Moore was very upbeat, very positive, Michael Rymer was just saying “No doubt its gonna go,” and everybody sort of had that feeling. Of course that doesn’t translate into making dollars making cents, so we were still all unsure and then, we were coming to the end of December, and everyone was worried about that, and then they extended it to the end of January and then we’ve just sort of been in limbo. And then, the beginning of this week I came down to LA and I told with my agent in Vancouver to keep on top of it and let me know anything that happens. And he said he was going to make his calls on Friday and find out. He knows the Casting Directors who cast Battlestar, he knows them really well. He was going to call them and call into various other people. And so, it started coming down to the wire yesterday, I heard some positive things on Thursday, and then Friday. Yesterday, we started finding out little snippets and little snippets and that it was good, and everything was positive, and exciting, then all of a sudden, Grace phones me at about 4:30 yesterday, says, “It doesn’t look good, is probably not going to go, Sci-Fi’s supposed to walk away. They have all the unions in one room and they are all negotiating, and the unions can be really stubborn. And Sci-Fi just cant do it for the dollars that they want, so its probably just not gonna go.” And I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I wanted to phone my union and just scream! And we all hate that stupid Union to begin with. Man, they make stupid decisions sometimes… and so, there, its out for the world to hear.
And Grace also told me that they had until 6 PM Pacific Standard Time yesterday, to make the decision or not. Or else the actors’ contracts would expire. And she was coming down to test for a pilot on Monday and they would lose her, definitely they would have lost her. So, she said at 4:30, they have an hour and a half to work it out. So she phones me back at quarter to six and says “It’s a go, yay, yay! I’ve got my contract renewed and yay!” and everything’s exciting. So I call my agent and I said, “Grace just phoned and this is what happened,” and he says, “Oh really? Cause I just talked to casting and they say it’s not a green light. They were worried that they were going to lose Grace to this other show and they couldn’t get an extension on her option, so they wanted to lock her up just in case they do work it out and if they don’t work it then they’ll just pay her and that’s that.”
Oh my gosh!
So we went from “Yay!” dancing in the streets to “Oh, Crap! You’re kidding!” And then it was probably 30 phone calls between me, Grace, my agent, back and forth until like 7:00, just after 7:00 last night when a friend of mine who works in casting called me and said, “How does it feel to be one contract away from your own show?” And I’m like, “Is it for sure…?” And she said, “Yup.” And I went, “Oh thank God!” And they literally went down to one minute before 6 o’clock, it just looked like, they were like, “We are not gonna to do it, were not gonna do it” Finally somebody said, “OK, Fine, well get in. We’ll do it for that much.”
Oh my gosh!
And then they had to scramble and call all the agents and say, “We want your actor! We want your actor! We want your actor!” Before the agents say, “OK the one you want, she’s gone.” It was priceless. It probably would have been a pretty good show.
That’s amazing. ‘Cause the fans, they were all on pins and needles, and like “it’s a go,” “its not a go,” and like all these rumors get posted on the internet, and you know we had Koenigrules out there posting, and people responding and, oh my gosh, just bedlam. But its kind of a reflection of that, things WERE back and forth!
Oh, they literally were all sitting in one big conference room going, “Screw you!” “No, screw you!” “No screw you!” “Screw you!” “Screw you!”
Oh to be a fly on the wall!
Oh ABSOLUTELY. If you put some cameras in there and broadcast them across the internet you would have had a reality show like you have never seen. It would have been hilarious! Either that or it would have been profoundly boring.
Oh, probably a little of both.
But we’re all just happy to see they’ve figured it out and ultimately it can be just such a great show. The mini was. Ron has some great ideas for it, Sci Fi is committed to making it a great show. The actors all want to do it, the crew wants to do it, so it’s like, somebody figure out a way to do this, because its better for everybody to work for a little bit less than to not work at all. ‘Cause it is a sci-fi show and they cost an extraordinary amount of money, it’s not a sit com where there’s set sets and you just go in and blow it off. There’s no special effects. And those guys, they work like 20 hours a day to do special effects. Its unbelievable, the work that they do, and sometimes they get paid well to do it, but when you start adding up all the hours… for the work that they do I think they’re underpaid.
That was just fascinating hearing that story from you. That’s amazing. I mean we’ve heard about 11th hour decisions, but this was right down to the minute. That was great.
Yeah its wild. Like Grace called me at 5:42 and she “I just got a call and they just did my contract,” and it went back to, “no, I don’t think… we’re not sure… we don’t know…”
Oh my goodness, you’re just up and down like a roller coaster. So how are you gonna celebrate? Have you celebrated yet? Well, you don’t sound hung over so you probably haven’t…
No I was actually a very good boy last night, had a couple drinks and went to a hockey game and went to bed.
Well I tell you what, have you got any special message that you’d like to give to the fans? Because you’re pretty accessible, you’ve said a lot online already, but is there anything you want to say that you haven’t been able to say?
I just want to impart upon them… like everybody comes to me and says, “Oh, Mr. Douglas, it’s such an honor to have you here,” and all that stuff. And as nice as that is, it’s crap! And stop it! I’m just some guy, OK? It’s like, you know, I’m not saving lives, I’m not delivering babies, or pulling cats out of burning homes. I mean it’s special what we do, and kind of fun and it’s very cool, but when it comes right down to it, were just people. And it’s a thrill and an honor for me to sit down and talk to all of these people and they’re all interested in what in have to say. And that means so much to me, that everybody’s so nice and so fabulous and I encourage them to keep asking me questions and I’ll share whatever I can.
Douglas says he’ll continue to post at fansites, and he’s happy to answer any questions you might have. He says he’d also love to see a Galactica 2003 convention in Vancouver, where he could meet all his fans face to face.