INTERVIEW: Hail to the Chief

Hail to the Chief
By: Sharon Gosling
Date: December 2005 / January 2006
Source: Battlestar Galactica: The Official Magazine (#2)






He’s managed to keep the Galactica and her complement of Vipers space-worthy through the very harshest of circumstances … AARON DOUGLAS talks Chief with Battlestar Galactica Magazine.

For a character that was originally planned merely as a background face aboard the Battlestar Galactica, Chief Galen Tyrol has certainly exceeded his bounds. Firstly embroiled in a torrid affair with a fellow officer, viewers watched anxiously as his lover, Sharon Valleri, was initially revealed as a Cylon operative and then assassinated. Now, as Tyrol adjusts to the change aboard Galactica with a second – pregnant – Boomer aboard, life just got so much more complicated.


Chief Tyrol went through a massive arc from the beginning of the mini-series to the end of season one. Were you expecting that when you signed on?

No, not at all, actually. When you read the first script for the mini-series, the one that I actually auditioned from, Chief only had about 15 lines. He was a really small character. But I’m a big ad-libber so if I see that I can get away with it I ad-lib stuff in! And a couple of days in, Mike Rymer (director) and David Eick (producer) talked about it and started adding me to scenes. So the Chief has grown exponentially. In the mini-series I think I ended up with five extra days of shooting because I had so many more scenes. They liked the character and gave me more to do in season one. And they’ve given me much more in season two!


Season two means filming 20 episodes instead of the 13 that made up season one. How has that been for you?

It’s nice this year, in that last year I was just contacted as the series went on. I didn’t know where the Chief was going, I wasn’t locked in long-term for the show, and I didn’t really have as much feedback last year as I’m getting this year. So I didn’t know if he was going to be killed off, or if he was going to have stuff to do. But I had a really good talk with David Eick in the off-season, and they made a really strong commitment to me, and to the character, and I’ve reciprocated and made a really strong commitment to the show, so I’m thrilled. Unless something happens, I’m here for five years like everybody else. And now I get lots to do, so it’s very cool.


Committing to five years is always a big decision for any actor. Did you hesitate at all?

It is a long time. I think most people would prefer to do just two years at a time. It’s funny, because I sort of relate it to sports. Athletes want the long term deal, [which is] guaranteed money. But [acting], even if they sign you for five years, they may not pick you up. So they always have an out, but you don’t really have any control over it. It was really tough to know – “Do I really want to do this for five more years?” But it’s a good show, and it’s great writing. It’s so weird. You work so hard for so many years to be regular on show, and then when you finally get the opportunity to be a regular on a show, you go, “I don’t know, maybe I’ll wait for the next thing…” [laughs] You really just have to smack yourself for a while and go. “What are you doing? This is the thing that you’ve been wanting for so long and finally it’s here and you’re going to screw it up?” Once I’d made the decision, everything started falling into place. The network and the studio and everybody have been excited, and there have been great accolades from so many magazines. So it’s really clearly the right decision.

The advantage that I have is the Tyrol wasn’t in the original series, so he doesn’t have that hatred from the original series fans! And he’s just enough of a peripheral character that I can go do other things and not be labeled as, “Oh, that’s that Apollo guy from Battlestar Galactica,” for example. So I have a little bit of anonymity – people don’t recognize me, so I can walk around anywhere, Rarely do people come up and ask, “Are you on that show?” So I go into auditions, and directors and producers have sort of heard of the show but they’ve never seen it and they don’t really care. Which is odd, but nice!


Chief Tyrol started season two on Kobol. How was that for you?

It’s interesting being on location, because it’s a space show and so much of the time [we’re in space]. Last year, I went on location once for one day for episodes 12 and 13 and the rest of the time we were in the studio, so I never got to go outside! So it’s nice to go out and run around through the forests. It was long days, but it was a lot of fun. It was difficult only because of all the emotional stuff that goes on in those episodes – they’ve started calling me the Angel of Death because people keep dying around me! But it was a lot of fun to do. And it was nice to have Michael Rymer back, he’s my favorite director.


Tyrol has had to deal with a lot of conflict, in particular in dealing with Sharon Valleri. How do you prepare for those scenes, as an actor?

I don’t know, it’s an odd thing. I don’t do anything. It used to drive me crazy, because I’d see everyone around me going through these great pains to prepare for scenes and studying the night before and breaking down their scripts and all that – and I don’t. I show up for work, I get my sides, I learn my lines in rehearsal and then I just do it! So I can’t explain. I still have a hard time trying to articulate what I do to prepare. I just follow my gut, and I give what I get. So the look of the other person, what they’re saying – I respond to that. So I don’t really have any tremendous insights [laughs]! It can be very, very emotional. The difficulty I find sometimes is having to do the exact same thing take after take after take. because I just go with where I’m at. If my body’s not really feeling like crying at that moment, it just won’t cry! And so I don’t manufacture it, I just go with what’s there. Some directors really like that, but some are like, “Well, we need to match what you did before”.


Chief Tyrol had a rocky ride with Sharon ‘Boomer’ Valleri, but her death still seemed to hit him hard. Were you expecting that, or was her death a surprise?

I thought that they were going to have to do something with one of the Boomers, because you can’t have two or three Boomers on the ship at one time. I was kind of hoping, actually, that something would go terribly awry and the Chief has to kill her. I thought that would be pretty cool, as an actor, to play euthanizing the woman you love. That would be just crazy. But that’s obviously not to be. I think I’ve killed enough people in the first half of the season already!

I had a scene in episode five, right at the end, where I’m talking to Adama. At the end they’re talking about what I liked about Boomer and about love and stuff, and he says, “You know you’ll see her again, because there are many copies.” And he leaves the Chief there thinking “Holy shit, I’d never thought of that.” So it’s going to be interesting. The next Boomer has all the memories of the Chief and the relationship, but doesn’t have any first hand experience with it. That would be really weird, to see a loved one come back from the dead a couple of weeks after she died in your arms, right?


There’s also the inevitable conflict between the Chief and Helo.

Helo is in love with that Boomer and that Boomer is carrying his child. The Chief isn’t going to like that too much, and Helo’s not going to like the fact that the Chief and Boomer were once an item and now he’s back. So yeah, that will be interesting for sure.


What would you like to see happen for your character?

I would like to have a scene eventually at some point with Mary. I think it would be interesting if she, looking for a voice of the people, goes down to the blue-collar workers. The President goes to the auto-body shop and starts talking to those guys instead of just talking to management, just to get a sense of what’s really going on. That would be kin of fun. Although I just trust the writers to take him where they go, because they always write good stuff to do.


Do you feel that you can talk to the writers if you have something specific you want to contribute?

Oh yeah, they are tremendous guys, with open doors. We have the email addresses of the writers – David (Eick) and I are good friends, and every once in a while we sit around and talk. I think David lives vicariously through Tyrol! I think the Chief is like his swashbuckling sort of gun-toting superhero guy, who he loves! And he’ll go, “And then the Chief beats someone up, and the Chief has sex with this girl…l” he just loves this stuff! So he’ll call me or he finds me on set or emails me and he’ll go, “Oh, oh, oh, in this episode, you’re going to be doing that, I can’t wait to see you do it!” Then he likes to watch me film it. He gets really excited, it’s really funny. So yeah, I can go talk to him and give him ideas and spout things off – and they listen.

We see an episode or two ahead, but they have the entire arc of the story. And you can sort of find out where they’re going by giving them thoughts, and they’ll say, “No, that’s not the direction we’re going in”. [laughs]. So you pick your spots! The less you say, the more they listen.


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