INTERVIEW: Spare A Screw

Spare A Screw
By: Michael Ricci (aka aeolus)
Date: April 14, 2006
Source: Sci-Fi Brain


Battlestar Galactica’s Chief Tyrol is a mechanic who can turn screws into space-ships, but Aeolus finds out why Aaron Douglas believes there is more to this man than just nuts and bolts.

Chief Petty Officer Galen Tyrol has gone through a myriad of character development since the breakout series, Battlestar Galactica, debuted back in December of 2003. The character fell in love with a Cylon-infiltrator, has been accused of being one himself, was stranded on an alien world, accidentally killed a superior officer, and nearly did the same thing to the mother of his unborn child. And all of this occurred up until the end of season two. So, where does one start? Why, the beginning, of course…

“I am not like a lot of actors who do this whole write out,” Aaron Douglas, the actor behind Galactica’s Tyrol, says about his character’s yet revealed history. “I am more of an in-the-moment [type-of-actors]. What is taking place? We know that his father was a priest and his mother was an oracle and he is from Gemenon. He is, or was, very-very religious. And, um, an only child—I think. That is what I am going with. He has been in service for along time. Sort of against his parents wishes. He was going through the ranks quickly and something happened on another ship where he was demoted. [He] sort of had to start at the bottom and was shipped off to Galactica and became Adama’s favorite regardless of his past.”

While the character’s religious beliefs have only been hinted at, it is certain that Tyrol has a strong sense of spirituality. When asked if that belief system played an important part of the character, he agreed. “Yeah. You don’t see him praying all the time like Starbuck, but I think that he is drifting from it though.”

The Vancouver-native admitted that this is one of the things he has in common with his character.

“He is sort of a parallel to my life. I grew up in a fundamental Christian home and my parents figured out that is not the right avenue. I grew up in that environment, and since I kind of became more spiritual and less religious, I think that I am trying to take the Chief that way. There are a bunch of religious people on the ship and the Cylons are uber religious. I like to have some characters get away from fundamental religion. Reading a book that was written thousands of years ago, and following it, and trying to apply it to modern day is [difficult].”

In the two-part season finale of season two, Lay Down Your Burdens, one of the opening scenes was a distraught Tyrol having a nightmare. Concerned, Specialist Cally (Nicki Clyne) approaches him, but becomes the accidental target of his repressed rage. Even though her jaw was wired shut, she confessed her (obvious) feelings for her commanding officer.

In regards to their romantic relationship, “I didn’t think they were going to go there. I just thought that those two would be like big brother/little sister for the rest of the show, but that is where they wanted to go. We will see how it plays out in season three.” By the end of the episode, Cally is shown pregnant. “It is an interesting turn of events, but I don’t think it is a wrong one or bad in anyway. I am looking forward to seeing how it goes.”

The cast doesn’t return to filming until the second week of April. So, Douglas is in the dark as the rest of us are. However, he does have his own theories on what the future holds in store for the Viper repairmen turned lovers.

“A baby!” he laughs. “It depends if they are going to be stuck on that planet for awhile or if they get back up to the ship. If they go back and are in the military, does Cally go back in the military or does she stay a stay-at-home mom? Or, does the Chief go back and does she stay on a civilian ship? I don’t know, there are a lot of questions. I would think that it would be an interesting thing if she goes to a civilian ship with the baby. And, the Chief has to shuttle back and forth to visit her. I guess the mini-long distance relationship would play out.”

“We have no idea what is taking place,” he continues. “The writers keep it all under wraps. So, I guess stuff won’t leak out. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do flashbacks to what has taken place in the years that we’ve missed, but I could be wrong. I think at some point Cally will have her baby, Baltar will still be an asshole, and Apollo will still be fat!” he teases. “He will have to sit in a makeup chair for five hours.”

To date, Flight of the Phoenix, is Aaron’s favorite episode. Facing a Viper shortage, Tyrol takes it upon himself to design a new fighter jet from scratch. “I liked Flight of the Phoenix, because I had a lot to do. We shot it in sequence from beginning to end. I also like any episodes where I wasn’t in it, because I got paid to play hockey and go golfing, which is nice,” he adds with a laugh.

Of all the episodes he has done, twenty-five of the show’s thirty-three run, he doesn’t have a least favorite episode. The only thing he dislikes about shooting scenes is not being able to do something. “The only things that aren’t really fun to shot are when it is a big huge scene in the hanger deck, where everyone is involved, but only Adama and the President, or Adama and Apollo are making speeches at the podium. The hanger deck is full of us and you have no dialogue or anything, but you have to stand in a line for six hours and listen to someone say the same thing again and again. You’re basically an extra, and man is that boring. Just brutal!”

What catapulted the show to critical acclaim was the end of season one. Cylon-infiltrator Sharon “Boomer” Valerii (Grace Park) shot Commander Adama (Edward James Almos) in the stomach, President Roslin was arrested in a military coup d’état, while Vice-President Baltar, Tyrol and several others crash landed on Kobol. At the beginning of season two, most of the main characters were either laying on their death bed, imprisoned or on alien worlds. Many critics and fans alike praised the show for its brave move.

“I was obviously very thrilled!” Douglas admits when his character was made more a central character to an on-going plotline. “I remember getting those scripts and just feeling very-very pleased. I started shooting emails out to the writers and thanking them for really-really great stuff to do.”

Other fans were more critical of the sudden shift of focus.

“It is tough, our cast is so huge. You have so many stories going on and it is difficult to keep everybody happy. So, ultimately, we have scripts where we have one or two scenes or other episodes where we don’t even work. I think that is just unfortunate. The byproduct of having a cast of fifteen [regulars].” Douglas admits that there are some benefits to allowing breathing room for other characters to shine in certain episode. “I take my scraps from the table whenever I get them. I am very pleased to get them and don’t mind having an episode or two off, because I understand that less is more sometimes. If you are in every episode all the time, some are excited about it, but others start to tune you out after a little bit. I always go away from movies, you remember the leads, but you always remember that one guy or that one lady who had just a few scenes, but who had spiced it up.”

In the Kobol story arc (Scattered, Valley of Darkness, and Fragged), Tyrol becomes the unofficial field commander when the indecisive and reckless Lieutenant Crashdown makes some dangerous choices. In those episodes, several characters were killed by Cylon Centurions. One of them was season one reoccurring character, Socinus (Alonso Oyarzun) who is a good friend of Aaron Douglas. He recalls this as being the most difficult and challenging of all the episodes he’s done to date.

“Vancouver is a rain forest. Depending on the time of year it can be chilly and rain—especially out there [where we were shooting]. The mud, fog, and all that. It’s fun, though, because you spend so much time on the ‘ship’ and you’re indoors in the studio all the time. It can get hot and uncomfortable. It is nice to get outside and I was born here. I love the weather regardless of what people will say. For me, the rain is no big deal. The most difficult part, for me, was shooting all that emotional stuff that was going on. People dying and having to continuously [be] living in the emotional context that someone is dead or is dying.” He adds, “Shooting outdoors is fun!”

“I remember one day in particular, Tarn (Warren Christie) gets shot and the Chief drags him off and picks him up. I must have carried him or picked him up more than thirty times for two hours in the fireman carry [position]. At the end of the day, I was so freaking tired,” he remembered. “The scene where Socinus died and that was the entire day of dragging him up a hill and putting him down and take after take of euthanizing my close friend. Not only being the Chief’s friend, but Alonzo and I are good buddies. So, I am effectively deleting him from the show. Which, I found rather frustrating that he had to die. I begged and begged ‘don’t kill him!’ They said, ‘No, we have to keep the story going and you gotta kill main characters once and awhile.’ So, the audience had no idea.”

Of the other actors on the show, he considers them very talented people and it a privilege to work along side them all. “I love them. I know it is a little cheesy, but it is true. We are all like one big happy family. We all get along so well. I think it is partly due to the fact that we rarely see each other—sort of familiarity breeds contempt. I spend a lot of time with Nick. I could not have asked for a better person to spend a lot of time with. She is an absolute doll! She is so funny, so silly and such a great actor. We have a lot of fun. Tahmoh (Penikett, Helo) and I are great friends on the set. Jamie (Bamber), James (Callis) and I are really close off set. We spend a lot of time together hanging out. We just get along so well. It is a real mix of personalities and it all seems to work for some reason.”

While he considers all of them great to work with, he thinks Edward James Olmos and he have the best working relationship. One of his favorite lines from a scene with Olmos was, “Can you ever love a machine, Chief?” from the episode, The Farm.

“It is really easy to work with Eddie. He is a bit of a prankster, but he so much fun and so generous and, yea, he and I are so very similar in that we kinda adlib and change dialogue here and there. Every take we will say something different, make it so [it’s] fresh and interesting. Eddie and I, and Bamber. He’s a little more serious between takes. Eddie and I goof off when we get a chance. Katie, Eddie and I goof off a little.”

Though, best chemistry on screen is, you’ve guessed it, Nicki Clyne.

“Her and I are just buddies! We would be telling jokes and goofing off until someone says, ‘action!’ We suddenly get serious and do the scene.”

In another interview done by Sci-Fi Brain, Nicki Clyne told us an amusing story when filming the opening scene of Lay Down Your Burdens, where Aaron Douglas accidentally punched her in the face. In all fairness, we gave Aaron the chance to give his side of the story. While he still doesn’t know if he actually hit her, he does play the gentleman and takes full responsibility for it.

“She is lying!” he humorously yells. He goes onto explain the layout of the scene. “I had to wake up, climb over on top of her and start throwing right [punches]. One take at the end, they yelled, ‘cut!’ and she is laying there and her eyes are watering and she is staring at me. She is getting all sniffly and I go, ‘What happened?’ She said, ‘You hit me.’ And, I said, ‘No I didn’t.’ I honestly don’t remember hitting her. I don’t know. I measure my shots pretty good. It would have been pretty tough to hit her, but if she says I did, then I did. I was absolutely mortified and humiliated to think that I had connected with her.”

“What I think happened was she put her hands up in front of her face and I think I hit her arm or her hand and it smashed into her face, but I will take full responsibility for it and I have apologized on many occasions. I think I am going to have to in the future many times more. Every time she does an interview, ‘What was the most memorable moment?’ ‘The time Aaron punched me in the face!’ “ he laughs, doing his best impression of Nicki.

“So sorry, Nicki! She is such a sweetie. She swears up and down it was my fault, but she got to punch me back.”

When things on the set get too serious and the deadlines begin to panic the production staff, he says he and Nicki enjoy lightening the burdens of others with their silliness. “Nicki and I will look at the camera and pull out some Simpsons lines or Ralph Wigam, and then everybody has a laugh. Then, the mood gets lightened and then we move on. So, we have fun with it.” And, as with all friends, they have several inside jokes outsiders wouldn’t understand at first glance. “Nicki and I routinely,” he pauses, laughing, “it is insane! I know the fans are going to do this now because [I mentioned it]. When we are on the hanger deck, there are all kinds of stuff there—so many tools and nuts and bolts. It started off as we tried to put stuff in each other’s pockets, and knowing that we have these huge coveralls with pockets everywhere! So, now one of us carries around a screw and it started off with that joke, ‘Any of you want to screw?’ And, then entered the screw. From there, it has evolved to us trying to do it secretively as we can—even in the middle of a scene. If I feel her hand touch mine, I open my hand a little bit and she puts it in mine. Then, I just keep on going and nobody ever picks it up. But, now we have just blown it, because the fans are going to be looking for that scene. So, any fans out there, if you see Nicki, give her a screw!”

He also encourages fans to ask Nicki what “peanut butter dog tongue” means. Though, fans themselves would seem to get the chance. The hockey-lover says he’s becoming more noticed when he goes out into public. “It is happening at least once a day. I have season tickets for the Vancouver Canucks hockey team and it happens at least once a game. I will be on the concourse and people say, ‘I really love your show!’ Thank you very much, it is really sweet and nice. I like the fact that people like it.”

The actor gets even more recognition on the internet. Fan sites have popped up over night, filled with message boards and picture databases. Not just devoted to the character of Chief Tyrol, but Aaron Douglas himself. An internet buff, he’s been known to post messages in Battlestar Galactica themed websites and regularly posts blog updates on his official website.

“It is very-very cool. It is really weird in some way,” he says. “I like that people are interested in what I have to say. I just hope that they take what I have to say with a grain of salt, that it is just some person’s opinion. I think people put to much weight in what celebrities have to say. That they are ultra right, they are just a person like everybody else. Just because they have an opinion doesn’t make theirs more valid or more [important].”

“The fans are great! I love going to conventions. You get to meet different people from all walks of life. Everything from the guy toiling in the fields to the Starbucks person to the doctor, the lawyer, and politician. It is very-very cool. All walks of life and a different understanding of the world. I really enjoy it and the sites, I wish I had time to spend a little online and answer questions, but it is difficult because there are dozens and dozens of sites talking about BSG. They are fantastic!”