INTERVIEW: Accidental Actor

Accidental Actor
By: Jennifer Chancellor
Date: June 25, 2006


After two ‘Battlestar Galactica’ rejections, Aaron Douglas talked his way into a role

Aaron Douglas’ smart mouth has helped make him famous. And smart, in this instance, can only mean intelligent.

In a recent phone interview from downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, he cracked jokes and waxed enthusiastically about literature, sports, his upcoming guest spot at this year’s Trek Expo 2006 and his role as Chief Galen Tyrol in the Sci-Fi Network’s “Battlestar Galactica” series.

“I’m really looking forward to coming down and checking out this convention and meeting everybody and sitting around, answering Q&A, talking and meeting fans. If they can’t find me, go look for me in the bar,” he joked. “And if anybody wants to talk sports, I’m their guy.”

His trek to sci-fi stardom on “BSG” started a little rocky, but his gift for gab eventually lead him to a prime position with the series, he said.

He got involved with “BSG” in 2002, after he heard that a resurrected, revamped version of the classic 1979 sci-fi series was in the works. “I knew it was something that I’d love to be a part of, and so my agent got me an audition and it just sort of snowballed from there.”

Well, “sort of” is right. He originally auditioned for the role of Capt. Lee “Apollo” Adama, and didn’t get it. It went to Jamie Bamber.

Then, Douglas was called back to audition for another role. He didn’t get that one, either.

“They really wanted to put me in the show somewhere and they picked this role, Chief Tyrol, and asked if I wanted to do it. I said ‘Yeah, absolutely!’ and it was really just a smallish character.”

And, he said, that’s when he started talking. His role in the series took off.

Douglas ad-libbed his way from a role as a “ship mechanic,” as he jokingly called it (his character is actually senior NCO, or noncommissioned officer, on board the Galactica battleship), into a prominent lead on “BSG.”

In just a couple of seasons, Douglas’ co-characters on the show also have developed into a loyal deck crew, he said.

“One thing I’m good at is making stuff up on the fly,” he said. “Normally, TV shows say, ‘No, no! You have to say it exactly as written.’ But they started letting me do scenes . . . and now I’m one of the regular leads. I’m very pleased.”

And his fans love Douglas’ rugged, honest, realistic take on Chief Tyrol’s character. “He’s really relatable. When I meet fans, particularly people who are in the military, they all say that the Chief reminds them of a Chief they are serving with, have served with, or know well — the guy who sticks up for his men and he’s really loyal. And that’s what I like about him, too.”

Douglas is a self-proclaimed war and military history buff, and doesn’t mind telling people about it. “Right now I have three books on the go. My big thing right now is war history — I read a lot of those books, like (author) Stephen Ambrose, and a lot of books written by individual soldiers. I think they’re absolutely fascinating.”

He also light-heartedly admits that he has no military training. “I’m Canadian, so we have, like, four guys in our military, and they all share the gun.”

Douglas did “a little bit” of acting in school productions as a child, a smattering of community theater gigs after high school and a year of acting school at age 28, “but the most schooling I have is for floor-laying. I’m blue-collar,” he said.

“I think my background also helps me relate to my audience. I think I probably work that kind of life perspective into my character on ‘BSG’ whenever I can. I worked construction for four or five years. Not that I’d ever want to do it again — my knees are shot.”

“Physical labor is rewarding but it’s also real, true work, you know? One nice thing about that kind of job is that you can just take off your toolbelt and your day’s over. Actors, I get off the set and I’ve got to go study my lines for the next day.”

But, Douglas said, it’s not always work, work, work — even while in the midst of shooting season three of “BSG.”

During his time off, he often travels from his home in Vancouver to Las Vegas, or plays golf or hockey. But he also enjoys “lying around and reading. I like to sit quietly,” he said, and laughed.

His breaks also allow him to meet his fans at conventions like Tulsa’s Trek Expo 2006, which runs through Sunday at the John Q. Hammonds Arena, 6836 S. Mingo Road.

“Now I’ve got a couple of episodes that are nice and lean for me, so I’ve got some time off.”

“It’s my first time in Tulsa, or anywhere near Oklahoma for that matter, so I’m really excited about seeing what that part of the country looks like. You say it’s flat? I’m coming from West Coast mountains, so everything’s flat to me,” Douglas said.

He’ll be at the Expo on Sunday, and he’s looking forward to meeting — and talking with — his fans.

“Battlestar Galactica has such a huge fan following, and sci-fi fans are so eager to meet the casts and to talk about stuff like this.”

“I get to do things like buy a house and have a life and do something that I love, thanks to the fans, the people who watch the show. It’s a real treat.”