INTERVIEW: Battle Stars

Battle Stars
By: David Richardson
Date: October 2006
Source: Starburst Special #77






The young stars of Galactica – Aaron Douglas, Kandyse McClure, Nicki Clyne and Paul Campbell – get together to talk about Season Two on DVD … with hilarious results!

They play it deadly serious on screen, but in real life the actors from Battlestar Galactica laugh a lot. I’m sitting in the boardroom of a PR firm in Central London, at a table surrounded by Aaron Douglas (Chief Petty Officer Tyrol), Kandyse McClure (Dualla), Nicki Clyne (Cally) and Paul Campbell (Billy Keikeya). These actors have spent the weekend in Daventry at a convention, and today they’re lined up to promote the show’s second season, which is now available on DVD. They’re in a riotous mood: even the opening of a coffee pot, which releases a quiet ‘pfffft’ noise, is enough to send Aaron and Paul into uncontrollable fits of giggles for several minutes. Stop it now, you lot, I’ve got serious questions …

You’ve just flown in from a Sci-Fi convention. Do you enjoy doing them?

Nicki: What’s really cool is it’s important for actors to get out there and meet the audience they’re playing for. You can get a different perspective on the show, on your character, and you can learn a lot.

Kandyse: The fans have really good insights.

Nicki: Our world can get a little insular on the set with our peers, and the producers and the writers. We all talk about the show, but we are very much inside our own characters. It’s good to have a different perspective.

Why do you think the series is so successful?

Kandyse: Tricia Helfer. Scantily clad! [laughs] You know, it’s real Human experiences. The writers try to create a form that discusses unpleasant, difficult things that happen in the world. I think people need those questions.

Paul: It reaches a broad audience too. It’s not the typical Sci-Fi genre, it’s not camp in any way.

Kandyse: There are no aliens!

Paul: It could be The West Wing in Space. Even the visual effects, which are phenomenal, don’t make you suspend your disbelief. If you are willing to accept some of the Sci-Fi stuff then it’s accessible for anyone.

Nicki: I don’t know how many people I’ve met who have resisted it because it’s Science Fiction… Once they give it a chance, they are blown away. I think every person who has watched at least one episode has been hooked and never looked back. They’re like, ‘I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to check it out’.

Kandyse: The number one thing people say to me is ‘I was never a Sci-Fi fan, but I bought the box set of your show the other day’.

Paul: It’s kind of like crystal meth. ‘I never wanted to try it, but I tried it once at a party…’

You mention The West Wing – I’ve heard that comparison a few times before…

Paul: That was always the aim of Mary McDonnell, who plays President Roslin. She wanted the highest standard, and always said, ‘This has got to be The West Wing’. She would fight for the political plotline to be as big as the military stuff. People love to see action, but she fought for every inch of that thing. She’s done a great job with it – she’s such a damned good actor.

Paul, your character was killed off in Season Two’s Sacrifice. Did you know that was coming?

Paul: I did know it was coming eventually because it was my choice. I didn’t know exactly when but they gave me a few episodes warning for it.

It must have been a hard choice to make, especially as the show was really hitting its stride…

Paul: Absolutely. But [that success] didn’t really affect what I was doing on the show so much. There were a lot of attempts over the course of the first season and the beginning of the second to write bigger and better stuff for the character, but I don’t think it was ever designed that way. I absolutely loved the show, but Billy wasn’t going to become the President and take over. he was always going to be somebody’s sidekick – which is fine, that was a lot of fun but I figured that in five or six years down the road if I hadn’t taken a real shot at permanent unemployment, I’d be real angry with myself…

Kandyse: Isn’t that what an actor is?

Paul: It’s what this actor is, now!

Kandyse: Not true. And we were sad to see him go.

Aaron, you got some really heavy stuff in the second series… especially as Tyrol began to slip into dark depression.

Aaron: The chief is one of David Eick’s favourite characters, and he likes to put me into the most difficult situations he possibly can and see what I do with it. I’m very blessed that they recognize they can give me something to do and I can pull it off. Season Two had a lot more of stuff for the Chief, it took that big heavy turn at the end there and I got to work with Dean Stockwell which was an amazing experience. In Season Three it has just kept going – in the first four or five episodes he’s really dark, it’s really heavy stuff. they actually phoned me and warned me there was some really dark stuff coming up. I read the script and thought they were amazing, but the challenge for me was doing it and keeping him as likeable character. The fans seem to like him.

Do you find it easy to tune in and out of that kind of mood on set?

Aaron: I’m a dark grumpy person to begin with. I like bossing people around. It comes easily to me.

The show is so intense on screen…

Aaron: it is a very dark show. It’s shot darkly, the scripts are dealing with stuff that is very analogous to all the horrible things that are going on in the world today. There are a few in Season Three, a little sweet family stuff…

Nicki: You get to see a different side to our characters.

I have to say I thought the last episode of Season Two was phenomenal. Can Season Three match that?

Aaron: When people ask me about Season Two I’d say, ‘If you liked Season One, then Season Two is better’. Now I tell people, ‘Season Three is even better than Season Two’. It’s absolutely remarkable: the first four or five episodes are the best the show has ever done. I’ve seen rough cuts of the first five and they are stupendous.

Where are you up to in terms of shooting?

Aaron: We’re about to go on our mid-season break.

Nicki: We’ve shot 11 episodes.

Aaron: Which is actually 12, because three episodes have been split up into two. We then go back for eight episodes.

I’ve been watching the DVDs, and it’s amazing how many deleted scenes are on there. Sometimes there’s about 12 minutes for an episode, far more than any other series…

Aaron: The ensemble cast is so huge, and the writers are trying to keep up so many storylines. the scripts need to be about 42 pages and then they write them and they are about 65. They then take out 15 pages, but there are still 50. It’s about a page a minute when they shoot it, so when they edit it they have to take off another 13 minutes, which is very difficult for these guys to do. A lot of scenes get chopped in half, and some scenes go away completely. They are huge ambitious scripts and they have to just waste some of it.

It must be really frustrating if you love a scene but it doesn’t make it to the episode?

Nicki: We have to trust the writers and editors that they have a better grasp of the bigger picture and what’s necessary and what’s not. Another reason is sometimes we get to set and things happen and we come up with new stuff that works better. If they feel that that helps the story along better, then they will use that. It’s tough sometimes if you really are attached to a scene but at least you can always take comfort that people will get to see it eventually on the DVD.

Paul: At the same time, there are a lot of scenes that you love that get cut. But there really aren’t any scenes that you didn’t love. The good stuff gets on the air.

Kandyse: And at least you got to do the scene…

Nicki: That’s the part we care about!

Do you own the DVDs yourselves?

Aaron: The studio sends us the box sets.

Kandyse: Some of us watch more than others.

Paul: I don’t have a box set.

Aaron: That’s because you’re dead!

Do you watch them?

Nicki: It’s really important for actors to see what everybody else does too. Things can change so much from what’s on the page to what’s on the screen, so you get your information just from the last revisions of the script you might not understand what’s really happening in the storyline.

Kandyse: Sometimes I watch the show and almost forget that I’m in it. I just get caught up in how it looks. I know I was there when a scene was shot, but I can see how much depth it has, the beautiful work that the camera and sound guys do.

Nicki: I think part of what makes our show so unique is you can tell that everyone who works on it, from the crew that’s there every day to people in the editing room and actors, everyone loves it.

Aaron: I have to watch the DVDs because I never read the scripts and I have no idea what’s going on.

Nicki: ‘So that’s what she was talking about when I was saying those lines!’

Aaron: So that’s Apollo, huh? Actually, Nicki just reads the lines to me, and then I say them back to her.

Nicki: When he’s talking you can see my lips moving too.

There are so many Sci-Fi series shot in Vancouver – do you end up bumping into the actors from other shows?

Aaron: Yes. We see the Stargate guys. then we walk back to our set and go, ‘Stargate is poo!’

Kandyse: In the words of Jamie Bamber.

Aaron: Paul McGillion, who plays Carson Beckett on Atlantis, is a good friend of mine, I know Rainbow Sun Francks very well. Chris Judge and I are good buddies.

Nicki: Vancouver is such a small city, especially within the acting community, almost every actor I know has been on our show in some capacity. I’ll go into the make-up trailer and sometimes and see a friend and I’ll be like, ‘Oh they’re on our show, then!’

A lot of you have done guest spots on…

Nicki: on everything!

So who’s been on Smallville?

[Everyone raises a hand]

Nicki: We’ve all done it. Once a show has been on a number of years, they go through the talent list.

Kandyse: I had a great time on Smallville. They actually called me and I was in Los Angeles, and they flew me up. I felt really special because that never happens – I’d auditioned for them so many times and it had never gone through. I was on the plane reading the script going ‘Wow, this is surreal’. I had so much fun. Tom Welling was very gracious on set. The girls were just so level headed. I know Kristen Kreuk and Allison Mack socially and they are just such great people to work with. The show works like clockwork, it runs very smoothly… and that never happens on our show!

Who’s been on The Dead Zone?

[Everyone raises a hand, except Kandyse]

Kandyse: Damn! Can’t get on that show!

Paul: That was my first show. It was just phenomenal because I grew up watching Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles, Weird Science… I was like, ‘That’s Anthony Michael Hall!!’ It was surreal, I was like, ‘Am I really on set? Am I really doing this?’ I trained in theatre and it was my first time ever in front of a camera and it was such a cool experience to sit down in front of someone I grew up watching, read a few lines, have some fun and go to the craft service table and fill my face. having someone take care of me and lead me to my trailer was amazing. And to be honest I still get that feeling when I go on set. I’m still, ‘This is my trailer!’ then the pay cheque came, and it was awesome!

Nicki: I remember my first pay cheque. I figured they overpaid me and I had the moral dilemma of whether I should call… I ended up calling my agent and saying, ‘I think this is out’. And she said, ‘No, that’s right’. But I do have one complaint about working on the shows I’ve done in Vancouver. I’m always dirty. I’ve worked on Dark Angel as a character called Fixit where I was dirty. Even on Dead Zone I was in a mine when there was an explosion and I was dirty and burned. I’m afraid I’m going to get typecast.

Kandyse: You’re the dirty girl!

Paul: She’s dirty!!

Kandyse: I’m always stealing somebody’s boyfriend.

Aaron: And what about on the shows?

Kandyse: I love you guys.

Nicki: It’s one of the downsides of living in a small town. Kandyse is always stealing your boyfriend.

Kandyse: I’m sorry. I can’t help myself.

Who’s been on Dark Angel then?

[That’s everyone but Paul]

Paul: That was before I started acting.

Kandyse: I worked with James Cameron on that on the last two episodes. He was great. He definitely had control on the set. He definitely had a mind as to what he wanted done. He worked that crew, he challenged all the departments to put their best foot forward and accomplished something. Also that script was monumental – they were shooting a feature film. He came over and said, ‘Hi’, he seemed really excited to be there, but he demanded the best. It was the end of the season, everyone was just petered out, but they were all just so excited and honoured to work with him.

How do you feel about the Battlestar Galactica spin-off series, Caprica?

Aaron: We know very little about it. All we know is that there is a spin-off series and the basic premise, but past that we don’t know anything. We’re not going to see scripts, we’re not going to be in it. It’s set 40 years before us.

Paul: Speak for yourself about not being in it!

Aaron: Yeah, this is William Senior… I think the show is a great idea. Ronald and David are very excited about it. They have a writer who they gave the storyline to, who has apparently written an amazing script. I know that Ron Moore will make another amazing show. That’s what he does, he puts out gold.

Paul: He just can’t help it!

Aaron: As hard as he tries to make a pile of shite, he just can’t do it.

You’re not tempted to feel a bit protective of your own series?

Nicki: It’s totally different.

Aaron: If it was ‘Jamie Bamber takes a ship and goes to find Earth on his own’, and it was a show out of that… why Bamber and not me?!!

Nicki: I just feel like maybe it’s the end of an era. We were the kids that grew up and were on our own, and we can do it on our own now. We love having the producers on the set, and during the first season you’d always see Ron Moore writing very quietly on set. And then there was David Eick filling his plate at the refreshments table…

Aaron: David warned her not to say anything about that…

Nicki: I like Edward James Olmos’s idea for a spin-off show, called ‘Cally and the Commander’.

Aaron: It’s 55 minutes of Cally and the Commander making out…

I think we’re back to ‘dirty girl’…

Nicki: I’m sorry I brought that up.

Back to Battlestar Galactica: do you think the show should have a definite end point?

Aaron: They should make a finite number of episodes of Battlestar Galactica and they shouldn’t drag it on. And I don’t think Ron Moore will do it anyway – he said he did one year too many of Star Trek: The Next Generation and he won’t do that with this show. He wants to pick and end spot. He has an idea of what he wants the last few episodes to be. He wants to find the end, and that’s it/ So, at the outside, it’s my guess that it will last for five years. Three more to go!


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