New Year Salute
By: Steven Eramo
Date: October 2006
Source: Starburst Special #77
Battlestar Galactica actor Aaron Douglas lets us in on the current production status of the show’s third season.
Like the Everly Brothers song says, “Love hurts.” It can also sometimes drive you a little “crazy”. Battlestar Galactica’s Chief Petty Officer Galen Tyrol knows that all too well. He felt angry and betrayed when he discovered that his lover, Lt Sharon ‘Boomer’ Valerii, was a humanoid Cylon sleeper agent. However, when she was murdered, Tyrol realized that he never really stopped loving her. His emotions were further toyed with when another Cylon Boomer – who was pregnant by and in love with Lt Helo – returned to the Galactica from Caprica. Given everything he’d been through, it’s no surprise that by Galactica’s second season finale. Lay Down Your Burdens, the chief began to suspect that he, too, was a Cylon sleeper agent, and contemplated suicide in order to protect those around him. It was a terrifying time for him, but an exciting one for actor Aaron Douglas, who plays Tyrol.
“That [suicide] nightmare scene was a great deal of fun to shoot,” recalls Douglas. “It was done as a second unit piece with me, Wayne Rose, who is one of the show’s regular ADs [assistant director], and a very small camera crew on the hangar deck set. Because it was a dream sequence, we filmed a lot of it in slow motion using some weird lighting and camera angles. Also, I didn’t have any lines and had to remain completely expressionless. All I had to do is calmly walk up the steps, across the catwalk, climb up onto the railing and jump off.”
“Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let me jump, and I really wanted to,” smiles the actor. “There was a big air bag on the floor below, but for safety reasons they had a stunt guy do it. I was, however, all cabled up, and when I leaned forward into a fall, the cable would catch me when I was about 45 degrees out over the railing. You wouldn’t believe how tough it was to hop onto that railing and stand there without wobbling or looking awkward. I couldn’t even use my hands to help balance myself. How the heck can gymnasts do that? So all the emotional beats aside, climbing onto that railing was the most challenging part of the entire season.”
In part one of Lay Down Your Burdens, Crewman Specialist Cally (Nicki Clyne) finds Chief Tyrol lying asleep on the floor of the hangar bay and having one of his suicide nightmares. When she wakes him, the chief brutally attacks her. That scene was another tricky one for Douglas to film. “The biggest challenge there was not to actually hit Nikki, and I failed miserably,” he explains. “She either sat up too quickly or I misjudged it, and I accidentally smacked her. I think I may have hit Nicki’s hand, which in turn struck her face. Of course, I was mortified, but fortunately she forgave me.”
“These scenes were also tough to shoot because you had the rage of the nightmare and suddenly being awoken. They really wanted that explosive sort of waking up and me coming at her, but at the beginning we weren’t quite getting it. I wasn’t sure exactly what [director] Michael Rymer wanted, so we talked about it, and as a result I changed position so I was able to physically sit up when Nicki ‘wakes’ me up and then flip right over on top of her. It’s pretty gruesome stuff and very hard to watch, but I thought it turned out quite well.”
A repentant Tyrol subsequently goes to the infirmary to apologize to Cally for what he’s done. In fact, this unfortunate incident makes them realize how much they’ve always cared about one another, and not long after the two begin a romance and eventually marry. “That came as a bit of a surprise to me,” says Douglas, “Off-screen, Nicki and I are like little sister/big brother, and we’d even discussed how during Season One and at the beginning of Season Two, both our characters were like that as well.”
“When Tyrol and Cally got together I wasn’t sure at first whether or not I liked it. Honestly, I thought it was a little creepy,” he chuckles. “It works, though, and it makes sense, especially from Cally’s point of view because she’s been fighting for Tyrol all along, not to mention having been secretly in love with him all this time. It’ll be interesting to see where their relationship goes this [third] season, especially if my character is still dealing with his guilt over what he did to Cally, or if they’ve gotten past that and are now truly just a happy couple.”
While on a rescue mission in Lay Down Your Burdens, a military team aboard a Raptor accidentally discovers a planet that would make a suitable new home for Humankind. Most of the personnel aboard the Battlestar Galactica and Pegasus together with the majority of civilians decide to relocate to the planet, and a year later the colonists are still building New Caprica City. Life is far from easy, however, and in one scene Tyrol, now President of the Workers’ Union, is leading a rally, with a pregnant Cally by his side. This scene was based on real-life political activist Mario Savio and the “gears of the machine” address he gave on 2nd December, 1964 at the University of California at Berkeley.
“Prior to filming that episode David Eick [Galactica executive producer] had his assistant send me a documentary about Mario Savio, which included this wonderful speech he gave at Berkeley,” notes Douglas. “After watching it, I phones David and asked him if I could copy some of Savio’s moves. David said that would be great, so I watched the documentary several more times to make sure I got Savio’s mannerisms down pat. Since Tyrol is no longer in the military, I was able to grow a beard and let me hair grow out as well, the latter of which gave me more of a Savio look. He was such an amazing speaker and person, so that was our little homage to him. David had wanted for a long time to incorporate bits of Savio’s speech into Galactica and he finally found a place to do so.”
During the hiatus between Season Two and Three of Galactica, Douglas shot a guest spot on the Canadian-made TV drama Whistler, starring Nick Lea of The X-Files fame. He also had a small role in the feature film Butterfly on a Wheel, and soon after that, production on Year Three of Galactica began. At the time of this interview, Douglas, along with most of the show’s cast and crew, were on location in Richmond Sand Dunes filming scenes for the upcoming third season episode Unfinished Business.
“We shot the first two stories for year Three [Occupation and Precipice] as one, and we’re doing some second unit filming on them next week,” says the actor. “Work on episode three [Exodus] begins next week as well, and everything we’ve been doing for the past three days will be shown as flashbacks in a future story. I had to shave my beard off for these scenes, so that means on Monday I’ll have to sit in the makeup chair while they put a fake beard on me. Ah, the sacrifices I make for this show,” jokes Douglas.
Tyrol’s fears of being a Cylon, coupled with his attack on Cally, prompt him in the episode Lay Down Your Burdens to seek spiritual advice from Brother Cavill, played by veteran stage, film and tv actor Dean Stockwell. “Dean is just an incredible person,” enthuses Douglas. “We spent six hours together in a room shooting all the scenes with our two characters in sequence, and then they were sprinkled throughout the story.”
“It was a thrill for me to be sitting across the table from such an acting legend. At one point I asked Dean how long he’d been doing this [acting], and he told me it was something like 62 years. Dean said, ‘There are three other people on this planet who have been in this business as long as I have – Robert Blake, Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney.’ Wow!”
“In this episode, Tyrol exposes Cavil as a Cylon and he tackles him. Don’t worry, it wasn’t Dean, it was a French-Canadian stuntman. For the first take, I ran up and tackled him. He said to me, ‘You can hit me harder.’ So the next time I hit him harder, and again he said, ‘Come on, harder’. In the final take I really decked him and he loved it.”
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