Jamie Ruby of MediaBlvd conducted a one-on-one private interview during the Pittsburgh Comicon with Aaron Douglas of Battlestar Galactica, which is in its fourth and final season. Aaron plays the part of Chief Petty Officer Galen Tyrol, “The Chief,” who it was recently revealed was one of the hidden Cylons.
How did you come into the part in BSG? Did you audition?
Yeah, auditioned just like everybody else. I originally auditioned for Apollo (played by Jamie Bamber) and I was called back for Gaeta a few months later, and it was between me and Alessandro [Juliani] for Gaeta, and Alessandro got Gaeta, which is great, because he’s amazing at it. And the role of Tyrol actually was going to go to Ty Olsson who plays Captain Kelly now, and they didn’t like Ty for Tyrol, they wanted him for Captain Kelly, so they gave him that, and then the Chief was just open, it just wasn’t cast, and David Eick said, “What about Aaron Douglas?” because originally the Chief was supposed to be the same age as Tigh (played by Michael Hogan). Tigh and Tyrol were supposed to be contemporaries and then somebody realized that there’re a lot of old men in the show, so David said, “How about Aaron Douglas,” and so that’s how I got it.
I know your character’s changed a lot this season. What do you think about the new developments, and how, if you could tell me some of how it’s going to continue to change and what you think about it.
The Cylon stuff?
Well your character changing, any of it.
In season four or season three, or just generally?
I like the direction that they’ve taken the chief. It’s more fun to play, it’s a lot of interesting stuff. He’s a great character. I didn’t like the fact that he was a Cylon at first, but I like it now. It just gives a lot more depth, and a lot more interesting things, and they can go a lot of ways with it, I’m very, very appreciative of the work that the writers for our show do, they’re just the best, and so I just trust that they’re going to take it to cool places, yeah.
Do you know if they planned from the beginning on you being a Cylon?
They didn’t. They didn’t. They all got together and put up everybody’s pictures on a big board and started moving them around. Which four make sense? Which four make sense? And they settled on the four of us.
If you could write whatever you wanted, for Tyrol, what would you have him do? Would you continue with sort of the same?
I would have him land on a planet inhabited entirely by women who make scotch, and then they have to repopulate said planet. It would be the Chiefdom. What would I do with Tyrol? I’d continue along the same lines, without giving too much away, I’ve really quite liked what they’ve done in season four. I don’t know where it’s going to end up, what’s going to happen, but I like the twists and turns. As hard as it is and as exhausting as it is to go to work and constantly be surrounded by people who are dying, it’s a challenging thing as an actor and it’s great.
Was it really hard to do this last episode, the one that just aired, I don’t know if you know which one just aired
Yeah the one the right after Cally’s (played by Nicki Clyne) death, with the funeral, yeah that was a very difficult episode to do. That episode was really difficult to do, in the funeral particularly, because we shot that for about five hours, and it’s just hard to be constantly doing the eulogy for your dead wife. And the other actors because they don’t have anything to do, they get bored, so they just start fucking around, and it got to be a very frustrating day for me because everybody was screwing around and making jokes, and it’s just hard to stay in that headspace. Yeah well you got to stay there in the headspace of somebody just died, and so that that was difficult, that’s what made that episode difficult.
What about on the other end when you had to start freaking out and screaming?
No, because I was mad at Eddy (Edward James Olmos) for joking around in the other scene, so when we did the bar scene it was pretty easy. [laughs] The Chief’s a pretty intense guy and I can, as an actor, go to intensity and anger pretty quickly, so that wasn’t too difficult to do at all.
Now this, I don’t know if you have a real answer, or just your opinion, but do you think that he purposely sabotaged Racetrack’s (played by Lean Cairns) raptor? Not necessarily knowing that he did it, but his Cylon part, do you think…
Unconsciously as a Cylon? Yeah, wow that’s a really interesting question. I have no idea. I would suspect no, but I don’t know. I don’t know.
Thank you. Is there anything you can tell me about what’s going to happen?
People die, I figured that.
[Laughs] What happens in season four? It continues where it started – we eventually do find earth. I’m only saying things that you have, Ron [ Moore]. We eventually do find earth and a bunch of really crazy things happen there. We do discover who the final Cylon is, we deal with that, we deal more with the ship finding out that we are in fact Cylons, and what that means for the ship. And there’s a rift between the Cylons, a civil war sort of breaks out between the Cylons – half of the Cylons go this way and half go that way. You see that now, it’s starting up in these episodes, and that really continues, even more, and they really become polarized and run away from each other.
Are we going to have to wait till the very end to know who the final Cylon is?
Nope. You’ll know, I don’t know if you’ll know in the first ten, but somewhere around there.
How many episodes are there this season?
Twenty. What’s your favorite part about working on the show?
Craft service. My favorite part of working on the show, it’s the regularity of being on a show and getting up and going to the same set with the same amazing people and the same crew, and being on a show that’s just so special, and knowing that you’re coming back, and you have to work next week, but you have a few days off. And it’s tough being an actor when you don’t have a job, because you don’t pay the bills and if you don’t work you don’t pay the bills and no body wants to go back to the restaurant and start serving tables again. The regularity of it, and coming to cons and playing with the fans and people who are in love with the show as much as we are, just is a wonderful thing.
Who’s your favorite person to work with?
Favorite person to work with? Actor?
Whoever, someone on the show.
My favorite person who works on the show – there’s two guys that work on the show. There’s two guys and a woman. The woman is one of my best friends in the world, and, hi Flamingo, her name is Sian McArthur, she’s one of the producers on the show and she is an absolute delight, and I love her to death. She always makes me happy and smiley. Sian’s amazing, and then there’s so many guys in the crew that are just great to hang out with – Mike Sankey is a great guy to hang out with, one of the ADs, Mike Shandley one of the first ADs is just the best guy, there’s a training AD, a TAD, Marian Koprada, and a third AD, Troy Scott, are two of the best guys in the world. Troy is just, the best guy and I love him to death. And it’s going to be sad when the show ends, because I’m going to go onto another show, and those guys might not be there, and that will suck, but Troy just makes going to work every day worth going to work. And you know the camera guys are great, and the sound guys are great, and it’s just fun. We just all kind of goof off. Keith [Parent], on set wardrobe, he’s hysterical, yeah so, we have a lot of fun.
What about the cast? I might as well ask now.
The cast? Everybody in the cast is great. We all generally get along really, really well, and there’s Jamie [Bamber] and James [Callis] obviously I would say two of my closer friends, I really value them, value their friendship. Favorite person I’ve done a scene with is Mary [McDonnell]. The scene in Dirty Hands. I spent an entire day shooting with Mary; it was the most remarkable experience of my acting career. She is just so present, and lovely, and beautiful, and she just looks right into your eyes and down into your soul, it’s a little disconcerting at first, but she’s an absolute gem. And Eddy just goofs off and laughs all the time, AJ [Alessandro Juliani] does the same thing, Mike Hogan’s hysterical, Mike Hogan’s the most unlike his character, in daily life, he just goofs off and jokes around, and then, we’re all really, really good. One of the most stand-up guys in the world, Tahmoh Penikett, great working with him because, he’s just a real genuine human being. If there was ever a guy that you could absolutely rely on to be there for you it would be Tahmoh, so it’s just a real treat being around people like that, and learning from all of these guys.
My next question was what was your favorite episode, or what you filmed that was your favorite, you said about Mary McDonnell.
Mary McDonnell, yeah, that scene at the end of Dirty Hands was pretty, pretty damn good. And favorite episode, I still like Flight of the Phoenix, where he builds the Blackbird, I’m really, really proud of that episode.
Do you ever get to offer your input with the script?
I know you said you ad-lib, I heard you talking about that.
Yeah, it’s a rarity when writers really give actors as much freedom as we have on Battlestar, I doubt there’s a show on TV that has as much freedom as we have. Ron Moore and his team of writers are so amazing that you really don’t feel like you need to change anything, but you need clarification, and Ron will always answer your call, the writers will always answer your call, answer your email, they’re on set, they’re open to suggestions, ideas, changes. “I don’t feel like I would say this,” and they’ll either explain why – and they’re setting something up for later, or they will listen to you, and say, “Well what else would you say?” I mean, I don’t know that I’ve ever said a line as written. I mean, I always change something, it just sort of puts it in your own vernacular, it’s easier for me to speak this way. And they say, “I don’t care, that’s fine, as long as you’re getting the point across, the message across,” and that’s it. Some actors, they really let go, and you can just say whatever you need to say, other ones they kind of reel in and they want to keep them on book a little bit more, because they get a little off point. But we just did an episode with Ron Moore, his first directing, ever, and he realized just how much we change things and move things around, and you know, in the episode, I’m going to the executive producer, creator of the show, head writer, everything, and I just say, “I don’t think I’d say that,” and he’d just look at me and go “OK.” It was great. I mean, it’s such a testament to them to really trust the people that they’ve hired, and I think it’s that collaboration which makes this such a special show.
If you could, would you ever want to work behind the camera for the show? Like write or direct an episode?
I’d love to direct an episode. I’ve seen how difficult it is, but also how the show runs itself in many, many ways. Between the camera guy, Steve McNutt who’s our DP, setting up the shots, setting up the lighting, giving direction to the director, saying that I suggest this and this and this. And then how the actors just are the way that they are. I mean everybody just shows up and we know that ship and those sets intimately and so well, that we all just say, “I think I’d come in from over there.” “I think I’m going to come in from over here.” Or “I’m going to stand here.” And they just say “Ok, that’s all right.”
Makes their job easier. Do you have a memorable moment, well, you already told me about Mary McDonnell, do you have another memorable moment?
I have a lot of memorable moments on this show. The episode that just aired last night, doing that bar scene was great. Gosh, there’s so many. It’s just every day you go to work, something special happens. And the writing is so great. You just get to the end of the day and you’re very proud of what you did. There’re the silly little games we play on each other and the practical jokes, and those sorts of things.
I was going to say, tell me a funny story about….
Funny story. One of the memorable things that actually didn’t happen during the show, I took my son to work for the first time. He was nine years old. We walk on the hanger deck. His mom didn’t let him watch the show, but she’d fast forward to parts that I was in, or fast forward to the spaceships and stuff, and he thought that was really cool. So he’s nine years old, we go into the hanger deck and it’s the last of the sets that I’m showing him. He looks at this viper and he just stops. “Oh wow!” I say, “That’s pretty cool, eh buddy?” He’s like, “Can I go over and touch it?” “Sure, yeah, yeah, yeah.” So he goes over and touches it, and says, “This is amazing.” “So do you want to get inside?” He thought that was incredible. So I wheel over the stairs and he gets about halfway up, and he turns and he looks at me and goes, “Can we ummm…..?” And I didn’t know what he meant. So I go, “Can we what?” And he goes, “Can we take it up, can we go for a ride?” And it’s still not clicking, and I finally just went, “Oh my God, he thinks it’s real, Oh dude they don’t fly.” And he’s like, “Oh no, they fly dad.” And I said, “No Taylor, they don’t fly! It’s make believe. It’s like animation, it’s like a cartoon.” He goes, “No, no, no, they fly! I’ve seen the show dad, they fly.” And he’s starting to get a little mad, and he walks up to the top of the stairs and looks in, and of course inside, it’s just this empty shell with some lights and some stickers. And he turns around and he looks at me, and he goes, “I know they fly. She flies them,” and he points past me and Katee [Sackhoff] happens to be walking behind me in her flight suit with her helmet. And I turn and I look at her and she says, “Uh, what did I do?” And I said, ” Taylor wants you take him up.” She’s like, “What do you mean?” She’s got that same look on her face that I had on mine. “I don’t understand.” “He thinks that you can take him up and take him for a ride because you fly these things.” And she’s like, “Oh my God, that’s so precious, he thinks they fly!” And he was so mad. He was so mad. He got in, he turned around, and she’s like crying because she’s laughing so hard. He turns around and he storms down the stairs and just bolts right past me and walks back to my trailer, and slams the door. And I leave him in there for about fifteen minutes. Then I knocked on the door and opened it up, and he’s playing video games and was just angry.
He got over it fast.
Oh no, he was mad. He was mad for the rest of the day and wouldn’t talk to me. I said, “You alright buddy?”, and he said, “Yeah”. He was livid. It was really funny.
What’s the hardest thing about working on the show?
The really emotional scenes, the really difficult stuff. When people are…Our set at times is really loose, and light and fun. But when it’s a really, really difficult emotional scene, that really is distracting. So sometimes we need to reel everybody in, and tell them to shut the hell up. Or if you’re me, “Shut the fuck up!” Yeah, that’s the difficult stuff, because there’s so much. It’s so heavy. You’re exhausted by the end of day dealing with those emotions and stuff.
What has been your favorite role to play besides Tyrol?
I think the most interesting one is this Blood movie that I did last year. Blood: A Butcher’s Tale that comes out sometime this Fall I think. That was interesting because it was all green screens. So it’s a really interesting experience being in a room that’s supposed to be the size of a warehouse, but it’s really only the size of a living room in a house. And it’s all green everywhere. And that was interesting and kind of fun. One of the shows that I had the most fun on was a movie for ABC Family, like in 2003. This is just before, or just after the mini-series of Battlestar. It was called Lucky 7, with Kimberly Williams and Patrick Dempsey. Patrick and I just laughed and laughed for two weeks. We just goofed off. And that’s another case where my character had literally three lines in the script. And Harry Weiner, the director said, “You guys just make stuff up.” We’re supposed to be at a wedding, and we’re best friends. We’ve been best friends since we were in the fifth grade. And Patrick and I hit it off, and we goofed off. And they turned the cameras on and we just goofed off for two weeks and it was an absolute delight. And it’s wonderful, wonderful little film. It’s a lot of fun, it’s very cute. My mom loves it. My mom’s best friend has watched it like twenty times. She’s feeling a little down, she puts this movie in. It’s a really sweet film.
Do you like working in TV or movies more?
I like them both the same. They’re completely different experiences though. In TV land, Battlestar, we’ll shoot eight pages in a day. In movie land, you can take eight days to shoot a page. It’s just much slower, much slower in film. You can do an entire day setting up a shot in film, and then turn the cameras on for thirty seconds and that’s the only thing you’ve got. I did thirteen days or something like that on X-Men 2 for what became thirteen seconds in the film. It’s insanity. But TV just moves faster. You’ve gotta go, gotta go, gotta go, gotta go.
Is it hard to switch back and forth between getting more time or less time in a film?
If I jumped back into a movie right now, I would probably be going “Come on guys, why aren’t we shooting? It would be, “Let’s go, let’s go.” You really feel useless on a film when you’re waiting, and waiting, and waiting. You sit in your trailer for twelve hours and do nothing. It just doesn’t happen in TV. But I would be able to slow down and get used to it. You just watch a lot of movies and read a lot of books.
If you could have your dream role, what would it be?
My dream role. My dream role would be in a really, really smart, well written, funny sitcom, like an Arrested Development type show. Something like that, that would be for the comedy. I would love to do something from a show like Deadwood. Deadwood is just like the best piece of television ever. The best show on TV is Deadwood. Battlestar is a close second. Absolutely remarkable writing that is Shakespeare. I would have loved to have been on Deadwood. I’d do it for free. No, I don’t mean that. But I would. Unbelievable. And I think for a movie, I really want to do a period war film. If I could have been in Thin Red Line, or Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, that type of thing. I would love to do a war film. Get a group of like fifteen guys that get along and like each other, then go somewhere. Go to England, go to Europe, go somewhere and just shoot for three months, and just constantly be together and really become a group of friends and be sort of like a hockey team going on the road. I’d really like that; something really epic and huge and amazing. That would be my dream role.
Do you enjoy going to the conventions?
Oh yeah, I love conventions.
What do you enjoy the most there?
Fans are as passionate and excited about the show as we are. They are all so sweet. You meet people from every walk of life. You’ve got the guy who stocks shelves at Zoellers, all the way up to mayors of towns. And they are so genuine and so excited to meet you, and so excited to watch the show, and talk about it. I love visiting with people, to sit in the bar and have a beer and talk sports, talk politics, talk whatever. You get to see the world. I’ve been to cities that there’s no other way I would go to that city in my lifetime. I would have no reason to go there, but you get to go for these cons. I’ve been all over Europe, Italy, Australia, New Zealand; all over the US. I go to England three or four times a year. Germany, it’s just wonderful. You get to fly all over the place and spend some really, really amazing time with a lot of really wonderful people. Sci Fi fans, there’s a reason; they’re the best fans. They’re the most passionate, most excited about it. They get all fired up, and they want to talk about the show, and they want to berate you for the decisions that SCI FI makes for taking big breaks between airing it. “It’s not my fault that they take 14 months between airing it and that they don’t release the DVD for ten years. I’m sorry, it’s not me.” But you get to commiserate with them and talk about all that kind of stuff. It’s great. I really, really enjoy coming to the conventions.
What’s one stand out moment from one of the conventions, something somebody said or that somebody did?
There’s so many great moments. It’s not just hanging out with myself, and some of the other actors from the show. You get to meet people from other shows. I just spent the entire weekend sitting beside Darth Vader. David Prowse is like an idol to me. And it’s so amazing to be sitting beside this man. And I did a con in Bournemouth, England a couple of months ago, and Levar Burton was there. I’m a huge Next Gen guy and I was so excited to meet the man. We ended up having a dinner together and we sat around in a bar one night drinking whiskeys and laughing until we were crying. We were literally crying in our chairs. And those experiences are just so great; the people that you get to meet and hang out with and friendships that I’ve held on to ever since. It’s such a wonderful thing.
Can you talk about any of your other projects that you have coming out, I know you mentioned one.
Blood: A Butcher’s Tale. I don’t know when that’s going to be released. There’s word that it’s going to go to the Caan Film Festival, but I don’t know if that’s happening or not. I had a very small part in The Day the Earth Stood Still, the new Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly film. I think they might have recast me and re-shot those scenes. Apparently I wasn’t very good. So I don’t know what’s going on with that. That’s it. I’m just waiting for Battlestar to end and trying to get another job. I’ve got to find another gig, so if there’s anybody out there that has a TV show that could use me, please call my agent, because I’ve got to pay for my house. My son’s got to go to college, you know how that is. So I’m just looking for my next show, that’s all I’m doing.