Aaron Douglas: Hail to the Chief
By: Bryan Cairns
Date: May 14, 2008
Vancouver-born Aaron Douglas has played Chief Petty Officer Galen Tyrol since the first season of Battlestar Galactica, and the season three finale featured some dramatic revelations about the character. “Our last episode will be the most depressing show in the history of television,” he tells Bryan Cairns.
The season three finale was a jaw dropper. How did you discover the Chief was a Cylon and what was your initial reaction?
We shot that at the end of November/beginning of December. I actually saw a piece of paper that talked about that in maybe September, a paper I wasn’t supposed to see. The person whose house I was at quickly snatched it and said, “Don’t say anything!” I had a fit because I really didn’t like the idea of it. I thought they were taking a character fans really love and suddenly making them hate him and marginalise everything we’d done with him.
I had to keep my mouth shut so I would go months asking Ron [Moore] and David [Eick] if there was anything coming up with the Chief. Then I’d walk away going “Liars!” Finally, right before the read through, they took us in one by one and told us about it. I felt it was terrible, so I called Ron and spoke to him on the phone for an hour and a half. He explained his reasons for it and just asked us to trust him. By the end of the conversation, I had bought it and thought if you wanted to take a character that would humanise the Cylons, you couldn’t find anyone more humanising than the Chief. Seeing what we’ve done with it in season four really makes sense.
The Chief once struggled with the notion he might be a Cylon. How does he handle the truth now?
Interestingly enough, we have all been left to our own devices as to how we interpreted the lines. What I’ve done is [interpret it] as if this light bulb went off and the Chief goes, “Ooooo now I get it!” My choice has been to play everything as if he’s quite enjoying it, that it all makes sense now. It explains his life and gives him hope and interest in the future again.
How are these five Cylons different than the other models?
I don’t know how they are going to do that. They told us one thing and then another. I think we are essentially like them but we predate them by thousands and thousands of years. You don’t see multiples of us, I know that for sure.
So do the Chief and these other three Cylons all have the same goals?
No, not at all. In that last scene, you can see how people reacted to it right away. Anders completely denied and fought it. Tory was just confused and Chief accepted it. That carries into season four where we are all taking our original paths.
Did you form any theories on the identity of the last remaining Cylon God?
I was curious quite a bit but it was certainly a shock when I found out who it is. I never would have expected that person. It is revealed in the last thing we shot so if we don’t come back, that will be the end of the show.
What does all this mean for the Chief’s wife Cally and their baby?
That storyline hasn’t been told. The stuff that happens to Chief in season four is bigger and more powerful than anything that has come before. He embraces it but has to balance his wife and what it means for their child. He believes that now there is a second hybrid the fleet doesn’t know about, so there is a lot of interesting stuff with that.
With the Earth finally in Galactica’s sights, is this year lighter and more hopeful?
God, no! Absolutely not! It is dark, if not darker. It is painful to shoot and I am sure it is going to be painful to watch…If we don’t come back, where the show ends, our last episode will be the most depressing show in the history of television. People will be so angry because all of the struggles and trials and tribulations will all be essentially for nothing.
I think a lot of viewers were absolutely stunned when they announced this was the show’s last year.
I wasn’t shocked. I spoke to Ron about this in season two and said, “How long is it going to be?” He said, “It is a finite story which has a beginning, middle and end, like a book. I know what the ending is, I just don’t know how long it is between here and then. It will be either season four or five.” I thought it would be five, but a lot of it has to do with the studio and how they drag their feet.
How would you sum up the Battlestar Galactica experience?
It has been a hell of a ride, that is for sure. It has been some of the most challenging work of my career, both professionally and personally. I have loved it, met some wonderful people, and made some long lasting friendships.
I am pretty proud of this show and the Chief. It is a great piece of television medium that will stand up for a long time and something we can fondly look on and share with fans for years and years to come…People will look back in 30 years from now and go, “Boy, that was really fun!”
Battlestar Galactica is currently airing on the Sci Fi Channel.