Interview: Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff
Yesterday afternoon Katee Sackhoff took a moment to talk with reporters about the upcoming season of Battlestar Galactica and her character, Starbuck. Normally Iíd ramble on about talking with her, or maybe some not-so-clever anecdotes about why I think the show is the best thing on television. But weíre dangerously close to the premiere episode, which means recaps and my spewing forth undying love for BSG. So this time around Iíll just let Katee speak for herself, as you can see as you scroll down thereís a lot to talk about.
Starbuck gets all kinds of action on the show. What is tougher for you, a fight scene or a love scene?
You gotta start out with a good one. Iím sitting across the table from my boyfriend right now. I would say that the sex scenes are a lot harder than anything else Iíve had to do on the show. Because itís not natural, itís just odd. It makes you feel cheap, like youíre being allowed to cheat on your significant other. Itís very weird. The fight scenes are pretty easy, and come pretty naturally for me to be honest. Who would I want to fight on the show? I donít know. I think Iíve fought everybody. I canít think of anyone. I havenít fought Sharon, so Iíll go ahead and say that. I think a fight between Eddy (Edward James Olmos) and I would be pretty interesting.
How cool and gratifying is it that youíve won over those fans who were at first skeptical (of a female Starbuck)? On a grander scale, how cool and gratifying is it that this version of the show has gained so many fans?
It is completely gratifying in a sense. I think for the sole reason that itís nice to have people identify with a character youíre playing, and appreciate the work youíre doing. I donít think I went into this trying to win over the old fans, because I think that you canít ever please everyone. I didnít want to focus on people that were, in a sense, spewing negative energy. So I just sort of did what I did. Itís nice to know that some of them have been converted. I guess it is a little gratifying to know that, for all the people who said it couldnít work with a woman itís kind of nice that it did work.
For the audiences that were reluctant to accept Starbuck as a woman, what of the character helped turn that around?
I think, honestly, what made people accept Starbuck as a woman is that sheís such an interesting character. Once people put their guard down as far as their preconceived notions on what the show is supposed to be, and just allowed it to be really good science fiction. Thatís probably the same time when people accepted Starbuck as a woman, when they stopped thinking of the old show. Itíd be hard to figure out when that probably happened. Probably after the first season, that cliffhanger at the end. That probably got all the fans hooked.
What should we make of the positioning in that terrific ďLast SupperĒ picture of the BSG cast? For instance, youíre with Anders and Lee is alone. Six is in the messiahís position. Are there any hints there?
No. Whatís interesting is that everyone thinks that thereís something hidden in that ďLast SupperĒ photo. Like if you look hard enough you can find the hidden message. To be honest I think we would have had to have been in on it to create a hidden message, and we were all just there having a photo shoot. It is interesting just the way people are standing, for sure. The fact sheís (Kara) with Anders is interesting. I donít know. The fact they made Tricia (Six) the Messiah is interesting too.
Last season, when Starbuck was killed off. It seemed like after that happened it was confusingly handled with your interviews, whether you were really gone. Looking back, do you wish it had been handled a little better or not mentioned at all? Is there anything you would have played differently?
I donít know. I know that you can only keep a secret a secret for so long. I knew that as soon as I showed back up at work it was going to be on the internet. Also, I do think they should have left me out until the very end. I think bringing Starbuck back at episode 16 [was] kind of like, what the hell was that? Why not wait until 20? I guess in Ronís mind he had a bigger cliffhanger. To have a bigger cliffhanger than Starbuck coming back from the dead, only Battlestar Galactica could pull that off.
How are you and the rest of the cast feeling now that the show is ending?
Well, I canít speak for the rest of the cast. I donít know how theyíre feeling. As far as how Iím feeling, itís interesting. Thereís a side to you as an actor, a selfish side, that wants to go on and play different roles. [unintelligible] So itís kind of nice. I think it is sad, just because I think the work environment on Battlestar Galactica is amazing. Itís not something that comes along a lot. Somebody canít complain when they enjoy going to work, and enjoy the people they work with. I know with that, Iíll probably never find that again.
What do you think the impact of the show has had on the sci fi genre?
I think what Battlestar Galactica did for Sci Fi is they treated it like a reality. Thatís what was so interesting about our show. We never relied on science fiction to drive the show. We relied on the drama and the communication, and those really important questions. Thatís what we depended on for the show, and to get the show moving along. Most science fiction shows rely too much on the bells and whistles. I think this kind of opens the door for science fiction to realize that regardless Ė science fiction is just a setting, itís not a show. Itís a setting; itís where something takes place. It should not ever have been what the show is. I think that for the first time what [BSG] has done is prove that it could be done.
At the end of last season a couple of the actors playing the final five Cylons werenít too happy, at least initially, to find out that they were Cylons. If Starbuck turns out to be a Cylon, or agent of the Cylons, will you be pleasedÖor displeased? Or indifferent?
I think the reason the four actors were upset about being Cylons is you play four years making choices as a character, and then to realize all of those choices would have been different had you known. Itís interesting, you get the wool pulled over your eyes for four years and then are told your character is something completely different. But I would be completely indifferent. I have love for this character, and I think we all do. They were pretty angry, and I still think Michael Hogan still hasnít come to terms with it. I donít think heís ready to accept it yet.
Can you talk a little bit about how this season weíre going to handle the marriage between Starbuck and Anders?
If I knew, I would tell you. I have no idea. We are at episode 14 right now in our shooting schedule and Iím no closer to being able to have any questions answered from last season than I am now.
So itís not really being played up then?
Without giving too much away here there are more important issues being dealt with on the show for these characters than what Starbuck is and how her marriage is. Thereís a lot of really heavy things happening right now. I think her marriage to Anders is the least of her concerns. But at the same time itís interesting to ask those questions. Because we donít identify this thing as a person, [so] is the marriage even legal? I donít know, we ask all those questions that everyone would probably want answered and probably wouldnít get answered unless I did one of the webcasts.
As far as me handling it if it ever gets broached, I think Starbuck is starting to feel compassion for the things she hates the most. I think she, as everyone on the show, is starting to realize Ė and these are the major questions of humanity and what the show has always kind of asked Ė is that if you found out tomorrow that your best friend, or your mother or something was a Cylon, would that make your experiences you had with that person or thing less important to you? No. Itís the same emotions, the same feelings, the same things. But you had experiences and theyíre different than you always thought they were. It doesnít mean it is less. I think thatís something theyíre starting to remember.
As far as Starbuck coming back: If my family or my boyfriend died, I would do anything to have them back. So, do people care any more what you are as long as youíre there?
Your boss, Ronald D. Moore, is directing his first episode now, or just recently. Have you worked with him, and how was that?
I got to say that heís the first director who after every take he says, ďThank you.Ē I noticed that because itís not somethingÖI think what the crew does and what the actor does can be overlooked. To have someone thank you after every take is interesting. I found that after a take I stood a little taller, and I was a little happier. I was like, ďWow! That must have been really good.Ē Granted I didnít ask, because God forbid he says, ďNah. I was just saying Ďthank you,í but that was shit, Katee.Ē Then Iíd have to go again. He was a great director, granted I only had one scene with him. But itís one thing I noticed that Iíve never had happen before, and it goes to speak to his character as a person. Heís a fantastic man.
Could you speak a little bit about Starbuckís mental state going into season 4 and what finding Earth really means to her?
Sheís very fragile. Sheís extremely lost, [and] youíve never seen Starbuck so alone. And sheís a little distraught. Not only because of the way people are treating her, but because of the questions that her coming back has raised in her own mind. I think [finding Earth] is her resolution, itís her end. Sheís putting so much weight on this one task that she believes is her destiny. I think she wonít let anything stand in her way. If that is the case, then youíve got a very scary person on your hands. When theyíre willing to sacrifice everything to accomplish something, thatís scary. Youíre gonna see a lot from her this season that is kind of like a shell of her former self.
Have the producers told you exactly what happened to Starbuck during her supposedly dead time?
No. Weíre at 14, and Iíve read 15, and nope. I think theyíll leave that until the last second.
When you saw the script for Razor at the end where the Cylon makes the prophecy that Starbuck is a ďharbinger of doom,Ē what was your initial reaction? And as the season has progressed how has that reaction changed?
I think when I read that end I went, ďOf course she is.Ē What else happens to Starbuck, come on. Lay it all on me. Itís the worst possible end, and there you have itÖsheís going to kill everybody. Great. I think that is something that has been carried through the entire season so far. As far as whether or not anyone knows, youíre going to have to wait and find out.
When you and the cast are sitting around do you ever theorize on who the final Cylon is going to be? And also will we find out before this first run of episodes is finished?
UmÖno. Maybe. No, no. Maybe. I donít know. [laughs] Does that help you at all?
Oh, that helps me a whole lot.
Weíve been told who it is. I personally donít believe it. I think thatís something thatís going to be kept until the very end. I donít think it would be smart to tell people, because inevitably these things always get on out on the web. To have to keep [the final Cylon] secret for a yearÖI think, personally, they should shoot like five different endings. Whichever character doesnít fit best, they should just make that the final Cylon. Itíll be like some random character from the first season that had one line. Thatís who itíll be.
But no, I donít know. We do talk about it sometimes, but as for who it is I donít think any of us will know for sure until it airs on television.
So, it wonít be in this first run then?
No. I donít think so. I havenít seen the episodes though, and I donít read scripts. So I couldnít tell ya. I, personally, donít know who it is.
Ron Moore has said that heís not interested in doing a Battlestar feature film. Do you think he could change his mind, and if so would you be interested in doing that film?
No, I wouldnít want to change his mind. I think heís right. He said that what would end up happening is you would have to focus on one or two characters. Whatís so brilliant is that itís been a four-year movie. The time to tell these stories about each person individually and really have these become investments in those characters. To do a two hour movie, or one and a half hour movie, I think takes away from what weíve been able to do for so long. I mean, how do you pick which two characters? And when you pick those two, are you going to piss off the other 17 main characters on the show? So, I think heís right. At the same time as a performer I think that when I, as an actor, am done with the show the last thing I want to do is come back and do it again. Talk to me in five years if I havenít worked. As of right now I have no desire to do a movie.
Based on the tail end of season 3, Starbuck was moving towards being more of a spiritual figure instead of a more action oriented character. You were having visions, you were kind of having a more spiritual experience. How does that effect how you play the character, and do you think that is something that is going to be developed more in the new season?
It doesnít affect how I play the character, to be honest. Sheís always been religious. Itís not that sheís changed, itís that sheís opened her eyes and allowed something else to come into her life. Sheís the same person, itís just another aspect of who she is. But sheís the same person.
If you had total control over how your character ends, how would you have [Starbuck] go out?
How would you like to have her die?
I donít know. Maybe have her ship blow up again. I just donít think thereís any way to end it with her being happy. What I do wish for her is peace, in whatever form that comes in.
I know that the Admiral has been like a father figure to Starbuck for a long time. I wondered, in the previews that weíve seen it seems like the Admiral doesnít know what to think about Starbuckís initial return. How does that, from someone like him, affect Starbuck and her mental state?
Itís the worst thing that could ever happen. She gets her validation; she gets everything from him. He kind of sets the mood and the tone for how she feels about herself. To have that person doubt you is the worst that could happen to her. As far as sheís concerned, regardless of what she is, sheís the same person she was when she left. I think the worst thing is she wants his trust.
Out of the Battlestar Galactica cast who do you enjoy working with the most?
I love working with James [Callis] and Tricia [Helfer], for sure. The two of them are so much fun. James because you never know what heís going to do.
I was wondering what you thought about Lee and Karaís relationship. It went through a lot of changes in season 3. Iím curious what you think about them now, and if it could ever work.
I donít think that Lee and Kara will ever be happy together. I donít think theyíre meant to be together. Theyíre meant to be best friends, to push each other. Theyíre meant to have those arguments that drive you. Thatís the purpose, I feel, they serve in each otherís lives. I donít think they were ever meant to love each other. With that being said, I donít think theyíll ever end up together. I never did, really. I think I said earlier if there was anyone sheíd be happy with, and be withÖitíd probably be Leoben. Anders is too weak for her emotionally. Leeís too much of a boy scout, he makes her feel guilty for her anger and her faults just by being who he is. If thereís ever any person she can let her guard down with, and be happy with, [itís] probably Leoben.
The nature of Starbuckís return is a big mystery this season. We donít know if sheís the original, a Cylon, a clone, a figment of Leeís imagination. From an acting perspective, have you made an internal choice to play Starbuck as one of those possibilities?
I think itís a strong enough internal choice to play the fear. Play that sheís lost. If I play that it leaves the door open to question what she is. I think our show is all about the reality of something. How do you play the reality of knowing you are something when you really donít know what you are? You play the question; you play the uncertainty.
David Eick (BSG producer) is talking about making a television version of the brilliant Children of Men, would that interest you?
Everything of David Eick interests me. He is fantastic at what he does. He has a vision and is always successful at that vision. Whether or not people have their hands in the potÖIíve always said the main problem with Bionic Woman [is], ďIf you get too many cooks in the kitchen, too many hands in the pot, you can only agree on what theyíre trying to makeÖwhich is a stew thatís full of shit.Ē Whether or not Davidís given the freedom to do what heís done on Battlestar is a completely different issue. I think you have to be on a cable network to get that from television.
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