Interview: Tricia Helfer On The Season Finale Of Burn Notice
The second season of Burn Notice is about to wrap up and Tricia Helfer was kind enough to participate in a conference call to talk about her role in the show. She also has some interesting things to say about Battlestar Galactica, Chuck, being Canadian and transitioning from modeling to acting. Weíve got the full transcript of the call to share with you.
The second season finale of Burn Notice is set to air on USA on Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 10:00 PM/9c.
Below is the full Tricia Helfer conference call transcript:
Will there be a conclusion to the number six?
There definitely is, yes. For the first time I find out after five years of filming what that relationship is, so there will be a conclusion by the finale, yes.
When you joined the cast of Burn Notice, was there instant chemistry when everyone came together, or did it take some time to develop?
Iíd say there was instant chemistry, but it was really only, I really only worked with Jeffrey Donovan. I met Gabrielle and I met Bruce and worked with him a little bit. Bruce is just such an easy going guy itís impossible not to get along with him, and Gabrielle is really sweet. Jeffrey had actually emailed me prior to going down there the first time to welcome me and say he was excited that I was joining the show. So I went down knowing it was going to be a great cast to work with and they didnít let me down, they were just really wonderful to work with.
What have you found the most challenging aspect of your role as Carla?
I think the most challenging aspect was actually similar to sort of the first question about Battlestar, itís kind of not knowing the end. With Carla, I didnít know who Carla worked for. I didnít know who management was the entire time I filmed, so youíre just kind of filling in the blanks yourself, but at the same time you donít really want to say, okay, this is who it is or make too strong of a back story yourself in case it is revealed. But that Iíd say was the hardest thing is Carla being pretty much as elusive to me as the actor as she is to the audience.
Can you tell us, what is your involvement beyond the season finale next week? Are you on board for next season?
Iím not on board for next season, no. As I like to say, I was the baddie of the second season, so yes, my last two episodes are this week and the finale, March 5th.
Okay, so what can you tell us about those two episodes? What kind of resolution might we get?
I think the first two episodes back from the midseason hiatus definitely showed that Carla had been taken by surprise a bit, sheís been rattled, which sheís not used to. It definitely comes to a culmination in the finale where sheís been trying to get information from Michael Westen about who tried to kill him, who tried to blow up his apartment, and it really comes to a culmination with management breathing down her back. And sheís put her neck on the line in terms of vouching for Michael Westen and Michael hasnít really fully come up with anything to help her out, so it comes to a culmination point in the finale.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you first got involved with Burn Notice?
I first got involved with the very rare, but very wonderful situation where you get offered a job. I was up in Vancouver filming Battlestar and I was approached by my agent or my manager about the job. I actually hadnít seen it, the show, because being in Canada a lot in Vancouver filming Battlestar, Burn Notice doesnít air up there yet, unfortunately. So they sent me DVDs and I was hooked from the first episode and gladly signed on to join in for the second season. But it came in as an offer and I was hooked from the first episode.
Carla, sheís quite mysterious and so is Vick on Battlestar and they both have this great power and you donít want to cross them. But I was wondering do you prefer to play these types of characters, or have you found it a little hard to branch out and not be thought of this ass-kicking destroyer of the human race?
Iíd rather play an ass-kicking destroyer or a super strong spy or agent than some meek, vulnerable character. But itís definitely, I donít want to get type cast as one thing, and thatís certainly some of the other things Iíve been doing in hiatus, doing other roles, although I have one coming up where Iím an ass-kicking spy, so I donít know about that. I donít know how well my not being type cast is going, but theyíre great shows. Iím super happy to be part of them. I think itís important as I go to some of my next jobs maybe are a different take, a different type of character, but theyíre certainly fun characters to play. Theyíre smart. Theyíre strong. Who wouldnít want to play a strong female character?
I heard you talking earlier that youíre not going to be in the third season. Iím sorry to hear about that. My question is more about Michael and Carla. Iíve noticed as the series has gone on and she tended to let her guard down and started to trust Michael more. Even though your character is not going to be in the third season, are we probably going to find out more about Carlaís character in that terms about how her and Michael are working together?
Youíll get to see a little bit. You do see her, Carla, soften a little bit. Sheís been rattled and she needs to rely on Michael a little bit more and she puts some trust in him. So sheís hoping that he doesnít let her down. And like I mentioned before, she has management breathing down her back, so sheís definitely putting some trust in Michael and hoping that he steps up to the bar. But you really donít learnóCarla still stays pretty elusive to the audience even through the finale. Sheís certainly notóher whole history is not going to be revealed.
Can you talk about how her organization breathing down her neck, are we going to find out more about what the organization is?
Youíre definitely going to get a big clue, a big hint in the finale about who management is. I wonít say for sure if youíre going to find out who, what the organization is, but there will be another piece to the puzzle and you will definitely meet Carlaís higher ups, you will meet management, yes.
I actually want to get a little more higher level and have you talk about how youíve managed your career from being discovered as a model in Alberta those many years ago and playing the role in Battlestar and having management and agents who are actually seeking roles on shows like Burn Notice and Chuck. So how have you managed that career path?
To be honest, it is the career path that I never thought I would be going down. When I was in high school I thought I was going to university into psychology. As you said, I was discovered by a model scout and I thought Iíd give that a try. Cut to ten years later, eight years later, I had a great career, but feeling like I wanted more and definitely something more intriguing for the mind. So I started acting classes just on a whim, thinking it would help with commercial auditions while I modeled for another year or two. And then I figured Iíd probablyóI was in the finding out stage of what I was going to do and was I going to go back to university or what, and got into an acting class and absolutely fell in love with it from the first class.
I modeled for another two years and took night classes in New York City and then moved out of New York and moved to LA and a year later got Battlestar. So itís building blocks and itís a career, I started at the bottom again, a new career and just building your way up. Iím happy that I have agents and managers that believe in me. So itís a normal process that anyone takes if youíre not born into it or have any kind of dealings with the business, you start out and you work hard and hopefully things fall your way.
So what are your aspirations for acting beyond this? Youíre doing some guest starring roles and things here and there. What have you got your fingers in that you can look forward to in the future?
Well, Iím right in the middle of pilot season right now. Itís my first year in five years of being available because of Battlestar now being finished. I got Battlestar in my first year of acting, so definitely being on a show, itís amazing to be on a show, you want to be on a show, but it also limits what you can do with your hiatus when youíre shooting 22 episodes a year of a show.
Now is really the first pilot season and Iím actually in negotiations right now with a pilot that Iím quite excited about, but itís a little too early to stake my claim on it yet until everyone has signed on the dotted line. But yes, Iím looking, as one of the callers earlier asked about varying roles and Iím definitely looking for my next project to be something thatís a little bit different. First off, Iíll be playing a human and not a spy. But yes, Iíll be looking for something that varies the roles up.
Weíre big, huge, Chuck fans. We would like to know, you have an episode coming up where youíre going to be in the spy field again. We wanted to know what the similarities and differences between Carla and your Chuck character will be.
I think the differences are really in the tone of the show. Burn Notice is a show that definitely has some levity to it and itís a fun show, but itís also, you fully believe, youíre fully invested that Michael Westen does this stuff. You want Michael Westen on your team. With Chuck, obviously it just takes it another step further into the comedy side and itís definitely a little lighter and fun. So with Carla, obviously theyíre both super strong intelligent agents, but I think with agent Alex Ford as my Chuck character, itís just a little bit more tongue in cheek. Sheís much more like Casey. Sheís very by the book. Sheís very no nonsense, kind of emotional, which sounds similar to Carla, but Carlaótheyíre both kind of bad asses, I guess, when youíre looking back at it. But Chuck just has a little bit more tongue in cheek.
Youíre allowed to be a little bit moreóyou can be straighter on Chuck, ÖAlex Ford could be straighter and I worried less about showing dimensions to the character because that was the humor about the character. She is so one note emotionalist. With Carla, my concern with her was making sure that because you really never find out too much about her, making sure that sheís not just super agent bitch spy and thatís it, that you get glimpse into a bit of a vulnerability or a bit of a humanity, other than just being super strong.
After years of watching you manipulate Gaius Baltar, describe the different and the challenge in trying to manipulate Michael Westen, who resists a little more than Gaius did.
Yes, he does resist a little more than Gaius. Theyíre both incredibly intelligent characters, but with Gaius, Number Six never had to worry of him outsmarting her. Even though heís obviously the genius scientist, heís so genius heís a little bit socially inept in some ways and Michael Westen isnít. Heís so adept at becoming other people and other characters for his work that you want to be concerned that youíre not being taken advantage of or that heís not pulling a fast one over on you, so to speak. Baltar is a little bit more, you see what you get.
What was it like when you shot your last episode for Battlestar Galactica?
Shooting the last episode is intense, not only do emotions run really high because obviously this is the last time youíre working with a lot of these people and you become like family over five years, but itís also very intense because last episodes tend to come in very long. I think we had a four hour script in a two hour time frame to shoot that we were maybe given a couple of extra days. So we really shot incredibly long hours and everybody was kind of like zombies at the end of it. So itís intense, emotions are really high, but itís also a wonderful feeling, itís a great feeling of accomplishment and camaraderie, too.
Professionally as an actor, you said that you made the jump from modeling to acting. What was the biggest challenge you faced in making that transition?
To be honest, to be taken seriously. Models have a stigma that they canít act. Youíre also, to be quite blunt, youíre tall and not a lot of actors are tall and when you are starting out youíre obviously not the first one cast, so youíre trying to fit into a mold. Youíre quite often not cast as the quirky best friend, but you donít have the experience to be cast as the lead. So it can be really tricky. One of the biggest things is just to get your people, so to speak, your agents and managers to take you seriously. Thatís one of the issues I had when I came out to LA.
I was with an agency in New York, joined the agency out here and they just wanted to put me up for walk by in a bikini role kind of thing, and thatís certainly not me because Iím not built like Carmen Electra or Pamela Anderson, so I found I was in a weird spot of not getting sent out for the roles that I wanted. Thatís when you have to just take charge and you walk into the agency and say, ďI want to go on this.Ē
You just have to be persistent. I think thatís one of the biggest things about this industry and this career is being persistent and believing in yourself and also being ready when the timing is right. So much of it is about timing and luck, so to be ready when you get the opportunity.
I was going to ask you, youíre Canadian, which I didnít realize, and I was wondering if you had to work hard to sound non-Canadian in some of your roles or it just came naturally from all your modeling and traveling around internationally.
Iíve been living, Iíve lived in New York since I was 18 years old and traveled pretty much all over the world. I guess my accent just disappeared on its own. I didnít consciously do it, but by the time I had started acting, I sounded American. Most people actually guess me as a little bit Southern than Canadian. So I didnít have to consciously lose it, no. Although when I do go back to Canada, Iím around the Canadian crews for a while or I go back to my parentsí farm for while, I come back sounding a little more Canadian, the out and about starts coming out. My general speaking now doesnít have any Canadian accent in it.
Is there anything else you tell us about your last two episodes on Burn Notice without giving too much away?
Itís kind of hard without giving too much away. I will say Iím really excited to see the last episode. Thereís a great stunt at the end that Iím just so excited to see. Itís not even my stunt, but Iím really excited to see it and I think itís going to be a great finale. It really comes to a culmination point and Carla has kind of had it with Michael Westen and she realizes heís just basically run her around in circles after sheís put some trust into him that heís going to find the bomber and help give her the name, which essentially is a rogue agent, but she knows it is, and he disappoints her, so it comes to a culmination.
Basically as we still donít know whether Chuck is going to be renewed for a third season or not, I did want to know if the role that you play, is it sort of open ended, so that if Chuck does come back for a third season you might consider doing another episode?
Oh, definitely, yes, if it does comes back, and I expect it to, itís a great show, so I hope it comes back, yes, itís definitely open ended in terms of I could come back. Agent Alex Forrest is alive at the end of the episode and she could always come back, but I donít expect to come back, certainly not on a regular basis, but Iíd certainly sign to coming on again and shaking things up. I think she may have a little thing for Casey at the end of the episode, so if she comes back, it would be fun to come back and explore that because Casey doesnít get very much action.
Now that youíve done Battlestar Galactica and Burn Notice, what was it like working with Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell on Battlestar? Were those experiences a little bit different than working with Jeffrey Donovan and Bruce Campbell?
Yes and no. Iíd say theyíre very similar because theyíre all very talented and very professional people, thereís no diva attitudes, and itís really about the work and the craft and theyíre incredibly hard working. Starting, when I started Battlestar, Eddie and Mary had been in the business for a long time and Emmy nominated, Oscar nominated. It was just an incredible experience to be able to work with them. For all of the younger cast on Battlestar it was wonderful to have these two kind of helm the show and you got to really see what two people who are so talented, how their passion to the work goes and how much work they put into it and how much dedication.
It was very similar going down to Burn Notice and you have that same vibe with people that are justóthey love the show theyíre working on. Theyíre dedicated to it and theyíre really hard workers. So there really wasnít that much difference, aside from, obviously, the show itself and the type of show.
If Carla did come back on Burn Notice perhaps for next season or after, what are the ways youíd like to see her maybe develop and maybe even become an ally to Michael in the future?
Oh, that would be a lot of fun to become an ally of Michael. It would be great to have that. Iíd obviously like to find out a little bit more about what makes her tick and find out a little bit more about her.
Could you ever see her as being a possible love interest for Michael?
Yes, sure. No, I think Fiona and the Michael relationship is too kind of complex. I think, my own opinion, is theyíre made for each other and itís only going to take them time to figure that out. I certainly wouldnít turn down a relationship with Michael Westen. I donít think any girl would.
With this finale of Battlestar Galactica fast approaching, do you think that thereíd be any possibility of a spin-off of Battlestar further in the future? I know theyíre working on the prequel, but would you see any possibility of a future spin-off, like for the series?
You know, Iíve never really thought about that. Without giving away the finale, I guess there sort of could be. Itís definitely a closing in one respect, but now that you mentioned it, there could possibly be a spin-off. I donít expect there to be. I really donít expect there to be and I donít think thatís their intention, but I guess you can never say never in this business.
Just to follow up, what have you enjoyed the most about your work on Burn Notice and Battlestar? What are some things youíve enjoyed the most?
I think really, to be honest, I think just getting to work with who Iíve gotten to work with, theyíre really talented people and getting the kind of writing and direction and everything, the people involved, not just the cast. But youíre talking about Ron Moore and Matt Nix and just really great guys, incredible writers. Iím fascinated with how their minds work. Itís just beyond me how they can come up with all this stuff. Iíd say getting to work with who Iíve gotten to work with and that kind of level of quality scripts and production that I got to work on.
Burn Notice seems to be doing just so well and your character, Carla, sheís mysterious and so empowering and everything. I just want to know what do you love the most about playing her?
I think that it is empowering and that sheís strong and smart and sheís gotten to where she is by her own gumption, her own dedication. I like the fact that sheís very similar to Michael. Although you donít get to see her fun side like you do for Michael, but maybe she has a bit less of one. I like being on par with that level of agent, the fact that Michael Westen can pretty much do whatever he wants, as can Fiona and Sam, to some extent.
Thatís how I feel that Carla is. Carla is not one to be taken advantage of, which I think is whatís interesting about coming up to the last two episodes is, she doesnít trust anybody and sheís finally put a little bit of trust into Michael and I think thatís probably backfiring on her. I like the fact that sheís strong and sheís as good at her job as Michael is at his.
I know youíve appeared in so many ad campaigns for so many different designers and youíve been walking the runways all over the world and been on the covers of L and Vogue and all of that, do you ever think that maybe youíll make a return to fashion? Or is that something that really inspired you or do you really think that in the future, youíll probably keep focusing more on your acting and building that resume up?
Oh, definitely. I have no interest in going back into fashion, aside from doing some endorsements or something. Iím certainly going to be open to endorsements, but to me thatís not modeling. Technically I guess youíre modeling if youíre posing for a picture, but itís a different thing. Besides, Iím getting too old to go back into modeling. But no, Iíve been there, done that. I had a great career at it, learned a lot, but moved on and Iím much more excited to be working on a character or getting into the psychology of a character, that sort of thing, than just posing for a picture.
Just a quick question regarding the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica, that was quite an emotional episode. How was that for you to play?
Obviously the episode was an emotional one for Caprica Six. It wasnít anything I donít think particularly difficult over just, itís an emotional scene. I think actually I shot that episode right before I went down and did my first episode of Burn Notice. Itís just work and I was gladóIíve been fairly light in a few episodes and I was glad to see a strong scene for my character. It was hard to see Caprica lose the baby because sheís wanted one and stemming from people Öthat she killed the baby in the miniseries and now she has her own baby lost. But throughout that with her relationship with Baltar and now Tigh, sheís really been and connected to Hera in a way, and sheís been really kind of striving for this, so it was hard to film that just in that respect of seeing the character lose that. But I didnít go home and cry that night. Itís obviously not like youíre not losing your own baby, so itís hard at work but you have great people around to work with you.
What has been your most memorable moment youíve had from filming Burn Notice?
Most memorable moment, thereís quite a few. One of my moments that I disliked the most was, Iím not sure if itís in the next episode coming up or the finale, but weíre shooting a limousine scene where Carla is trying to get a little information, offer a little and get a little from Michael Westen. I had stopped drinking coffee and Iíve been doing green tea, on a personal note I had stopped drinking coffee, but we started early and I just grabbed a cup of coffee off catering and we got inside this limo, which, of course, you canít have air conditioning on because youíd hear it with the filming, and youíre in a limo with the camera, operator, the focus polar, a couple of other guys. Jeffery is in there. Iím in there. Itís Miami. Itís humid. Itís really hot. Iím in a pantsuit and I got the jitters from the coffee so bad that I could barely speak. I was sweating. Hair and makeup canít fit in there, so Iím trying to do my own powder and my hair is matted to me and shaking. I had to hand Jeffrey something and Iím shaking in the scene.
And we finished it and Iím like, ďJeffrey, I donít know what got into me. I had coffee and this is insane and Iíve not been drinking coffee.Ē And Jeffrey looked at me and he starts laughing. And heís like, ďYes, you stop drinking coffee for a while and then you drink again and you realize why you shouldnít be drinking it.Ē ďYes, Jeffrey, that makes sense.Ē But I was horrified by the scene while I was shooting it because I was so uncomfortable, but at the same time, Iíve seen it in ADR and it turned out fine. But Jeffrey stayed calm throughout even though I was a mess, so thatís definitely one of my memories from Burn Notice.
Moving forward professionally, what are your thoughts on breaking free of having been Cylon and do you have any concerns about being able to do that?
No, not really, because I have gone on and done a couple of other things. I think people within the business really respect Battlestar. If theyíre fans of the show, if they watch the show, theyíve also seen that the Cylons arenít just cold robotic creatures like maybe a Terminator. Itís not your typical robot. Itís much more like Blade Runner and the Replicants and things like that. So they have a lot more emotion and theyíre a lot more human thanóI think it would be harder if you were playing much more of a robotic creature than people might think, that you might not be able to do other type of roles. So Iím really not worried about it.
In 2002 I had heard that you had done, you had the opportunity to play Eva in that independent film, White Rush. After that, you did a few motion pictures. I just really want to know how you feel about working in film as opposed to working in television and if thatís maybe a medium that youíre hoping to break more into.
Certainly. I think in this day and age, film and TV, before I was in it, you were either film or you were TV and now the lines are so crossed, that I certainly hope to do more film. Again, itís hard on a television schedule to fit that much in, especially when youíre starting out because you have to audition for things. So to actually fit into that hiatus is very difficult, so itís certainly something Iím looking forward to doing. I auditioned for some and I have a couple in the pipeline that are possibilities an if financing comes together in this market in this economy, which is a challenge for independent film right now. So hopefully in this market, the independent film still keeps going and hopefully I land a couple of them.
Watch the Burn Notice Season 2 Finale on Thursday, March 5th at 10pm/9c on USA NETWORK! In the explosive season finale, Michael learns some surprising facts about Victor's past, and is forced to take on Carla in a final showdown.
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