None Of Them Along The Line Know What Any Of It Is Worth!! Moriarty & Hercules Attend Wednesday’s Big L.A. GALACTICA Event!!
Published at: June 7, 2007, 5:57 p.m. CST by hercules
I am – Hercules!!
There was a big “Battlestar Galactica” event at Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome Wednesday night, engineered, one presumes, to (fruitlessly) court Emmy favor.
My fellow AICN editor Moriarty filled half a composition book with notes on the event, and he has a massive and comprehensive report below (including some very funny banter - "Galactica" I do declare, has the funniest, smartest actors on TV), but here are a few highlights to whet your appetite before plunging in:
* I got to ask “Galactica” mastermind Ronald D. Moore why the regular cast would be in “Razor,” the two-hour fourth-season premiere of the series (due in November), since “Razor” is said to deal with the Pegasus at the start of Cylon War II. Moore said the movie will actually depict several periods in Pegasus’ history, including its Lee Adama era.
* Moriarty and I got to meet “Galactica” writer-producer David Eick. He left me with the impression that the episode that brings the fleet – or what’s left of it – to Earth will indeed be the series’ last. (This would dispel my private theory that everybody might reach Earth much earlier – maybe in 4.3 or 4.10 – and the balance of the fourth, final season might be set in our solar system, “1980” style.)
* Eick revealed he still hasn’t watched the 1970s “Galactica.” He noted later his near-complete ignorance of the Lorne Greene version makes him a useful sounding board for the series’ other creative forces.
* Moriarty and I got to meet “Battlestar Galactica” star Katee Sackhoff, who was wearing a pretty white dress and very tall boots. She is super-extra cute up close and confirmed she now loves Ain’t It Cool News.
* Sackhoff remembered she was instructed by “Galactica’s” showrunners to tell no one – not even Sackhoff’s mother - of Starbuck’s surprise season-ending resurrection. Moore said the news of Starbuck’s death drove to mutiny the show’s cast and crew in Vancouver – who were initially unaware that Starbuck would return.
* “All Along The Watchtower” was much discussed. The song was almost introduced much earlier in the series, said Moore, as a song that would play in a Caprica eatery over a conversation between Starbuck and Helo. Moore also once considered making an entire episode of “Roswell” about the song. (Moore said “Roswell” showrunner Jason Katims - now showrunner on “Friday Night Lights” - was a giant Dylan freak.)
* At one point, said Eick, Moore intended the Paul Simon song “America” to be used very early in the miniseries. (It helps to remember, perhaps, that Moore scripted the “Galactica” miniseries fairly soon after the 9/11 attacks.)
* Moore says there will be no “Galactica” movie following the series, which will have a very definitive ending. “This tale has a beginning, a middle and an end,” says Moore. “Oh, there might be one more thing we forgot to tell you,” will not be something we hear, says Moore.
* Star Edward James Olmos said he so loves “Galactica” he’d do it for free. “They can keep my paycheck,” he told he gathered crowd. He also said his friends were appalled when they learned he had agreed to star in a remake of “Battlestar Galactica.”
* Olmos opined that “Blade Runner” failed at the box office because of Harrison Ford. He described Ford’s performance as “immaculate” and “excellent,” but noted that Rick Deckart was just too different from Han Solo and Indiana Jones and alienated the actor’s fanbase.
* The fate of young Caprica refugee Boxey was mused upon. Moore suggested he might be making his living as a “male prostitute” at this juncture.
* It was revealed that there will be some gay stuff in “Razor.” (But not a lot, apparently, because Moore momentarily forgot about it when somebody in the audience asked if “Galactica” would ever have any gay stuff in it.)
The only part Moriarty missed was the screening of the spectacular third-season finale. The powers that be kept billing it as an HD presentation, but it looked like a full-on 2K DLP virtual print - which is to say, it looked like 35mm film. To see it with an audience - with Baltar’s terrified courtroom exclamations and “All Along The Watchtower” blaring out of those huge Cinerama Dome speakers as the vipers zipped by – was thrilling.
Filming on the fourth and final season began three weeks ago and will wrap in March. The two-hour “Razor” is set to hit SciFi (and DVD) in November; the 20-hour balance of season four hits SciFi in early 2008.
Here’s “Moriarty” with his directors-cut rumblings from the lab and beyond:
Okay... so I got the invite for this while I was still out of town. I missed it as I was sorting through my e-mail, and would have missed it entirely if not for a friend who sends out this e-mail blast several times a day of all sorts of geek oddities. He sent out an e-mail mentioning this event, and I went back to see if I’d been invited. I found two different invites, and RSVP’d to both, just in case. After all, it was already the morning of the event, and I knew I was late in responding.
Still, when I showed up at the Dome at about 7:15, I found one VIP ticket waiting for me, and I joined the VIP line. We were waiting for the screening of the season three finale to end so we could go in and take our seats. While I was standing in line, someone gave me a BATTLESTAR GALATCICA t-shirt. It’s fairly subtle, with just a small “Frak Off” on the breast of it, and a tiny BG logo on back. There was a palpable excitement from everyone gathered and waiting, and since I didn’t really have a chance to think about this ahead of time, I guess I didn’t have a chance to get excited. Still, it was sort of catching, and even though I wasn’t sure what to expect from the evening, my fanboy gene kicked in, and I felt my own anticipation revving up.
I saw a familiar face walking by -- Mike Dougherty, writer of SUPERMAN RETURNS and writer/director of the upcoming TRICK ‘R TREAT. I waved him into line and we spent the better part of the next hour talking about GALACTICA and LOST and TV in general. I like Mike and rarely see him, so it was a nice accident. Then, just as the lights were going down inside the Dome, and we were about to begin, I realized that Hercules The Strong was seated right in front of me, about five seats over, chatting up a girl. I’m not sure how I missed the wheelchair and the IV stands, but I didn’t have a chance to say anything before the clips package rolled.
The clips covered everything from the beginning of the show to the end of season three, with that last image of the reappearance of Starbuck saying “I’ve been to Earth, and I’m going to lead us there” wrapping things up to a pretty rousing explosion of applause from the packed theater.
Then Lucy Lawless came out to introduce and moderate the evening. She looked great, and throughout the night, the thing that kept making me laugh the most was just how big a nerd for the show Lawless is. I don’t think she’s a science-fiction fan in general (at one point, she thought that David Eicke actually coined the term “space opera”), but her enthusiasm for this program as a fan, not a cast member, was obvious. She promised that the evening would be “a discussion of all things BATTLESTAR,” and then she introduced the evening’s panel.
In order, Ron Moore, David Eicke, Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber, and Katee Sackhoff all walked out. Eicke produced a beer from his pocket as soon as he sat down. The cast drew the biggest applause, and they settled into their seats quickly so that Lawless could start the questions. “So, David and Ron, can you smell the elephant in the room?” She was, of course, referring to the end of the series which was just announced, and she asked Ron to discuss the timeline in which the decision was made to wrap the show up. He said the initial conversations happened during the second season, when they were talking about the way the show was going to build to an eventual ending. In the third season, though, when they were working on the two-parter of “Eye Of Jupiter” and “Rapture,” it became obvious to them that they were starting to build towards that ending very quickly, and the talks became serious. Then, as they were writing the season finale for season three, they started dropping several big pieces of the puzzle into place, and they realized that...
David interrupted, “And that’s when Ron realized that the syndication checks from STAR TREK were rolling in. That pretty much decided that.”
As the audience laughed, Lucy asked, “How do you feel about it, Eddie?”
“Horrible,” Olmos answered, and despite renewed laughter, it was obvious he wasn’t kidding. He talked about how important he feels the show is. “I don’t think the Powers That Be will understand exactly what it is that they’re doing or the importance of it for at least 20 years. This is a mirror that Ron and David hold up to our world each week, and it’s a privilege to be part of it.”
He thanked NBC, GE, Universal, and Sci-Fi for all being part of the series, and for sticking by it even if they didn’t quite get it. He said that he wasn’t surprised that the show is wrapping up this season. “This is a very difficult show to keep afloat, because most of you don’t like watching commercials.” He started to rail on the futility of the Nielsen ratings system, and the way it doesn’t really measure who is watching. “Neilsen needs a hole in his head. It doesn’t calibrate reality. It doesn’t count Latinos. It doesn’t count African-Americans.”
Lucy asked Mary how she feels about the end of the show, and Mary just sighed. “I always have to go after him,” she said, gesturing at Olmos. “I think we all feel that degree of passion and emotion for this project, and I think he really summed it up for all of us.”
When Lucy asked how the “younger ones” felt about it, she got a look of mock-outrage from Mary. Lucy just rolled her eyes and smiled. “They’re younger than me, too.”
Jamie jumped in to answer the question first, and I was taken aback at first. I always forget that Jamie Bamber is British, but he spoke with his accent all evening, and it reinforced just how different he is than his character. “I’m a British actor, so I like nothing more than to complain,” he said. He kidded about how miserable he was when he signed his six-year contract up front, but very quickly got serious about how upset he is to see the show come to an end. All of the actors were very eloquent about what the show meant to them, and how much they understand that they’ve been very lucky to be associated with a show as consistently interesting as this one.
The next question was for Katee. “When did you know you were going to die? And when did you know you were coming back?”
This caused a bit of a ruckus onstage, and Katee talked about how she sort of overplayed it a bit originally. “Well, I was a little worried when I got a phone call that began, ‘Okay, the first thing we want you to know is that we love you.’” They told her they were going to kill her, and then they were going to resurrect her, and, most importantly, she wasn’t going to be allowed to tell anyone.
She started to really play the “I’m leaving” thing up, bringing her mother to the set for moral support, crying about it in front of the rest of the cast. Very quickly, they all took her side, and Ron Moore got an early-morning phone call from the studio asking him what he was doing that had his cast and crew ready to revolt. They finally had to bring everyone in on the plan to calm things down, but before they were able to do that, Katee actually got a goodbye party and champagne on her last day.
Positively beaming, she said, “I got a cake!” I’ve gotta say... I think she’s charismatic on the show, but in person, I think she’s positively gorgeous. She cleaned up reeeeeal well.
And of course, as I was sitting there having a few indecent thoughts, Lucy started talking about all the nudity on the show. She began by teasing Jamie Bamber about a scene he did wearing only a towel. “You managed to hold that up without using your hands. Nice trick, that.” Katee seemed just as delighted by that moment.
“You got the front view for that one, but I got to see him from behind!”
Lucy asked Katee if she had a favorite nude scene. “Oh, all of my nude scenes are great,” she said. There was one particular scene involving her and Callum and a lot of paint, though, where she got so annoyed by the pasties that were used to cover her nipples that she just whipped them off and used Callum’s hands to keep her network-decent instead. By the end of telling the story, she was positively flushed, and everyone on the panel was visibly loosening up.
Rolling with it, Lucy asked, “So is Admiral Adama ever going to get laid?”
Ron replied, “That’s a question for Laura Roslyn.”
I don’t think anyone ever really managed an answer to that one thanks to all the laughter onstage, but it was nice to see how fond McDonnell and Olmos are of each other in real life. Mary was pretty much giddy all night, flirty and laughing and really appealing.
Somehow, Lucy finally directed the conversation back to the questions on the cards she was holding. She tried to ask a serious question next. “Was the political commentary on the show always something you guys planned?”
Ron talked about how he was first offered the job right after 9/11, so when he watched the original series pilot as a refresher, it was pretty much unavoidable that he would find echoes in the story of an attack on civilization and an ongoing fight against an enemy that was devoted to the destruction of humanity’s way of life. They decided to embrace the parallels from day one.
One of the things that Ron said that I really liked was how he approached the idea of bringing this show back. Sure, they reinvented things, but “I always wanted this show to be BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. The superstructure of that show is the superstructure of our show.” He said that he felt like the framework was so strong that it would give them room to do anything. This led into a discussion of the way the writing process works on the show.
Basically, David and Ron break down what they want to do over ten episodes at a time. They take these broad strokes and specific beats and hand them over to the writers, then just sort of back away and leave them too it. They give the writers a lot of room to put their stamp on things. They’ve found that the more ownership the writers have over their ideas, the more invested they are in making the show great. As they talked, David kept using his beer as comic punctuation, and he came across as a really dry, funny counterpoint to Ron.
They talked about how everyone brings ideas to the table, and how important that is. The example they used is a piece of music that Olmos brought to the set early on, and it started to spread as he gave it to the producers, the writers, the cast, the drivers... basically anyone who would listen to it. Mary talked about how it became everyone’s theme as they were working, and now it’s actually Adama’s theme on the show. As Olmos put it, “I’ve been living inside that music for five years now.”
Everyone talked about how Mary and Eddie set the tone for the younger actors on the set, and how they basically rule their own sections of the set. David said he may have created a set like the command bridge of the Galactica, but when he steps onto it, Eddie runs it like Adama, right down to explaining to the extras exactly where they’re supposed to be and what their jobs are as part of the flight crew. Same thing with Mary when they’re onboard the presidential shuttle. Everyone sort of looks to these two because they’re the older, more experienced actors, and they’ve worked on stage, in serious films, in other series.
It seemed to be the natural question to ask when Lucy piped in with “So considering all the credits you have, what got you interested in doing something for television called BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, anyway?”
Mary’s quick response: “The writing.”
Eddie elaborated by saying that when the script for the miniseries first showed up, there was a three page prologue that was more mission statement than anything else. Ron explained that it was the bible for the show, or, as David put it, “It was an act of total desperation.” They realized that they needed to get people in the right frame of mind to read the script. They needed to explain to them what they were doing, what they wanted the show to be, and where they would be going with it. So that three page bible was included with every copy that was sent out, and it seemed to really draw the actors in and make them take the script seriously from page one.
The more he talked, the more obvious it was that Olmos really does preach the Gospel of Galactica. “You will never see another show like this in your lifetimes,” he said, “so enjoy it.” He compared it to his experience on BLADE RUNNER, talking about how that was too far ahead of its audience to get its proper due while it was in theaters. It’s obvious that he’s frustrated about ending the series at this point, but I think all the actors agreed that it’s better to have the show end on its own terms, with Ron and David and everyone able to create the ending they want, instead of just struggling to keep it on the air and getting cancelled before they are able to bring the story to its natural conclusion.
They opened things up for Q&A from the audience, and two long lines formed as people seemed desperate to interact with the panel. The first question as “Is there anything you actors hope to do before the show ends?”
Mary: “I just hope I stay alive.”
Ron: “... well, that’s unfortunate.”
Jamie said he doesn’t really have any specific goals, since he’s learned to just trust the writers. He compared his feelings about this last season to being on a team that has made the final round in the World Cup. “I’m just privileged to participate.” He said that whatever the writers come up with, he’s confident it will be muscular, since there’s so much left for them to do.
The next guy up to the mic started, “I love the show, and I’m a lifelong Bob Dylan fan...”
“Wow,” Ron said. “Lucky for you.”
“Yeah, well, that’s how I know the show loves me back.” He asked Ron to explain how the use of “All Along The Watchtower” developed in the season three finale. Ron credited Jason Katim, a rabid Dylan maniac, with passing his Dylan love along while they were working together on ROSWELL. The use of 20th century Earth music was a bigger idea, though, something Ron originally thought of doing when he was writing the miniseries. Originally, the first moments of the miniseries were going to be scored to Simon and Garfunkel’s “America.” He loved the incongruity. But then as they were getting further into the first season, they had a scene with Heelo and Sharon in a diner on Caprica, and they were going to have “All Along The Watchtower” playing on a jukebox in the diner. As they talked about it, they realized there was something bigger in that idea, and they held off on it. They almost used the song again to end Season One. Then, finally, as they were writing the season finale for season three and discussing the trigger that would alert the sleeper Cylons to their true nature, someone suggested that it could be a song.
“Yes! And it’s ‘All Along The Watchtower!’” said Ron, pleased to finally be able to use the idea.
The next question was “How did Jamie go from giant fatass to stud in just one week? Was it a meth addiction?”
“No,” said Jamie. “Just good old-fashioned purging.”
The next person asked about Ron’s time working on ST:TNG, and whether he felt like his hands were tied as he was writing for that show. He said that he loved TREK, but of course, you know that there’s a tone that exists, and there are ideas you can’t really explore in the STAR TREK world. It’s a very careful balance that you have to strike. With BATTLESTAR, he’s experienced total freedom to explore the ideas and themes he’s wanted to.
Next up, a woman stepped up to the mike and said, “I’m a scientist. I’m a narcissist. And I think Tricia Helfer’s hot. So obviously my favorite character is Gaius Baltar. Will you ever go back to explore more of the relationship between Gaius and Six?”
Season Four will indeed include new material about the relationship between Baltar and Six, and their connection, and they’ll be tackling the idea in new ways.
The next guy got up and did one of those embarrassing fanboy questions that’s not really a question, but is instead five minutes of thank yous wrapped around some strange digressions that didn’t seem to make any sense. I always get uncomfortable when that happens. I prefer brevity from someone asking a panel a question, so it was nice when the next guy stepped up and just asked, “Will Lucy be back?”
She flirted mercilessly with him for a moment and teased Ron and David about how much she expects them to pay her if she returns. I can honestly say I’ve never seen Lawless come across in any film the way she does in person. She seemed really charming and silly for most of the evening.
Next up, someone asked, “Every episode of the show is like an acting class. Did any of you ever get a script and think, ‘Oh, man, I don’t know how to do this’?”
Everyone automatically looked over at Mary. She nodded and said, “Oh, yes. Many of them. When they asked me to take a stand for genocide, I had to really search myself and try to find the humanity in the character and in making that decision.”
Next up, a fan said that he tries not to read anything about the show, so he was disappointed to learn that the coming season is the last one. “Will you leave room for a movie?”
Ron tried to make it clear that he doesn’t want to play that game. “We want to end our story. We don’t want to be cute about it and we don’t want to wink at the audience. We want it to be done. Over.”
“Yeah, see, the way STAR TREK residuals work is, they send him these checks. Forever,” said David.
The next guy up to the mic said, “Well, if you are ending it this year, then can I ask that there be no stand-alone episodes this year? There are only 22 left. Come on. No time travel, either. Thanks.”
When the next person asked about the inspiration the actors used for the show, Katee said that Starbuck is directly modeled on her brother. Jamie talked about how he used the father-son dynamic as his main inspiration, emphasizing that over the military aspects of his character. But then recently, he got a chance to fly with The Blue Angels for a day, and it sort of changed his perspective on things. It made him understand the machinery that is a military team, everyone working together to get these ships into the air and, more importantly, back onto the ground in one piece. Lucy asked if he would play it any differently now that he’s done that. “No,” said Jamie. “I think we got it right.”
Someone asked them to discuss the evolution of the look of the show. David said that was something that was in that three page bible from the very start. They always knew they wanted it to be very documentary. Very human. Very real. The three films that they sent to all the directors of season one were BLADE RUNNER, ALIEN, and BLACK HAWK DOWN. “That’s why I always say that we should probably send Ridley Scott a check when we air the show.”
Ron also credited Michael Rymer, and he talked about how he wasn’t on set when they were shooting the mini-series. Ron was still working on CARNIVALE at the time, and he was shooting that when a box of dailies arrived, footage that Rymer had shot. The first thing Ron put in was the scene where Starbuck was jogging through the giant corridor, and as soon as he saw the way it was shot, Ron knew the show was going to work.
The next guy up said, “In Season Three, there were a lot of loose ends. Some were resolved, some look like they’re being carried over to next year, and then others were completely abandoned. What I’m trying to say is... where’s Bulldog?”
Ron: “See, there’s this technical term we use in writing called a mistake...”
David: “You know, people give us shit, but you should go back and look at that entire first season of HAPPY DAYS. If you ever see those writers, ask them... where’s Chuck?”
Jamie: “He’s with Bulldog. I just saw them at the bar.”
Now, I’m not sure how the next question led into a giggling fit from Mary McDonnell, but “Will the dying leader story be resolved?” somehow degenerated into about five minutes of pot jokes and hysterical laughter from everyone on the panel. Finally, Mary managed to say, “It will certainly be raised. I’m not sure it will be resolved.”
The next question was about RAZOR, the two-hour special event that’s coming before the fourth season. “How much of the regular cast will be in it?”
Ron said most of them are in it. The events take place during the second season, during the original Cylon attack, and they feature Kane, a new character, Lee during his first command, and cameos from almost everyone else.
Someone asked Ron if he believes in happy endings, or if he has some moral opposition to them. David talked about how they ran into that issue in the first season on the episode called “33,” which features Lee shooting down a civilian ship. Originally, Lee was going to look out the window and see people staring back at him from inside the ship. When they showed it to the network, though, they were asked to make it more ambiguous. Even after they made the adjustment to the edit, the network still pushed the point, asking for happier endings.
Ron: “It’s not about completion. It’s more about the yearning for that completion. The dissatisfaction these characters feel is what makes the show dramatically satisfying to me.”
Lucy: “But there will be balloons when they reach Earth.”
The next guy up said, “You do so much topical material on the show. Will you be bringing any queer sexuality into the show in season four?”
At first, the crowd started to snicker, but Ron responded, “You know, I think it’s a failing of the show, honestly.”
“There’s some in RAZOR,” Jamie said.
“Oh, my god, you’re right. I forgot. I was up here about to cave in, but I guess we’ve sort of addressed it after all.”
There was another superfreak up next, asking some strange personal questions that no one was able to answer. Then someone asked some convoluted question about dreams and visions that no one really answered. And then a guy who dramatically introduced himself as “Tennessee Luke” got up and said, “Okay, you’ve finished the show. And now your genie will give you any role. What’s the role?”
No one seemed willing to answer at first, so Jamie said, “Oh, fuck it. Hamlet.”
Katee: “I’m looking forward to working with David again on BIONIC WOMAN.”
Eddie: “I am the Bionic Woman.”
Mary: “And I am a Latino in space.”
You could tell they were all getting a little silly by this point. They talked about how they’re just getting started on season four, and how they’ll be shooting all the way through March. They each offered up some final thanks to the fans, and then introduced the writers and the post crew who were in the audience.
Ron talked about the show’s legacy a bit, and said it’s too early to contemplate for any of them. “The show is still very much alive for us. This is what we’re doing every day right now.”
David chimed in with, “I just know that Season Four is going to kick some almighty ass.” That seemed a good time for them to introduce the last clip of the evening, which turned out to be a pretty spiffy trailer for RAZOR, featuring a whole lot of Michelle Forbes and a lot of space action and tension. Looks like a blast.
After that, Herc and I headed upstairs for the VIP reception where we got a chance to mingle with everyone a bit, and where we finally got to tell Katee Sackhoff for the record that AICN loves her. But I’ll let him tell you more about that...