Remembering Battlestar Galactica: An Hour with Three of Its Stars

Photo by Nancy Northcott
Photo by Nancy Northcott

The Battlestar Galactica panel on Friday at 1PM (Hyatt Centennial II-III) opened on a humorous note as Richard Hatch and a man in the second row raised their thumbs to each other. Hatch announced, “You know I’m the thumb wrestling champion of the world,” as everyone laughed. He and his fellow panelists, Kandyce McClure and Alessandro Juliani all wryly confessed to being at less than their best, Hatch due to a recent bout of food poisoning and Juliani and McClure because of their travel schedules. Despite the disclaimers, all seemed fully engaged in the proceedings.

The discussion turned to what the actors are working on now. Juliani is playing a pretentious art dealer on Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. He said he’s enjoying wearing nice suits and having minions bring him coffee. McClure is writing an environmental documentary on waste energy facilities in the Caribbean. Hatch is shooting a film, Diminuendo, and a TV series, Personal Space. His Diminuendo costars include Gigi Edgley, Leah Cairns, and Chloe Dykstra, while the Personal Space cast includes fellow Battlestar castmates Nicki Clyne and Tahmoh Penikett.

Moderator Karen Henson asked the panel if any particular experiences on Battlestar stood out for them. Juliani said that he hadn’t revisited the show until he was preparing for this year’s Dragon Con. Then he thought, “I’d better watch the show so I can remember what it’s about.” When he did so, apart from “not believing how old I am now,” he was “amazed at how well it shows up. He’d recently and unexpectedly encountered McClure at an audition, and both actors found that the shared experiences came rushing back.

From there, the discussion shifted to the actors’ casting in Battlestar. Juliani said he was reluctant to audition because he was tied up with 14-hour dress and tech rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet but did so at his agent’s urging. He originally read for the Chief and found himself using words he didn’t understand, like Dradis. Weeks later, he learned he’d been cast as Gaeta. He views his experience on the show as setting the bar “impossibly high” for the rest of his career, and he recalled being paid to watch and learn from veteran actors like Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, and Richard Hatch and to work with such a great cast.

Hatch said that when an actor goes into an audition wanting the role, does the audition and fracks it up, then walks out not caring whether he’s cast, that’s usually when he gets the role. He noted that auditions are increasingly done over iPhones.

McClure seconded Juliani’s comments about the dialogue. “I didn’t know what I was saying,” she said, smiling. When Hatch mentioned iPhones, she held hers up and announced, “I just did that, up in my hotel room.”

Hatch commented that technology is opening more opportunities for actors, decreasing their dependence on traditional production routes. As an example, he cited Felicia Day’s award-winning web series, The Guild.

Hatch said he’d never worked on any other show where the producers and the writers were so open to actors’ input in developing their characters. McClure and Juliani concurred, saying, “We were spoiled.”

The panel also took questions from the audience. One fan asked McClure if she knew how heartbreaking Dualla’s story line would become. McClure replied that she didn’t know. She suggested that the writers noted that she was dealing with a personal bout of depression and may have incorporated that in her character. She said that Dualla’s tragic choice brought some things to light for her, principally that the character’s choice was not hers, so that the episode became “a moment to build from.”

One audience member asked Hatch what he brought from the original Battlestar to the new one. Hatch replied that maybe his character on the new series, Tom Zarek, was Captain Apollo, his original character, “after prison.” The role was originally envisioned as a Nelson Mandela type, but Hatch saw Zarek as being darker than that, a broken, fallen idealist who feels, with good reason, that those in power have betrayed him. He described feeling frustrated on the original show about now delving more into the core issues of surviving a holocaust and said he enjoyed the way the newer version explored those issues. Noting that Jamie Bamber had said that Zarek spoke the truth, Hatch said Bamber was “the only one who really got Tom Zarek.”

The actors said that they didn’t feel the compression of time for dealing with issues that’s common to TV programs because the long arc on Battlestar allowed time to explore issues. In response to a question, they agreed that there really were no scenes they regretted seeing cut. “They were mainly us being stupid,” McClure said. She added that she’d hoped for an episode where Dualla became a Sagittaran revolutionary, but that never happened.

When asked about the process for anchoring his character, Hatch said he related to Zarek’s anger because he wakes up angry about the way people in authority abuse power. He pointed out that the key, for all roles is how to get “from where you are to where the character is.” He noted that actors never know in advance where they’ll be psychologically when the cameras roll and that it can’t matter because the actor has a responsibility to “bring it.”

A fan noted that the Battlestar actors at Dragon Con this year all played characters who died and asked how they felt about not making it to the end of the series. Juliani said Ronald Moore had phoned him and warned him what was coming but assured him that his character, Gaeta, would have some good things to do along the way. Hatch interjected, “That’s the exact same thing he said to me.”

Juliani said he had mixed feelings about his character’s death because it occurred to close to the series’ end but that he “couldn’t ask for a better” one and felt it had tremendous emotional payoff.

Hatch said Zarek’s death was a double whammy because it also came near the end of the show. The scene in the launch tube with Edward James Olmos was an emotional moment. Hatch felt connected not only to the character but to the cast. He described the show as a family of “talented, wonderful human beings.”

A fan asked McClure how she felt about the pivot from a science fiction serial to the realistic, true-life project of her documentary. She responded that pivot was a good term for going from the front of the camera to the back and that she’d taken what she learned from Battlestar and transmuted those skills to something else. She still has to look for where the conflict is, where the heart is, and what will motivate people to change, always with an eye to the narrative.

The last question went to Juliani, who was asked to explain how Gaeta’s came to sing when his leg was amputated. Juliani said that was spurred by a dinner with the writers, where the fact that he was an operatically trained singer came up. After some discussion, he sent in a tape of him singing a couple of folk songs. That went to composer Bear McCreary, who wrote the song he eventually sang.

The panel concluded with a rousing three-peat of “So say we all.”

Author of the article

Nancy Northcott is the Comics Track Director for ConTinual. She's also a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction, fantasy, and history. Her published works include the Boar King's Honor historical fantasy trilogy and the Arachnid Files romantic suspense series. Collaborating with Jeanne Adams, she also writes the Outcast Station science fiction mystery series.