Battlestar Galactica: Katee Sackhoff conference interview

With the fourth and final season of Galactica airing in the US next Friday, Starbuck actor Katee Sackhoff engages a gaggle of journalists for a long chat...

Katee Sackhoff as Captain Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace

At 1pm EST, Battlestar Galactica‘s Starbuck, actor Katee Sackhoff, gave a long interview to a host of journalists from print and web publications that included the New York Times, Redeye, Cablefax, Niagara Frontier Publications, Soap Opera Weekly, e-online and many more.

Geek was there, and even if a gremlin meant we didn’t get to ask our late question (one per publication was allowed), Katee held forth on many topics…

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. I’m sitting across the table from my boyfriend right now. I would say that the sex scenes are a lot harder than anything else I’ve had to do on the show. Because it’s not natural, it’s just odd. It makes you feel cheap, like you’re being allowed to cheat on your significant other. It’s 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 don’t know. I think I’ve fought everybody. I can’t think of anyone. I haven’t fought Sharon, so I’ll go ahead and say that. I think a fight between Eddie [Edward James Olmos] and I would be pretty interesting.

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How cool and gratifying is it that you’ve 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 it’s nice to have people identify with a character you’re playing, and appreciate the work you’re doing. I don’t think I went into this trying to win over the old fans, because I think that you can’t ever please everyone. I didn’t want to focus on people that were, in a sense, spewing negative energy. So I just sort of did what I did. It’s 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 couldn’t work with a woman it’s kind of nice that it did work.

What was the point where the hand-over from a male to a female Starbuck really ‘took’?

I think that what made people accept Starbuck as a woman was that she was just such an interesting character. I think that once people put their guard down and their preconceived notions of what the show is supposed to be and just allowed it to really be good science fiction…I think that probably the time that people stopped thinking of Starbuck as ‘a woman’ was when they stopped thinking of the old show. It’d be hard to figure out when that probably happened but…probably the first season…?

What should we make of the positioning of that terrific ‘Last Supper’ picture of the BSG cast? For instance, you were with? Are there any hints there that you can tell us about?

No – everyone thinks that if you look hard enough you can find the hidden messages in it. To be honest, we would all have had to be in on it to make something of it, and we were all just having a photoshoot. It is interesting, the way people are standing, for sure…the fact that she’s with Anders is interesting. I wish I knew what they were thinking, but I don’t know!

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When Starbuck was temporarily killed off last season, it seemed like it was clumsily handled, the issue of whether you were actually gone and the show’s reaction to it…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 don’t know. I know that you can only keep a secret a secret for so long; I know that as soon as I showed back up at work that it was going to be on the internet. Also I do think they should have kept me out until the very end. I mean, bringing Starbuck back in episode 16…what the hell was that? Why not wait ‘til twenty? I guess in Ron’s mind, he had a bigger cliff-hanger, and to have a bigger cliff-hanger than Starbuck coming back from the dead…only Battlestar Galactica could pull that off. With the crew and the cast thinking…that was not something I’d like to do again, that’s for sure.How do you and the rest of the cast feel now that the show is ending?

I can’t speak for the rest of the cast, so I don’t know how they’re feeling. As far as I’m concerned…there’s a side to an actor that wants to go on and play a thousand different roles. There’s a certain excitement, and it’s kinda nice. But it is sad. The work environment on Battlestar Galactica is unbelievable, and it’s something that doesn’t come along very often. So that’s sad, but as far as moving on beyond the show, I don’t think I’m going to feel the pain of it until the very end.

What do you think the impact of the show has had for the sci-fi genre?

Battlestar Galactica, for sci-fi was…they treated it like reality. That’s what has been so interesting about our show, that we never relied on science-fiction to drive the show. We relied on the drama and the human condition…those really important questions were what we depended on for the show to move it along. Most science-fiction shows rely way too much on the bells and whistles. I think it’s opened doors in science-fiction to realise that regardless of…science-fiction is just a setting. It’s not a show, it’s a setting. It should never have been what the show is.

Last year Starbuck won RedEye’s very first best TV character contest…

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Trust me, all my friends are going ‘You’re behind! I’m going online, you’re gonna get back ahead!’. It was really funny, everyone had to check in every day to make sure where it was.

Everyone here is wondering how your life has changed since then?

Since I won the…that’s funny! It’s changed my life drastically [laughs]. I can’t go anywhere anymore. Everyone recognises me. And they constantly walk by me with congratulations on beating Kiefer Sutherland. All the time.

Seriously, did you know Starbuck would become so popular a character when you signed up to do this?

I didn’t even know the show would become as iconic as it is. It’s taken on a life of its own and become something completely different than I ever thought it would. I thought it was just going to be a pay check. So no, I didn’t know that Starbuck was going to become what she’s become. So many things had to come together to make that a reality. I think that the writing was perfect and the way that they wrote Starbuck was perfect.

At the end of the last season a couple of the final five Cylons weren’t too happy, at least initially, to find out that they were Cylons. If Starbuck turns out to be a Cylon or an agent of the Cylons, will you be pleased or displeased?

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I think the reason the four actors were upset about being Cylons is that you play for years making choices as a character, and then to realise that all those choices you made would have been different had you known. It’s interesting, like you get the wool pulled over your eyes for four years and then your character’s something completely different. I would be completely indifferent. I have love for this character and I think we all do…but they were pretty angry. I still think Michael Hogan hasn’t come to terms with it! I don’t think he’s ready to accept it yet.

How do you juggle these two great characters [in Galactica and Bionic Woman] at the same time? What do you like about these action-heavy sci-fi roles?

I always had to remind myself who I was, because I think that the two characters are so different. I always had to make sure that I knew who I was and let go of the other storyline, even if I was working on two shows on the same day. Starbuck comes so easily to me now that I don’t even memorise the dialogue anymore. You had a sense of two characters that were so different that could so easily have been played so similar. The Bionic Woman, I always had to talk myself into it, make sure that I was who I was supposed to be. As far as the strong characters are concerned, I do have an affinity for the dangerous [laughs]. I think I reluctantly turned into the go-to tough girl in this business. I’m ready to do a job now that requires no blood and guts and ghosts or anything. A nice little romantic comedy with James McEvoy would be fantastic.

Can you talk a little about how this season we’re going to handle the marriage between Starbuck and Anders?

If I knew, I would tell you. I have no idea. We are at episode fourteen in our shooting schedule, and I am no closer to having any questions answered from last season than I was then. Without giving too much away here, I think that there are more important issues being dealt with right now on the show than what Starbuck is and how her marriage is. There’s 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 it’s an interesting question; because we don’t identify this thing as a person, is her marriage even legal? I don’t know…

As far as me handling it if it ever gets broached, I think that Starbuck is starting to feel compassion for the things she hates most, because she, like everyone on the show, is starting to realise – and these are the major questions of humanity and what the show has always asked – that if you found out tomorrow that your best friend or your mother or something was a Cylon, would it make the experiences that you had with that person or thing less important to you? No – it’s the same emotion, the same feelings the same thing that you had experiences with. They’re just different to what you thought they were – they don’t mean that it is less.Ronald D. Moore is directing his first episode now – or recently. How was that?

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I’ve got to say that he’s the first director I’ve ever worked with that after every take, he said ‘thank you’. It’s interesting…I found that after each take I stood a little taller, I was a little happier and I was like ‘Wow! That must have been really good…’. And then I’d ask him and he’d say ‘No, I was just saying Thank You, but that was shit, Katee – we’ll have to go again!’. [laughs]

So he was a great director. Granted, I only had one scene with him, but that was one thing that I noticed that I’ve never had happen before, and it speaks for his character as a person. He’s a fantastic man.After playing Starbuck for four seasons, have you picked up any of her hardcore rebellious habits? Perhaps her love of poker…?

No, I still have never played a game of Poker, I still don’t smoke cigars. I haven’t picked up anything from her, I don’t think. If I was to say that I picked up something it would be that…I can’t think. I think that her strength and her conviction in something that she believed in was pretty interesting. I would like to be able to emulate that, and just her belief in what she has to say is very impressive, I think.

So many times women in general – but ‘people’ as well – apologise before they say things, for fear. We give a disclaimer, like ‘This is gonna sound stupid’, and I know those women to that that all the time, y’know ‘Forgive me for asking this question, but…’. Like the question doesn’t have any merit.

That’s something I’ve really learned from Starbuck…my mother used to say it as a teacher: ‘There are no stupid questions, there are only stupid answers’. So that’s something that I hope to take from Starbuck.

Have you gotten any really surprising fan mail from someone that you wouldn’t expect to like the show?

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No, not really. I think the most interesting I get is when I get mail from the high school or the parents or something. They’re like ‘Hi Katee, just wanted to say Hi. We still live in the same house’. That’s interesting, when a friend of mine doesn’t know how to get hold of me and sends my mail to my publicist. Just call my parents, you idiot! [laughs]

Can you tell us a little bit about Starbuck’s mental state going into season four, and what finding earth really means to her…?

Well, she’s very fragile, extremely lost. We’ve never seen Starbuck so alone, and she’s really distraught, not only because of the way that people are treating her but because of the questions that her [inaudible] has raised in her own mind. I think it’s her resolution and it’s her end. She’s putting so much weight on this one thing that she won’t let anything stand in her way. Anything. And you think, when that is the case, that you’ve got a very scary person on your hands…completely willing to sacrifice everything to accomplish something…that’s scary.

So I think we’re going to see a lot from her this season where she’s like a shell of her former self.

Have the producers told you what happened to Starbuck during her supposedly ‘dead’ time?

No. We’re at fourteen and I’ve read fifteen and…nope, I only get to find that out at the last second! [laughs]

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Where you saw the script for ‘Razor’ at the end, where the Cylon hybrid makes the prophecy that Starbuck is a harbinger of doom, what was your initial reaction? And, as the season has progressed, how has that reaction changed…?

I think when I read that I went ‘Of course she is!’. It all happens to Starbuck – lay it all on me! [laughs]. That is something that has been carried through the entire season so far.

What is the best memory and experience you’re going to take with you from your time on Battlestar? Also, what one physical thing or prop or piece of the set would you take with you if you could, to remember the show?

That’s easy. I’m getting in my flight-suit with my helmet and my gun-belt and I’m driving home! [laughs] I’m going to bronze it and put it in my bathtub, so every time someone comes over and showers they’re going to have to stand next to that flight suit! It was hell, this filming year, so it’s only appropriate that I get to take it with me. But maybe I’ll put the guns in the trunk.

As for the best experience – the cast and the crew. I’ve made so many friends on this show. And also the friendships that you form through the show but that you’re able to maintain outside of the show. It’s very important, because when you do a show you have this thing about staying in touch with people, and nine times out of ten it never happens.

When you and the rest of the cast are hanging around, do you ever theorise about who the final Cylons are going to be, and also – will we find out before the end of this first run of episodes?

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No. Maybe. No. Maybe. I don’t know! [laughs] Does that help you at all? We’ve been told who it is, and I personally don’t believe it. I think that’s something that’s going to be kept to the very end. I don’t think it would be smart to tell people, because inevitably things always get out on the web. I personally think they should shoot five different endings, and whichever you least expect, they should make that the final Cylon. It’d be like, maybe some random character from the first season who had one line [laughs]. We do talk about it sometimes, but as far as who it is, I don’t think we’ll know for sure until we see it on television.

How do you think the reality of your character’s journey parallels to the reality that people are living every day, and what things might people learn from watching it?

People always ask me this question – how she’s evolved. And she has. I think she’s become someone you can finally depend on, and I don’t think she was before. But I think what keeps her going is her desire to love, and her desire to have people love her. That’s what keeps her going…and her relationship with Adama and Lee, has probably kept her alive.

I’ve talked to a lot of soldiers who say that what keeps them going is that they get to come home. We’re happiest and most willing to accommodate life and all its ups and downs when we have love in our lives.

Ron Moore said that he would not be 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 wouldn’t want to change his mind. I think he’s right. What he said was what would end up happening was that you would have to focus on one or two characters, and what’s so brilliant about the show is that it’s been a four-year movie, with the time to tell the stories of each person individually and really have you become invested in those characters. To do a two-hour movie, I think, takes away from what we’ve been able to do for so long. How do you pick those two characters [that would feature in a movie]? And when you pick those two characters, are you going to flip off the other seventeen characters on the show?

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When I as an actor am done with the show, much as I love or don’t love the job, the last thing I want to do is come back and do it again, when I’ve already done it. Granted, talk to me in five years if I haven’t worked! But right now I have no desire to do a movie.

At the end of season three it seemed that Starbuck was becoming more a spiritual than an action-oriented figure, with visions and so on. How does that affect how you play the character, and do you think that’s something that’s going to be developed more in the new season?

It doesn’t affect how I play the character, to be honest. She’s always been religious. It’s not that she’s changed, it’s that she’s opened up her eyes and allowed something else to come into her life. She’s still the same person, so it’s just another aspect of who she is. I haven’t changed the way I play her at all.

If you were in total control of your character in this last season, how would you have her go out?


How would you like to have her die?

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I don’t know – maybe blow up again in a ship. I just don’t think there’s any way to end it with her being happy. What I do wish for her is peace, in whatever form that comes in. I want for her to finally have a sense of calm in her life. But whether it comes with death or some kind of transcendence, whatever happens, that’s what I want for her.

What have you learnt most as an actor from your time on the show?

I don’t know – everything’s a learning experience. I don’t think I’ll really know the gravity of that until I’ve stepped away and taken another job, and I’ll do something that comes naturally and I’ll go ‘Oh wow – I learned that on Battlestar’.

The admiral has been a father-figure to Starbuck for a very long time. In the previews that have been released, it seems that the admiral doesn’t really know what to believe of Starbuck, and is very sceptical – how does that, from someone like him, affect Starbuck?

I think that’s the worst thing that could ever happen. She gets her validation and…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, I think, the worst thing that could happen to her, because as far as she’s concerned – regardless of what she is – she’s the same person she was when she left. And I think the thing she wants worst is trust.

With no Bionic Woman, what’s next for you? Are you looking for another action role?

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I don’t know – that’s the joy of it! Do I want to play another character just like Sarah Corvus or Starbuck? No, I’ve already done it. I’m looking for things that are a complete opposite to those two characters. Whether or not I’ll get the opportunity to do that, I don’t know. But what’s interesting is that five years ago I couldn’t get anyone to think of me as tough, and now I can’t get anyone to think of me the way they did five years ago.

Do you [Battlestar] guys follow the online buzz about what’s going on with the show?

I’ve learned a long time ago that you can’t hang out on the web, because you will inevitably need a hundred positive remarks to make one bad remark disappear. You can get into a never-ending cycle of reading about yourself, and it never goes away – it’s horrible [laughs]. I tend to just not pay attention to it anymore and occasionally my mom will call me and go ‘You’ve got to read this!’.

Out of all the Battlestar Galactica cast, who do you most enjoy acting against?

I love working with Jamie and Tricia for sure – they’re so much fun. Jamie. Because you never know what he’s going to do.What surprised you the most about Starbuck’s evolution throughout the last three seasons?

That people consistently depend on her shocks the crap out of me. That’s what has been most interesting for me, that people still ask her to go save the world [laughs].

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How can we expect Starbuck to evolve this season?

I think we can hope that she might have a resolution of some sort. But at the same time, I really have no idea. As I said earlier, I would love for her to find peace. She goes through so much hell that I think it’s only fair that she get a little peace towards the end.