Eric Stoltz interview: Caprica, Battlestar Galactica, and the fear of cancellation

As Caprica arrives on DVD, Eric Stoltz looks back on the show, what could have been done differently, and where he goes to from here...

Eric Stoltz

It wasn’t the biggest surprise when it happened, but it was still a shame when Syfy prematurely brought the axe down on Battlestar Galactica-prequel Caprica before its first season had fully aired.

As the final episodes now arrive on DVD, along with the rest of the show, its star, Eric Stoltz, spared us some time to look back on one of sci-fi’s most interesting and ambitious shows of recent times…

It’s a shame to do it, but I suspect it works better to go from back to front here. Where were you when you heard about the Caprica cancellation? Did you fear it was coming?

I have no idea where I was – that was months ago. But yes, the fear of cancellation was always hanging over us like the sword of Damocles. We’d gotten used to it. In a way it sort of fueled us on.

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What have you thought of the reaction to the show getting cancelled? Do you fear for the future of such intricate drama?

I’m blissfully unaware of any reaction at all, but I’m always a little afraid for the future of anything out of the ordinary.

How far ahead did you know your character’s arc? And of the narrative of the show itself?

Well, it was just finding its legs, so in the beginning we were finding out what worked and what didn’t on a day by day basis. Then, for the second half of the season, we had a longer lead, and by the time we ended we had a pitch for the entire second season, which was pretty interesting.

Dr Greystone was going to invent a magic time-travelling DeLorean, and go back in time to when I was playing Marty McFly… and curiously, in that alternate universe, Michael Fox was playing Dr. Greystone – and Caprica was a big fat hit!

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Do you think that the show fell on the wrong side of a double-edged sword, following Battlestar?

I don’t think it was what the majority of Battlestar fans wanted, for the most part. It probably would’ve served us all better to have not even been connected to it.

It’s interesting to see just how far the production team managed to stretch the budget in terms of some interesting effects work. How did that manifest itself for you when shooting the show?

Our effects guys were wizards. The episode I directed (Unvanquished) was one of the most effect-heavy up to that point, and I was lucky enough to work with them in pre-production, figuring out ways to shoot it in interesting evocative ways that wouldn’t break the budget. We were always aware of our limitations, which can be kind of fun and annoying at the same time.

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It’s rare to find characters so instantly complex as we got in Caprica. How do you balance the many levels of Daniel Graystone? How do you set about giving the audience a way into a character like that?

That’s a very thick question, one which really requires a three page answer, which I won’t bore you with. The levels of the character were largely in the scripts, and usually left to the directors’ control: a little bit more malice here, a little more loving there.

That being said, there were certain relationships, like Greystone and his wife, that seemed to take on a life of their own, even beyond Paula Malcomson and myself. And that was wonderful to be a part of.

It was always a fascinating show to watch, and clearly the narrative had many, many threads to it. In hindsight, though, do you think the show was slightly off balance? Or wouldn’t you change a thing about it?

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It’s rare for a show to find itself in the first season. There are exceptions, of course, but a lot of shows take two or three years to find the right ingredients. I’m sure we were off balance at times, and I’m sure I would change a few things if I had that power, but I’ve moved on.

What are your abiding memories of the show?

The crew. Loved the crew from top to bottom. We had really good food, too. The ladies in the production office were great… working with my fellow actors… lots and lots and lots of rain in Vancouver.

Where do you personally go from now? Is science fiction television an area you’d like to return to? What plans do you have?

I’ve been directing steadily since I finished. A few episodes of Glee, of Private Practice, and of a new show called Off The Map.

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As to science fiction television, if the stories were challenging and original, I’d be up for it.

Eric Stoltz, thank you very much.

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