Four of Battlestar Galactica‘s most iconic characters gathered at NYCC on Saturday for a panel highlighting their roles on the now-dearly-departed sci-fi series. Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck), Tricia Helfer (Number Six & other incarnations of herself), Nicki Clyne (Cally Tyrol), and Michelle Forbes (Admiral Helena Cain) sat down for a chat with the audience about motorcycles, pie, and strong women on television.
The moderator brought Katee and Tricia out first, and the two discussed their upcoming charity motorcycle ride from LA to New Orleans on behalf of the Gulf Restoration project. They established their charity, Acting Outlaws, after an idea to make a film about the Van Buren sisters, the first women to ride across the US on motorcycles. As Katee and Tricia pointed out, a female-driven historical film generates very little interest, so rather than have the opportunity to play them on the big screen, they will ride for charity in the spirit of the Van Burens. Katee and Tricia are obviously very tight friends, that much was clear during their panel! They’ve been riding motorcycles together for several years, and got started because they were tired of “riding bitch” (as Katee put it) behind their menfolk!
Questions from the audience came next – Tricia and Katee had Acting Outlaws t-shirts to give away to the askers of the best questions. Katee prefaced the Q&A by saying that she had no idea what Starbuck was, and was given no indication by the producers. She said that she liked to imagine that she was an angel, because it made her feel important, but that there was something good about not knowing – open-ended questions keep fan discussion alive. The two then got some great questions about their respective characters. Tricia discussed the acting challenges associated with playing different versions of Six, and that she enjoyed Gina the most in terms of the emotional weight she had to bring to the role. She also cracked the audience up by describing how hard it was for the other cast members to ignore her when only Gauis could see her. She had to hide during scenes so she could effectively pop out and interact with Gauis, so they’d be filming and Tricia would be hanging out under the table, ready to drape herself across the furniture! Both Katee and Tricia relished their action sequences, citing their fight scene on Caprica at the end of Season 2 as among the most memorable.
The moderator then brought out Nicki Clyne and Michelle Forbes to join Katee and Tricia. They both had excellent things to say about working on BSG and the way the show impacted television, particularly for women. Katee mentioned that Ron Moore would write a character first, and then decide the gender of the character later. This is how Starbuck became a female character, and how Admiral Cain was written as well. All four agreed that it was tough finding roles that were as substantial after being spoiled by Moore and the writers on BSG – Michelle repeatedly praised True Blood creator Alan Ball for his dedication to strong female characters and bringing the same spirit to the True Blood. The women also agreed that network TV is much more confining in terms of gender roles, with Michelle saying that after being in the business for 25 years, she finds the best roles to be on cable, where writers have the freedom to do whatever they want.
When asked whether they were anything like their characters, all had varying answers. Tricia said that there’s a toughness to Six that she herself possesses, once that may not be readily apparent when she makes a first impression. Though she may be blonde, thin, and beautiful, she stressed that she is not vulnerable or innocent and that sometimes people are surprised by this. Katee agreed that she is definitely stubborn and a rebel, but she also has a feminine, softer side than Starbuck might tolerate. Nicki laughed at this question, since she did not see herself as “a bit mentally unstable” (the way the questioner described her), but she felt that if she had to die on the show, she went out in a memorable, meaningful way that drove the story forward. The audience heartily agreed! Michelle did not see any of herself in Cain (thankfully!), but pointed out that was part of the fun in portraying her. Nicki mentioned that the show seemed so different when you go back and rewatch it a second time, after you’ve seen it all the way through. She talked about how she viewed scenes differently, and how impressed she was with the BSG team that they were able to produce so many levels of meaning.
One memorable audience member asked the ladies a serious question and then, to lighten the tone, asked what their favorite kind of pie was! This was a hit with the audience. I don’t believe Katee answered (perhaps she couldn’t decide!), but Tricia said she was more of an oatmeal cookie kind of girl, with Nicki and Michelle saying that they were vegan, and any kind of vegan pie was all right by them! Someone find them a vegan baker, stat! It was a fun way to wrap up the panel. If anyone gets the chance to see any of these ladies at a convention, do take the opportunity! They were witty, gracious, and thoughtful – you could tell they were real fans of the show and truly proud of the work they had done on BSG. Hopefully we will continue to see them light up the screen for many years to come!