Thursday, October 12

Recalling Callis

Source: Battlestar Magazine
Transcribed by: Giorgio

AS viewers delve into the delights of Battlestar Galactica's Third season, James Callis Reveals what the year has in store for Gaius Baltar.

“It’s been emotionally lacerating, [and] very tough” says actor James Callis, of filming on the early episodes of Battlestar Galactica’s third season. “In a way, how we left the series last [season] – everyone had been working from April to December, everyone was physically exhausted. Now we’re all back and we’ve got to kind of pretend it all,” he laughs. “On some level the performance does depend on how you’re feeling at the time. You don’t want to ring a false note.”

Besides dealing with the usual pressures of jumping back into filming a regular television series, the cast of Battlestar Galactica had something else to contend with. There was the little matter of those three little words that turned up in the fourth act of Lay Down Your Burdens II – One Year Later… And now, here we are, one year and a few months later, and everything has irrevocably altered. Callis was the first actor of the ensemble to experience the jump, in a particularly heightened way, since it was in a scene involving the newly appointed President Baltar that the split happened.

“I think the idea of it is very interesting, and certainly very cinematic,” he says, of the leap forward. “You’ve got more questions, which will be addressed later on. As in, what happened in the year before [the Cylons] rolled up? Filming it was very big job, in the sense of the camera rolling back and then you come back into the same thing. You’ve got to think that it’s a year on, and what have you done?

For Baltar, that absent year seemed to have contained everything and nothing. Though he was President, he did not seem very Presidential, more interested in loafing about with concubines than attempting to build something out of the bare bones of the planet he himself designated New Caprica. Callis, however, disputes that Baltar has shown himself to be a completely useless leader.

“He was, to a certain extent, but it’s a year on. You’re looking at any ‘normal’ day. You don’t know quite what’s transpired beforehand. The thing that I was surprised at is really there was a government [at all]. There was no infrastructure – there was nothing. I know my regime is different [just] because I don’t have any people in my administration. The pills were my idea. I don’t think there were in the script, originally, or alcohol, necessarily. That particular scene we had to film really quickly. It was all in one go. So I just remember saying “You know, he’s not really doing anything. He could be looking at some documents, [but] there’s nothing to do it’s all gone to shit! And why not then show [that]? It wasn’t necessarily wanton irresponsibility. You don’t know what he’s capable of. You just know he’s going from one extreme to the other. But that doesn’t necessarily imply that he can’t do it. And rather than showing that this guy really tried to hold it together, it was more – I could have been doing anything in that office, really. Looking in the microscope, adjusting myself to my portrait – so why don’t we [have the debauchery?]. Michael Rymer always says that every episode is in some way a partial mirror of the very first mini-series. And finding out that the Cylons are coming when you’re ‘in flagrante’ is something that happens to this guy!”

That could also, of course, be an indication that despite the trauma that the whole of humanity has gone through, and despite the personal vicissitudes himself that Baltar has suffered, he hasn’t changed on iota. Isn’t he simply still making exactly the same mistakes that allowed the Cylons to execute their attack on Caprica in the first place?

“I think he has been [changed]. I remember I was talking to Mark and said, ‘You write this stuff, but who’s the man inside?’ He said ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, all the bad guys think they’re good guys.’” Callis laughs. “It’s very difficult territory. It was Aaron (Douglas) that first said, reading [Tyrol’s} speech in the script, ‘Well, this is totally lifted from a student activist speech.’ It just doesn’t make any sense at all. Talking about throwing yourself on the machine, that you can stop it with your own body if it’s so disgusting – but there’s no money. There are no private interests left. Nobody’s gone to launch a tobacco factory on new Caprica! So for me, the thing about, ‘We want this, we want that, we want the other,’ – whining crap artists! We’ve just survived a nuclear holocaust, and you’re whining? Do something!’ That was what I wanted to say. I wanted to start the speech off by saying. ‘What is triumph without adversity?’ We all chose this, and you’re whining about it. Get real! So I think he’s had enough of it, and that’s why he’s [acting] like Caligula.”

Battlestar Galactica’s third season opens four months into the Cylon occupation of New Caprica, and it is immediately apparent that Baltar’s tendencies towards self-interest over the greater good have not been diminished by the events that have transpired in between. The characters we have spent three years following are either struggling to survive on the planet, or fleeing alone in the Battlestars Galactica and Pegasus. As the situation on New Caprica worsens, people must chose their allegiances, and as has always proven to be the case, Baltar and Roslin find themselves on opposite ends of the political spectrum.

“He has a meeting with her because she’s in prison – she’s been abducted by the security forces. The strange thing about Baltar and Roslin, their connection, [is that] played differently, these people would hate each other. I know why Baltar has got lots of time for her despite everything that’s happened. The reason is that he can’t help but admire her, no matter, even though he’s interrogating her, that she’s far better just not built for it. She’s also attractive, clever, she’s acerbic and witty – all of these things are things that Baltar enjoys. And I realize why she doesn’t totally want to kill him, which she should. She’s got the T-shirt of all his shenanigans. But I suppose what she sees, as well, is somebody who is trying quite hard. She sees the inner dilemma. She doesn’t quite understand it, but she knows that there’s something there. She knows that he is quite tortured in some way. She must.”

Baltar’s relationship with and attitude towards the Cylons has always been ambiguous. His love for Six appears to be genuine at least in its passion, although whether he is able to differentiate between the Six in his head and the various physical versions in uncertain. For example, in Lay Down Your Burden II, he was finally reunited with ‘Caprica’ Six, the model with which he first had that momentous relationship before the Cylon attack.

“He understands, vaguely, the downloading process,” explains Callis, “but he doesn’t think that this is the one that he was ever so ‘friendly’ with initially. It’s more, ‘Oh right, yeah, it would be you, of course. You were at the beginning you’re here at the end.’ There was a look that [director] Michael Rymer wanted me to get in the mini-series – when Six tells me that it’s the end of the world, and that she’s a robot. I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course you are…’ Then finally, when I hear the nuclear explosion and she hold me – [there’s] that real kind of terror, in the sense that you’ve never ever seen anything like this. I thought, all this time, she was bluffing. Then suddenly, he realizes that [she] really is it looks so human, but really it’s a monster inside. I think that’s quite exciting and I think that we shouldn’t really lose that. When you become familiar with these models, you start to forget that they are robots, and so it’s a very interesting thing to still remember that they are. He hasn’t forgotten. When these people land, they are the enemy. [But] how much like computers are we? Baltar believes that they mustn’t be hated necessarily just because of the maligned face of what they are. People just want to hate them because they’re Cylons. He’s like, ‘Well, they can’t choose. They just are.’”

Though season three opens with New Caprica under occupation, with Batlar cooperating as best he can, it isn’t long before the scientist finds himself more closely entangled with the Cylons than ever before. Taken aboard a Cylon Basestar, Baltar, in a echo of the character in the original series, reluctantly embarks upon a life within the Cylon fleet.

“I am cut off from the rest of the human characters,” the actor reveals, “I am abducted and then find myself in a strange, sad, similar situation to the position that Baltar was in on Galactica… Constantly trying to keep out of trouble. Which, for this guy, is actually impossible. I don’t know why he doesn’t give up trying to stay out of trouble because, guess what – he’s always in trouble!”

Through Baltar’s eyes, viewers will get to learn a lot more about the inner workings of the Cylon ships, and how the relationships between the various models work. It’s not a pleasant introduction for the scientist, who discovers another place where he doesn’t quite fit.

“He’s always been a fish out of water, and even more so on the Cylon Basestar. Being aboard the Cylon ship is like a near-death experience, or going over to ‘the other side’. When you come back – if you come back – you are altered.”

For the actor himself, it has been a challenge to show the story from the perspective of inside the ‘enemy’ ranks. Previously, there had only been small scenes of the Cylons interacting with each other. For the most part, the story of Galactica’s flight had been told purely from the human perspective. Now with Baltar’s eyes as a channel for the audience, viewers will see some events from a Cylon point of view.

“It has been strange. One of the challenges has been to maintain the credibility, because it is quite a strange idea to sell,” Callis admits, of the purely science fiction environment inside the Cylon basestar. “It is one thing looking at these people, these Cylons, and knowing that there is artificial intelligence, but seeing their world from the inside is a big deal.”

Of course, the journey that Baltar takes with the Cylon fleet can’t help but be a rather rocky one. His initial position aboard the basestar is pretty precarious, and as the actor reports, things don’t get any better during the events of episode five, Torn.

“We discover a dying Cylon basestar,” Callis explains. “There is a disease onboard, [and] the disease has come from an object out in space that the Cylons picked up, because they didn’t know what it was. They have no idea what it is really, and neither do the humans, to be quite honest. But they think from the markings on it that it was of human origin… and one of its by-products is that it has this contaminated that the Cylons cannot suffer. It is of human origin, so that means it may have come from the 13th tribe headed to Earth, or are form Earth. The Cylons believe that he knew about it, that he’s engineered it, he orchestrated it, because he’s so clever and he’s in league wit the human – but, really, he has no idea. It’s just an arbitrary chance encounter. But as is normal with this guy, it’s a disaster fro him!”

Baltar, in some ways, is now straddling the same divide that Sharon ‘Athena’ Agathon has in her new place in the human Fleet. A human amongst Cylons, struggling to find a way of making such a position work – although of course, as far as Baltar goes, it has as much to do with “enlightened self-interest,” as Callis puts it, as scientific fascination. The question is, of course, will Baltar ever find his way back to the fleet – and moreover, will he ever be welcome amongst humanity again?

“Mostly it’s been Cylons so far, but that will change by around episode 11,” Callis reveals coyly. “That’s when a lot of plot elements converge, hinge and happily concord… [although] it depends on whose perspective you have. As they say, ‘The bad end unhappily, the good end unluckily.’ That’s what tragedy is.”

James Callis reveals the lates Cylon romancing escapades of Dr. Gauis Baltar!

As if on Cylon lover wasn’t enough, it seems that season three will see Baltar getting a bit cozy under the covers with another humanoid Cylon whom we’ve me before.

Q: What cant you tell us about Baltar’s relationship with Lucy lawless’ character, D’Anna Biers?

Baltar is actually tortured by D’Anna Biers, and they develop a very strange relationship where they are kind of fused together. But, even though on some level they trust the instincts of the other, they can’t trust the other. They then find this trust within each other. Their finale, their denouement, has yet to be filmed so I won’t talk about that because all the beats that lead up to that are not totally set in stone at the moment.

I think it might be fair to say that D’Anna Biers has met her match! [Laughs] They’re of similar energies in some fashion, even though they are so diametrically opposed because to some greater degree, they are inscrutable – both D’Anna and Baltar. What is he doing it for? And what is she, as a robot, doing it for? You think many things but you can’t totally pin down what it is that is the driving force, which I think lends a lot of chemistry , intrigue, excitement.

It’s edgy. It’s never just like, “Oh hi, how are you?” Everything is loaded and weighted, and the first thing that comes out of your head is your reply, well, it could be the last words that leave your lips.

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