On her first day on the set of the “Battlestar Galactica” miniseries, model Tricia Helfer, then new to acting, was thrown into an intense sex scene with co-star James Callis in front of a 50-man crew.
After three full seasons of scenes in which her character, a very human looking robot named Number 6, continually seduces Callis’ Dr. Gaius Baltar, however, Helfer has found a comfort zone. Now, the 32- year-old beauty has no qualms about draping her arms all over her castmate during a recent interview at the Sci-Fi Channel’s offices in Manhattan.
“It’s sort of kind of second nature now,” said Helfer. “I’m always sort of hanging over him [on the set].”
Red hot would be a better description of the on-screen romance between Baltar, the scientist turned president, and Number Six, who seduces him into betraying the human race. As “Battlestar Galactica” orbits toward this Sunday’s third-season-finale airing at 10 p.m., the fire has yet to go out for television’s oddest couple.
“I was utterly stunned that I could be cast against someone so gorgeous,” said Callis. “Genuinely, I thought I had been spectacularly miscast.”
Callis is more surprised that more of an audience hasn’t picked up on the critically acclaimed series about a caravan of spaceships carrying human survivors evading the Cylons — as the robots are called — who are bent on either mankind’s destruction or enslavement. He’s grown frustrated with trying to convince industry peers to watch the thought-provoking show, with its allegories to religious fundementalism and the war on terror.
While the show, which stars Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell, has developed a loyal following and enjoys robust sales on iTunes, it has yet to enjoy the mainstream success of shows like NBC’s “Heroes.”
“I think this version of ‘Battlestar Galactica’ is pretty dark and uncompromising,” said Maureen Ryan, television critic for the Chicago Tribune. “The near-annihilation of the human race is the concept at its core, and that may just be too dark for some people.
“Also, though there are serialized elements to ‘Heroes’ and ‘Lost,’ ‘Battlestar’ is very serialized — you kind of have to keep up with it to enjoy it to its fullest,” said Ryan. “Finally, there is that name: People still associate it with cheeseball ’70s sci-fi, though it’s tonally and thematically worlds away [if you will] from the original show.”
Cheeseball sci-fiwas exactly what the 36-year-old Callis feared he was in for when he was cast in the part of Baltar, the scientist who inadvertently sells out the human race. The classically trained London-born actor, however, was determined not to be a cookie-cutter villain trapped in “bad Shakespeare” set in space. So he pushed producers to have his character be more human.
“The only thing I was missing was a mustache to twirl,” said Callis. “And I was constantly trying to veer away from that.
“The thing that he’s accused of doing, the thing that he’s been involved in is monstrous. If he really knew, if he really had a hand in it, if he really did know that she’s a robot, that makes him a monster and only a monster.”