Actress Katee Sackhoff has become a hit on the cult TV circuit thanks to her role as Starbuck in the new incarnation of Battlestar Galactica – a character substantially changed from the 1970s original played by Dirk Benedict. She is also a regular in the new version of Bionic Woman. Battlestar Galactica series three is available on DVD now.
Why do you spell your name like that?
I told my parents at 11 that I wanted to be famous and I didn’t want to spell my name ‘Katie’ anymore because it was boring. My real name is Katherine so my mum told me I could do anything to ‘Katie’ that I wanted. At that point, I was planning to become a famous swimmer. That didn’t work out – I got a knee injury at 15 which ended that plan.
Why did you go into acting?
I guess I always wanted to be an actor but, growing up in Oregon, I never heard of anyone becoming successful in a business like this so I didn’t have anyone to look up to as a role model. I bit the bullet and told my parents I was moving to California to be an actor when I was 18. I had a strong work ethic instilled in me but I had no idea what I was doing. It was like: ‘I’m moving to California to be famous.’ I got acting work straightaway, though, so I never had a day job.
You’re filming Bionic Woman and Battlestar Galactica at the same time. Are you worn out?
I am and I’ve got a cold. Both are filmed in Vancouver so there’s a little bit of running between the sets. They wanted to make me a regular character in Bionic Woman but you can’t be contracted to two shows at the same time. I appear in half the episodes. I’m the villain. It’s quite fun. I do a lot of scheming and a lot of trying to kill the Bionic Woman [played by Michelle Ryan].
Has Michelle become particularly ‘bionic’ since she left EastEnders?
She’s doing really well. She’s at the gym training every day. She worked her butt off to get into the physical condition that she’s in now. They won’t pay for me to go to the gym. I’ve got to do it on my own. I did weights for the first year of Battlestar but I got bored, so I just run now. They usually teach me the fight routines on the set of Bionic Woman. Because of the stuff I’ve done on Battlestar, it’s usually pretty easy to pick up.
If you took over the world, what changes would you make?
I don’t know where I’d start. I’m concerned about the environment. They don’t recycle on Bionic Woman. It drives me nuts. But on Battlestar Galactica, we have a recycling bin next to every single garbage can.
You’re doing two culty sci-fi shows – have fans sent you anything weird?
I get sent weird stuff all the time. The weirdest thing is when people follow you around because that’s an invasion of privacy. It’s not nice. You can’t do anything. If you tell them to get lost, it engages them and that’s what they want. You have to pretend they’re not there.
If you had a super power in real life, what would it be?
I’d like to hear people’s thoughts. I’m not nosy; I’d just use it for self-preservation. No one ever really knows another person’s motives.
Wasn’t Dirk Benedict upset Starbuck was re-written as a woman and you’d replaced him on Battlestar Galactica?
We did something for the Sci-Fi Channel when we met each other and we got on really well. Then I read an article where he made some negative comments. People wanted us to hate each other. I don’t hate Dirk – he was a nice man when I met him. We all have our own opinions and I don’t care if he doesn’t like me. I just joke about it now. I say I’m going to remake everything he ever did. Next I’m going to play Face in the A-Team.
Changing Starbuck’s sex upset some fans. Did that bother you?
It did but I got over it. If people still have a problem with it, it’s too bad because it’s worked really well. There’s a level of confidence that builds up as you succeed in the business. You depend less on people’s opinions and more on whether you think you did the best work possible. Once that happens, you really don’t care and when you don’t care, they love you.
Isn’t the fourth series going to be the last one?
Yes it is and I’m very excited about it. I think a lot of good is coming out of this. Any chance you get on a series to wrap it up is a great opportunity. So many TV shows get the rug pulled out from under them and they never get to know where the end is. This is a place television should turn more toward and give you a beginning, middle and end. It gives people a vested interest in watching because they know the end is coming. That’s what’s great about the last year on Battlestar. We all know it’s the end but none of us knows what’s coming.
What was your last dream about?
I had one the other night and I woke up laughing hysterically but I don’t remember what the dream was now. I wish I’d written it down. It’s never happened before.