Saturday, May 3

In a Dark Tomorrow


WASHINGTON - Now in the midst of its fourth and final season, SciFi's "Battlestar Galactica" - a tale of humans nearly destroyed by a race of machines called Cylons - is as bleak, allegorical, and groundbreaking as ever. And the stakes seem especially high, as four humans turn out to be sleeper Cylons, a pilot named Starbuck returns from the dead, and Admiral Adama, the gruff commander played by Edward James Olmos, tries more desperately than ever to find a mythical place called Earth. We caught up with Olmos on the night he received an award from CINE, an organization that promotes excellence in video and film.

Q. I'm not sure there's ever been a show on TV that's so relentlessly dark. Is it bleak on the set?

A. It is. I mean, we really do take it to heart. It is bleak. And it is getting darker. This last season has gotten to the point where we end up crying a lot. Emotional breakdowns. It's human drama. And when you perform in it, you're inside of it. A lot of people are dead. I'm not going to say who, because why ruin it for people, but a lot of us die.

Q. This season?

A. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. [Laughs.] Not very many of us are going make it to wherever it is that they're taking us. So we just mope along. We open the script just like the viewer. We're all taking the journey. Not only is it difficult because you lose the person inside the story, but you also realize that person is no longer going to be on the set. It's over. Unless they're a Cylon.

Q. That leads me to Starbuck's apparent death . . .

A. Oh, it was so sad. Because they didn't tell us that she was coming back. I was angry.

Q. You were snookered like everybody else?

A. Of course, I was snookered. All we know is just what we're being fed. She died, and then she was gone for awhile, and then she came back. And that was so scary because we have no idea why and how she came back.

Q. So you as an actor don't know?

A. Well, we've filmed something that started to explain it. And it's not an uplifting understanding. [Laughs.] I will say that. It's as dark as everything else. You sit there and you go, "Oh my God, you guys are sick!" They're pushing the envelope. And the network is allowing it.

Q. Has there been anything you know of that the network has not allowed?

A. In the first or second season, the whole idea of suicides was really tough for them to take. I put it in one of my programs that I directed. The idea that people aboard ships were committing suicide. Why wouldn't they? Are you kidding me? Suicide rates would have gone right through the roof.

Q. Right, because what are they living for? And the living conditions aren't pleasant.

A. Terrible. Terrible. We're eating green algae. We've been eating green algae now for almost two years.

Q. And now, it seems that anyone could be a Cylon.

A. We're back to that.

Q. If you know who the final Cylon model is, I'm sure you can't tell me . . .

A. I don't know, either. And no one knew when [the other four were revealed.] You should have seen what happened. There was anger. Real anger. The main one was Michael Hogan [who plays Colonel Tigh.] He just couldn't get past it. He said, "I didn't sign up for this kind of stuff." He was so hurt he was a Cylon.

Q. It does pull the rug out -

A. Right from under him. It changes everything. You see the way [the actors] dealt with it. The confusion, the anger that Colonel Tigh handles it with is true.

Q. Back to "Star Trek" and probably before, science fiction has had diverse, expansive casting. Is that because of the nature of the genre, or the kind of creative people who go into it?

A. I think both. One, the window is open and they allow it. And two, it's the imagination of the people that are developing it. They don't get tied down thinking about who would sell this the best. They say, "This is a reality that I'd like to explore."

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