CAPRICA at the Paley Festival: Destroying Battlestar Galactica

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After showing the pilot for Caprica at the Paley Festival on Monday night, Caprica and Battlestar Galactica creators Ron Moore and David Eick answered questions for the audience and moderator/devoted BSG lover Seth Green, joined by writer/producer Jane Espenson and Caprica actors Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales, Paula Malcomson, Alessandra Toreson, and Magda Apanowicz for a Q&A session that focused a lot more on That Other Show Moore and Eick Made than on Caprica.

Before the showing, however, Eick noted that they were so nervous before showing the BSG pilot that they employed some, um, libations. A little more comfortable now, he invited Moore to join him in the new tradition of christening the maiden voyage of Caprica by enjoying libations right there on stage, pulling out a flask full of tequila. And invoke the gods or the fates they did, swigging away. And letting Seth Green do so, as well.

Let us dispense with the comments about red-headed stepchild Caprica first, as it was less the focus of the discussion–look for a report on Battlestar-related content in a separate post.

  • Speaking of red hair, Green asked Eric Stoltz if, as a redhead, he feels enormous pressure to change his hair color. While Stoltz did not really answer the question, he did note that Green is currently sporting a purple mohawk. Green claims this is just the latest in a long line of poorly considered hair decisions on his part.
  • If Caprica hits it big, Stoltz may need a little training on dealing with fandom, as he didn’t really seem to get into the swing of charmingly answering questions until the very end.
  • Paula Malcomson, on the other hand, was a hoot, spanking people both literally and figuratively. Possibly because Green at one point mistook her for someone on 24.
  • After 90 minutes of the pilot and an hour of questions that had nothing to do with the show she was on, poor Apanowicz had to escape to the restroom in the middle of the Q&A. Since no one was asking anything about Caprica, she could have gone for an In and Out burger while she was at it. When she was (finally) asked about landing the role, however, she noted that she’d had infected wisdom teeth incisions at the time and that they cast her from her audition tape–and how grateful she was they’d trusted her from only that.
  • When asked how she came to the pilot, Toreson talked about liking that Zoe was a strong, intelligent character, but then claimed that it was exciting to get this opportunity because there are so few roles for young female actors out there. It is possible the audience snickered at this claim. Perhaps she meant there are few roles for young female actors in which they play computer geniuses who become alleged terrorists over monotheism? Because she might be right about that.
  • In response to the same question, Morales talked about how he was sure he wouldn’t get the role because he saw someone who looked more like Edward James Olmos than he does auditioning. Under pressure from Stoltz to reveal who that actor was (“Was it Danny Trejo? Was it Dabney Coleman?”), Morales went from refusing to answer to saying it was a successful actor to saying the actor’s first initial was A to saying it was A Martinez. Way to obfuscate there, buddy (thank goodness they went with Morales–especially since he has a killer Olmos impression).
  • Malcomson originally auditioned for private school headmistress (counselor?) Sister Clarice, the role that eventually went to Polly Walker.
  • Stoltz finally warmed up a bit during this question, teasing Morales and then telling his own tale of woe about filming in Provo, UT, (“Provo. Utah. It…was tough”) and getting and then ignoring the script, tossing it on his dresser. From which the maid stole it at the behest of a Battlestar fan. Which was when Stoltz realized he might have something big on his hands and he should maybe read the script. That he no longer had.
  • Morales also thought the current BSG still had Dirk Benedict and had been running for 30 years.
  • Given that Caprica opens 58 years before the robotcalypse that kicks off Battlestar Galactica, the actors “expect” to do 58 seasons.
  • Jane Espenson was willing to use the term “soap opera” when referring to Caprica as more serialized than BSG.
  • The actors were all full of praise for director Jeffrey Reiner, who set up enough cameras that acting felt like theater and who was more than willing to tell them when they were crap.
  • Moore, Eick, and Espenson were insistent that they not focus much at all on telling Joseph Adama stories that allow BSG viewers to connect too many dots as to how little Willie grows up to be Admiral Adama.
  • Along the same lines, they are trying really hard to resist the temptation to make cute litte references to Grandpa Agathon or a line of musicians named Thrace or to one of young William Adama’s teachers being named Roslin. One of the things they feel they have to do is “destroy Battlestar Galactica“–changing the look, the dynamics of relationships, the way the story unfolds–and making too many connections back (forward?) to BSG, no matter how winking, would undermine that. No flashforwards, no overt references–Caprica is its own show.
  • They also know that means they’ll lose some fans in translation–but they think they’ll gain some, too.

Overall, they seemed excited and hopeful–a lot of the audience seemed to be, too. I’m off to see if Morales’ uttering his name summoned Dirk Benedict, and if he has anything discouraging to say about how Caprica won’t work because a teenage girl is meant to hand out babies instead of computer programs.

CAPRICA: Is This The Transylvania Station?

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The backdoor pilot for Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica is available today at a retailer near you or your web browser, but a few hundred of us were lucky enough to see it last night at the Paley Festival in Los Angeles. Co-executive producer David Eick held a ceremonial christening of the show by pulling out a flask and doing a tequila shot on stage (he persuaded producing partner Ron Moore to do the same, and even let host Seth Green in on the swigging action, although in fairness he seemed reluctant to share quality tequila). Did this little bit of protective magic help create television magic?

I think it might have. This was a pilot, and as such has some of the weird little quirks pilots tend to have. There are some dangling questions that may or may not ever be addressed and some points where the suspension of disbelief required to get the exposition in means you’re going to have to squint a bit (a 16-year-old cracks the code of how the human brain works. Of course she does). But on this level, Caprica actually fares better than many pilots, introducing the main players with an emotional economy and setting up a world oozing with gorgeous design work and knotty problems.

Those problems might be the crux of the issue when it comes to where Caprica is going. One of the things Moore, Eick, and (the wonderful) Jane Espenson were emphatic about in the post-screening panel was the need to “destroy” Battlestar Galactica–to make Caprica its own entity (Moore even pointed out that in doing so, they expected to lose some of the BSG audience while gaining new fans). In many ways, they’re successful in doing this–the look of the show is intentionally different from BSG, saturated with light and bright colors and sparkly things (director Jeffrey Reimer of Friday Night Lights fame is freed of the faux-documentary conceit that worked so well on BSG but would be awkward here). Has Bear McCreary added a prominent English horn to his orchestra of doom?*** Have the writers actually created a Tauron language? The pilot lacks the urgency Battlestar‘s had, but that’s purposeful as well–this is both the beginning and the culmination of a decades-long decline rather than the first breathless race for survival after apocalypse. There’s obvious room to grow and explore here, and that’s exciting.

On the other hand, while I like the pilot a lot, the things I was most excited about exploring were all laced into the parent show’s mythology. The idea of BSG as a post-9/11 response to tragedy is almost canon now, but Caprica is really that idea as it played out in our society, with an opening terrorist bombing that raises questions about religion and protest and corruption. The grotesque virtual nightclub that serves both as the meeting place for the genius teenage maybe-not-terrorists and as their catalyst for wanting to clean up the world has as its descendent the icky strip club where Bill Adama and the Tighs worried about retirement. A big, juicy part of the fun is the fleshing out of the Colonial worlds, with Tauron mourning rituals and Caprican classism. I can’t stop being fascinated by the idea that no flowers grow on Tauron–why on…Caprica would you settle a planet where no flowers grow? Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that such a place grows a complicated system of organized crime instead (Esai Morales is pretty terrific juggling all of those worlds as he loses most of his own).

Caprica‘s underlying philosophical approach is straight out of the Cylon lore we’ve just spent half a decade watching, as well. Daniel Greystone’s (Eric Stoltz) attempt to reconstitute the monotheistic daughter who was killed in the bombing by recapturing the best avatar ever and downloading her into a cybernetic body just makes him Frankenstein by way of Steve Jobs, but it loops us back around to every question we ever had about the Eights and the Sixes and everyone else who downloaded–what makes a soul? Does having the ability to create and destroy life also confer the right to do so? If consciousness exists after bodies quit, what is death in the end? Caprica takes these questions head on, and it’s a lot of fun–but it’s fun they’ve been preparing us for for five years on another show, and for all they want the prequel to stand on its own, I wonder if it does–if it’s nearly as engaging without the framework already in place to build those questions on. We can’t unring that bell, of course, so it will be interesting to see if Caprica draws people new to the universe with similar levels of appeal it will have for the already-converted.

While I hope newbies will give it a try, I’m going to continue swimming around in the set-up fun. Watching Greystone download his daughter’s consciousness and then realize he’s downloading it into a Centurion induces goosebumps, but watching said Centurion’s visual scanner turn red as the robot becomes Zoe brings all of the big questions this universe engages crashing into one swirling horror show, but one that’s hard to look away from. Heck, a mean Caprican bigwig even has octogonal lenses in his glasses. I miss BSG for its world and its characters, but I also miss it for what it had to say and what it had to ask. While I wonder whether Caprica is a perfect candidate for the BBC approach we’ve mentioned before (two 13-episode seasons, maybe), I’ll be looking forward to taking another ride on the carousel.

***Edited on 04/27/2009 to add: Has Bear McCreary added an English horn to his orchestra of doom? Yes, indeedy, he has. Ha! Most excellent, as is his blog entry concerning Caprica’s new themes–check it out.

Sci Fi’s CAPRICA Is Go for Launch

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Sci Fi Channel has greenlit the Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica, placing a 20-episode order for the highly-anticipated series.

Set 50 years before Galactica‘s Cylons destroy the humans’ 12 Colonies (including Caprica), the series will follow two rival families, the Adamas and the Graystones, who are both enmeshed in the burgeoning robotics and artificial intelligence industry that will eventually lead to the creation of the genocidal Cylons. Exec produced by Galactica masterminds Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, along with 24‘s Remi Aubuchon, Caprica stars Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales (NYPD Blue), Paula Malcomson (Deadwood) and Polly Walker (Rome).

Having already produced a two-hour backdoor pilot, Sci Fi is aiming for an early 2010 premiere for the series, with production starting around the middle of next year. Caprica was originally expected to be ordered to series in August when another pilot, Warehouse 13, got a series green light instead.

Battlestar Galactica, Sci Fi’s flagship original series, has had its fourth and final season in the can for several months, with the final 10 episodes culminating their run March 20. A two-hour movie adaptation, Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, is also slated for early summer.

Bacon Bits: OFFICE Spin-off, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and More

- NBC boss Ben Silverman says Office producers Greg Daniels and Mike Schur are creating a new show for Saturday Night Live star Amy Poehler, but they’re also still pursuing the Office spin-off.

- The “final, final” season of Battlestar Galactica will start in January. Meanwhile, Ron Moore dishes on the Caprica back-door pilot.

- In other BSG news, Jamie Bamber is hopping back across the pond to star in ITV’s Law & Order: UK.

- NBC’s fall comedy Kath & Kim is apparently so bad it’s undergoing a major overhaul.

- It’s official: Shannen Doherty will be joining 90210 alums Tori Spelling, Jennie Garth and Joe E. Tata on the CW spin-off.

- The 100th episode of Monk (to air Sept. 5) will be jam-packed with guest stars, including Eric McCormack, Howie Mandel, Sarah Silverman, Sharon Lawrence, Angela Kinsey, Brooke Adams, Ricardo Chavira, Kathryn Joosten, Jarrad Paul, Tim Bagley, David Koechner, Andy Richter and John Turturro.

- Jimmy Fallon will be testing his new late night show online, six months before its broadcast premiere.