Squee! It’s Michael Hogan tonight on Warehouse 13. Yes, Battlestar Galactica‘s own Cylon McOneEye…I’m sorry, Col. Saul Tigh moves from the SciFi Network to SyFy. Hogan and his wife, Susan (a ship captain/judge on BSG), who are big, big deals in the Vancouver theater community, guest as Myka’s parents. Given Myka’s uncomfortable phone calls with her father, Hogan’s gruffness is such a good match that it makes me giggle. It will be strange to see him with two eyes again, but I imagine we’ll muddle through. You’ve seen Mr. Hogan before on fare as varied as The L Word, Monk, Millennium, Road to Avonlea…is it filmed in Vancouver? He might have been in it. His lovely partner in crime has appeared in Men in Trees, Dark Angel, Millennium…did we mention the Vancouver thing? The Warehouse 13 ep is a nice reunion with creator Jane Espenson, who also wrote for BSG. Bonus squee–Roger Rees is in the episode, too! Come on–Lord John Marbury and Saul Tigh? There wouldn’t have been any alcohol left on that battlestar. Warehouse 13 is genial fun anyway, if a little too harmless, and guests like this will go a long way toward making it top shelf fun. On SyFy (really? SyFy?) at 9pm Eastern.
While the Paley event concerning the Battlestar Galactica/Caprica universe was probably meant as a roll-out for Caprica, most of the panel discussion concerned BSG (and really, how could superfan Seth Green not ask the creators what the heck was up with Daniel when he had them captive?). Ron Moore, David Eick, Jane Espenson, and the Caprica actors were joined by Battlestar actors Tricia Helfer and Grace Park (much, it should be noted, to Green’s obvious delight). Largely due to Green’s adorable and much-appreciated geekdom (he argued that Battlestar Galactica was the best television take on societal issues since Norman Lear produced All in Family), the panel gave a lot of insight into the questions we had about the creative procesess behind BSG. It’s jazz and mosaics, folks.
We’ve reported on the Caprica-related details of the panel elsewhere, so we’ll concentrate on the BSG love here:
- The Paley Festival shows clips from their archives before each panel–for example, they showed a clip of the Bryan Fuller-created, Lee Pace-starring Wonderfalls before the Pushing Daisies panel–and they picked a doozy for this crew: the ending of the 1963 Outer Limits classic “Demon with a Glass Hand”. A man discovers he’s not a man at all–he’s a robot programmed to digitally preserve the remnants of his human creators. He even has a human companion who backs away from him in horror upon realizing he’s a robot! Ah, the Cylons meet their real ancestors.
- We thought Seth Green had forgotten to turn off his phone and that it was, er, flashing through his pants, but someone on the front row was taking a lot of pictures and the flash warning reflected off the crotches of everyone who stood at the on-stage microphone. Set Condition Crotch throughout the ship!
- Before forgetting to introduce Paula Malcomson, Green introduced Jane Espenson as his friend ”Jane EsPENson”. He is likely teasing her, but now I’m worried we’ve all been mispronouncing her name for years.
- A few people showed up in costume, but perhaps the most alarming clothing we saw was a t-shirt that read “I :heart: Fat Apollo“. It was strangely hypnotic.
- While the writers never let go of the idea that Laura Roslin was the dying leader mentioned in the Pythian prophecies (and, yes, Green did refer specifically to the Pythian prophecies, which was about the point I started planning to bake things for him), they did eventually toss around all of the other possibilities (Starbuck, Bill Adama, the Galactica herself, etc.) before letting each of those go and returning to Laura.
- Given that, Moore and Eick had promised Mary McDonnell she would be Moses–leading her people to the Promised Land but never being able to enter herself. In early drafts of the series finale, she dropped dead sometime before the Raptors reached New!Earth’s surface. Eick described reading a later “elegant” Moore draft that let her see her people into their new home before flying off with Bill to die, noting that “clearly the audience wanted that.” While the resulting applause could fairly be described as a smattering, this was a respectful crowd that didn’t interrupt with applause much if at all otherwise, so he may well be right. (Or maybe I just agree with him because I wanted that).
- Speaking of sayng goodbyes on New!Earth, they felt that Bill simply couldn’t say goodbye to Lee (perhaps reflecting his own childhood goodbyes on Caprica?). Eick noted the long tradition of television dads building bridges to the future for their sons, making sacrifices for their sons, coming to emotional reconciliations with their sons…and that they didn’t want any part of that nonsense.
- In bringing up what may have been the most debated point of the series finale, Green actually asked whether Starbuck’s final exit was just her hiding in the grass. Espenson confirmed that the grass was indeed high.
- The writers refused, however, to be drawn into giving any more answers about what Kara was in the end, claiming that the more they answered those questions the less interesting she became. Later, in related refusals to pin down what Kara’s Head!Father was (does an angel require an angel?), it became very apparent that Moore genuinely doesn’t think it’s important to nail down some of those kinds of answers as long as the end they get to is worth more than the means they take to get there. Espenson flat out confirmed that when she noted that one of the things she likes about science fiction is that the answers aren’t nailed down and are open to interpretation.
- For example: “Daniel: Was that just a mathematical error that got resolved?” Yes. Yes, it was. (Friend o’ Bacon D and I wondered later whether the presumed lack of connection between Lost Number Seven Daniel and Caprica‘s Daniel Graystone is an homage to Aaron Sorkin’s insistence on using that name over and over. We then decided we had perhaps had too much Diet Pepsi. The writers did note, however, that John–Cavil, One, whatever else you want to call him–is the only Cylon whose nomenclatural origin has been revealed. So maybe it really is all about Sorkin.)
- They were not messing around having the Hybrid call Kara the harbinger of death, a label they felt they paid off with her leading them to Scorched!Earth. They didn’t elaborate enough on that for us to really make sense of it–since they’d pinned their hopes on Earth, was finding it dead the end of humanity? Was the inability to settle there and the need for a new home what cemented the alliance that eventually made us all a little bit Agathon, thus ending the Colonial version of humanity Kara knew? I…don’t know. But this wasn’t a detail that fell through the cracks–they definitely felt that the finding Earth-as-a-cinder was the payoff to that.
- Green pointed out that since the Leoben models have spent the entire show obsessed with Kara Thrace, he wondered if the wig-out upon finding Kara’s body on Scorched!Earth was a complete breakdown or whether there was method to the madness. The writers argued that the 12 Cylon models represent the 12 basic kinds of humans, and that the Leobens represent people who love the big puzzles and the eternal questions. When Leoben’s big puzzle exploded, he just plain checked out.
- Helfer claimed not to have understood what Head!Six was until she watched the finale. We suspect she was exaggerating slightly for effect (there was giggling involved), but that the character’s true nature was something that both evolved and was kept pretty close to the vest. Asked about playing multiple versions of the same Cylon model, both angelic and corporeal, Helfer described approaching them as twins raised separately. One of the things that made each version different was the amount of contact with humans, which is pretty interesting given the show’s overall message that Cylons and humans had to come together to find salvation. Helfer described finding that process when noting that Shelley Godfrey was written differently from Caprica Six and asking Moore if she could play them differently.
- Helfer and Park both talked about playing mulitple versions of their models in the same scene, noting that their stand-ins knew the physicality of the characters better than day players and were really helpful in the “doubling” process. Park mentioned working against Jen Halley (who played Seelix) to film her double a few times, while James Callis liked to have one camera rolling and move back and forth between the characters (with a stand-in available for blocking). The fact that that seems Gollumesque feels right, somehow.
- Green was jokingly, mildly, and affectionately–but noticeably–skeevy with Helfer and Park on occasion, with hugs and eyebrow-waggling announcements that he could be reached at the end of the row of chairs if they needed him. He may have answered the eternal question of whether plots or hot women are the driving force behind fanboys, however. While setting up Park to discuss making out and general hotness, Green asked whether she found it “difficult to cavort with so many leading men…Chief, Helo…” Park helpfully added, “Gaeta…”, at which point Green lost the thread of his skeeve entirely and exclaimed, “Oh! I know he’s not here tonight, but I want to talk about Alessandro Juliani.” It was…an unexpected turn of events given the previous tenor of the question. There are multiple theories on why said turn occurred, each of which could illuminate the plot vs. hotness question. The first of which, I suppose, is that Green did not in fact lose the skeeve thread at all and is in reality an equal opportunity Battlestar cast skeever.
- The second possibility is that fanboys are actually driven by plot and Green and I share, er, strong feelings about how gorgeously the mutiny arc played out. After letting Green rhapsodize about the complexity of Gaeta’s character and ethical quandaries, Moore noted that the writers tended to give Gaeta little tidbits in scripts even when he hadn’t shown up in the story outline. Eick liked the idea of the most unexpected character being the one who turned (asking us to imagine a North Korean attack on the US led by Gary Burghoff and…no, thank you) and noted that actors really have a lot to do with characters growing like that, as creators see what actors can do for their stuff. In this case, the writers were inspired by realizing how versatile and multidimensional the actor who started out doing mostly technobabble actually was. The last little thing bothering me about that whole storyline was wondering what the producers wanted us to take from it–would they be thrilled if half the audience sympathized with Gaeta and half wanted to kill him, or did they expect everyone to fall unquestioningly in line with Bill Adama? Given Moore’s description of Gaeta as someone “who really sacrificed, really put himself out there for his beliefs,” I think we can finally put that one to bed and just acknowledge that the mutiny arc rocked. Green seemed to agree wholeheartedly with this, so score one for the Plots possibility.
- A third theory grows from Espenson’s discussion of how much she enjoys taking secondary and tertiary characters and putting them in the center of the story, in part because no one’s a secondary character from their own perspective–they’re always the hero of their own story. Green, nodding emphatically: “Being a character actor, I agree.” So maybe what caught his eye was a secondary character swirling into the center of a huge story…where he got to make out with Grace Park, a situation in which Seth Green would not mind finding himself. I’m not sure into which category this theory falls.
- Moore and Eick acknowledge that the title of the upcoming prequel film The Plan is intentionally ironic, since Moore’s response to Eick’s “and they have a plan” tagline suggestion was “there is no f*#@! plan.” Given some of the accusations from disgruntled fans after the finale (we did not fall into that category, but we heard the…disgruntling) about whether too much was done on the fly, it was interesting to hear Moore and Eick talk about how the sausage is made. They were very conscious of the balancing act between doing so much planning that nothing creative can happen and being so loose that no structure is imposed. Eick praised Moore for being able to walk the line between “jazz is not allowed here” and “hey, man, let’s make it up as we go” well, noting that Moore was always able to go to a place of “this is what we were saying before, but this is what we’re saying now” that gave them both structure and freedom. Eick argues that this kind of creative back and forth took the power away from a small core of producers and spread it throughout the production, which he referred to as “infecting the staff with accountability”. He sees this as the direction television in general is going, and given the way all of the Battlestar departments raised their games so high, the fulfillment of that prophecy would be very lucky for all of us.
- Similarly, Moore acknowledged that the identities of the Final Five were chosen late in the game, and it took a long time to decide that the CIC was the opera house, likening the process to piecing together a mosaic: “I threw this one over here and I didn’t know what it meant, but how can I make it part of the mosaic and make the picture part of the whole?” While they admitted that this approach can be risky, it also frees them from “being Dick Wolf” and being tied to real-world situations instead of the deeper meanings those situations can represent symbolically. And they clearly believe that “all that matters is what you come to in the end.” Talking about how Caprica differs from BSG, they seemed pretty committed to the idea that all you can do is try to make good work that pleases you instead of trying to please someone else, so I suspect people for whom that mosaic approach doesn’t work will never be entirely satisfied with what they produce. Those who like that jazz has an underlying structure will find their worlds exciting.
- However, when Green asked about all of this happening before and all of this happening again and how that mapped onto the origins of the first humans and Cylons, Moore intoned, “There once was a paradise called Kobol, and then came gay marriage.” So, you know–ripped from the headlines.
- While Moore originally intended Tyrol’s lonely exile to be Vancouver Island, we now have confirmation that Aaron Douglas‘ reading of it as Scotland led to the unspoken joke that the still expert was off to invent Scotch. (Someone then popped off that James Callis invented the Manson Family.)
- Speaking of good old Gaius, Green noted an intriguing connection: “Gaius Baltar looks a little bit like Ron Moore. And both look a little like Jesus. What are you trying to say here?” Moore: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Christ or me?” Apparently the camera crew was pretty convinced Baltar was actually going to turn out to be Jesus, though. The possibilities are mind-boggling.
- Finally, Green wondered if the Centurions who left in the finale are the UFOs people report (the panel wondered if they got bored and came back to see what the crazy humanoids were up to now) and closed the evening by asking whether we didn’t wish the Cylons would come destroy this world so we could all travel through space together. While I’m generally against a robotcalypse, the Paley panel does make traveling in a tin can listening to Seth Green quiz Ron Moore, David Eick, and Jane Espenson seem like a ton o’ big fun. (Toss the mild skeeze out the airlock, though, okay?)
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.
After months of assuring us that everything was fine with his upcoming series Dollhouse–despite the reported rewrites, reshoots, scrubbed pilots, and unplanned shutdowns–Joss Whedon has finally come clean about the chaos behind the scenes.
Posting on Whedonesque this week, the Almighty Joss admitted to fans that Dollhouse hasn’t exactly been “blazing an untrammeled path to surefire success, with nary a hitch or a hiccup.” In fact, it’s been a pretty rough ride. Says Whedon:
Basically, the Network and I had different ideas about what the tone of the show would be. They bought something somewhat different than what I was selling them, which is not that uncommon in this business. Their desires were not surprising: up the stakes, make the episodes more stand-alone, stop talking about relationships and cut to the chase. Oh, and add a chase. That you can cut to. Nothing I hadn’t heard before on my other shows (apparently my learning curve has no bendy part) but frustrating as hell given our circumstances – a pilot shot, scripts written, everybody marching together/gainfully employed… and then a shutdown. Glad I was for the breathing room, but it’s hardly auspicious. So back into the writer cave I went, wondering why I put up with this when I can make literally dozens of dollars making internet movies.
Trying to mitigate the inevitable tsunami of fan outrage directed at Fox, Whedon explains why all this network interference isn’t as bad as it sounds:
One: They’re not wrong. Oh, we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, but wanting the first episodes to be exciting and accessible is not exactly Satanic. Being Satan is, but that’s in their free time and hey, there’s no judging in the Dollhouse. This kind of back and forth has happened on every show I’ve done, so if you liked those, chances are that was a part of why. And the need to focus on the essentials of what makes this universe tick – and which wire to cut to make it stop – really does bring up our game. So we as a staff have gone from blinking like unhoused moles to delving in with the same relish we had when we started. The show is really coming together now, in a way that I believe excites us and satisfies the Network. Of course, I have no idea if anybody else will like it, but I have the same faith in the staff, the crew and the remarkable cast that I always did. More, in fact. And what’s more crucial:
Two: Nothing essential has changed about the universe. The ideas and relationships that intrigued me from the start are all there (though some have shifted, more on that), and the progression of the first thirteen eps has me massively excited. The episode we’re shooting now I wrote as fast as anything I have before, not because I had to (although, funny side-note: I had to) but because I couldn’t stop the words from coming. Because I can feel the show talking to me; delighting, scaring and occasionally even offending me. It’s alive. Alive! Which is a far cry from how I felt a month ago. It’s been hilarious trying to keep up with what’s in, what’s out, who’s met whom and when – we’ve shot all of the first seven episodes out of airing order – but it’s come together in a pretty thrilling way. My huge gratitude to our cast for their precision and patience. Which also includes…
Three: Eliza. Watching her on the monitors at two o’clock this morning I was reminded forcibly how much I wished I were in bed – but also how strong, radiant and unmistakable her presence is. She’s someone who could coast on talent and never ever does. I love to watch her work. In fact, I think I got myself into this mess for that very reason, and though I have this fall occasionally sworn never to eat lunch with an actor I like again, I’m pretty pleased and crazy proud.
So what’s the Dollhouse heading to our TV screens this winter going to look like as a result of all this? Whedon explains the changes:
The original pilot was in fact thrown out. Again, at my behest. Once it became clear what paradigm the Network was shooting for, it just didn’t fit at all, even after I’d reshot more than half of it (see above re: despair). To get a sense of how completely turned around I was during this process, you should know there was a scene with Eliza and the astonishing Ashley Johnson that I wrote and shot completely differently three different times, with different characters in different places (actually I wrote it closer to eight times), and none of it will ever see air. Which is as it should be (though I’m determined to get Ms. Johnson back in the future). The scene just didn’t belong anymore. Similarly, the character of November has fallen out of the mix, because the show simply moves too fast now for me to do what I wanted with her. Season three, anyone…? Happily, Miracle Laurie is still with us in a new role, playing against (and pining for) Tahmoh’s character, Paul Ballard. Their chemistry is deeply nifty. The only other major cast shift is that the Dollhouse head of security, Laurence Dominic (played by Reed Diamond), who was written just for the now-defunct first ep, has stuck like fly-paper, and Reed is very much in the family for the present. (Most of my problems seem to involve my actors making themselves indispensable. This is the good problem kind.)
Apart from that, it’s all hush-hush: some things I’d intended to hold back are laid out much sooner, and some are rolling out more slowly. We’re still heading toward Tim’s intense two-part mind-blower – right before a thirteenth ep that may actually just be insane.
And finally, young Steve DeKnight, after writing and shooting an ep so cool it helped not only define the show but save its ass, is ending his consulting duties, the f#%&er. I will be crying on the shoulder of Jane Espenson come Monday, so congratudolences are in order. Excited for the Jane Flava.
As are we, Joss. As are we.
So, apparently the dealio is that everything kinda sucked for a while there, but not to worry, crisis averted. Everything’s just peachy now. We think. Hopefully.