Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Storytelling's in his blood (Feb. 2005 Interview)

In an interview with Lynne McNamara from the Vancouver Sun, Tahmoh talks about his family, his experience as an actor, and his time on Battlestar Galactica.

"My father always loved film, he took me to films and I started to appreciate good drama at a very young age, and learned to critique it, too. And I think as a kid I thought, 'Wow, I can do this. I wanna do this, I wanna tell a story.' "

Full-text of the interview:

"Storytelling's in his blood" (Wednesday, February 09, 2005)
Tahmoh Penikett says his Dene background made him a natural for acting

'I come from a storytelling culture, I love stories," says Vancouver actor Tahmoh Penikett, who plays Lt. Karl 'Helo' Agathon on the new TV series, Battlestar Galactica.

Penikett was born in Whitehorse, son of Tony Penikett, Yukon's NDP premier from 1985-1992 (and a member of the Yukon Legislative Assembly for 18 years).

Penikett, the elder, was born in Britain and immigrated to Canada with his family at the age of 12.

Tahmoh's mother, Lulla Sierra Johns, is part of the Dene Nation and was born in a tent in Snag, a tiny community near the Alaska border where the coldest temperature on earth (-63 degrees C) was recorded.

"My grandmother was a great matriarch up there," says the 30ish actor.

Like most native young people of her era, his mom was taken away from her family and forced by the provincial government to live in and attend a "residential" school from which she tried to escape.

"She's probably one of my biggest role models," says Penikett. "I look up to her, the hardships that she's faced in her life, and she's never once made an excuse, everything that she endured," he pauses. "She's one of the hardest-working people I know."

Penikett's father was also an actor during his university years, appearing in 40 productions over three years. His grandfather, too, had been a Shakespearean actor at school.

And some of that obviously rubbed off on young Tahmoh, whose name comes from the Dene language.

"My father always loved film, he took me to films and I started to appreciate good drama at a very young age, and learned to critique it, too. And I think as a kid I thought, 'Wow, I can do this. I wanna do this, I wanna tell a story.' "

That, and the fact that the chilly north is a breeding ground for indoor activities.

"The Yukon has very artistic communities -- we've got cabin fever up there," he says. "Eight months of darkness -- people socialize, congregate to bars, what have you, there's a lot of music and theatre and art."

Tahmoh moved to Vancouver, studying briefly at Douglas College, then enrolled in the Victoria Motion Picture School for a one-year program, which he says was a great experience.

Arriving in Vancouver afterwards, he thought he might not be quite ready to look for acting jobs.

"I was scared of coming here and making a bad impression 'cause I heard you can get blacklisted in this city pretty easily."

So he joined up with the highly-thought-of Lyric School of Acting in Gastown, where he often returns for scene studies to recharge his batteries.

As well as the Battlestar Galactica role, the tall, dark and handsome actor has taken on guest roles on Cold Squad, (where he played Det. Ray Chase) on The L Word, Smallville, Just Cause, Dark Angel and Stargate and in the TV movie, The Cold Heart of a Killer, a.k.a. Murder on the Iditarod Trail.

Last month, he finished a role as a young doctor being fought over by two women, played by Tori Spelling and Canadian actress Victoria Pratt, in the television movie, Hush.

He was impressed by Spelling's on-set expertise -- "She's incredibly experienced," he notes, "she knows exactly what she's talking about. She's on her game."

Battlestar Galactica, which stars Edward James Olmos (as Cmdr. William Adama) and Mary McDonnell (as President Laura Roslin), has shot a mini-series/pilot and 13 episodes in Vancouver over the past couple of years and is still in negotiations for a return for more episodes in April.

Penikett hopes it's a go. "It was an awesome experience. I had a wonderful time," he admits.

His character is a communications officer and pilot of a spy plane. "He thinks the world is about to end and it is, with a nuclear holocaust, and gives up his seat to the resident genius. He knows things are looking bad and we come back to him in the series and he's alive trying to survive on the planet," explains Penikett.

"I'm excited about it. When I read the part, I said, 'This is something I want to do.' I'm a huge sci-fi fan, and no disrespect to the other shows, but we've got a different flare. It's very raw, it's not too fantastical -- we've got robots who look like humanoids -- but at the same time the ideas behind it are raw, the performances are raw, the storylines are raw, the relationships are raw. You've got people dying regularly, there's not many of us left. It's a very desperate show in some ways, but at the same time, it's incredible. I've never seen any show like it. Obviously, I'm a little biased, but at the same time, it has such huge potential."

Battlestar Galactica now airs Friday nights on the Sci Fi Channel in the U.S., but recently premiered its 2003 mini-series/pilot on its sister station, NBC. So far no word as to whether that network will continue airing the show. It also recently aired 10 episodes on the United Kingdom's satellite channel Sky One.

No comments:

Post a Comment