Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tahmoh interview with iF Magazine

Yet another interview with Tahmoh has appeared online (the fourth this week!). He still manages to share tidbits about his experience on the show that he's not mentioned before, among them details about his experiences Season 1 and the challenges of filming with CGI cylons.

Warning: The photos that accompany the interview are spoilery for episode 218, "Downloaded". I've pasted the non-spoilery text of the interview below. Click on "show spoilers".

Exclusive Profile: Battlestar Galactica's Tahmoh Penikett
He's the father of a Cylon/human hybrid on the hit SCI FI Channel show, and the actor couldn't be happier

Contributing Writer Published: 2/7/2006

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is one of the top-ranked television programs on the air in prime time. In the new series, the Cylons were built to be servant machines to mankind. They rebel and flee to another planet to establish their own culture. When the original mini-series aired, there existed between the Cylons and humans an uneasy truce. During the forty or so odd years since the original Cylon War, they have evolved into human-looking robots. Think TERMINATOR with emotions and a sex drive. The Cylons strike out at the human colonies with nuclear weapons and force the remnants of humanity to form a rag-tag fleet protected by the Battlestar Galactica, with one purpose- to find Earth.

Tahmoh Penikett plays Lt. Karl 'Helo' Agathon, a GALACTICA crewmember that is stranded on a Cylon controlled planet. During the second season, Helo finds himself back on GALACTICA amidst friends who thought he was dead, and most significantly he is the father of a human/Cylon hybrid child carried by the humanoid Cylon Sharon "Boomer" played by Grace Park.

Penikett chatted with iF MAGAZINE about his role on the series, what it was like being resurrected after the pilot, and what sort of challenges Helo has given to him as an actor.
Click on "show spoilers" below to read the rest.
Or read it with spoilery photos at the iF site.

In case you've missed the other interviews this week, check out:
- "Honour above all" interview in Starburst #73
- Dreamwatch #138
- Infuze magazine
Or see the Tahmoh Interview index.

Thanks to Sci-fi for the heads up!

The rest of the interview:

iF MAGAZINE: What sort of response have you been hearing about the new season so far?

TAHMOH PENIKETT: We’ve been hearing a positive response lately. Lots of people say they don’t watch TV, but now they are hooked on the show.

iF MAGAZINE: When the pilot finished shooting, did you know you were going to return as a series regular?

PENIKETT: It wasn’t a complete surprise. I had a couple of producers approach me and say ‘you’ve done exceptional work’ and is the nature of most productions, they didn’t even know what was going to happen to the show at that point. Edward James Olmos pulled me aside and said ‘they’re going to bring you back, they loved your work’ so I was excited and extremely flattered by the compliment, but in no way was I putting any weight on it. Not soon after we finished the mini-series, I booked being a series regular on the long-running Canadian cop series COLD SQUAD. We didn’t know it was going to be their final season, and I did thirteen episodes of that. As far as I was concerned, BATTLESTAR was pretty much over for me, because I hadn’t heard anything after we wrapped.

Then I was in L.A. for pilot season, I had a bad audition, and was in a kind of negative head space when I got the call from Ron Moore. He told me he had an idea for a story line where Helo wasn’t actually dead; he is still alive trying to survive on the planet. He said they’d love to have me back.

iF MAGAZINE: How was it to only have Grace Parks essentially as a co-star for the entire first season?

PENIKETT: It was awesome. Grace and I are very close. We became close when we did the boot camp in the mini-series. We had to do actual boot-camp for the mini-series, and we became close during that time period. We were encouraged to make bonds or friendships with the characters or people we were going to be close to in the series. Grace and I had clicked right away. There was little or no effort involved in bonding. During that first season, we had the opportunity to grow together as artists. We were both on this new excellent show and we had this great storyline of two lovers. We joked about it all the time; it was the HELO & BOOMER SHOW. [Laughs]

iF MAGAZINE: Were there any practical on-set Cylons for you to fight, or were they all CGI?

PENIKETT: The Cylons were CGI all the time. Every once in awhile, there was a plastic Cylon head that an A.D. would walk by in my general eye-line where the Cylon was supposed to be. It wasn’t even a very good Cylon, the art department had a rush to do it, and it kind of looked like a big Play Doh dummy head. So every once in awhile the A.D. would walk by with a serious look on his face like he was the Cylon, and he would hold this head up. The second thing, around episode six, they got me a cardboard cut-out that looked exactly height-wise as close to realistic as possible as to what a Cylon Centurion would be like, so that helped a lot.

iF MAGAZINE: Did you ever get the opportunity to visit the GALACTICA sets during the first season, even though you were shooting on a separate exterior set?

PENIKETT: That’s what was funny about first season, is the fact that I was filming on location, and most of my scenes were shot in about a fifteen-hour day. We get most of stuff shot in one day, because we would have to lock down an entire park or an outdoor location throughout Vancouver or wherever it was. Often times, my shooting schedule was so lax that season; I would go in for my one day a week, but it was a big, hectic day. There were a couple of times, I would go into the studio for a table read, or what have you, and I would go visit people. More times than not, I would be stopped by P.A.’s on the set and asked multiple times if I was lost or if they could help me. They would ask where I was going; they would send me to the extra’s tent. [laughs] I would tell them I was one of the actors, and they would quiz as to which actor I was. [Laughs] It wasn’t until second season that a lot of people within the production actually had the opportunity to see the show and realized I was supposed to be there!

iF MAGAZINE: What changed for you second season as an actor?

PENIKETT: The biggest thing about this show is the fact that we such a huge and talented ensemble. Our two lead actors are Academy Award nominees. It was a dream come true for me, as a young actor coming up, being able to act with the rest of the cast especially the leads. Not only the leads, everybody on the show is so talented. That was the thing I was looking forward to in the second season; getting back to the studio and working with the rest of the cast.

iF MAGAZINE: What do you think about the current storyline involving your character as the father of a Cylon-hybrid baby?

PENIKETT: Every once in a while they give us a "Bible" to the show, but realistically not so often. The actors are pretty much in the dark. Eddie probably has a pretty good idea what’s going on, as does Mary, but most of us really are not sure what’s going on. One thing about the writing; is that they are throwing us curves all the time. You might think you are going in one direction, but by the time they get the final revisions, it changes so much. Often times I am totally in the dark. When the writers come to the set, which is rare, we all gather around them and say ‘please, please tell us something…give us a hint!’ We are like rabid fans that want to know where we are going.

iF MAGAZINE: How was working with Katie Sackhoff at the beginning of Season 2?

PENIKETT: Katie and I are friends. That’s a perfect example of something that I was looking forward to doing in Season 2 of the show. Katie actually called me before I’d even signed my contract last year and she said ‘Look this is what’s going on, I’m not supposed to tell you but they’ve got an idea for us. We’re going to have a four-episode arc, and we’ll be running around the planet together. I’m super excited about it.’

iF MAGAZINE: Last but certainly not least, were you a fan of the original GALACTICA?

PENIKETT: I was too young to see the original, but I remember the one season they brought back where Starbuck was on a planet with the Cylon. I remember seeing bits and pieces of it, and I remember having a Cylon toy. More than anything, I remember being five years old or whatever age I was, when the Cylon died. I remember being so sad and crying. [Laughs]

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