Katee Sackhoff, best known as hotshot pilot Kara “Starbuck” Thrace in Battlestar Galactica, has traded the final frontier for the plains and mountains of rural Wyoming. In A&E’s new TV series Longmire, Sackhoff delves into the Western genre as deputy Victoria “Vic” Moretti.
Adapted from a book series by Craig Johnson, Longmire centers on Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor), sheriff in the fictional Absaroka County. Vic is the new girl in town, adjusting to a transition from her detective job in Philadelphia.
We caught up with Sackhoff a couple days before Sunday’s premiere of Longmire (at 10 p.m. ET / 9 p.m. CT) to chat about filming in New Mexico, what fans can expect from her turn in the upcoming Chronicles of Riddick sequel, and the similarities between her new modern Western and the sci-fi show that garnered her a devoted fanbase.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’re of course very familiar with working in the sci-fi genre. What was it like jumping into a Western?
KATEE SACKHOFF: I think what it comes down to is that Battlestar Galactica at its core was just a character-driven drama, and the ship itself and the atmosphere of that ship were a character unto itself, as is the same with Longmire. Wyoming and the setting of Wyoming are a character in this piece, and it’s centered around this character-driven drama, so it’s very similar. It’s not that hard to make that transition when that remains true throughout both.
You filmed in New Mexico, right?
We’re still in New Mexico right now shooting actually. We’ve been there for two months and we have just about four weeks left, so almost done.
So you had a big break between shooting the pilot and shooting the other nine episodes of this season?
We did. We actually started shooting the nine episodes almost a year to the day after we shot the pilot. But it was great for me because that break gave me a chance to fit four films in during that time. For the team surrounding you it was a bit frustrating because you lose this momentum, but for me it was perfect. I loved the fact that we had that much time.
What kinds of things did you do to make sure you kept your performance consistent between the pilot and the next episode?
That’s the hardest part about shooting a pilot and then waiting a year for it to get picked up — trying to make sure not only that you [play it consistently] but that you look the same. I had just finished The Chronicles of Riddick [untitled sequel]. I put on 10 pounds of muscle for that, so I didn’t fit in any of my clothes from the pilot. I was a lot bigger. And I was really concerned. I was like, “This is not gonna be pretty. I don’t know how to get into these clothes.” My hair was four inches shorter. I had bangs.
So a fun day for hair and makeup.
Yeah, well, I brought my own extensions, so I knew that it was gonna be an issue. And I started drinking vodka instead of wine, which took off about five pounds in a couple weeks, so it was alright — it was a quick transition. And the first two episodes back, I was really severely sick. I had gotten sick in Montreal filming Riddick and had come straight to Santa Fe, so my voice sounded different. You have to try to match what you did in the pilot, but it’s not essential. I think that audiences are smart enough to know the procedure and the timeline of what goes on in television these days. I think the fans and the audience have gotten a glimpse of the whole smoke and mirrors of everything, which is kind of interesting. It’s a blessing and a curse actually.
Tell me more about what got you interested in Longmire.
I really liked the idea of the topic of talking about the reservations. [Battlestar Galactica costar] Tricia Helfer and I right before I had taken the job had actually ridden from Los Angeles to New Orleans for the LA La Ride that we produced. We went through New Mexico, and it was some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. But one of the things that was heartbreaking was driving through the reservations. There was a lot that I myself and I think Americans in general have been sheltered from. So that was something that I had experienced just the year before, so when I read this script with that idea and that topic kind of feathered in the script a little bit, it was something that really kind of interested me because it had been so relevant the year before.
What’s the relationship like between Vic and Walt?
Vic and Walt have an interesting relationship because I think that she’s probably seen more big crime than he has, and he’s probably seen more personal crime than she has, and to have this back-and-forth, that kind of serves them both well. I think that separately they’re both very good police officers, but together they are pretty unstoppable. And she also kind of treats him like a big brother because there’s moments where she finds him to be ridiculously annoying and she kind of picks at him like a little bird and keeps talking and keeps talking and keeps talking.
You have The Chronicles of Riddick sequel coming out next year. What’s going to make this film stand out from the others in the franchise?
Tonally it’s more similar to [the series’ first film] Pitch Black. You do see a little of the Necromongers’ world, which is really kind of awesome because that texturally is a really cool thing to look at. It’s really just kind of back to the roots of where Riddick started, which I think fans loved.
What else can you tell us about what we can look forward to in Longmire?
You know what I would honestly say to people who are gonna watch Longmire is give it time. This is a throwback to old Westerns. It is a slow-boiling kettle, and you’re going to fall in love with these characters and this man, and hopefully it’ll go for five years.
What episode is shooting now?
We’re on [the eighth episode] now, so we have three left. In just this one [episode] someone gets stabbed, cut, I get hit by a car, and people get run over by a train. So welcome to Wyoming.