Last year Syfy took a brief return trip to the world of its deep-space (and deep-thinking) epic Battlestar Galactica with the prequel Blood and Chrome. Originally conceived as a two-hour pilot, Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome was ultimately released as an online series of ten 12-minute acts. Now the whole two-hour movie is set for an unrated, uncut edition on Blu-ray and DVD, which will be released this Tuesday.
Blood and Chrome takes place during the First Cylon War and features an origin story for BSG’s Admiral William Adama. In this prequel, young Adama, recently graduated from the Academy, is assigned to the newest battlestar in the Colonial fleet – none other than Galactica itself. The eager young lieutenant soon finds himself at odds with his co-pilot, battle-weary Coker Fasjovik (Ben Cotton), who is eight weeks away from the end of his tour of duty.
Visual effects for Blood and Chrome were pulled off with digital reconstructions of Galactica, using scans made of the original sets before they were dismantled. Check out an EW exclusive featurette on the project’s effects below. Then read on for our chat with Cotton about how he crafted his character, his experience with Blood and Chrome’s visual effects and what advice he has for BSG actress Katee Sackoff as she enters the Chronicles of Riddick franchise, which he starred in eight years ago.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you had your brief part in Battlestar Galactica: Razor, did you ever think you’d have a bigger role in the Battlestar world?
BEN COTTON: No, not really. I kind of thought that would kill me for the series, but who would have known this was coming? Obviously, at the time, there was no idea that Blood and Chrome was coming. When it came up it was a pretty good thrill.
What did you do to prepare to play Coker?
I kind of did an experiment with Coker. I would write a letter to his wife every night when I was going to bed about his struggle. It was mostly focused on the struggle and what was going on during Blood and Chrome. There’s a scene where I’m cleaning up the remains of my pilot, and so I wrote letters and talked about him right up until that battle. I’m not really a method kind of actor or anything like that, but I just thought the more that I could imagine Coker’s world thoroughly, that that would help me. Who knows if it did anything or not? I don’t know. But it made me feel more comfortable in him. It made me feel like Coker.
Had you tried writing letters as your character for any other roles before?
No. I think I kind of prepare differently every time I work, but it just occurred to me on this one.
Do you think you’d want to do it again for a role in the future?
Maybe, yeah. It seemed useful in this one also because there were a couple of scenes in the script and in what we shot that didn’t make it to the final product where I talked about distancing myself from my wife, from things that you love because you know you’re not gonna make it back. Coker was having a little breath of hope because he thought he was so close to the end of his tour, but I felt like he had spent most of his time thinking, “I’m dead. All my friends are dead. Everybody’s getting killed. This war is terrible.” So part of what gets you to the headspace of where Coker’s at is a loss of hope. So I did want to explore that a little bit.
The Battlestar world has a bit of its own language – from “frak” to calling the Cylons “toasters” to all the military and technical jargon. What was it like to slip into that as you learned your dialog?
I didn’t really think of it as being anything out of the ordinary. I’ve worked on some other sci-fi shows where the jargon was a lot heavier. It was fun to be able to curse on TV. It’s a lovely gimmick that they’ve got because it’s such an expressive word, and it’s such an all-purpose word. It was awesome because they allowed us to improvise a lot. We would have scenes and as long as you hit certain points, you could rifle through it. We would do what was on the page, but sometimes [director] Jonas [Pate] would give us takes where we could just sort of blow it out and do whatever came to us. So we were afforded the luxury of getting to know the dialog and that world and the jargon and all that pretty well.
Which of your projects would you say had the heaviest jargon?
I would say Stargate I think had the most. There was a scene in that show I did where there was a character who had to do about three pages straight of monologue, and the whole point of it was it was a bit of a joke about him trying to be overly scientific and overly wordy, and I don’t know how the actor made sense of that. It was inside out, backwards dialogue about – I don’t even remember the technical terms. That was pretty crazy.
You’ve worked on a lot of sci-fi TV shows. Does response from sci-fi fans still ever surprise you, or do you feel like you’ve seen it all now?
They do still surprise you. Sci-fi fans are incredible. They’re like no other. They’re so passionate about it. The fan fiction is something that is sort of a thrill and sort of disturbing. [Laughs] People write some crazy things about you. I try and stay off the Internet as far as it relates to me.
What was it like working with a lot of green screen for Blood and Chrome?
It was a lot of imagination because we were in a green screen enclosure. The whole thing was green screen. But they gave us wonderful concept drawings, and the artwork was amazing. So for the actors, we had visuals. We knew what the jumper bay was, what our ships looked like inside and out. We could go in our ships, but we were in sections of ships. We weren’t necessarily in the entire thing. But there are no walls on that set. So it was a lot of imagination and getting together as a group and deciding, “Okay, what are we looking at now? And how fast is it moving across the sky?” and sort of choreographing our gaze out the ship’s windows. We knew what this was going to look like. I think of it like doing theater.
Katee Sackoff is in the next Riddick movie. Have you had a chance to talk with her and compare notes on the two franchises?
Is she really? I haven’t spoken with her. Wow, the world of Riddick that was an amazing world. That’s great. I hope she has a really good time.
Any advice for her as she enters that Riddick world?
Oh, just have fun. And I know she will. If it’s anything like what it was when we did it, it’ll a blast. It was a really fun time.
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmilyNRome