Entertainment Weekly is on the scene at ATX in Austin, Texas. Go inside the TV festival with all our coverage, available here.
After eight years, the crew of the Battlestar Galactica is back! At the ATX Television Festival’s main event Saturday night in Austin, Texas, the show’s cast and creator, Ronald D. Moore, reunited at the Paramount Theater for the Entertainment Weekly-sponsored panel.
Joining Moore on stage: Edward James Olmos (William Adama), Mary McDonnell (Laura Roslin), Katee Sackhoff (Kara “Starbuck” Thrace), Tricia Helfer (Number Six), Grace Park (Sharon “Boomer” Valerii, Sharon “Athena” Agathon, Number Eight), James Callis (Gaius Baltar), and Michael Trucco (Sam “Longshot” Anders).
For those who are unable to make it to ATX, we had a front row seat as EW reporters Natalie Abrams and Nick Maslow live-blogged the event. Read on to find out what went down.
7:20 p.m.: EW’s James Hibberd, who is moderating the panel tonight, has taken the stage.
7:21 p.m.: Ahead of introducing the cast, Hibberd reads a mission statement that Moore wrote ahead of the launch of BSG: “Our goal is nothing less than the reinvention of the science-fiction television series.”
7:22 p.m.: Hibberd introduces Ron D. Moore and Edward James Olmos onto the stage. Before Mary McDonnell comes out, Hibberd jokes, “She’s the president we wish we had.” Katee Sackhoff, James Callis, Tricia Helfer, Grace Park, and Michael Trucco follow.
7:25 p.m.: “They do, I’m not usually invited,” Moore says, joking about the cast hanging out.
7:26 p.m.: Moore was a Star Trek fan growing up, so he watched the original Battlestar Galactica. “It didn’t light the fire in me the way Trek and Star Wars did,” he admits, though Moore notes that he watched every episode of the original series. When Universal was looking for someone to do a reboot of BSG, Moore — who had made a name for himself working on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager was called. “I wasn’t sure. I had 10 years of Trek and wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back in space again,” Moore says. He went to Blockbuster and got a VHS tape of the original pilot and was struck by the idea of doing the show in that moment of time. When he watched that pilot three months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, it resonated in a different way. “The story was about the survivors who ran away,” he says. “If you did that show now it was an opportunity to talk about the things that were happening in the world now.”
7:28 p.m.: When Moore was creating the show, the studio was very open to all topics. “I never really had serious arguments about any of the fundamentals of the show,” Moore says of the big ticket items like religion and death. “By and large, on the things that really mattered, they left us alone on all those fronts.”
7:30 p.m.: “This is just a license to kill,” Moore jokes about using the word “frak” instead of “f—” as much as possible. It was actually part of the original series.
7:32 p.m.: Olmos was initially hesitant about signing on to the show — he even said no at first — but what drew him in was the writing. “It was brilliant from the first page,” Olmos says, noting Moore wrote a three-page manifesto before the script even started. “I hadn’t seen anything like this since — not even Blade Runner [in which Olmos costarred] was this well crafted.” Olmos says he believed Moore really would reinvent the journey.
7:33 p.m.: McDonnell admits she never saw the original BSG because she was busy being a stage actress and didn’t have a television set. “I didn’t understand it,” she says. “I just giggled. But then at the same time, I read the script and I fell in love with all of the characters. That was really important to me. I attached to these people in the first read through.” McDonnell said it was also very important to explore a woman coming into power without a support behind her, “as many women my age have experienced.”
7:34 p.m.: Starbuck was originally envisioned as a character in her 30s, but Sackhoff was in her 20s. “Oh my God, I’ve been searching for this for like five years, I get to shoot a gun, my dad would be so proud, I have to do this,” she says, reflecting on her reaction to the role. Sackhoff says she auditioned six or seven times for the part — casting apparently thought she was “too girly.” “I had no idea that it was ever going to be this. I had never seen the original,” she says reveals. Sackhoff and a friend then rented the original and realized that Starbuck was a male character in the original. The actress then went to an internet cafe and logged into a chat group to see how fans would react to that. “I learned in that moment, f— ’em,” she says to huge applause.
7:38 p.m.: Moore says changing Starbuck from male to female was one of his first ideas for the revival after he was stumped on how to make the character different from the original, who would smoke cigars, drink, and gamble. “She has all the same characteristics,” Moore says. “I haven’t seen that character before as a female fighter pilot, and that’s kind of cool.”
7:41 p.m.: Callis brought humor to the role in his audition. “I didn’t mean to — it’s just one of those things that happened,” he jokes. Callis also auditioned several times for the show. “Why didn’t they make it this difficult to become the president?” Callis quips. The actor’s audition scene was from the miniseries, in which he’s caught by Six (Helfer) in bed with another woman. “We broke a lot of ice,” Callis says of having to kiss Helfer on the first day of filming. “I made us kiss,” Helfer says.
7:46 p.m.: Telling the story about their first day shooting, Helfer says she was told to be a little bit animalistic, so they had to practice Baltar undressing Six. “Black plastic underwear, it’s a bit of a handful,” Callis says. They were both nervous, so Helfer says she asked Callis to go downstairs in a basement to practice kissing. “There was the realization that we really trusted each other,” Callis says. “It’s a thing about trust and that’s what helped us and helped us establish the relationship.” He notes it was intimidating and the last thing you want to feel on screen is self-conscious, so he was happy they practiced.
7:50 p.m.: Park says she initially auditioned for Dualla and Starbuck, but landed the role of Boomer and was pissed. “Who the eff is Boomer?” she jokes. Park didn’t initially know that Boomer was actually a Cylon. Trucco also auditioned for a different role: Apollo. He then went in for Anders, who was meant to be short-lived. “The majority of the people f—ing hated my character and I think that fueled Ron. You don’t like Anders? Watch this.” The role suddenly kept growing and Trucco says he became a part of the family. “I’m truly grateful to get to sit here and call myself part of this family,” he says.
7:54 p.m.: Callis recalls Olmos giving him a “So say we all”-esque speech early in the show’s run, stating that BSG would run for five years. “We were really led through example by Eddie and Mary, these two incredible professionals who gave us everything,” Callis says. “That speech at the beginning from Eddie, who is Admiral Adama, was so galvanizing.”
7:57 p.m.: “I was in the hospital being told I was dying. I thought it would be a short job,” McDonnell recalls of shooting the miniseries. One of their first big scenes, though, was Adama’s “So say we all” speech. “That was the very first time we were all together,” Olmos says. “It was frightening. It was very intense. What ended up happening is everybody went with it. The speech that Ron wrote was right there. It worked. When we said, ‘So say we all,’ it caught everyone by surprise. No one knew I was going to repeat it. I just wailed on it and everyone was like, ‘Okay, so say we all!’ That did it… We all felt it. That, to me, was probably the most penetrating moment because that set the scene for the next five years.”
8:00 p.m.: McDonnell says one of her favorite moments was Roslin’s “I’m coming for all of you” part. “The reason I loved it was because we finally got to touch on Laura Roslin’s rage,” McDonnell says. “That was liberating.” McDonnell recalls one of her favorite on-set moments: She and Sackhoff could not stop laughing for hours during one of their first scenes together, to the point where she thought they’d get fired. “You notice we didn’t have too many scenes after that,” she says.
8:02 p.m.: Sackhoff says she was told many times she was not right for the part. “There’s a piece of you that goes, ‘Oh my God, I’m not right for this part,'” Sackhoff says, recalling shooting a scene in the Viper where she couldn’t remember her dialogue or what it meant. “We must’ve done it so many times, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘You stupid little girl, you’re going to get fired,'” Sackhoff says. She reveals she put her dialogue up on the screen of the cockpit for the rest of the series to help her because she had trouble with the science talk.
8:05 p.m.: Recalling when she learned that Starbuck was going to die and come back as something else, Sackhoff says she was told she was going to be killed and then brought back but that they had to keep it secret. “Everyone is going to think you’re dead,” the BSG bosses told her, explaining she’d go home and her name would be removed from the credits. Moore admits, “This was one of the stupidest things we’ve never done the entire run of the show.” Sackhoff knew that if she told Olmos, he would tell the entire cast she wasn’t really dead. Moore says they were getting calls from set saying everyone was really upset they were killing off Starbuck. “It just spiraled completely out of control,” Moore says. It was a matter of days before they admitted the truth to the cast.
8:09 p.m.: Jamie Bamber attempts to Skype in during the panel, but the call doesn’t initially connect. McDonnell starts chanting for Bamber, but Olmos takes matters into his own hands by trying to call Bamber on his phone. Moore jokingly starts to read Bamber’s phone number to the crowd.
8:11 p.m.: Bamber finally connects. “I’m in f—ing France,” he says. What’s his favorite moment from the show? “Right now,” Bamber says. “You look great, just smile,” Callis says. He complies. Bamber is drinking a beer.
8:17 p.m.: In response to a fan question, Bamber says the cast would get deeply and emotionally involved in the storylines. But Bamber is speaking very quickly, so Olmos and McDonnell try to get him to slow down. Then he starts speaking French. The Skype session is going to end, so the cast crowds the camera to send their love to Bamber and he blows kisses.
8:18 p.m.: Callis shares a funny story about a time when he was naked that didn’t make the cut. Baltar was being interviewed on the Cylon ship by Six and D’Anna. “When we started filming the scene, what was funny was looking at the boom operator who had basically blindfolded himself so he wouldn’t be traumatized,” Callis jokes.
8:20 p.m.: Helfer says there was a lot of discussion about Six snapping the baby’s neck in the miniseries. “It was important to have that moment because Caprica knew the bombs were about to go off, this baby was going to die shortly, but it was the first time she had actually held a baby,” she says, “and then to make the choice to end its life quickly and painlessly as opposed to suffering hours later, to me that was a very integral moment that showing this other side — this evil side — has some sort of empathy.” Helfer says her sister, who had had a baby two weeks prior, never watched the show after that. “It was a foreshadowing that there was a lot more to the Cylon side than you’re expecting in the beginning,” Helfer adds.
8:22 p.m.: Park’s favorite moment was the scene where Helo shoots Athena. “It is a scene about faith, in a way, and about trust,” Park says. “It was just beautiful to have him carry the rest of the scene.”
8:24 p.m.: Trucco says his favorite scene is where Anders, as part of the resistance, is blowing up cafes. The actor found himself in a parking structure, where Anders is pinned, with Helfer, Park, and Lucy Lawless. EP David Eick visited the set and literally stepped right over him.
8:26 p.m.: Helfer reveals she actually separated a rib during that parking structure scene and had to go to the hospital. Callis says he was also injured during their time on BSG, but had makeup and prosthetics on for a show injury that alarmed nurses when he arrived at the hospital.
8:29 p.m.: Moore admits the line “they have a plan” from the prologue was thrown in without an actual plan for what it could be in the future. “There was no f—ing plan,” Moore says.
8:33 p.m.: When asked who was most like their characters, many of the cast respond: Eddie. “Every single one of us was inside our character and we all let it out,” says Olmos, who praises each of his co-stars. “Everybody owned it. Okay, I played Adama, but basically Jamie Bamber, Apollo, are you kidding me? He was Apollo.” Moore says there’s a melding of the writing and the acting. “The writers start to write toward your cast,” he says. “You start writing to them and what their voices are…. Inevitably there’s this merging of the cast and the character that wasn’t there on the page.”
8:37 p.m.: Moore says if they wrote BSG today, they would pull from the current political climate and aim to be completely serialized, adding that season 1 had some procedural elements. “Serialized TV was really unusual and it was frowned upon,” Moore says, noting how much times have changed.
8:41 p.m.: “Gaius,” Sackhoff jokes when asked who was Starbuck’s true love. “I believe in multiple loves your of your life,” she says. “If you don’t go together, you move on and you find someone else. That’s what love is, allowing someone to grow and leave you. I don’t know.”
8:43 p.m.: “That’s the miracle of editing, my dear,” Moore jokes when asked the work-out plan of Fat Apollo. “I would’ve been happy to keep him as Fat Apollo. I think Jamie felt otherwise.” Sackhoff jokes that was the first time she saw Bamber eat carbs.
8:45 p.m.: When a fan asks Sackhoff, “What do you hear, Starbuck?” the actress responds in kind: “Oh my gosh, people do this all the time and I never answer, but nothing but the rain.”
8:47 p.m.: “I don’t think I’ll ever do another show like this in my lifetime,” Olmos says in response to a fan question.
8:49 p.m.: Moore says in the final years of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he was feeling constrained about telling a story about what it meant to be in war, so some of that spilled over to BSG.
8:51 p.m.: A fan notes the infamous line, “All of this has happened before and will happen again.” What lessons can we take from the show that still resonate now? “The idea that humanity could be reduced to 55,000 people all of a sudden and force a collective group of people to see each other as one to me is the thing that continually resonates about the show, because we’re living in a time where the powers that be are trying to create as much different between us as their pocketbooks will allow,” McDonnell says. “We’re unfortunately living on the edge at the moment on the planet, so perhaps we can stop dividing each other and seeing each other as the other, because there’s no difference.”
8:53 p.m.: As the cast stands together on stage, the entire audience also rises as Olmos leads everyone in a trio of chants, “So say we all.” And with that, the Battlestar Galactica reunion has concluded.
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