|Tricia Helfer and James Callis in "Battlestar Galactica"|
Bless that Sci Fi channel for dedicating a special hour-long panel entirely to everyone's favorite space drama, "Battlestar Galactica." Not since the glory days of "Star Trek" has a show captured the nations' collective imagination. The newly re-imagined version of this classic series has just about dominated television. This morning the Javits Center auditorium was jam-packed with fans, but ComicBookResources was right there at the New York Comic Con to bring you a piece of that certain Cylon magic.
Before the speakers came out, there was an announcement about a new partnership between the Sci Fi channel and Virgin comics. The new venture will be called, aptly enough, "Sci Fi Virgin Comics." Five new comic book titles will launch later this year. Look for them in September. Sci Fi Virgin is looking to carve a brand new niche in the market.
But enough with this foreplay, it's time for the main event!
The moderator for this panel was none-other than comic-obsessed director, Kevin Smith. There was thunderous applause as he took the stand. When the hall quieted down, Kevin broke the ice:
"So uh, I don't have anything to do with the show officially… which might be the reason it's so good." Upon glancing throught the crowd, he noticed a fan in a Stormtrooper costume. "Um, aren't you a 'Star Wars' guy? Wrong room dude!" That's pretty much how the entire event went down. It made for a really fun hour that just flew by.
"We're here to talk about a show that you guys like as much as me. First I would like to introduce the Senior Vice President of Marketing for the Sci Fi Channel, Adam Stotsky."
When Adam came on stage, there was good bit of clapping, but the roof was nearly blown off as the next guest were announced:
"Next we'll bring out the 2 cats you're here to see!" said Smith, "He's the guy you love to hate and she's the Cylon you want to frak, give it up for James Callis (President Gaius Baltar) and Tricia Helfer (Number Six)."
Once the crowd calmed down, Kevin kicked off the show.
"So as is wont to any comic panel when there's some people you really want to ask questions, they make you watch a fucking clip first. So let's do that."
The screen filled with an exclusive clip that the guys from Sci Fi cobbled together. It chronicled the past seasons of BSG in a short 2-minute clip. When it ended, Kevin turned to the panel:
"Which leads me to the question that's on everybody who's into Battlestar Galactica's mind… Adam, how does someone get into Marketing?"
After cracking up the crowd, Smith turned his sights on the series' smoldering villainess, Tricia Helfer.
"So how did you get involved with this?"
Helfer described her previous television acting, including CSI, and how excited she was to be a part of BSG. "After I read the script I was immediately drawn to it," she said.
Kevin asked what Edward James Olmos is like in real life.
Tricia: "He's very passionate."
Kevin: "Which is another way of saying he's an asshole?"
The crowd lost it once again and Kevin questioned James about his part on the show.
After describing how interested he is in the program, he laughed about his friends not being able to take him seriously:
"When I was telling people in London that I was going to play Gaius Baltar, they said 'do they realize how grossly miscast you've been?'" The crowd cheered for Callis, showing their obvious approval of his casting.
Kevin then asked if he was worried about being typecast as a science fiction guy for the rest of his life.
Callis admitted he had reservations, at first. He had to consider the consequences of joining the BSG cast. But he quickly added: "Then I saw Tricia and I was convinced!"
Laughter and whistling explodes from the crowd.
"And I'm sure Tricia felt the same way!" Kevin quipped. Helfer was quick to make a humorous half-agreement.
Back to the business at hand, Smith asked how James felt knowing that there was a guy on the original series who had played the same part:
James explained that he wanted to stray as far from the first interpretation of Gaius as possible.
"I did not want to be that guy in the toga typing on a computer!"
In the original version, Callis felt that Baltar had very little reason to turn on humanity. Basically, he seems to sell out his entire race because the Cylons said: "Well, we'll give you a bathrobe!" In the re-imagined series, Number Six plays both his nemesis and his foil. She gives Gaius a realistic reason to turn traitor.
Speaking of Number Six, Ms. Helfer explained how she approaches her complex role:
Apparently, Number Six started off much colder at first. Over time, Tricia has adapted her to become the Cylon that fans know and love. The fact that Number Six is a robot in human flesh means that she had to use some ingenuity to interpret her roll. Tricia explained that the way Six acts is important "because she's the only one that you know is a Cylon."
"It wasn't necessarily going off the script," she clarified, "it was more about 'How does she move?' and 'How does she sit?'"
James described how tricky filming could get during the many scenes when he is the only one who can see Tricia's character.
"It didn't quite work," Callis said, "because Tricia has to sort of fly around my head."
"Which is really quite difficult!" Tricia added with a laugh.
"It's very difficult because you're not allowed to interact with the other actors," he added.
Next, Kevin questioned Tricia about how she feels to have her character constantly killed and resurrected in different forms:
"I love the multiple clones, because it's much more interesting," Helfer said. Part of her challenge stems from these wild changes. "You don't really know anything about the character, but you worry about being repetitive." she said, "You need to make them similar but different."
"Battlestar Galactica" gets so much praise in critics' circles, but what is the atmosphere among the rest of the industry?
James declared, "I am stunned by how many people don't watch our show!"
To further prove this, he told us about how a woman from Disney once argued with him that his show was canceled:
James: "No, that's 'Stargate'!"
Woman: "Same show!"
James: "No, it's really not!"
Right on cue, the crowd unanimously agreed.
Smith finally turned to Adam, the much ignored marketing man, and interviewed him about the original time slot for the show.
"You picked Friday night, which was a brilliant move," Kevin said, "because let's face it, people that watch this show don't get laid anyway."
The crowd reluctantly agreed, but agree they did! Adam mentioned something about trying to tap into a different market, but it was pretty clear that Smith had hit the nail right on the head.
When questioned about the possibility of a new "BSG" movie, Adam immediately confirmed: "We are doing a Direct-to-DVD movie." Later, he rescinded this statement. As of this moment, the movie is not "officially" in development, but Adam seemed pretty knowledgeable about the rumors.
Theoretically, it would flesh out some of the side stories that haven't been the major focus of the weekly series. We're going to lean pretty heavily on this being one of those rare Internet rumors that actually comes true.
Kevin then quickly turned back to James Callis: "Are they going to get to your trial this year?"
With a grin the answer came back plain and simple: "Yes."
"'Serenity' had it!" screamed a lone voice from the crowd. Then we all congratulated ourselves for watching "Firefly" for a few moments.
"What? Oh fine, 'Serenity' had it." James rolled his eyes while we laughed.
"You never fuck with a Browncoat," joked Smith.
Then Tricia dropped the bomb: "I can one-up you all… I used to date Captain Mal!"
Predictably, the crowd went absolutely insane at this comment. She's married now, to a man who is not a space cowboy.
Kevin asked James, "What about you, you getting' laid off of this?"
"Once or twice," Callis responded.
"His lovely wife is in the audience," Helfer pointed out. Some women in the crowd groaned. Finally, Smith announced it was time to let the crowd ask some questions:
Right off the bat, some guy starts spoiling plot details and asking about specific stuff that's coming up later in the season. The crowd practically jumped down his throat.
"Dude, we're not all that geeky!" someone yelled. James Callis answered: "We've had to remain pretty tight lipped about this." The fan sat down in quiet shame.
"I heard there's possibly going to be a spin-off to the show."
Adam confirmed that this was indeed true. Everyone is very excited about this new entry into the BSG universe.
"I have great faith in Gaius Baltar and can see him as a possible savior to all humanity. Do you?"
James joked: "Yeah, I think you need help." But after this quick ribbing, he discussed that while "BSG" can seem pretty dark, fans shouldn't forget that under the surface, it's a show about hope.
"It would be wonderful if Gaius could redeem himself," Callis added, "but I doubt it."
Adam retorted with: "You're speaking about the most dangerous night of television." Then he assured the irate viewer that they do, in fact repeat the show, he must just be missing it. If he would refer to the schedule on the Sci Fi website, he would see the error of his ways.
Kevin: "Fuckin' pwned, bitch!" After Smith blew the dust off that ancient Internet joke, the crowd practically tore itself in half with giggles.
In closing, Smith turned to the panel:
" I just want to thank you guys for coming out. I love this fucking show."
We couldn't have said it better ourselves.