The Battlestar Galactica reunion – June 10, 2017 Paramount Theatre, Austin Texas.
One hundred fifty thousand and eight years after The Galactica and its fleet dropped off the last surviving Colonials in homo-sapien Tanzania, and eight years after the airing of the Battlestar Galactica series finale on the Sci-Fi Channel (now SYFY), cast and crew descended upon Austin Texas for The ATX (Austin Television eXperience) Television Festival
The Battlestar Galactica Reunion Panel was the closing night highlight of this year’s ATX Television Festival. In attendance were Ronald D. Moore (writer/creator/exec producer), Edward James Olmos (William Adama), Mary McDonnell (Laura Roslin), Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck), Tricia Helfer (Six/Caprica/Gina/Nathalie/Lida/Shelly), Grace Park (Boomer/Athena/Eight), James Callis (Gaius Baltar), and Michael Trucco (Sam Anders). Moderating the panel was Entertainment Weekly’s James Hibberd.
ATX Festival has a fast pass system in place where full-event badge holders enter a “lottery” where they can enter the eight panels they would prefer to attend most. Of those eight, you are guaranteed four “fast passes” that guarantee you front-of-the-line entrance.
While the event only started at 7 PM, some people faced the Texas heat two to three hours in advance by queueing up early in front of the Paramount Theatre Downtown Austin to secure themselves a good spot in the 1207-seat establishment.
Noticeable whenever the Battlestar Galactica cast share the stage with one another, even eight years since the last episode of the show aired, is that they truly do have a familial vibe amongst each other, with Edward James Olmos as pater familias. This brings a sort of joie-de-vivre to the stage which as an audience member makes panels more captivating to watch and easier to break the ice whenever the time arrives to line up for questions.
There were plenty of memorable moments, fun facts and belly laughs shared between the audience and stage as they reminisced the process of being hired for the show. Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell felt compelled to accept their role as Adama and Roslin after receiving the miniseries pilot and added manifesto. With, of course the infamous “no alien or I’ll faint on camera”-rule kept in the back of everyone’s mind.
Katee Sackhoff and James Callis recollected their strenuous audition process. Even though all Katee wanted to do was (quote!) “to shoot a gun” in one of her roles, proving herself as a twenty-something year old to a role that was envisioned for a thirty-something took several auditions, finally squaring off with Grace Park, she learned she had gotten the part before realizing Starbuck was a man in the original series. Grace Park (who had previously also auditioned for both Starbuck and Dualla) was brought on to portray Number Eight/Boomer. Reading over the part where Eight is a Cylon in her initial read-through, she was positively surprised with her character’s arc going into the miniseries. James Callis called auditioning for Gaius Baltar one of the longest audition processes he’s ever done as an actor to this day.
Unbeknownst to many, Michael Trucco had also auditioned to be in the miniseries for the role of Apollo. Jokingly mentioning how he never got anywhere near actually playing Lee Adama, he is grateful for everything the role of Anders gave him: from an amazing onset experience, to the group of friends they are today and who still come together multiple times a year.
“Galactica, Starbuck. The forward section of the port flight pod has sustained heavy damage. Galactica, you’ve got violent decompression all along the port flight pod, do you read me? Galactica?”
The bane of Katee Sackhoff’s existence during the filming of the miniseries. The one line she refers to as the one she couldn’t get right and that got her to stick her lines on the Viper cockpit. She has no problems saying it today as if she’d just memorized the line yesterday, but onset it was a different story.
Other favorite moments include Tricia Helfer and James Callis’ first day of filming together. Tricia mentioned leather being difficult to disrobe and how her and James practiced it multiple times, also kissing on the first day during rehearsals to break the ice. James Callis admitted that the icebreaker had given them both a great source of confidence to trust each other.
Mary McDonnell can laugh about it now, but told the story of how her and Katee Sackhoff feared getting fired in one of their first scenes together (Leoben being airlocked ~ Season 1, Episode 8: “Flesh and Bone”), as they couldn’t contain laughing for several straight hours. She’s had multiple “favorite moments” coming and going in recent years, right now she’s going with “I’m coming for all of you” (Season 4, Episode 14: “Blood on the Scales”) because it really portrayed Laura Roslin as a strong woman capable of making difficult decisions.
Tricia Helfer acknowledged that she tried to put something different into every Six she played. One of the points where she believes Six foreshadowed Cylons being more than mankind originally thought, was when she snapped the babies’ neck in the miniseries.
Michael Trucco and Katee Sackhoff both pitched in as he described “inventing Pyramid” together (Season 2, episode 4: “The Resistance”). The director had asked them to “Throw the ball around, sexy-like…you’re falling in love with each other.” Eventually filming the Pyramid scene would take them a few hours with little more to go on than “The tiny volleyball needs to go in the hole of the big iron triangle.” Which is why they (kind of) credit themselves as the inventors of RDM-Pyramid. (note: “Pyramid” in Battlestar Galactica 1978 is not the same as “Pyramid” in the reimagined series. The TOS version of the game is actually what is known as “Triad” in the RDM-version. To find out more on the (RDM) game of Pyramid VS the game of Triad, click)
A unanimous favorite among cast and crew is the miniseries “So Say We All”-speech as it brought a sense of unity and seriousness. The speech got everyone to focus on what they were doing. James Callis called it the pivotal moment in which they all became a family. According to Edward James Olmos: “This is the best usage of television I’ve ever been a part of in my life — and I’ve been a part of some good ones. I don’t think I’ll ever do another show like this again in my lifetime. I was lucky I got one, ever.”
A fun, and also a bit confusing, moment when, as a surprise, a big screen is lowered on the stage (jokingly having some of the cast duck for cover). Jamie Bamber is being skyped-in from France at around 3 AM local time after having spent the day at his daughters’ birthday party. Everyone joins together near the camera to say heartfelt “hello’s” Unfortunately the connection isn’t great.
The room bursts out in one of many applauses when Mary McDonnell takes the word during the closing question of the evening. Asking the question what the things are the cast take away from “All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again”, Mary responds with the hope of global unification, somewhat echoing Edward James Olmos’ United Nations “There’s only one race, the human race” speech, brought to current times.
One of the more “goosebump”-moments of the evening happened at the very end of the panel – and for this we want you to use your imagination (or just watch the attached video, courtesy by Nick Maslow, shared on twitter).
Imagine: a semi-dark 1200+ seat theatre, packed to the rafters. The guests of honor walk towards the front of the stage. Edward James Olmos takes the microphone and shouts – how else could it end? – “So Say We All”, to which the entire room responds in unison. This happening three-fold, each time intensifying in volume.
— Nick Maslow (@nickmaslow) June 11, 2017
And that is exactly what happened.
Fargo panel with Mary McDonnell – June 9 2017 Paramount Theatre, Austin Texas.
Note: Since our plane was delayed, partial quotations from this panel’s portion of the article are part of this deadline article http://deadline.com/2017/06/kyra-sedgwick-mara-brock-akil-liz-tigelaar-atx-1202110881/
To kick off an eventful series of appearances, Mary McDonnell was a (near) last minute announcement to the “Fargo” Panel, happening the Friday of ATX. The panel, moderated by Dan Fienberg of the Hollywood Reporter was a much anticipated one, where Mary was announced June 4. Alongside Mary, the show’s executive producers Noah Hawley and John Cameron and fellow cast member Michael Stuhlbahg were also present.
At the well-attended panel, showrunner Noah Hawley spoke about being unsure of the series renewal every year and how challenging it was to come up with storylines, adding that he would only venture into another season if he found ideas for it… and if FX would have them return.
Prior to the panel, upon the announcement of her surprise casting, Mary McDonnell told EW: “We all love the show, but when you get the scripts and see the specificity of Noah Hawley’s work, he has this way of being simultaneously real and practical and mysterious at the same time,” adding: “I feel so lucky. I’ve been in outer space [in Battlestar Galactica] and worked for the LAPD [in Major Crimes] and now been out in the prairie. And in each instance, you can’t believe how specific the world is. Everything in Fargo resonates with me in terms of the type of America this is — how the people speak, what their lifestyles are like, how they interact with dilemmas. It’s all regional and absolutely specific to that world.”
Also on Friday, Mary Mcdonnell was added to the lineup of “Complex, not complicated: A look at a woman’s character”. The star studded panel where Mary was joined by her “The Closer” collegue Kyra Sedgwick, “Sweet/Vicious” creator Jennifer Kaytin Robinson and actress Taylor Dearden, “Casual”s Liz Tigelaar and “Being Mary Jane”’s Mara Brock Akil quickly became a testament to breaking the current status-quo of male-female inequality in the entertainment industry.
DL quote: Mary McDonnell raised the fact that as an actor, she’s often received emotional direction that seemed way off base. “The thing you had to do immediately was to cross out every emotional stage direction,” she said, “because they would say things like this: ‘She’s very angry, she’s enraged, but she doesn’t show it,’ or, ‘This woman is an incredibly strong matriarch, she’s been through this, she’s been through that, but she’s so vulnerable.’ First of all, we don’t need to you describe emotional states of character, just write her and we’ll bring it. There was such a fear of women going beyond what felt comfortable, so if you had a scene where you were angry back in the old days, you could count on how long it would take for them to come up to you and say, ‘Just be smaller, and, you know, your anger is really powerful but it’s not very attractive.”
“We don’t need to you describe emotional states of character, just write her and we’ll bring it,” McDonnell said of working with men who’ve micromanaged her.
Unfortunately the panel also laid bare that sexism in the entertainment industry is still not a thing from the past. From being judged by looks and age, to being called out for capabilities and professionalism, Taylor Bearden raised that it still happens in the industry today and that young actors are still subjected to it. Oftentimes, today’s film and television still represents and shows women in an unnatural way.
“From Actor to “Action!” – June 10 2017 Google Fiber Space, Austin Texas
The lion’s share of panels and events with Battlestar Galactica cast present, however, happened on Saturday. Joining “The Closer” star Kyra Sedgwick, “Suits”’ Patrick J Adams, “Sons of Anarchy”’s Adam Orkin and “Thirtysomething”’s Ken Olin, Edward James Olmos discussed the challenges and difficulties in making the transition from actor to director in “From Actor to “Action!”.
The Google Fiber Space building hosted and the ATX crowds represented. It became clear that the step from acting to directing isn’t one to take lightly. Kyra Sedgwick admitted that she – at first – didn’t want to do it at all. She hated the idea of directing and only warmed to it when she felt enthralled to tell a story she really wanted to get out. “Story of a Girl” is Kyra Sedgwick’s directoral debut and also stars her husband Kevin Bacon, and daughter Sosie Bacon.
Edward James Olmos spoke about how he learnt directing out of a necessity, just as he learnt most everything else in the entertainment industry out of necessity. “Stand and Deliver”, the critically acclaimed 1988 monster hit which didn’t only star Edward James Olmos but also had him producing, wasn’t getting picked up by production companies. “I went in to pitch it to the networks and studios but selling a movie saying: “I want to make a movie about a teacher who helps kids prepare for a test” doesn’t really work. They’re not interested”. He added the importance of standing up for yourself in the industry.
Patrick J. Adams was welcomed to applause when he announced he will direct the 100th episode of “Suits and discussed the difference between being a show producer and a director. “Being added to the producer roll is more of a vanity title. You get to see the scripts in advance but you don’t really have more of a say. It shows the showrunner’s appreciation towards the contributions you made to the show. Being a director is nothing like that, you really have to work for it and that episode you’re directing will become your life for the next 3 weeks.”
Understanding the Enemy – June 10 2017, SFA Ballroom, Austin Texas
Onto the afternoon where Battlestar Galactica’s executive producer Ronald D. Moore joined the “Understanding the enemy” panel together with Joe Weisberg (The Americans), Joel Fields (The Americans), Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica), Graham Yost (Sneaky Pete) and moderator, IGN’s Eric Goldman. Point of discussion: writing an enemy that is evil but relatable… but maybe not too evil.
A common element of humanity that spans generations of social and cultural interactions, and is deeply embedded in our DNA, is the concept of the “enemy” (or the “other”) that we all must face. Whether it is external or internal, this conflict continues to grip us as we explore the meaning of our own enemy: what it means to be one, to have one, and ultimately, understand and see the “other” as human. These writers discuss the questions they’re forced to confront in crafting “both sides” of a story, exploring human and character motivations in creating understanding, challenging notions of “good” and “bad,” and how they have to abandon (or reconsider) preconceived notions of “who” is the enemy. [ATX]
As an interesting analogy, Joe Weisberg – creator and executive producer of “The Americans” as well as a former CIA officer – compared the KGB to the CIA. While the style of the two organizations varies, the officers of both sides feel almost identically about their cause, their country and their patriotism and people will always compromise when they feel very strongly about a cause they believe in.
When Ronald D. Moore was asked about the interesting evolution from robotic cylons to the human variety, he said it grew generically and how the decision came through discussion on the logical evolution of the species as they saw themselves as humanity’s children. When asked about the challenges “Outlander” brings as a writer for an “evil” character, the importance of bringing humane characteristics into the “bad guys” was brought up. Evil characters don’t see themselves as evil and bringing humane traits adds interesting layers of conflict.
One thing all agreed on was that the best sort of “writing for evil” happens when people get so caught up in the story, they forget that character’s a bad guy.
One Battlestar Galactica scene Ronald D. Moore described as being difficult to pass by the network [Scifi network] is one that interestingly enough Tricia Helfer brought up later that day during the Battlestar Galactica reunion as well. The [spoiler if you haven’t seen The Miniseries] “snapping the baby neck” scene was something both Ronald D. Moore and Tricia Helfer wanted in the series while the networks thought it perhaps went too far. Laughs were shared when Ron brought up that people in the writer room don’t really care if it’s “too evil”, it’s the studios and networks that do.
One of the biggest discussions in the Battlestar Galactica writers room came while crafting storylines for the series 6th episode of the 3rd season: “Torn” where humans have the opportunity to commit genocide to the Cylon race by the use of a Cylon killing disease after Athena and Racetrack discover an infected basestar in the Lion’s Head Nebula (biological warfare). Figuring out who would side with agreeing with the genocide and who wouldn’t, turned out to be a source for debate among the crew. When asked about the use of Cylons on the show, he said he never anticipated at the onset to spend so much time in the Cylon World. In the beginning of the show, you see Cylons scarcely outside of Raiders and Basestars however throughout the seasons, there’s the interiors of the baseships, the cylon homeworld, the cylon infrastructures that get explored etc.
Links and good-to-knows
Since the end of ATX Festival, several official links and articles have come out.
A few days ago we also uploaded our own photostream album, which you can find by clicking the following image – Still to be uploaded: an interview with Ronald D. Moore and red carpet outtakes!
Be on the lookout for the Entertainment Weekly Magazine with the following cover, as it covers the Battlestar Galactica reunion in full:
Also click on the below image for the official People.com/Entertainment Weekly special
ATX Television Festival has currently released most of the panels from this year’s festival online (click image to find them)
ATX Television Festival “Closing Night Battlestar Galactica Reunion” album (click on image):
On a personal note
To say that the previous weekend was a whirlwind experience would be an understatement. We were on our flight home from our Tulip Ride-trip when the announcement and press release to the ATX/EW Battlestar Galactica reunion appeared in our inbox so getting everything arranged and organized was both exciting and reinvigorating.
We wish we could have attended the Friday and Sunday panels, but flight delays all over the Texas region (Friday) and an early flight (Sunday) unfortunately prevented us from doing so.
Thanks and Credits
We would like to thank ATX Television festival and the people of Sunshine Sachs for the open communication and amazing chance to cover the Battlestar Galactica event and the red carpet.
All photos and videos used are © Evelien, Dorien Verheyen/ Battlestar Galactica Museum unless otherwise credited! Use of photos and videos is allowed only with previous agreement. Please contact email@example.com for usage.