[04/20/09 - 07:00 PM]
Live at the Paley Festival: Sci Fi's "Battlestar Galactica/Caprica"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: As always, due to the Paley Festival's policy of not allowing electronic devices during the panels, I won't be blogging the event "live." Plus, I don't want to be the douche with a laptop clicking away when everyone's trying to enjoy the show. In any case, look for my handwritten blog - how 20th century - to be transcribed and appear around 11:00 PM PT each night. And if I'm feeling adventurous, you might get a few tweets from the after parties.]

7:01 PM - Tonight's legacy clip comes from 1964's "The Demon With a Glass Hand" episode of "The Outer Limits." It elicits all sorts of giggles from the audience due to its 1964-ness.

7:09 PM - Paleyfest acolyte Craig Hitchcock welcomes us to night 10 (whew!) of this year's festival. He notes that we'll be seeing the pilot to "Caprica" in just a bit.

7:12 PM - Craig in turn brings out tonight's moderator, Seth Green, who's sporting a purple mohawk and a cast on his arm. He excitedly espouses his love of the BSG.

7:15 PM - Ron Moore and David Eick then take the stage to intro "Caprica." They sing the praises of co-creator Remi Aubuchon and director Jeffrey Reiner, who unfortunately could not attend. "Remi came to Universal with an idea about artificial intelligence that had nothing to do with 'Battlestar Galactica,' that was completely of his own creativity," Ron notes. "And Universal said, 'Hey, that sounds like something Ron and David might be interested in with 'Caprica' and put us all together. And Remi really is the reason why we're all here today."

7:17 PM - David says he'd be remised not to start the screening without a little libation as they did for the "Battlestar" premiere six years ago. "We were very careful in those days to do it in private because we had a lot of dignity and a lot of self-respect. But that's all changed now." He then produces a flask and invites Ron take a shot of tequila with him. Ron does and David follows, twice. Seth then volunteers to do one as well. He does. Seriously, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

7:18 PM - And so begins "Caprica." Shameless plug: back in March, we were the first site to ever review a cut of the show.

8:51 PM - The screening wraps with an extended trailer for "The Plan." Good stuff.

8:53 PM - Seth returns to bring out tonight's guests: Magda Apanowicz! Alessandra Torressani! Esai Morales! Eric Stoltz! Grace Park! Tricia Helfer! Jane Espenson! Paula Malcomson! (Paula gives Seth a spanking for skipping over her.) And of course Ron Moore and David Eick!

8:55 PM - Seth asks about the show's humble beginnings. "They had all these space opera shows on the air," David explains about their first meetings with Sci Fi. "And when the title floated their way, they said great, 'Battlestar Galactica' - we own it, we can make money off of it, there's a lot of value to it but why does the world need another space opera? And a weird way, their agenda and our agenda coincided because we felt the same way. We both were very intrigued and driven by the idea of science fiction as an allegory for our times, as a metaphor for our reality, as something that we deeper and more adult and more sophisticated than just summer action escapism. And it was the very thing the channel, the network needed to rationalize or justify spending all this money on another space opera."

8:57 PM - Ron on when they knew they had a success: "The day after the second part of the mini-series was broadcast. Because what traditionally happens in mini-series is you show part one, it hits a certain number, then there's always a drop off into night two or part two. It's expected. Because after the night one ratings came in, we had a big conference call with David and I, the studio, the network, you know, going over the ratings, the overnights of night one and the entire conversation was about what's going to be the drop off into night two, how much are we going to drop, if we drop to this it's really bad, if you drop to this you're crazy, but it's really amazing, and where's it gonna be? And the day after the second part aired, the number actually went up. And no one had ever experienced anything like this and there was this sort of like stunned group on the phone [the next day]."

8:59 PM - Seth wonders if the guys really had "a plan" for the show as noted in the opening credits. "I just remember this conversation Ron and I had," David reveals. "I was in the editing room, Ron was in his car on the way there and we were building the main title. And it ended with, 'And they have a plan.' And Ron was saying, 'Are you sure we want to do that?'" Ron interrupts, "I actually said, 'There is no fucking plan!'" David continues, "And I said, 'You know, it's good to say that, it's a good idea. It'll sort of coalesce the nature of this thing in such a way that it won't feel bullshitty, it won't feel like we were making it up as we go along. [Laughs.] And so at the last second we sort of agreed to do it and the idea that this last [movie] is called 'The Plan' is just like... [Laughs.]."

9:00 PM - Ron on the show's ending: "Part of the idea of ending 'Battlestar' the way we did was always, we always talked about a way of bending the show back towards its relevance to today and who we are and who we are as human beings. Because we always saw the show as something that was relevant and we wanted to sort of view our culture and society through science fiction prisms so the idea of at the very end, connecting it finally to what we were was something that was very important to us."

9:01 PM - Seth asks about the guys' religious backgrounds: "I'm aggressively agnostic," Ron admits. "I was raised Roman Catholic. I went through periods of atheism and then interesting Eastern religions, like most people in Hollywood. And I came to a place where I just realized I really didn't know what the hell it was all about and I just sort of wanted to then make a show that was about a lot of people who were grasping for ideas and for answers. And I was fascinated with the notion of the clash of civilizations between a monotheistic culture and a polytheistic culture, which is all about the unknowable, about why we're here, what's it all about and what happens after we die. And if people are willing to kill each other over that basic concept, which you can never prove and never understand, and yet we both end our lives fighting largely about that big idea."

9:03 PM - David adds: "But religion in today's television culture is slightly short of [sexual] penetration in terms of what you can speak to..." Paula quips, "He's been dying to say penetration all night." "You can't," David continues. "And we were encouraged in an ironic way, again by Michael Jackson [no relation], who said, when he read a line of dialogue... where Number Six said, 'God is love' and said, 'Wow, more of that! Terrorists who associate their agenda with religion? Love it. Keep it coming.'"

9:05 PM - "I think there was always an interest in the show about, you know, this sort of post-apocalyptic world where when everything you had counted on and everything you felt was stable and solid was suddenly taken away from you and what would you try and hang on to and what were the elements of your culture that you would try and retain in those circumstances," Ron muses about the show. "And all the way through the show, right up until the end, the feeling was, well, let's take away more. Let's make it harder. Let's call this into question. Let's really put you in places where you said, 'Okay the world is over but we're going to hang onto this, now let's take this away from you and see where you go from there.' And so at the very end it was, it was important... that as they face the [prospect that] Galactica itself is going to be gone and the world they knew was going to be over, they're still making plans for Gaeta to be admiral of the fleet and Romo to be the president. It still, no matter how many survivors [they're still pressing on]."

9:06 PM - Seth asks if the "dying leader" was ever intended to be anyone else but Laura. "I always thought it was Roslin," Ron confesses. "But I thought and encouraged that their were alternate theories, that there were ways that you could read it where it was possibly Adama, possibly Starbuck and possibly it was Galactica itself." He later adds, "Initially and for quite a while [the thinking] was that she was not going to make it to the promised land. When I talked to Mary, in the first conversation, I said, 'You're going to be Moses and you're not going to make it to Earth. You'll die just before they get there.' And that was always sort of part of the concept. And as we got towards the end I just sort of thought that I didn't want that to be the end."

9:07 PM - "I didn't know that until I read the script," David notes. "Because the last conversation we had about it she didn't make it. And in the last two - well it became four hours, in Ron Moore speak it was a two hour script - she did and, you know, died in this very elegant sort of way at the very last moment. I thought it was a way of sort of abiding by the original concept and yet giving the audience something to feel connected to. You just wanted her to get there."

9:09 PM - Seth asks the guys about who Head Six, Head Baltar and Kara - "I'm just gonna go ahead and say that Kara Thrace is an angel and not just hiding in the grass," Seth amusingly notes - ultimately were. "That's the kind of thing she would do," Ron quips back. "The prophecy is she will bring humanity to its end, and she did. She brought them to the original Earth... she certainly fulfilled that part of her destiny. I think that overall my thinking on [Head Six], the original idea was not to know whether she was a chip in [Baltar's] head or she was a hallucination of his subconscious. And the first year of the show I was really invested in the idea that she was a manifestation of Baltar's subconscious, that he was essentially driven mad over the guilt about what he'd done, which is the genocide of his entire people, that she was essentially his own voice speaking to him...

9:10 PM - ...But even as I said that I was working in sort of plotlines along the course of the first season that sort of suggested there was something else happening. And as time went on and as we got into the third act of the show, I started to come around to the idea that she couldn't just be a manifestation of a man gone mad, that she had to be something more. There was some other presence, some other force, something else at work in the show that had to be justified and be validated or else what was all that about?"

9:12 PM - Ron gives some more insights into the show's unexplainable aspects: "There was an expression we used in the writers' room over and over again when we would talk about [the hybrid who] babbled craziness as she controlled the Cylon base ships. And we always talked about the idea that the hybrid sort of could look into a level of existence above our own and just the mere fact, sort of rising through the surface of that water and seeing something greater drove her mad and that she couldn't really explain it to us in any rational terms. And so there was a sense of there being something else that human beings could sort of see on a certain levels and not understand. And that we in Galactica were going to see sort of small shafts of light that came down from this other plane. And we would see them and experience them perfectly and never be able to truly understand what that was all about. And the more that I thought we reached toward a definitive explanation - she's an angel, she's a demon, she's a this, she's a that - the less interesting it became."

9:14 PM - Jane puts it in simpler terms: "I like that science fiction is open to interpretation and that the answers aren't all nailed down."

9:15 PM - Tricia on playing multiple versions of Six: "The first one really was Shelly Godfrey and that was [the episode] 'Six Degrees of Separation.' And I remember talking to Ron, going, 'She's written differently, can I play her differently? Can I do that?' And up until that point it had been Head Six, which I didn't understand who she was at that point. I was just playing her. I didn't understand until I watched the finale. [Laughs.]"

9:18 PM - Seth asks about Gaeta and how his arc came about. "Gaeta was one of the characters that writers tended to give interesting bits to whether they were in the outlines or not," Ron notes. "You would often read drafts and there was always something for Gaeta." David adds, "The actor too has something to do with that. You know, if Gary Burghoff in 'M*A*S*H' had been responsible for coordinating an attack on the United States by the North Koreans, you would have gone 'Radar is the one?' And we had that option with this actor because he was so versatile and he started off being sort of, you know, Sulu. And by the end, he had really sort of evolved into this very multi-dimensional actor."

9:19 PM - Jane once again breaks it down: "It's one of my favorite things to do - to take a secondary or tertiary character and put them in the center. Nobody in real life is a supporting character. Everyone's the hero in their own story so we can tell those stories. And they're often the most interesting stories because they're a character you've never looked closely at before." Seth adds, "Being a character actor I totally agree."

9:22 PM - Ron on the much-ballyhooed Daniel Cylon model: "There's really not much to that." Jane explains: "It was a mathematic error that got resolved... we had to explain who the 'seven' was, why there was no 'seven.' We don't know much about how the numbered Cylons were given their names. The only one whose story we know of is number one, Cavil. And we know his name was John and that he was named after Ellen's father. That's how that particularly numbered Cylon got its name. We don't know how the rest of them got named."

9:25 PM - Ron distills the show's creation myth: "Kobol, once upon a time, [was where] man and the gods lived as one. Man stole fire from the gods, which in our case was the secret of AI or artificial intelligence. Humans invented the first Cylons on Kobol and somehow that broke paradise and 12 tribes went that way and the 13th tribe of Cylon went that way. That's essentially the creation myth as we have it."

9:26 PM - Seth asks if we'll see the metallic Cylons, as shown in Caprica, evolve into the "skinjobs" over the course of the show. "'Caprica' takes place well before those events." Seth quips, "You guys aren't going to do 58 seasons?"

9:27 PM - Seth drills the guys about who Kara's dad was on the show. "Kara had a father, Kara had a mother. Her father was a piano player and a musician... and essentially we felt that he had died in the apocalypse along with many others. And in Episode 19 [of the final season], she had an experience with the image, some representation of her father - either as a literal soul who's come back to explain himself to her and guide her on a path or again, her taping some greater reality that you couldn't quite understand, and this was how she was able to sort of perceive it. But in either case it steered her towards a path of realizing an answer that was in front of her, that there was meaning in this music, that there was something greater to it and it wasn't just a meaningless phrase that she repeated over and over again."

9:28 PM - More geeky drilling by Seth, this time about why Leoben bailed on Kara after discovering her body. "I think it was something that David [Weddle] and Bradley [Thompson] came up with," Ron notes, acknowledging them in the crowd. "There was something interesting I kind of recall about here's a guy who appears and says he's your guide, is your spiritual leader and you got to a moment where that guy, the spiritual leader, says, 'I don't know what the fuck is going on.'" He later adds, "Conceptually the 12 Cylons, the initial idea, early in the first season was each of the 12 models represented a mechanistic point of view that said, 'You know, if you boil humanity down, there's really only 12 [types] of them. And these are the 12. And that Leoben was the one who saw the greater puzzles of life, sort of lived in the stream and saw the rivers go by him and was tapped into some greater sort of mystical thing and the rest of them weren't. And there was something interesting about, at the end of the day, that character was then faced with the reality of maybe it's all bullshit."

9:30 PM - Eric on why he joined the show: "Penetration."

9:32 PM - Seth mistakenly mentions that Paula was in "24." She promises more spanking is in his future. "I would welcome it though," Seth notes.

9:33 PM - Seth asks if we'll see any ancestors of the "Battlestar" crew besides the Adamas or as he amusingly puts it, "Are we going to see C-3PO with no armor?" Ron notes, "We talked about that. I think we're going to try real hard and resist that. You never know, never say never, things change when you get into stories." What about flash forwards? "There's no plans to. The intention of 'Caprica' is to make it really its own show. It was really important to us as we created the show to create something that did not that you had to be a fan of 'Battlestar Galactica.' Here is a series that stands on its own, that is part of this larger universe but is not predicated on knowledge of - or love of - the original. That was very important to us." David adds, "The connections to 'Battlestar' should be subtle, Easter egg like, fun but not imperative, not necessary to understand the show."

9:35 PM - Magda admits she had never seen "Battlestar" prior to doing "Caprica": "I really wanted to not watch it and make it our own, just like you said." Alessandra likewise hadn't seen the show, but was attracted to her character: "She's just an incredibly brilliant, strong, powerful young female and there's not a lot of roles out there [like that] anymore for girls my age. And she has such a huge impact on this world, everything. She's just incredible. And who wouldn't want to play Eric Stoltz's daughter?" This freezes Eric like a deer in headlights.

9:36 PM - Seth to Eric: "As a [fellow] redhead, did you find there's a lot of pressure to dye your hair?" Eric to Seth: "And you've gone purple man." Seth: "I have a history of bad hair decisions."

9:38 PM - Everyone sings the praises of director Jeffrey Reiner. "He had enough cameras sort of positioned so that all the sort of self-consciousness of performance went away," Paula notes. "Because it was catching everywhere and that's how we worked so quickly. So as opposed to doing a master and a close-up, we had all that and it was like creating a play and really working and really doing a scene instead of, you know, we've done 13 of those and how was that one and was my close-up good. So it took all the math out of acting. It was really real."

9:43 PM - Seth asks if the guys knew Tigh was one of the Final Five when he poisoned Ellen. In short: no. In long: "The Final Five was a late blooming idea in the show, honestly," Ron says. "It's not how the show was developed. If you want to know how the sausage is made, this is how the sausage is made." What about the CIC, was it always designed as the opera house? Also in short: no. Also in long: "A lot of these were images or thoughts or ideas that were either born in the writers' room, in discussions among the staff or somebody sort of creating them on the page or someone had a suggestion and it sort of worked its way into the fabric of the show. We would say, 'That's an interesting idea, I'm not quite sure what it means but I love the iconography of it.'...

9:44 PM - ...The opera house was something that Michael Rymer, the director, came up with as a place to put Baltar. I don't remember what the original iteration of that was but there were various versions... And then later the challenge of doing a series like this, in my opinion, is then to sort of take those inspirational ideas where you're throwing something against the wall, you think it's pretty, you think it's an interesting place to go, and then to make a mosaic out of that. Say, okay, well, yeah, I heard something here and I didn't know what it meant but now it's a part of the picture and what can I do to make the picture fill in, make the picture interesting. And then how do we get to the opera house? What does the opera house ultimately mean in this circumstance and how can I bend it sort of back to there and give it meaning and make it feel satisfying and make it feel like it was [preordained]...

9:45 PM - ...In my opinion, whether you sit down at the beginning of the project and say, 'I'm now going to map out everything that happens over the arc of this story' and you follow it or you invent it along the way, improvisationally, like jazz or something, either way is valid. And all that really matters is what you end up with. What's the final picture? What is the piece that you're presenting?" Amen Ron.

9:46 PM - David adds, "I lot of guys in your job don't have that discipline. A lot of guys in your job, head writer, say either we're going to map it out so painstakingly and specifically where there's no room for improvisation, jazz is not allowed, or hey let's just make it as we go along man, it's cool, that sounds good, that sounds good. I started writing on this show. I wasn't a writer before 'Battlestar' and one of my most painful and yet I have to say instructive quotes from you was, 'I know that's what we were saying then, this is what we're saying now.'"

9:48 PM - Ron gives their mission statement for "Caprica": "I think our challenge in 'Caprica' is to now break the mold of 'Battlestar.' As much as we love 'Battlestar,' it was an amazing experience, we now have to destroy it. We have to say this show is going to be nothing like that 'Battlestar.' We are going to something completely different. This narrative is not going to follow the same path of that narrative, the style's going to be different, the characters are going to be different, but we're going to take the risk with the audience. We're going to say to the audience, 'We know you love this, we know you're invested in this and we salute you for it. Okay now, here's something literally, completely different.'...

9:49 PM - ...And we're going to lose some people in that transition and we're going to gain other people. And it's not so much about the loss or the gain, it's really about, at the end of the day - which is a terrible expression, are we proud of 'Caprica,' do we feel this is a great show that lives on its own and whether you like 'Battlestar' or not, this has an integrity to it, this has a truth to it and this something we're all going to look back on in 20 years and say, 'I'm glad my name is on 'Caprica.'"

9:50 PM - Seth opens the floor to Q&A. This is turning into a long night.

9:52 PM - A fan asks about "Caprica's" weekly format. "It's serialized," Jane notes. "It's more about the personal lives. They don't have the threat of death breaking down their neck every moment so that you can feel more lived in, you can explore this culture more." Ron adds, "Losing the action is a risk... it's more serialized than 'Battlestar' was. It's an investment in these people. I'm fascinated by stories that are about people and characters and this is truly investing yourself - you either love these characters and you want to follow them every week and see what they do next and there's no Cylons coming in to sort of destroy the Galactica every once in a while, fate and humanity doesn't hang in the balance yet."

9:55 PM - Magda excuses herself to use the restroom, leading to everyone teasing her.

9:57 PM - Someone asks Ron about why Adama leaves his son behind to live on his own in the finale. "The final Adama/Lee scene, I just felt like Adama was not someone who's good at goodbyes or could say goodbye and that he wasn't going to come back. And the line that spoke the strongest to me is when Lee says my earliest memory of my father is him getting on a plane and flying away, wondering when he was going to come back. And that sort of defined their relationship for his entire life. It was a series of goodbyes of his father never really saying goodbye and his father kind of disappearing... And that was probably a character flaw, it was probably a failing of the man but I thought that's who the man was. I thought that he wouldn't leave his son like that, he would probably hug him one last time and get in that Raptor and probably never see him again."

10:00 PM - Ron on watching young Willie grow up with his father on "Caprica": "I think the challenge of the Adama relationship... is to really make it an unexpected journey. I think the most unsatisfying thing would be to start telling stories about Joseph Adama and go, 'Well, obviously A leads to B leads to C and this is how he becomes Admiral Adama.' And I think the fun of that character, that relationship and that relationship is to not understand how you got from A to B because I don't think any of our lives are linear and I don't think that people really, you know, set out from here and clearly, obviously, they end up there. And I think that's going to be the fun of the series is to sort of say, 'Really? Jesus this is how fuckin' Adama got to be the Admiral?"

10:04 PM - Esai, after some prodding, reveals he was up against A. Martinez for the role of Joseph Adama. Other fun reveals: Eric notes that a maid at his hotel stole his script after being paid by a "Battlestar" fan.

10:09 PM - Trivia time. Seth has some "Battlestar" swag and Zunes - tonight's sponsor - to give away to a lucky few.

10:11 PM - Seth asks if it's a coincidence that Ron Moore has long hair and a beard, Baltar has long hair and a beard and Jesus has long hair and a beard. "There really wasn't in my head," Ron notes. "But I cannot tell you how many times people on the set pitches this to me. The camera crew was convinced for quite some time [while filming the finale] that Gaius Baltar was in fact, Jesus Christ."

10:14 PM - That's all folks! I can't recall writing this much in a 24 hour period - I hope you cats enjoy. See you tomorrow!

  [april 2009]  


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