Tricia Helfer, living legend of the Sci Fi landscape, is coming to Australia very, very soon. As I’m based in Sydney, I was lucky enough to have a chat on the phone with her before she comes to our fair town as a guest of Supanova in Sydney at The Dome on June 16-17, and then on to Perth, at the Claremont Showgrounds, June 23-24.
Hopefully we’ll be chatting with her very soon for The Sci Fi Show. Fingers crossed.
If you didn’t know that she created the central role of Six in what is generally regarded as the best Sci Fi TV series ever made, the revamped Battlestar Galactica, then you may not be as excited as your usual Sci Fi fan. Her character was literally at the beginning and the end of Ron Moore & David Eick’s epic achievement.
Tricia has guest-starred on Human Target, Chuck, Lie To Me Warehouse 13, Supernatural, Burn Notice and has done voice work on Mass Effect 2 & 3 (as EDI), Halo: ODST, Starcraft 2 and the brand new TRON: Uprising.
In any case, you can learn a little bit more about the actress behind everyone’s favourite sexy lethal (and sometimes invisible) Cylon in this casual chat, where she reveals, among other things, her literally neck-breaking experiences in aeroplanes, riding around on motorcycles with Starbuck and that she is, in fact, a crazy cat lady, which is a tremendous juxtaposition when you’ve made a name for yourself playing robots*.
Grace Park with Tricia Helfer
OH: Hello Tricia, how are you?
TH: I’m good thanks. How are you?
OH: Very well, thank you. It’s been a long time since we last spoke. I was in Sweden the last time we were talking about the season finale of Battlestar Galactica.
TH: Oh wow.
OH: The first question everybody wants to know is ‘How would Tricia Helfer survive the Zombie Holocaust?’
TH: (laughs) Oh gosh, I don’t know. I’m a bit of a tomboy so I would certainly do my best to fight them. But without an arsenal of weaponry at my beck and call I would probably succumb to them. I would join all the zombies in becoming one.
OH: Of course I have to ask you about Battlestar Galactica – which I apologise sincerely for, but we’ve got one question which is about the finale of BSG: how do you feel now about how it all finished up after all these years with your final conversation with Baltar (James Callis)?
TH: At the time our whole cast really liked the finale and I can’t speak for everyone, but I think we’re all still in the same opinion of that. The finale seemed to be very polarizing to fans and crew, but you can’t please everyone. But I think we did something right when the cast, creators and crew all felt good about it. It must have felt organic to us somehow. I’d like to think that Baltar and Caprica Six are the farmers that they said they were going to be.. well they’d be dead by now (laughs).
Well, Caprica wouldn’t, but Baltar would. But I hope they would have enjoyed being where they finally ended up which is somewhere together and not running.
Tricia with co-star James Callis (Baltar). He’d be dead now.
OH: Do you ever wonder what Caprica’s doing now? Whether she’s just looking in the background, watching these humans wandering around?
TH: You know I’ve never actually gotten that question. She would have either gotten killed – because there was no resurrection ship around and maybe she was impaled by a wild boar or killed herself when Baltar got old and passed away, or maybe she had a child. She realised her true love and had a child and has been watching her children who – generations later, have grown up.
OH: I’m sure there’s some Battlestar Galactica fan fiction that settles that question on the internet right now. Now, in terms of Zombie Holocausts, I think the person you probably need by your side would be Katee Sackhoff’s Starbuck. The last time we spoke we were talking about finally getting motorcycles since you were finally allowed to get your hogs and take off around the 405. Now this has become very much a side project with Acting Outlaws. Can you tell me how much fun that is and what kind of things you’ve helped achieve through Acting Outlaws?
TH: It’s so much fun. Katee and I really enjoy motorcycle riding and we had this group of people that we all learned to ride with. Also Michael Trucco – who played Anders, is in our group. It’s just a lot of fun and Acting Outlaws is something that Katee and I starred in with a long-term goal in mind. I mean, certainly with her being away for work and me being away for work is that it’s hard to do a lot of projects, but our biggest one to date is actually going to be released next week when I’m flying to Australia. So I’ll be able to speak about it more with the exact release date just on our own website.
Its just our own little thing. We funded it ourselves and we’re just releasing it on digital download. We rode motorcycles from Los Angeles to New Orleans and tried to raise money in awareness for the continued cleanup of the BP oil spill in Louisiana. Katee and I had close connections with Louisiana since my husband’s from New Orleans and Katee’s boyfriend is from New Orleans. None of the money went to us. It was a ‘Text to Donate’ campaign that we kind of tagged onto in that they had already set it up. Anyone who donated to that because of us went straight to the Gulf Restoration Network.
So we’ve had a lot of fun doing it. I have a lot more respect for the editing process now after trying to do it myself, though I’d work with an editor on the documentary. We had a lot of trouble trying to edit it and really find what the story was while trying to insert humor in a serious documentary whilst also adding a road trip. In trying to marry the two it can be quite hard to find the right tone.
Acting Outlaws – Before
OH: You did mention that you are coming out to Australia and this won’t be the first time that you’ve met Australians. I believe you know Michael Rymer reasonably well.
TH: (laughs) Yes, I know Rymer well. I’ve actually been to Australia once as well.
OH: Having been to Australia and knowing the Australianess of Michael Rymer, do you feel that had any impact on Battlestar Galactica? Do you feel there were moments during shooting where you and he would have discussions about your character and then you realised (some of the influences) when you came out to Australia?
TH: When I was in Australia – it was probably fifteen years ago when I was modeling in Sydney, I was shocked by how similar Canadians and Australians are, so I felt home there immediately. We filmed in Canada and so that helped a little bit with Michael’s relationship there. Michael’s great. He’s an amazing talent and somebody that just tells you straight what they are thinking. And we all had fun making fun of his accent. I think every cast and crew member had at one point done a Rymer impersonation.
OH: How is your Australian accent coming along?
TH: (laughs) It’s not very good. I sometimes get mistaken for being Southern or Australian and I don’t know why because I certainly don’t have an Australian accent. But I get to say one or two words that are similar. And I get guessed for being Australian every once in a while.
Acting Outlaws – After
OH: There was another fan question about you possibly playing the She-Hulk in another Avengers movie – which is a bit specific, but I think a broader question might be ‘Were you to be given the choice of a superheroine, is there something that you’ve grown up with that you think “Damn! That IS ME!”‘
TH: To answer the first part of the question, obviously anything to do with The Avengers and the huge success that it’s been means that I would have signed on to be a walk-on part (laughs) and also the chance to work with Joss Whedon – who I met in my very first few days out in L.A ten years ago, who is just an amazing talent and a really great guy so I’m really happy for his success with the movie.
I don’t know She-Hulk. I’ve never actually heard of She-Hulk, but if they wanted me I would jump at the chance of course! But I do watch a lot of television and very, very few movies.
I grew up on a farm in rural Canada and I don’t think there was a comic book store within two hundred miles of it. So I really am very ignorant when it comes to pop culture from my childhood. But I have to say that I’m a huge animal person and I’m a big crazy cat lady. I have a lot of cats so I’d probably have to be Catwoman. I mean, I am her. I have a bazillion cats and work with animal charities, so I would probably have to be Catwoman.
OH: Fantastic. If we’ve learned anything from this interview that’s important, it’s that you’re a crazy cat lady.
Tricia Helfer chatting to fans. She’s like that.
OH: Now, we did discuss the intricacies of Battlestar Galactica many years ago and I was impressed just how much of a student of that story and that world you were and hearing about your background, it’s so incredibly different to where you’re from. So thinking about the acting gig of acting robots in voice work with EDI (Mass Effect) and obviously Six, I have to ask where you go in your head to become an inhuman human?
TH: Yeah it’s funny, because with Battlestar, EDI and playing the grid in TRON: Uprising and even my role in StarCraft where – even though my character isn’t a robot, she’s a bit of an alien creature, for me it really is imagination because although I don’t see myself as a very imaginative person, I don’t have the basis to fall back on because I didn’t grow up watching anything.
When Michael Rymer invented this character, they were explaining how they envisioned this scene was meant to go and would reference the movie. Everybody else would hear that and be like ‘Yeah, okay. Got it’, while my face was blank because I’d never seen it. So they always had to explain it to me differently and give me more than just references to the movie. I think in one way it’s kind of liberating because you’re not trying to follow what’s been before. I think that at the end of the day acting is entirely emotional. It’s all intuitive and I’ve only been doing it for ten years and so I’ve got a long way to go yet and a lot to learn.
But apart from taking some classes in New York, I’m not classically trained or anything, so I think it’s just something that you have or you don’t have – this innate ability to open yourself and your emotions up and let the people in. You always have to connect to your character.
Even if your character is a robot, you have to connect to it and I guess you just have to find those connections even if it’s playing a robot. You have to find what makes them tick. I can continue playing robots until some more roles come along (laughs).
Tricia Helfer – Wine Pourer
OH: You’re going to be on a flight out to Australia soon and I think you’re the one person in the world who knows the dangers of sitting in an airline seat. I was reading a little snippet that says you have artificial discs in your back and neck because luggage had dropped down on top of you from the luggage compartment. Is that true?
TH: Yes. I have four artificial discs. Two in my neck and two in my lumbar that were not just from that particular accident, but from a multitude of things like doing my own stunts and growing up very athletic and throwing my body around on the volley ball court and things like that. But anyway, somebody tried to lean over the seat and pull on their heavy carry-on trolley and all forty pounds of it just slammed down on my head and that solidified the next surgery. So it’s definitely dangerous.
I know they say your luggage can move, but people really need to be aware that their things can move. But this guy was just being an idiot and an asshole and somehow thought he could lift forty pounds with one arm over the top of a seat, instead of getting into the aisle. So yeah, it wasn’t a fun experience.
OH: Well hopefully when you come out here we’ll do a PSA for airline passengers to become more asshole aware.
TH: (laughs) That would be a good idea!
OH: Well Tricia, it’s always a pleasure to speak to you even if this is only the second time I’ve done it. Hopefully we’ll have a chat with you when you come out and I hope you have fun in Australia.
TH: I will. Thankyou very much.
* I use the term ‘robots’ in the loosest, most offensive-to-people-who-know-the-difference-between-cyborgs-and-androids-and-sentient-non-human-humanoid-lifeforms sense for style and brevity reasons alone. Sorry.