I descended on Hollywood at approximately 4 p.m., with my female companion. (Let’s call her “Scandalous”) Why? Because that’s how we roll. Also, because the L.A. Times Screening Series was presenting a special presentation of the mid-season finale of “Battlestar Galactica” at the Cinerama theater in Hollywood. The Cinerama is a giant, domed, 800-person capacity theater on Sunset Boulevard. It was built in 1963, and with some recent restoration a few years ago, is still in use today.
The event didn’t start until 7 p.m., so we had time to enjoy some $14 dollar hamburgers next door at a hipster bar/restaurant called “Charcoal.” What do you get for $14? Quite a bit of salt, actually.
After stuffing ourselves on salt, we headed back to the theater. Giant banners, each featuring a different character from BSG, adorned the outside walls of the theater. Smaller, light-box, movie-sized posters also lined the walls. A giant banner of the BSG Last Supper was hanging next to the theater’s main sign. A red carpet set-up lined the sidewalk in front of the theater, complete with a giant, life-sized Centurion. Cameramen and spotlights awaited the sign of any arriving stars.
We checked in at the Academy/Guild Check-In, and were given highly secure green armbands, and the most important access key of all, a business card-sized piece of cardboard with the words “Battlestar Galactica” printed on one side. On the other side? A little, yellow, round sticker. This was incapable of being forged! We were warned that we would be denied access if we lost this prized possession.
We checked out the massive general admission line forming in front of the theater. Hundreds of fans (some waiting since 2 p.m.) formed a line which snaked back and forth. Most fans appeared to be in the 25 to 45 year-old range. Mostly men. But quite a few women. Most were dressed in black. (It’s an L.A. thing.) One guy had a “Baltar is my Homeboy” t-shirt on.
Ronald Moore (RDM) showed up around 6 p.m. He was wearing a black suit, a white shirt (unbuttoned at the top) with no tie, and groovy brown shoes. He posed for some photos on the red carpet, including some in front of the Centurion. He chatted a bit with some of the press and then went inside the Cinerama dome. Tricia Helfer showed up a few minutes later. What was she wearing? According to Scandalous: “Christian Louboutin shoes (the hottest shoes right now, not just a celeb thing—expensive!!!) Crossover one shoulder mini dress, burnt orange, silk like fabric (you could tell she did not have a bra on—ie. nipples —someone will dig that), reminiscent of Caprica Six Cut out vixen attire. She accented the dress with a gold link chain belt around her waist.” These descriptions are beyond Cogley’s range of experience. And Cogley is glad about that. I did notice a silver purse, though. She posed for the cameras, as well.
One guy, who bore a disturbing resemblance to Seth Rogen (but much harrier) apparently conned his way into the press line. Scandalous heard him call his buddy and say, “Dude! I tried it and it totally worked! I’m in!” We’ll call him “Hairy Bear Guy.”
Press photographers went up and down the main theater line, and fans whooped and hollered for the cameras.
A few minutes after 6 p.m., security started letting the press in. We showed our high-tech piece of cardboard to the guards, and they allowed us entrance into the giant dome. The theater is gigantic on the inside. Again, it has an 800-person capacity and an 86-foot screen that curves along with the dome. Scandalous and I had easy access to the front row, but I chose the second row instead. First row just looked like we were trying too hard. The theater was divided into two levels. The front half of the theater was the lower level, and was reserved for the press. The back half of the theater was raised, and was reserved for the knuckle draggers (which would have been us if we lost our magic cardboard).
Music from the various BSG soundtracks played in the background. On the screen, various logos cycled through. “Presented by Oil of Olay” “The Sci Fi Channel” “L.A. Times Media Group” “The Envelope Screening Series”
In front of me was some guy named Jim, who apparently has a blog somewhere. He was too cool for the room, slouched in his chair, exuding ennui. A hyperactive, diminutive CBS employee kept buzzing around Jim. You could tell she was a big fan. Jim seemed nonplussed. CBS girl: “I work in T.V. Nobody watches T.V.!” This is how t.v. people talk. She begged Blog Jim to come to her new offices. “There’s food! Vodka!” Blog Jim never even batted an eye. CBS Girl was invisible to Blog Jim. It just wasn’t meant to be. Was Jim going to attend the after-party? CBS Girl wanted to know. Jim wasn’t going to go. He went last year, and it was “lame.” So CBS Girl scored Blog Jim’s magic cardboard pass.
As start time approached, many of the press seats remained empty. Some crafty knuckle draggers decided to sneak down into the press seats. Behind us, in the third row, arrived Highly Effeminate Guy and his two female friends. This group quickly cycled through every topic you would ever find on any decent BSG website. And I mean every topic. All this in about three minutes. They finally settled on the discussion of Cally and her recent death. Girl #1: “I hate Cally! I hope she never comes back!” Girl #2: “She won’t be missed.” I was hoping for access to an airlock myself. Blog Jim was too cool for all of us. Effeminate Guy and the Girls were super geeks. We were somewhere in-between. Or at least, that’s how we’ve decided to self-report.
At 7 p.m., the natives started getting restless. A girl in back yelled “So say we all!” then fell silent.
After a few more minutes, in comes Geoff Boucher, writer for the L.A. Times, and our semi-charming host for the evening. Geoff said “So say we all” a few times, just to see if we would repeat it back to him. Pavlov would have been impressed with our responses.
Tricia Helfer, Katee Sackhoff, Mary McDonnell, and Ronald Moore entered the theater and took seats in the central press area.
Geoff explained that this event was part of the Emmy Screening Series, and that Emmy voters were present in the theater.
Ronald Moore came to the front of the theater and announced that the episode “Revelations” was going to be shown. He asked everyone to raise their right hand and repeat: “I promise to keep the secrets I see tonight.” He added that our DNA had been sampled when we picked up our tickets, and that they knew how to track us down.
Geoff returned to the stage and announced that the evening was sponsored by Olay”¦ “”¦for all you skinjobs.” This received scattered applause and laughter. Blog Jim made no movement.
Next, Geoff introduced Dave Howe, President of the Sci Fi Channel. Dave was a tall, thin, handsome gentleman with an English? accent. He said tonight’s event was an attempt to give “greater attention” and “greater recognition” to BSG. He acknowledged that a lot of Emmy voters were in the crowd, and asked them to take note. Dave also said that he was an “obsessive fan of the show.” He echoed RDM’s request for no recording devices to be used, saying “on pain of death, without the benefit of a resurrection ship,” there were to be no photos taken. It was refreshing to see the president of the channel so supportive of BSG.
He then said we were going to see a brief clip of Sci-Fi Channel’s “Tin Man”, which was also intended to be noticed by the Emmy voters. We watched the “Tin Man” clip. Immediately afterwards, BSG’s mid-season cliffhanger (“Revelations”) was aired.
(For a full breakdown, see my other “Revelations” review thread. It is loaded with spoilers, so only enter if you dare.)
As soon as the episode was over, five black director’s chairs were placed on the small stage at the front of the theater. “Battlestar Galactica” was written prominently on each chair back. Geoff returned to the stage. In his continued attempt at BSG humor, he told the crowd, “I miss Boxey.” Minimal response. “Where’s the daggitt?” Crickets. I was beginning to understand the Zen of Blog Jim.
There was some type of delay with the actors, and Geoff was required to fill time. He wasn’t doing very well. Geoff: “I told myself I was going to get through this without saying “˜frak'” The time was now 8:22 p.m. Finally, the actors entered the room to much applause and took their seats in the director’s chairs. From left to right, Geoff Boucher, Katee Sackhoff, Mary McDonnell, Tricia Helfer, and Ronald D. Moore. We were sitting maybe fifteen feet away from them. Mary was wearing an “age appropriate dress, still playful as it was baby doll style and showed off her legs, kind of a magenta color dress with a black pattern on it and she had on black strappy thong sandal with a kitten heel” (Scandalous). Katee was wearing a “bubblegum pink strapless mini with white pumps” (also Scandalous).
After some initial difficulty with his microphone, RDM introduced Bradley Thompson and David Weddle (writers of “Revelations”). He then introduced the entire writing staff: Mark Verheiden, Mike Taylor, Mike Angeli, Jane Espenson, and “Kevin”. (All were in attendance.)
RDM talked about how they had a Summer retreat for the writers about a year ago, at which time they put a bunch of cards on the board and blocked out the final season.
Sackhoff said that Starbuck, at the start of the season, had “lost everything,” and figured she was “probably a Cylon.” She’s been on an “emotional rollercoaster.” Katee said that she was exhausted after playing Starbuck this year and that she’s “second guessing everything.”
McDonnell said that BSG allowed her to “go inside the depths of one’s subconscious, of one’s soul.” She also said that Roslin “is expanding as she’s fading away.” And of Roslin: “It is an honor to play her.”
Tricia Helfer’s teeth were so white that they blinded Scandalous and I. Geoff asked if people on the street came up to Helfer and asked her for revelations. Helfer seemed to respond in the affirmative, adding that she often has no idea what her character’s lines actually mean. She said that she has learned a lot from Six, being “a bit of an agnostic” herself. Minor clapping. “I don’t know what I’m saying, so I stick to the script.” And “Maybe number Six is helping me. Thanks, Ron.”
RDM, in response to Geoff’s comment about the show seeming so real: That was part of the concept. Part of the pitch. It was a different approach to science fiction, something he calls “naturalistic science fiction.” His idea was to “play the characters very real.” No space hair. No spandex suits. Real phones. His characters are the “misfits, the screwed up people, the people who shouldn’t have the job.”
Sackhoff, on whether she uses the word “˜frak’: “I still like the real word.” [Laughter, followed by feedback from her microphone] Geoff: “That’s the FCC.” [More laughter] Sackhoff has nephews and nieces now, so she has to be careful what she says. She mostly uses the abbreviation “F”. Even so, “Nothin’ works like a good F bomb.” [Laughter] Katee hates the flight suits. Ron took the actors out of the spandex suits and put them in a flight suit that retains no heat. Retains no cold. And then he puts the actors in a box. They are given water, but no “pee zipper.” Katee said she is going to take her flight suit home and bronze it.
Geoff asked Mary about the Roslin / Adama relationship. (I love Mary McDonnell, but she uses a lot of “˜actorspeak’, so bear with me.) “It’s an interesting evolution.” “These two people joined hearts. It’s thrilling. All of that loneliness. Roslin has no girlfriends. No boyfriend. And Eddie is a genius. He makes it easy.”
At this point in the evening, several clips were shown for the Emmy voters, featuring each of the stars: Roslin discussing her mother’s cancer from “Faith”; Adama confronting Starbuck after she almost killed Roslin in “Six of One”; and Natalie talking to Leoben and the Eight about whether they should trust the humans in “Guess What’s Coming to Dinner?” As Mary’s clip was shown, she was the only one on stage not to look at the screen. As Sackhoff’s clip played, she looked back and forth at the screen occasionally.
On the show winding down. Helfer said it’s been a long year. And not in a bad way. She and Katee had been working until midnight last night (in Vancouver), and were going to have to get up at 4 a.m. to catch a plane back to work.
As for the final script. Aaron Douglas read it. Olmos started crying when he read it. “It punched me in the stomach when I read it,” said Helfer. And she was alone on the plane at the time. Realizing her poor word choice, she followed with “My own plane.” [Laughter] McDonnell: “She flies it!” [More laughter]
More from Helfer. This was her first series. That it’s coming to an end “feels odd.” But it’s “great.” She’s “so proud” of the show. McDonnell concurs. When she read the final script, there was “a feeling of adrenaline when it was over.” She was able to “understand the entire saga.” She “is so excited for all of [us]” and can “see the episodes through a new lens.” “I have goosebumps now.” “I saw the next future. Saw its next step into the world.” She is “blown away by Ron Moore.” She seemed to indicate that the finale will give us a new frame of reference which will make us want to watch the whole series again from the beginning, now with a new frame of reference or understanding.
Geoff now opened questions up to the fans.
Are the Final Five assigned specific model numbers? RDM: No.
Is there a direct correlation between all the “12” references and/or any specific Earth gods? RDM: No. The repetition of the 12 theme is intentional, but don’t look for any direct correlation.
How many potential Earth ideas did they have? RDM: There were a few, but most of them got X’ed out rather quickly. RDM had an idea early on what Earth would be like and that stayed constant. But there were a couple of other possibilities.
Which “version” of Starbuck does Katee like most? Katee: “I like when she’s drunk. It’s fun.” [Laughter] She likes all sides of Starbuck for different reasons. She loves working with Callum Keith Rennie (Leoben). She likes the “˜drunk renegade’ version of Starbuck, because it allows her to do anything she wants. She has a specific swagger for that. She also likes Starbuck’s emotional side. She said that the latter half of season four has been so stressful for her that she has been asking family and friends, “Why am I depressed?” “I think I need Xanax!”
Would it be okay if a fan writes Mary’s name in on the ballot for President? Mary: “Only if Hillary is my V.P.” [Mixed applause]
What’s up with the podcasts? RDM: “This has not been a good year for the podcasts.” He’s had technical difficulties. He’s going to do to podcasts tomorrow (today), and then two more after that. He’s going to do them in a studio, to avoid the technical difficulties. Sackhoff: “I wanna hang out at the podcast. Sounds like a really good time.”
On the final episode, RDM: “The final episode was not in my head when I wrote the first episode.” It came to him “midway through season one.” He’s had a “vague idea for certain character’s endings.” At the writer’s retreat, that was the big question: “What is the end?” He had the ultimate epiphany in the shower. He was stuck until he realized that “it’s the characters, stupid.” “It’s not about the plot. It’s about the characters.” He asked how the individual characters got to the end, and then everything else clicked.
When McDonnell read the mini-series, she felt it was “a story people needed.” Helfer “couldn’t put the script down.”
On the issue of multiple gods versus one god. RDM: When revamping the original BSG, there were all these references and names of different gods. He assumed they must be a polytheistic society. Then came Six’s line in the mini: “God is love.” Former network executive Michael Jackson (no relation) liked that line and suggested more religion. From that comment, RDM decided to explore the idea of “one god driving out the many gods.” “It’s not necessarily what the show is trying to say”, it just provides an “interesting background” for the characters. [My translation: Don’t read too much into the specifics of the religious aspects of the show.] Helfer never really knew what that line meant. RDM admitted that he didn’t, either.
Mary pointed out that RDM had just directed his first episode.
A voting member stood up to say that he had cast his vote for BSG. [Applause] He wondered how RDM felt about the show having flown under the radar ““ or the DRADIS ““ and was not noticed by much of the rest of the country. And how would the show have been different if it was on a network? RDM said that the Sci Fi Channel allowed BSG to be a better show. “They let me do the show I wanted to do.” “They believed in it.” They allowed religion and the political stuff. And while there were still some fights about these things, it would have been much more difficult with a network. It would be a totally different show. Sci Fi allowed BSG to be a dark, serialized, edgy, brutal, punch-to-the-gut kind of show.
And as for the show being under the DRADIS? RDM: “I’m not sure how much better this show could be.” With all the fans, the accolades, etc., RDM is very happy. “I wouldn’t be prouder even if ten million people were watching every week.”
When asked if someone in the BSG universe was a Dylan or Shakespeare fan, RDM responded coyly: “All will be revealed.”
What about “Caprica”? RDM: “It’s shooting as we speak in Vancouver. Jeff Reiner (“Friday Night Lights”) is directing it, and Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales will star. RDM visited the set last week. It’s a two-hour back-door pilot. It’s a very different show. It has a very different mood and flavor.
Mary told a hilarious story in which, out of curiosity, she decided to visit the Caprica set. She was still in costume, wearing a nightgown. She had no hair, and was dragging her I.V. along with her. “They were like: “˜Who is this mad woman?'” [Laughter] She said that Caprica is “thrilling.” Katee said that “they all kind of treat us like our parents.” McDonnell: “I could be! They’re very young.” “They’re shooting our past.”
A female fan asked RDM when he decided to make Starbuck a “chick”. Sackhoff: “Why not a woman? Why a “˜chick’?” RDM: “It was the first thing I thought of.” He enjoyed the Apollo/Starbuck dynamic of the original show, but he felt that dynamic had been done to death on a number of shows. Making Starbuck a woman instantly makes that dynamic interesting again.
On playing a cancer patient. Mary: The make-up department makes her job easy. Even when she’s wearing a head scarf, they still do the bald make-up underneath. Fans with cancer like that Mary shows a character who is dying, but can still maintain her job.
On the potential 3 tele-movies (a la “Razor”)? Rumor or truth? RDM: “Both.” There has been talk about “another project”, but it is in the “early talking stages.”
And with that, the question and answer period came to an end. The theater emptied. I chatted with one of the official videographers for the event, while Scandalous snagged RDM’s discarded, half-empty water bottle. (“So we can clone him.”)
Next, it was time for the press reception in the bar inside the main Arclight Theater (behind the dome).
We clutched our magic little cardboard tickets in our grubby little hands and marched into the theater lobby. Security guards took our tickets and ushered us up into the second level bar. It was a mass of people, probably two hundred, jammed into a fairly small area. There was a large bar area with a dividing wall fifteen feet in front of it, and behind the wall was a collection of standing bar tables and booths. In front of the wall, facing the bar, was the seven foot tall Centurion from earlier in the evening. Fred Barton is the designer of the statue, and also its chaperone for the night. He stood guard while many of us took cheesy pictures in front of it. One girl who looked like a model stood in front of the Centurion for what seemed like forever, with no intention of ever having her picture taken with it. I was cockblocked! Fred also handed out business cards and offered to sell the statue to people for just under eight thousand dollars. “How many did you make?” I asked. Fred: “Don’t you worry about that. You want one? I’ll make sure you get one.” I decided to sleep on it. Forever. Fred looked like a cross between a carnival ride operator and a strip joint manager.
The area with the tables in the back was populated mostly by the younger crowd. The area in front of the bar was jammed with the celebrities and their hangers-on. I walked up to the bar and ordered drinks for Scandalous and myself. Scotch and soda for me. Cranberry and vodka for Scandalous. When the bartender reached for the bottles on the top shelf, I braced myself for the damage. When the total cost turned out to be zero, I knew there would be many more scotch and sodas ahead.
Tricia Helfer stayed close to the bar most of the night. She was surrounded by her peeps, and mostly kept to herself. Mary McDonnell was quickly kidnapped by someone who wanted an interview. She spent most of the night being interviewed in what I called the Champagne Room, a red semi-private room off to the side of the bar. Katee Sackhoff was there with what appeared to be her boyfriend, a thin, handsome gentleman with short, spiky brown hair and a thin goatee. Seth Green (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Robot Chicken”) joined the group, as well. He was there with someone who appeared to be his girlfriend, someone who looked vaguely like Summer Glau, but with blonder hair. Bear McCreary (who does all the music for BSG) showed up and mostly hung with the younger crowd in the back. Ronald Moore was working the room. He seemed to be having more fun than anyone. A guy in a suit told RDM: “You have to do more of these.” RDM: “I’m really enjoying myself.” Suit: “Did you lose weight?” RDM: “I wish.” Touching his collar, “My wife just knows how to dress me.” The writers seemed to hang along the wall, keeping together for the most part. We spent most of our time speaking to Ronald Moore, Bear McCreary, and Mark Verheiden.
I asked Bear if he was going to have any more live concerts like his two recent events at the Roxy in Hollywood. He said that he would have another one next year. I asked him how the next soundtrack release was coming. He’s working on it right now.
Scandalous seemed fascinated with Mark Verheiden. She asked him what it was like in the writers’ room. Was it dark and depressing? Mark said it was mostly a lot of laughing. I asked if Mark felt a lot of pressure from the fans to deliver a solid ending, now that everything is coming to a close. He stated that they didn’t worry too much about the fans. That they just did what felt right for themselves. I asked him if they ever felt backed into a corner that they couldn’t get out of. He said no, that mostly they make their choices and live with them. And if it takes longer than a few days to break a story, they are doing something wrong. He was proud of a recent episode he wrote (“The Road Less Traveled”), saying that the episode just wasn’t coming together until he came up with the idea for Mathias’ fateful space walk. It was interesting to hear his thought process. He discussed his earlier work in comics, and said that he would be moving on to a feature film after BSG. I asked him what shows he felt were well written. He chose “Deadwood” and “24.” I had to agree with him on “Deadwood.” As we moved away from Mark, Scandalous leaned in and whispered something to him. I asked her what it was. She wouldn’t tell me right away. Ultimately, she revealed that she told him that he was a very good-looking man. Which was surprising, because Mark isn’t exactly what you would call a traditionally good-looking man. She asked me if that was inappropriate. I told her that she probably made his whole night.
We discussed the show at length with RDM. Scandalous wanted me to ask him where he f*cked up in the show, and what he would change if he could. So I did. As I suspected, he referred us to the podcasts for points that he felt weren’t as strong as they could be. Ultimately, he said again how very proud he was of the show. He mentioned that he thinks the rest of the season will begin airing in January 2009. He also talked about how he tried to record a podcast recently, and the only audio that the mike would pick up was the sound of the DVD player. He is just as mellow and approachable in real life as he sounds like he would be based on his interviews and podcasts.
Both Tricia and Katee seemed tired (but looked great!). They were friendly and upbeat, but seemed like they would rather be resting. At one point, Katee wanted to cut through the crowd to get back to her boyfriend. Some oblivious fans just stared at her, blocking her path, even as she directly told them she wanted to get past them. I cut a path for her through the crowd. As she passed by me, I inadvertently ended up fondling her back. She turned back and thanked me! I should be thanking her. Speaking of her back, I was able to clearly see the faded remains of the tattoo of a cross on her back. Underneath that tattoo is another of a tiny green heart. Scandalous overheard her say that she regretted getting the tattoos and that she was having them removed. On the show, they paint over the cross with that crude pyramid design on her left shoulder (because there is no religious cross in the BSG universe).
We were expressly asked not to ask for autographs or photos. “You are there as journalists/press, not fans.” So along comes Mr. And Mrs. Annoying Married Couple (AMC). They would corner a celebrity and launch into a routine.
Mrs. AMC (after cornering Sackhoff as she was very obviously trying to leave): “So at first I didn’t really want to watch BSG.”
Mr. AMC: “It’s true. She didn’t.”
Mrs. AMC: “But then, a few years ago, I decided to watch episode # whatever. And then I made my husband here watch it, too.”
Mr. AMC: “It’s true, she did.”
Meanwhile, Katee is looking at them with a forced grin and an expression that says: “Who the f*ck are these people?”
I don’t know about Katee, but I wanted to strangle them. Who gives a frak when they started watching? Who the frak are they, anyway?
Then after having an entire conversation with Katee that didn’t even involve Katee, they pretty much insisted she take a photo with each of them. And then they moved on to the next celebrity and did it all over again.
Meanwhile, Hairy Bear Guy from earlier in the night had snuck his way into the party. He seemed to be in some kind of shock or overload, standing in the middle of the party and just staring into space.
Then along comes a guy I like to call Roomba. He would sweep the room like the robot vacuum of the same name. As soon as he spotted a celebrity, he would walk up to them and say: “You are [celebrity’s name]. I have identified you. You were in [televison show]. I watched that show. I am telling you that you were good.” He would then sweep the room like a robot, looking for his next victim. Again, who the f*ck are you? Who are you with, exactly? Why does anyone need your validation?
As the night wore on, the crowd began to thin. The Centurion suddenly lifted and seemed to walk away of its own accord. I suspect Fred Barton was involved. My guess is that they were both headed to the nearest strip joint. In the end, only RDM and Bear McCreary were left. The light-boxes with giant BSG posters in them were wheeled away, and we decided to call it a night. As we looked up to one of the higher levels of the theater and saw some fans leaning over the railing, desperate for a glimpse of the stars at a party that they couldn’t get into, we decided that we were very lucky to have had the wonderful experience that we did.
And it was all I could do to not strangle Mrs. Annoying Married Couple as we walked out the door. I’ll get her next time. She tasks me. She tasks me, and I will have her…