Caprica's 'Zoe' offers a sneak peek at her human/Cylon role

Alessandra Torresani, who plays Zoe Graystone in SCI FI's Battlestar Galactica prequel series Caprica, told SCI FI Wire that she wasn't worried when she read that her character dies in the opening minutes of the series pilot. (Spoilers ahead!)

"I took it as, 'OK, it's just going to be a miniseries; I die in the first half, and that's OK,'" Torresani said in an exclusive telephone interview last Friday in Pasadena, Calif. "Then I come back as a Cylon, and it's not really me, and that will be the end of the show. So it was a huge surprise when we got picked up for the 20 episodes, and now I'm really scared to see where my character goes."

Torresani plays Zoe, the daughter of a technology mogul (Eric Stoltz), who transfers Zoe's spirit into what becomes the first sentient Cylon. Torresani said that in the upcoming series she will play multiple versions of Zoe, including the Cylon. "I talked to Jane [Espenson], one of our writers, and I found out there's going to be a bunch of flashback scenes, and I am going to be a Cylon, and I'm having to take miming classes, because they want me to wear the little dots on my face and actually be miming as a Cylon."

Torresani spoke exclusively to SCI FI Wire about Caprica via telephone in conjunction with an ongoing charity auction in which paraphernalia and props from Battlestar Galactica are on sale. The following is an edited version of that interview. The two-hour pilot of Caprica is now available on DVD and the Web; Caprica kicks off on SCI FI next year.

How tough was it to define Zoe in just a few scenes and then go back and present her as a "version" of herself that isn't quite complete?

Torresani: I took it as twins. That's how I kind of [saw] the characters, as Zoe and Zoe-A. They are basically the same person, but they are also completely opposite. That's how I feel twins are: People look at them and think they are the same, but they always have different personalities. I took Zoe as just a hardass: She's a brat, she knows who she is, and she doesn't understand why no one else believes in her except for her best friend and her boyfriend. She doesn't understand why her mother and father don't get her.

But she takes life for granted because she has all of this money, and she can do whatever she wants, so she basically says, "F--k you guys, I'm going to do my own thing." Then I took Zoe-A, or avatar Zoe, as the sweet child or innocent [version] of what the original Zoe was earlier in her life. She is more naïve, because thinking is brand-new to her, so she's a brand-new, newborn baby. So her eyes just light up when she sees certain things, but she's deeply, deeply scared, and she is the innocent of the original Zoe. So the two of them, they make a perfect whole.

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(photo by Albert Ortega)

It seems like that bratty, kind of rebellious attitude is essentially the foundation for the Cylons. When you shot the pilot, were you thinking at all about the fact that your character is the nucleus for what the Cylons become?

Torresani: I kind of took it as my own character, so I took it as completely different. I'd never seen Battlestar before, and I know that a lot of Battlestar fans are kind of mad at me about that. I had no idea what Battlestar was; I thought it was a '70s TV show before I was born. I knew it existed in the years prior [to Caprica], but I didn't know anything about it. So to me, Caprica is a completely different show, because we're 57 years before, so a Cylon is what I create in 50 years after that, and it doesn't reflect my character.

I created a form of me acting rebellious and all this, but it had nothing to do with what I thought it was going to be in the future. Some people, I'm sure, are going to disagree with me, thinking this is how the Cylons originally were, so they must have been rebellious from the beginning and they must have known they were going to hate humans. But I think it's just a lost girl who is rebelling and wants her point to come across, and it happens to come across that there's a Cylon that her father created, and it's her only way to escape, because it's her only reality.

When I first read the script, I didn't relate it in any way to what's happening now, but it's open to interpretation, what people believe. That's not how I originally played the character, but now, watching Battlestar and being familiar with it, I kind of see that I unintentionally related it in some sense. ...

Is there anything you're most looking forward to sinking your teeth into?

Torresani: Well, it's great, because I'm playing the original Zoe in flashbacks. I'm playing avatar Zoe, and we're going to have a few more avatar Zoes in the club. I know I'm going to be blond in one of them, maybe I'll have pink hair in another one, and then I'm also going to be playing the Cylon. So who knows when the Cylon's going to come through? The Cylon could magically turn into a human-form Cylon. I mean, that's me hoping that's where it's going to come to—I don't know about that—but that's the way I think it would eventually turn out to become. I'm just hoping to play as many people as I possibly can, and I'm up for the challenge—the emotional and comedic challenge behind it.

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