If you've never gotten into any of the incarnations of Battlestar Galactica in the past, now's your chance, agreed Luke Pasqualino and Ben Cotton, the stars of Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome, which premieres on Syfy on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. The two-hour movie, which began life as a 10-episode web series last November on Machinima.com, offers not only an accessible new story in the franchise, but also never before scenes not available online.
Blood & Chrome takes place during the First Cylon War and digs into the first big mission of a young William Adama when he's assigned to the a new battlestar called the Galactica.
"I think you could jump in on this,” said Cotton, who plays a new original character to the franchise, the war weary Lt. Coker Fasjovik. “It introduces the Adama character. If you weren't aware of him before, I think you get a pretty good picture of this person. I'm always a big fan of doing things in order, but then again, with this show, you'd have to start with Caprica, wouldn't you? You'd start with Caprica and then this and then Battlestar, the reimagined version. But I feel like this is a contained story. You could jump in and just watch this and get a really good feeling for who these people are and what the world is and what's going on.”
Jumping in for the actors, however did offer the actors some challenges, they said during a conference call with journalists.
“We both knew what to expect. We both knew what we wanted to do with our characters, and I think being able to explore every realm,” said English actor Pasqualino, who plays the iconic character of William Adama as a young man right out of the Academy. “Being able to take these characters and their relationship, my character's relationship with Ben's character, I think to be able to take them anywhere, for me it came from me and Ben becoming such close friends. We didn't feel that we'd have to hold back on any kind of performance. If I wanted to shout at him, I could shout at him. If I wanted to laugh at him, I could laugh at him. If I wanted to scream in his face, I could have screamed in his face, you know? It was one of those things that we just had so much confidence in performances, and [director] Jonas [Pate] gave us a lot of free reign to take it wherever we wanted in terms of improvisation and all of that. Involving team effort, really. It was brilliant. If ever something was completely out of character that wasn't on the page or anything like that, they just didn't use it in the final edit, you know? But so much of the great performances that you see, some parts really are improvised. We just went with it and brought out the final product.”
“I found there was a real freedom on this set to just let it go and play with each other, like Luke said. I felt like you could yell at each other, you could shout at each other, you could laugh, you could do all of those things. And Jonas let us make it up now and then. He'd just kind of keep rolling and we would go at each other a little bit. So it was really fun, because you get to work with an actor who's going to hand it back to you when you hand it to them. It just rises and keeps going and keeps going and there's this chemistry that happens. I thought we were lucky. It was cool. It was really cool,” said Cotton.
Stepping onto the set of the newest incarnation of Battlestar Galactica was one thing. However, Pasqualino found himself in the sizable shoes of William Adama, originally played by Edward James Olmos in the 2004 reimagined version of the series.
“He's fantastic,” said Pasqualino. “He did an amazing job and he's got such a huge fanbase. I feel like he helped make Battlestar what it is today. But I didn't really want any advice in terms of performance, because I think seeing Adama at the age that I portray him compared to the age that Eddie portrays him is two completely different stages of anyone's life. And I didn't want anything that Eddie said to me to upset my interpretation of the material. I wanted to go ahead and take the writing for what I thought and get my own stamp on it.”
Pasqualino admits when it came to playing Adama, “I was never really fazed by the bar that Eddie had set. I just really wanted to go in there, like I said before, with my own interpretation of the material and just do the best job I could as an actor. The writing's great. Michael Taylor wrote an amazing script. Just to go in there and really push those limits as far as we could go.”
The other challenges they faced were more of the physical kind.
“The hardest part was the helmet,” said Cotton. “Hard to breathe in those helmets. The green screen, everybody kind of kept saying before we started, 'Oh, it's going to be so hard,' but I didn't find it to be too much of a challenge. There's little markers that you can pick to have an imaginary spaceship or whatever it is. But after watching some of the dailies, I realized that I wasn't taking in the environment as much as I would if I was actually in some kind of a Cylon facility or whatever. But once you figure that out, I didn't find it too challenging at all.”
“I kind of felt a little bit daunted by the whole thing when I first realized the scale of how much green screen we would be using. You would think it would cause problems in terms of where you're going to be. A lot of times you don't actually have any physical set to touch or work with. We worked even some props and a lot of the foreground stuff on our sets actually. They were props and we could actually touch and move around and stuff. But the hardest thing for me that I found was really the stuff in the spaceships, like Ben said. Like when something hits the windscreen or something's flying over our heads. We don't have anything to play to, or we have a ball on the end of a stick that we have to follow. That was really kind of the hardest for me. But everything else was really just … it all came. I think for Ben as well, I think we adapted to it a lot quicker than we thought we would,” said Pasqualino.
“It becomes a little more like doing a black box theater type of situation, where you just have to use your imagination,” added Cotton.
Before they started filming, they were given a book of computer generated images of what the set would look like. “And then you take that image in your head and you have to kind of visualize your surroundings based on a picture given to you on a piece of paper. So it does involve imagination for sure. But that's what acting is. That's what performance is all about. You have to be able to take your character and your performance any which way you can and to go in there. It did pose problems in certain areas just because me and Ben had never really worked on green screen to that scale before, but ultimately it was just such an enjoyable experience. It taught me so much about our work for sure. It was great,” said Pasqualino.
“And you do get accustomed to having to imagine. A lot of the times when you do closeups, the other actor can't even be in your eyeline because he's too close to the camera. Half the time you're talking to a piece of tape. So you get used to using your imagination,” said Cotton.
“Definitely. With a virtual environment like the one [the] special effects team created on Battlestar, you can take it anyway. There's no such thing as a location anymore with this kind of technology. Every day of our shoot was in one studio surrounded by green walls. We didn't have to visit locations. By doing that, that's when you can achieve anything you want. We could have put a sandy beach on that backdrop. We could have put a snowy mountain, which we did. We can put anything that we want. That's what I love about it. You can take a story anywhere with this kind of technology, and it's great,” said Pasqualino.
While Cotton played a couple roles in the franchise before, Pasqualino admits he wasn't that familiar with the series.
“For me, being a Battlestar virgin, the first thing that [executive producer] David [Eick] did to me was throw seasons one and two of Caprica at me. That's kind of the dawn of this this whole epic, the birth of the Cylons in Caprica. That was his input to my performance, really, just sit down and watch Caprica, just so you know where we're at in terms of story. And I did and I really enjoyed it. It helped me a lot to see where our show fit into the whole Battlestar mix, to see that birth. The rest is all set completely in the future, so that didn't really affect my performance at all. But Caprica I did watch,” he said.
As for Cotton's character Coker, could he be a Cylon, like so many characters we came to know and love on Battlestar Galactica?
“Haha. No, I personally don't think he's a Cylon,” said Cotton.
“I did,” said Pasqualino.
“You do, do you?”
“He could be. … He was a bit grumpy, wasn't he? … I think you're right. Maybe he is a Cylon.”
Cylon possibilities aside, Cotton believes the reason Battlestar Galactica has continued on is because “the writing has always been really good. People love it. Our fans are the best fans that you're going to find. They'll stick with you. I think people want to embrace this story. Or so it seems, anyway. People are excited,” he said.
“I think aside from that, even someone like me who wasn't a Battlestar fan before I was involved with it. People like to see action. People like to see relationships. People like to see real life stories. People like to see drama. They like to see comedy. They like to be human. All these different things, Battlestar can offer that. The only difference between Battlestar and any other show is that it's set in space. We're dealing with real life situations here, whether it be love, hate, there's everything going on there,” said Pasqualino.
“Just set in space, so it looks cool.”
Syfy is offering special online incentives to viewers involving Twitter and Battlestar Galactica Online. People that watch Blood & Chrome will see a code that will allow them to unlock a special B&C ship in Battlestar Galactica Online. And on February 19, the unrated edition of Blood & Chrome will be available from Universal Studios Home Entertainment on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download.
Here's a preview:
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