Interview: Nicki Clyne of Battlestar Galactica


When the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica took off with the 2003 release of the miniseries, Cally seemed like an unlikely candidate to become a major supporting character of the show. She only had like three lines during the entire miniseries, and none of them were of any particular significance. Still, the role of Cally gained ever more importance during the course of the show, featuring in several key moments. Consequently, it didn’t take long for Cally to become something of a fan favourite.

What probably helped in the popularisation of Cally is the the actress who portrayed her. Battlestar Galactica is filled to the brim with talented actors, from Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, and Katee Sackhoff to James Callis – they’re all top-notch actors, and Nicki fits in just fine. Even though my acting experience doesn’t extend beyond my primary school final year play, I can imagine that portraying a character like Cally can’t be easy; she starts out as this cute and innocent young girl, in the army only to “pay for dental school”, but ends up an emotional wreck, torn to bits by drug abuse and sleep deprivation, on the verge of committing suicide and taking her young son with her – only to be blasted out of an airlock during one of the most memorable moments of the entire series, now known as “Cally’s swan song”.

Intrigued by Nicki Clyne’s performance, I decided to try and interview her. She was very interested in doing so, and we agreed upon a format by which I simply sent in the questions via email. I’ve chopped the long interview up in several bite-size chunks. So, read on, and enjoy.

Battlestar Galactica

I’ve heard BSG described as more of a political/military drama (in space) than a science fiction show. Do you agree with that characterisation? Does it matter what you call it?

BSG definitely challenges several stereotypes in its approach, which can make it difficult to classify, but I would agree that a “political drama in space” is a fairly accurate description. At the end of the day, no matter what you call it, it’s still “The Best Show On Television.” 🙂 That’s what really counts.

Are many of the cast members fans of science fiction in general? Are you?

I didn’t used to be, but my experience on Battlestar inspired a whole new appreciation for the genre and its ability to explore such deep questions about humanity, technology and ethics. I think it allows us to explore certain beliefs normally outside our comfort zones, and then hopefully relate it to our daily lives. I can’t really speak for anyone on the show, but I will admit to witnessing some fan moments between our cast and the cast of other sci-fi shows at conventions, so I have my suspicions.

Cally and the commander
Nicki and Edward James Olmos

Is it a blessing or a curse to be on a show that inspires devout fandom? Would it be better to be on a successful, mainstream show?

It’s hard to say because I haven’t had the other experience, but I certainly appreciate the depth at which sci-fi fans seem consider and discuss the concepts presented on their favorite shows. I always feel like I learn a lot during interviews or Q & A sessions, fans are most often very thoughtful. I also really like the community element that seems to exist amongst fans, you don’t see that many other places.

In an interview you said that you were sometimes really surprised by the kind of things fans are curious about – this question is probably one of them, and I really have no idea why I want to know this. The wall with all the photos of the deceased which regularly acts as the decor for the more emotional and personal scenes – despite it being a prop to a fictional television show in space, does it still carry an emotional value? I can see how the cast would be so into playing their roles that that wall has gained a specific emotional value, even though it’s all fictional.

Yeah, I think it absolutely does. And despite the fictional nature, most of the photos were of the cast or of people we knew, so it was hard not to connect in some way. We were very lucky to have a really creative and thorough art department; it makes an actor’s job so much easier when the environment is what it’s supposed to be – except for the being in space part of course.

What type of BSG episode do you like more, the action-packed type, which were more prevalent in the earlier seasons, or the more personal episodes dealing with individuals, faith, and religion?

I’m a much bigger fan of episodes that explore the inner dynamics of people’s struggles, personal relationships, and questions of ethics. Both as an actor and a viewer, they appeal more to my values, but sometimes it’s a welcome change of pace to get outside and run through the forest for a few episodes.

The Kobol team.
The Kobol team.

You probably get this question a lot, but here it goes anyway: if you could choose to portray another character on the show, who would it be?

I’d have to go with Kara Thrace, definitely. The character has a massive range as well as incredible depth, and she’s just such a bad ass! How could you not want to try that on? Katee does such a terrific job though; it’s hard to imagine what the role would be like in someone else’s hands.

How do you feel about the announced BSG television movie “The Plan”, and the upcoming “Caprica” pilot, with the former including many current cast members? Are you sad you’re not going to be part of it (at least, as far as we know)?

Of course, it would be amazing to reunite with everyone, but I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity I had, it’s not really a concern of mine. It’s hard to believe it’s actually over though. We had so many close calls thinking it was coming to an end, it didn’t seem real when it finally did. I guess the fact they auctioned off the entire wardrobe and set is a pretty telling gesture though.

And on a broader note, do you see a future for the space-faring type of science fiction? Battlestar Galactica only has ten episodes to go, the Star Trek universe is in a coma (at least, on the TV end), and there doesn’t really appear to be a major show ‘in space’. And to be totally honest, BSG isn’t really a traditional space sci-fi show like Star Trek or Babylon 5 either. Have people had enough of the clichés? The casino planet, aliens that all look like humans with different foreheads, adjusting bogus equipment to solve problems – has the audience had enough?

I’m sure that’s a question hundreds of TV executives would love to have the answer to. 🙂


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