Interview: Nicki Clyne of Battlestar Galactica

Specialist Cally

How did you land the role of Cally?

Well, my agent set up an audition. I auditioned. I got the part. I wish I had a more interesting story for you.

Originally, Cally was supposed to be killed off in “Bastille Day”, the 3rd episode of season 1. Instead, Cally fought back and bit off the attacker’s ear. What was it that convinced the directors to keep Cally as part of the show, and consequently make her more prominent?

You can never truly be sure why producers, or writers for that matter, decide what they do. As you can imagine, I wasn’t terribly inclined to ask too many questions; I was pretty happy Cally recovered from her gunshot wound. However, I do like to think maybe they saw a spark in Cally that lead them to develop her more, but you never know, it could have just been they liked my bangs!

Cally running away from the evil Cylons.
Cally running away from the evil Cylons.

What was it like to transform Cally from a rather innocent and cute flat character into this dark and troubled woman? And slightly related to that, how much of Nicki found its way to Cally? Or perhaps – vice versa?

The progression of Cally’s character was definitely an interesting one. I guess it’s a case of “be careful what you wish for.” I didn’t want to be just another innocent, helping hand on the deck crew, but once the drama started, it never stopped! I enjoyed every minute though. What actor wouldn’t want to wind up a raging, pill-popping, mechanic mother married to a robot?!?

What were your feelings about being killed off? Is it hard to have the kind of on-screen decline and demise that you suffered?

It wasn’t a walk in the park; the whole experience was rather emotional, if that’s what you mean. It took a while for it to actually sink in, so filming the last episode was bittersweet. In the end I saw it more of a tribute than a demise. I thought the whole episode was really well done. However, since then Cally hasn’t been held in very high regard, which is a little disappointing.

From the interviews that you did that I read or listened to, where you detailed the whole process of fleshing out Cally’s final episode, I got the feeling that you actually had quite some influence on that episode, that the directors really listened to you. Is the set of BSG generally like that? With the actors on a ‘loose leash’, free to add their own interpretation of the script?

There are many elements that contribute to the way an episode will be run, including the director, the writers, what sort of action in taking place, etc. I was very fortunate to be working with Michael Nankin, who has a very rich visual aesthetic and an organic, collaborative approach to the filming process. So we talked a lot before, about meaning and ideas, but when it came time to film he just let me do my thing. In general, we have a lot of discussions between actors, writers and producers, but I wouldn’t call it a ‘loose leash’ per se. At the end of the day, there’s a specific story to be told.

Sharon and Cally.
Sharon, a gun, Cally. What could possibly go wrong?

Due to not only the show itself, but most certainly also due to your stunning performance (and I’m not just trying to be nice, I really mean that), I really felt Cally’s confusion and despair as she wandered through the hallways of the ship with Nicholas in her arms, and I was truly sad when Cally was blown out the airlock (Cally’s ‘Swan Song’, as you described it). The thing I’m wondering about – what do you think it is that makes some shows and/or characters really connect with their audiences in a way that makes them feel truly sad when it’s over, while others do not? What is that magic ingredient?

Well, first of all, thank you. Partly I believe it’s a two way street, the audience has to be open. But from my own experience in watching actors, I feel moved when they are moved. If the actor is connected with his or herself and believes what he or she is doing, then I’ll go there with them. If it appears that they’re thinking about what they’re doing or controlling their expression, I don’t buy it and it feels contrived. Sometimes it has no importance even what they’re doing, it could be their laundry, but if they’re present and engaged, I’m interested.


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