Exclusive Interview with Tricia Helfer!
If there’s one image that defines top tier modern science-fiction it’s Number Six, the platinum blonde, red dressed Cylon from Battlestar Galactica. The actor behind this image is Tricia Helfer, now known for many popular TV roles, and we were lucky enough to sit down with her for an interview!
Enjoy the audio or skip down to the transcript!
G-Funk: This is the House of Geekery with Tricia Helfer at Oz Comic-Con. Can you tell us what people would best know you for?
Tricia Helfer: Probably, since you brought it up just prior (to the interview) would be Battlestar Galactica – in the geek world. But I’ve also done video games, I’ve voice Sarah Kerrigan, Queen of Blades…
GF: That’s in Starcraft 2.
TH: Yes, and in Wings of Liberty…what else was there…Heart of the Swarm…and what was the other one…there’s also EDI in Mass Effect 2 & 3, the voice of Tron in Tron Uprising…not Tron, the voice of The Grid, Rick and Morty, Black Cat in one of the Spider-Man games…
GF: A couple of them!
TH: Yeah! I was on another sci-fi series called Ascension, it was a mini-series, and now I’m on Lucifer on Fox!
GF: Lucifer is great!
TH: Yeah, I’m having so much fun!
GF: If we can start at the beginning: you’re breakout role was Number Six in Battlestar Galactica and your transition from modelling into acting. You took a different path from many other girls from modelling into acting with a lot of science-fiction shows.
TH: Battlestar was my first series, I’d been acting for a year. I did a couple of things my first year – some CSI, a little indie movie – because Battlestar…I had just started acting and then it lasted five years, it really solidified why people think I started out doing a lot of sci-fi. But since then I’ve played a lot of different roles. I’ve played lawyers, and Texas Rangers and FBI and all sorts of things. But being remembered for Battlestar will never be a bad thing, in my opinion.
GF: I can’t imagine it would be. Even now when you look up the show you still get that image of the character, it’s a very iconic image. How did it feel being so front and centre of such a big event show.
TH: Looking back I honestly think I was front and centre because, I suppose that’s where the modelling background really comes into it. When we doing our first gallery shoot, which is where we do all the advertising images for the season, most actors had gallery shoots. They get impatient, they’re used to a moving camera, they’re not used to a still camera, they get jittery and they get impatient. From a modelling background I was patient and stand there while they take the photos so they had so many photos of me. It’s also because the show was shot in a sort-of documentary style, all dark and gritty, and here’s this read dress and platinum hair. It popped off the screen and off the picture. I was also the only known Cylon at that point, in the beginning. If you’re showing another side to the human side I was the one to show. That was one of the main reasons. You know, the show has really transcended time…it’s more than ten years since it finished…
GF: Yeah, wow.
TH: We wrapped in 2008.
GF: Just about ten years then…
TH: It really still plays well, it’s still finding a new audience that hadn’t watched it before and are now old enough to see it. Their parents are like “you’re now old enough to watch it” sort of thing. It’s a show that’s still relevant.
GF: It really is. It’s a show with a lot of secrets. How aware were you of what was coming up while you were on the show?
TH: You were aware of some things. It was a very collaborative show, extremely collaborative show between the writers and the actors. I think it’s one of the…maybe Lucifer as well…it’s one of the most collaborative shows I’ve ever worked on. There was a lot of discussion before scenes and things…so you were told if something was coming up in the storyline. Typically you’d only get the next script about a week, five days before, while you’re already shooting the episodes you’re working on. If they knew something was coming up that would effect how you would play something they would pull you aside and they would let you know. Most of the time…if they forgot…no, not really! They did keep some secrets. For the final five Cylons, they didn’t let them know until right before, they had no inkling. I remember Michael Hogan (Colonel Saul Tigh) was really upset, and Aaron Douglas (Galen Tyrol) was really upset…
TH: Yeah, because they’d played four seasons thinking they were opposing the Cylons…of course, it turned out to be rich storytelling and they changed their mind about it but it was hard for them in the beginning. But I always knew I was a Cylon.
GF: Well yeah, from the get-go. You’re on Lucifer now and for those who don’t know you are the mother of Satan.
TH: Well, I’m the mother of angels too. The Goddess of All Creation is how I like to say it (laughs).
GF: How do you get your head into that role?
TH: It’s such a fun show to do. I was a little concerned because I wasn’t in the first season…my character wasn’t in the first season. She was hinted at at the very end of the last season. I was little concerned when I was offered it that it was a little to arch of a character, a little to much moustache-twirling type thing and I didn’t really want to do that. So I sat down with the show runners and they explained the arc, that she’s a mother who loves her children, and she wants what was taken from her and she wants to get back to Heaven, and she’s angry at her ex. When you’re talking about celestial beings and being the mother of all creation you can’t take it to seriously or you can’t do your job!
GF: So how do you?
TH: You just have to relate it back to…you know, in many ways we were dealing with family issues. Mother/son issues, abandonment, divorce, children of divorce, anger at my ex…
GF: ‘The’ ex!
TH: …wanting to get back at my ex, wanting to get back to my home after being banished back down to hell for many millennia. When you put it in those terms, and wanting to see your children who you haven’t seen for so long and clear the air because Lucifer misunderstood thinking I didn’t have his back and so on. But it’s also a show with a lot of comedy and fun to it, so we find the places to add that in. She’s a bit of a fish out of water when she first arrives on Earth, or to Los Angeles, so she’s fun to play. You find those moments, those familial moments, those were more the dramatic arcs, then you find the fun in it.
GF: Lucifer, he’s played by Tom Ellis…I do wonder what he’s like as a person because his character is so out there.
TH: He is absolutely lovely.
GF: Is he much like Lucifer?
TH: Yes and no. He’s…certainly not as devilish. He’s very charismatic, he’s very bright, he’s very charming and he’s a lot of fun. We have a blast on the show, we really do. All the characters – there’s similarities between them and the characters but then you’re also playing the character. It’s a really fun show to join and myself and Aimee Garcia who was added this season (as Ella Lopez)…
GF: Oh yeah, she’s cool.
TH: Yeah, she’s great! The cast were so welcoming, they completely welcomed us into the cast. That’s not always the case coming in the second season. You sometimes get people saying that you’re going to be taking their screen time away and this and that and whatever. It was just a family from the beginning.
GF: That’s one of the reasons why the show works, the cast are so good together. Can I ask about another co-star: you’ve worked with Charlie Sheen?
TH: I have, yes.
GF: I’ve never had the chance to ask somebody what he’s really like, is that ok?
TH: In my experience – I worked with him on 3 episodes of Two and Half Men. Two with Charlie and then one after he left, the first episode back with Ashton Kutcher took over. It was his funeral for they had a bunch of his past flings over to say something at his funeral, it was one line. But the other two episodes I worked with him were prior to his…meltdown, shall we say?
TH: So I have nothing bad to say about him. He was professional, he was on time…largely…he very much kept to himself. But you expect him to be crazy or mean but I had none of that experience. He was professional and knew his character and knew his lines. There was no “let’s hang out and shoot the shit” – excuse me. It wasn’t that, but I had a fun time on the show.
GF: That’s why I wanted to ask, because he’s got this public perception and I like to know what’s really going on. Anyway, back to your characters. Do you have a preference for these science-fiction type roles, because you’ve got all these comic book roles, you’ve got robots, your’ve got Lucifer based on the comic book – is this something you’ve discovered during your career or did you already have a leaning towards it?
TH: No, it’s just something that’s come my way. I grew up without a television so I’m an idiot when it comes to pop culture except I guess anything since I’ve been an adult. But it’s not like I was drawn to it. I think there’s amazing stories to tell in science-fiction, but that’s not to say that’s all I do. I just played a Texas Ranger, I just played an FBI agent…for an actor, for me, it’s much more interesting to play all different types of roles. If you just do one thing all the time I would it boring. But there are some great stories to be told, there’s a whole ‘what if’ aspect to it. I find the stories…not necessarily sharks falling out of the sky, that type of thing, those I’ve stayed away from! Even though they’re obviously fun to watch because people watch them, but I tend to be drawn towards the smarter, really makes you think…also my height tends to lead to this stuff. I don’t get many romantic comedies because I’m like 5’11”. I have to be cast first so the guy can be taller. Not he can’t be shorter than me but on TV and film you don’t see it very often. James Callis (Dr. Gaius Balter in BSG) was shorter than me, by a lot, and we loved it. It’s also what the business sees you as. I think if any actor could have their pick of anything we’d have a lot more diversity between what they chose to do.
GF: Now I have a traditional wrap up question: you are very well known for Number Six and few other roles. Is there a role or a part of your career you wish had more attention on it?
TH: Definitely when I played the Texas Ranger.
GF: What was that in?
TH: It was on an ABC show called Killer Women, and I was the lead of the show and it lasted eight episodes. It was mismarketed (I can never say that word)…didn’t market it well. They marketed it like a Quentin Taratino FLASH BANG PEWPEWPEW kind of thing and it should have been partnered with Castle. It was a little bit of fun, it was a procedural with a Texas Ranger in the lead, set in Texas. A little fun and a little cheesy but with some serious and some heartfelt moments so it should have been paired with something like that. But something shows take a little while to find their footing and it was just getting good and he got canned. But it was really fun character to do, riding around on horses with a gun belt and taking down bad guys, stetson. Killer Women – I’d like to play that character or a version of that character again.
GF: Alright, we’ll check that out. Thanks very much for sitting down and speaking with us. We hope you have a great con!
TH: I hope so, come out and see us!
GF: Absolutely, we’ll be there! I’ve got my Battlestar Galactica cast photo and you’ve signed it and Jamie (Bamber) signed it when we spoke to him and Tahmoh (Penikett) is coming so I have to get him.
GF: Tahmoh is coming! You have to get him! And all you guys listening! Come out and see!