Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Farpoint 2008 Q & A

So I really wanted to do a transcript of this, because it's an awesome interview. Then I looked at the videos I could gather on Youtube and realized that it's just a small fraction of the Q & A. But I was sure I'd seen the entire interview somewhere - and then I realized that I had read Dianora's comprehensive and very James-positive LJ posts about the Q&As. Day 1, Day 2.

I still want to blog about this though. So here's what I'm gonna do: I'll transcribe the clips I have, and for the rest, I'm going to use Dianora's post as a source for my own commentary. Dianora's paraphrases and comments will be in quote tags, and my own transcripts and comments will not be. I hope this is not too confusing. If you know of more videos of this Q&A, please let me know and I'll add them to the Youtube playlist.

A big thank you to Dianora for writing such a detailed account, and to everyone who's provided videos on Youtube - the videos in question are from amezri, rubanek, and emmyl658. Amezri also has some videos of an auction that occurred later at the same event, with James being cute and hilarious. My playlist with all the videos is here. Dianora's linking to it too, but here's nnaylime's photo gallery of James at Farpoint. Great photos.

So to kick it off, an interesting bit about Baltar's insecure body language:

It's a way to show that Baltar wasn't in control of something monstrous, i.e. genocide -- he used the physical unsurety to underscore the fact that Baltar didn't really know what he was doing. And that is also related to how different BSG 2003 is from the original, where everything was more black and white -- Gaius is "a microcsom of the macrocosm of the new show."

I loved this, and it made me wonder if the sympathy I feel for Baltar has a subconscious element related to the body language. There's something childlike about Baltar, and it's not just the selfishness. He somehow acts like a puppy who's demanding and annoying one minute and totally adorable and helpless the next. Thinking about it, it must be the body language. It's awesome that he's thought of this so much.

He mentioned that there was a scene that wound up on the cutting room floor where Baltar tries to "blend in" on the basestar by being naked, but was extremely self-conscious about it. Marina [Sirtis] had mentioned earlier that when you do nude scenes you have a closed set, but he said that in his experience, it was more like people sold tickets!

:D This reminds me of the third season gag reel when he's lying naked on the couch in the basestar, smiling at the camera all talk show-y: "Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the show! Tonight on Baltar's Basestar, we have some fascinating people joining us." It was hilarious but he looked a bit self-conscious, so maybe there were just too many spectators.

He did note that he thinks sometimes there are too many issues happening in one script -- he'd love to see a concentration on fewer issues so that each one can be given its due respect, rather than rushing through a bunch of different things. He also noted that sometimes on the show plot seemed to dictate character, and he feels strongly that it should always be the other way around (me too, James!). In other words a character shouldn't suddenly shoot someone because that character needs to die; there should be a reason he is shooting someone (I felt like he was maybe referring to "Fragged" here).

Totally agreed. I think one good example is Taking a Break From All Your Worries - you've got Baltar being mentally tortured and it's horribly brutal, and the next minute you see Lee drinking away his worries because he married the wrong woman. It just somehow isn't intense on the same level, and I hate the quadrangle, and it takes away from the intensity of Baltar's scenes. I'm not sure if James is talking about that specifically, though. The shooting reference does seem like it might be about Fragged.

About playing pranks on set:

In the scene where Lucy was naked getting out of bed, it was originally supposed to be a body double, but he and Tricia kept telling her that they thought they spotted a big pimple on the body double's butt, and did Lucy really want people thinking that was HER butt? They were totally lying, but Lucy eventually believed them and decided to do the scene herself.

Heee! This was just really hilarious. Dianora also reports that he said the scene was too short and there was no sex, and I agree - I mean, what's the point of doing a very risqué threesome storyline if you can't even show it? It's the same with Razor: OMG Gina and Cain! Wait, when are they gonna show them together? Hey, this is just Cain staring at Gina while she's being tortured. Major disappointment. I know people can fill in the blanks themselves, but a few girl on girl scenes wouldn't have hurt. At least, like, a kissing scene. This is something I don't understand about censorship, because some James/Tricia scenes have been pretty graphic (torture S/M scene?) but even the scene where Caprica strokes D'Anna's arm was cut off.

So then, the first mix of Dianora's paraphrase and my transcript. Background info from Dianora:

Another instance which wasn't really a prank was -- omg, this is hilarious -- during the filming of "Pegasus." It was the scene where the Pegasus lands in the hangar deck and Cain comes out, and the whole ship is there to greet her. Adama is supposed to greet her, but EJO was AWOL -- had gone to make a call or something. The way the scene was being shot during that take, the camera only saw Cain, not Adama. So in order to help out Michelle Forbes, James started speaking Adama's lines -- in his best EJO impression, which he then performed for us. (I love that all the actors on this show have to contribute EJO impressions.)

And transcript:
Clip 1

Meanhwile, all of us were on shot and trying not to laugh, because it's kind of ludicrous. And then they shout "Cut!" And then somebody says, I think it's the director, "Does somebody want to get Eddie a glass of water?" And then they realized that he wasn't there [chuckles], and then I was in a little bit of trouble. [laughter] In the sense of wasting people's time.

The last time I tried a practical joke, it just fell totally flat, actually...

James Callis at Farpoint 2008 (the whole bit)
Clip 2 (just the bit about the prank)
Clip 3 (just the bit about Ratlab)

We were all walking through the Basestar... not Basestar, I'm in real trouble now, the cylon ship, baseship. And um, basically you know, when you've done a scene, then people come in and clean the set, and there's you know, like cleaning equipment, a broom, a mop, a bucket, and those cones to show that the floor is wet. So when everybody was, you know, we were walking thru corridors, just before the setup, I put the broom and the mop and the cone there, as kind of like... with people walking through like, 'Oh? They're doing maintenance work?' And then, literally just before they shouted action, the director went, "What the hell is in the shot?" [laughter] "What the hell is that?!" And I sheepishly went, "You know, it was me, I just you know...It's funny." [laughter] "You know James, this is not school. It's like, this is serious, this is our job. You just wasted ten minutes of everybody's time." I think that was the last time...I think, basically, this is the thing that you take from that: Youre gonna do something on set, involve somebody, a person.Then you can kind of get out of it. Don't just use objects. That was my lesson.

And otherwise, I'm not sure... Lots and lots of uh... I suppose one of the things that I find particularly amusing while it was totally stupid, is that uh.. It's not really a prank, it's just that Jamie Bamber came up to me, he was doing a very very big scenew ith Eddie James Olmos, which I think you know, they they kind of have to do every week, in that way... But it was a very passionate scene and he was very... you know, he wanted to do his best in it. He was asking me, you know, my opinion of uh... certain modes and ways, in the way that we all ask each other, you know, "Do you reckon I could do this and get away with this and everything". And I said to him, "Well, I think during the scene, one of the most important things that you can do is think that LEE spelled backwards is EEL." [laughter; James nods seriously] Which kind of fell flat on me, because then he's like, "Yeah, well, BALTAR's RATLAB!" [laughter, applause] "Since then, a lot of people called me Ratlab on the set.

End of transcript.
James does an awesome EJO impression, and he obviously likes to showcase it in many interviews. It's always a hit, but it cracks me up that it even fooled the directors. Also, I don't know how they didn't notice - James' physique is so different from Eddie's. I guess the voice was just so convincing. I also really loved that bit about Ratlab - it really fits too, he's a rat and a labrat... A pretty good one from Jamie, I must say. James seems to enjoy telling stories where he's humiliated in the end, and it sounds like he would be so much fun to work with. Well, he's fun to listen to, as well; he has the audience in stitches, and there's also a sign language interpreter who seems to almost burst out laughing while interpreting. It's a great little Q&A with an intimate feel. Watching the videos feels almost like being there and seeing him from the crowd.

He was asked about Messiahs, which is interesting but a bit too long to quote. Here's an intriguing bit:

He mentioned to Ron Moore at one point that in playing Gaius, he now truly understands the meaning of the Lord's Prayer, specifically the part about forgiving our trespasses, and that it would destroy Gaius if he ever had to say that and really think about it. RDM was into that and that's where Gaius praying came from. But he said that when filming that scene, the director told him he was playing it too genuine -- "Would Gaius really be able to do that?" -- which changed the direction of the scene.

It probably would destroy Gaius, and it's awesome that he points that out. I do wonder about that praying scene - did he really think he was talking to God, whom he doesn't necessarily even believe in and... The whole cult thing is a bit problematic for me. I mean, sleeping with lots of beautiful women, OK. But the part about being a messiah and really believing it? I don't know. I still say it seems out of character and hard to accept. Maybe the scene in The Hub where he talks about his crushing guilt and how the faith has relieved him of that kind of gives it some meaning, because we're talking about the master of "It wasn't me", and he's just looking for new reasons to think he's not really that guilty, if guilty at all, to the whole genocide thing. He's the flood! He's the hand of God! This, to me, is pure Gaius. Praying for the sick boy? Not so much.

Transcript time, and do watch the video, because his accents are really worth hearing:

Clip 4
"So they had this thing, they wrote this thing about my accent changing. And uh... That really, you know, he's a comedian(?), he's from somewhere else. And... You know, I've always found it slightly unusual that I'm practically the only person with a British accent in this show. Something that we have... glossed over, in British terms. There it is, the Brits are baddies. This speech came up and the producer, one of the producers but I won't name names, was like, "Yeah, you know, we want you to have this kind of um, we want you to have this voice, and you're talking about the farming..." And if you remember, it's all about how I was born on a sheep farm or something, tending to the cows. "Can you do a Michael Caine accent?" [looks around in disbelief; laughter] [Michael Caine accent] What? I was like, "Well, Michael Caine's like from the East End of London! They don't have any sheep farms here! [laughter] East End, what are you talking about?" He was like, [changes accent] "Yeah, but it's cool, the Americans don't, you know... Just wanna get a.... Can't you do a Micahel Caine impression?" I'm like, for god's sake, this is totally ludicrous! Then I said well, if you're talking about dairy farms, and you don't want me to do an American accent in that way, then I will do a regional British accent. And one of the places for dairy farms in England is like down in the south, Dorset, their home county's down there. [changes accent] They have a kind of strange accent down there in Dorset, so can I talk like that? Friendly, but that's kind of a bit Bristol[?], but that's down south regional accent. So I think the producer went, "But you look demented!" [laughter] "Can't you... I mean, I think... Can't you, I mean it's a little bit strange, I mean Michael Caine would be great." You know, East End switch off, oh dear. So finally, because that was the most, in that sense, that's where most of the dairy farms are, that would have been the most...normal for me. In the end I said, "Well, I'll do Yorkshire for you, because I spent 3 years in York University." [changes accent] It's a slightly duskier accent, maybe a bit more uh... It's a little bit more manly, you know what I mean? And a bit tougher. And these people are traditionally, you know, the miners, people who work with their hands... It's like, there are no dairy farms up there, but it will do.

So I felt at the time that, you know, I felt that it was ludicrous, really, I was not so into it. And then slowly, slowly, when I saw the way that they'd edited it and what had been done, I thought, "They're very clever." And I thought that certain nuances of this really worked. And one of the reasons for this thing, I believe, is to build the profile for somebody who wants to be a messiah. Because if he was going to just be the natural scientist, et cetera... Like I was saying, so many messiahs or fake messiahs in our history come from very humble roots, so it kind of made sense. Also, on that level, lots of fake messiahs sleep with everybody that they possibly can, it's aprt of their cult, and it seems very much a part of Baltar's cult as well."

Awesome accents, a lot of fun to listen to. The scene in Dirty Hands is a bit odd - it comes out of left field, but I think in the end, it worked well. The camera focuses on his mouth and that makes the dark, dusky accent more powerful. It might sort of explain why he sounds British compared to the others - if he started with an Aerelon accent, he may always sound a bit unlike the other Capricans, a bit like he comes from somewhere else. I also think that, in the end, the story of Baltar coming from a worker's planet actually makes sense in terms of his personality. There was an interesting thread at Skiffy about this - A Theoretical Exploration of Baltar's Psyche - where someone built a pretty intricate psychological profile of Baltar based on this tidbit. Just a few quotes:

Baltar is rejected by his fellow Aurelions, particularly his peers, at an early age because of his intelligence because it is so far beyond theirs, just like kids today that are gifted are often shunned, harassed, teased, and bullied. Also, to make it worse, if what Baltar is saying about Aurelion "culture" is true, he may have been rejected not just because he was super intelligent but because that wasn't seen as a good thing...

Then, not only does Baltar find that he is rejected by his fellow Aurelions, he finds that he is rejected by other colonies because of the stereotype that goes along with Aurelions. Therefore he feels very alone, isolated, unloved and rejected by everyone.

Baltar then goes about distancing himself from his Aurelion roots and adopts a non-Aurelion persona, preferring to think of himself as Caprican. He distances himself both because of the treatment and rejection he received from Aurelions because of his intelligence as well as from non-Aurelions because of being Aurelion.

It's really interesting and makes a lot of sense, in terms of his narcissism and other issues.

Moving on, the last bit about the first Q&A:

When he was in Bridget Jones' Diary he was nervous about being able to seem gay enough, but it apparently worked too well, because everyone on set thought he was gay, especially Hugh Grant, who would run away every time James tried to talk to him. (He illustrated this for us. *g*) And when James' wife came to visit him on set, Hugh was like, "Your wife? Really???" He also mentioned that his wife gets upset when he kisses other women on screen, so he has this running joke with her where whenever they're watching a love scene he's like, "Oh, look at that snogging. What great acting. That is an Oscar-worthy snog, right there."
I guess I'll have to admit that I really did think he was gay when I saw him as Tom, and this was long before my BSG fandom. I totally didn't associate him with Tom when I saw him as Baltar, and I was very surprised to hear he had played that role - it's just so different. I think he did a great job, and one that was sorta believable and not just a gay stereotype. I say this as a bisexual (I don't have a lot of gay male friends though, so your mileage may vary). Also, I'm not a fan of Hugh Grant anyway, but that really makes me think less of him.

My pet peeve with Bridget Jones: I haven't found one Youtube clip where James appears for more than two seconds. Is it because BJD is such an old movie by now that all the good clips have been removed? Or because he really appeared in that movie so little? I think I'm going to have to rent the movies and see for myself that he really did play Tom. It just feels so surreal, like part of a different life where I wasn't yet a James fan and still managed to see him on the big screen, twice.

Also - heee, "snog". It's one of those British words that I've never really used myself, but it always amuses me.

Apparently there were two Q&A's, and the next bits will be about the second one.

My question was tangential to the first one, so I raised my hand. James looked at me and said, "Dianora?" [Only he used my real name, ahem.]

As if we were, you know, close personal friends.

Major fan envy. No, but seriously, that's awesome. I think he has a very natural way with the fans in these things, and he really talks like everyone's just good friends with him. It's the same tone he has in the messages on his website. It's a great way of interacting with fans. So Dianora asked a question, and funnily enough, I have a video with just that - "James Callis answering Dia's question". The question is whether he's staying in the US or going back to London after BSG.

"Uh, that's actually got to do with visas, to be [true or truly honest?] [laughter] Um, I don't really know, actually. I've been totally in limbo, that's a strange thing for me, having done BSG. I left London in 2003 for a three-week jaunt to Los Angeles, I didn't know that I would get a job and be in Canada for the next five years. Essentially, we rented out our house in London so we don't have a base in London. And... you know, I actually don't know where.. I suppose, essentially, I will go where the work takes me and where somebody wants to employ me. Hopefully it will be in London or Los Angeles, but you never know." [laughter]

And then he relocated in London and got a job back in Vancouver and went job hunting to LA, and I'm guessing he's back in London now after visiting his grandmother in France... His life sounds really hectic and exhausting with all the traveling. I actually hope he gets a job in some great British drama or sitcom where I could see him and buy the DVDs, because the BBC shows at least will always be aired here. Or some super popular US show where he's playing one of the leading roles. I really want to see him in something like that.

About the Esther movie One Night With the King:

He was in the movie with Omar Sharif, Peter O'Toole, John Rys-Davies, etc., and couldn't believe he was with those guys. He went up to Omar Sharif and said, "So, Omar, I assume that when you heard I would be in this production, that made your decision to participate that much easier, hmm?" Luckily for him, he said, Omar Sharif has a great sense of humor. He said that one time Omar was wearing a funny hat for the film and James said to him, "Omar, when they said put the kettle on, they didn't mean on top of your head." He cracked himself up with that one.
Heee. :D I have a feeling this isn't a great commentary, all I can say half the time is "hee". He's just very naturally funny. I don't think that much of the movie - I've seen only a bit of it so far, and I must admit I find it pretty boring. James' role is very different from Gaius, and it doesn't have that ambiguity, so it's not as interesting to me, and I think it's a bit black and white. He does a great job though. But it's nice that he sort of honored his Jewish heritage there, even if he, ironically, was playing a guy who wants to destroy all the Jews.

Unfortunately, my last video clip:
And the whole thing was that, he was like, before you can play the piano, you have to start singing, [get your gift out?]. And so in an American accent I had to sing German love songs. [laughter; James speaks German in an American accent abit] How I ever did... And the director was very helpful, he was Australian, he went, [Australian accent] "James, if you murder the songs, the audience will hate you!"[laughter]

Dianora's bit that maybe clarifies that:

His first play was with Bob Hoskins, and James played an American, and in an American accent he had to sing German love songs. And the director was an Australian who said that if he was bad, everyone would hate him. And he illustrated all this with the appropriate accents, it was awesome. He played an artist who was supposed to come out and show these gents his pieces, and so he would try to crack them up on stage by substituting nudie pics. And the proper older Brits would just look at him disapprovingly like "James, really." This guy can't catch a break with his attempted pranks!

Heee, again. I can't believe he's done so many pranks that people haven't appreciated. Where's their sense of humor? I also agree with Dianora that James' accents are delicious and add a lot to his stories.

About doing an American accent:

He said that in London, you can be in a serious Shakespearean production, where you're spouting poetry on stage, but backstage everyone is trying to sound like Keanu Reeves. "You've got a hair trigger pointed at your head!" said in his best Keanu whilst pointing an imaginary gun. Hilarious. He noted, though, that the trick to doing an American accent is to sound as much like yourself as possible, because if it's bad, it sounds like "South Park on acid." He did get a role once where he had to use a Latino accent and he said he was "berry berry bad."

Awesome. I wish there was a clip of this. I think the British and American accents aren't actually super different, and I've been impressed with James' American in, say, the Sci Fi Q&A. I think he could do a show in American English quite well. It's not quite as natural as Jamie's, but then Jamie's half American.
He writes music, and Bear McCreary makes him feel like a loser, basically, because he's so young and so talented.

Yeah, that was my reaction to Bear too, especially since he was born the same year as me. He's done all this awesome stuff, and I've - written blogs. It just amuses me that even James, who by my standards is very successful, feels the same way. It's a bit comforting.

This part made me gasp. It's about the scene in Precipice where the cylons "ask" Baltar to sign the death list, and he refuses:

He pointed out that if Baltar were to commit that unforgivable an act with no pressure or provocation, that the character would essentially be dead and there would be nothing to even do with him any more, writing-wise, because he was so irredeemable. So all of the stuff that was in the episode -- the yelling, the gun holding, shooting Six in the head -- was all put there to accommodate James' objections. In fact, when they first started shooting the scene, when Matthew Bennett was giving him the warrant to sign, he was doing it too gently, and James said to him, "This has to feel like an al-Qaeda torture session. If this feels like anything else, I am not going to sign the effing paper." And then he was the one who requested that we don't even see Baltar's hands signing the document, so that the way it is shot, with him listening to head Six and finally signing it, is done as if in a dream, and he doesn't even realize he's doing it, almost.

So - in the original script, Baltar just... signs it? And basically all of the emotional power of that scene is all James? Doral's hardass attitude, the dreamlike thing where we don't see him sign it, the Head Six bit? That scene would be nothing without those things. I always thought that this scene referred to the beginning of the episode, where Gaius tells Laura that he's always followed "the dictates of his conscience" - one of the most ironic Baltar lines ever - and this scene is where he actually tries to follow his conscience and they won't let him. But that it was all added afterwards...

Don't get me wrong, James is a brilliant actor, but sometimes I feel like he should be a writer/director instead. Because he really made that scene. What would Baltar be without James?

There's a bunch of awesome stuff in Dianora's posts that I didn't quote, because I feel like I already quoted too much. This Q&A session is one of my favorite interviews, and I wish they did more of these at conventions. I'm going to do the FanExpo 2006 Q&A soon, even if it's a lot older. I hope he'll have some kind of personal Q&A at Starfury, because while I love the panels, they don't give a lot of time for one person to speak.

More transcripts coming soon.

No comments: