So how would you describe your character? He has weaknesses, he's very human...
James: That's exactly what I would say. That's exactly what I was told by the director. Yeah... he's very human. He makes a lot of mistakes, um.. he's constantly trying to uh.. look after his own self-interest. Um... But he is compassionate and he has a heart. And I think that's the thing possibly that most people connect with. I don't know, but I would think so in the sense of.. it's the thing that's most affecting. It's not somebody who doesn't care, it's somebody who cares very deeply. Just happens to be on the wrong side of... whichever side he'd like to be on. This is both his strength and his weakness.
It's interesting how he says that now. In the 2004 BBC Cult TV interview, he said Baltar is only relatable because he has a conscience. It's a slightly different thing to say. It's not just that he's able to feel guilt for the things he's caused, but he's actually capable of caring about other people, caring deeply.
Like James has mentioned in some other interviews, he was the only one who didn't hate the cylons just for being cylon. He's not hateful or prejudiced or actively evil; he's just very weak and makes mistakes. As the events push him closer to other people, he becomes more and more caring and less and less narcissistic. It's like Baltar's good sides are coming out from under the arrogance and narcissism. James' final thoughts on him sound much more sympathetic than the earlier ones (for instance, he said in 2005 that fans should really question why they feel sympathy for this character).
Are you personally a fan of sci fi or... (James turns his head to the wall for a moment, looking serious - he does that again later, so he's probably just thinking, but she seems to interpret it as a sign of not liking the question)... not so much?
James: I think all boys are on some level. You know, pretty much.. My kids, they.. they haven't really seen Star Wars, but they love Luke Skywalker, they love.. they're already into you know, Darth Vader and all of htis kind of stuff.. yeah, it's a part ofthe reason of being here at the film festival, it's a part of bieng on that level... exploration and.. pushing the boundaries in your imagination or your mind that then will reflect out of your mind into society. So much of the science fiction becomes science fact.
I love when he mentions his children. There's a certain extra warmth when he talks about them. Maybe I'm just imagining it, but it seems like there's a special smile in his voice. But the impression I get from him in this and all other interviews is that he wasn't, in fact, a huge sci fi fan as a child, and maybe still isn't. He didn't even want to do BSG at first because of that.
That thing about science fact reminds me of 3rd Rock From the Sun where the characters, who are aliens in human disguise, go into a sci fi convention. Shocked at the misrepresentation of aliens there, they get on stage and go, "We've had enough sci fi! Let's focus on science facts - sci-fa!! Long live sci-fa..." Hee, sci-fa! There was some talk about that in the Jules Verne stuff, so I won't comment too much here.
You're English?When he talks about Vancouver and the people there, his voice goes all warm and fuzzy. You can tell he really means what he said. Maybe he misses Vancouver and working there now. I've noticed that when James praises people, he very often begins with "kind". It's obviously very important for him that people are kind, which isn't always a given. I really like that about him.
James: I am. I know I don't sound it, but I am.
James: I was joking. Yeah, I do sound pretty English.
Was it easy working with Americans?
James: (mock-angry voice) No! Not at all!
It's really diferent?
James: No, they are... I'm joking again. Yeah, of course, you know... a lot of people actually, we filmed in Vancouver so it was Canadians mostly. Vancouver's a beautiful part of the world. The Canadians are really... oh dear. In Vancouver... Some of the sweetest people, kind, gentle... For five years on the set, nobody raised their voice at anybody else. You know, nobody got angry. Everything's all like, easy and cool and.. a wonderful working environment and... Yeah, I just... I loved it and loved being there.
Certainly, we're all actors, on that level, we're all human beings. I find the... I don't like to draw differences between, as it were, at us and at them.. or whatever. We're all actors, we all came together and we were all.. part of a big family. There was no distinction just because you were from London. Jamie also is from London, and it was him and me flying the flag for Britain.
At this point, it began to aggravate me that the interviewer can't laugh at any of his jokes. It's obvious that he's trying to break the ice and ease her tension, but it just doesn't work. Maybe she's too nervous to laugh or relax, or maybe she just doesn't get his humor at all. It's a shame, because he's being totally adorable here. When he does the angry voice and rolls his eyes at the Americans as a joke, he really looks like he did in the Music of BSG mockumentary.
(The interviewer says something about there being only five minutes, because they're doing promotion... or something. I don't really hear her.)And the nicest person in the world award goes to... Seriously, he doesn't even look uncomfortable, even if she doesn't laugh at any of his jokes. I would have been totally embarrassed at some point and just fidgeted nervously in my seat.
James: Is it only the promotion, you don't wanna ask any more questions? I'll ask one of your questions, please.
(She doesn't seem to get that he's joking, once again. Awkward. But James is very calm and kind.)
I'm not really blaming the interviewer, I guess. If I met James, I would probably be like this too. In fact, if I were doing this interview, I'd most likely mumble something like, "Uh.. your ch..chest hair... how many... chest hairs have you got...?" Because he has his top button undone and it's really showing and glowing, as it often is. I keep getting sidetracked staring at it. I even got sidetracked writing this. Um, but yeah, there's something cute about this interview, because it's sort of like a fan meeting between James and the interviewer. He's a great pro.
When did James realize the show was becoming a phenomenon? He starts by saying it became more and more important for him, but he can't speak for anyone else. The interviewer clarifies with something that I can't really hear, and he seems to really think hard before answering. He's looking at the wall again for a moment.
James: Well, I suppose, you know... How to put that.. Every other day somebody will come up to me and say, "Hey, I saw you in this show, we love it and we love the show.." I suppose on some really.. on some level, I totally take that for granted. I'm like, of course everybody's seen the show, why not? I'm not like a... what's the word, like a big head about it. I'm like yeah, if you've seen it then you'll know who I am.
For me, it became important after the miniseries when we came back and we were doing the first season. I was like, I suddenly realized, really, I was like... This is a job I love, this is a part that I love to play, these are people I love to be with, and I think what we're doing is really important, I think the show is important. I would meet people who hadn't seen the show, and I would say, "No, you really must!" And then I'd have to calm down a bit, because that's a bit much to people who haven't seen it. It's not like I'm going, "Watch the show" (makes a gun with his hand) with a gun in my hand.. Please.. (laughs) [I wish the interviewer laughed here, but she doesn't, and James kills his smile quickly and goes back to business.]
So it became a phenomenon for the people involved in it after the acceptance of the pilot show. You make a pilot and it disappears, you can never watch it. The fact that you're coming back for a season means you've got some stamp of approval. You've done something right, and there's some... respect and some pressure on your shouleders to continue the show on. This was very exciting for all of us.
Since it was his first central role in a series, it must have meant so much at that point. It's sometimes hard for me to remember how many small roles he had done before BSG, and how he really wasn't all that well known. I expected to find a lot of previous experience with main roles, but when I looked through his imdb resume, I realized there isn't all that much. He seems to have so much more experience, which, I guess, comes from his stage work? Or is it just natural talent like Tricia's acting? I don't know.
It's funny how BSG makes you an evangelist. I converted my girlfriend, a friend of mine converted me, and I even tried to explain to my brother why BSG matters. He said it's childish, "all these aliens coming and..." I said they're robots. "Well, same difference! Aliens, robots, alien robots... coming to destroy humans and... It's so childish." I tried to explain about the themes, but he just looked at me like I'm a bit simple. He often does that. Well, it's not much of a loss, since his verdict of Gladiator was "all the guy does is talk, there's way too little killing", while The Sopranos was "dull, I've seen two episodes from two different seasons and they were both boring." This is not someone who gives TV shows or movies a chance. But I am still a bit bitter, and this happened in January.
Is he proud of the show?
Yes, really proud. Really really very... hugely proud of being involved .. It's a real privilege, a real gift to be involved in that kind of thing.. yes. Changes your mind about the world and the way you think.. I've had lots of interviews today, lots of people ask so many different questions. This is all we wanted. It's like there's so many things still to ask about what it means, what it's about, what we're supposed to do, who's right, who's wrong. As long as we're all discussing these things, then the show has really worked on a lot of levels.
You can say you're proud in two ways. One is saying it proudly, and the other is saying it humbly. Guess which way James says it? I believe he's proud of the show and his work in it, but the way he talks about it always gives the impression that this is something greater than him or any individual who works with it. The show itself is something great that he's excited to work with, and he gives the credit for that to other people. The way I see it, James is a big part of why BSG is so great, because he brought nuance to his character that wouldn't have been there otherwise. I think he could afford to talk about it really proudly, even arrogantly, because he really did something great there. But that's just not who he is. He's the humble everyman guy. And I love him for it.