So this is about the events on New Caprica in the first three episodes of season three.
[thinks for a moment] Maybe it's the same for every person. Yes. Yes. they were terribly difficult to do. I'm not going to.. I'm not lying about it or joking or whatever, I put myself thru... excuse the phrase, a huge amount of shit. But maybe everybody did. You know, you're playing somebody who's got.. who's a puppet, a quizling. And in their name of not in their name, people are being killed. And you're trying to show that as real. So that is um.. horrendous. Possibly the most difficult thing...
You see, I'm not Gaius Baltar. I'm James Callis. And myself, I'm...I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid of any kind of confrontation or whatever, if I don't like something you're going to find out about it. I'm not gonna be shy or retiring, I'm gonna be the first in the front to tell you what I wanna do, how I wanna do it. What I was playing was an abject coward. Somebody who was always reunning away and.. that's really not me! There's a certain fun in the liberty of being somebody totally different to yourself.
But when it came to signing death warrants, that made me sick. Sick to my stomach, even for the character that I was playing. You can't do this, you can't... And I went thru a huge deal with them because in the orig... I was sent a script of all those things and I was very excited, I was like, "Why am I being sent a script really before everyone else? It's because they like me so much." And I was reading all this stuff, like you're watching on New Caprica, and I was like, "This is brilliant, this stuff, it really is amazing." And then, whatever... They ask me to sign the death warrant and I did! With no.. without so much as a ? in the script.. it was like "Hey, you sign it" and I just did!
That's when the shit really hit the fan and I went potty and I was like, whatever... I was actually in India at the time. I spent a lot of money ringing to LA going, "I'm not coming back, I won't do it! You'll change it round. You'll do some other things. Because otherwise you've destroyed the character, and destroyed the integrity if he had any... I'll tell you something: if you do that, I don't actually wanna play him. I feel sick. And then nobody'd want to...It is irredeemable." Cos we know, in today, about people who do that kind of thing.. I was like, it doesn't wash with me. So to help me out... I said, I'm gonna have nightmares about this, this is some guy I'm playing on television. I'm not supposed to have like personality disorders after the show finishes cos I was so upset with what you've done.
So they did this thing whereby they shot Number Six, first of all, they said, "Listen, she can be resurrected but you can't". I said, OK, that's a plus. That's something else. And one of the things I suggested was that you never really saw him sign the document. And then what would happen was, because of his living in this ulterior world with Number Six, when she's talking to him, it was in that moment while she's talking that the thing is signed. He looks down and it's done already. I said that way, you don't see him physically sign the thing, you've also protected him, because it's happened in some mental whiteout.
I then saw the cut of the thing, where they had cut the thing where they shot Tricia, so.. and they showed me signing the letter. And I went crazy. I mean, I really did go crazy. And I rang up the producers and said, "You wrote all this stuff, you put it all in, that's why I agreed to do it, now you've taken it all out! So now it just looks like they say sign it, that's what I do!" And even while we were filming it, the guy who... Matthew Bennett, Doral, they, everybody went there with me. I said, "listen, the only way I'll ever physically this thing, it's gotta look like one of those Al-Qaeda torture videos, where essentially shortly after you put the gun to my head, you're going to cut my head off. It has to feel like that nad look like that, otherwise I'm gonna spit in your face. So make it... make it like, whatever." And by that time Dean Stockwell was like.. [does an amazing Dean Stockwell voice and face, walks around ] "Sign the fucking thing... How much longer is this gonna take... Sign it, sign it, it's acting, just sign it!" [laughter] And we spent uh.. a long time.
And then the producers came to me and went, "We can't. We've changed it round, it's already gone to the press, and it's like this and it's just too bad. That's a lot of money that we spent processing the negatives and the sound and everything. That means now we've gotta [unlock?] the picture, go back, put this stuff in, change the sound out and everything." I said, "You gotta do it, you've really got to do it. Cos otherwise you don't have a character. He's pretty irredeemable anyway, but otherwise it's all lost." And I must say to their incredible credit, after the picture was locked, after it had been shown to the journalists, they went back and they did put in that thing where Number Six was being shot, and they did haze it over with the signing of the document, and for that, I will be, like, eternally grateful. As I told them. Cos the thought of it made me ill. And I'm glad that they helped me out [?]
Here, we get an interesting glimpse of James the person, as well as James the actor. He has strong opinions and feelings about things, and he's not going to hide them. I don't consider him confrontational necessarily, because he's so kind to and about the people he works with. But I remember David Eick mentioning that James is such a personality - he'll come in hugging you one week because he loves the script, or he might come in breathing fire because he hates what they're doing. The temperamental side of him doesn't really come out in these interviews, even if he's obviously someone with strong emotions (and you'd have to be, as an actor). Honestly I can't imagine him angry, but I can imagine him being stubborn and saying "I won't do this."
I can't believe that they would have just had him sing the paper. What the frak? The reason that's so powerful is because a) they shoot Caprica Six, b) Head Six appears, c) you don't see him sign the thing. That's what makes the scene so great. I was pretty appalled to hear how close they were to cutting all of that. There are many fans who, in a conversation about Gaius' conscience or lack thereof, still quote that he signed the death list. Even if he opposed to it, he did sign it in the end, and that already makes him irredeemable to some fans. I can't even imagine what they'd be saying if he had just signed it without any resistance.
When James talks about Six being shot, he makes a gun with his hand and points it in the air. And he does it again when he mentions the shooting for a second time. I love how much he talks with his hands.
I also find Dean Stockwell's reaction interesting. I wonder if this is a difference between "old school" actors - just do what's on the page - and younger actors, or Americans and Brits, or if James is just one of the few who really dare speak up and have an opinion about their character.
The fact that they gave James so much leeway... I wonder if it's because he's such a stellar actor and brought the show so much acclaim. Or maybe because they really wanted to make a show where the characters were thought out and believable. They obviously had strong feelings about how to write Baltar, and I'm surprised and, like James, grateful that they listened to him.
Two questions: 1. how did he like the character development in season 4, with the cult? (The fan herself doesn't seem very convinced by it.)
2. The last day of shooting, tell us something about filming the finale.
Um.. I think they're both good questions. I think it's fair to say that the producers or writers, whatever, didn't necessarily know what they were gonna do with me. Because actually, what they wanted was for the end of season three, they wanted to have a verdict at the trial that would basically send me back to prison. Not that I would be exonerated and not that I would be found guilty, but that it would be a hung jury and an extension and I would go back to prison. But I'd spent the whole of season 3 in prison, I just said, "I can't do that again." You know, this just.. on some level it's boring as well. It's just like, alright here we go, back to the cell, here he is. So.. I dunno where the idea came from about breaking out of there, but the whole idea was about...[??] On some real level about making it more interesting for me as an actor to play, rather than just you know, the charater.
I was like, what if there are people, you know there are always these nutcases, who, whatever, write to somebody in prison, they want to save this person's soul... What if there's a crowd of these people who have silently been gathering momentum, and they're going to... You know, they think this guy is the bee's knees, or they're going to appropriate him for their own needs? How weird would that be? I don't really know who had the idea, but there was something funny and edgy and strange about this man, who is a social pariah, ending up in his own cult. [laughs] And what's funny about that as well is that, you know, most of these guys who start their own cults, they start them. They've got their helpers, disciples, they've got their own weird speech, thought in their mind about what it is they're for or what it is they're against. This was a totally different deal. This is like the man is plucked from one thing and um... and then he has this group of people.
And I said to them on several times, "Listen, one week it's all about God and God exists, and the next week he doesn't believe in God, it's all rubbish... it's all rubbish!" And [?], he was like, "Have you never listened to these people on the radio? That's exactly how it is! Just listen to these people on the radio! One week it's all about this, the next week it's all about something else! These people never make up their minds, it's all crazy horseshit! Enjoy!" I suppose on some level, it was possibly the weakest material, because Gaius is really making it up as he goes along. And um... yeah, it was... I don't know where they were going to take it or what they were going to do. I don't.. They tried several things. Um... Revolution between the two forces, and I thnk Gaius' group was supposed to get a lot stronger within the fleet, and there may have been some social revolution
What they said [?] He's a dangerous, unknown quantity. And so that people like Adama and Roslin leave him alone, he's got to have his own backing somewhere in the bounds of the fleet, whereby they leave him alone. We don't want him coming down here all the time, it screws up the storyline. So essentially their idea was that because I was appropriated by the cult and trying to make it on my own, it was a big power base for Gaius baltar that meant he had to be taken seriously by people in authority. I'm not usre how seriously they took that, but that's where it came from.
Exonerated. Found not guilty. Professor James teaches me new words again. I should make a list sometime of all the words I've learned while writing this blog (that's several just from this interview).
I find the idea of Gaius in prison for season four... yeah, slightly boring and I think there might not have been very many scenes with him, because what more could they do with that? On the other hand, there may have been more HeadSix, and maybe there could have been a thing where his and Caprica's storylines would have mixed more. Like Baltar/HeadSix and Caprica/HeadBaltar and why not more complex things as well? I think that would have been interesting, but on the other hand, it would have completely removed Baltar from the main storylines, and that would have led to him being pretty much ignored. And while I would have loved extra Head scenes, I don't think they would have done that. So I don't know.
The thing about the cult is, I liked it at first. It was a good concept. The last episodes of season 3, and the couple of first episodes of season 4, it was pretty awesome. But then it just kind of... dwindled into nothing. Gaius was barely on screen, for one thing, and I'm still mad at Faith for having him on only as a voice booming in the background of one scene. I felt like in the earlier seasons, Gaius' storyline was tighter and more interesting to follow. The finale was great, but it went back to Ye Olde Gaius, rather than expanding on Cult Leader Gaius. I've wondered if the cult storyline really served any purpose, other than to bring some comic relief back to Gaius after torture-suicide-prison. Here he is again, having sex and saying crazy stuff and lying, this is the old Gaius we know and love but with a twist, he's maybe found something. -Or has he? It's an interesting setup, but like many other things in season four, it didn't really lead anywhere.
And the thing about the last few days...We shot... I can't remember the name of the place, it's the third.. oh, Kamploops it's called. Kamploops is where we shot for Africa in Vancouver. Kamploops is, I think, the third largest town in British Columbia, which is quite alarming. [laughter] When you drive through Kamploops, there are these cars outside people's farms or homes that stopped working in either 1950-something or 1960, and they're just sinking into the ground outside these farms. I say that because it wasn't just one. We were driving, it was like all these cars, just disintegrating into the earth, I really mean it, like the tires, you can't see them. Kinda slowly falling into the earth, they've just been left there. These old Studebakers or you know.. very rural, very beautiful.
Kamploops. Well, the Wikipedia entry makes it sound bigger than James' description, but I think it's mainly a large area of joined villages, rather like the village in the Finnish countryside where I grew up in. There's apparently still a large native population, and the name is a Shuswap word for "meeting of the waters". Very interesting. One of those places I'd probably never have heard of if it weren't for James. And I can't imagine a car sinking into the ground, but I'll take his word for it. The picture is of him showing the sinking.
There was a... I suppose it was... It didn't really feel like the end so much cos we actually felt we were shooting the end when we arrived.. I can't remember which episode it was, burt it's the end of one season, where we arrive on the first Earth - and it's desolate. On that beach. So that's actually when we thought we were finishing, cos there was a writer's strike in LA and we were told, really, that we weren't gonna come back. Nobody knew really what was going on. I've never seen so many cast members in one place, all 20 of us on the beach and they were like, "You ten sit there, and you ten sit there." They didn't really know what they were going to do with us. Didn't know how it was gonna... That felt more like the end than the final day. And uh...
I do know this actually. On the final, I had a big speech. It's all coming out now. I had a big speech at the end to Cavil about how Hera is not a thing, she was... How she was, you know, the savior of both of our races. I'd been preparing for this for some while, I mean it's the denouement of the whole show. Unfortunately Michael Rymer had sent Dean Stockwell home. So I arrived ready to do my big scene, and it's like... ready to do my big scene, "Where's the man I'm speaking to?" Oh, damn! Sent him home. I said, it's 2 o'clock in the morning! Yeah, but I'm here! So I actually had to deliver that to Michael Hogan, who, as you know, was actually supposed to be on the balcony with his eyepatch as one of the final five! He kept running down the stairs to stand in front of me as Dean, say his lines and then go back up the stairs. The magic of cinema.. so that was one of the amusing things that happened the last few days.
Hee! :D I love these little behind the scenes stories. We get so few of them, don't we?
It strikes me as odd, again, how the episodes blend in for him so that he can't even remember what episode the first Earth stuff was in. I'm sure all fans remember bitterly how long we had to wait for season 4.5. It would have been an incredibly dark ending for the show, and I would have grieved the lack of a Six/Baltar ending. I've wondered a few times, though, if some fans wouldn't have been happier with that ending rather than the one we got. Some people complained about it being too happy, or too open-ended, or too tying-all-knots-together. I'm happy we still got those ten episodes, even if I didn't enjoy all of them, and I felt 4.5 was, all in all, the weakest season or half-season. I did enjoy the finale.
Will Head Baltar appear in the series Caprica?
"I'm not sure. I'm not sure."Hee! *tries to imagine James in Tricia's dress* :D :D It'd be a lot of chest hair in the cleavage, that's for sure.
Fan: But it could be possible?
James: "Oh, yes, it really could be possible. Uh... I um... I think Caprica's a great show. Have you seen it yet? Yeah. Um... There've been discussions to be honest, there have been discussion, but I wasn't interested in uh... appearing for a minute or something like that in the new show. Cos I actually felt that it cheapened the character. Like if you really want to go somewhere with this story, or this thing, it has to be more than once, but I'm not sure that that's something they want to do. So... we'll see. Never say never. I thnk mabye Gaius comes back in like Tricia's dress [laughter] Oh he can't, they've already sold it at auction. Drat!"
I haven't seen Caprica yet. Needless to say, if James is on it, I will see at least those episodes. I'm glad he's protecting the character and that they're letting him do so - they could always hire someone else to play HeadBaltar, I guess. The character is important for James, and I'm glad he's still invested in its integrity. I also kinda wish they'd write him into the show, because I want to see more James on TV. But there will be other projects.
The only non-BSG question is about Bridget Jones' Diary. Could he tell us a bit about that?
Sure. Everyone thought I was gay. [laughter] That's about the thick of it. I arrived one day when my wife came to see me, and it was like, "Your...wife.. is that like really your wife..?" The first film was a lot of fun. I got cast... I think on Thursday or Friday, and they started fiming on Tuesday. I must have been the very last person to that party. Shows how important I was, essential.
I auditioned singing Tainted Love, [laughter] I'm pretty sure it was Tainted Love. I didn't even have any lines, I just had to walk into a room and like do this [shakes his hips a bit], Tainted Love. Apparently my singing wasn't great but the way I shook my bum was. [laughter] That's the message that came back, it was like "yeah, you shook your arse nice". And now you're going off and you're meeting... cos I then ended up meeting Sally Phillips and Shirley Henderson, the two friends, who had been cast years ago. Years! Everybody [?] except me. And we had a lot of fun. Mostly it was just myself and Sally Phillips and Shirley Henderson in a trailer waiting to get to set. It's one of those big films as well.. It's not like TV, where you gotta finish the things for the week and make your day and everything, it's like... There's obviously still a schedule, but I thnk like any person who's been playing a supporting role or sth in film, you spend hours, sometimes days, waiting to get to the set."What's going on on set?" one day they let you get there. In the meantime you know, don't get there.
Like I said everybody thought I was gay, especially Hugh Grant, it was very funny.[laughter] He kept on avoiding me, literally. I would wave, and he'd be like,[walks away] Bye... [laughter]
What they said to me in the beginning was, "I dunno what you're doing, it doesn't feel right.. you're likeable enough, I just.. We wanna make him really silly, James." I went yes. "And really camp." And I went yeah. They went, "So just don't do anything." What would you mean, what are you talking about? [laughter] "I mean just be you!" I was like, "Hey, wait a minute! I'm not really silly and I don't think I'm particularly camp." They went, "Fantastic! What you're doing right now! What you're doing right now, that's great."
Um... and I was actually slightly uncomfortable about it myself, I didnt' know... I've got a friend in London who was like, [very gay voice] "Well I know who you based that on." [laughter] Wait, I didn't base it on you! Where did you get... I just came up with the voice, it wasn't... I can't say it was the finest point of acting ever, it was just a lot of fun. I remember forcing myself to look at this guy's bum. He came past me, I was supposed to like check him out. It was like, what am I supposed to do? So I was like, rather than looking at his face, I looked at this bottom. And the same friend went, "And it's so obvious, the way you check that guy's bum. Nobody does that, nobody. It's far too obvious. You're not subtle."[laughter] So that was that..
Otherwise the second fim... I dunno, I didn't enjoy the second film as much but I'm not sure anybody did particularly. [laughter] At the time I was in India and my second... my first kid was being born, and they wanted me to come to London. I was like, "Look, I told you, my kid's being born..." Basically it was a lot of journeys from India to London and then back to India. It was a bit... There wasn't really much sense of continuity for me. I dunno,they say they're making a third one... apparently, allegedly. Maybe Tom turns straight in the third one [mischievious smile]
Heee! :D I love the Tainted Love story and the friend's voice he does. It's surprising and delightful that there are facets to the Bridget Jones role that he hasn't mentioned before. I must admit the bum-check-out seemed very authentic to me. He managed to look pretty lusty there. And I still think Hugh Grant is a royal ass - or arse, if you prefer that word - for acting that way. What did he think James was going to do? The interesting thing about BJD is that James talks quite fondly of it, like he had fun filming it and he liked the co-stars. You can tell he doesn't think so much of the films and the acting he had to do, but it was a positive experience.
I have to quote him a bit from the old messages he left at the Unofficial Website:
During the shooting:
I've been BJDing for quite some time but in effect am not so seminal to main story line, there is of course another storyline that is whipped up every day, impromptu like, by myself and the other delightful lesser mortals whom malign fate has called upon to be B's "friends", as we sit in the spooky caravans and dream of one day getting onto the set, and perhaps (and I know this is crazy) that someone might make a mistake and we might actually end up in the film after all, but at the moment the caravan storyline isn't being shot.
After the first film:
Have seen the trailer to BJD and read a few preview articles on da web, most say that the "friends" are given short shrift in the film (couldn't agree more) but one web site quoted something I do as " the best bit in the film" I didn't even pay them any money.... Is there a sequel? Apparently Renee's been approached and so has Kate Winslet... sadly I have not been approached as yet, but maybe they'd like me to take over from where Hugh left off (As if)
I wish he had gotten Hugh's role. Would have made it a lot less one-note. I've probably mentioned before that I really think there would have been so much more material, especially about Tom, in the books. I don't know why they chose to focus on other, less funny stuff when they had James.
And it sounds like they haven't actually approached him about a third film. I'm kinda sorta hoping he won't do Tom again, and kinda sorta hoping he will. I feel ambivalent.
Actually, just a few days ago, I had to explain to someone at work who James is. I said he played Gaius Baltar in BSG - the coworker starts shaking her head - "Well, did you see Bridget Jones? He played the gay friend."
"The... gay friend..?"
"You know, one of Bridget's friends, the gay guy, ex-pop singer..?" Coworker shakes her head again.
"OK.. Do you remember the scene where Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are having that big fight in the restaurant?"
"Yes, yes I do."
"Well, Tom is the guy who comes in and shouts, It's a fight! A real fight!"
"Oh! Now I remember him! He was really funny."
James is like one of those guys people have seen but can't quite place. It's kind of funny. I hope he gets some notable main roles after BSG.
The last question. James goes, "Aww, is that the last question? See, don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got til it's gone?" He sounds sort of genuinely bummed, and so much love for that.
The same fan who asked about the season four development earlier asks a follow-up question about Gaius being religious. She found it a bit hard to buy, and felt the writers didn't really know what to do. It's a loaded question, but it produces one of my favorite James answers yet about the topic.
This is one of these things that any writer can have a problem with. What do you do when some person in the story develops a presence or an understanding beyond the [welkin?] of your own perspective? I dunno, coming back from the dead... You're an actor, which means you're only a human being which means you only have your own experience. So that, so... Trying to find a deep spiritual meaning has actually evaded so many people who are in a better place to talk about it. It's kind of like the spiritual equivalent of somebody really going through the eye of the needle. There's a significant change in spirit. Somebody will say different things.. Because they're touched, they're anointed, they are enlightened... The spark has taken off in them...It's interesting, because he seems to speak highly of spirituality, and when he discusses having a spiritual yearning, he puts his hand to his chest, so it seems like maybe he's had these thoughts himself. When he was talking about this before, in the Dragon*Con panels last year, it seemed more anti-spiritual, but when you think of that Sam Harris quote, it could mean that
The thing is, with our own experience, which is rather more hum drum, mundane - how do we write that? How do we write the person who's gone thru the eye of the needle and make sense? And that's actually one of the problems we have with... it's not just a problem with Gaius Baltar, it's a problem trying to do... anything that touches on God, or the mind of God or the will of God. These are things really... I would imagine most people, we've got a spiritual yearning of you've got something that throbs inside of you, you don't quite understand although you have a.. magical understanding, I suppose that's the best way I could put it. How do you puit that into words without sounding like an idiot?
To quote somebody else: Sam Harris, in his book The End of Faith, was like.. why is it that there's a guy who wears a dog collar in church and he says, "Last night the angels spoke to me and they told me this.." and you in the congregation are all gonna believe it, why not? He's the pastor. But if somebody says a similar thing about, "What I did to speak to angels was wire myself to a kettle", then you stick them in a mental asylum. On that level, it's ... The dichotomy actually isn't so terribly different. But true um.. true understanding of something other than yourself about the greater spirit or the unconscious is uh... terribly hard to quantify, to put into words. I think the closest that they came to it was the speech I had after I was beaten up. It was, I think.. They don't necessarily make sense on a literal level and they're rather beautiful and elliptical. Because one would imagine, there must be something mystical about the mind of god. Otherwise I dunno, it would be like getting a Subway or McDonald's, for everybody, access for everybody. That's not the way it is. You have to be deeply in touch, perhaps deeply in touch with yourself. They say the third eye is the eye that looks inwards, not ouwards.
And so he has this speech where he says when you find out the truth about them and others and yourself.. I can't remember the whole thing but it's like.. the truth is, you're perfect. You're all perfect. Essentially that doesn't mean very much, but in the room at the time, and the feeling - it meant something huge. And the connection.. I think that's the closest they touch in the whole thing to Gaius getting somewhere or some understanding.. and when you get to that place and that platfrom.. you're gonna go up. That's even more difficult, I'd imagine, because it's out of the experience, not only of the performer, but also of the writers. Does that make sense?
a) people have genuine spiritual experiences, but only ones within the bounds of organized religion are accepted;
b) all spiritual experiences are signs of madness and should be ridiculed.
I think maybe I read it more as b) last year, but it looks more like a) here. He sounds respectful and genuine about spirituality, and that also came out earlier when he mentioned that Michael Rymer is a "spiritual, enlightened" director, which sounded like high praise.
I'm surprised I see his comments as less anti-religion now. It could reflect my own change of heart over the last year. If I may digress just a bit, I was raised in the Lutheran church and believed for a long time that faith=Christianity and religion=spirituality. Personal spirituality has always been more important for me, but I didn't really consider until last December that I could believe in God, but not believe in Jesus. It's weird how long I equated religion with spirituality.
I would imagine that James thinks about these things and other profound stuff a lot. It would be interesting to have a chat with him sometime about life, death and God. Maybe I'll have a chance to do that before I die.
So that's the end of the panel. Applause. The people in the audience look happy. As would I. You lucky bastards!!! -eh, sorry. James walks out, probably to smoke a cigarette or two (I must admit I'm impressed he can go without for 90 minutes).
At the end of the video, some visitors are asked how they found the event. This is in German and I'll just paraphrase quickly. They say James was very nice and funny, he answered the questions thoroughly and was easy to understand even if you don't speak perfect English.
You can see a bit of the photo session, and James looks very comfortable and happy posing there. All in all, looks like an awesome event. Sigh. Well, maybe next time there's something like this, I'll actually be able to afford it. The autograph was so beautiful though, I almost feel like I got to meet him.
After the fans, the organizer is interviewed. He says the event was a success, and they got good feedback both about and from James, although there could have been a few more guests (I believe it was a bit under 100). You can tell it was a well-organized con, and James looks relaxed in all of the pictures. If I haven't said this before: THANK YOU FKM EVENTS - it was an awesome con and, at least for me, the high point of the year fandom-wise. Standing ovation.