One thing Caprica will have in common with its parent show, Battlestar Galactica: Gnarly, uncompromising characters who'll make choices you won't like. We talked to star Paula Malcomson and producer David Eick about the bad mother who birthed the Cylons.
Oh, and there are some minor spoilers in this post, but nothing serious. Actually, the picture above might be slightly spoilery, but it's just such an amazing image of Amanda, I had to use it.
Malcomson plays Amanda Graystone, the mother of Zoe Graystone, the spoiled teen girl who becomes the first Cylon in the show's pilot. Graystone isn't exactly the greatest mother in the world, and she makes some choices in the first few episodes of the show that you may make you scream at your television set.
We took part in a conference call with Malcomson and Eick earlier today, and we got the chance to ask them about how you handle a bad mom like Amanda. Does Malcomson have a hard time playing such an unsympathetic character?
Malcomson says, "It's definitely something that occurs to you in the back of your mind, but as an actor you have to set aside your own judgments as to whether the character is good or bad... Being a good actor is sort of understanding the complexity of the human psyche and also knowing that we are none of us perfect. But yes, it was tough, and I did think that, particularly, men would find this character unsympathetic. I just tried to… tap into the loss and the pain, and the fact that she has made mistakes and go from there… you know."
Eick adds that he doesn't think there's any room for the trope of "sympathetic characters" on shows like Caprica, any more than there was on BSG. "Audiences like challenging characters. [There's] no room for black and white, [only] morally gray." And he adds that you'll find Amanda unpredictable and weird: "Sometimes you expect her to lose her shit and she holds it together, and vice versa. That's part of the charm of the show."
Also, Eick explained more about what's new and different in the version of the two-hour pilot that airs on Friday, as opposed to the version many of us already bought on DVD. "The version that airs Friday is tricked out with a couple of new shots and visual effects and some new scenes we reshot."
In particular, there's one huge new sequence that was too expensive to include on the original version, because the show hadn't been picked up as a series yet. The sequence, involving Daniel at a Pyramid game, was so expensive to create, the cost had to be amortized across the cost of the rest of the show's first season. But it's totally worth it, says Eick, because it'll "enhance and amplify the spectacle of this world. One of the aspects of the Caprica universe is that they have sports, and they like them, and they're huge. In that way they're [representative of how] this is a culture from which our culture descended, for those who are embroiled in the mythos."
As for the oft-repeated shibboleth that Caprica is more aimed at female viewers than the spaceship-heavy BSG, Eick says a lot of the ardent BSG fans he encountered during that show's run were women, and he never had a sense that BSG's audience skewed heavily male. "In general terms, I do recognize that a female audience might be inclined to watch something [that tells a story] in soap-operatic terms, without the accompanying visual ghetto of spaceships and shots of outer space… But certainly that was not a motivation for not setting the show in space… The motivation was to make it as different and unique from BSG as possible."
And yet, Caprica doesn't just deal with similar themes to BSG, it also handles them the same way: with character-based storytelling. Says Eick, "Nothing's different, which is to say, whether you're telling a story in the realm of a combat level spacecraft where everyone is battle-weary and definitely hoping to survive, or in an environment like Caprica, where we're in a much more terrestrial world [which is] much more expansive, the focus is still on character. Whether the theme happens to be what kind of moral values are necessary for technological advancement… or the nature of the human soul, those themes still get explored on a point of view level, in terms of character…and character is where we start our story. [It's] not terribly plot driven. [The audience is there] for The Sopranos, Mad Men, Grey's Anatomy, The Wire, The Shield,and [other] shows that are about delving into the character."
Eick also downplays the idea that the show's recent change of showrunner from Jane Espenson to Kevin Murphy will mean a major change in the pace or style of the show's second half. Caprica's just had the same evolution as every other first-season show, discovering the right pace and mix of elements. With BSG, "the show needed to find its legs," and answer questions like, "how serialized is it going to be, how much action, how much esoterica from the Cylons' standpoint?" Along with which arcs would be left dangling and which ones would be wrapped early, and which characters would die off. "The showrunner change was a function of practicality and aiming weapons where they are best used." That said, Eick says Caprica does get better as it goes along, just like every good show. Caprica is about a week away from wrapping filming on its first season.
Eick adds that a lot of "very deliberate decisions" went into making Caprica stand on its own, and having the show's "Battlestar connective tissue as sparse as possible... Hopefully we're telling great stories very, very well. In no way are we relying on the Battlestar faithful to carry the show."