Make your own free website on Tripod.com

60 Seconds Extra: James Callis


Metro, 13 October 2004
By James Ellis


You may not know actor James Callis yet but you will soon. Aside from appearing in Bridget Jones's Diary and the soon-to-be-released follow-up, he is now taking on the role of Gaius Baltar in the new version of 1970s sci-fi classic Battlestar Galactica - a show that is quite different from the original.

How did you get the role?
I'm tempted to say that I slept with the executive producer

Oh, please do.
No, that's not true. I had to go through a lot of auditions like anyone else. And essentially, that's about it. I don't think they were looking for an American necessarily as they needed someone villainous. Of course, as a Brit, it suited their psyche to choose me for the part.

Are you the token Brit on the show?
No, there's Jamie Bamber, who is not playing an American but is playing Commander Adama's [Edward James Olmos's] son so they have to have similar accents. I would suggest, though, that Jamie is even more English than I am.

What is it about America casting Brits as villains?
They would say it's not automatic. I was picked from a list of people that included Americans, Brits, Australians... The character brief actually read: "Please present all ethnicities". The Americans don't want to be seen as bad and so it has to be someone else. We just now happen to come from a long line that probably started with Alan Rickman in Die Hard. There is a kind of shorthand. If you go back to cartoons, Dick Dastardly and Mutley, Dick Dastardly, I believe, was British [adopts posh, villainous, British accent]: "Mutley. Let'ssss go and meddle."

Wasn't Dick just Terry Thomas?
That's exactly it. I'm sure that's where the übercad comes from,the guy with flagrant disregard for anyone else, who wants to win at all costs. Perhaps there is a certain kind of British aristocratic flair that adds to the dastardly deeds. We can be more flamboyant. In an acting sense, heroes are usually less flamboyant.

Do Americans assume you are gay as you have a British accent?
No, they don't. I actually get more people thinking that about me here in England, even though I wear a wedding ring. There seems to be a thing here in the UK at the moment that encourages people to be grey. 'Don't stick out. Just blend in with the cement. Otherwise you're going to get your head knocked off.' People have actually said to me: 'Oi, you f**king gaylord...' I like the US. I once heard a comedian say: 'It's far better to be told to have a nice day by someone who doesn't mean it than to be told to f**k off by someone who does.' That said, there seems to be a gritty realism about these new American cop shows and I've never been invited to appear on one - probably because I do not possess the gritty, realistic qualities needed.

Are you contractually obliged to say you were a fan of Battlestar Galactica when you were a kid?
No, we haven't been schooled into what we should say. Anyone of my age, though, especially boys... Well, if you were not watching Battlestar Galactica, I don't know what you were doing - unless you didn't have a TV or something. I would genuinely like to do a poll to see what people were into. I think it was huge. I remember Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict being in it, their character names and some of the storylines.

Would you rather have been on the Galactica, Millennium Falcon or Starship Enterprise?
As a kid, Millennium Falcon, no doubt. Wouldn't we all? When I went to York Uni to do English, the main building looks like the Millennium Falcon. It's a 1970s mind explosion in concrete. Of course, the reason we were so enamoured was because of the actors. Harrison Ford was the coolest thing we'd ever seen.

I'm surprised to see Starbuck is a woman in the new series. Why?
It's very clever. Space is not the domain of men - and why should it be? Why should sci-fi just be our bag? There's a Sherlock Holmes story in which it's written: 'It always works better when there's a lady involved.' There are women pilots so let's get with the programme. And Katee Sackhoff, who plays Starbuck, is a very attractive spirit and - although it may be inappropriate to say so - she has balls of fire. She also manages to be gentle and feminine at the same time. These are amazing qualities. Dirk Benedict, with all his cigar-puffing antics, did not bring that to the role.

You cannot diss the Dirk.
We are all products of the age we belong to. The central premise of the programme is the same - the planet has been blown up and we are refugees - but the first version of the show was a bit more glitz, glam and disco. I think that misses the mark. If your planet has been blown up, you don't want to be very disco.

Is there some kind of Tarantino-esque subtext here that Apollo and Starbuck were gay?
Don't get all sixth-form sociology on me. We can't de-fragment it. It's not gone from secretly gay to secret post-feminist subtexts. I don't believe for one minute that they were meant to be gay. And having met Richard Hatch (who played Apollo and who appears in the new series), he is a very manly man. You would not want to suggest that to him.

Gaius is a boffin. How good is your knowledge?
That's why I'm such an extraordinary actor. I cannot even fix a plug without wiring myself to the mains. I got O-level chemistry and biology but scraped them with Cs.



Back to Article Gallery