Tricia Helfer has spent the better part of two decades blazing a unique trail for herself in the wilds of Hollywood. She first exploded onto the scene as the face of the Ronald D. Moore’s iconic sci-fi series, Battlestar Galactica. Her stellar Leo Award winning lead as the humanoid Cylon ‘Number Six’ in the critically acclaimed Syfy series quickly captivated fans around the globe. 15 years after its debut, the series is still considered one of the greatest sci-fi series ever made and has left a lasting impression on fans and critics alike. A three-time Primetime Emmy Award winner, Battlestar Galactica takes place in a not-so-far-away future where the last surviving group of humans face an intergalactic challenge to save humanity and the fabled 13th colony, Earth. Helfer’s pivotal role on the groundbreaking series, coupled with her chameleon-like ability as an actress, ultimately led this creative dynamo to leading roles on a wide variety of projects.
In celebration of Battlestar Galactica’s 15 year anniversary, Tricia Helfer and acclaimed journalist Marc Bernardin have unleashed ‘Battlestar Galacticast,’ a new intergalactic podcast that gives fans an intimate insider look into the world of the celebrated series. Premiering on December 11th, just three days after the reboot’s 15th anniversary, this dynamic duo has begun an episode-by-episode rewatch of the Battlestar Galactica mini-series in its entirety — exploring, discussing, and debating the themes of the show and revealing behind-the-scenes details that only a true BSG insider would know. ‘Battlestar Galacticast’ will take a retrospective look at the first season, with each episode of the podcast dissecting a specific episode. Tricia Helfer will give first-hand accounts of her time on set, while she and Marc welcome members of the original cast and crew on board to share their memories from making the ground breaking series.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Tricia Helfer to discuss her unique career path, the lessons learned along, the way and bringing ‘Battlestar Galacticast’ to the masses.
You’ve become a familiar face over the years in both television and film. Let’s go back to the start. How did your journey in the arts begin?
I wasn’t involved with the arts very much growing up. I grew up on a farm where we had no television, so I didn’t grow up watching TV, going to plays or anything like that. I was just kind of out in the country! [laughs] Eventually, I was scouted by a modeling agent and started modeling. I was living in New York City and after about 8 or 9 years in that field, I was ready to move on and change careers. I ended up doing it for about 10 years. I ended up getting into an acting class in New York and I just fell in love with the craft during that first class. It was one of those situations where it almost happened by chance, as opposed to something I grew up wanting to do from watching movies or wanting to become an actor. Growing up, I really had no relationship with the arts, and I was really into sports, school and being a farmhand. I was planning on going to University to go into psychology before I got sidetracked by a modeling scout! It turned my life in a totally different direction!
It certainly seems to be working out for you!
Yeah, I’m not complaining! [laughs]
What was it about that first acting class that gave you the bug?
One of the things I love about acting, and I just mentioned that I was originally planning to go into psychology, is getting into the head of these characters. I think that is what really drew me in. I grew up really shy. I’m a bit of a goof but I also have a cold, shy side to me. I guess I just always assumed that to be an actor you needed to be more of a comedian, or the type who walks into a room and commands attention. I didn’t realize early on that there are all types of different types of personalities when it comes to actors and people in the arts. I was just really drawn to the psychology of it and digging into who this character is, what makes them tick and why they react the way they do. You also bring out a little of yourself in every role. My first acting class terrified me! It was almost like a therapy session! [laughs] I had this long-time masseuse in New York who would come over because I have always had back issues. She would come over once every week or once every two weeks. It was very interesting because I had been to my first acting class the night before and the next day she came over. She said to me, “There is something different about you. Did you start therapy or something?” I was like, “Uh, no.” She said, “You are more open. Are you acting now?” I was like, “Wow! That’s really weird you would say that! I’ve only been to one class!” I think it’s that, that sort of draws me to it — digging in and working through things. I’m not saying I’m this damaged, weird soul but you can work through things and bring things out, which is a lot of fun! It’s hard. It can be very hard and challenging but there is also a very fun element to it!
You hit the ground running once you began acting. When did you come into your own?
I think I was always fairly confident in it. It wasn’t being on set that was hard for me. I say that because I modeled for 10 years prior, so I was used to being the focus of a shoot. I don’t mean that in an Oh-look-at-me way but as a model you are the center of the shoot. When I transferred to acting, it wasn’t me being nervous on set or things like that. With my first series, which was “Battlestar Galactica,” I got to work with amazing actors like Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos, who at that time already had a lifetime in the business but still had such a passion, energy and focus for it! They are really true artists. I got to work with them and see some of their process. Along the way, you eventually become more confident and relaxed.
At the same time, even with years of experience under your belt, you can have a great day or a shitty day. It just depends! There is such an element to acting or being on set that what could be easy one day is very difficult the next, just because you are in a different mindset or headspace. There is always a bit of an element of surprise to it. It’s also who you’re working with, so I would never say that I’ve arrived, or I have nothing left to learn. I’m confident in my abilities but it’s a day-to-day thing and it depends on what’s happening, what the scene is about or what you are experiencing in your life at the time. For instance, I remember talking to Michael Trucco in the final season of “Battlestar.” This was when Sam Anders was laid up in the hospital bed. This wasn’t long after he had a bad car accident and had broken his neck. It was really hard for him to film those episodes because he was facing the character’s possible demise and he too had also almost lost his life a few months earlier. I’m rambling but it changes day-to-day and each time you’re on set. That’s another one of the things I find so fascinating about it!
I was fascinated to learn that the role of “Number Six” was one of your first roles. You brought such depth to the her. What did you bring to the character that wasn’t on the original written page?
From what I’ve heard from some of the powers that be in the show, there was a vulnerability that I brought to it that wasn’t on the page to begin with. Looking back, I don’t know if I would have brought some of that on purpose but who knows! Maybe some of it was me being new, a little green and nervous. I don’t know if that is the case or if it’s what I wanted to bring with it. The character had to be believable as a human but still have a little something odd about her because she was the known Cylon and she has a sentence that she says to Baltar, “You always knew there was something different about me, something that didn’t quite add up.” That line really stuck out in my head. In the first part of the mini-series, there’s definitely a little bit more of a coldness to her than there is later in the series, but the character has also progressed, right? That’s who she was at the start but, every time something happens, there is more to the story and the character because of what she has lived through. With TV shows, it’s an exploration, as opposed to shooting a movie where there is a beginning, middle and end. With a movie, you can really plan your moments and how you want to be at the beginning as compared to how you want to be at the end of the story. With TV, it’s more fluid. You don’t know how the story is going to end. I feel a lot of time in TV there is a real growth to the character, or the writers start to write to certain aspects of the character because it’s being developed as you go along.
How do you view your evolution as an actress?
I feel like I’ve certainly got a long way to go but I’m happy that I’ve been able to do many types of different roles. I would say that I am probably more confident now than I was then but, it’s a day-to-day thing. Every time you start a new character, you’re starting from scratch in a way. You learn as you go along! I think I’m a little stronger now when it comes to being able to put my foot down or ask questions. I was certainly shyer when I was first started out, of course. I’m definitely more comfortable on set now then I was in the beginning of my career. In terms of the process, I think it has stayed fairly similar throughout the years. I think each actor has their own process of what works for them and what doesn’t. I feel like my process is very similar to the way I started in terms of breaking down a script and digging into the character.
It’s amazing to think that “Battlestar Galactica” premiered 15 years ago and we are still talking about it today! As someone who played a huge role in the series, you have a unique perspective. What is it about this series that resonates after a decade-and-a-half?
Throughout meeting the fans at Comic Cons or just running into people on the street, one of the thing that resonates about the show for me is how it has resonated for people. It’s obviously an incredibly smart show and one you can rewatch a few times and take different things from each time. It’s a show that you can have a wonderful discussion on. The thing that has struck me the most, through meeting people, is how the show got many people through difficult times. To me, it really warms my heart that I can be part of something that has helped somebody! I’ve also heard this a few times with my Gina character. I wanted to imbue with PTSD and I thought it was very interesting to have a robot character who is suffering from PTSD. To hear some people, who might be in the military or people who are not military at all but have had something traumatic happen to them, say that watching the show or relating to some of the characters helped get them through a tough time or seek help. It’s amazing! We are talking about a TV show, right? [laughs] I’m an actor! I’m not a brain surgeon or out there curing cancer but it has helped some people. That is a nice feeling to have. It’s great to be able to say, “Ya know, something I had fun doing has really resonated with some people and helped them on some level.” That’s one of the biggest things I have taken away from meeting people.
This series impacted you personally and professionally. Tell us bit about the relationships you formed through this amazing series.
Absolutely! Going all the way back to the start, I had only been in LA for about a year. I had moved there without knowing a single person. Well, I knew one person, Bridget Moynahan, who I knew through my modeling days but she was away filming “I Robot” at the time. She wasn’t even in LA! This was my first series and what is wonderful about it is that we really became a family and we still are! [laughs] I joke about it but my closest friends, my family, is all “Battlestar” related! [laughs] I just came from one of my best girlfriend’s house, who was a producer on the show. Katee [Sackhoff] is one of my best friends. Michael Trucco and his wife are another two of my best friends, along with James and Eddie. These are the people I see all the time! To me, it wasn’t just a show! These people are going to be in my life for the rest of my life. They are the people I call on and rely on! When I moved houses, Michael Trucco was helping me pack up all my cats! [laughs] I was over the other day when he was having air conditioner issues and I was up in the ceiling with him and in the attic! [laughs] These are my friends, not just my coworkers! Career-wise, the series gave me some legitimacy because I had come from the modeling world into acting. Originally, people were like, “Oh, a model turned actor. What does she do? Walk by in a bikini role?” “Battlestar Galactica” gave me legitimacy as an actor but, on a personal note, it gave me a family in Los Angeles. I will always be grateful for that!
You just launched a new podcast with co-host Marc Bernardin. How did you and Mark cross paths and what led to bringing “Battlestar Galacticast” to life?
Marc covered the show for Entertainment Weekly during its run, so he knows the show inside and out. He’s certainly the smart one on the podcast! [laughs] He keeps it moving along while I digress and tell stories. He was a big fan, critically, of the show. He had moderated a couple of panels over the years at Comic Cons and he is a writer as well. He was on “Castle Rock” last year and this year he is on “Treadstone.” He’s extremely talented! I was on a show called “Lucifer” and he had moderated one of those panels as well. We just happened to run into each other at another show in London. He was there because he does another podcast with Kevin Smith, “Fatman on Batman.” We were all sitting backstage in the green room and I was sitting and talking with John Carroll Lynch, who is a lovely actor. He had mentioned to me that he was a fan of “Battlestar.” We chatted about the show, life, relationships and whatever. He was talking about how much he loved the show and I just happened to mention that I had watched the whole series but never as a fan. Marc was listening and I said, “Ya know, I have to sit down and rewatch the whole thing.” Marc goes, “Umm. You wanna do that as a podcast?!” I said, “Yeah! That could be good!” He said, “Yeah, an actor from ‘The West Wing’ did that … ” I asked, “Wait, can we do that?!” [laughs] He said, “Yeah! We can!” He ended up sending me a link to one of the “West Wing” episodes and then we just decided to do it! We actually taped the first couple of episodes about a year earlier, while we were discussing where we would release it. Then we started talking with SYFY and partnered with them! It just took a little while to get all of that stuff organized but now we have finally launched it! We’re really excited. We’ve been talking about it for a little while but it’s finally going now. We taped two episodes this week and have another taping next week. We are having a really fun time with it but it was literally born from us just having met each other a couple of times, him moderating a few panels and just chatting!
As a fan of the series, I couldn’t be more excited to hear both of your insights into the series! Just hearing your passion for it is inspiring. Where else do you look for inspiration these days?
Oh gosh! I feel like we have been in a low over the last couple of years with diviciness. Hopefully I take notice of inspiration. In other words, I try to stop and smell the roses a little bit more these days. I get inspiration from my friends and the projects I take part in. There are a few projects I am hoping to produce and I’m working toward that. One is a serial killer, so it’s not exactly inspiring per se! [laughs] I love the story and the character, so I want to portray it! I’m just trying to be a little more proactive as opposed to reactive in terms of the business. I’m also trying to be happy and healthy while taking care of my furry kids! I’m just trying to appreciate things a little more along the way!
What do you look for in the material you take on these days?
It’s not like I look for one specific thing. I want to play different types of roles and I’ve certainly gotten to do that, although most people probably don’t know some of the roles that I’ve done because I tend to be a little bit of a chameleon. I’ve talked to people who have literally been talking about my character and they didn’t know it was me! So, I will change hair color or you will see me with makeup or without makeup on and people won’t know who I am. In one way it’s a blessing and in another way it’s a curse! I just like playing different types of roles. I think it’d be a little boring if you only played one type of character all of the time. I played a Texas Ranger in an ABC show called “Killer Women” and I really enjoyed the character. Although the show didn’t last very long, I would love to explore that more. I’d also like to explore a character with mental illness. I feel like I’m heading into darker territory in a way. Maybe I’m releasing some stuff! [laughs] Maybe I’m using it as a therapy session! I’d also like to do more comedy. Overall, the goal is to play more different types of roles.
You do great work for charity and the causes close to your heart. What is your focus at the moment?
That’s very kind! With Katee (Sackhoff), I’ve done quite a few motorbike rides. Most of the charity work I do benefits animals. I have a huge heart when it comes to animals and my connection with them. I have a website where I sell autographed pictures and memorabilia from some shows where 100% of the profits go to animal charities. As you know, we’ve had some terrible fires here in California recently and it seems to be only getting worse as the years go along. That goes for not only the cats and dogs in our homes but the wildlife in the area. Organizations like Mercy For Animals, ASPCA and The Humane Society that work to help animals across the board are so important!
What is the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?
I’m just trying to keep my head above water! [laughs] Like I mentioned, I am just trying to stop and smell the roses a little bit more. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting to the age that I’m at and starting to appreciate things a little bit more. That’s where I’m at! Appreciate, work hard and improve but also take a step back and appreciate things a little bit more. I tend to be a little more A type and one who focuses on the next thing and the next thing and the next thing, so I sometimes forget to that! I had someone tell me once that they heard in their acting class I was someone who came to LA and had an immediate career. I was like, “I feel like I haven’t done anything yet!” It’s perspective! You have your ups and downs. I’m certainly at an age where there are a few less roles for females my age, so you can kind of get caught up in that. That’s why I think it’s important to take a step back and say, “You’ve worked hard. Be happy. Keep working and move forward!”
That is a great perspective! Thank you for your time today! I can’t wait to see where the journey takes you next! Most importantly, thank you for bringing the “Battlestar Galacticast” to life. I’m really enjoying it!
Thank you! I appreciate you tuning in! We’re having fun doing it! There may be one or two episodes with a little too much wine involved, so I’m just forewarning you! Maybe one or two episodes where there was a little too much wine! [laughs]
It’s been a long time since we have had any new “Battlestar” related content, so I’m sure a little extra wine will help stoke the fires! [laughs]
Well, good! [laughs] Thank you, Jason. I appreciate it!
Follow the continuing adventures of Tricia Helfer through social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Visit her official site at www.triciahelfer.com. ‘Battlestar Galacticast’ launched on Dec. 11. You can subscribe now on Apple Podcasts.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.