We caught up with Edward James Olmos to talk Battlestar Galactica, politics, and Adama…
Over the course of the show we’ve seen the character of Adama change from quite a strict military leader at the twilight of his career to an almost paternal figure. Have you been happy with the evolution of the character?
This has been the strongest and most in-depth character I’ve ever developed in the medium of fictional events. Ever. It’s not been simple, it’s very complex and I think that as you get towards seeing the final chapters… it’s overwhelming, what’s about to happen. The character is going to become something that you’re not going to believe is really possible. It’s not a happy ending, not much left, it’s not a situation where you can get to a point of saying to yourself “gosh, you know, that was kind of predictable”. I mean, all the arcs, of all the characters have been amazing, but this one is sad. He does break down, he goes to the bottom of the pit and just squirms around in there and it’s really difficult for him to carry on. He has what he had at the beginning, but he’s learned an awful lot.
Was that quite an emotional journey for you as well, as an actor?
Oh yeah! As an actor it’s been fantastic, because you do get to use quite a lot of different emotions. But more than anything it becomes a situation where you start to wonder how does… how can the human species relate to itself in this manner? Because it becomes pretty dark and emotionally draining, and at the end we’re left with hardly anything.
We’ve been hearing rumours recently that the network and studios are looking into the possibilities of doing more telemovies like Razor?
Would you be interested in doing more features like that, even though Katee Sackhoff has already said that she wouldn’t be a part of it?
Oh yeah! If they do that, I hope that they can continue to give us substance with the entertainment factor of what we have on the show, and since you’ve now received the beginning, the middle and the end of the story, to go back into it and make people understand that story even more is fantastic. That’s what I thought Razor did – it allowed you to understand that moment. And when you connect it to the show it’s… incredible. You feel a bit more for Admiral Cain, you know? Because when you run across her at the beginning not knowing that, you’ve definitely got a different kind of feeling for her.
She was very much a villain.
Yeah, definitely. But when you realise what she went through, what it took to give the order, it makes more sense, the whole “If somebody gives you a problem, take them out. We have no time to waste” ethos. And she was fighting the battle; she was doing what Adama wanted to do. Adama had much more responsibility than she had. He had to take care of humanity; she was just kicking ass and taking names – all she cared about was the mindset of “You know what? Frack it. We’re going for the jugular. If they don’t want to help, take them out, the Cylons wiped us out, so let’s go.” And she was a very vengeful character.
And she also didn’t have her Roslin to ground her.
She didn’t have the responsibility! Even with the people around her, she was like a pirate. There was a sense of desperately trying to move forward when everything’s completely chaotic… I can’t even imagine it. But this show has placed me in a position where I have to, and that’s why I feel very privileged to have been able to be a part of it. People who’ve never seen the show may never go through the experience of having to deal with That Question, you know? People who have seen the show have to. You have to deal with executions, you have to deal with waterboarding, you have to deal with the right to choose, right to life, and you have your own values and you do think “Okay, this is just storytelling and fiction” but all of a sudden you’re watching those scenes and you go “Wait a minute, if I was there,” which is what you do often when acting and watching. You think “Why shouldn’t people have the right to choose what they do with their lives?” until you get to this level where every single human life is so needed, you have no more choice. “You have a child. You don’t want it? That’s fine, we understand, but we need it. You have no more choice about it.” Suicide bombing? You suddenly sit there and go “You’re right, why not? What the hell else do we have? Frack it man!” I mean it tore your heart out, because you think “You know what? I’d do that.” All of a sudden you look at the people who are doing it…
It’s true, we watched ‘Occupation’/‘Precipice’ and immediately after there was a bulletin about the insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we found ourselves thinking “This is awful, but hold on, a second ago we were rooting for Tigh, Duck, Anders and everyone else doing exactly this.”
Of course! You start to look from different perspectives, and realise how complex the situation really is. It’s like what Obama’s saying right now, which I feel is essentially, “Would I take to terrorists? Of course I wouldn’t. But would I try to find a way of communicating? I would definitely try to do that rather than just cut off all communication and ignoring the root issues. I wouldn’t say ‘If you do this, I’ll do that. Period. I don’t want to talk about anything, just make the move and you’re dead.’” And it’s gonna happen again. Bush may go into Iran before he gets out, and he can do that! He can literally do that by himself without asking permission. It’s frightening man. For me it’s like “Why are you doing this? If there is a god, why are you doing this? What have we done?” This guy’s got to get out of there.