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Feature: Battlestar Galactica (2000s)

Callis Attitude

James Callis Gaius Baltar’s been used, abused, manipulated and had an awful lot of sex. We asked James Callis what’s left for his character to get up to…

If anyone has more lives than that of the proverbial cat, it is Battlestar Galactica’s Dr Gaius Baltar. Since the 2003 mini-series, the brilliant, egotistical and narcissistic scientist has often found himself at what seems to be the end of his rope, only to be thrown yet another lifeline. Having unwittingly contributed to the deaths of all but 40,000 Humans by the Cylons, he kept that a secret and went on to become President of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. Unfortunately for Baltar, the Cylons made him their puppet leader after occupying New Caprica. During Galactica’s third season finale, the ex-president went on trial for crimes against the New Caprica colonists, but was acquitted. It was the end of one journey for Baltar, as well as the actor who plays him, James Callis, and the start of a very different one this fourth year.

“I think Season Three was the wrapping up of a variety of his particular threads in that my character could no longer be in denial; he was on trial for his crimes and whatever that meant to Baltar,” says Callis. “Last year’s finale [the two-part Crossroads] was rather difficult for me in that there was just something about looking that way with the long hair and a beard and feeling, as it were, like I was incarcerated. Baltar was caged up in a cell on the Galactica, where he tried to kill himself. Then there was the trial itself, where on some level his defence really didn’t say anything. I found that difficult because I felt one of the things that someone like Baltar couldn’t help but do was respond when certain issues were addressed. He behaved in a way that, under normal courtroom circumstances, would be like shooting yourself in the foot.

“That said, some of the things that I interjected, because they weren’t there in the script, were to show that even whilst shooting himself in the foot, he felt that he was being stitched up in this trial. Gaeta’s [Alessandro Juliani] testimony was an especially painful experience for him. Yes, Baltar is definitely guilty of something, and not to diminish that in any way, but so is everybody else, you know? His crimes, whatever they are, might be more heinous, but that’s not necessarily what he was on trial for. In the end it’s almost like he’s gone through the looking glass, which for Gaius is a fitting metaphor,” chuckles the actor. “And having been found not guilty, it seems that now this season, my character has in some fashion reverted to type. Everything seems to have washed off him like water off a duck’s back, and he is, I suppose, trying a new approach, but is still on shaky ground.”

by Steven Eramo

Read the full interview in
Cult Times #154

Photo © The Sc-Fi Channel
Feature © Visual Imagination 2008. Not for reproduction

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Cult Times #154
July 2008
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