As the pilot episode of Battlestar Galactica spin-off Caprica arrives on DVD, we chat with proto-Cylon Alessandra Torresani
You get to play several different versions of the Zoe character. What’s your favourite part of the job?
My favourite parts are when I’m actually interacting with [screen parents] Amanda and Daniel [Paula Malcomson and Eric Stoltz]. It was great in the pilot to do the V Club and that was all madness and fun, but really my favourite aspect as the series has progressed is me being stuck in the Cylon body and having to watch my parents just absolutely criticise me and hate me. It’s so emotional and heartbreaking that you can’t even cry about it. Imagine your parents saying this stuff without knowing that you’re there, saying what a terrible person you are, hearing these lines that aren’t true but you can’t say anything back.
The scenes with the Cylon Zoe keep cutting between the CG robot and you. Does that make them difficult to film?
Everyone that did a scenes with the Cylon, bless their heart, because they had to do all their takes without me with just the Cylon. The Cylon consisted of a real seven-foot robot that they created, and when it had to do physical stuff, they just had a green stick on set. So all the people that have to interact with the Cylon had to do everything with the robot, then with the stick, and then with the original me, so it was pretty intense for them. I had it easy!
Were you familiar with Battlestar Galactica before you signed on for Caprica ?
I was not, but after we made the Caprica pilot I went back and watched all of it.
Are you constantly aware when you’re making it that it’s the BSG prequel, or do you have to think of it as a separate show?
You think of it as a completely different show. I think it just happens to have the same creator and the same writers, and you know all that, but we’re a very different. We’re not a space drama, we’re a character-based drama, we take place on real ground. We’re not being chased by Cylons, and it’s a big difference. I think because we’re the prequel, people don’t need to know what happens at the end right now, because that’s not what we’re about. We’re not about finishing a story, we’re about to start a story.
But there are plenty of fan-friendly references to things to come…
A lot of my friends never watched Battlestar and they just see Caprica as an intense drama, but when I get to speak with the fans it’s really great when they get to find out what the origin of the Cylons really means, and when we say ‘frak’, people love that. And then the stuff about the Adamas, about Willy Adama being a child… That’s awesome.
Even though Caprica ’s set on planets light years away from Earth (and there are robots and total immersion videogame worlds), it looks an awful lot like home. Does that make it easier to get into the part?
It’s funny. My mother and I on the show wear Prada, yet we have a robot butler, so you have funny little things like that. My mom drives an Aston Martin, my dad drives a Bentley, but he creates robots. It’s very strange. It’s not like Battlestar was where it’s hard to believe, and you have to imagine what it’s like to be on a spaceship. It’s just like being in any other city.
And, as in Battlestar , there’s plenty of real-world allegories – things like suicide bombing, religious extremism, the rise of technology, even social networking… Do you think that adds an extra level to the drama?
We shot the pilot about two years ago, and I felt that was very common for these random terrorist bombings to go off in trains and stuff, and it was just very believable. It was made even more believable because if you imagine if Bill Gates had a child, a girl that was 15, and then she exploded, and she died and then her family finds out that she might be the reason why the bomb went off – the controversy that would bring up would be so insane and so mind-boggling, because they’re the wealthiest family in the world.
Zoe’s avatar-self is created from little bits of information left over the internet. Has that made you wary of the trails you might leave via things like Facebook and other things on the web in real-life?
It’s scary what information can do, but if someone wanted to make a copy of me then go for it, I’d love to see me again, you know? That’s pretty damn funny.
So you’d like to act alongside yourself?
Yeah, it would be easier. Move aside Mary-Kate and Ashley!
You’re playing a 15-year-old even though you’re a bit older now. Were you like Zoe when you were her age?
I was exactly like that at 15. I had a choice to stay in school or to go and shoot a pilot in Australia for two months, because the school wouldn’t let me do it, and I followed my destiny and went to Australia.
You’re a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Has that changed the way the writers have scripted your character?
It’s funny. They didn’t think I was going to be doing a lot of action towards the second part of the season, and then they decided we’re going to do this one scene, and it was in the episode that [star] Eric Stoltz directed. He said we’d do this action sequence one way, and I said, “You know I’m a black belt in Tae Kwon Do?” They’re like, “What?!” They had all these stunt doubles lined up and this whole choreography and I said, “Let me do it, let me prove to you guys that I can actually do this,” and since then they wrote in a different fight sequence into almost every episode.
Caprica : The Feature Length Pilot is out on DVD from Monday 29 March.