Long-running US crime drama Law And Order's come over the Atlantic and it's brought one of the stars of Battlestar Galactica with it. As the new London-set drama comes to ITV1, we speak to returning Brit star Jamie Bamber, the man who plays Lee Adama in BSG, about coming home, playing a cop and coming to the end of one of the finest SF shows of all time.
How is it being back on British telly?
It’s great. It’s obviously where I started and career wise it’s coming home, and I’m bringing an American product back as well, so I feel like I’ve come back across the Atlantic with a few tricks. It’s also nice to bring a great tried and tested formula like Law And Order and to try to make it our own. That’s the best part of this job.
You’re playing a London policeman in Law And Order. Was that easier to prepare for than playing a pilot in Galactica?
I approached them in similar ways. Battlestar was a military role for me, I didn’t really think of the science fiction side of it, because it’s kind of irrelevant to the acting – we really based it on the US marines, a naval battleship, so we just used that as the model and went on a bootcamp and stuff like that.
My version of the boot camp for this was to hang out with some uniform police and some CID down in Streatham and Waterloo, and I drove around in a squad car for an afternoon around Kennington and we tried to sniff out some serious crime but failed.
I actually did a bit more for Law And Order because I’ve never had any inclination to be a police officer and so I was fascinated to find out why they join up and how they handle difficult situations in their personal lives and how they square that with being a law enforcer.
Shows like Hustle and Spooks have been heavily influenced by US TV, and now Law And Order: UK’s remaking an American format. Do you think it’s a logical progression?
I think it’s about bloody time, because American TV is light years ahead of us right now in terms of what they’re making. My favourite shows right now are the Wire, Mad Men, The West Wing, Six Feet Under, Dexter. They’ve got such concepts and are so clearly shaped. It’s about the form as well as the content and it’s about time that we embraced that. And let’s not forget that American TV has borrowed from British TV for aeons. For years they’ve been taking our ideas and remaking them, and if it’s good enough for them we should be able to do the same to American product. I question people who say, “Well shouldn’t we be coming up with our own ideas?” I say, “Absolutely, we do all the time, but we should also borrow from the best as well.”
You’ve had a few months now since you finished shooting Galactica. How does it feel now you’ve got a bit of distance on it?
Very nostalgic. I’ve left some very close friends and great memories, and now I live in California, so being back in London is home and yet I’m also homesick. Battlestar changed my life, it changed the way I think, the way I work, it gave me confidence, it broadened my horizons. I now know how completely engaging television can be, how it can be really challenging and doesn’t need to patronise an audience like it so often does.
It’s going to be hard for me having been spoiled like that to ever be challenged on so many different fronts as Battlestar managed to do, and there was such variety, such a big, big sprawling story – character went through so may different changes, and got punched in the gut so many times there was never a dull day. And it was really a fight. Every character was fighting for themselves to get through that story.
Law And order is completely different, but I never expected it to be the same and I think that’s the important thing. Battlestar was a one-off, and I think I’ll never probably get a chance to work on anything that engaging on television certainly ever again.
Were you surprised with the direction the writers took for the final episodes of Galactica (which we’re about to see)?
It was hard to gauge surprise because I was party to it quite a long way in advance. I knew where the show was going to end a few years ago. Having said that when I got the final scripts, the tone and the style and the pace were incredibly surprising and really haunting and almost like a contemplative coda to this frenetic chase across space, so the tone really did amaze me and I was blown away by it. I didn’t know about the mutiny stuff, but it’s great, it’s all the wounds that have been festering and they’ve suddenly exploded, blood’s gushing everywhere and it’s back to true season one Battlestar, except it’s human vs human
Does anyone get a happy ending?
Define happy! I think the point of Battlestar is it really does examine what that means. It’s really a show about what it is to be human and how we make sense of nonsense and how we create hope where perhaps hope is a bit of an illusion, a bit of a choice and that you choose to believe rather than something that’s concrete, and that’s really what the show’s always been about, that happiness is achievable even in the direst of situations if you are equipped and can create that state of mind. At the end, some are happy and some are not, but it’s more about who they are and what they’ve learned than about the situation.
Law And Order starts on ITV1 tonight at 9pm.