Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Caprica news recap: TCA press tour, teaser and more

SCI FI Channel presented Caprica at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills a couple of days ago. The writers, producers and cast revealed a number of new details about the show and promo just keeps trickling in.

First thing's first. The trailer hit the web yesterday, so here is a first look at the main characters and general tone of the prequel:

SCI FI's executive vice president Mark Stern said the final decision has not yet been made whether Caprica will air as a television movie or a series pilot. The air date has not yet been set because the executives are waiting to see the pilot before they decide whether to show it this fall as a television movie or later - possibly as late as next summer - along with the series if they decide to greenlight it:

“We're going to take a look at it and maybe just order it as a series from there. We are going to take delivery on it in a couple of weeks and then decide whether to air it as a standalone movie or as the premiere of a new series,” Stern said at the press tour. They will get a cut in August, weigh it against the pilots for Warehouse 13 and Revolution, and make a definite decision in September.

SCI FI's president David Howe said that if Caprica does go to series, it will most likely not end after 13 episodes, but grow into a regular series that could go on for years.

Ron Moore, the show's creator, revealed that the opening shot will include a title card saying “Caprica – 51 Years Before the Fall,” saying that the knowledge of the planet's eventual fate will just add extra tension to the prequel. “The idea is to say, all this world you're about to visit is doomed and there's a sense of ominous dread that gathers over all the characters,” he said. "It's about a vibrant society that is at the height of its power and the height of its decadence. It’s going to come apart. It’s sort of like a roller coaster.”

At the panel for the show, Moore also said that Caprica was "shot very different, and I think I was particularly attracted to the idea of doing a science fiction piece that was not built on a foundation of action adventure. It wasn't about Vipers and it wasn't about the Cylons attacking every other week. It was really a character piece. It was really a drama, and you can infuse with a lot of political commentary and a lot of religious overtones and really dig into a people and a society and how and why it all came unglued."

In response to a question about the main character changing his name from Adama to Adams, he said: "Well, we're not playing them as Hispanic, obviously, within the context of the Galactica universe. What we are playing in the show is the idea of assimilation in an immigrant society. The Adamas, we're going to say, came from the planet of Tauron, which is one of the 12 planets of the 12 colonies. And a big part of the pilot and a big part of the show, if we go to show, is this idea of ethnic and racial identification, of here's a group of immigrants that came to Caprica and are struggling with the melting pot versus their own cultural identification. Joseph Adama came, changed his name, has tried to assimilate, and is having struggles about who and what he was exactly. That sort of theme of the clash of these different civilizations and these different cultures will be an ongoing storyline in the series."

Moore also confirmed the rumours about Caprica not being written as a television movie: "It was written as a pilot. It's a pilot. It's not a movie. They have the option to show it as a movie, you always have the option with these two-hour scenarios, they're designed that way so you can show them as a two hour film overseas and on video to protect the company economically. But it was conceived as a pilot. Just the way that Battlestar miniseries was conceived as a pilot – it ends with 'Let's go find Earth, and Sharon is a Cylon, and there are 12 models.' That would have not been a satisfying ending either."

Moore’s partner in crime David Eick added that the emphasis on Caprica will not be on space travel, but on technology and artificial intelligence. What we can expect in terms of looks when it comes to the first Cylons, however, is something that not even Eric Stoltz can say for sure: "I don't know either. It's all created in post-production effects. We acted our scenes with lights tied to poles, kind of like trained seals - 'Look over here! At the bright shiny light!'"

Remi Aubuchon, writer and executive producer, addressed the look of the show (reminiscent of the 1950s) by comparing it to Mad Men, saying that both shows "do a good job of making the viewer realize immediately that you're looking at a different era."

Caprica won't be pervaded with constant references to Galactica and have relatives of BSG characters popping up everywhere - no geek porn of that particular kind - because the colonies are not yet unified under a single government half a century before the Cylon attack that kicked off Battlestar. Moore: "There's no equivalent to Laura Roslin in Caprica, a president who serves all of the people of the 12 Colonies. At this point in the story, they're all disparate and they war against each other periodically."

Talking about the timeline and Caprica being set a few years before the first Cylon war, Moore said: “At the time of the mini-series, we said that no one had seen or heard from the Cylons in 40 years and we never nailed down how many years, so this gives us a little more of a cushion and how the long war took place.”

The prequel will not affect how Galactica plays out because, when the show returns for its final run in January, the story will be complete and all the burning questions answered. There will not be much room for a sequel, as Moore explains: “The way we end Battlestar Galactica doesn't hold itself open to another story. We end that pretty definitively with a sentence that has a period at the end of it,” adding: “We have separated [the two series] out. In the mythos, there’s nothing in Battlestar that has been held for Caprica or vice versa.”

To recap, Caprica tells the story of two families – the Graystones and the Adamas – dealing with a tragic loss. Joseph Adama (Esai Morales), father of Admiral Bill Adama (played by Edward James Olmos on Battlestar Galactica), is a well known and respected lawyer on Caprica. Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) is a wealthy computer scientist whose daughter Zoe (Alessandra Toreson) dies in the same explosion that kills Joseph Adama's wife and daughter. Graystone eventually recreates his daughter's online avatar as the first ever Cylon model.

Eric Stoltz described his character as being “a lot like Bill Gates, only richer,” adding that, between Graystone and Adama, he’d be “hard pressed [to say] one is a good guy and one is a bad guy. What [Caprica] has similar with Battlestar is that there's a gray area. No character is all good or all bad. We all have our gray areas that we live within. But it's interesting that way: You're not quite sure who you should or shouldn't be rooting for." When asked what shocked him the most about the script, he replied: "How smart it was."

He also discussed the Caprica universe: “I think Caprica taking place 51 years before Battlestar happens, it's very similar to our society now. There are no flying cars. There are no spaceships. We're on an Earth-like planet. We wear the same clothes. We have similar problems. Ideally, people will be able to watch Caprica and think, 'This is similar to what we're [doing], to what's happening in the States right now.'”

Another interesting character on Caprica is Sister Clarice Willow, the headmistress of the religious school that Zoe Graystone and her friends attend. She is played by Polly Walker, who was also present at the panel. "There just seems to be so much scope and places that I could go," she said. "It's a very strong character. It's a woman that's on her own in a sense. She's not attached to anybody. And she has very strong convictions, and I think and believe that I can do something equally interesting with it."

Paula Malcomson, who plays Amanda Graystone, also mentioned strength as part of the appeal of the role she has taken on: "I look for roles that are strong women and that are as strong as they are, they're equally flawed where I can create a human being, and I think that is a similarity of these two women, with Trixie [in Deadwood], that I played for a long time, and this woman, Amanda, that I'm just getting to know. And when we started working together, I saw the potential for that to have sort of a long journey with this woman. There's a lot of places to go here."

And it was precisely the courage to go places that played a huge part in the decision to cast Malcomson in the role. Moore: "I know one of the reasons we cast her is based in large part because of the tremendous work that she had done in Deadwood. I think one of the things that we really liked in this performance and in that show in general, was there was a certain fearless quality to what she did, and there was a certain thing that we like to do in Battlestar and that we want to do in Caprica, where we are really willing to push, challenge actors and actresses, ask them to go places that are not typically done in conventional television. So we tried to assemble a cast that we felt could go places with us and that would really take leaps of faith and really be willing to do things that would be truly challenging and still bring an emotional truth to it and that was really of a tremendous appeal to casting Paula in the role."

Finally, Eric Stoltz provided yet another interesting summary of the prequel that's worth quoting: "It's a show that takes place in the not-so-distant future, on a not-so-distant planet, that deals with a family struggling to stay together, class warfare, religion, and our never ending search for meaning in a world that over-values stimulation, consumerism, and facts."

And hopefully we won't get to see it until next summer.

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