Sci Fi Tracker: Battlestar’s Kate Vernon Says It Will Be “Tit for Tat” For Tigh In New Eps!

by | February 11, 2009 at 6:43 PM | battlestar galactica, Interviews, SciFi Tracker

Actress Kate Vernon finds herself at the eye of the hurricane currently brewing in the Battlestar Galactica universe, having recently been outted as the final Cylon. For two years, she sat on the mother of all plot twists, and now finds her character, Ellen Tigh, at the center of much debate amongst the BSG fanbase. Is Ellen holding a grudge against Tigh for that whole poisoning thing? Er….maybe. Vernon took time to talk to Fancast and discuss whether Col. Tigh or Adama have more to fear with Ellen’s return, and what sort of fallout fans can look forward to with the return of Battlestar‘s favorite “wild card.”

So there was a time when you were playing Ellen and you didn’t know she was a cylon. Were there any previous episodes or scenes in particular, when you were still in the dark, that you look back on now and think to yourself, “I would have played that a little differently had I known”?

No, because I think I played everything the way I was supposed to play it. The way things have unfolded have been perfect, because there’s enough mystery, and there’s enough intrigue, and there’s enough possibility, so with that, Ellen maintains this dangerous element. Is she dangerous? Is she not dangerous? Is she a wild card? Yeah – but how wild? Always there was this uneasiness and unpredictability whenever Ellen came into the room.

True. It also weirdly kind of made her one of the most human, in spite of it all.

Yes, I used to like to say that there’s no way Ellen could be a Cylon because she’s so human, she’s so fallible. But the truth is that the way she is now written, which we’re going to see more of, is that Ellen embraced humanity wholeheartedly. She has a deep respect for humanity, and the heart. And now that she comes back, she can express this.

So, is she holding a grudge against her husband for having poisoned her, or is she not operating on that level of emotion anymore?

She’s not operating on that level of emotion at all, but……she does slip a little bit.

I was going to say, “Well, she’s only human!” but……

There is a bit of a tit for tat. You can say that. There’s a little bit of a tit for tat.

Excellent. Will her agenda ultimately harm or help what’s left of the fleet?

Hmmm…..[long pause]. I don’t want to say. Either way it says too much. That’s a really good question. But I’m not answering it.

I thought I’d try.

I’ve been sitting on this for two years. I’m not gonna wreck it now!

The FBI or CIA would be well advised to recruit you. You’re good at not cracking. Well, will her Cylon identity be THE most shocking thing we learn about Ellen, or does she still have a few tricks up her sleeve?

There’s a trick or two up her sleeve.

I guess it’s Ellen, I should know better than to ask…..

Yeah, she’s got a history. The fans are going to get off on it.

What have you made of Ellen’s sexually voracious nature? I know people have tended to want to marginalize her because of that, but it seems like it let her fly under the radar a bit…..

What do you mean?

People early on in the series seemed to want to dismiss her as just being out for a good time, or personal advancement, but…did that part of her personality let her sneak in with another agenda?

I used to say early on when people would want to dismiss Ellen as a bitch, I would say, “No, she’s just misunderstood.” She’s not fully written yet. And I come back fully realized in a whole different light. But back then, her sexuality was her trump card. And she knew it. And she knew how to manipulate the world around her with her sexuality. She totally took over the dinner table, when we first meet her. She owned that dinner table. That was her forum, and she was working every angle. I had my hand on my husband’s thigh, my foot somewhere else, and I’m gazing into Adama’s eyes…..

She used her sexuality to control, and she used her sexuality as a weapon. And that ultimately was her sacrifice when she slept with Cavil. That was her weapon. That was how she knew she could do her best to save her husband’s life. She wasn’t going to pick up a gun, she wasn’t going to start a revolution to get her husband out……she was her own revolution. She knew she had the power to go in and seduce the scariest Cylon. I equated that whole thing to seducing Hitler and getting my husband out of the concentration camp.

So she’s the ultimate fighter – just more of a stealth weapon.

Her intention was like steel. She knew what she wanted, and she wanted to free her husband. She was caught between a rock and a hard place, when Cavil asked her to get information on her husband. She knew she was a goner. She was thinking, “I’m going to have to do this, because otherwise he’ll go after my husband. But…..” Either way, she was dead. And she loved her husband so much, she couldn’t bear going through seeing him tortured again. She would rather die.

She and her husband seemed to capture the human condition the most perfectly, so it was a couple of interesting twists we were then presented with……

The writers really loved writing for us. They loved writing for Ellen, because she was just so dangerous and delicious and unpredictable. They could write anything! As you’ll see!

So what is it about playing the bad girl that resonates with you?

I love playing the offbeat characters. I love characters that walk to the beat of their own drum. They’re much more interesting, their emotional lives are usually more complex, more tortured by something, driven by something dark. I always played Ellen as if she was in direction competition with Adama. Adama is ruling this damn universe, and I’m in competition with this massive entity, that my husband worships.

So does Adama have more reason to be worried about Ellen’s return that her husband does?

Oh, I think so. Adama knows the force that Ellen carries. Adama is…I’m on Picon for days before Adama lets his best friend know that his wife has been found! He was clearly chewing his nails, going, “Frak! Maybe I could just throw her out an airlock and no one would know……” But he had to turn her over, despite what he wanted to do. That was clear in that episode. He’s just saying, “Frak!” under his breath the whole time.

When the whole Battlestar saga has ended, how do you think fans will look back on your character? Say, if there are five words that are going to repeatedly surface to describe Ellen, what would they be?

Oh, no……..I don’t think they’re going to see what’s coming. And so: “baffling,” “surprising”…..I don’t know how they’ll see me, really. But I know there’s going to be a lot of head shaking. They’re going to be sitting on the couch, going, “What?!?” and “Didn’t see that coming.”

I know I brought a lot of joy to the fans, and they brought a lot of joy to me. They’ve acknowledged that they loved hating me. And then when I was killed off, the fans were so moved by that scene that they then hated loving me. And they were in this twisted up place in relation to their feelings toward Ellen, because they loved hating me and then they felt so bad when I died.

You took them on quite a ride…..

I totally love it. I thank them for that, because I think when you’re playing the villain, you never want……my dad was one of the greatest villain actors there was, and you never want to purely hate a villain, I don’t think. There’s something in the villain that you have to connect with. Of course Ellen was a lot lighter – she wasn’t a sicko or anything like that – but to love hating a character is a huge compliment.

And no villain considers themselves a villain.

Absolutely.

What gift does the character of Ellen leave with you as an actor, a person? Is there a quality about her that you’ll carry forward with you?

Ellen’s a lot more bold than I ever will be.

Did that inspire you?

I would love to have some of that boldness, absolutely. I loved exploring the bodaciousness of Ellen, the confidence – to play that part, I really went into the biggest expressions of myself, which was very exciting. I would love a lot more of that in my life. I’m a rather shy and humble person. I do have a big personality when you get to know me, but I don’t care to walk into a room and have everybody look at me.

Well, they’re going to be looking now……

Yeah, I have to get a grip on that. Take a deep breath and swagger on in. But ultimately, she behaves in a way I would never behave.

Moving forward, what would your dream role be? How are you going to top this?

The writing was so wonderful, so I’m not particular to any genre – comedy, or drama, or sci fi. I would love a role that I can sink my teeth into and bring my intelligence, my humor, my compassion, my dark side…… I just want something well-written.

What TV shows are you a fan of, in your downtime? Are there any shows that have moved you the way Batttlestar moves so many other people?

I’m a big fan of Heroes. I love the genre that they’re exploring. I loved Moonlighting. I loved that banter – that’s the fun, playful banter, snarky, sexy tension…that’s a lot of fun, where there’s all this sexual tension and it’s denied, and to work off that…..

And I have an eight year old, so I watch Hannah Montana. Oh, and Debra Messing in The Starter Wife. Love The Starter Wife. I’m gonna hang up and think of more…..I enjoy Lost. I got a little lost with Lost, but I enjoyed that mystery. I think we need a good western. That’s really what I’d like to do. A gritty western. Like with Ian McShane…..

Deadwood.

Deadwood. I’d love to do a western. Real minimal makeup, and you get messy and dirty and simple times with complex stories.

Any closing remarks you’d like to make about Ellen, about Battlestar, about life in general?

For me the whole Battlestar experience has been like that Grateful Dead quote about what a strange and wonderful trip it’s been. I was only supposed to do four shows, and here I am several years later – the fifth cylon. So what a strange and wonderful trip it’s been.

And it’s about to get stranger, Battlestar fans! Watch Ellen’s big return in the all new “No Exit” episode of Battlestar Galactica, this coming Friday at 10/9 c on the Sci Fi Channel. If you want to poke around in the past for more clues about Ellen and try to piece the mystery together, check out past episodes right here on Fancast!