Friday, February 27, 2009

TwoCents and Five Questions With...

...Tricia Helfer, Actor

You may know her as Six... or Caprica, or Gina, or Shelly, or Natalie... and that’s just on one show! Tricia Helfer took time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions about the end of Battlestar Galactica and her new beginnings on Burn Notice and Chuck. Don’t worry, we made it out alive.

Question: How have you managed your career jump, from being discovered as a model in Alberta to Battlestar Galactica and Burn Notice and Chuck?

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  1. Q: How have you managed your career jump, from being discovered as a model in Alberta to Battlestar Galactica and Burn Notice and Chuck?

    TH: To be honest, it is the career path that I never thought I would be going down. When I was in high school I thought I was going to university into psychology. As you said, I was discovered by a model scout and I thought I’d give that a try. Cut to ten years later, eight years later, I had a great career, but feeling like I wanted more and definitely something more intriguing for the mind. So I started acting classes just on a whim, thinking it would help with commercial auditions while I modeled for another year or two. And then I figured I’d probably—I was in the finding out stage of what I was going to do and was I going to go back to university or what, and got into an acting class and absolutely fell in love with it from the first class.

    I modeled for another two years and took night classes in New York City and then moved out of New York and moved to LA and a year later got Battlestar. So it’s building blocks and it’s a career, I started at the bottom again, a new career and just building your way up. I’m happy that I have agents and managers that believe in me. So it’s a normal process that anyone takes if you’re not born into it or have any kind of dealings with the business, you start out and you work hard and hopefully things fall your way.

    To be honest, [the biggest challenge] is to be taken seriously. Models have a stigma that they can’t act. You’re also, to be quite blunt, you’re tall and not a lot of actors are tall and when you are starting out you’re obviously not the first one cast, so you’re trying to fit into a mold. You’re quite often not cast as the quirky best friend, but you don’t have the experience to be cast as the lead. So it can be really tricky. One of the biggest things is just to get your people, so to speak, your agents and managers to take you seriously. That’s one of the issues I had when I came out to LA.

    I was with an agency in New York, joined the agency out here and they just wanted to put me up for walk by in a bikini role kind of thing, and that’s certainly not me because I’m not built like Carmen Electra or Pamela Anderson, so I found I was in a weird spot of not getting sent out for the roles that I wanted. That’s when you have to just take charge and you walk into the agency and say, “I want to go on this.”

    You just have to be persistent. I think that’s one of the biggest things about this industry and this career is being persistent and believing in yourself and also being ready when the timing is right. So much of it is about timing and luck, so to be ready when you get the opportunity.

    Q: Can you tell us a little bit about how you first got involved with Burn Notice?

    TH: I first got involved with the very rare, but very wonderful situation where you get offered a job! I was up in Vancouver filming Battlestar and I was approached by my agent or my manager about the job. I actually hadn’t seen it, the show, because being in Canada a lot in Vancouver filming Battlestar, Burn Notice doesn’t air up there yet, unfortunately. So they sent me DVDs and I was hooked from the first episode and gladly signed on to join in for the second season. But it came in as an offer and I was hooked from the first episode.

    Q: Carla on Burn Notice is quite mysterious and so is Six on Battlestar Galactica and they both have this great power... you don’t want to cross them. Do you prefer to play these types of characters, or have you found it a little hard to branch out and not be thought of this ass-kicking destroyer of the human race?

    TH: I’d rather play an ass-kicking destroyer or a super strong spy or agent than some meek, vulnerable character. But it’s definitely... I don’t want to get type cast as one thing, and that’s certainly some of the other things I’ve been doing in hiatus, doing other roles, although I have one coming up where I’m an ass-kicking spy, so I don’t know about that. I don’t know how well my not being type cast is going, but they’re great shows. I’m super happy to be part of them. I think it’s important as I go to some of my next jobs maybe are a different take, a different type of character, but they’re certainly fun characters to play. They’re smart. They’re strong. Who wouldn’t want to play a strong female character?

    Q: What are your aspirations for acting beyond this?

    TH: Well, I’m right in the middle of pilot season right now. It’s my first year in five years of being available because of Battlestar now being finished. I got Battlestar in my first year of acting, so definitely being on a show, it’s amazing to be on a show, you want to be on a show, but it also limits what you can do with your hiatus when you’re shooting 22 episodes a year of a show.

    Now is really the first pilot season and I’m actually in negotiations right now with a pilot that I’m quite excited about, but it’s a little too early to stake my claim on it yet until everyone has signed on the dotted line. But yes, I’m looking, as one of the callers earlier asked about varying roles and I’m definitely looking for my next project to be something that’s a little bit different. First off, I’ll be playing a human and not a spy. But yes, I’ll be looking for something that varies the roles up.

    Q: What was it like when you shot your last episode for Battlestar Galactica?

    TH Shooting the last episode is intense, not only do emotions run really high because obviously this is the last time you’re working with a lot of these people and you become like family over five years, but it’s also very intense because last episodes tend to come in very long. I think we had a four hour script in a two hour time frame to shoot that we were maybe given a couple of extra days. So we really shot incredibly long hours and everybody was kind of like zombies at the end of it. So it’s intense, emotions are really high, but it’s also a wonderful feeling, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment and camaraderie, too.

    Don’t forget to tune in to Battlestar Galactica tonight at 10:00 p.m. EST on SciFi, Burn Notice Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. EST on USA, and Chuck Mondays at 8:00 p.m. EST... then come right back here to the TwoCents to get our take on all the episodes!


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