‘Caprica’s Paula Malcomson: “This Thing Is So Full of Shocks and Surprises!”

Paula Malcomson (Syfy)

Paula Malcomson (Syfy)

‘Battlestar Galactica’ may have left behind some big shoes to fill, but by the looks of the first few episodes of ‘Caprica‘ (SyFy Friday 9 pm), this prequel won’t spend any time simpering in the shadows (or footwear) of its famous predecessor.

Were Caprica’s creators intent on ticking every item off a checklist of Things Guaranteed To Generate Interest In A TV Pilot, they certainly didn’t overlook much. Virtual clubs that specialize in human sacrifice and orgies for underage teens? Check! Opposing religious sects? Check! Secret terrorist cells who like to send messages by blowing up commuter trains during rush hour? Parents who lose their beloved children in such an attack? Check. Check. Don’t forget the Brilliant Scientist who is building cool Terminator-type war robots that would be even cooler if they could just think and act like humans, and – coincidentally – the existence of a Makes-Robots-Think-And-Act-Like-Humans device which has already been built by Brilliant Scientist’s competitor! (The writers sure didn’t forget them.) Now, if only the Brilliant Scientist knew a crooked mob lawyer who could arrange to “borrow” that device, permanently. Oh, wait, check!

Now, would you believe that ‘Caprica’s pilot was merely warming up?

In the coming weeks, Fancast will bring you in-depth info and behind-the-scenes scoop from the Caprica cast. We begin with Paula Malcomson, who plays Amanda Graystone, wife of the aforementioned Brilliant Scientist. But, as with any dramatic saga worth its gravitas, Amanda is hardly an ineffectual wallflower or token female character. She’s a doctor who isn’t afraid to take on her genius husband or headstrong, gifted teenager, and following the crisis in which her daughter is killed, Amanda emerges as a wounded spitfire determined to unravel the mystery of who her teenage daughter really was.

Malcomson talked to Fancast about what to expect from this roller coaster of a show.

In the pilot, Amanda’s daughter Zoe sends a stinging retort in her mother’s direction about marrying into money. Does Amanda have inferiority issues – even though she is a doctor – and if so, how will those play out?

PM:  I don’t know if we really reveal that much of this, but I sort of have Amanda as – she’s not even Caprican. She’s from another planet, from a poorer family, and she’s self made, really. She’s not from a pile of money, and there are these sort of doubts – she’s married to the most successful man on the planet. So really, no matter what she does – no matter how successful she is, no matter how well she does in her own field, I think there’s still a lot of those kind of doubts. I was thinking Hillary Clinton a lot, when I started out playing her. It all sort of changes, but you think about these women who are probably even smarter than their husbands, in many, many ways, but they’re still “the wife of….”. I was just actually doing ADR, and I was reminded of a scene we had shot where Amanda and Daniel are in bed together, and they’re talking about the past, when they didn’t have any money. Zoe was off-base, really, with that, because they came up together. It wasn’t like she married Daniel at the height of his fame. They struggled, they didn’t pay the rent for months, all that, and then it all sort of came about with one big deal that started everything.
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The scene where Amanda takes the stage at the memorial and makes that shocking confession about her daughter Zoe is so potent. Then there’s a subsequent scene where Daniel asks Amanda if she would do it again, and she says yes. Can we take this to mean that Amanda is very impulsive by nature?

PM:  I think in a lot of ways, Amanda’s impulses haven’t been this sharp in the past. She has been living in a family of minds, and I think her impulses have been less available to her in this cerebral family. I think with this tragedy – the death of her child – she starts to relearn about herself. This is the most human she’s ever been in a lot of ways – or certainly, for a long time. At this point, it becomes pure impulse. A lot of the decisions, and a lot of the actions she takes are pure impulse. It’s the rawness of what’s happened. She’s been stripped of everything else – the armor, the coping mechanisms. It’s pure compulsion that got her up on that stage.

In the first few episodes, at least, Amanda doesn’t realize that Zoe’s soul is now trapped inside a cylon, or that her husband had anything to do with that. Can you give us any hints or indications as to how she’s going to react to that?

PM:  I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to talk about that, but we spend most of this season with Amanda not knowing. Zoe’s in there, but Amanda has no clue. What I find really interesting about her grieving process is that the death of her daughter is the death of her daughter. It’s final for her, and that’s what motivates her. Daniel has this hope of some kind of contact, but Amanda has no idea of that for a really long time. It gets so wild and dramatic, and when she does finally find out, there are so many other things happening, and there’s such a state of crisis, that it’s not even about, “Why didn’t you tell me?!?” We’re so far beyond that. It’s unbelievable. This thing is so full of shocks and surprises.

You share the most screen time so far with your on-screen husband. If you had to describe Eric Stoltz using only three words, which three would you use?

PM:   He’s like a gazelle. It’s hard to describe anyone in three words! He’s masterful as an actor. He’s sophisticated. He’s thoughtful. I have a long list, and they’re all pretty wonderful things. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with him. We compliment each other very, very well, I think. He is such a fine technician, and I’m a bit of a wild card, so that combination makes for really beautiful work together. There’s a lot of respect there, and I think that was very important for these two characters, as well.

As far as behind the scenes stuff goes, do you have any co-stars who are particularly good at practical jokes? Or is there anyone you can expose as having unusually weird or disgusting habits? Any scoop about your other castmates?

PM:  Well, Esai is one of the most gifted linguists. He can basically say at least five sentences in pretty much any language. He calls himself a “cunning linguist.” [Laughs.] He’s remarkable. It’s really an odd bunch, you know, but good people. Thank god.

Are there any TV shows, either past or present, that you’ve been a big fan of yourself?

PM:  I thought The Sopranos was one of the most amazing shows. I’ve been re-watching Six Feet Under and rediscovering that – I’d been working a lot when that was airing, and didn’t get to see it as much. I’m pretty excited about the state of TV these days. There’s great opportunity for really complicated relationships, in a way that I don’t really see as much in movies anymore. It’s an exciting time that we’re getting to, and it’s been brought about by, like, HBO, my former employers [Malcolmson played Trixie in Deadwood], kind of sticking their neck out and claiming that space. It has infected television – it’s so great.

Your final thoughts on Caprica, then – what would you say to potential fans to lure them on board?

PM:  Expect the unexpected. We’ve worked really hard. It’s been a really interesting first season. It’s powerful, it’s an epic, it’s filled with drama. It’s exciting, there are complicated relationships. There’s something for everybody here. Even just the look of it has never really been seen before. I think we’re going to appeal to a really, really wide demographic with this show. It won’t be for the want of trying to do something new and interesting!

Caprica premieres this Friday, January 22 at 9/8 c on Syfy.

Next week, Fancast talks to Esai Morales about his role as Joseph Adama, and about what’s coming up for his character in the freshman season of this scintillating saga. Hint: of those last few first season episodes that are currently being filmed, Morales insists, “It’s one of those things when you read it [in the script], you can’t believe it. Think about the most gut-wrenching loss.”

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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