In honor of this week’s cylon-centric Deadlock, I present the second installment in my Exclusive Final Five Interviews: Michael Hogan (Saul Tigh).
In this interview, Hogan shares that he discovered he’s a Cylon the same way Rekha did… Eddie Olmos found out first and teased him about it. He tells us he first thought the idea to give him an eye patch was a joke, reveals what song he wants played at his funeral and describes what it was like working on set with yours truly. (Some moderate spoilers ahead, you should watch No Exit before reading on…)
Bear McCreary: How did the cylon reveal change your approach to your character?
Michael Hogan: The cylon reveal didn’t really change my approach to my character, although it was a surprise. I am a research junkie, a research oriented actor, and I think that’s why I’ve been doing it for so many years. I’ve played a heart surgeon, and I’ve gone to watch open-heart surgery, standing with the patient’s head here (gestures) and me standing and watching them open it. Because on stage, I had to do that very thing. So I went and watched that, and shortly after that I was asked to do a docu-drama about a heart attack victim, and so I did all that research, and for the shooting of it, I was in an ambulance, it was around the corner from the hospital, and we were on a walkie with the hospital, and the paramedics were in the ambulance with me, and when they were quiet in the emergency [entrance] we went zooming in and all the doctors and nurses in there treated me as if I was an actual heart attack victim.
The research of this is my passion. With Saul Tigh, of course, it was military research, but Saul is a person who lives with chronic pain. He lives with alcoholism and he lives with “irritable heart” they called it during the Civil War, and then “shell-shock” in the first World War, and now it’s called “post-traumatic stress.” He wakes up every day in pain, and in great mental agony. So when it turned out that I was a cylon, I think, “how do I research this, what do I do?” I had actually said over the years doing it, “Am I ever glad I’m not a cylon!” And when they decided to make Saul Tigh a cylon. I approached it as mental illness, and the long preamble about him being in chronic pain is “oooh, frak now I’m hearing music.” That doesn’t surprise Tigh, that he’s hearing music. This is just “Aw, frak. This is just great.”
So that’s the way it was developed. I treated it as a mental illness; there’s manic-depression, there’s schizophrenia. So that was my approach to me being told that I am now playing a cylon and here’s how it becomes obvious to me.
Bear: You didn’t get hung up on the sci-fi or cylon elements?
Hogan: I didn’t treat them as sci-fi elements at all. The other fascinating part of being a cylon, and finding out that I am, was “how do I deal with this?” as Saul Tigh. There that wonderful scene, shortly after I realize that this is going on, where Adama and Tigh are in the CIC, and he tells me to do something, and I just look at him, and he says “Saul, what’s the matter with you?” And I take a gun and shoot him, right in the eye. That is Tigh’s worst fear. If, in fact, I am a cylon, what am I capable of? If I’m not the oldest person alive, I’m certainly one of the oldest people alive in the human race. I am certainly the most combat-experienced person alive on that ship. Therefore if it turns out that I am a cylon, I’m very dangerous. So I’m very worried about what’s going to happen.
Bear: How did you first find out that you were going to be a cylon? What was your reaction?
Hogan: My reaction was disbelief. I thought I was being kidded or teased. Eddie [Olmos] on set one day said, “Oooh, you’re hearing the music.”
I said “What are you talking about, man?”
“Oooh, your a cylon!”
I said, “Come on, fuck off, man.” And he kind of persisted.
So I think that’s how it came about. There was somebody with [Eddie] who was saying, “Yeah, you’re one of them. They picked you.” I said that’s absolutely impossible, because I do not go onto the net and look at anything about Battlestar Galactica, or read anything about it.
Someone had told me, though, that on the net there had been a poll of the viewers, and every actor who had ever appeared on Battlestar: what is the likelihood of them being a cylon. And Saul Tigh was like second to the last of the likely ones.
I thought it was cheap, I thought Ron [Moore] had made a mistake, that he had done it just because it would surprise people. I didn’t think it was wise.
I had talked to [director Michael] Rymer on set, and he said “Has Ron not talked to you about it yet?”
And I said “No, he’s never said anything to me about this.”
And so Ron flew up and we talked about it. He’s a class act. Over all the seasons that we’ve done Battlestar Galactica, they have never steered me wrong. And I have argued certain areas, where they have said they’re going to move Tigh in this direction, and I was able to argue very coherently against that. So if they insist on me being a cylon, they certainly haven’t strayed me wrong before, so I would say “if that’s what we’re going to do, let’s go.”
Bear: What were some of the things you didn’t want your character to do?
Hogan: Okay, one of the biggest ones, one of the best examples was at the end of season two, when Adama sends Tigh down to the planet. When I read that script, when I heard that was going to go on, I totally disagreed with that, so I phoned Ron and David [Eick] and said, “Tigh would not go down. I don’t think Adama would send him, and I don’t want you sending him down to the planet.”
And it’s funny, talking about research. I happened to be in the middle of a book that had just come out, it was called “Seize the Fire,” and it was about the battle of Trafalgar, and it was an incredibly well-researched book. And I was amazed, reading this book, of the similarities between the sailors in the British Navy, to the Battlestar fleet. These men leave England and go out to the ocean on these ships. They go out for years at a time; they don’t know how long they’re going out for. They’re going out solely to protect their home country, like the battlestars go out the protect their home planets. And they return to their home port, they go home and they see the family to give them their money, and make sure everything’s fine where they live, checking the children (having more children while they’re there if they can). Then they go back to the ships, because that is their life. Their life is not to go and be [at home], their life is out on those ships, to keep that way of life that they’ve fought so hard for. And that’s what Saul Tigh… where he was. He’s got no desire to be down on the planet. Where would he go, what would he do? So I could argue, I had all these wonderful facts. (I think Ron went, “Holy shit, I didn’t know Hogan was that smart, this is amazing!”) But they wanted me to go down on the planet. And look what they gave me down on the planet! That was the arc that I had, “Occupation,” that rocked. That is one example.
Bear: Maybe it was because you raised the issue about your character, but the conflict about you going down there was present in the story. It’s clear that Tigh didn’t want to go down there.
Hogan: Right, and they certainly took my argument to heart, and gave that argument to [my character]. And if we would have seen the full version (you know in Battlestar they have to cut scenes sometimes) but the unedited version of the scene, I had a much larger argument with Adama about going down there. It was abbreviated in the final cut.
Bear: What was your favorite scene to play in the series?
Hogan: Oh man, that’s a hard one. I would say, off the top of my head: the flashbacks at the beginning of season two where Adama and Tigh first meet. What a gift that was for Eddie and I as actors, because as actors you get together for a film or play, and you create a back story, you create your characters, and you talk about your history, and of course Eddie and I had done that, at great length. But to actually have it scripted, to have it given to you, and to actually be able to do it, to physically shoot these. [The] deleted scenes on those DVDs are complete, I think.
Bear: Yeah, I do remember that in the earliest cuts, there was more than what ended up in the final cut.
Hogan: Oh, yeah, a lot more.
Bear: Sort of the opposite question: what was the most difficult scene for you to connect with, emotionally? We may have already answered this with the scene about going down to New Caprica.
Hogan: Well, that’s not an emotional one. That’s an actual direction for the character. That’s a hard question. Emotionally, the scene where I have to execute Ellen, of course was very emotionally trying to do, but I don’t think there’s anything in Battlestar Galactica that… Because the emotional challenge we have, you know as actors you have all the emotions at your fingertips, it’s just accessing them that’s [difficult].
And when you’re in the theater, you work for three weeks, at least for eight hours, and then for twelve hours a day going and digging up those emotions, and then rehearsing it so that you kind of have that motive going. You tap into those and then you have this long arc. On film, you have to bring that up [immediately]. Then you have to try not to be distracted. You can do it during rehearsal, hit that wonderful emotion, because Kate Vernon was so wonderful to act with and do that. So to access that emotion, you can do it, but to keep that up while you leave set, while they set up again, then you’re called back to set, but they’re not quite ready… Well, then you go back to your trailer. See, accessing those emotions, well that becomes a little difficult after a while because you’re mind is going, “You know, you’re pissing me off here, right. We did this, and now I’ve gotta come back in.”
So that is difficult. But I’ve been doing this for a long time now, and I have a Winnebago, and I would go in, and… The whole crew, we’ve been together for that long, and I’m the easiest man in Canada to get along with, so on [the day we shot Ellen’s death] I could say, “Do not knock on my trailer until you’ve turned over [and the set is ready].” And actually, in my trailer I listen to the song “Carrighfergus.” It’s this amazing Irish song that’s on Loreena McKennitt’s album, Elemental. A friend of ours, Cedric Smith, sings “Carrighfergus” on that. And it is the definitive version of the song. So I sat there and listened to Cedric sing “Carrighfergus” over and over again, and then when they knocked on the door, I would just go in. But the access to the emotion is the problem in an emotionally difficult scene, you know?
Bear: What role in your career thus far has been the biggest stretch for you?
Hogan: I think I hit a point in my career early on, that I will be stretched, but I won’t do something that I can’t do, because the first big gigs I got were at Shaw Festival. I grew up in Northern Ontario, basically in the bush. My father was a prospector. And so I went to theater school. I met Susan King, who became Susan Hogan. I left after the first year because she was graduating third, and she was working all across the country. So I went along on her coattails, and because of my relationship with Susan I ended up, after a couple of years, at the Shaw Festival. We played the young couple in Shaw’s Getting Married. I was playing these upper-crust British gentlemen, the juvenile lead, and I didn’t know anybody from England, I’d never been to England, and there I am in this major theater… oh, it was awful.
So that was a stretch that I never quite accomplished. And I realized a couple of years after that, I was doing a play in Toronto, Something Red. That play I could do everything that was required of me onstage. It was written by a man who’s now a friend; the guy I was playing was basically a victim of rock and roll, and he had a nervous breakdown right there on stage. It was an amazing thing to do, but I knew that the audience are helpless, because I can do everything that’s required of me in this play. It’s an amazing stretch to actually have a nervous breakdown. I went into the shop at the theater, and [during] lights-out at the half-hour of every day and just revved there for about a half-hour. Then the stage manager would come and quietly take me by the arm and lead me up, and put me on the stage. The lights come up while Hendrix is playing away… That was a stretch, but I knew I could do absolutely everything that had to be done. So the biggest stretch, it’s hard say what you mean by stretch. “Stretch” means you didn’t accomplish it?
But, I don’t do anything that isn’t a stretch, I mean not necessarily in film and television, because how often do you get a chance to do that? [Find] a director or a producer who’ll say “Hey, Hogan, I’ve got a role that’s gonna stretch you?” But not in the industry. In the theater, people are constantly… I just did a play a few years ago, Red Mango, that is a one man (well, there’s me and a guitar player onstage), which is basically a Blues rant for an hour and forty-five minutes. That rocked the house. That was a stretch, but in film, you don’t… I would never get that.
Bear: Talk about some of the differences between theater, where you have such a huge background, and film and television. I know we’ve been touching on this a bit, about the difference in the approach. Are there any other big differences in your experiences with theater as compared to your experiences on Battlestar?
Hogan: Oh huge, huge. We have complete control in the theater. We rehearse for three weeks, six days a week, for eight hours a day. And we get to know our characters so well, and the other people so well. We work moments over and over again. You have control of the audience in a theater piece. If you’re doing a comedy, and when you open your mouth at the top of the play, and the audience roars with laughter, you know “Whoa, we gotta pull back here, or we’re gonna get out of control, and we’re not going to get through this. We’ll lose them partway through.” But also, if you open your mouth and there’s nothing, you know we’ve got some work to do, until we hit that proper spot. So you gotta get them up to speed, but watch that you don’t lose control of them with the drama. You can feel the audience out there; you can feel them breathing along with you.
Film is a completely different beast. In Battlestar Galactica we’ve had the luxury of shooting one movie for five years. So we have a great deal of control, because we have the same focus puller for five years. We have the same sound mixer for five years. We have the same musicians for five years. We know where everybody is, but we’re not in the editing room cutting this. I can do a scene that I think is going to be in the cut, and therefore the scene I shoot a little later on I will have a scene with Starbuck, and then whoa, the scene we had just before, the big blowout is gone. We have no control over that. We have control in the theater. Especially when you are just doing one-offs or guests [in television], you just trust that they’ll use you right.
Bear: Speaking of some of the other cast members, I imagine that you guys have gotten to know each other very well. Has the social aspect of being on Battlestar been different than on other television shows?
Hogan: I would imagine. When I guest on some television shows, I think “Wow, how do you come to work every day?” The scenes in the makeup trailer are pretty brutal. There’s some pretty unpleasant sets going on out there. I don’t know any of them to name, that’s not what I’m saying. But there are sets where the egos are so big, and anyone in the business will know what I’m talking about. Battlestar, not to say that it is an ego-less set, but it is such a pleasant, and such a respectful set to be on. Everyone on Battlestar Galactica is so proud of the show, and proud of what they do. I keep saying, it’s one long movie that we’re doing, so everybody’s right into it. Nobody’s coming back going, “Oh, I’m so bored with this whole thing.”
Bear: This reminds me of another question. When you read that a character’s going to die, and I think a perfect example is Ellen, I’m guessing you guys didn’t know she was a cylon.
Bear: So when Ellen’s character died, is there a sense that when a cast member is taken away from the show that the rest of the cast feel like you’ve lost someone from your lives?
Hogan: Oh yes, very much so. One, because we’ve been doing it so long that you go “oh that character’s gone,” which is how the audience is feeling. The world was shattered when we all watched Dee do the deed the other night. And all of us in the show of course are going “Oh Dee, no! Oh my god!” So, it’s very emotional for any of us when we lose someone, whether they’re a good character or a bad character.
Bear: Speaking of Ellen, when she was gone, and before she was revealed as a cylon, there were moments (flashbacks and visions) where she came back. What were your thoughts on that? Did you suspect that maybe she was gonna become the last one?
Hogan: No, [laughs] I think on Battlestar we all think “if they kill you, so what?” We do so many flashbacks that you probably have more days in the next episode than you did before you were dead. And when Ellen came back in flashbacks, whenever she was on set, one it was so cool to have Kate back on set. But two, it never flagged to me that she was the final cylon at all. People go, and then they’re here in flashbacks.
Bear: What has been your interaction with the fans? Have you had any experience with fans of the show?
Hogan: Well, I have done a couple of conventions now. Prior to that I didn’t. I’m a pretty traditional sort of actor, I guess. My anonymity as an actor is very important to me. As an actor, I need to have secrets. The world has to see Saul Tigh, they don’t need to see Hogan. Therefore they can accept Tigh completely. They don’t need to watch Battlestar Galactica and then go pick up a newspaper or see on television Michael Hogan telling them about Saul Tigh and me playing Saul Tigh. That’s not the way I work. Other people do, we just work in different ways. That gets in my way of my skill, to comment and be asked to comment on what I do. And I guess the conventions fall into that pattern, and going on the net. Other members of the cast come back and ask me if I am aware of this on the net. I don’t want to have people’s opinions… I don’t want to know their opinions. I’m doing this, and it’ll just get in my way if I [hear fan reaction]. “Oh, you think what?” That’s not my job, and that gets in the way.
I don’t do these interviews, and then once in a while you go, “Sure, why not?” So I did an interview with The Onion, and as you can tell, once you ask a question, I’ll just beak off, there’s no problem. But I did this interview, and it was in the paper, so I read it. [My son] Gabe had it at his place. It said “to see the complete interview, go to www, flip-flap, whatever.” So I did this, and then it said, “comment on this.” So I thought, “comment on this? what’s that about?” So I hit the knob, and it’s this guy who starts talking about me, and people’s reactions to that thing they read that day. And one of them referred to themselves as “Hogan,” what’s that about? I refer to myself as Hogan, but they started to analyze on the net – “who do I think I am talking about myself like that?” And there was tons of it! And I think, “okay, that’s why I don’t want to talk,” because now I have got to justify what I’m saying about this. That’s not my job; my job is to play Saul Tigh, and you take it, and you use your imagination for it.
Bear: I am a fan of the show myself, and a member of the generation that grew up on the internet. But there is an interesting phenomenon where the fans do things that I think would destroy their experience of it. The most obvious example is people who enjoy the show and want to find the scripts. And for the gossip sites: “Spoilers! Here’s how it’s gonna end!” And I just think, “what is the appeal of that? You love the show so much that you hunt down these things that are going to ruin your experience watching it.”
Bear: But in many ways I do understand the appetite for something that you love so much, that if there’s something out there, if you can use the internet as a way to meet other people, it’s a community. But in many ways it can affect the viewing of the show.
Hogan: And on the other side of that, the internet, and the tenacity and enthusiasm of the fans, has certainly made Battlestar Galactica. Ron [Moore] is an internet generation guy. He’s all over that stuff, as is David [Eick]. I think the fans help push the show as far as it has been pushed. How vocal they are on the net, they are in a large part responsible for it.
Bear: Absolutely. We’ve never generated the kind of [ratings] numbers that everyone assumes that we generate. But Battlestar, it’s not only the number of viewers, it’s how passionately they care about the show. So it has been interesting for me, interacting with them and witnessing that. Having done Comic-Con, it is surreal.
Hogan: Yeah, I loved it. Dragon-Con, I loved going there. And at the auction here [in Pasadena] it turned into a mini convention, because I was staying out at the Pasadena Sheridan, so I was there. The fans were constantly going “Hey!” And I would hang out with them, that’s great. The immediate social interaction with them, I’m all over that. I have a problem with the [previously mentioned internet reactions]. And that’s my work ethic.
Bear: I have also definitely had to develop a thick skin, dealing with the fans on the internet. I have noticed that with the safety of not being face to face with somebody, people will say things about your work on the internet that they would never say to you in person.
Hogan: So you read that, and carry on…
Bear: I try not to. I try to avoid it. In fact, when I started this blog, that was a concern. But actually, everyone on my blog has been really cool. Some incredibly intelligent conversations about music and the show have sprung up and I’ve come to look forward to discussing each episode with the fans. So I appreciate that.
Hogan: It’s like some people – actors say they don’t read reviews. Some actors should definitely not read reviews. Cause you can get bad reviews. I mean, I’ve gotten reviews that get real personal. “Simply put, ‘Hogan is awful.’” And you go, “Oh no, that’s a drag.” Then they go on for the next three paragraphs explaining why, or calling you obnoxious. [I think] “Hogan’s obnoxious? Or the character’s obnoxious?” Just don’t read it.
Bear: Do you try to avoid reviews, in general?
Hogan: I think I do… I’ll read them at the end.
Bear: Actors are in an interesting position, I imagine. Anything that goes wrong with a film or series, you can get blamed for so easily by the fans and press. I am shielded because whether I’m doing good work or not, the composer’s just not mentioned in reviews unless it’s of the soundtrack album. But you guys, if an episode’s not working, you hear people complaining about the actors almost immediately.
Hogan: I know, I love it…
Bear: So you guys are really out there, you’re the first line of defense. I can understand especially why you’d need to [avoid reviews].
Hogan: I don’t want anything to do with that. It’s us in that set doing [the scene], I’m not thinking about it.
Bear: One more question on this topic: I have found that criticism from fans or reviewers has never yet been as harsh on me as I am on myself. Is that an experience that you have – are you very critical of your own performance? Do you ever watch the show and look at things you’ve done and think of it that way?
Hogan: No. You know, years and years ago, when we started doing film and television, nobody really likes what they did up there or likes the way they look at the beginning (or likes the sound of your own voice). And you’re hard on yourself. Then you think, “well, then don’t do it.” And if you’re going to do it, learn to deal with it.
We used to do a journalistic series called For the Record, which were stories that were in the headlines, or topics in the news, and they would make our dramas out of them on a weekly basis. There were no regulars in the series, but I did a few of them. One we did was an hour-and-a-half special called Vanderberg, about a Calgary (Alberta) businessman, that takes over an old established eastern firm, and this is in the early 80’s, when that was going on in Canada. And so because I was the lead, I went to all the rushes (the dailies) and watched. And then when that was successful and they said they wanted to do three one-hour [episodes], I said “okay, I’ll do it, but I want to go to all the meetings. I want to go to all the rushes.” Because in those days the rushes were shown in a theater. All the crew and the director, producers would go into a small theater and watch the dailies, and they would never let actors go in there, because the actors were always going “I hate the way I look. And why’s the light [angle] off?” and whatever. But I would go, because you have to. If you don’t like the way you look or don’t like what you did, you can’t get that back, but use it.
So I have no problem. I’m not hard on myself. If you don’t get a scene you don’t get it, but… No, I am not critical of myself in that way; I am generally satisfied with my work. The only time I’m not satisfied sometimes is in an audition, because even after these years, you think “well I can’t wait to audition for this, this is going to be fun,” and then your heart’s in your mouth.
Bear: What was it like auditioning for Battlestar?
Hogan: It was an amazing audition for Battlestar, because [miniseries director] Michael Rymer was holding the audition. Coreen Mayrs and Heike Brandstatter the Vancouver casting of the show, and they always cast great stuff. You know if they’re auditioning, it’s worth going, because they don’t cast garbage. But Michael Rymer…
My wife Susan and I saw a film once called Angel Baby, a film out of Australia that just blew our minds. And turns out the man who directed and wrote it was Michael Rymer. Then about a year later, I was going to do an audition in Vancouver. I got the sides and the breakdown: “directed by Michael Rymer.” “Yes! That’s the guy who directed Angel Baby. I get to meet him!” So I went to the audition, and he wasn’t there; it was on tape. And I didn’t get the part, so I never got to meet him. And then about a year later, the same thing happened. Michael Rymer’s name was on a breakdown, and I went to the audition, and it was on tape. Didn’t get to meet him then either. I guess they looked at my tape, and I wasn’t the right guy, so I didn’t get to the next step, where you would have met the director.
And I almost didn’t go (Michael Rymer having nothing to do with this because I didn’t know he was in the picture at the time) when I got a call to go and audition for Battlestar Galactica, I laughed. I’d seen bits and pieces of it here, and I knew the ilk of the show, and I was not interested in doing that at all. But it was a movie at that time, it wasn’t a series, it was a miniseries. So I don’t know what came first, if I just gave myself a talking to (which I have to every once in a while) “Go and audition for this. It’s a job. It’ll [only] be a four hour miniseries, and who knows, but you’re not doing Battlestar Galactica [the series].” However that happened, I don’t know. But then it turns out that Michael Rymer is directing it, which was a total surprise. “Michael Rymer is directing Battlestar Galactica? What?!”
And I went to audition, and he was in the room this time. Of course I talked to him about Angel Baby right away. Then we auditioned. And as I knew would happen, it was a wonderful time in the audition room. I love auditioning for people who are interesting directors, because they love working with actors. So any time, whether you get the part or not, you come in and you do your work, and they go “Wow, okay that’s interesting. Now what are you thinking about blah-blah…. Why don’t you do it again and actually the guy is this way, and not that.” and you go “Whoa.” So you can be in there for half an hour just playing, in the room. So then the casting people go “Hey, we got other people to see…” But a good director loves just to play there, and an actor also likes to play. Whether I get the role or not, I love to do it. You know, there’s Canadian directors – Anne Wheeler, Norma Bailey, or Sturla Gunnarsson – or any of these people, when they want you to audition, I say “I’ll [always] go audition for them anytime, whether I get the role or not.” We get to play for half an hour in that room. Otherwise I wouldn’t get a chance to play with them for who knows [how long].
So I ended up going [to the Battlestar audition] and I got called back once, and then they called me again for the network one, to see something different or something. So I did it and got the role. The auditioning was great, but I almost didn’t do it. That’s happened to me in other ones, too. I did the pilot for Monk, and I almost didn’t go to audition for that. And then I went in and I met Dean Parisot, who directed it, and Tony Shalhoub, who played Monk. So I got to work with Tony Shalhoub.
Bear: I guess that just shows you should never turn down an opportunity.
Hogan: Yeah, don’t be so cavalier, that’s for sure. You never know what’s behind that door.
Bear: Another question about performing on Battlestar. What’s it like playing with an eyepatch? Did that change your experience?
Hogan: Yes, definitely. You know the story of how that whole eyepatch thing came about?
Hogan: Every season, on hiatus, about a month before we’re about to go back to camera (because I haven’t been thinking about Battlestar Galactica for the whole hiatus), I’ll phone LA and ask “So, what’s shakin’? What do you have in mind for this season?” And so at the beginning of season three, I phoned up and got David Eick and said “So, I’m thinking I should maybe be doing some research here, what do you guys got in mind? What’s planned for Saul Tigh?”
He said, “Well, what do I know for sure? Not much, you know, cylon occupation, we’re going to have Tigh incarcerated.”
“Tortured, yeah, and we’re thinking of maiming him.”
“Maiming him? Wow, that’s interesting. Do you know how?”
He said “No, we’re not sure yet.”
I said, “You know, you should get your heads together on that real quick, because I’m going to have to research that; I can’t just limp, or shove my arm up my sleeve or something. We owe it to these war veterans and these amputees, we can’t just…”
And he said “Well, we’re thinking of taking an eye out.”
And I laughed. I just dropped the phone: “Taking an eye out, yeah right. Okay. You talk about that and get back to me when you[‘ve decided].”
So, I didn’t hear from David. And then I get an early draft of the script, and of course in the opening scene, there’s me in a cell, with an eye gone. I picked up the phone right away after not even getting through that scene, I said, “David, it’s Hogan. [pause] You’ve taken my eye out! What’s with this? You know a television actor’s main tools are his eyes. Television, it’s your eyes. Theater, it’s not. Even on the big screen, it’s not. You’ve taken away 50% of my tools.”
And David said, “Well, when I talked to you last, I hung up the phone and called Ron Moore and said, ‘Hogan’s laughing, he’s chuffed about the idea.’”
I said, “Chuffed? I was laughing hysterically.”
So that’s how that came up. The interesting thing was, he said that Ron wanted something permanent, that it wasn’t something you could heal, or get over. When you looked at Tigh, you thought, “Occupation.” And that is so wise, that was good. But I said we can’t just shoot this, we’ve got work to do. We’ve got to talk to Steve [McNutt], the DP, we’ve got to talk to the director. We’ve got to figure out how to shoot this. And it turns out, we did. We worked at it. Because with the gauze, it was like a mask, like the whole geography of your face changes.
Bear: So, did you have to exaggerate your movements?
Hogan: Well, it was interesting. We played around with that and we, of course, watched dailies, and we even would do playbacks at the beginning. Sergio [Mimica-Gezzan] who directed that, we found right away “don’t even think about it.” Sometimes with the patch you had to be aware, but we found out pretty quickly, “don’t even think about it.” Shoot it from any angle you want. And you could, every once in a while, go boom (he covers one eye and dramatically turns the other towards me). That’s very powerful to see. And new directors would come on and start talking about the patch, and we’d go “Don’t even think about it.”
It’s interesting because the whole body language with Tigh by that time, I loved the body language work in “Occupation,” after the torture, that stuff with the cane and the dragging, and coming back onto the ship when Eddie says “You brought all of them back,” and I say “Not all of them.”
Just the body language was like, “wow.” And Ron was dead right. You wanted to look at him after the occupation, Tigh wore that all physically.
Bear: Yeah. That scene that you’re describing was the best cue that I wrote in season three. And it was because I stayed with you. Everyone else was doing this celebration. It was you and Starbuck who came back shells.
Hogan: And you nailed that…
Bear: I didn’t want to play the celebration. I was playing that these two characters are scarred permanently. You physically, and Kara emotionally. And it was shot so well, and cut together so well that, the minute I saw the rough cut of that, I knew that it had to be exceptional.
Hogan: See, people don’t realize the amount that goes into that whole thing. When in fact it’s the score, it’s all that sound that’s in there… That’s Battlestar Galactica. And it’s those effects, it’s all of those things together that make it; this thing is so dense. And everybody’s so proud of it, I mean everybody. The lady who’s just loading stuff into the computer so that someone else can do their magic, she’s as proud of the whole thing. And everybody knows it. In the end they talk about the actors or the directors or the FX, but no, it’s way deeper than that.
Bear: It does feel like a family, to me. For me it was when I went up to Vancouver, on set helping [director Michael] Nankin film scenes for the episode airing next week, “Someone to Watch Over Me.” At first, nobody knew who I was. In fact, one guy came up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and says “Hey, look who’s here!” And I turn around and he goes, “Oh, you’re not Ron. Sorry, don’t know who you are.”
Hogan: [laughs] Yeah, that’s great.
Bear: But once everyone figured out who I was, I felt this kinship up there. I felt like I belonged up there, which was really cool, because so much of the time, production and post-production are very separate. But all of us on this show…
Hogan: Because we’ve done this so long, too, there’s things we’ll do on set where we go, “Wait until Bear gets a hold of that, don’t worry about it.” There, it feels empty, but we know you’re part of the team, it’s your character in there. He’s not on set, but you know that you’re going to be there, right? Because you never know who they’re gonna follow [when filming], you know? You do [your scene] but they’re on Eddie. Sometimes you can do this amazing stuff but [the camera’s somewhere else]. But [you can trust that] they got it. [Or] when they follow Tigh all the way down there, but then, wow, you lay [your score] on top of that, and you can hear you’re going with me, and all that’s going on. It’s so complete.
But you get to know that over they years, so you go into season four, and you think, “Don’t worry about it. Don’t do that part, just do what you’re doing here.” Because [in the beginning] you try to do it all, yourself. As an actor, you’re going, “Okay, I drink this water, I sure gotta sell that I’m lonely, and my woman’s left me, that I’m having a nervous breakdown, and that I’m hearing ringing in my head.”
Bear: And the funny thing is, some of my best opportunities are sequences like that, where there’s something simple going on, for example, in the ending of “Revelations,” where there’s that big celebration, finding Earth. And we cut to you, and we cut to Tyrol.
When I was first looking at this sequence, those were the two shots that stood out to me, because you were the two guys who are not celebrating. And there was something about those two shots that just jumped out at me. So that’s where I thought, those are the places that I’m going to shift. Because obviously, when everyone’s jumping and celebrating, I know what that’s supposed to sound like. We all basically know what that’s going to sound like. But with those two shots, there was something interesting there.
And Battlestar is full of so many interesting opportunities like that where, especially as a composer, there’s room to interpret, there’s subtext and context that I can play around with. It’s so much more than typical scoring, which is generally, “It’s scary, so make some scary music. Now it’s happy, so make happy music so everybody knows what to feel.” I love the nebulous emotional quality of our show. You’re not sure how to feel because our characters are complicated.
Hogan: You can always go, “Well, there’ll never be another Battlestar Galactica.” We know over the history of film, these directors who use the same cinematographers, the same composers, time after time, the actors get to know them. You can relax and know that is taken care of. That is very seldom for the run-of-the-mill actors [or others] in our industry. Battlestar, going on so long, it was pretty amazing to have that knowledge of post [production], of who’s out there, and knowing their sensibilities. When you showed up on set that time, it was like, “Wow, I can’t believe that you’re here on set, on that piano.”
Bear: Yeah, it was a thrill to be on set playing piano for you guys. I was going to ask about that, because to me, that’s where the experience came full circle.
Hogan: Exactly. Because you’re suddenly here, too. You’ve always got to be there, in our minds, and now you’re actually here physically. When you started tinkling [on the piano], it was like, “Wow.” You should be there more often, because when Eddie [Olmos] directs, he puts your music on, you aware of that?
Bear: I didn’t know that, really? Wow.
Hogan: Yeah, just to get people warmed up. Well, he’s Eddie. You should go up more often. But in those circumstances, if [the show] carried on, it’d be great for exactly that. And it would probably give you a little buzz, composing, to be there for [the filming].
Bear: Let’s go back, because what I wanted to ask about was: In season three, you were told that you were hearing music. And at that time (I don’t know what direction Michael [Rymer] gave you), but even I hadn’t been told about the song. So I don’t think any of us knew what the song was going to be. You must have been told you were hearing this music that’s drawing you down the hallway, but you don’t know what it’s going to be.
Hogan: When I first start hearing the music, it’s not discernible music. Tigh’s head is ringing most of the time. And there’s a lot of people in the world who suffer chronic pain, who suffer ringing in their ears, they just don’t tell you about it. You’ve got relatives, I’m sure, who’ve got it, but they’re not going to burden you with that little piece of information. So, [Tigh’s] had ringing in my ears, but now it’s sort of static-y, its broken. But when it starts formulating itself into an actual tune…
So I didn’t have to have “All Along the Watchtower” going [to perform the scene], and this goes back to the nerve of these guys, the writers and creators, you read the script and you think “that’ll never work,” and seeing it up there, it works. A great example of that is reading that script, going “Just a second…” The line is: “There must be some kind of way out of here.”
“Okay, this can’t be right.”
You know what they’ve done, they’re going to think of what the poem is there, it’s got to be a placeholder, because that’s just stupid. I was alive and I remember when that song first came out, Dylan’s first version, that rocked. And I remember when Hendrix’s first came out. That song has always been special to me. I’ve always cranked it, if it was on in the truck, as loud as it could go. And I’ve always told my kids that at my funeral, I want you to play that. So it’s uncanny, that five years of Battlestar, with this being such a major part of my life, that it comes to this. And that was spooky, when it became obvious that they were going to use this song.
Well, okay, it’s just a placeholder, because they’ll never get the rights from Dylan. But that was one of those things where you think “Well that is absolutely foolish.” But then when it became obvious that this was going to be the case, that it would be “All Along the Watchtower.” Well, that’s pretty cool.
And I’ve got a tin ear. So for me as an actor, that became a bit of a pickle. I say I’ll stretch myself, but I won’t do something I can’t do. I could entertain you with the years (about 40 years in the business), so you can imagine the musical experience I’ve had. You hear my voice, and people think I should be in musicals… I won’t go there.
Bear: Okay, Ellen and Saul, it turns out, are not just cylons, but basically the mother and father of the cylon race. The final five are kind of responsible for all of this. Does that surprise you? Does it make you feel like the Cylon King? You mentioned you were the oldest soldier in the human race, and in a way you’re also the father of the cylon race, how does that feel?
Hogan: There’s no special feeling I can remember for that. It’s interesting, when you say this now, because it was so long ago that we shot it, that in fact watching the episodes that are airing now, I’m surprised when I see it.
Bear: I scored them last summer, and I feel the same way.
Hogan: It’s amazing isn’t it? You scored it, so you’ve watched the whole thing, but I’m just in parts of it, so the whole thing surprised me. I always get halfway through thinking, “We’re never going to get all that has to be in this episode by the end of forty-two minutes.”
Bear: “No Exit” and “Deadlock” are very dense episodes.
Hogan: I don’t remember what happens in the next few episodes to Tigh, and to Ellen and the rest of us. I can’t remember the story arc that happens.
Bear: That means you’ll get to experience it with all the fans.
Hogan: Right. But I do not remember how our reunion – how that story is told, because it’s a pretty convoluted story. Lots of words to be said.
Bear: The interesting thing about these two episodes is that so much comes at you so quickly, that I always think of these episodes as being made specifically for the fans. Because you really have to pay attention. I remember pausing it, since I was watching on DVD, and thinking, “Wait, so that means that…”
Hogan: Right, Anders…
Bear: And you get all this back story, and you find out about Daniel, who was the other cylon model.
Hogan: Yeah, someone the other day counted, and said there’s one missing. And I didn’t remember in the story where that happened, but I said, “Good for you. You’re really watching the show hard.” Harder than I am.
Bear: I didn’t even think of that. As soon as we learned that Boomer is Number Eight and D’Anna is Number Three, then it becomes mathematically impossible to have “The Final Five” be sequential. You realize we’ve got a problem here.
Hogan: [laughs] Yeah, now you think, are they holding that for a spin-off, or something? Not much is made of that. And there are some things that sort of get dropped, I guess. It’d be interesting to see that cut together because the programs are so long. And this episode, you can’t just drop stuff, because people will know.
Bear: The tricky thing is that some of this is important information for that particular episode, but realistically, from an editorial standpoint, some of it is just stuff that is part of the bigger mythology. It’s like what you were saying about the deleted scenes, being one of your favorite scenes. I think all the important stuff in No Exit and Deadlock stayed in. I don’t remember hearing about [deleted scenes]. It is tricky, especially at the end of this series, trying to wrap up all these storylines.
Hogan: And as actors, there were so many units going on – first, second, third, I’m sure there was probably a fourth – to clean up stuff that wasn’t filmed in the cycle of the last episode. So they’re shooting [Blood on the Scales], but they’re doing pickups from [Sometimes a Great Notion], and they’re still finishing off [The Oath]. So you’ve got Grace Park running from set to set, and she’s shooting like three different episodes that day.
And we ask “How long does it take you to shoot one episode?” You want to tell the public seven days. Bullshit, seven days, because they’ve got all these pickup days. So it’s hilarious on set some days, you see these people – “What’s Nankin doing on set? Oooh, pickups.” So when [the actors] are confused, it’s because nobody knew what was going on at that time. No wonder you can’t remember it sequentially, because you only did your little bit.
Bear: That is a difference between your experience and mine, where I get to see roughly finished episodes, and mostly in order, too. So I can piece it together in the same way that the audience will eventually piece it together.
Hogan: Absolutely. And you can imagine when we first started switching over to the cylon camp [in early Season 3]. So we weren’t even on the call sheet for a bunch of times. You read the scripts, and the read-through, but then you’re not on set, you’re doing something else. Just living life, then coming back in. It’s pretty hard to keep that in your head when you’ve just had it on a table read.
When the writer’s strike happened, we had to beg and plead with Ron to get us anything you had cut together to get us back up to speed, because none of us have thought about Battlestar Galactica for [so] long. And everything was so chaotic, trying to get things done before they pulled the plug. So then when you went back into that, it was very difficult for the actors. “What are we doing, I can’t remember anything that we were supposed to do.” That’s difficult.
Bear: So is it ever difficult to keep track of your character, when you’re filming things out of order?
Hogan: Yeah, it is. When things are busy, when there’s an awful lot of stuff to shoot, and they’re big episodes, you’ve gotta look after yourself. You can’t go to someone and ask, “What [does my character] think about this right now?” If you are shooting an arc of, lets say, Ellen and I having marital problems, a drama episode, it’s pretty easy. You’re bouncing off each other. But there are some episodes… “Which Number 6 Six this? Is she in the brig, now? And why is she in chains right now?” or, “Where is Lee Adama? Do I like him right now? What’s the last scene I had with him?”
Bear: Our show is so complex, that even as an audience member that can happen. As I watch the episodes, the Number Six in the brig was a perfect example. I’d think, “What is she doing there?” And you’d go all the way back to the middle of season 3, almost a full season ago, that she’s been sitting in the brig. We’ve got a lot of stories to juggle and now we’re getting back to that one.
Hogan: That’s a hard one. Tricia, she was probably all over it, but certainly for us…
Bear: Well, all of those things to me are some of the rewarding parts of working on a show like this. For everything that can be difficult, you think, well, if we were just doing a sitcom, this wouldn’t be a problem, but the rewards…
Hogan: The rewards wouldn’t be there, no. Absolutely not.
Bear: Well, that’s about all my questions, and about fifteen thousand extra ones.
Hogan: That’s good, man
Bear: Thanks for taking the time to do this.
Hogan: “He said he never talks, but then I couldn’t get him to shut up.”
Bear: [laughs] Yeah, you only need to do one, and you’re done.
Hogan: That’s right. For life.
I’d like to an extend an extra-special thanks to Michael Hogan for taking the time to grab some good Brazilian food down the street and do this interview. As for Ellen Tigh, our schedules didn’t work out in time and we’ll hopefully do an interview one day soon.
If you’re looking for musical tidbits this week, listen again for many statements of the Saul / Ellen Theme:
As well as several strains of “Gentle Execution,” a.k.a. “Worthy of Survival:”
These two themes both morphed into an “Ellen Tigh Theme” last week and I continued to use them for this episode.
However, I think THIS is undeniably the most important scene in the episode:
Who is that sexy crew-member back there?? 🙂
On a personal note, I’d like to announce yet another milestone this week. Yesterday, we completed the last of three orchestral scoring sessions for the BG finale, the final orchestral recordings of the series. It was a very emotional experience, but the music has exceeded my expectations. It will, fittingly, be the most epic, lush, intense and beautiful BG score I’ve ever composed. I’m actually finishing this blog entry from a studio in West LA where we’re recording drums and bass for the episode.
Speaking of outstanding underscore, if you’ve been concerned about the lack of innovative music in the past two episodes, rest assured that next week’s score is very special. It includes some of the most gorgeous cues I’ve ever written for the series. The blog entry for that will also be unique. It is so long and lavishly detailed that I will have to break it up into three separate entries, all of which will go online simultaneously. See you next week!
So Say We All!