The last of the original scripted series panels (and last panel overall), was for Caprica, with producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, along with the ever-present Mark Stern, Executive VP of Original Programming at Syfy. Caprica had just started the second half of its first season.
What could we expect from the second half? Moore started, “Well, second half of ‘Caprica”s first season, I think you’ll see more momentum, certain streamlining of storylines for the first half of the season. We sort of started to focus in on what were the primary stories as we got into the second half and started to sort of strip away some of the more extraneous details as we went. I think it has more momentum than the first half. I think you’ll also start to see more tie-ins between the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ mythology and sort of the ongoing story in ‘Caprica.'”
“Yes. Sometimes these first-season shows have to catch up with themselves,” Eick added. “I think the second half of Season 1 is where we started to kind of land and shift into a new gear. And that gear is, I guess, more kind of unapologetically connected to its origins of ‘Battlestar,’ where I think in the first half of Season 1 we were very intent on establishing our own framework, on distinguishing the show from ‘Battlestar’ for people who hadn’t seen ‘Battlestar.’ And in the final analysis — or the midstream analysis, we realized that there was a lot of value in our origin, in the show’s roots. And I think both in terms of tone and rhythm and action/adventure and suspense and also in terms of just the overall ideas you’re going to see a lot more “Battlestar” in the second half of the season.”
And apparently there will be some “ass kicking” from Polly Walker’s character, Sister Clarice, and a few others. “Yeah. Well, that’s what I mean by ‘tone.’ There’s a lot of ‘Hold on a second. I didn’t know that character could do that.’ And that was a little bit of the hallmark of ‘Battlestar,’ and I think you’ll see a lot more of that in ‘Caprica’ now.”
Did I say “some” ass-kicking? A question was asked as to whether we would still be seeing “origin and emotion” building and the “ass-kicking” seen in previews would come later. Eick answered, “No, I think you’re going to see plenty of ass-kicking. That’s the headline: “More Ass-Kicking,” referring to the on-hand reporters tweeting of newsbits.
“But I think we’re cognizant of the timeline and of being true to what sort of events socially, emotionally, politically would be required — would have to take place in between the creation of a sentient, artificial-intelligent thing and its takeover of an entire society,” he continued. “And so I think we’re — part of what we’re excited about about a possible second season is how painstakingly genuine and realistic we feel like that process, that evolution is. It is both surprising in terms of stuff that happens sooner than you think it would. And also, it’s always about one step forward and two steps back with great technological breakthroughs and outbursts, of course. And I think that’s what’s so exciting about — but I think you’re going to see the reason we were led to that in the second season is because of where we are in the second half of Season 1. You’re going to see that development begin so that it doesn’t feel like a surprise when you get there.”
Is there any chance we could could see any of the Cylon skinjobs in Caprica?
“We don’t have any plans to, but you never say never. You kind of wait and see what that would be and under what circumstances we might make that happen. But there’s not anything on the table for that right now,” said Moore.
Eick added, “Yeah, I mean, so much of that, in truth, becomes an issue of casting. We’re in Vancouver. It’s a smaller pool of talent just in terms of the population. And we got so lucky with ‘Battlestar.’ When you go down the line, I mean Tahmoh Penikett and — I can go on and on with the people we found locally. It’s a temptation to want to cast a lot of those guys again, Cylon and non-Cylon alike, just because they’re damn good actors and, you know, it’s hard to find good actors. So there have been times when we’ve discussed backing into a conceptual conceit that will allow us to justify casting an actor that we’re really casting because they’re just so good, more so than the other way around.”
Mark Stern was asked about when a second season would be announced, but David Eick answered, “Well, stick around till — what did you say? Like 4 o’clock today we’re going to…” to much laughter. Mark said, “Yeah, I think these guys are getting me drunk later today and we’re going to…” when Ron said, “What do you mean, later?”
Mark replied, “I don’t know what I did after that 15th tequila shot. It’s a great question, actually. We owe the cast a decision November 15th. I think our feeling is — and we’ll have done — aired about six or seven episodes by then. I think we’re definitely hopeful to have a decision before that.”
My turn: “Both you guys seem to be pretty busy, even just on ‘Caprica,’ but you seem to have a lot of irons in the fire on other things. Anything else you have plans for that you can tell us about?”
“I’m in development, back at the beginning of the process all over again,” replied Moore. “I sold a pilot to NBC. Excited about that. And I’ve got — taking a couple other things out and pitches and sort of meeting with writers and so on. But nothing definitive yet. Nothing that will put a billboard up for you.”
“Yeah,” Eick added. “I’ve got one at ABC and one at FOX, but it’s all the same, all kind of development hell.”
How about the characters and actors that surprised them and took on a larger role than envisioned?
Moore: “I think probably Lacy would be the top of that list and Sam. They were both in the pilot. They were supporting characters that played a role within the context of what the pilot was about. But as we got into series and really after we saw the actors, once we saw the actors in the show, we really zeroed in on those two as two characters that we didn’t think were going to have huge roles to play in the series, but suddenly we said, ‘Oh, my God, they’re really important, and they’re great. The actors are really interesting. Let’s keep writing to that.'”
“That’s one of the great things about TV,” Eick added. “You can discover talent in a way that you can’t in movies. And I was talking about Tahmoh Penikett earlier. I keep damning Sasha Roiz with fain praise by telling him he’s the Tahmoh Penikett of ‘Caprica’ because he’s this great discovery. He’s someone who we thought would make a great assassin in the pilot and, in working with him, discovered this guy’s remarkably talented and tremendously charismatic. And we started developing storylines for him and obviously, creating a real specific character for him. And Lacy is a another great example of that. And I keep damning her by referring to her as the Katee Sackhoff of ‘Caprica.’ But as a pure talent, as a thoroughbred of talent, she is just remarkable. I’m not even sure she knows how good she is yet. But she’s tremendous, and she has a lot more to do in the second half of Season 1 for that reason.”
The next question was about the technology, in terms of filming, which gets into how much support Syfy has provided: “I think “Battlestar” set the standard for how to shoot spaceships in space and redefined what that meant. What would you say technologically has been the most interesting thing about “Caprica” and what you guys have done with the worlds you’ve created or in terms of breaking ground visually?”
Moore answered first. “Probably — there are times now when I’m watching the show, and I cannot tell whether the Cylon in the room is a prop or is the visual effect. I think that’s a remarkable place now, where suddenly we’re able to put CG objects into the environment and it’s really, really hard to tell, even for us who do it, whether it’s true or not. And I was scanning through some episodes just the other day, and there was a Cylon lying on the table, the chassis. U87 was lying there. And I thought, ‘Oh, that’s the visual effect.’ And then the guy — then one of the actors in the scene put his hand on it and leaned on it. I went, ‘Oh, no, that’s not the visual effect.’ It’s really interesting. The boys and girls in our visual effects department just keep raising the bar on what’s technologically possible on a television budget. It’s amazing. Same goes with, like, virtual sets really.”
“Well, yeah, we’re — this is largely attributable to Mr. Stern and the people at the network who insisted on it, but in the early going, we had this city called Caprica,” added Eick. “And we would continually cut to these exterior shots of Vancouver as establishing shots, as transitional shots. And they would have at times some slight enhancement but, for the most part, looked like Vancouver. And Mark would look at these cuts and go, ‘This isn’t Caprica. This looks like Vancouver.’ And what’s rare in TV — what you do a lot in movies but what’s really rare in TV is you don’t spend a lot of money on visual effects that don’t have story points attached to them. Because visual effects budgets are so precious, you tend to reserve them for big hero shots, big story, big plot turns, big action sequences. And the idea that you would have — you would expend a lot of resources on some bit of transitional buffer, an establishing shot before you go inside a building or just some sort of, again, transition from one scene to another as if to say, ‘Yes, you’re on a different planet. It’s called Caprica. Part of the concept is that you’re in a different world and that even the most offhand, arbitrary, seemingly meaningless moments should continue to reinvest you in that idea’ is very hard to do in TV. And it was — and so it became this challenge: Okay, well, how can you spread out your visual effects resources to emphasize that point, in addition to your big action sequences and your big robot effects and all this stuff you need to do to tell the story? And as I look at the episodes now, I’m so grateful and happy about that because it just kind of flies by you, and you don’t notice it, but it creates this texture. It creates this reality that really kind of envelopes you into the story. And I’m really happy that we did that.”
Mark Stern then said, “So you’re saying I was right all along.”. Eick responded, “You responded to a good idea.” To which Mark added, “That’s as good as I’ll get from you,” to the laughter of the audience.
And that was a wrap for the panels. More about some of the reality show panels from earlier in the day, Halloween Horror Nights, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.