Catching Up With... Battlestar Galactica's Edward James Olmos
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Paste caught up with Edward James Olmos the day before the debut of Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, which he directed. Olmos plays the commanding, intelligent and taciturn Admiral Adama in the series. Olmos, himself, proved equally commanding and intelligent but quite loquacious. To hear him tell it, BSG holds the cure to what ails humanity. If he overstates the case, it’s still refreshing to see such enthusiasm for one’s work and a burning passion for the betterment of mankind.Paste: Can you talk a little bit about The Plan, how you came to it and what you wanted to accomplish?
Edward James Olmos: It came by way of the incredible storytellers that have been writing the show over the last five years. And I have to tell you—what a complementation to an already extraordinary ride that we’ve taken. This just becomes the icing on the cake, in a big way. The Plan got to be understood by way of what the show was based on—the base of man’s creation of technology that ended up becoming the destruction of humanity. And so we get to see how and why the technology that we created comes back to annihilate the human species . It just put it into really stark reality as to what was going on and how close the annihilation of the human species really was. We were within the grasp and hand of the annihilation of the human species at any given moment. And had it not been for love, the whole understanding of what the Cylons were trying to do would have come to pass. But the one ingredient that destroyed the Cylons ability to annihilate us was the lack of understanding how much love had to do with it. I should write a song about that, right? [laughs] What love has to do with it.Paste: Wth this, the basic details of the plot—you know where the story is going, from the humans’ perspective anyway. How challenging was that, to really get into the emotions from the Cylons’ perspective, knowing that we didn’t have the surprise of new plot developments?
Olmos: Well, I thought that what we did have was the ability to answer a lot of questions. And I think we did. You know, from the very beginning of the show, we start to answer the question of how did they do what they did. The very first opening sequence is the annihilation of the entire human species and you start to see it. And that’s something that you never saw in a miniseries or any time. You just heard about it, that they would have been annihilated. But then you start to see it. So you got to get a lot of the answers right off the bat.
All I can say is that I think it was really a stroke of beauty to have gone through all the years of this storytelling, only to be given, at the very end, a movie that gives you the perspective of the threat and why it did what it did and how it did it and what caused that threat not to succeed, which to me is the key. I think we all knew as the show was being evolved you started to feel that the Cylons were taking a different perspective. And then all of a sudden, you saw toward the end—the last season, especially—that we have to reconcile with the Cylons, even though they have annihilated us. And we had to trust them, or else we would have never got to the next level of understanding of our own species.
So, they actually help us survive and that in itself was enough. But when you realized how it was building and why some of the things that they really wanted to do didn’t really happen—had Boomer killed Adama, instead of shooting him in the stomach had shot him in the head, the story would have evolved in a completely different way. Had they been able to annihilate the Battlestar Galactica at the beginning when they were trying to you know, Jesus, it would have been a whole different—well, the story would have been cut short. It would have been a real short series.
Paste: As an actor, did anything in The Plan change your perspective on your character?
Olmos: No, not on my character. What it did was, it enhances how the fear, the tension—we always knew that there were Cylons amongst us but we had no idea that they were right there. They were inside of our system in such a way that—[Exhaling a strong “Oh”] it’s breathtaking, when you realize what the stories mean. I mean, once you see The Plan and you go back and see the beginning of the series and you take the ride again, you’re gonna really realize, “Oh, my goodness, this is unbelievable.” Because, I mean, never did I think that you’d be able to tell that story in that manner, to build that kind of tension. Now when you go back and see it, you’re gonna realize how close we were to the annihilation of the human species. It’s amazing. I mean, these writers—Ron Moore has done an extraordinary thing.