After several key roles in short-lived TV series, Katee Sackhoff found her claim to fame as the fearless pilot Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, a part played by a male actor in the original series and one that she made her own, winning over the geek community in the process.
While still working on TV (currently in A&E’s Longmire), and having a key role in the eighth season of 24, Sackhoff is moving into roles in feature films, including this weekend’s Riddick, where she stars as another weapon-wielding badass opposite Vin Diesel.
Screen Rant had the opportunity to interview Katee Sackhoff during the Riddick junket and and the conversation covered her co-stars, strong female characters in film, comic book movie roles and in-development all-women Expendables movie.
Screen Rant: You looked like you were having a lot of fun slapping around Jordi Molla, who plays rival bounty hunter Santana.
Katee Sackhoff: “It was one of the most fun things I’ve ever had to do because every time Jordi opens his mouth to say anything, it’s just funny. He’s so dramatic and I loved every second of it.”
What kind of off-camera relationship do you have to have in order to just go for it like that during a scene?
“You have to trust each other. Especially Jordi and I, with the punches that I was having to do to his face—that’s incredibly difficult because you really do have to have a lot of trust for the person that you’re in the scene with. Jordi really did trust me. I don’t know why, but he did.”
You’re new to the franchise, but David Twohy and Vin Diesel have been working on it over three films. Did they already have an on-set shorthand that everyone had to learn?
“It was so interesting, yeah. They’re very, very quick in the way that they talk to each other. I think everybody kind of had this respect for what they were doing and they realized that if it was something that we needed to know, they’d make sure that we understood.”
Was Vin Diesel already on the shortlist of actors that you wanted to face off against?
“Since I was a little kid, yeah. Well, little kid. But since I saw him in the first movie that I saw him in, Saving Private Ryan. I just fell in love with his energy.”
Is his energy different in person than it is on the screen?
“Yeah! I think everybody’s is. I’ve met very few people who are the exact same. Vin’s incredibly engaging, very passionate, very smart, very funny, and just an all-around great guy to be around.”
What I like about your career is that you actually look like you could throw a punch. A lot of movies cast girls who might work out at a gym, but couldn’t really do any physical damage.
“I think that that’s a product of our business. People cast who they think could sell, not who they think would look real.”
What does that mean for you when you go on auditions? How do you make that argument that they want an actress who’s not just beautiful, but can also convey the role?
“I don’t make the arguments. There’s very few things in life that I’m going to fight about—and for. If somebody has their mind made up about casting somebody who they think is right for a role, that’s just the way it goes, and it wasn’t right. Somebody who wants to hire someone they think is going to sell the movie is probably not going to hire someone realistic. Sometimes you get both and sometimes you don’t. That’s just the way it goes and there’s very little you can do to convince them otherwise.”
There’s a larger conversation going on in the culture right now about Strong Female Characters. About how that cliché sounds like a good thing, except that strong characters aren’t always complicated, or even interesting.
“For sure. And strong doesn’t even mean that they can act. I think some people in the business have gone too far in the other direction. There’s a very big difference between physical strength and personal strength. I think a lot of times, actress play physical strength when it’s the emotional strength that’s ten times more important.”
On the set, I heard that you, not David, were the one who came up with the costume idea to make your character look more sexy. You don’t usually hear that.
“It’s part of what you do when you go on location early for the first three weeks. I don’t think that anybody had an argument against it. Nobody knew that the wardrobe was going to fit me the way that it did. Once we all saw the way that it fit me, you start trying to figure out something different. He just said, ‘You don’t have to convince me,’ so myself and wardrobe kind of ran with it.”
In this franchise, characters have a way of popping up in sequels. Is that something you’d be interested in?
“Of course. Being a fan of the first two, I’d love to do another one.”
Do you think that there’s a chance that Riddick could be boyfriend material?
“I don’t know about that. But there’s a lot of different versions of what that means, so maybe one of them, yeah.”
At the screening I went to, afterwards people were wondering if in that one scene, he was threatening your character with rape. Have people been asking you about that?
“Absolutely not. Yeah, nobody. No. That was never the intent. It’s not the first time that I heard that, but no, I never thought that. If he was threatening her with rape, he wouldn’t have added, ‘But only because she asks me to.'”
Who are the actors that you look up to?
“There’s so many. I love the career choices of Sigourney Weaver—I think she’s had some pretty amazing diversity in her career.”
A few years ago, you said you’d love to play Typhoid Mary. Is that idea still on the table?
“Yeah. Well, the idea is always there, it’s just a matter of whether or not someone agrees with me. I love the idea. I love the playing Harley Quinn, I love the idea of playing Ms. Marvel. I’m a fan of comic books, I’m a fan of genre, and I’m a fan of action, so it makes complete sense for me to at some point end up in one of those roles.”
What’s the latest with the Adi Shankar movie that’s been dubbed the Female Expendables? Have you met with Gina Carano or Linda Hamilton yet?
“No I have not. I’ve met with the producers and the script is getting done, but it’s a difficult thing to get that many women in a movie. You’ve gotta work around a lot of schedules.”
Is your character going to get some badass action movie quips?
“I have no idea! I have no idea.”
If you were in the audience watching that movie, what would you want to see in it?
“I would just want to make sure that it kicks ass. Ultimately, that’s what those movies are about: having fun, taking the audience on a ride, trying to do something different, and having the movie kick ass. That’s all I would hope. And if it does that, the rest of it is icing.”
Riddick is written and directed by David Twohy and stars Vin Diesel, Katee Sackhoff, Matt Nable, Bokeem Woodbine, Dave Bautista and Karl Urban.
Riddick is out in theaters on September 6, 2013.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.