[INTERVIEWS] IGN Interviews Grace Park
- IGN Interviews Grace Park
We talk one-on-one with Battlestar Galactica's Sharon "Boomer"
by Eric Goldman
March 10, 2006 - Grace Park got her first big break on the Canadian
teen soap Edgemont, where she starred for five seasons. Guest parts
and recurring characters on shows like Dark Angel and Jake 2.0
followed, but she has now gained widespread recognition for her
performance on the critically acclaimed Sci Fi Channel series
As Sharon "Boomer" Valerii, Park's character was central to one of
Galactica's first big sucker punches, as we learned that the
apparently loyal, beloved Colonial Fleet Raptor pilot was actually a
robotic Cylon sleeper agent. For much of the series, Park has in
fact played two distinctly different versions of the same Cylon
model, complete with different love interests, motivations and
agendas. Both of her characters have gone through an astounding
amount of plot turns, from pregnancy to death to resurrection, and
the question of where both Sharon's loyalties truly lie is a
constant one. Recently I conducted an exclusive interview with Park
for IGN FilmForce, after she had just taken part in the event
honoring Battlestar Galactica at the Museum of Television and
Radio's William S. Paley Television Festival in front of a crowd of
adoring fans. We discussed what it's like playing multiple
characters, the role of gender in Galactica and the tremendous
critical response the show has received, among other topics.
IGN FILMFORCE: So during the panel you mentioned you first read for
the part of Dee, and then for Starbuck, before you were cast as
GRACE PARK: That's right, I read for Dualla. And I remember I went
in and it was a really smart scene that we did and I had so much fun
with it. Because in Galactica, they have a unisex "head"; a unisex
bathroom. And so there was a bit of play with words, because when a
civilian like Billy comes in, he doesn't know what's going on. He's
like, "Head?" It was really tongue in cheek and slightly sexual and
I just had a lot of fun with that. And after that the director said
to come back for Starbuck, and if all goes well, I'd be in LA the
next week and I was!
IGNFF: Did it feel chaotic coming back to read for all the different
parts on the same show?
PARK: Well I only had to read for two; Dualla and Starbuck. It
wasn't so chaotic. But after I read for Dualla Well, I usually
don't get coaching for auditions, but I felt like for this one, like
I said earlier during the panel, I felt like, "Oooh, recurring! I
want to try to get this one!" And then, when I got the switch in the
scripts, I was like okay, I'll see the coach again. And I remember
doing the whole thing and I felt really stilted and weird and the
coach is like, "What are you doing?' And I said, 'I don't know!" And
she asked me to tell her the story, because I was still being all
stilted and strange. She asked, "What is this?" And I said, "I don't
know! Is this a lead?" She said, "I think it is!" So we had to pull
it out of me within a half an hour and figure out how to get back on
track, because obviously they saw something that they liked, and I
had to get back into that. But it wasn't too confusing. Once we
redid that, it was fine.
IGNFF: Did you share some of the rest of the casts preconceived
notions of what the show would be based on the title?
PARK: I did know the title, but I didn't remember the show. I'm sure
I watched it at some point, but I don't actually have any
recollection of it. So for me, with the title, I was probably
thinking of a different show anyway!
IGNFF: When you were reading for it did you know that Edward James
Olmos or Mary McDonnell were involved in it yet?
PARK: When I was first reading for it, no. It wasn't until I got it
and I heard that they were on it. It was like, "Cool! who are
they?" [laughs] Because I totally knew their names, but I knew their
faces separately and couldn't place it.
IGNFF: When did [series creator] Ron Moore tell you that you were
going to be essentially playing two characters in the first season?
PARK: I found out in the first episode, after the miniseries, but he
didn't tell me anything before that.
IGNFF: The first season, did it feel odd playing the two characters
all the time?
PARK: Actually, the first season, it was a lot easier playing the
two characters, because one was always on the planet and one was
always on Galactica, and as simple as that sounds, it made it so
radically different. Everyone had it straight in their heads. But
once the one Sharon came back and the one died, it just got really
messy. Even when it was just Sharon back on Galactica and Boomer had
died, everyone was so confused. Because they're like, "Well how come
you're not this way towards Baltar?!" But think because she's never
met him! People are like, "What?" and can't figure that out.
IGNFF: Do you think of them as two different characters when you're
playing the different scenes?
PARK: Oh yeah. They are two totally different characters. There's a
lot of similarities obviously well, obviously. [grins]. But the
different histories that they've both experienced for the last two
years or so, that they don't share, that's what sets them apart.
IGNFF: Is it fun having two different love interests on the show?
PARK: Hell yeah! It's like, "Oh, who am I making out with today?!"
Tahmoh [Tahmoh Penikett, "Helo"] calls me the Cylon hussy. And Aaron
[Aaron Douglas, "Chief Tyrol"] just calls me the Cylon slut.
IGNFF: Well, you're not really a Cylon slut. You're two different
PARK: I know! It sounds so nerdy when I do that, but I'm
like, "Aaron! Two f***ing different people! Get it!" But I'm
like, "I sound ridiculous right now. Just walk away from him! Walk
away." But a part of me is like, "They're two different people!" My
friend makes fun of me, because when I get adamant about it, she
says, "You're crazy, you know that?"
IGNFF: So is it nice job security knowing your character can die,
and yet you can continue on the show?
PARK: Exactly! Yeah, that adds so much more flavor to it.
IGNFF: When you found out the first Sharon on Galactica was dying,
was it sad to say goodbye to that character? Did you know she was
PARK: Oh, I had no idea she was going to come back! I thought it was
totally sad. I was actually so much more sad when I watched how they
edited it and it seemed like you didn't get much of Aaron's
reaction. You didn't get much of Tyrol's reaction, so it seemed
quite short. And because you didn't get to see much of his grieving
process, it was sort of an abrupt death. And then the next thing you
know, she's in the morgue and people kind of forget to grieve for
her. You know, somewhere in your mind you sort of make the
connection that she is dead, without grieving for her.
IGNFF: What's it like playing so many intense emotions? You're
pregnant, then you think your baby is dead
PARK: It's so heavy. I got freaked out in the second season, in the
middle of it, because they were throwing so many fastballs at me.
They were whipping by me. And I was having a tough time with the
stamina, because it was just one thing after another. Plus, I think
it was the method I was using for acting. It was pretty excruciating
and finally I was like, "That's it! I've got no more left. I'm not
going to do anything else. I don't know how they're going to get
this scene, because I'm not going to give anything. I'm not going to
do what I usually do." And then I found a whole other level to play,
and I thought, "Oh man, this is so much better then what I was doing
IGNFF: How do you work yourself up for big explosive scenes, like
when you smashed your head into the window of your jail cell?
PARK: That was the one that I was resisting. I was thinking, I don't
know what they're going to do, because I'm not going to do that.
With that, luckily we had a great stunt double that stepped in for
me for the hit itself. But what was different with that scene was
that I had put the more heavy substitution, the more method stuff,
sort of on the shelf. And that one I was doing a bit more improv
with Tahmoh. And it came really improvisationally. And thank
goodness Tahmoh was really into it, because the scene started and I
refused to get heavy at first. I was looking at him and making goofy
faces through the glass. And he just kept staring at me, and his
eyes were watery, and it got me right away, every time.
IGNFF: For a while there in season two, your scenes were mainly in
the jail cell. Is it nice to have finally have Sharon out of there?
PARK: Am I outside the cell? I guess so! She's so broken down, you
know? She doesn't even realize it. It's like the learned
helplessness. She's been like an elephant with a chain around her
neck for her whole life now. It is good for her to come out now. And
the thing is, it's maybe my own self-rebellious streak, but I always
knew that she was going to get back in a Raptor. And it's just a
matter of time before she's flying again.
IGNFF: Was it nice for you to be able to revisit the original
Sharon, now that we've discovered she's been reborn on Caprica?
PARK: Initially it wasn't. I didn't want to bring her back. Because
I was really happy that she'd passed away and was gone and I could
kind of close that chapter. But there was a little bit of, "Oh, I
just get to play one character now!" And I sort of missed playing
both. And having to bring her back, it was fun. Because I had a few
days, maybe a couple of weeks, where I had to recreate her whole
back story again for those three months that she'd been living down
on Caprica. So that was a good challenge for them to throw out, and
that's what always makes it fun.
IGNFF: I don't recall you having many scenes with Tricia Helfer, or
any scenes with Lucy Lawless until the episode on Caprica focusing
on your characters ["Downloaded," which aired February 24, 2006].
Was it fun to do an episode where it was pretty much just the three
of you together for most of it?
PARK: It was so great! I mean what the show was really needing at
that point Well, it seemed like the show was really yearning for
female/female interaction that was not competitive, in a negative
way. And when it came, it seemed like such a breath of fresh air.
I'm not sure if the viewers really notice it, but as women on the
show, we definitely noticed that when we play a scene with another
woman, it's usually going downhill. It's negative, where they're
attacking each other somewhat. And to be able to have a glimpse of
that other side, it was really refreshing and I think that it
actually added another level. People really rejoiced in that
episode. The thing is, it wasn't just humans, it was Cylons doing it
with each other. That was different and unusual for people to
grasp. "Oh, they're communicating, and they're not killing each
other!" There's hope and love, direction, vision. That was good.
IGNFF: Is it gratifying to be on a show that exists in a society
that seems pretty blind to gender and race and that seems to not
have any bias as far as positions of power?
PARK: I think it really is gratifying, especially because in society
right now there are still some people who are fighting the gender
differences. It's really suffocating for some people. So having that
be lifted on our show, it's really nice. But at the same time, I
guess one of the dangers is that if you make everybody the same, not
equal and individual, then you're actually taking away a lot of
depth and color and flexibility of both genders actually. Because if
you strip a male of all his femininity, he's really hard and
brittle. And similarly, with a woman A woman can never be as manly
as a man. But they both have masculine and feminine qualities. So
the balance is really important. And I think that one of the things
with the show, is because it's a wartime situation, you'll see the
masculine aspect played very strong. So it's equal, but then you
have Tyrol smacking Cally, you've got Tigh smacking Sharon it gets
to be a bit brutal and cunning, and there isn't that tenderness as
much anymore. It gets kind of violent towards women, you know? And
they're not the same as men, so that's one thing you've got to look
at. And I don't know if people notice that as much, but there seems
to be a lot more violence in American media towards women. And it's
like, "Oh, they can kick ass! Look at Charlie's Angels!" But it's
disturbing on a gut level. You can feel it.
IGNFF: So do you ever find yourself empathizing with the Cylon point
of view on the show?
PARK: Oh, I am all about the Cylon point of view! I do not care
about the humans! The whole Sharon's trying to help out the humans
thing It's all a ploy! I don't know. If I can't stand it, I don't
know if she can. [laughs] If it wasn't for Helo, nothing would
IGNFF: So what's it been like seeing the critical reaction to the
PARK: Jaw dropping. Time and The New York Times and The New Yorker.
It just keeps escalating Who's paying these people? And keep doing
it! It's phenomenal that they do that, and to me it's a huge
surprise. Even being part of the William S. Paley Television
Festival. I've heard it's so prestigious and I'm just amazed that
we're being held like that, in that light.
Lee Salem Photography/MT&R
Grace Park on the Battlestar Galactica panel at the William S. Paley
IGNFF: And what's it like on a night like tonight to see the fan
PARK: Oh, it's beautiful. It's really nice to be in an environment
where everyone's cherishing the same thing together. I think it's
really more heartening to me, in a situation where everyone can look
at a project or a piece and all feel like they are connected to it,
whether they're a viewer or partly creating it. And I think that
when something like this happens, everyone knows that this is
something quite special. And to be able to be a part of it, whether
you're just witnessing it or not, is really important and it gives
an energy to the project because it wouldn't survive without that.
We create it and it's good for us, but it's much more when it's seen
by other people. And that's the purpose of why we're in this medium.