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Carolyn Anderson GALACTICA.TV interview
Written by Marcel Damen   
Friday, 17 July 2009

This particular interview with Carolyn Anderson, a stunt actress on the Battlestar Galactica 2003 series, took a long time to publish (type out) since it was in fact done at the end of the second season already. This doesn't make this interview less interesting since she talks about the Battlestar Galactica series from her unique perspective. Next to that she explains how she got into the business and her exciting work on a big diversity of shows and movies.

Below you can read the transcript of this interview. If you rather listen to the audio of this interview then click the "PLAY" button below to start.


 

First of all I would like to thank you for doing the interview. You said that you have a Masters in History of Medicine. How did you fall into stunts for film and television from that?

Because I also pursued high diving, so I used to compete at 10 meter diving. For a summer job I did high diving shows in theme parks, usually in Europe or Asia. At some point I had enough of live performances and decided to take a look at film and television. So I then made a transition into doing stunts.

Did you have any formal training for stunts?

Not really. I did one day at a stunt school in Toronto when I was just gathering information on the world of stunts.

How did you get with the agency you are with now then?

A stunt performer friend of mine gave me their number. Working through an agent...for stunts working with an agent is not generally done. Normally a TV show or movie will hire a stunt coordinator, who then will hire directly a stunt performer for a job. The stuff for an acting role might be through an agent, but the stunt performing itself is simply a stunt coordinator hires a stunt performer. The stunt coordinator needs to know who can do what by peoples sized and abilities.

So how does your family look at the work you do now? Would they have rather seen you become a scientist or something?

Yes they would rather that I had a stable income. And there sometimes that I would rather have a stable income too but I love stunt performing so I stay in this industry.

Do they support you in this?

Yes.

So are they proud of you doing the stunt work now?

Yeah they are. The find it really funny when I phone and say "Guess what I am going to do on set tomorrow?" or "Guess what I did on set today". It can be pretty much anything. So it is a bit of a joke.

So do they also look out for you in movies and TV shows?

Yeah. My mom can watch any show and say "Oh I saw you on that show", when I wasn't on it. (laughs) "It looks just like you". (laughs) Or she'll see some bizarre stunt scene and says "Oh Carolyn you could have done that" when it involves stunts that have absolutely no ability for.

What was your first stunt?

It was in Calgary on a show called Honey I Shrunk the Kids. I think I was a waitress and I had a jog of milk in the cafeteria and I slipped and fell and spilled milk all over myself.

So were you nervous for that?

No I wasn't nervous, but it was really fun. What was being asked of me was completely with in my abilities -- like it wasn't a big stunt to do.

What was the most dangerous stunt you ever did?

That would be my dream stunt that I did on Dark Angel, a series filmed in Vancouver with Jessica Alba. I was a bad nurse. She was in the hospital, and I sneak into her room and I am going to kill her with poison in a syringe. I am coming at her with a syringe and she redirects me and I go flying out the window and free fall for seven stories.

Oh, that was quite high!

Yeah, it is really high and I had always wanted to do a high fall like that. It was really fun. What was weird was, I am trained in height, so the height itself is reasonable for me. I had never done a true candy glass that breaks easily. I had never done it exactly like that falling onto a big air bag, but it was reasonable for me. But what was weird is that everyone else's perception it is really unreasonable and really dangerous. Some people think I am going to die they are kind of freaked out. I didn't want to interact with too many people that had that perception. There is also an ambulance on set when there is danger involved. The gurney is out of the ambulance and 2 paramedics there ready to rescue me. That is an element that kind of makes it a weird thing to do. But it was really fun. I was kind of disappointed because we only did one take and I was ready to do another take.

Wasn't it weird, because you couldn't see where you were going, I mean you were in a small room and then flying through a window?

Right, I am in a small little room and I can go to the window and just look out, but I can't touch the glass because it would likely shatter, because that is how easily it would break. If I touch the glass and is shatters, that is a very expensive mistake because it will take a long time to reset.

But I know where everything is. Like I know where the air bag is and I know exactly the steps I want to take. I had done lots of practice with out the candy glass and not quite that high, like just from a cherry picker machine that can go up and down like a little outdoor elevator like what they use to fix telephone poles. So we practiced off that.

When you were a high diver did you ever dive that high?

Higher, but it is different going into water and also diving you want perfect form. Where as if I am being a bad nurse going out a window what I wanted to do was flail my arms and legs gently. I am not running in the air or anything I am just free falling and kind of flip rather then being in a nice pike position.

So how many times did you rehearse that before doing the actual stunt?

Well I had a day of rehearsal about a half of week before that. It was with a stunt coordinator I hadn't worked with before and she wanted to have good rehearsing and make sure that I could do it well. She needed to know that I could do that really safely and with excellence, so we rehearsed for a day on some kind of crane thing. To be really honest it was not that much fun doing a long rehearsal but however it is vital to doing a stung with excellence. So when we get to doing the actual stunt out the window it was no big deal at all because I was really well rehearsed.

And is that also like an adrenaline shot for you?

Yes, yes it is.

So did you ever get hurt doing stunt work?

The first time I got hurt doing stunt work was just this year (2006). I tackled a bad guy and landed funny and hurt my foot. But it was really funny because the next day I was on a different set doing a fight scene in bare feet. (laughs) Like that never happens, there I am in bare feet and I started getting quite a bruise on my foot because there was internal bleeding. I had the makeup artists touch up my foot.

So how did it happen? How did you get hurt?

I was doubling a character on a show called Painkiller Jane and the character is department of internal affairs and she sees a drug deal take place and she is not happy about it and sees the bad guy leaving. It's in a nightclub so she gets up on the stage and runs and does this flying tackle taking down the bad guy from behind. So I land on top of this big guy, so most of my weight is on top of him, but my feet just hit the ground, like we didn't have a mat or anything so on the second take my foot must have hit the ground at a funny angle and sprained a joint in the arch of my foot.

 

Carolyn Anderson on Painkiller Jane, with wig

Carolyn Anderson on Painkiller Jane, with wig

 

But nothing serious, you didn't catch fire or something like that?

I did not.

Are you specialized in pyrotechnics?

I am quite comfortable with fire. I did a lot of diving with fire when I did the live high diving shows.

So what was the best film or series you worked on so far?

You mean like most fun?

Or the best? Or the one you are the most proud of?

Well for me what ever I am working on at the time is the most fun because that is in the present.

To look at what ever I have done, what was the most fun? I like fun outfits. Any stunt where I am in an interesting outfit or wig that is lots of fun

There was a really fun one I did earlier this year. It was very simple. I am crossing the street and I almost get hit by an SUV. What is really interesting my character is in shock and just crossing the street, and I know the SUV is coming at me, but the character does not. It is very interesting to act that you are totally unaware that a car is coming at you. You have so much trust in the driver and his ability to stop on a dime. And then my character reacts and get knocked out of shock. I don't actually get hit, just almost get hit.

So can you name some of the things you did, so far?

Like the TV shows or the stunts?

Whatever first comes to your mind.

I did a fire gag on the move called Rat Race. Cuba Gooding Jr was in my scene. That was really fun. Someone throws a cigarette out the window and it lands in my hair and catches fire and we were all dressed up like Lucille Ball, so that was really fun to a lot of I Love Lucy fans.

It was fun on a show this summer on a show called Alien Encounters, I did a back somersault off a bridge on an overpass landing on an air bag. That was fun.

What fun is when people think it is dangerous but from my perspective I am perspective I am perfectly safe.

You must be.

I like falling out of windows.

 

Carolyn Anderson on the set of Psyche, just before she falls out of the window

Carolyn Anderson on the set of Psyche, just before she falls out of the window

 

So have you done that a lot, falling out of windows?

A few times. There is a show called Psyche filmed here in Vancouver that I was doubling a character who was at a party and that is leaning against a window and accidently falls out the window. For me that is ridiculously easy because I am trained in heights and I have done a lot of work on a trampoline. Landing on an airbag is like doing a very simple back drop on a trampoline. But the challenge comes down to details and excellence. Like having your arms and legs where you want them or landing on the air bag where the camera man wants me to be.

Did you also do some stunt double work for some famous actresses? Or main cast members from series?

Not a whole lot of famous people come to mind. Not a whole lot filmed [in Vancouver] have many famous actors or actresses in them. I have been on set with some famous people, but I honestly don't pay a whole lot of attention to names. We were all human beings and I treat people with respect. I don't really care.

You were also in Stargate, you were a stunt double in that.

Stargate I was doing background performing and photo doubling for Amanda Tapping, she is my favorite actor. She is nice, a really wonderful person.

 

Carolyn Anderson doubling for Amanda Tapping on Stargate

Carolyn Anderson doubling for Amanda Tapping on Stargate

 

So how were you approached for Battlestar Galactica?

My agent called one day and asked if I wanted to do background on it, and I said "OK". I never knew a thing about the show. I have actually been on there quite a few times. It is actually [filmed] close to where I live and I love the show and I love the outfits. So it was very simple for me. And then after working on it for a few different episodes I then came to realize that it was a really cool show, but really I had no idea. It was quite simply work. But now I get it is a really cool show and I really want it to come back.

Can you describe a typical day for you on the set?

Yeah, I leave my house about 15 minutes before I have to be there. Walk on set and say high to the security guards because it is well secured on the Vancouver film sets. I go and say hi to everyone and I go and sign in. I then go to wardrobe and get my outfit. I then go and say hi to others working that day who I may know or I may not. I then go and get my hair done and make up. And then take a look at what food is out, get coffee or tea or something and then hang out and wait until I am told "OK, we need 5 people, who wants to volunteer" and I might volunteer and then go on to set.

Depending on which room, like if it is the command control room I either be placed sitting in a chair somewhere or pushing buttons somewhere. It is really funny because depending on what is going on at the time we just need to look busy, right. Sometimes I will have a friend there that I know on set and we will sit there and say funny things to each other while the scene is going on. Like passing a piece of paper and we will act all serious, like there's serious things on the paper, but we will say something silly and pass the paper back. We will do the scene lots of times and will change it up every time.

So do you get some sort of script in advance? Or a back story in advance for what you are going to do that day?

Often we will be told what is going on in that scene then if they want us to have an particular reactions, we will be told that. Now and then, like one time I came in and I was told "oh Carolyn, you get burned today" which meant there were three of us that had 3rd degree burns put on our body somewhere, so I had it all over my face which usually fun to see how they create a 3rd degree burn and then of course I had to look like I was in pain.

Or another time there was a very serious dialogue going on and the captain would look at us for different reactions. And that is really fun because it is really impromptu acting with the camera right in front of my face and to really hear what the character says and react to it.

So how long did you go to make up for the 3rd degree burn?

Less then an hour.

 

Carolyn Anderson on Battlestar Galactica with burn wound


Carolyn Anderson on Battlestar Galactica with burn wound

Carolyn Anderson on Battlestar Galactica with burn wound

 

OK, that is not bad.

No, no that was really great. I mean when the make-up artists know what they are doing it doesn't usually take long.

So did you know in advance?

No I found out when I signed in. I looked at my name and said, "Oh you are going to get burned".

So you will also be on set as a viper pilot?

One day I was a viper pilot, which is quite unusual because I am almost always in battle dress uniform. One day I got made into a maintenance person working on top of a jet in an episode where one character accidentally turns a jet on inside the hanger and we all run away. So it was a stunt basically for me. I jumped off the jet and ran away, so that was a case where I was wearing some kind of orange uniform.

Also saw a picture of you in complete battle dress as a pilot as well.

Yeah, that was one day I was in battle dress uniform and they decided they needed more pilots so I call that very quick pilot training, I became a pilot very fast.

 

Carolyn Anderson on Battlestar Galactica as a pilot

Carolyn Anderson on Battlestar Galactica as a pilot

 

So was it fun to do?

That was actual super fun. It was actually for the last episode [of that season] and it turned out we had our pilot gear kind of half on and half off, some of us because we were being called to man our jets, I don't know what you call them our airplane like really quick. We weren't ready, so we were running to them. So it was really fun to run and kind of bump into people on the way and there was a scuffle going on. So it was kind of fun to run around everyone in the confusion. And that was of course I had hurt my foot on the other set. So the very next day I am doing a fight in bare feet, then on Battlestar [Galactica] I have to run repeatedly.

So do you have any like, when you come to set it must be difficult to have the costumes exactly right. Do you have any fittings in advance, or so they know your size or do they size you up when you get on set.

They know my size. So for a lot of us who do backgrounds on the set it is repeats, right.

They don't want new faces all he time, they want to know there are certain people that work in the control center and there are certain people who should be pilots, so we generally stay the same and they know our sizes. Sharon at wardrobe has it all set out for us.

Do you have any contact with the other actors?

Like main characters?

Yeah the main characters. Or do you have lunch together or is there a real big gap between the extras and the actors?

Oh yeah, totally. Like with main characters for example I generally respect that they can have their own space to prepare or do whatever they need. But often they will start conversations. I remember one time talking to Eddie [Olmos] at we call it crafty, or the craft services station where is the snacks and beverages and we had a good talk about natural health. And *** (inaudible), who is my friend. He and I were talking to -- I should know his name -- anyway I had a good talk with one of the characters about hockey. I was talking to him and that became a topic of conversation.

And with other background performers it is fun to get to know them and generally we have a lot of time to hang out in between, when we are not needed on set. So yeah I do get to know quite a few of them.

So discuss the work then, or is it just small talk about anything?

We usually discuss our dating lives. (laughs).

Do you watch the series for the scenes you did?

Sometimes my brother will call me and say "Hey, I thought I saw you on Battlestar" or tell me he was sure he saw me on an episode, so then I will keep my eye on it, like often it will be on the next day as well, on a different channel. So then I will watch and see it. Yeah it gives me a thrill, but I don't other wise watch all the shows I am on.

So you don't buy the DVD set to view back every second you did?

Well I haven't yet, but now that I have watched the beginning of Battestar Galactica like to get how the series begins, I find it really interesting.

So there might be a fan in you after all?

Yeah, there just might be. If this is the last year of the series, and it's what I would hoped for, I might not watch it so well. I am kind of saying that tongue in cheek, I do hope there is more Battlestar Galactica.

We do as well.

It does give me a thrill to see this character, to see it and see me on it. Because it is like "Wow that's neat."

You start to recognize the main characters

Yeah, especially with getting to know some of them for who they are as individuals, and then seeing what they do for work. That is really interesting to see how their characters really are. I would otherwise know bits and pieces when I am on, what part of the episode I was in. I don't know the whole episode -- I hadn't read the script for the whole episode -- so I don't know who it turns out. So it is interesting to see how my little piece is part of the whole.

OK,

Lets me see how different parts were edited.

You said you recently played a werewolf on director Michael Dougherty and producers Bryan Singers Trick ‘r Treat, can you tell us a little about that?

Yeah, I'll be back on next Tuesday. Hey I totally really love costumes. I had two full days working with wardrobe in that there are three of us being werewolves, so stunt werewolves. The scene is that there women that turn into werewolves at midnight on Halloween with the full moon. So our costumes, I'm simply a werewolf, we don't turn ourselves, that is simply the acting. The stunt role is werewolves. We have these costumes that are intricate and hairy. It is like wearing a really hairy body suit from head to toe. It is just bizarre to be that hairy. And then I have some costume on top of that, and a really big intricate werewolf head and big claws. It was really fun taking on being a werewolf, and the movements as a werewolf, and growling. It is hilarious actually, we were tearing apart victims and the director want us to growl more to get in to it. So I was growling like you wouldn't believe and it became the joke of the day for those that had seen me growling. (laughs)

So you are coming back for that? The are doing more scenes for that?

Yeah, they have a few more shots to get. We filmed it back before Christmas and the days turned quite long. I don't think got everything they wanted to because we were quite pressed for time. We were until 5 in the morning. So we are coming back for another day of shooting with out the main actors for the pick up shots of the werewolf action.

In that suit how to go you go the bathroom, or eat or whatever?

It depends on how much you want to know. (laughs) They built in trap doors, so we could go to the bathroom without pulling the suit off. It was quite a point of a joke that we talked about. One that the stunt werewolves actually had trouble using her trap door and was telling someone that she had peed down her leg. (laughs)

Hey you have to leave you mark as a werewolf,

Yeah...but I was quite talented at using my trap door, so I didn't have that problem.

OK, so you don't have to pull the whole suit off?

I actually got quite good at taking it on and off. Once you know how to put it on well. It took two helpers to get the suit on. It is delicate and had to be pulled up just right. They had airbrushed to mark in details on top of the hairy suit to show a bit of rib cage and abdominal muscles and biceps and triceps to show as if there were shadows, so the muscles would have some tone. And the director is very particular about the costume on top of the werewolf.

So there were six women making the costumes and we would then show the director and he would give us feed back and then we would all go back to the drawing room and they would make a different costume. I admired that a director took so much pride in having the costume exactly how he wanted, even for characters that would only show for a very short time during the film.

I can see that. It is actually maybe an important part, because if you show a werewolf it has to be at least some sort of detail so that some people don't think it is a comic character.

Right. The costumes were really amazing. That was the first time that I had a head on quite like that, were the head goes way above my own head and a snout. The head actually zips up so I look out of the werewolves neck area. So you don't get a whole lot of air in there. So in between takes we get a fan to push more oxygen into our face so we could breath. It was really funny when I am mauling another character who is not a werewolf I don't know exactly where my snout is. So I start out with the snout in the guys throat, you know mauling him, but as I continue mauling I have no idea if I was still on his throat any more, so that became very funny because it doesn't really work for a werewolf to be mauling the dirt. (laughs) We developed a system where if missed his throat it was to tap me inconspicuously.

So what else do you have lined up right now?

Right now there is nothing lined up in the life a stunt performer, or anyone else in the industry. Especially in stunt performing, I mean it is a day here and two days there. I double a character on a show called Painkiller Jane, but I know I am not needed in the next episode, so we will see after that if they need me, if my character has some action. Other then that, you never know.

 

Carolyn Anderson stunt doubling on Supernatural

Carolyn Anderson stunt doubling on Supernatural

 

OK, so what are your future plans? Do you want to continue in this profession, because a stunt coordinator?

I don't intend to coordinate. I intend to improve my acting, so that I can take on more acting roles. It is a really neat challenge in that acting is totally different from a stunt. I have huge respect for what acting is, because I didn't know idea before I was in the industry what it took to act. That is my intention right now.

So are you thinking of taking lessons for that?

I do go to auditions for different things. So when I do that, especially stunt acting auditions I work with an acting coach.

Did you already try for some acting on Battlestar Galactica?

No, I have not auditioned for that. There is a series called Supernatural filmed here in Vancouver, and I have auditioned for that. They were great and then they hired a local actor, and I was OK with that. It turned out that she is exactly my height, weight and facial structure, so I doubled her. It is just you never know what you are going to be asked to do or what is normal. For this bit, this is the one that I was in bare feet, my character, on Supernatural really weird things happen on the show, so this character is sort of a supernatural being, it comes into her body, or it takes her clothes to wear, so this women is running around in her slip and underwear with a slit throat. So the actress and I, looking exactly the same are running in our slips and bare feet and having a slit throat with blood dripping out - that is how we wandered around all day. It was really funny. It was right after I hurt my foot, and I was on Tylenol 3's, totally out of it running around in a slip. And we were filming downtown, so that was funny, and that is just like normal day.

So that kind of acting, there is so much to learn from. Like when I am working with actors who take a lot of pride in what they do in any scene they are not happy with they will voice that and say they want there character to do this or that and give a case about how this would work better and usually the director is on board and wants the actor to feel really good about how the scene goes, you know the details in the scene go.

Do you have any particular movies you are interested and doing? What kind of roles you would like to take on?

Like I said I like falling out windows, so I will jump out of a window anytime. (laughs)

I meant like an actress.

You what is really fun? It is fun having a nice in stunt acting, the acting world is highly competitive and the stunt world is competitive as well, but not quite as bad. But stunt acting has less competition and there is really room for some talented stunt actors and I would really like to take that on and I find when I have stunts with acting it just makes it more fun to say some lines. When you know your character is about to get it on the head or get killed, but to say the lines and be perfectly in character and then have the stunt, for me that is really fun.

But on the other had if you become a famous actor and you are not allowed to do your own stunt work anymore.

I will deal with that when we get there. (laughs) But I totally get it when you have an actor, especially a famous actor, if something happens to that actor the whole film is in trouble.

For instance if you are doing a fighting scene and get hit in the face and you are all blue the next day, they lose a lot of time.

Yeah, very much so. I am really surprised that some actors are allowed to do their own stunts. You do see a fair bit of actresses that do it themselves, but if they are hurt it has a big impact on the show.

OK, I would like to thank you for doing the interview.

You're welcome.

 
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