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Christina Schild GALACTICA.TV interview
Written by Marcel Damen   
Monday, 16 November 2009

Some time ago Marcel Damen caught up with Christina Schild, better known to the Battlestar Galactica 2003 fans as the Fleet News Service reporter Playa Palacios. She talks about how she got in the business, her theatre work and her role on the Battlestar Galactica series. During the interview we also talk about her collaboration with her colleagues James Callis, Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos.

First of all I'd like to thank you for taking the time to do the interview.

Absolutely. I'm happy to.

You were born in Vienna, Austria. Can tell us what brought you to America and later to Canada?

Actually my parents were living in Canada at the time, but they're both from Vienna so they would go back for months at a time and live there. So I just happened to be born there.

You did not actually live there?

No, but they did a really great thing since they matured us in German. We'd go for months at a time and I would go to public school there. So I got a real taste of Vienna, Austria, the culture and the language for months at a time, but I was really raised here.

But you were raised in two languages? You speak German?

Yes, at home we spoke German and in the world I spoke English. (both laughing)

 

actress Christina Schild

actress Christina Schild

 

Where did you have your professional training as an actor?

I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. They have two schools and I went to the one in New York City, which focuses more on theatre. That was a really great training ground. They sort of introduced you to a variety of techniques and skills that you could sort of pick and choose what suited you. I found that was really great.

Any special person you can pinpoint as your mentor?

I don't know. It's interesting. Acting teachers I find really fascinating. I find that you sort of meet someone at the right time of your development, you learn from them what you need to learn at that moment and then you move on, go to the next person and move to the next level. There's been a lot of really great influences for me.

Most actors can pinpoint a moment in life which made them say they want to do this for the rest of their lives. What was this for you?

I know that this is true and I don't really have one. It kind of funny: we joke in my family that when my mother was pregnant with me, she was in Vienna and went to a lot of opera, theater, and symphonies. Perhaps through osmosis this all has sort of influenced me. I remember the moment when I was 8 or 9 when I first went to my mom and said: "This is what I want to do." and she said: "Okay. Let's take some lessons and see how you like it." I loved it, so the rest is history.

So did you do any school plays in which you thought:  "Oh wow. This is great!", standing in front of an audience and things like that?

I was actually in a -- I guess you could call it a singing group, but we performed excepts from musicals: Cats, Annie and stuff like that and we toured around. I remember that was really great -- loved that. 

On IMDb I saw your first part on television was in an episode of 21 Jump Street. Is this correct?

Yes it is!

How did you get the part?

I auditioned. I remember auditioning very distinctly. I was very nervous, but I got the part.

 

actress Christina Schild

actress Christina Schild

 

Did you also get to work with Johnny Depp on that?

I did not.

That's too bad.

I know! But I did get to work with Holly Robinson (who played Judy Hoffs). I had a scene with her and a couple of other people. I remember I made a real point of learning my line really, really well, so I wouldn't mess it up and I didn't, I'm happy to say.

I saw there was a pretty big jump between 21 Jump Street and your other television work, since there's like 20 years in between. What happened?

Life! (both laughing) I went to acting school for a few years, I travelled through South east Asia, I lived in Toronto for a while, London, England for a while. Then I came back here and went into theatre -- focused on theatre more before I got back into television.

I also used to travel in Southeast Asia. Where did you go?

Oh. Me and my sister flew into Bangkok and went through Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and then went to India.

The usual route.

I loved it. I had a great time.

How long did you go?

I was gone for about a year.

Okay cool. I also travelled for about a year, but I did a lot more countries. (both laughing)

Did you? We ended up going over to Europe as well. We went through Vienna and went up to London. All of that in one big sweep.

Was it also a good experience for you, which helped you find yourself and something you will remember the rest of your life?

I think so, absolutely. I think traveling, meeting people and being exposed to different cultures and different ways of life is very valuable. I loved it.

 

Christina Schild as Playa Palacios on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Christina Schild as Playa Palacios on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Did you ever watch the original Battlestar Galactica series?

No, not really. I remember seeing it on, but I didn't really watch. Although I did work with Richard Hatch a couple of times. That was really great. He's a really lovely guy.

What did you work with him on?

Oh, on Battlestar. There were scenes that he was involved in.

I thought you meant before Battlestar Galactica.

Oh, no.

How were you approached for Battlestar Galactica? Did you read for Playa Palacios straight away or did you also read for other parts?

I hadn't read for anything else. That was the first part that I read for. It was actually kind of interesting, because I have a friend, Michelle, who is a make-up artist -- who actually did Mary McDonnell's make-up for the pilot. So when they shot that here, we all went to dinner and I met Mary, who is fantastic. So when they started shooting the series, I knew Mary, and she and a bunch of friends came and saw a play that I was doing at the time. So when Playa came up in the script, Mary thought I might be right for it and suggested that I should be seen -- which was really amazing and a wonderful surprise. So I got to go and read for it and other people read for it too and I got the part.

 

Christina Schild as Playa Palacios on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Christina Schild as Playa Palacios on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Did you ever expect to get the part?

You know, no, I didn't. I hoped and prayed, but you just never know. I went in and my reading went well. No major catastrophes, which is all you can hope for. You just never know. You never know what they're looking for. You can't predict it.

On the first couple of episodes you're credited as Playa Kohn. Any idea where the name change came from?

I have no idea. And they did that with Sekou [Hamilton] as well. He had a different name also, in the first few episodes (Sekou Hamilton was called Eick in several episodes). I don't know why the reporters names got chanced.

Playa Palacios is a veteran columnist with the Picon Star Tribune prior to the Cylon Attack on the Twelve Colonies. She's now a co-host of the new wireless current affairs program, "The Colonial Gang". Did the writers gave you any more backstory or have you made up any backstory yourself about your character you can share with us?

I wasn't given anymore backstory than that. I didn't really make up any other backstory. I didn't feel it was necessary. 

Palacios is quite taken by Baltar and follows him inside the men's room to get her "exclusive". Is she that kind of reporter? Anything to get the story?

(laughing) Well, I'd like to think not.

 

Christina Schild as Playa Palacios on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Christina Schild as Playa Palacios on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Christina Schild as Playa Palacios on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

So it was a lucky accident then?

It was. I mean, Playa would have argued that she was in the right place at the right time -- doing her job. No, I think that... (pondering) No, I leave it at that! (both laughing)

How was it to work with James Callis in particular?

Oh, it was so much fun to work with him. I remember walking back into the bathroom stall -- when he goes in and I follow him in -- I remember we had to try and keep ourselves from giggling, because we were squished into that bathroom stall. Waiting for the director to yell cut. We had a really fun time.

Any other anecdotes of working with him?

No. No anecdotes really. He was always a very funny guy and really great to work with -- always very supportive and helpful. I had a great time with him.

On "The Colonial Gang", Playa is something of a firm supporter of Laura Roslin, standing in the face of colleague James McManus. Was it fun to play out those scenes with actor David Kaye?

It was a lot of fun to play out those scenes with him. Particularly because he had these huge monologues -- all that text with those names and he's such a vociferous kind of character. It was really fun to watch him because every time we did a take all the words came out kind of differently. So that was really exciting -- we kept on our toes -- and to debate him.

 

Christina Schild as Playa Palacios and David Kaye as James McManus on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Christina Schild as Playa Palacios and David Kaye as James McManus
on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Fitting her role as "one of the last legitimate journalists in the universe", Playa sits "first-chair" in the press conference with Commander Adama and also receives "first question" following the Commander's statement, certainly an honor in our world for reporters. Do you feel, much as in our world, she has to fight male colleagues James McManus and Sekou Hamilton for the anchor position within "The Colonial Gang"?

Yeah, I think she does. I think Playa was probably also fighting to be in the James McManus position, the leader of "The Colonial Gang". I think she may have been looked over because of her sex. I think her feelings are also expressed in her vigorous support of Laura Roslin. I don't think she's blindly supporting Roslin. She believes in what Laura has to say, but I think she can emphasize with perhaps not being heard because of her sex.

How was it to work with Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell in particular?

Oh, it was fantastic working with them. They both create such an incredibly welcoming atmosphere on set and that's just priceless for an actor. It just felt like one big family on set and I think that's entirely due to them or to a great deal. In terms of acting I thought it was a fantastic lesson. Mary has such a charge over emotions and she can bring them up to the desired level. She's able to repeat that take after take. It was just a joy to act with her and watch her work -- and the way she just manages to effuse such a political dialogue. You know,  it can be difficult at times. She sort of effuses it with a sort of humanity that made it personal to you as a viewer and I just... She's fantastic.   

Any memorable stories from working on the Battlestar Galactica set?

I don't know if there's a story in particular, but it was a really fun place to be and Eddie would come -- when I was with Eddie in a scene like a press conference, he was always joking around with all the press people and all the other actors and made it really such a fun place to be. Then when it was time to work he had this amazing ability to focus in his energy and sort of draw the camera into him, which was really neat to watch -- really great experience to be on that set.

 

Christina Schild as Playa Palacios on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Christina Schild as Playa Palacios on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Did you read for the prequel Caprica? Did you read for any part on that?

I have, actually. I did read for a part for that, which I did not get, unfortunately. But hopefully I get the chance to work on the show in the future. Maybe I should come back as Playa's great grandmother.

Yeah, that would be cool.

We'll see.

On Psych you also played a reporter. Did you get that because of your work on Battlestar Galactica?

I really don't know. I'd like to believe that since I've been playing a reporter on Battlestar Galactica and I'm competent at it, so in that sense it got me the part. But otherwise I don't know. It's hard to say.

Next to doing television, I've read you also do a lot of theatre. Can you tell us a bit about that work?

I love the theatre. It's sort of where I started and how I studied -- I studied at theatre school. So, I do it whenever I can.

 

actress Christina Schild

actress Christina Schild

 

What kind of roles do you prefer?

I really love comedy, so I love to play comedic roles. And roles -- characters that get themselves into trouble -- flawed characters I guess. They're great for comedy. I like to play strong characters and people that are going after what they want, probably in not the best way -- going for what they want and being bald. I like bald characters.

How is theatre in comparison to doing television?

I find them to be really different and each of them great in their own way. I like -- in theatre -- to rehearse. I love the rehearsal period, since everybody is working together. During the rehearsal process you become this team that's going towards the same goal. I love having an audience and I love that you get to play the whole scene at once. Once you get out there, there's your audience and whatever happens, happens and you got to make it work -- magic really happens. Whereas film is broken up into bits. You shoot part of a scene and then you turn it around since now the camera is on the other person. But that's really wonderful too, because you can just dive in that moment and go for it because you only got a couple of takes to do it. They both test you as an actor in different ways I think, which is really fantastic.

Do you think your early theatre experience helped you to work on television later?

I think so. I think any acting experience helps any other acting, but I think it does in the sense that...

Do you think you get better roles because you did theatre since you can remember all the long dialogues and stuff like that? Because you had training for that [in theatre].

Yes. You certainly feel more confident in terms of what you can do -- or at least I do -- with theatre background. You're used to doing big monologues so when you get a big monologue for television it's not as daunting. You feel that you can handle it. 

What are you doing currently? What are your future plans?

Right now, I'm looking forward to working on Night at the Museum 2 which is shooting here. I'm going to go and do a couple of days on that.

What's your role in that?

I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say. (laughing) I could tell you that I am nothing like a reporter. I'm the complete opposite, which is great fun and I'm looking forward to that a lot.

A nice new challenge then?

Yeah, a totally different character.

 

Christina Schild with the cast of Poor Super Man

Christina Schild with the cast of Poor Super Man

 

I saw there's a Christina Schild Fan Club on Facebook which is created by Seán Cummings, who's a colleague of yours on the play Poor Super Man. How did this come about?

(laughing) That's hilarious. It came about because people kept telling me that I should be on Facebook and I kept saying that I didn't want to be on Facebook. So, as a joke I suppose, Sean created this Facebook page for me and I think it's just the sweetest thing. It's very cute. Yeah, I have a fanclub. Who would have thought?

Are a lot of people joining already?

There are some people that have joined! Very nice! Every now and then he pulls it up for me and I have a look. Most of my fans are my friends which is very sweet.

We'll link it on the interview, so maybe you'll get some more viewers.

Oh, great! Exciting.

Any interesting hobbies you can share? Do you have time for hobbies?

No, no, I'm hobbyless. I always meant to pick up origami but I never did.

Okay. I'd like to thank you again for taking the time to do this interview.

You're very welcome. Thank you very much, my pleasure.

 
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