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Jamie Bamber GALACTICA.TV interview 2
Written by Marcel Damen   
Friday, 11 July 2008

Recently Marcel Damen caught up with Jamie Bamber, better known as Lee "Apollo" Adama on the Battlestar Galactica 2003 series. It's a follow up interview to the Jamie Bamber GALACTICA.TV interview we did last year. Jamie talked about his part on the first half of the fourth season and about saying goodbye to the military side of his character going into politics now, in comparison to having to say goodbye to his colleagues soon too.

First of all I'd like to thank you for taking the time to do the interview. I really appreciate it. We just learned it's Leland Joseph Adama in the series. When did you find out and what do you think about it?

I found out when I read the script and I hated it. I did about three different takes. On some of the takes I said "Lee" and I guess they chose the one with "Leland." Then I did a funny take where I was Leland Morales Alejandro Javier Adama but they didn't choose that one either. To keep with the Latin American dad theme.

Yeah, that would be cool.

Anyway yeah, I mean it was a choice that the writers obviously made and it was fine.

But you never heard it before right? It's just because of this script?

No, I never had heard it before but you know, writers do that to you occasionally. Write a little something that is a bit of a surprise to the audience. And people kind of dig it I guess.

 

Jamie Bamber as Lee Adama on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Jamie Bamber as Lee Adama on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Lee Adama's military career went all the way up to Captain of the Pegasus. After leaving New Caprica he becomes CAG of the Galactica and then his father gives him a job defending Baltar to keep him out of harm's way. After repeated attempts of assassinating Baltar and Romo, his father tries to put him back in the military to protect him. But Apollo then has discovered a different life is what he wants. He wants to follow his grandfather as a lawyer. He tells his father that he can do more outside of the military than in it. How did Lee see himself better able to contribute to the fleet as a lawyer?

Well, he's... not necessarily as a lawyer. He's long had misgivings about a career in the military. I don't think that would have been his future had this holocaust not happened and people had to contribute in the most direct way. And he's been contributing as a soldier, as a commander, as a CAG, as a whatever for a long time. One thing I think he realizes at the end of season three is that as part of the military, expediency is very high, it's very important. They need to fight to survive. There's a whole other aspect to this, what has now become a life after this disaster. It's been four years on the run. When you fight off an enemy for four years there are other concerns within the fleet, and I think Lee feels that maybe the civic, civilian voice hasn't really been heard, and that there are other issues and other priorities as well as just purely fighting the Cylons for their survival. He feels maybe, well he feels definitely, that President Roslin, who he admires very much has become a difficult figure within the civic government. She's become very autocratic. She doesn't really acknowledge or respond to their Quorum and the people. Lee feels that there's a communication breakdown. That maybe he is well placed to bridge the gap between the military and the civilian side of the fleet and that there's an opportunity for a new voice within the government. I think that's his impetus. It's not necessarily as a lawyer because you don't really see him pursue the path of a lawyer. He goes into politics and that's a new challenge for him. He's always after new challenges. It also takes him out from his father's shadow. I think that's something that is important. Most young men, they don't do well necessarily, living under the parental umbrella. He needs to unfurl his own... tent as it were.

When he really leaves the Galactica, in that scene Lee's face looks so overcome by gratitude, appreciation, sadness. It looks like he could almost burst out in tears any second. Did you put on that face intentionally, since it really nailed the scene?

Well, scenes like that are kind of... never easy to play because... life and art become very intertwined. When I was playing that scene I realized that I was putting a whole side of his character away forever. I knew it was the final season of Galactica. This is, you know, Lee leaving his family aboard Galactica and that was basically echoed... an echo of what we were all going through up here in Vancouver. I'm saying goodbye to a crew, a cast, a production, a way of working together. And that's very much what Lee was doing too that day. So it wasn't a case of putting on a face. It was a case of just really understanding that this was a moment that would never come again.

 

Jamie Bamber as Lee Adama on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Jamie Bamber as Lee Adama on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Yes, because that was exactly what I was thinking, it's really for you also personally looking ahead at a point to where you have to say goodbye to your character and everybody and all your colleagues. Because that's also exactly how it looked like.

Yes, yes that's exactly what it is. I mean there are a lot of things. As far as I know, Lee is not getting in a Viper again. He's not going to wear a uniform again. He's not really going to be aboard the Galactica too much anymore, and in a month's time, neither will I. So, yes, life and art in that sense, and there are lots of moments, and interplays, and interchanges, and characters dying, and you know you'll never see them again. So it's nostalgic and sad. I mean, personally as an actor, I'm actually really pleased that we are wrapping up the show and ending and moving on. But there is nostalgia in there too. Because it has been a great experience, and we've made some very good drama, and we've also made some life long friends that we won't be able to work with, day in day out, probably ever again. So that's sad.

What do you personally think of Lee's decision to go into politics? What do you think he hopes to accomplish with that?

I think he hopes to accomplish what he always hoped to accomplish, which is to make a difference and to make this strange fugitive life work, for people. To make it as full and satisfying and as sensical, if that's the word, as possible. That's what he's always tried to do, I mean, inside of a Viper, it's the same thing, it's just a more aggressive, immediate, and violent way of doing it. And in stepping into the Quorum chamber he's hoping to change, update, the way government works because the problem about this Quorum is that the representatives represent planets that no longer exist. I think Lee goes into it realizing that the Quorum is an anachronism; it's an outdated form of government. The representation doesn't work anymore because the planets don't group the people together. He's there as a... as the wind of change. He's trying to change the way government works to make it relevant to this strange peripatetic life. He's... in that way... a sort of a revolutionary and he's always been that. Even in the military, he had a different way of doing things, would buck orders and buck trends and buck the way things are normally done. That's very much his mission. He's a challenging individual, and he's also very ambitious. With his Dad in command, there's a feeling there to what he can achieve, the work that he can do as a military officer. He's a leader, so he wants to lead. With the President being in a precarious position and also being ill, there's an opportunity there. If you're looking at it in more ambitious, Machiavellian, kind of selfish terms, Lee realizes that the Presidency is going to open up soon but the Admiralty probably isn't.

Do you also think these career changes are part of Lee not really knowing what he wants? Does he finally find peace by going into politics? Has he finally found what he's looking for?

Who knows? I don't know yet. He just got into it, so you don't know. Maybe I'll never know. The thing about people who are... who strive... who judge their life on achievement, success and challenges, even if they do achieve, they probably are never content with the achievement because there's another achievement around every corner. I think that's what you've got with Lee. He's an ambitious, competitive, vigorous young man. Whatever he does, he does to his absolute limit. But when he achieves it? Does the static... sort of contentment... doesn't work for him and he needs a new challenge. He needs to conquer a new peak and that's what he's always done throughout the show. There's also a sense of trying to find out who he is, defining himself. It's very hard to define yourself as an individual when you're constantly related to a father figure and defined in terms of the father figure. So for him, yeah I think there is something more satisfying about forging a new path, being judged on his own merits and distancing himself from the Adama name.

Last time we interviewed you, you said the most memorable moment for you was to become the commander of the Pegasus for the first time. I think Apollo has gone through a lot since then and I think now since he's gone into politics and being a lawyer I think for you also as an actor the best moments you had as an actor, was for me personally, were the speeches during the trial of Baltar and also the speech with Romo just before accepting the Presidency.

Yeah, those are some of my favorite moments. I mean, the thing about playing a character like this, week in week out, is the moments that you like the most are the moments when the character kind of steps out of character. Because once you've got the sort of vernacular of a character and a way of operating of a character, the repetitive element is normally not the most interesting, although it's truthful and the audience responds to it normally very well. The bits that you really enjoy are when the character is tested and has to behave in a way that's atypical. Becoming commander of Pegasus was a moment of realization that he's his father's son and that this is what he's wanted up to that point. It's a realization of his inner needs and inner desires. He wants that kind of challenge, that kind of authority. He becomes his father in that kind of mini moment. There's a lot of love in that realization that this man, that you've been challenged by and had problems with, is actually a lot like yourself. And there's a peace that comes with that, so that was an interesting one. But then yeah, the lawyer thing and the courtroom was Lee completely out of his element, out of water. He doesn't know how to be a lawyer. He doesn't know what this is. But he charts his way through these new, untested waters. I thought even as a show we were doing that. This isn't a courtroom drama kind of show, and it was a big challenge to put this courtroom drama at such a pivotal point in the plot, to really make it real, make it work, make it part of the Galactica. So that yeah... that was a very big challenge for everyone; from the design, to the writing, to the actors, to Michael Rymer directing it. I'm very proud of how that worked out within the very, very big plot of what this fleet does with its collective guilt and how it apportions blame to people. So yeah, that was great.

"Sine Qua Non", the episode that just aired with Lampkin, I don't... I'm not a big fan of the episode. I think it could have been more interesting had they really taken the gloves off Lee and really looked at what he does in that episode, which is seize power. It's kind of a civic coup that he brings about and I wish we could have seen a bit more of his scheming in that. There's only one reason to bring in Romo Lampkin and there's only one reason to deny Zarek, the Vice President, and that's because he (Lee) senses weakness and he wants the job. And whilst that's there in the sub text, I wish, and I had discussions with Michael Taylor, the writer, about making it more overt. I think that would have been very interesting for Lee to be that. It's all very well listening to Barack Obama talk about hope and telling the public what they need to hear, which you know, is what America needs right now and it's very exciting. But we're all fascinated, I think more fascinated, by what he's like and the decisions he has to make behind closed doors with his campaign managers. To see the more practical and pragmatic side of what he has to do to become the President. These people can be idealists but they're also ambitious realists. They have to be. That's a side to Lee that I was trying to bring out in that episode, but it was hard because the text didn't really support it.

 

Jamie Bamber as Lee Adama and Mark Sheppard as Romo Lampkin on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Jamie Bamber as Lee Adama and Mark Sheppard as Romo Lampkin on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Both of these moments also included working with Mark Sheppard. Is it coincidence or is there something about working with him that brings out so much more in your acting?

No, I think it's the character. Romo Lampkin was introduced as another mentor figure for this young guy. Mark's a nice guy and a friend of mine, and we enjoy working together, but no, I don't think it's about Mark and me particularly, it's the characters. Romo Lampkin is this lawyer who trained under my grandfather, who is a figure that fascinates me. He's always going to slightly knock me into a different head space and to open his eyes to a different, more... I don't know... more humanistic kind of response; behavior, morality and right and wrong. I think that's about the character. But yeah, it does help that Mark and I get along so well. I don't think I need Mark to be around to do good work (laughs) or something like that.

I guess it's also easier to work in a regular suit than a flight suit?

Yes.

I don't know if it's... No, I don't think it's easier. I mean, the show is called Battlestar Galactica, and it's central point is the Marines, and the pilots, and the flight suits, and the Vipers. That was great fun to be a part of. Now that I'm in a regular suit, I'm in the civic world. It's slightly a marginal story point within the show and so I think it makes it harder in some ways to really capture the energy and to be relevant within the show. It's more pleasant to wear a normal suit than a flight suit and more like who I am, but I don't think it's easier within the Galactica world.

Romo also decides that Lee is the best choice for interim President because even though he has his failings like everyone else, he also has the best qualities as a President. Do you agree that Lee was the best choice for the President?

Do I agree?

Yes.

I think Lee has a lot to offer. He's got a good conscience. He's got an idea of right and wrong. He also understands the problems. He's had a front row seat at the decision making thus far all the way through, from his relationship with Roslin, to his relationship with Adama, to his being a commander of the Pegasus. You know, certainly in the United States, there's a long history of people from the military running for office. John McCain is the latest in a long, long line. So in that regard I think Lee is almost uniquely placed to become President. But you know there's lots of issues; with the fleet, having someone whose surname is Adama [becoming] the President, whether he's for real, whether he's really not his father's stool pigeon. I think there are a lot of questions about him. He's young and untested and inexperienced in the world of politics. But within the world of the fleet, he's been in an extraordinary position. He's had to make extraordinary decisions. And by and large, he's managed to maintain public support. The trial is the case in point in that. He basically swings a jury, the judges rather, and public opinion to let off this one guy because of what he says and the guy's universally hated pretty much. So he carries a lot of sway. But whether he's the right man or not, you know, only time can tell.

When we last interviewed you it was just after, almost at the end of season three. We asked you how season four should look like because there was not a lot known back then. You said you'd like to see the journey to Earth become less like an Indiana Jones kind of quest with Arrows of Apollo and the Temple of Jupiter. It should be more scary, random, directionless, less darkness, more warmth and upbeat points. You've now almost finished shooting all of the episodes. We haven't seen them all yet but you have almost finished all of them. Less darkness aside, has it become what you expected it to be?

Yes and no. I think the writers have done a great job with season four. They've certainly thrown problems at that whole mystical, destiny based journey. There's been lots of spanners in the works, thrown into the works, of this whole Pythia prophecy and Indiana Jones type iconography. That doesn't carry the momentum of the story. Yeah, I think they've done a good job in that regard. It's definitely much darker and much more real as a result to me. So yeah, I'm pretty excited by what they've done. I mean they've also had to pay off some of that mysticism and stuff which, on that level, I think it's interesting because let's not forget that we still live in a world that's largely fueled by religious and irrational belief. And yet, scientifically and everything, we're in a place where you can almost disprove most of them, but people still have them, and they still do govern people's lives. So I think the writers have struck a pretty good balance with challenging, and questioning, and asking that people watch all of season four. If you are a sort of a mystically inclined person, you probably will still hang on to sort of certain beliefs about destiny and about being guided by some divine power. And if you're not, you won't be able to believe that people can hold that view because all of it's been made so problematic, and made to look so nonsensical, you raise your eyebrows. But that's very much as life is. Mankind is pretty well divided between a sort of rationalist and a religious point of view. So I think they've done an amazing job with that, to make religion a powerful element and yet still not make it completely irrefutable to those characters like Adama and his son who are basically atheists. So I think it's very interesting.

 

Jamie Bamber as Lee Adama on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Jamie Bamber as Lee Adama on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

You've probably just got the last script? Are you happy with the ending?

I'm absolutely blown away by the ending.

Ok.

I think Ron Moore went away and wrote the ending on his own and he's produced the most sublime scripts that we've ever had to bring to life. We haven't started shooting them yet, and there are still some questions about how much air time we're going to be given to tell the story of the end. But on the page they are beautiful.

Ok, really looking forward to that. So you also then said just at the end of season three that you also wished that Apollo would turn back a bit to the original Apollo again, like he was in the miniseries, even become a Viper pilot.

Did I say that? I'm not going to give anything away. It's all about Ron's ending. The characters are very strong and I'm extremely pleased with where he's got Lee at the end of the show. More than that I won't say, other than whatever I've said before, I'm very pleased with what's happened.

What it reminded me of, was you said the last time we talked, about the Horatio Hornblower episode Retribution, where Archie gets shot and later dies. You always said you liked the fact that two guys were in a sort of an emotional sub text. It was a very memorable moment for you. Now Battlestar Galactica is ending this season and some of the main cast also dies. I was thinking like would you wish for a similar ending for your character of Apollo? Maybe die in the arms of your father showing, true love and pride for his son at a final moment.

Again, I'm not going to reveal too much because I will be shot if I do. But yeah, at one point I had dinner with Ron and I said I'm quite happy to die as a character. I think these epic journeys sometimes require the sort of... the heroic figure to die and pass the torch to a new generation. There's something in that idea of sacrifice toiled for someone else's reward. I think the most heroic characters down the ages have tended to die at the crucial moments. Those that see the Promised Land but does not get to enjoy it. I think there's a lot of that. But I'm not going to reveal whether that actually happens to me or not. It's certainly something that I think is a powerful, powerful story arc for any character. I'm not going to say whether that's what actually does happen.

 

Jamie Bamber as Lee Adama on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Jamie Bamber as Lee Adama and Edward James Olmos as William Adama on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Ok. Lee against Archie in a bar fight. Who wins?

Lee against Archie? Lee. Easily. (laughing) Archie's got no chance.

We've also just learned that Caprica has been given a green light. If they approach you for a leading part in this, would you feel honored since you obviously did a very good job in Battlestar Galactica that they asked you again. Even though a lot of fans would maybe say, "Hey isn't that Apollo?" Would you just reject the part because of that, since you want to move on to do totally different things?

Well, first of all, it's not going to happen. So the question is purely hypothetical. Because Caprica is set in the past and they've cast fifty years previous. So I don't think there's any way that that would work.

No, I mean just as a different character maybe. Just because they're happy with your work as an actor.

Oh, Ok as anything. Yes, I would be extremely flattered because I like and respect Ron and his team very, very much and David Eick too and they're good friends. It's always fun to work with friends. I would love to collaborate with them again, there's no doubt. Would I do it on something like Caprica? I think that would be a bad move for me as an actor. I'm very, very pleased with everything that's happened and can't believe my luck. The stuff that I've learned and got to do over the years, but I wouldn't want to play Lee Adama for another season. I really feel that we've done it. We've done the character and that from here on it would be repetitious. The idea of going onto a show called Caprica and starting again on a sci-fi Galactica based story I think would be... tough to get my enthusiasm back up. I think it would not be good for me as an actor to be straight into the sequel or the prequel. It's important to challenge the audience that have come to know you as one thing, and to change and do something completely different. But, were Ron and David to write and come up with a different premise? I love their talent, their energy, their integrity, so the opportunity to work with them again would be great. But I also know that it's definitely not going to happen on Caprica, so it's not really a dilemma for me.

Because I was wondering how far do you think military roles like Archie and Apollo have determined your career. Where you ever afraid that playing these roles for such a long time that producers or directors would only ask you for those types of roles?

No, because... Yes, they're both in the military but the genres while similar - I have to say a lot of futuristic stuff is very similar to historical, mythological, fantastical stories - they're not perceived that way. They're perceived as two completely different genres by the media, by the viewing public. People who are into Horatio Hornblower are not normally into sci-fi for some reason. So no, I think that is not the case. If I made a career out of playing soldiers, sailors, marines, and military types the whole time there might be that danger. But I don't think that's going to happen. I think the material is so different; the style, the genre, the way that things are shot. The kind of people who watch them are so different. So I don't think those two would harm me in any way at all. If I went in and played another sci-fi space warrior kind of character then I think, yeah, that would be not the best move for me. But right now, having been five years in Battlestar, that's what people know me for, not Horatio Hornblower. So I think the important thing is to change it up from the Battlestar thing. If I happen to go back into a period drama, I think people would view that as a big change.

 

Jamie Bamber as Lee Adama on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Jamie Bamber as Lee Adama on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Is that also why you started doing theater again in 2005? Your performance got pretty good reviews in [The Tragical History of] Doctor Faustus.

Yeah. No, I'd love to do theater again. The great thing about finishing something is you don't know what's around the corner. That's exciting. It's scary, but it's exciting. This is a great challenge. I look forward to being challenged and I think I've grown during my work on Galactica. I think I'm better equipped and armed to tackle a play than I was before. There are other concerns when doing a play. You've got to make sure... I remember John Hurt saying with a film, you can be fifty, sixty percent into the idea and confident that you can do it and get it done. You don't have to do it every single night. With a play you have to be one hundred percent sure that this is the right thing to do because if it's a disaster, and you're not enjoying it, and the public's not coming, you still have to perform this thing every night. You have to show up and do it. There's nothing more gut wrenching and soul destroying than that. And I've also moved to L.A., so doing a play is not number one on my priorities but, if the opportunity arose, it's always the most rewarding form of acting for me without a doubt. It's something I'm sure I'll come back to at some point.

What other projects have you lined up? What would you like to do?

I have nothing definite lined up. There's two or three things that are either awaiting funding or a final decision on casting or whatever. There's nothing I can really talk to you about and tell you, because it's not a cast iron guarantee, but there are opportunities around and it's an exciting time for me.

How about upcoming movies like Pulse 2 and Mineville?

Well Pulse 2 I shot a while ago, and it's coming out, but it's going straight to DVD. I enjoyed doing it. It was very low budget, and it was just good experience for me to play the lead in a movie. I liked the original Japanese movie it was based on, which is why I took the role. Mineville is a script that a couple of friends of mine are producing and directing. It's a great story about a mining community that's pre-unionization in the Adirondack Mountains on the east coast. The script is being rewritten and changed, and funding is kind of fluid. They're hoping to get all their ducks in a row. If they do and I'm free, and if they still want me to play the part - it's a great part - it's something I really look forward to playing. But it's not cast in stone yet, and it's not a green lit project yet. So we'll wait and see.

Do you have any wishes for projects you'd like to do?

Yeah I do specifically, but I'm not going to mention them now because they're not going to happen. Well they're not guaranteed to happen yet. I'm a bit superstitious like that. If I had a big wish, I would love to get on the stage on Broadway or the West End and do either a new play or one of the classics, doing some Shakespeare or something. That would be great. I would love to start doing feature films, play challenging roles in feature films. But equally, I'm also exploring every pilot script that comes out because I so enjoy doing series television that I'm not turning my back on that as an opportunity. It's a great way of life as an actor to go to work on a character every week and to play these big stories with lots of casts, deep casts and stuff. So that's a pretty non-committal answer. I'm just looking for good stuff, and good characters, and to grow and learn and challenge myself.

Your wife Kerry Norton was also in a couple of Battlestar episodes. Do you watch Battlestar together?

No, we don't watch Battlestar together. In fact, that almost never happens. I tend to watch Battlestar alone in my trailer by putting the director's cuts and the producer's cuts and I normally watch them once before they go out on the air. And Kerry still hasn't watched season three so she's way back.

Ok, she's way behind! (laughs)

Right. But she's in a few episodes this year. She's been in more episodes this year than ever before.

Ok, that's cool. How's family life treating you? How are the kids?

Very well. Very well. Thank you very much. Yep, we're doing good.

You also have a fan site and admirers called Bamber Bunnies. I'm sure you appreciate the attention, but does it sometimes get a bit silly?

Yeah, but that's part of the fun of doing what they do. They enjoy it and they're great girls. I've met them a few times now and they have fun and it's... that's their thing. It's not really anything to do with me funnily enough. I'm the sort of spring pad or the jumping off point, but they've become friends because of me, and they get up to all sorts of stuff. I don't have any involvement directly in any of the web sites dedicated to me. I keep on saying that I'm going to blog a bit more on them and post, and I will, but I just never get around to it. Because I think it's an odd thing to talk about yourself and what you're doing. It's not something that, I don't know, feels particularly genuine or real to me. But yeah, I mean I look at it with amusement and so do they in fact. As long as everyone is having fun, that's the main thing.

I'd like to thank you very much for doing this interview.

It's my pleasure Marcel. All the best.

 

This interview is a follow up of the interview we did with Jamie Bamber in 2007: Jamie Bamber GALACTICA.TV interview and is again followed up by an interview we did with Jamie Bamber in 2009: Jamie Bamber GALACTICA.Tv interview 3

 
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