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Jamie Bamber GALACTICA.TV interview
Written by Joel Cooke   
Thursday, 08 March 2007

At MegaCon 2007, held February 16-18, 2007 in Orlando, Joel Cooke spoke to Jamie Bamber, best known as Major Lee "Apollo" Adama on the Battlestar Galactica 2003 series. He spoke with him about his part on the show, and about his other work, including his role as Archie Kennedy on the A&E Horatio Hornblower cable movies.

Your father is American, you mother is from Ireland. How and where did they meet?

They met on a plane, from I think Dublin to London. My mom was an aspiring actress at the time. She sat next to this American. I think dad pretended to be a producer of movies just to get her phone number. I think that's how it worked.

 

actor Jamie Bamber

actor Jamie Bamber

 

You act on Battlestar Galactica with an American accent, not an English accent. What made you think of that? 

Well, it wasn't so much my decision as when I was auditioning for the job it seemed to be a part that called for an American. I did it all through the auditioning process, and they cast Eddie as my dad, so if I'd had a British accent it would have been thrown away. Although we're not talking about America, we're talking about Caprica, so in theory any accent goes. And personally as an actor, I wanted to start working in the U.S. as a potential American [character] rather than a Brit and to be marginalized as the bad guy all the time like British people tend to be.

So how did you end up in Paris?

My dad's work took me to Paris when I was a kid, so I lived there for four or five years when I was very young.

So what made you come back?

Again, dad and his work. But you know, my first school was in Paris, and I have many childhood memories of Paris, and it's a place I'd love to go back. 

What got you started in acting?

Uhm, my mom I guess. When we were in Paris she started a theatre group for the American community in Paris. It was part of the community based around the American cathedral and she started a child acting sort of theatre, so I was the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz which she directed.

At what point did you feel like this is something that you wanted to do?

I can remember very young, feeling that it's something that I would like to do, and I've always felt passionate about, even from the age of about twelve. But I was just in school plays. I did some commercials and things, but I was never a child actor by any means. And I guess when I was at University I did more and more plays, and I took a decision to try and audition for the big drama schools in the U.K., and if I got in, it was proof to myself that I would go forward. And if I didn't, then I honestly think I would have ended up doing something completely different. But I did get in, so...

 

actor Jamie Bamber

actor Jamie Bamber

 

Speaking of University, you went to Cambridge and got honors in modern languages. Was that a busy schedule? Juggling school and acting?

Well, doing an arts degree at home, it's very much up to you what you do. There are lots of classes that you can go to, but you don't have to go to them. So you create your own schedule, and I created a pretty lax one for myself academically. And I just had to knuckle down in the last term and do the exams. So I guess I'm pretty good at doing the exams. That's they way I came through things. 

Yeah, mind taking a few for me?

(laughing)

In addition to that, you have a build like a gymnast. Did you work on that during college as well? 

Well I've always been very physical and sporting. I played a lot of rugby, tennis, golf, and cricket. Whatever game was going I used to play.  But no, my college days I was way rounder, because I used to drink way more and have way more fun. I never quite got into shape that I actually got in after Battlestar [Galactica] because I was given a personal trainer and he just basically told me to get into serious shape. And I did and I enjoyed it. 

Your first television appearance was as Archie Kennedy on the Horatio Hornblower series. You played a midshipman/acting lieutenant under Horatio, played by Ioan Gruffudd. You and him are friends, right?

Yeah.

 

Jamie Bamber as Archie Kennedy in Horatio Hornblower

Jamie Bamber as Archie Kennedy in Horatio Hornblower

 

So was he the one who got you your start on that show?

No, I didn't know him before then. We met on the show. We shot it over 2 or 3 years and we just became good friends. We didn't see a lot of each other when we were working together, but over the years..We're quite similar in terms of our background and in terms of our interests. He's a mad rugby fan, as am I. He's also one of the good people in this world. We've stayed in touch. He shoots Fantastic Four in the same studio as we make Battlestar [Galactica], so we sort of follow each other around. And now I live in L.A. and he lives in L.A. We're very good friends.

So what got you your start on Horatio?

I just did an audition. I was at drama school at the time. I had a couple of agents who were interested in representing me and they were sending me to auditions. I went to the big casting directors in London for a different movie and they sent me downstairs because they thought I was right for this other thing so I auditioned for the part of Hornblower, and I tested for it. Ioan eventually got that part, but they gave me the part they had written in as his best friend. Then they expanded it, and it became what it became. 

Archie seems to be a character that takes orders, believes in king and country, whereas Apollo has a darker side to him and he disobeys orders when he feels it's necessary to do the right thing. Do you enjoy playing Apollo like that.

Oh yeah, very much. He's a guy who is constantly trying to live up to his own expectations of himself, and of his father's expectations, and that sort of means that he has a code that's his own, it doesn't actually belong to any of the other...He creates his own code. He's not a Colonel Tigh in that way, that the military code is taken straight. Actually I think Apollo's more like Hornblower as a character, because Hornblower's kind of the same. He does things for his own reasons, [because] he's got a conscious. He doesn't always make the obvious decisions. Apollo's a little more heroic, he's got a different style.  But yeah I love how...[the creators write him] down and out and you don't expect to be that. You know in Season 3 he ends up having an affair, he never thought he would. He ends up defending Baltar in the end of the Season, which you never thought he would. And he gets himself in these positions, but they're logical to him, you know. He's there for reasons that he can account for. Whereas Archie Kennedy is a want to be hero, but is flawed in other respects. He's just not necessarily equipped. He's too impetuous, doesn't really have the mettle to be a Hornblower or Apollo, though he'd like to be.

 

Jamie Bamber as Archie Kennedy in Horatio Hornblower

Jamie Bamber as Archie Kennedy in Horatio Hornblower

 

So what was your favorite dark moment as Apollo?

My favorite dark moment as Apollo? (ponders the question for a few moments) I quite like the one that was aired the other day "Taking A Break From All Worries" where he's lost his ring I guess, you know when he's completely lost it. He doesn't know what he is or where he is anymore. He doesn't know who he's meant to be with, and the terror of that moment is a kind of a self pity, having your own identity taken away from you. He can't recognize himself anymore, he's a mess. I suppose that would be it.

So when filming Hornblower, did you do any sailing?

Yeah, a lot. Every day we were at sea.

Did you learn how to do that? Did you get seasick while filming?

I didn't get seasick, though a lot of people did. We were sailing all day long. We were taught certain things, like when we were rowing in the boats and stuff, how to order oarsmen to row you ashore, and other nautical terms that I can't remember anymore. But yeah, we did a lot of sailing.

I thought it was interesting the way A&E did the filming of Horatio Hornblower, because they did like two cable movies every other year. Was there any production schedule set beforehand, or did they just determine how popular the movies were before they committed to new ones?

No. Initially, there was a plan to make four movies at a time, or even six movies at a time. But the production changed, the English production changed, and a different producer came in, Drew Bensen. He was very good with the scripts, developing the scripts and making sure they were ready, and there were only two that were ready to shoot. So that became the big factor to shoot two movies and then have a break and prepare the next two and shoot two more, and that's just how it turned out.

Any way to see what the ratings were before going on with the next two?

Yeah.

Can you tell us a bit about Ultimate Force and your part as Lt. Dotsy Doheny?

Ultimate Force was a project I had grand hopes for because the SAS is an amazingly intriguing institution in the U.K. It's influenced the way that commando style regiments operate throughout the world. It's been copied all over the world, and nobody knows that much about it, so to me it was a tremendous opportunity. I was very disappointed by the production and the producers and the release of the show. So the character that I began to play was a "Rupert" 1.), what we would call in public school, private school in the U.S., a very priviledged solider who has come to a position as a Captain in the SAS. And the contradiction between him and maybe the more rough and ready men that he has to command, who don't necessarily respect him. I really found that interesting, but they were just interested in caricature really, they weren't really interested in really fleshing out what this experience would be. These guys all live in a tiny community in Herriford, which is in the middle of nowhere, and it's fascinating, dramatic concept, but they sensationalized it and made it hokey I thought. So I wanted to get out of that show, and they obliged me, and I'm grateful to them because I ended up doing Battlestar [Galactica].

1.) "Rupert": This is a name used by the British armed forces to describe an army officer of a privileged class background, a fop. It is a derogatory term for an Officer, inferring they have obtained their commission through their connections/wealth and they have little ability/common sense or empathy with their troops or the real world in general. Jamie's character was repeatedly called a "Rupert" by the rank and file members of the SAS unit in the series.

In the Horatio Hornblower episode "Retribution", Archie gets shot and later dies. Did you like it, in the way they filmed that scene?

Well, you know, it was a really emotional scene to shoot and it was always going to be an emotional scene. Yes, I liked it very much. It was one of those... That's one thing that Hornblower allows to do with these two guys in this kind of emotional subtext because they spend their whole life together in the series. That's something a modern audience doesn't always get. They're family, they're brothers and everything. That was a very rememberable scene to shoot.

 

Jamie Bamber as Archie Kennedy in Horatio Hornblower

Jamie Bamber as Archie Kennedy in Horatio Hornblower

 

Did you ever watch the original Battlestar Galactica?

I did, yeah. It was good, yeah.

What did you think of it?

I loved it in the same way, you know I just watched Star Wars.  I was a five or six year old or whatever I was. And to get Battlestar [Galactica] every week on TV was kind of cool. I loved the vipers, I loved them flying in suits, I loved the joystick with the three buttons. Yeah, I was a big fan.

Watching that, did you ever want to become Apollo?

Yeah, I guess, but I had forgotten all about it. I hadn't seen Battlestar [Galactica] in the in the intervening years. I could barely remember it to be honest. So no, I didn't have any fixed idea what I wanted to be.

So what was your initial reaction when you heard about them doing a new Battlestar Galactica?

I thought it would be terrible! I thought about why, how you would do that. It wasn't big on my list of things to do. To go on the Scifi Channel and make Battlestar Galactica again I thought would be a pretty thankless task, but then I read the script and I could see they had a really good thing going here. And then I heard that they were going to cast people like Mary [McDonnell] and Eddie [James Olmos] and [I thought] that was exciting.

Which won you over to actually...?

The script won me over, the script. I didn't actually know that Eddie was going to do it, until after I was offered the job. I knew Mary [McDonnell] was attached as far as I could tell.

Shooting one of the earlier episodes of Season 1 there is a scene on the prison barge where Lee and Zarek, played by Richard Hatch, the original Apollo had a heartfelt talk about the religious nature of the name Apollo. Do you feel like this was an effort by the writers to pass on the torch from the original Apollo to your Apollo?

Yes, definitely. It was meant for television that they were bringing the same characters together. It was some sort of homage to the original show, definitely. I thought that was a nice touch, that kind of thing. We not often do that on the show and that was pretty much the only time we've done it. That was interesting. It was sort of a playful, little joke.

So what do you think of Richard Hatch on the show, being the original Apollo and everything?

At the beginning I was pretty concerned, because he had said some negative things about our show. But he said them before our show had aired, because he was obviously trying to do his own thing. Once he got involved, then I realized that he was a great, generous and very interesting man and he's been a pleasure to have aboard.

All your other fellow actors on Battlestar Galactica worked on similar shows together in Vancouver such as Stargate and The L-Word. Did you know any of them before the Mini-Series?

No, none of them.

How were you approached to do Battlestar Galactica?

I literally was in L.A. for two weeks, taking a break from Ultimate Force and I was looking for something else to do. It was the first script that my manager gave me. I was staying at his house and he gave me this script. By the end of the two weeks I auditioned about four or five times and that was it. It was amazing. I'm very grateful that it happened that way, really grateful. 

 

Jamie Bamber as Lee 'Apollo' Adama in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Jamie Bamber as Lee 'Apollo' Adama in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

So did you just audition for the role of Apollo or was there anybody else?

Just Apollo.

You of course play Lee Adama, who has been CAG, Captain of the Pegasus, thrown in the brig, beaten up by Starbuck, made love with Starbuck, laid up with a prostitute and all that. Which of those things stand out in your mind in the adventures of Lee Adama?

Which was the most memorable? Being... (pondering for a second). Commanding the Pegasus for the first time, definitely, because it's such an out of body moment where he realises that he is his dad and everything that that brings. It's not where he wanted to be or thought it would be, but it is where he belongs in a funny way and to me that was the most memorable. 

So what did you think of the final fight of the Pegasus. How did you like that?

I loved it. I thought it was great. I believed to disobey the order and come back for his dad when he told him it was suicide... and then lay Pegasus on the line and lay down its own body for Galactica's survival I thought was a fitting end.

Even though Lee and Bill had a love/hate father-son relationship, did Apollo ever have a chip on his shoulder that he had to be perfect or otherwise people would think his rank and responsibilities were just handed down by his father?

Yes, he had a chip on his shoulder for a lot of reasons.  His father wasn't a perfect father growing up. In the backstory that gradually unfolds you realize that Adama was pretty naive about his own family and his own relationship with his wife and the role that was forced upon Lee. Lee resents the fact that he ended up in the military and wasn't allowed other options, really, as a kid. There's lots of resentment, there's lots of reasons, but more than that. The most powerful one is the need to be loved and respected and the rest of it. That's all Lee really wants, is for his dad to respect him and love him. He does, but he doesn't show it.

 

Jamie Bamber as Lee 'Apollo' Adama and James Callis as Gaius Baltar in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Jamie Bamber as Lee 'Apollo' Adama and James Callis as Gaius Baltar in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Can you give any hints on what the final few episodes will be like?

Well... If you think the father-son relationship has been tested before then you haven't seen nothing yet. Lee ends up in a place you'd never think he would end up. He ends up defending someone he would never defend. He ends up not in a uniform anymore, but in a civilian suit. It's my favorite stuff that he gets to do.

We've heard that SciFi has given the green light for Season 4.  When and where did you hear about it? 

Officially I heard about it a week ago. I was just at home in L.A., in my new house in L.A. My manager rang me and said he got a call that they wanted to pick it up. Officially it hasn't been picked up yet, they haven't officially sent the memo, so it's kind of early days. We don't know quite what we're doing, whether we're doing 13 or 20 [episodes] or whatever.  

Where would you like to see the show go in Season 4?

Where would I like to see it go? (thinking for a second) I've got some ideas about, you know... I would like to see the journey to earth become less a sort of Indiana Jones quest, like with the Arrow of Apollo, the Temple [of Jupiter] and stuff like that. And to become a bit more scary and random, and a bit more directionless. I'd like to have... let them try at points to be upbeat... I think we've been pretty dark in Season 3. It would be nice to find a bit of color and a bit of warmth to it, within the darkness, and there's always going to be darkness. And who knows, maybe we're going to find out...

So where would like to see Apollo go in Season 4?

In a funny way, I would like... In Season 3 he's been everywhere, he really has, and [also] in Season 2. I'd kind of like him to settle down and become sort of more like the original Apollo in a funny way.

Like him to start his own family?

Well, no, not starting a family, but to be the heroic viper pilot again for a bit, to be the reliable son. I think he and his father have been through so much, that there's room for a sort of more settled relationship and a more settled Apollo.

Does that mean the whole Lee-Kara-Dee love triangle gets settled?

I think so. I think it's going to get settled, yeah.  Somehow, I don't know. 

You are married to actress Kerry Norton, who plays Paramedic Layne Ishay on the show.  Where did you two meet?

We met on a low budget film in Scotland.

How did she end up getting a role on the show?

I think because of Eddie Olmos. Eddie suggested she should come in and read for that particular role and she auditioned and then she got the part.

Would that be because Bodie [Olmos] is on the show as well?

I think Eddie is a very loyal guy and he's a family guy. He's likes to make everyone feel supportive. A lot of us up in Vancouver don't belong there and  not from there. Kerry has made a lot of sacrifices with her own career and she's a mom now and she's there. Yeah, he spoke out, but she had to audition like everybody else and go on tape. She got cast on merits so... And it's fun to have her. It's nice to have her involvement in it.

Would you encourage your children to follow in your footsteps, in acting?

Yes, if they wanted to.

Do you have any other future plans or projects that are upcoming?

I have bunch of guest parts in TV shows, one of which airs this Sunday night, Cold Case and then next Friday, I'm on an episode of Ghost Whisperer. So those come out. And then I'm hoping to do a movie between now and going back up to Vancouver. In the long term scale of things, I'm hoping to produce my own material and sort of get involved into writing and producing. So those are my ambitions.

Do you have any interesting hobbies you would like to tell us about?

Not so interesting, but golf and tennis are my main hobbies.

 

Jamie Bamber as Lee 'Apollo' Adama in Battlestar Galactica

Jamie Bamber as Lee 'Apollo' Adama in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

So do you know anything about this rumor of a direct-to-DVD movie that they're planning to do between Season 3 and 4?

Yeah, kind of. I don't think it's a direct-to-DVD and I don't think it's a movie really. They're going to make a two hour episode that will air in the fall. Just to tide the viewing audience and keep the crew busy. They're airing the bulk of Season 4 in January 2008. It will probably go to DVD after it airs. So it's just a way of keeping some continuity. It just feels like a double episode, really. I'd love to do a feature film for the show, that would be great, but I don't know if it's ever going to happen.

 (Takes a call from his wife who asks him how the convention is going.  He asks about the kids and tells her he's having a great time.)

Do you have a favorite episode that they've shot?

Yeah, Eddie's episode, "Taking A Break From All Worries".

How often do you read your fanmail?

Not as often as I should. I tend to do it in batches, about yearly. So I apologise.

What is interesting is that I had never seen any [autograph request] successes when I wrote to you, but you were my first Battlestar Galactica success through the mail.

Oh. good! No, I do reply, but it takes me some time sometimes.

Do you get a lot of it?

A fair bit, yeah. You know, when Hornblower was at its height, I think I got more from Hornblower than I did from Battlestar Galactica.

So do you have any favorite moments from filming this show?

Lots, yeah. Boxing with Eddie at the end of Season 1.

Boxing with Tahmoh in Season 3?

Yes, Tahmoh. Boxing with Tahmoh, that was fun. I love all the physical stuff. Holding a gun to Richard Hatch's head. That was pretty cool.

Holding a gun to Tigh’s head.

That was, that was... No, I didn't enjoy that so much. That was tough. My favorite of all time is when he... the finale of Season 3. That was really cool.

 

Jamie Bamber as Lee 'Apollo' Adama and James Callis as Gaius Baltar in Battlestar Galactica

Jamie Bamber as Lee 'Apollo' Adama and James Callis as Gaius Baltar in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

It's all in relation to you defending Baltar...

Yeah, the character ends up making this big old speech which really worked for me... which was really cool and I salute him. I don't know, I haven't seen that cut yet, but it's a critical moment for the character. You put him in an awkward position and he reacts in a true and strong manner. That was cool.

Thank you very much.

 

This interview is followed up in by new interviews with Jamie Bamber in 2008 and 2009: Jamie Bamber GALACTICA.TV interview 2 and Jamie Bamber GALACTICA.TV interview 3 

 
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