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Leah Cairns GALACTICA.TV interview
Written by Marcel Damen   
Monday, 27 August 2007

On January 12, 2007 Marcel Damen talked on phone for almost two hours with Leah Cairns, better known as Magaret "Racetrack" Edmondson on Battlestar Galactica 2003. It started a special relationship, since he's currently working hard to finish her website (Leah Cairns - official site), which will open up soon. In this interview Leah Cairns talks about her life, her career and shares some great backstage stories of the Battlestar Galactica set.

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.


 

I'd like to start with your name. Is it pronounced "Lee-a" or "Lay-a"?

"Lee-a"

Because I think Leah is at least not an ordinary name.

No, it's a name from the Bible, I guess.

Yes, [Leah was] the first wife of Jacob.

Yes, exactly. When I was in Israel, everybody knew my name, but in Canada you don't hear it very often.

Do you come from a Christian background or were you simply named after someone?

No, my mom liked a song by Roy Orbison and named me after the song, apparently.

You started out wanting to be a professional dancer. Did you have any training?

Yeah, I started dancing when I was 3 years old and I took ballet, tap and jazz. I danced six days a week, and did it until I was 16, so I had 13 years of dance training.

At what point did you decide that this was going to be your career?

Probably when I was 3! (both laughing)

 

actress Leah Cairns

actress Leah Cairns

 

Okay.

I always wanted to be a dancer. I wasn't very good at it. I did ballet and I was really horrible at ballet. My dance teacher actually didn't want me to compete with the rest of the girls, because I was so bad. My mom felt so sorry for me, and then she kind of broke the news to me that I wasn't very good, and I wasn't allowed to compete unless I got a little better. So I did get a little bit better, and they let me compete that year, and then the next year I quit ballet and went into jazz and tap. It turned out I was really good at those two. So I competed in jazz and tap as soon as I started those. I think I was probably in third or forth grade and it was all I wanted to do.  

Then, at the age of 16 you broke your back. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Yeah, when I was 16, I was in a car accident. I was hit by a drunk driver in my home town on the highway. The car I was in was completely demolished, and out of it I broke my back.

And also it ended your dancing career.

Yeah, that was the end of that. When I broke my back I was in the hospital for about a month. I had major back surgery. I had my back wired, and I have got rods in my spine now. It was a major surgery, and then I was in a brace for three months, and I lost all my muscle when I was in the hospital. I basically didn't move. [I hadn't] used my back muscles for four months, and I had to wear this stupid brace to school. I remembered I was so worried, because I'd always been muscular and I'd always been fit. So I started to panic looking at myself getting so skinny, so I used to sneak... I couldn't go to my own dance school, because they knew about my accident, so I used to go to a fitness club where nobody knew me. I would sneak in there and I'd just wear a huge sweatshirt over my brace. I started doing aerobic exercise again. I was so bad! And then as soon as the day I took my brace off I went back to dancing. It was really hard. The doctor who did the surgery on me said: "You know, you have rods in your spine. It doesn't matter if it hurts, because you can't hurt yourself." So I went back and I finished that year. I basically broke my back, took six months off, and finished the year dancing with my old dance troop. I think out of that I did major damage to my back. It was so painful I had to quit after that. It was why I ended up going to Costa Rica, and I noticed that was also one of your questions.

Yes.

I went to Costa Rica, because in the spring time... Because I had broken my back in September, and the following spring my dance group made it into the North American Championship for the first time ever. (laughing) Something I've been trying to do since I was 6 years old, and we finally made it and I couldn't go. So I thought: "I'm not going to sit at home, be miserable, and be all by myself and cry about it." So they all went during our high school spring break, and I was desperately looking for other things I could do during that time, because there was no way I could just sit at home while everybody was gone competing. So I found this environmental trip to Costa Rica and I applied for it. They accepted I think 15 or 16 Canadians, and 3 or 4 Costa Ricans. We went down to Costa Rica. We lived with a team of environmental scientists from all over the world that were [doing] environmental research at a research station in the middle of the rain forest, and that experience... I think I was there for three and a half weeks, during my spring break, and that experience completely changed my life. I was kind of able to accept that everything happened for a reason. Obviously I wasn't meant to be a dancer, and now I just wanted to travel and study Environmental Science in University.

So you go backpacking through 36 countries and travel 8 years? 

Yes! Costa Rica is what started that, because I never had been anywhere before that. So I went there, fell in love with travelling, and as soon as I graduated, put my backpack on and I just went. But I didn't travel for 8 years straight. I travelled 8 out of 10 years.

Okay.

So I'd come home. Get a new visa, get a new passport, do a semester at University, and then go back. So I think I finished two years at University.

But still, it's a long time: 8 years?!?

Yeah, I know. There are a lot of places to see!

That's true.

And I was really slow. (both laughing) After a while I just wanted to... I really wanted to live in these places, and I really enjoy the culture and to study the language, study the religion, and just get more of a sense of being a part of a community, than just a traveller. 

Can you tell a bit on how the trip was? Where you started and which route you followed?

Oh gosh, I went all over. My route made absolutely no sense at all. (both laughing) None at all.

Okay.

The very first trip, I started off in Japan, went to Australia and was supposed to stay in Australia for six months; But I didn't really care for it, because I wanted some culture shock, I think. So I left Australia and went to Indonesia; So then through Indonesia I did a month... Well, Indonesia I did two months, because that's how long the visa was for.

That's true.

The other country I did a month. So Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Nepal... And then I found the places that I really loved. And then I would go back to those countries and stay in them for a year. I went back to India for a year, I went back to... I did... Well, actually, you know, I got second to India to tell you the truth. I ended up volunteering at a children's home in South India, working at an orphanage. Then my dreams of seeing every country in the world kind of messed up, because I fell so in love with these kids, that I found it really hard to leave them. So every time I had a change to go travelling again, I would come back to India to see the kids and then travel more of the country. So I think I spent more time in Japan and India then anywhere.

But India is a tough place to live.

Yeah... I didn't really experience the culture shock that a lot of people experience. Probably because my motto in life is never to have low expectations. So when I was in Nepal and I went overland from Nepal to India, everyone was like: "You're so young and you're travelling by yourself and you're going to India in the middle of summer? Are you crazy? It's going to be horrible." And I heard that so many times from so many people that I was literally expecting that I would cross the border from Nepal into India and show up in hell. My expectations were so low and I was so worked up about how horrible it was going to be and so prepared for this terrible, hot, crazy country, there's no way it could have been this bad as I made it out in my mind. And I loved it. I loved it! The first city I drove into was Varanasi, and until this day Varanasi is my favourite city in the world. It will always be.

 

actress Leah Cairns

actress Leah Cairns

 

I liked Varanasi. It was nice. Did you also go all the way up to Leh?

To Ladakh? Yeah!

Ladakh, yes.

Oh, I loved it up there. Loved it! I worked in a place called Secmol. I volunteered building a school, teaching English, and gardening and stuff. It was amazing.

Did you have any trouble getting out of Ladakh again, because the roads are only open two or three months a year?

Yeah, but we didn't have any problems. We had to go via... We went over land, so we had to go via... oh my gosh my brain is failing me right now... What's the...?

Oh, I can't remember either... for me it's also been 5 years ago, so...

Oh my gosh, for me it's been ten years ago now. The place that is in the war, between Punjab and India, uhm that area...

Manali?

No, no, no, on the other side. It's right on the border between Punjab and... Dal Lake?

Oh yeah. No, I've never been there.

No, because you're not allowed to go anyways! (both laughing) It's completely closed. There were travel warning and travel bans and all sorts of things, because... I think they might have been Dutch tourists that were murdered up there... and we went anyways! (laughing) We both got stopped because there was a bomb threat at the market, and the bus driver drove right through. I saw my life flash before my eyes. Then we waited and went to stay on Dal Lake, on this amazing houseboat. This was a place that looked like... It would be a five star hotel, except it was a humongous boat in this beautiful lake. We stayed as two Canadian girls, two Italian boys and one guy from Belgium, and he was hired by the BBC to do a report on the war up there. His English was really poor and I listened to some of his interviews and he was having a really hard time communicating with these people, so I proposed to [pretend to] be his wife, and we went to do an interview together with this militant that had switched sides and was now working for the Indian army. We interviewed this guy, and we were surrounded by guys with machine guns, and the whole story is quite long, but it's a crazy story. A couple of years later I was reading a book about the worlds most dangerous places, and in India the most dangerous man at that time was Ghulam Haider, the man that we had interviewed. (both laughing) Ah... I was so clueless... (laughing). It was really great. I really loved it up there. I think Chandigarh was the name.

Chandigarh, yeah. So how did you get involved in an improv class at an ashram in India then?

Okay! So... (laughing) I think that after years and years and years of sleeping in a different bed every night, all the crazy bus rides... I think the longest I did was 54 hour train ride in India without a seat, crouching by the bathroom. My back was shot! And I was in Goa and I was really having a horrible time. My back was so bad, I could barely walk and I was only halfway done with my trip. And I was supposed to go from India to Israel to meet my girlfriend, and then I was supposed to go back for another six months in India, and go travelling with my mom for five weeks. I have all these great plans, and I thought I would have to cancel them because my back was so bad. I thought I would have had to go back to Canada. I knew about this ashram in Purna, and I thought it might be a nice place to go and relax my back to see if I could get it better, but I had also heard some pretty crazy things about this ashram, so I was a little hesitant. I thought: "Well, it's on my way to Bombay anyway and Bombay is the city I'm going to fly out of to go back home, since I have to leave. So I'm going to go there and check it out." So you go to this... Anyway, I have to make this story shorter, I can be so long. I go to this ashram, I get in, and there's this huge poster board with all of the events that are going on. It's all of this really spiritual stuff that I never heard. There is ore Samna healing, and craeniosacrel healing, and so I'm thinking: "What the hell is all this stuff?". I didn't know what anything meant, and then I saw a little line that said improv night. And I thought: "Oh, improv, like acting improv? I know what that is!" so I go to this improv night, and sure enough it was like what you'd find in a comedy club or something, and you'd do an improv sketch comedy. So, they're asking for volunteers to come up to the stage and I was really shy, because everybody knew each other, except for me, I didn't know anyone. But I really wanted to go on the stage and I was thinking in my head: "Oh, I really want to go, I really want to go!" and the guy that was leading the whole thing, said: "Come On! I need a woman up here. It's all men, I need a woman. Who wants to come up?". I think because the ashram was so full of so many spiritual people, like healers and... This one woman looks at me and she says: "Oh, this young lady really wants to come up on the stage!" and she was pointing to me and they pushed me up there. My heart was pounding, I was so nervous, and I got up and I did this little sketch comedy improv with these other guys and the teacher came up to me afterwards and asked me what company I was with. And I said: "No, no, I'm not with any kind of company. I don't work, I'm just a traveller." and he said: "No, no, what theatre company?". And I started to laugh and said:  "Oh God, I've never done theatre a day of my life. I'm not with any theatre company." He said: "Oh, you're such a natural actor. You have to come. I'm doing an acting workshop next week. You have to come!" and I said: "Well, I can't. I have a really bad back and I'm just here for a couple of days. I'm probably going to fly home to see a doctor..." He said: "If I can fix your back, will you take my acting class?" and I said: "Yeah, of course I will." So he introduced me to a bunch of people. They fixed my back within three days. So I stayed and did his acting workshop, and it was really fun. There happened to be one other Canadian in this ashram and she happened to be an actress from Vancouver.

Okay!

I know! She told me: "You know, Leah, I would never suggest to anybody to go into acting, because it's a very difficult, very arduous, gut wrenching sometimes, field to go into, but I really think that you should be an actress."  I kind of laughed at her and I said: "Well, I grew up on the stage..." and it felt so good for my soul to be back on a stage. It felt so comfortable to me, I thought it would be a good hobby for me when I eventually went back to Canada. So I go back to Canada a year later... No, six months... No, no, almost a year later. I go back to Canada and I'm here to live, actually when I moved here. I looked up her acting teacher and I didn't know it was a very serious acting class. It wasn't for me. So I looked up this other guy in the newspaper and I find another acting teacher. I thought: "This looks good." So I go in and look at his class and sure enough his class has got costumes and lights, and they're on a stage and they're doing plays. I burst into tears just watching it. I wanted to do it so bad. So I went up and told him: "You know, I used to be a dancer, and suddenly I couldn't dance anymore. I really miss being on the stage and I really need a hobby. Could I please be in your class?" He freaked out! He started swearing at me. He said: "This isn't a class for people who want a God damn hobby! This is a class for serious actors. They're professional people..." (laughing) He got really upset with me and I was like: "Oh? Okay. You know what? I think actors are all insane. Forget it. It was a stupid idea. Forget it." And then he calls me back like three weeks later and he's like: "Hey, Wendy? This is Michael Simms calling and I just wanted to let you know I have an opening in the Monday night class if you want to come." and I thought: "Oh... Oh... Should I tell him that he has got the wrong number? No, I'm not going to!" and I said: "Yeah okay, I'll be there Monday." (laughing) And he never knew it was me! (laughing) I started taking an acting class with him, and within a month I had an agent, and within, I don't know, six months, I was acting.

 

actress Leah Cairns

actress Leah Cairns

 

But you were near Bombay? Didn't you do Bollywood movies when you were there?

No! But I did do... When I was working at the children's home at the orphanage, there was... We were nowhere near Bollywood, we were way down south, but they had a big movie and television industry down there as well. They knew that there were always white people at the orphanage because there was a constant bunch of volunteers there, so whenever they needed white people, who were usually the villains on the shows, they'd come to the orphanage and hire us. So I worked on a couple of local TV shows, I got an acting award...

(laughing)  

...and it was nothing more than glorified background that I think that... I don't know... I got a plaque and everything. (laughing) I had to go and give a speech. It was hilarious. I was in a music video and a friend of mine was in a big movie. So when I went back to India, I thought it would be really fun. You know, I said I missed dancing so much, maybe I'll be a dance choreographer, because there's so much dancing in the Bollywood movies, I thought I'd do that. I got my resume together and brought all my dance clothes and went to Bombay and I was meeting up with my boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband. He was working in Bombay for a little while. I was so excited to give it a shot and I had a place to stay and as soon as I arrived, he said: "Great news. Guess what? We're going to Goa. I've got a new job!" and we left and I never got to try. One day, mark my words, I'll be in a Bollywood movie.

That's too bad, because...

It only seems right that I should be in a Bollywood movie!

You learned [the profession] over there. That's what you got hooked. You should have at least starred in a Bollywood movie then.

I know, I know! Well... I know... It was long before I ever became an actor, so I'll have to go back and try again. We'll see.

You appeared as Jenna in 19 episodes of Godiva's. It's about 10 young exiles living in a high-paced, fast world finding a home in Godiva's. Kind of taking family where they can, similar like you do when you're travelling the globe for 8 years. Jenna is also an inspiring dancer. I guess, you can really relate to this character?

Yes! I can definitely relate to the character. Jenna is much better dancer than I am at the moment. (both laughing) That was hard. To pull up the dancing, since I hadn't done it since I was 16. It was really physically a hard role for me, but it was a very funny show to be on because it's about a restaurant. I worked my way around the world working in restaurants. I started serving [tables] in Canada when I was 16, and I've been working in restaurants ever since, and whenever I lived here. And of course I worked five years, I guess three years in restaurants when I tried to get acting work, living in Vancouver. I was so excited to finally book a show so I could finally quit serving altogether...

(laughing) ...and you do a show where you star in a restaurant?!?

...and my character is a damn waitress! (both laughing) It's ideal work, you know, on the set, carrying people's dirty plates, punching stuff into a computer, pressing out bills. And I say: "What? How could this happen? (laughing) I'm still a server!". I think I've been a server a couple of times. One of my first commercials, I was a server as well. I know I just can't get away from it. (laughing) You don't have to do any character research. It's an inspiring dancer, who's a waitress. Really the only two things that I am.

 

Matthew Currie Holmes as Stick and Leah Cairns as Jenna in Godiva's

Matthew Currie Holmes as Stick and Leah Cairns as Jenna in Godiva's

 

Did you like the comedy?

You know, I saw that question and I really had think about it. I still really feel I'm a very new actor. My very first acting class was five years ago. My very first audition was September 11th when New York went down. I haven't been doing this for very long. So I don't feel I have enough experience of doing either yet to really know which one I like to do better. At this point I just like them both.

Okay. Evidently you liked the show enough to name your dog Godiva. 

No, I never had [the time] to get to like the show. The dog was my birthday present from my mom. She wanted to buy me a dog. I booked the show, and got the dog hours apart, and my mom was so excited for me, that her daughter finally got a fulltime acting job. It was so exciting, so she said: "You have to name your dog Godiva." The dog was supposed to be called Mr. Farly and since it was a girl, we decided that was a bit ridiculous, so we went with Godiva. Now the show is cancelled, and everybody makes the joke that I should call her Racetrack, but no, she's Godiva. (both laughing) I have to get another one.   

Your dog and Katee Sackhoff's dog Meatball are best friends

Yeah, I've heard that and that's not true. They've met once, maybe twice, and don't even particularly notice each other. Meatball is pretty, uhm... He's a little grunt. He just kind of waddles by and sniffs a little, and keeps on walking. Then Katee got a puppy called Melly B. this year. The cutest little pup dog you've ever seen, and my dog absolutely despises puppies, so we had to get them away from each other. But I've read that on the internet too that they're best friends and, you know... I just laughed. They've met twice. 

Were you and Katee friends before, or did your both having dogs around lead you to get to know her? 

No, we've met before I ever brought Godiva around, but we didn't meet until the show. We just met because we had some scenes together, and from working together, but I was friends with a whole bunch of the crew before Battlestar [Galactica] ever existed. Katee was not one of them. She's from LA, she's American so... I just knew all the Canadians.

They sometimes say a dog resembles its owner. A Chihuahua is quick, alert, self conscience, and very brave, especially seen his size, and therefore also very self confident. Anything you can relate to?

Tough for my size... What was the other? Quick?

Yeah, quick, alert...

Yeah, I'm quick, alert and tough for my size. Yeah... (laughing) My dog is a mirror image of me, completely a mirror image of me. She loves to eat and she absolutely hates the cold. I don't know, I guess you don't know, but we're having record breaking weather right now in Vancouver. It's really the most dysfunctional city ever. No one can get anywhere. I'm snowed in right now. I can't go anywhere and my car is stuck. We broke every record for the amount of rain and snow that we had. We've set a new Vancouver record, and it's an absolute Gong Show. There were 350,000 people without electricity, and we had a water ban for three weeks. We couldn't drink the water, and you didn't want to bath in it. It was so gross. We're just starting to get back to normal right now. But there are mountains of snow on the ground in a city that doesn't get snow. Nobody drives with winter tires. We don't have any snow ploughs. It's really ridiculous. And my poor dog refuses to pee on the snow. She doesn't know what it is. She won't go near it. So I have to buy those pee pads and she has to pee in the house.

Is the snow high enough to bury her?

Oh yeah, she can fall right in and then she's gone. I tried to take her for a walk and she wasn't really interested, but she jumps around a little bit. And I keep a leash on her, since otherwise I'd lose her. (both laughing) Just gone.

 

Leah Cairns with her dog Godiva, backstage at Battlestar Galactica

Leah Cairns with her dog Godiva, backstage at Battlestar Galactica

 

I can imagine that. They're really small, Chihuahuas.

Well, she's not particularly small. She's 5 pounds, she's normal, but there's just a lot of snow. It's just unbelievable. 

Now that you have been involved in acting, do you look back and regret not being able to be a professional dancer, or are you happy with acting?

No. As far as the dancing is concerned, I said I think that absolutely everything happens for a reason and I was not meant to be a professional dancer. I think probably very few of the girls that pursued professional dancing, that I used to dance with, have come out extremely healthy. All the body image. I just don't think I could have gone through all that and come out well.  So I think that being forced out of dancing was really good for me. As far as acting... Like I said, I'm really new and I didn't really choose this career, it kind of chose me, so I'm going to go with the flow, and whether this is what I'm going to do with the rest of my life? I still have no idea. But I'm going for it right now.

So if you weren't an actress, what would you do? Not an actress, not a dancer...

A traveller!

Traveller?

My dream was to open a guest house on an Indonesian Island and just live on the beach for the rest of my life.

Oh yeah, it would be nice to do that on the Gili Islands...

Yeah, exactly! Exactly! That was the goal. To become an actress was never in the plans. (laughing)

Oh, you're doing pretty good so far, so...

Yeah! So far, so good. It's a lot better than I ever thought it was going to be. I remember in my acting class when I first started, the teacher made us write down in ink, how much money we wanted to make that year as an actor. I remember just laughing and thinking: "How ridiculous that someone would actually pay me to do this." So I never really dreamt in a million years that I'd be a full time professional actor. It is still kind of makes me laugh. Why do people pay me for this? I'd do it for free!

You have to have some profession.

Yeah. No, I know, it's great. It just all blows my mind.

You have to pay the bills with doing something.

Yep.

Going to Battlestar Galactica. Were you aware of the original Battlestar Galactica? Have you ever seen it?

No, I never watched it when I was a kid. You know with all the dancing that I was doing, TV wasn't really a big factor in my life. I also lived in a tiny little town. We only had 13 channels. I'm not even sure we got Battlestar Galactica to tell you the truth. Maybe. But, I've seen it once, since I started on Balltestar [Galactica]. I should probably watch it. And I feel like, for me, it was one of those shows that I probably needed to grow up on and have kind of a nostalgic feeling towards it.

That's true.

The joy. Because it's really dated now, I think. I can see the appeal if you'd grown up on it, but I didn't, so I haven't really grasped it very well.

 

Leah Cairns as Margaret 'Racetrack' Edmondson in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Leah Cairns as Margaret 'Racetrack' Edmondson in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

How were you approached for Battlestar Galactica

Basically my character was just supposed to be in the very last episode of Season One. So it wasn't really like any... It wasn't supposed to be a special part or a lead part. It was just supposed to be the one day. So it was just a regular audition like any other part like that. I was told by my agent that I had two auditions that day. One was for Battlestar Galactica and I can't remember what the other one was for. I have to admit that I find performing for science fiction is really hard, because I don't watch a lot of science fiction. The shows that we film here are Battlestar Galactica, Andromeda and Stargate. I didn't watch any of those shows, so I didn't know the stories. When you get to audition they just give you your scene. They don't give you the entire episode. They don't give you a story breakdown. So, I don't know what a Cylon is, I don't know what a Baseship is... I don't know what's going on. Having to do that for Andromeda and Stargate, I just find it so difficult, because I don't know what they're talking about. So I actually was going to tell my agent that I wasn't going to audition for science fiction anymore and that I found it too stressful. Then she gave me this last audition. I said: "Okay fine. This is it. This is the last one. I'm not going for any more of them. They never hire me. I'm not very good at it and I don't understand it."  I tried very hard to be late for the Battlestar Galactica audition and I know that sounds really bad, but the two auditions were really close together. I knew I should have rushed and I didn't rush. I kind of took my time and thought: "Well, they'll be all gone and I don't have to do it." (laughing). Oh, I should actually say this before... So, the night before the audition I didn't understand the material and I was really stressed out. I was getting angry, so my husband said: "Okay. Okay, just relax. You need to think of this in a different way." and he put in Top Gun. He showed me one of the air fights in Top Gun. He said: "You see, you hear the words that they're saying? That's what it is. You're a pilot in this show and this is what you're talking about. Your raptor is about to crash and you're going down. It's exactly the same thing." and I'm like: "Okay, okay.". I probably watched that scene from Top Gun about 15 times.  I said: "Okay, I think I understand it. I think I get it." So off I go to my audition and I'm kind of going slow, and they waited for me. Well, now I feel really horrible because I actually hate when people have to wait for me, and I'm usually extremely punctual, but this was kind of a special circumstance. So, I panicked and said: "Oh my God. Can I go to the bathroom?" and they said: "Yeah, fine", so I ran downstairs to the washroom, I went in and peed really quick. I was running out of the washroom and wasn't paying attention. I turned around from the sink and I ran straight into the stall door and I knocked myself straight onto the ground. I bashed my eye, I had a huge bruise later on, and I couldn't stop blinking my eye, and it was watering. (laughing) I was in so much pain, and I'm sort of like: "Oh, for the love of God! Why? Why?!?". So I go into the audition, and I'm trying to stay calm, and my eye is like involuntary pulsing. I tried to do the audition, and at the end of it all these tears are streaming out of my face and the casting director is like: "Are you okay?", because it wasn't a sad scene. I said: "I kind of had an accident with the bathroom door." and we laughed it off and that was that. I thought: "There's no way I'm getting that part", because how horrible was that audition? I couldn't even see... And I got it! So I show up on set and I still didn't... They don't clue you in. I still had no idea what this show was about, but Grace Park and I were really good friends, so I said to her: "Grace, what in God's name... What am I doing? What's a Cylon? What's a transponder? What's a Baseship? Can you explain the story to me?" and she explained the story and everything. By the end of that episode I was a huge Battlestar Galactica fan.

Oh... Great!

It was just so good. Then I heard this thing that Ron Moore brought me back because he thought I was good, and that's another thing. I don't know where that came from. Who said that?

It was on several message boards, but maybe it was on one of Ron Moore's podcasts.

That's what my mum said. That it was on one of his podcasts, but... I think that's very nice, but I have to hear it for myself to really believe it. Because when I was leaving Eddie, Edward James Olmos actually filmed one of my scenes. He got behind the camera and did the camera work and he was like: "Good job. We'll see you next year!" and I said: "No, no, no. I won't be back, because this is just my one episode." He just kind of chuckled and he goes: "See you next year!" and he walks away. I just figured: "Oh..." Because when you don't die on Battlestar Galactica, we all kind of come back... until they eventually kill you! I thought that was really nice what Ron Moore said, but I'm not sure how true that is.

Even when they kill you, you're not sure if you won't come back as a Cylon.  

Yes, this is true. There is always that!

You can always come back.

Let me tell you, they're popping them off this season: left, right and centre! Oh, it's scary. Every single time I get a script, the first thing I do is to go to the end page to see if I'm still alive. (both laughing) It's true. We all do. Every single one of us.

Yeah, because there's a huge rumor going on that one of the main cast members will disappear at the end of the season.

Yeah, they said one of the top seven is going down.

 

Leah Cairns as Margaret 'Racetrack' Edmondson in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Leah Cairns as Margaret 'Racetrack' Edmondson in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

I asked many already, but nobody knows. It is supposed to be the big secret on the set as well. Even all the actors are afraid that they're going to be the one.

Yeah. Yeah, it's crazy. It was a pretty funny year. For sure! So... I'm Sorry, what was the question? Oh yeah: how I was approached. I wasn't approached in any way special. It was just a regular audition and it was just a fluke and a job I ended up carrying into three seasons.

So you also didn't try out for other parts? Because a lot of the actors also tried out for...

Yeah, I did. I did actually audition for Six.

Okay!

How funny would that be? Can you imagine that? Me as Six? (both laughing) That's hilarious.

Well, I could have seen that!

I don't think anybody, except for Tricia [Helfer], who can do that role.

Now maybe! But maybe not back then.

Yeah, I know, I know. Still, it's so funny to think of that now.  

Were you given a backstory of Racetrack? 

No, nothing. I wasn't even given a backstory about Battlestar Galactica. (laughing) I went in knowing absolutely nothing. I found out my name was Margaret Edmondson at the same time that you guys found out. I didn't know her name was Margaret Edmondson, you know, I knew nothing. So I just made up my own.

Did you create your own story?

Well, I did yeah. I created my own story and then this fan wrote me some fanmail and she wrote this story about me and Helo, Racetrack and Helo. I thought her backstory was better than mine, so I used hers! (laughing) I think I asked her. Yeah, I wrote to her and asked her if it was okay and she said "Yes". I've been using that one ever since, but the writers didn't really... Because in her version there was a little something-something going on between Racetrack and Helo, and the fans kind of picked up on that. Even though it was unintentional, it's was interesting to see that the fans thought that. We decided to run with it and Helo... Uhm... Tahmoh and I worked it into our storyline. Unfortunately, I don't think any of it really has been shown. So much of our stuff gets edited. They overshoot so, so much, and they give the editors tons of stuff and material to work with. So much gets cut. My favorite show part about working on this show is the few seconds before the scene actually starts and the few seconds after the scene ends, because this group of actors... They have the most incredible improvisation skills and they improv so much before and after, but unfortunately so much just gets lost in editing. That's when you really have the opportunity to develop more character stuff and that's when Tahmoh and I try to do it. I don't think it really came across, so.

 

Tahmoh Penikett as Karl 'Helo' Agathon and Leah Cairns as Margaret 'Racetrack' Edmondson in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Tahmoh Penikett as Karl 'Helo' Agathon and Leah Cairns as Margaret 'Racetrack' Edmondson
in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

The relationship kind of surprised me, because I figured you falling for Apollo. You help him to free Roslin from the brig. And you really got the man's heart ticking again, though you did use defibrillator paddles for that.

Who, Apollo?

You kicked him back to life again.

Yeah, except I wasn't... At that time when we were doing that, the Dualla and Apollo storyline had already been established. So he was taken. I figured Helo was not really taken, because he's married to a Cylon. Like: How ridiculous is that? So I figured there's still a chance with Helo. (laughing) Seeing how he is married to a Cylon. He just seems to be hanging in there this season, so... Whatever!

Well, Helo has quite a competition. Even if Sharon dies he can always pick a new one. How could you ever compete with that?!?

Exactly, so it's a bit of a problem. I think Racetrack moves on!

Yeah.

But there's just no other choice. I keep wondering who... Who, who, who? There's nobody... (big sigh) We're limited...

Do you know where the name Racetrack comes from?

No! no idea. I don't know where Margaret Edmondson comes from either. Actually this is kind of funny. When we were doing a scene and one of the actors... How do I put this? When we get on the set, sometimes we change a lot of the order of the people's lines around. Because the actors will say: "Well, you know, actually Starbuck has just fought with Apollo and Dualla, so she shouldn't be saying those lines to them. It doesn't make sense. Lets give Starbuck's lines to Racetrack and Racetrack you give your lines to Hot Dog and then the scene will work better that way." And we do that a lot! The script is written but it gets changed a lot on the day on set. So there's this one day where Starbuck's lines were given to me and I had to give mine to someone else. So they need to call me a nickname. One of the guys didn't know me, he was a new character, and he says: "What's your name?" and I said: "Margaret Edmondson, Racetrack". He goes: "What would I call you?" and I say: "Well, why don't you just give me a nick name. Call me Maggie. I love the name Maggie. Call me Maggie or Meg." Then someone says: "No, why don't you call her Marge?" I think that's probably one of the worst names ever: Marge. Your moms name isn't Marge is it?

No, it's not.

Okay good! (both laughing) So now he worked it in. I don't know if they're going to show it or not because they didn't air that episode yet. Actually my character hit him with a ball, because he calls me Marge. And now on set, Jamie [Bamber] calls me Marge in real life. Everybody calls me Marge. I hate it! Hate it! 

That's a good one.

Marge!

What was it like working in the spacesuits?  We've heard that Katee [Sackhoff] had to be taken out of it and given an IV because she was suffering from heat exhaustion since there was no air flow in the suit.

The plastics. There's absolutely no air flow what so ever. Katee [Sackhoff] has it the worst. Her and Jamie [Bamber].

Have they fixed that now?

Pardon me? No, no, no. They're still the same suits. They haven't fixed anything. We've just learned to adapt to them. Katee and Jamie are having it the worst, because they're in the vipers. The vipers are so claustrophobic. They're so hot. The raptors are much bigger. We can get some air flow let in to them, but in a viper you're sealed right in. So they really have problems with heat exhaustion when they're in the viper. So they're trying not to keep them in there for too long, but in the summer time they're sweltering and it gets so bad they had to keep making announcements for people not to stand with their knees locked, because people were doing that in their spacesuits. Especially [the people] in the background that are just standing around all day long. It restricts your blood flow and people were passing out.  I think Katee [Sackhoff] was telling me that she was doing a scene and one of the background actors passed out, right in the middle of the scene, right in front of her.  She figured that they were doing that on purpose and she's like: "Wow. That was a really weird choice for them to do that, but whatever..." and she just walked over him and kept doing the scene. (both laughing) Then they call "Cut!" and he's still laying there and she's like: "Oh no, I think he has fainted!" (both laughing). It was so... Well, not funny. So we have to put icepacks, the wardrobe will tape icepacks around our wrists and ankles to try to keep us cool in the summer and in the winter time we're wearing Long John's. Oh God, I had a sweater on underneath that thing trying to keep warm. Right now we're down to -11 [degrees Celcius] outside, so I'm just really glad I'm not working this week. The last thing on Earth I want to do is to get into a flight suit with this weather. It's really cold!

 

Bodie Olmos as Brendan 'Hot Dog' Costanza and Leah Cairns as Margaret 'Racetrack' Edmondson, backstage at Battlestar Galactica 2003

Bodie Olmos as Brendan 'Hot Dog' Costanza and Leah Cairns as Margaret 'Racetrack' Edmondson, 
backstage at Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

In the episode "Kobol's Last Gleaming Part II", your character ends up inside a Basestar. Did you work with the actual Basestar background, or was that added in?

When we flew in, obviously when you fly, that's green screen. So the visual effects people are always on set with you, and they have sketches so we know what we're looking at. They brought us all the sketches of what it was going to look like when we were flying into it. So Grace [Park] and I didn't have to try and make up the size of it or the place of things, because that could look weird on camera. We knew exactly what we were looking at, but when we landed and Grace gets out and she takes her gun and kind of pokes at that Base Ship, that was real. They built that. It was the most amazing set. It looks like (pondering)... It looked organic and it looks real. It looked like someone's flesh, tendons and tissues. It was just really gross.

Yeah, it is flesh and tissue, right? All the Cylons are living beings so the Base Ship is as well.

Yeah, exactly and it was all just really gross. (both laughing) I got in trouble for touching it. You couldn't help it. It was so bizarre. You just wanted to poke it.  

In the episode "Final Cut", Racetrack is convinced that she was going to be taken out by a Cylon and wanted to take out as many Cylons as possible.  Why do you think she was so worried about it?

You... I mean... we all have to understand that these people have lost their entire families in most cases. In my case, in my own backstory, my character has lost everyone. She has nobody [anymore]. Her piers are murdered by Cylons every single day, especially around those episodes. We were getting knocked off constantly, and her job is to go out and fight them. So because there is no hope for them. There's no where, you know... Does Earth even exist? Who knows? So we're out there, at that time... We're out there doing nothing, but fighting Cylons. There is nothing to look forward to. No real hope for humanity to get any better. Basically my character knows that she's going to die at the hands of a Cylon. It's just inevitable. I think the stress, the fear, the anger and the sadness comes out. In one scene you see my character bowing at an altar, and in the interview scene it just came out in sheer malice and anger and fear. I think you can only be stoic so much, and I think Racetrack... she acts tough, but when you see her, actually fighting in the raptor, she's always freaking out. (both laughing) She is always petrified. When you see her composure, it's no where near Starbuck. She's only panicking and those things, you know... Yeah, she's petrified.  

Also according to the qualifications badge on your jacket, you are just a raptor pilot. Do you think you'll ever get your wings to become a viper pilot?

We have talked about this and talked about this and talked about this. As an actor on the show, nobody is really clear on whether or not raptor pilots can fly vipers and viper pilots can fly raptors. Well, actually that's not true. We know viper pilots can fly raptors, but can raptor pilots fly vipers? We don't know that yet. I have a feeling that honestly I think we can, I don't think that we can't, but some people have argued that we would have been trained to fly vipers. I never get to fly one.

Well, maybe in the future.

The character in me, the Margaret Edmondson in me, really gets pissy about it and I really would love to fly a viper. The actor in me is like: "Oh well. They're claustrophobic and hot, so it's okay." (laughing) I'm just joking. I'd love to fly a viper! But I haven't had the gift.

In the episode "Flight of the Phoenix", Racetrack is mad about Helo and his relationship with a Cylon and says some things about Starbuck that gets her mad enough to put Racetrack's face into a card table. Was it fun to act that out with Katee [Sackhoff]?

Yes, it was fun. It was also extremely painful.

Okay. So you actually hit the table?

Oh yes. That was no stunt double. My face smashed into that table so many times. How come that happened? I think that Katee grabbed... Yeah, that's what happened. Katee would grab the back of my neck and I think my left arm and she would just smash me into that table over and over and over and over and over and over again. I had burned my arm slightly. I had burned it a little bit and she... It was natural for her to put her arm right there on my burn and by the time we had finished the scene... because my adrenalin was going so much, I didn't even feel it... but she had ripped the burn open on my arm and I had a big huge scar on it for the longest time. (laughing) Actually there's a picture of my character earlier on in that scene. We're playing poker and the fans keep sending me this picture. And you can see on this picture that I have this huge gash, and that was happening every time we filmed the scene. It eventually got split open more and more and more and more. It took me months and months and months to get over it. I was wondering. Fans keep sending me that picture from that day to sign and I despise this picture! I keep writing people back that I don't want to sign it. I hate this photo and I don't want it circulating out there. (laughing) Can I just ask people to stop sending me the poker playing picture, because I'm not going to sign it?

Okay.

They can send a different one in replacement, but they're wasting there time sending in that picture. I look horrible in it! I'm green and it looks like I'm covered in this and I don't look like that and I hate it, so I'm not signing it. (laughing)

I saw you signing a photo of you wearing your flight suit and your helmet and you wrote: "Don't I look like a Q-Tip?"

Oh was that you? Did you...

No, a friend of mine had sent that one.

Oh okay. But don't I? It's kind of funny. (laughing) We actually had a scene this year... Oh God, I have so many problems with my helmet over and over again. It's always me, I must have a weird shaped head or something. Season One, the original helmets we had, were really awkward and didn't fit anybody very well. If you really look closely at my episodes in Season One, most of it I do and I have no eyes. The helmet kept slipping down and they'd tell me to look up, and I was just looking at pure helmet. I was looking at nothing, and you can see in the show were I am just eyeless. So they fixed the helmets this year so that one was okay, but I had to wear some military garbs this year. My helmet was so big, and I had big goggles on top of it, and the goggles kept skewing, and my helmet kept skewing. Everyone was laughing at me the entire day. They said I looked like a bobble head, and the make up artist would just burst out laughing every single time she saw me. She said: "You know, I can buy you as a pilot, but I can't buy you as a marine. Fix your helmet. It looks so ridiculous!" (both laughing)

In the episode "Lay Down Your Burdens", Racetrack pilots the Raptor to the wrong coordinates and finds the planet later called New Caprica. After the Cylon occupation and the escape, does she feel guilty about having started the situation?

Of course! Definitely. I think that it would have been really difficult, because in the beginning I had done a good deed. It was so emotional, because I thought I had screwed up, because I made the wrong jump. Then I jumped somewhere good and they discover this little planet. I had found somewhere that we could all inhabit and maybe everybody's life would be okay, and then it gets taken over by Cylons... again. So yes, of course, extremely guilty.

 

Leah Cairns as Margaret 'Racetrack' Edmondson in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Leah Cairns as Margaret 'Racetrack' Edmondson in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

I'd like to ask how it is to work with some colleagues of yours. What it's like working with Jamie Bamber?

Jamie Bamber is just... He's amazing to work with. He's so intelligent and he's so funny. He has an amazing family. You just have to love someone like Jamie Bamber. I love Jamie Bamber, I love working with him. 

Katee Sackhoff?

(laughing) Katee is like the class clown. She's always trying to make everybody laugh. She's always disruptive, in a good way. She's always... Her and Helo... I always call Tahmoh Helo, it cracks him up. Her and Tahmoh are forever always wandering around doing their little skits, pretending they're Russians. Just goofing off and being complete dorks. She's hilarious to work with.

Tahmoh Penikett?

Tahmoh? Tahmoh is the gentle giant. He's lovely, he's calm. If ever I need someone to bounce something off that I'm not sure about, like a scene that I'm doing, I go to Tahmoh and he's always got some great insight into it. He's very introspective, and if you ever need to talk politics, you go talk to Tahmoh. 

Okay. What about Grace Park?

Grace. Grace is the most serious of all the actors on set. She's very, very serious and she's always working. If they call "Cut!" and they're relighting or something, I don't know, Katee and Tahmoh are off doing Russian accents, Aaron Douglas will sit down and read a book, and I'll go out and eat some chocolate with Nicki Clyne and you know, but Grace will still be in work mode. I remember, it was probably one of the first days that I worked with her and we were sitting in the raptor, and she looked over to me and goes: "Leah, how are you feeling?" and I was like: "I'm feeling great! I'm having the best day ever" I was talking about working on Battlestar Galactica for the day and she looks at me and says: "You're feeling great? Having the best day ever? Huh? Interesting approach. I was just really thinking about invading some wreck, going in and kicking some ass! But yeah, of course, you're having a great day where you woke up to go and kill some Cylons. We're going to blow up the Base Ship! Yeah, let's have a great day!" (both laughing) Then I realized she was talking work and I'm like: "Well, I'm glad that helped you, but (laughing) I wasn't thinking about work at all." She's very, very serious.

So how is it to work with Edward Olmos? Do you have a lot of scenes together? You said you...

...In the beginning I used to have lots of scenes with Eddie. I worked with Eddie all the time and he is an absolute riot to work with. The man is so funny and he's so...  Maybe one of my favorite scenes with Eddie actually was... I have two! One was a scene where I was piloting the raptor and I was taking Billy (Paul Campbell) and Eddie somewhere. Paul Campbell and I are... Oh and Aaron Douglas, he was also in the ship.

That's a good team!

Me, Aaron, Paul and Eddie. Have you ever seen Team America?

Yes, I have.

Okay. Team America had come out and it was wildly popular amongst the Battlestar Galactica crew and Aaron Douglas would just... The director would say something and he'd be like: "Okay! In this scene I want you to be like this." and Aaron goes: "Okay durka durka durka mohammed jihad durka" and he would talk like that all day long and also got Paul going! And the two of them decided to do the entire scene in durkas and Mohammed jihad durkas. So we did the entire scene and Eddie was right there with us. The four of us were going: "Mohammed jihad durka. Durka durka Mohammed jihad." (both laughing) It was so great. It was so funny and they were all going: "Oh man!" It was just a rehearsal or whatever and it wasn't taped and we said: "We should actually tape that and sent it to Trey [Parker] and Matt [Stone] (writers of Team America), because they probably think it's hilarious." but Battlestar [Galactica] was so new so they probably don't even know what the hell Battlestar [Galactica] is, you know, they're not going to care. When we got nominated for a Peabody, when we won a Peabody this year, they all went to New York to accept the Award. Matt and Trey were there and did a huge speech on how much they liked Battlestar Galactica and how much they love this show. I was like: "Damn it! We should have sent it to them." because we love them as much as they love us. So Eddie is really good. He's like the father figure of the entire show, but he's so young at heart as well. He's so one of us. We just all look up to him so much, but you can still joke around with him. He has his own production company so he's constantly producing projects. He's constantly on his cell phone preparing projects and stuff. So we did one scene where he was talking on the phone, Michael Rymer was directing and he was like: "Okay. We're rolling sound!" and Eddie's like: "Just a minute. You're going to be in a scene with me." and he takes his cell phone and sticks it in the nose of a viper. (both laughing) He just left the person on the other end, does the scene, they call "Cut!", picks up the phone and is like: "Oh, you were great!" (both laughing). Eddie is so lovable!

I heard that Paul, Aaron and Eddie are the biggest pranksters. Have they ever done a prank on you?

They're definitely the biggest pranksters. They haven't done anything to me in particular, but they're constantly... and James Callis!

Yeah, I can imagine that.

He once did an entire scene where he pretended that he was Eddie.  It was so good that the director didn't know.  Michael [Rymer] didn't even know, because we were doing the coverage of Michelle Forbes. So they were doing a close-up of Michelle, Eddie had, you know, wandered off with his cell phone and didn't even realize that we were still shooting, and we're going to shoot again. Let's see, we got Mary [McDonnell] and Eddie standing next to each other across from Michelle and Michael Rymer has no idea that Eddie is gone and he called "Action!". So James Callis happened to be standing there and he was like: "Where the hell is Eddie? We can't do the scene without Eddie." So James slowly walks over, stands beside Mary and did all of Eddie's lines. (both laughing)  He remembered them probably better than Eddie did and he can imitate Eddie's voice exactly to a tee. So Michelle, it was a close-up... Michelle, bless her heart, almost made it through the entire scene and cracked up at the very end, because we were all waiting for Michael to realize that it wasn't Eddie, but he never did. He was really mad at all of us for laughing, but we're like: "...but Eddie is not here." (laughing)

So any pranks with other actors you can remember?

On the show? No, not so much. I mean Aaron Douglas is great because you can try and... In our improv stuff we'll try and throw him off and we say a really inappropriate line and he'll just keep going with it. He's such a pro and he's so great at improv, so it's really hard for us to get him back. I know he has pranked other people, but not me, thank God. Paul Campbell and I have been friends for... I don't even know for how long. He was one of my very first friends when I moved back to Vancouver and became an actor. We had the same agent, the same acting teacher, yeah... and that guy is one of the biggest pranksters I've ever met. He's such a funny guy. You know that he's on that Nobody's Watching?

Yeah.

Have you seen his website?

No not yet, but I saw an episode.

Oh, you have to see the website!

Okay.

NobodysWatching.TV. Basically Paul's character is Paul.

Yeah! (laughing)

You're going to laugh so hard. He got... He's going to love me for this one. He got naked at my wedding!

 

actress Leah Cairns

actress Leah Cairns

 

What?!?

Yeah, yeah! He was naked at my wedding. Do you remember "Flat-Top"?

Yes.

Flat-Top (Colby Johannson). He was one a guy that got killed. A pilot that got killed. Him and Paul Campbell are best friends in real life, and they're both very good friends of mine, and they're like this... Well, anyway. So they came up to my wedding. I got married at a lake... Paul will going to be so mad at me (laughing) ...So I got married at a lake and it was 40 degrees (Celsius) out, so it was really hot and a bunch of people went skinny dipping. It was started by Cobie Smulders, the star of How I Met Your Mother. She initiated the whole thing. She called the old school: "Let's go streaking!" and went into the lake and we all went skinny dipping. Fine! It was fine. So afterwards, it was pitch dark at the lake, no one could see you, we get back on the beach and everybody is starting to get their clothes on. Paul and Colby decided not to bother! So they were still naked and they had filled up the garbage bin from their room with beer and ice and they figured it was way more important to take care of the beer than it was to put their clothes on. So they pick up the beer and they're like: "Lets go inside!" They start walking and I was walking behind them with another friend. We went in a side door but the hotel was a boutique hotel in the middle of nowhere and they'd locked up all the side doors and you had to go in at the front. I was like: "Oh shoot! We'll have to go through the lobby you guys." so I figured that they would then turn around and get their clothes. No, no, no, they just keep walking on and on. (laughing) Paul knocks on the front door of the hotel, the security guard comes and they're both standing there stark naked. They walk in and there's three women standing around the front desk and they're like: "Evenin' guys" and the women are like: "Yeah, whatever." They thought they were hilarious, Paul and Colby are giggling to themselves, and they start running through the hallway towards their room and they trip and fell and went skidding naked. (laughing)

Ouch!

Head first, along the carpet, their beer goes flying everywhere, ice goes flying everywhere. My husband walks out of one of the rooms that he was in, and he sees them both like splattered on the ground, butt naked, and then Paul's like: "Huh! What do we do? What do we do? We better get the beer!" and then Kevin, my husband, told me that the boys started reaching over to get it, and all he could see were big, fricking, hairy buts! That was really asking too much, he had to get out of there. (laughing) Yeah, that's Paul Campbell for you!

Okay!

Hilarious.

He'll sure love [you sharing] that, yeah.

I love the both of them. They're wicked guys. So funny. I miss Paul a lot. So sad he's not on the show.

That's true. So anybody else that you loved working with?

Yeah, Nicki Clyne and I are really, really good friends. We find it a little hard to work with each other. We make each other laugh and we get the giggles on set, but we're getting a little better. We love being together on set. And I think that Mary [McDonnell] is one of the most amazing actresses in the world, and so just being in a scene with her and getting a chance to watch what she does. She's just so good at it. She's so good. I love working with her.

Okay. Then I'd like to go to another movie you did, 88 Minutes, with Al Pacino, another great actor. How was it to work with him?

Yeah! (laughing) Uhm... I have to admit of all of the Al Pacino movies out there, I had only ever watched Scent Of A Woman. So I knew that he... Of course I knew his reputation, I knew what people thought about him and how revered he was, but I hadn't seen it personally. I only had ever seen Scent Of A Woman, which is a great movie, but I wasn't too intimidated by him. I guess that a lot of actors that had worked with him, I was told that some of them were invisibly shaking when they met him. It takes some time to relax with him, because they were so worked up over working with Al Pacino. I didn't really have that. He was great. He was fun to work with, but after I worked with him, I went out and rented every single Al Pacino movie that exists, and I watched all of them. I'm so glad I didn't watch them before I worked with him, because I would have been so starched. (laughing) He's amazing, golly he's amazing. It was fun. We had a dance scene that we had to do and that's of course one of my favorite things to do ever. Getting to do it with Al Pacino: Amazing!

That's a dream [come true].

After that day I figured I could retire from my acting career. Be happy. That great of a day, that great of a scene.

How did that come about? How did you get the part for that?

Oh wow, that's a really funny story. Actually it was just a regular audition and I couldn't make it because I was on Godiva's. Then I couldn't make it and they did it again. Then I couldn't make it, because I was on Battlestar Galactica. Then they held another audition, because they couldn't find this actress they wanted and I was on Godiva's again. (laughing) They said that I should meet with the director in this hotel after hours, after I got off work. I got off quite late, but the casting director, the producer, and the director all met with me at the hotel that they were all staying at, and I went in and I auditioned. The director is Jon Avnet. Do you know who he is?

No, sorry.

He directed Fried Green Tomatoes, he produced Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, one of those culture movies. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Yes, I know that one.

He produced and directed tons of movies. He's this really enthusiastic guy. I went into the room and there are all these people there.  He goes: "Leah, I really wanted to meet you because I knew you were a dancer and I really want this scene. This is the first scene of the movie and it needs to be special. I want you to be doing something really mundane. It would be normal to you as a dancer, because I'm going to make your character a dancer. It would be normal to you as a dancer, but it might be a little weird for the rest of us to see." and I was like: "Huh! Okay!" and he says: "Can you show some different stretches or something." So I started stretching and show him different stretches. Like this is what kind of stretches a dancer would do and he was like: "Okay. Well, okay... Yeah, alright, but I want it to be a kind of mundane thing." So we started talking about the scene and talking about the scene and basically I wrote the scene for him. I was like: "Okay, and what if she's doing this and brushing her teeth at the same time? And, and, and..." and he was like: "Oh my God. Oh my God. That's so brilliant. That's exactly what I wanted. That's exactly what I wanted!" So basically I wrote the scene and I'm thinking in my head: "If I don't get this part as an actor, I want a writing credit!" (laughing) At the end of the audition he looks at me and says: "Okay, this is good. This is great!" and I was like: "Okay, so did I just book this part?" And the casting director says: "Oh no, no, no, Leah. We just have to wait and discuss it, blah, blah, blah... No, I'm joking! Of course you got it. Yes, you've got it!" I was like: "Wow, I'm going to work with Al Pacino!" and Jon Avnet looks at me and says: "You're going to be cool, right? You're going to be cool with Al?" and I say: "Yeah, I'll be fine." (laughing) then I got the part, and I was doing rehearsals with him, and he told me: "You know Leah, I only hire people that I know and I have a whole bunch of extremely famous girlfriends in LA, that really wanted this part, and were very angry at me that I hired someone that I had never worked with before, but you wrote it Leah and you got it." and I was like: "Oh no, that's a lot of pressure."  Hopefully it went well. We did it last year. I've seen a lot of the footage and it's great, so...

 

Leah Cairns dancing with Al Pacino in 88 Minutes

Leah Cairns dancing with Al Pacino in 88 Minutes

 

I just saw the trailer. I saw you wear your apron well.

(laughing) Yes! Yes, my parents are so thankful for Battlestar Galactica, because it's the only show I haven't been shown naked in.

Okay.

Or even close to... (laughing)

Did you meet Paul [Campbell] on the set?

No. Oh no. I mean, I knew that he was going to be in it, but I am... All my scenes are just me and Al.

Okay. I also saw this weird scene where you were hanging upside down.

Yeah.

It was a weird one. It was also like... It was almost like a dance move how you're hanging upside down with your legs spread in one way.

Well, I would love to take credit for that, but that's a stunt double.

Oh, that was a stunt double? Okay!

Yes. That girl couldn't walk for a day after she did that. So they didn't want me doing it. No. When I'm hanging upside down I'm basically lying on a bed with my head hanging off of it.

Oh, okay.

Or a chair or something like that. Yeah, I know. It looks good but it's not me.

Too bad (laughing)

No, it's not!

It was a nice scene.

You should have seen this girl's ankle by the time she was finished. It looked horrible.

What other projects do you have lined up?

Right now we're moving into pilot season, so the seasons are just shifting right now. So far the only indication is that I'll probably be a superhero, comic book hero by the end of the year. I keep getting... Anytime I went out for two different shows to be comic book heroes and it came really close. My age has become problematic this year. I'm either a couple of years too old or a couple of years too young for a lot of stuff that I've been asked to do, but anyway... I have a feeling. Everything happens in threes and I came so close on the other two, so I kind of have this gut feeling that I'm going to be a comic book hero, comic book super hero, but we'll see. But I have a production company, Arabesque Pictures and we just finished our first documentary, so we're submitting it to some festivals, and we're trying to sell it right now.

Okay. What is it about?

It's about a young girl's desperate journey to save her dying father and then deal with his death.

It's a tough subject.

Yes, it was. Especially since that's not what the documentary was supposed to be about. It was supposed to be about the healing powers of raw food and our subject died. We just had to... We just kept shooting and we edited the story at the end. Yeah, but it was really very different for me. I'd love to get more... I'd love to do more documentaries. I'd like to get my camera over to India and do some work over there. There are so many great stories to be told every time you turn a corner, you know.

That's true. That's true. Any interesting hobbies that you pursue?

Well, you know, my passion for dancing never really died, so I'm taking salsa dancing classes right now. I love scuba diving and horseback riding. Nothing extremely interesting... Pole dancing, that's different!

Yeah, that's different.

(laughing) Yeah. It belongs to tantric fitness and the woman that had gone through all that trouble with Ben Affleck back in the days is a Vancouver stripper. So she took her money from telling her story and opened up a pole dancing school and I've been going to that.

You're attending that [class]? That's great!

It's so much fun and so liberating. I can't even tell you. It's so great and you get really fit! It's amazing. It's hard work.

I believe you, yeah. (both laughing) Do you still backpack?

No, not since I got back from the India-Israel-Jordan-trip. No, I haven't put my backpack on. To tell you the truth, I'm really scared. We came back full of parasites and my back was so bad. It took me two years to get rid of all the parasites. My back is just now starting to feel okay. So I think... Oh, I hate to say it, but I'm not when will be the next time I'm backpacking again. Hopefully sooner than later, but I don't know. I'm really scared about it. I went on my very first suitcase vacation.

Oh yeah?

I went to Italy and I took a suitcase. I have to say it was kind of nice. I couldn't believe you could go to a country for two weeks and make it worth your while. It took my husband years to convince me that that was a possibility and you can. You can go to somewhere for two weeks and see something.

Yeah. That's true.

It's amazing. I really understand that now. (laughing)

I'd like thank you for doing this interview.

It was so nice to talk to you.

Same here. Thank you so much for doing this.

You're very, very welcome. If there's anything else just give me a call, you have my number.

 

We've also built Leah Cairns a website. Read the article "Official Site for Leah Cairns" or visit http://www.leahcairns.com

 
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