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Lorena Gale GALACTICA.TV interview
Written by Marcel Damen   
Saturday, 04 July 2009

On June 21, 2009, actress Lorena Gale, better known to Battlestar Galactica 2003 fans as Priestess Elosha, passed away at the age of 51, after losing her battle against cancer. Several months ago Marcel Damen talked extensively to her about her long career and her part on the Battlestar Galactica series. This interview hadn't been published yet, but on learning the sad news we immediately transcribed it for publication to honor this great actress.

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.


 

So first of all, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. It's really great talking to you.

Oh, well I just happen to fit it in. So it's good, it's good. (laughs)

You were born in Montreal, Quebec, right?  Did you also grow up there?  Do you also speak French?

That's right. I lived there until I was thirty. I lived there for thirty years and then I moved to British Columbia, Vancouver.

So you also learned English and French at school?

Yeah, yeah. Je parle français, qui. Et toi? (Yes, I speak French. And you?)

Qui, je parle français un peut. (Yes, I speak a little bit of French)

Que viens te vous? Tu est Canadian ou Americain? (Where do you come from? Are you Candian or American?) Where are you from?

Je suis des Pays-Bas (I come from the Netherlands)

Ah, bon.

So we can speak French, but I won't do the whole interview [in French].

I prefer to speak in English too. (laughs) My French is more Franglais.

My French is a bit rusty too. (laughs)

It's Quebec French at best. (laughs)

We get about four or five years of compulsory French and Enlgish at school, because nobody speaks Dutch. So we have to learn all the languages.

Ah, no? Well the Netherlander painters are my favorite. But whenever I go to Paris, I go to the Louvre and see the same painting over and over again because you don't see those as often as you see you know the French or the Italian painters.

 

actress Lorena Gale

actress Lorena Gale

 

That's true. At what point in your life did you want to become an actress?

When I was in college. I think I was about eighteen, seventeen, eighteen years old? No, I was seventeen. I was studying anthropology and I took a theater course to help me to become a better anthropologist and I fell in love with the theater. I found that I could act and it was not challenging intellectually. (laughs) And you know like a lot of young people, I thought I would take the easy route. Little did I know that it was a way more challenging life course than if I had decided to become a lawyer, let's say. But I was smitten with the acting bug and the rest is history.

So did you also have any professional training?

Yes, I studied theater in college and university. I went to the National Theater School of Canada. After that, I went to New York to study with a specific teacher and then through certainly the last part I began my career.

Is there anybody you can point out as your mentor?

You know, you want to know who my mentor is? My mentor is my very first theater teacher, a man named Victor Garraway who teaches at Marianopolis College. I studied with a lot of people over the years, well not over the years but certainly over those early years. No one has ever equaled him in terms of the - for me - in terms of the quality of his work. He was just a very hard nosed, evil and yet practical instructor. He taught the fundamentals of the stage. How to act on the stage. In terms of the mechanics of finding the emotions, he never taught any of that stuff. He said that's your problem. It's your job to get there emotionally. But it's my job to make sure you know what to do when you're on the stage. How to walk across the stage. Why it's better to gesture with your out-stage hand as opposed to down-stage hand. So I would say he's my mentor for acting in general. But there's also this really wonderful teacher that I had at the National Film Board of Canada, who taught acting for the camera. Her name was Maroushka Stankova. She was an actress with - I guess what is it - the Blacklight Theater in Czechovakia? She's like one of the best. I don't even think she's with us anymore, although I could be wrong. She might be eightteen thousand years old now, so don't quote me on any of this. But she taught these film courses through the National Film Board. And they were just practical courses again on how to hit a mark. How to do a scene when the other actor isn't there. I just thought they were just the best courses in acting. I don't think people actually teach those things in detail anymore. But you know, I'm a dinosaur so it's all ancient history.

What was the most valuable thing that you learned? From them?

From both of them? It was know your technique. Both of them taught - were very strong teachers in terms of technique. Your basic stage craft and in film, set craft, I would say are the most valuable things. The rest of it, the character development and all of that stuff. That's the stuff that you learn over time. You know what I mean? Or at least I learned it over time. How to access my emotions or to be liberated enough to not worry about what people might think of me and just do the gig no matter how silly I might look.

Your first work on IMDB says you were a nurse in Visiting Hours.  Is that correct?

Yes, but my very very first job isn't on there. Okay. (laughs) My very first job, my first professional job as an actor for the camera was playing the planet Mercury in a children's show. (laughs) I wore a bubble and they made my hair into a point on my head and they put thunderbolts on my face. I talked like this and I walked really fast around the sun. So that was really my first gig. It was a character gig. Yep, inaminate objects.

And when was this?

When was this? Oh God, Jesus Murphy. I had to have been about nineteen, so a long time ago. (laughs) Sometime in the seventies, '79 maybe?

 

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Were you nervous about getting the job?

Was I nervous? I think I was so thrilled with that little thing, I couldn't be nervous. And it was just so bizarre. Certainly I was a little nervous initially. Those first film gigs were a bit nerve wracking. It's like having sex for the first time. You're just so shocked you're doing it. (laughs) You're not even doing it while you're just so shocked you're doing it. It's like woooo! So, yeah.

You've guest starred in over one hundred movies and television roles now. You haven't had many recurring roles. Was this by choice or did it just work out this way?

Oh, are you kidding? I'm a Canadian actor okay? (laughs) I work predominantly in American film and television production in Vancouver. If perhaps I had relocated to Los Angeles, which had been my original intent when I came west, that might have been different. But, no. Also I don't believe - they don't cast many of the larger parts - you know I'm not even going to say that, just strike all of that. No, it's not certainly by my desire. You know I would have loved to done a series for five years and then, you know, open my little restaurant and never acted again. But that hasn't been in the cards for me. Maybe I'm just not like a good actor or something, who knows. I can't say why it hasn't happened. I do think being a Canadian actor working in predominantly American film and television production has had its particular drawbacks. I would also say being a short unusual looking black woman has not been helpful to me either in that, you know, they tend to prefer people who are younger, skinnier, and prettier than I.

Well, some might disagree.

Well, you know, it's all speculation on my part. Yeah, well. It's an awful question, how could you have asked that of me? (laughs)

I was just wondering because they are doing a lot of television series now in Canada. There's plenty of opportunity to get recurring roles.

Well, you know I have my day in court on most of them. But a lot of them don't necessarily have recurring roles for middle aged women, and even when I was younger. I had recurring roles on Battlestar Galactica. That's it.

That's true.

No, I had a recurring role in a show called The Mantis, a thousand years ago. And I did, I don't know, three episodes of The X-Files and a few Outer Limits but those are all - you're always playing different characters. Those opportunities just haven't come up for me but I'm hoping that will change. Well that's all one can do but I'll hope it will change before I'm like too old and while I'm still alive. (laughs) But you never know, I could might be get my first recurring role as a corpse. That would be real cute.

You played three different characters in The X-Files and another one in the (X-Files) movie?

Yeah!

Did you ever worry that people would start recognizing you? Or were you just pleased they kept asking you to come back?

For The X-Files? I auditioned probably for twelve - well I would audition maybe four, five, six times a year. Chris Carter, who is just a faboulous guy, Chris and a lot of the producers and directors on the show, they were really, really - until they moved to L.A. and even still - they were really loyal to the local talent. And it didn't bother him. It didn't bother them. Because I'm not the only one who has done more than - who has done a few episodes and played different characters. They liked us. They liked us as actors. Chris, I guess he likes me as an actor. I really like him and I really love the show. I guess we understood or we fit well into the style and that we were capable of bringing different characters to the table, right? Most of us were character actors, right? Are character actors. It was really great to - and then you do that and you'd be called in the next week to audition for something else, to do a different character. Always looking for a place to put you, to keep using you. I bet if a role had come up that had been one character over several episodes, they would have hired me for that. I'm very grateful to The X-Files. They were the first. Well I guess they were the first real sci-fi show I had worked on as an actor and I loved the show as a viewer. I still watch them in re-runs. That flukes??? guy still creeps me out. Remember you know the guy who like with the toilet. It was like eeewww. (laughs) It was awful. Still, it still freaks me out. It's a very good show, a very, very, very good show. Does that answer your question? I know I just sort of blah, blah, blah.

 

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

No, that's okay! No, I also asked if you weren't worried that people would start recognizing you on screen.

If they would recognize me on screen?

For doing different parts in the same show.

I think people did, but I think the fans like that. The fans liked seeing the same actors. Not seeing them back to back but saying, "Oh yeah, she was in this episode and then she was in that episode." I know that certainly like with the movie, that the fans would go, "Oh, they were in this episode, this episode and this episode." Both myself and Alex Diakun who plays the evil Russian guy and Stevie Miller. There's a whole bunch of us who've been in - who are in the movie who had done multiple episodes of The X-Files. As I was saying, they were really loyal to us and they obviously liked some of us more than others because some of us did more work than others. You know, one of the best - I'll tell you a little story. I didn't believe in credit for most of my life. My husband was going out of town for a considerable amount of time and I realized I should probably have a credit card. So when I called up my financial institution and told them I wanted a credit card. No, I wanted a loan, a line of credit. I still didn't believe in credit cards, okay. I wanted a line of credit. They laughed at me because I was an actor, right? (laughs) And I had no credit history! So the guy on the phone, so he says, "Well, what have you done that I might have seen you in?" I said, "Oh, I've done this. I've done that and I was in The X-Files." He went, "The X-Files!" He started freaking out because he was, "Oh, we love The X-Files!" and started telling the other people at the bank that he was talking to somebody who had been in The X-Files. In the end, I got a loan. I got a line of credit. But if it hadn't have been - if I hadn't had said I was in The X-Files and if it hadn't have been such a big hit and the guy loved it, he wouldn't have made it possible for me to have it. So I'm grateful to The X-Files for beginning my credit history.

This is kind of strange because you know usually sci fi shows aren't really criticized as being good drama shows or good shows where actor star in. They never win awards or anything you know.

Well I think that's unfortunate because look at somebody like Patrick Stewart. He is like an extraordinary actor. He's a superlative actor. He's a superior actor. He goes off to be Shakespeare. But you know, everyone in the industry has their prejudices. I've done a shitload of sci fi. I like sci fi. For me as an actor, as a stage actor - the thing I loved about The X-Files and even in the movie - you know it was just like whenever I went over to the audition - I said, "How long has it been since I've had to say words like this." I can't even remember. All the E's and the P's the language can be so complicated in a sci fi that's almost Shakespearean. The thoughts are way more complicated than "I love you Joe. No Diane, I love you. Let's run away." You know like the stupid romantic crap you see in a lot of TV shows. No, I like sci fi, really. I'd say that sci fi fans are far more ardent than fans for other things. I wouldn't say that for a show like Brothers and Sisters have the same kind of fans as Battlestar Galactica.

Certainly not. (laughs) Had you ever seen the original Battlestar Galactica I wonder?

Oh, back in the day, yes. It was alright you know. It was okay. Back in the day I wasn't a big TV watcher so I looked at it and you know laughed. I don't even know - I can't even say what I want. There are certain things you just can't say. (laughs) I'm trying to remember what TV I did pay any attention to. Back then I was young. I was busy hanging out, going to parties and doing young people things. I wasn't watching a lot of TV. But I was reading a lot. I've always been a bit of a geek. I've been a big sci fi fan, certainly in my college days. But literature, there's a whole period there for about three years when I didn't read anything but sci fi.

What kind of sci fi?

What kind of sci fi? Well I'd go through jags. I used to do a lot of sci fi that had to do with catastrophe and then I did a whole bunch of sci fi about cloning. I liked - I was a big John Brunner fan, Stand on Zanzibar, my favorite, ever. Philip K. Dick. And so I find it extraordinary now that they're making all of these movies out of his. I think it's great. But I was a huge, huge, huge Philip K. Dick fan. I probably read about twenty books by him. And I really don't think the cinema has yet captured the expanse of his imagination and sense of humor. I just don't think they get it yet. Although Blade Runner was pretty good but a lot of them since have been - have not been the same. I really wish they'd make - they do like The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch or Ubik, I mean I really liked that one. Or Martian Time-Slip that's my favorite Philip K. Dick.

 

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

How did you get the role of priestess Elosha in the Miniseries?

I auditioned for it. I was surprised. I was called in and I auditioned for it. I was surprised that they would have - that they had cast me. It wasn't like a big deal or anything. I didn't even know it was going to be a series. And you know, I found it a little Anglican. (laughs) It's a little Catholic in it's inception.

You were surprised that it went into a series? How were you contacted to get back on it?

Well, I wasn't one of the contract players as you probably ascertained. So when it - I didn't know. I was never sure how and if the character would develop. I felt the character had a lot of potential. They mostly let you know the episode before or whatever if they were going to use you. And if it fit into your world, you did it. If it didn't fit into your world, then they'd work around you. But I really liked it. I tried to commit myself as much as I could to it because I was hoping it would develop into something more substantial, which to my chagrin it did not. But, them's the breaks in the business, you know?

Did you have any religion reservations about playing a priestess?

About playing a priestess? No, not particularly. I don't have any specific religious beliefs of my own that could ever come in conflict with it. I had some acting reservations. (laughs) And as you know, particularly initially when it was a lot of ceremonies and ceremony acting can be really dull because it tends to lack expression of character and I'm a character actor. But that changed a bit.

Do you remember any of the speeches you had to give?

Good Lord no.

 (laughs)

You're talking to a menopausal woman. I barely remember my name most days. (laughs)

Elosha was originally created for Richard Hatch. Did you know that?

I found that out after. So I guess when Richard turned it down and I had auditioned they said, "Oh why not, give it to Lorena Gale." I kind of feel like - you know that commercial Life? Give it to Mikey, he'll eat anything? I feel like Mikey. The acting role, give it to Lorena, she'll play anything. Part and parcel of being a Canadian actor.

Yeah, but there's almost only Canadians on the show. There's some Americans on it but most of them are Canadian.

Australian. But yeah, most of the actors are Canadians. But, you know, they have hired - especially in terms of the regular cast - they hired a lot of Canadian talent, which was unusual for a lot of series because most of them don't do that, most of the series that shoot up here.

 

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Most of the big roles are all going to Americans anyway.

Yeah, yeah. That is the...

Jamie [Bamber] is American, actually English but living in America. Katee [Sackhoff] is American. Eddie [Olmos] is American. Mary [McDonnell] is American. Most of the big roles.

Well, you know a lot of the other ones...

They're all Canadian.

Well, the rest are all Canadian. Well, that's not true. I mean, then you start getting into the ones like Dean Stockwell and Lucy Lawless. She's very, very good. When I say it, I say it as a Canadian actress speaking in generalities because this isn't - as I said I work on a lot of shows. I do a lot of stuff and it's all American and I'm a character actor. So I'm not thinking specifically of this particular production although I should, they're great!

During the Cylon attack, Elosha is aboard the ship going to Caprica. After finding out Roslin is the next line for the presidency, she does the swearing in ceremony. We recently spoke to Michael Rymer and he said he was told by David Eick to make it look exactly like the swearing in of President Johnson after President Kennedy was killed. Did you know that?

Nope. (laughs) Okay, is this an interview about how much I don't know? Well, I knew Richard Hatch but I didn't find that out until after. And then I met him. (laughs) And I went well, "I don't look like him." (laughs)

But you still got the role.

Please don't make me look like him.

 (laughs) Elosha gives a funeral service for the ship's dead. Commander Adama then gives a pep talk using Elosha's knowledge of the sacred scrolls and the legend of Earth. Did Elosha know she was being used and that Adama was an atheist who was looking to grasp any straw to give the people hope?

Did Elosha know that? I don't know. It's hard to say what Elosha knew or didn't know at that point. But I would say she didn't. (laughs) I would say she was surprised. But. Okay, this is where my mind went and the show didn't go there: I thought in my mind as Elosha it would be a great opportunity to be able to play both ends. To be able to have a hand in both the military and in both the civil. You know what I'm saying? And then I was hoping that they would let her play both ends to the middle. I was hoping she had an agenda but she didn't have one. (laughs) No agenda there. Maybe I should have been one of the writers. (laughs) Then it would have been the Elosha show. No. (laughs)

That would be good. Battlestar Elosha.

Battlestar Elosha. (laughs) Yeah, yeah. Different.

It could be the next spin off, you never know.

I don't think so. It would be corpsicle Elosha.

 

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

You're returning in the new season now as kind of a ghost. So who knows?

Well, that's it though. The series is over. The series is over.

It was said that Elosha was also a wild child, a juvenile delinquent. She was given a choice between reform school and the monastery. Was that ever in any of your scripts?

That's right. That was in one script. It was great. It was good (*garbled*). It was great.

It was said she chose the monastery and she thought she could do a lot of drugs like Chamalla?

Yes.

It was also said that she was on the Quorum of Twelve for twenty years? It must be difficult to be priestess and a politician.

Yeah, but she liked it obviously.

Elosha in episode four, season one ("Act of Contrition") you see her preside over the funeral of seven pilots who were killed in the accident. Do you get emotional acting out on the funeral?

Well, no especially as Elosha. She would have presided over tons of funerals. That's her thing. The all wedding, funeral, christening extravaganza. (laughs) Am I being of any help? I'm like so inept.

I'm just wondering, I'm just curious about your thoughts on this. I was also curious, like does it personally - does it get personal with you perhaps thinking of somebody you knew who died?

Well, only if I have to cry. My experience around death, around the death of others is so non-priest like? She's so unique. She's so ceremonial. She's so sort of mysterious and detached, and obviously solitary. Do you know what I mean? That those are the elements that I played. Somebody who was just floating above the earth three inches and existed in her own specific little bubble, spiritual bubble right? Removed from the rest of the cast and the crew.

Working with the scrolls, how much of the scrolls were you given to look at? Was it just in the script?

Just in the script. I had no access to any information outside of what was in the script on any given episode. I mean, it's interesting, it's interesting that it all reads as if there some deeper knowledge there for the character. But certainly I as an actor was manufacturing the thought for the camera. (laughs)

 

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

I was just wondering if they were written like in imitation of the Bible or any other existing religious works?

Um, I don't know that. I don't know that information. That scroll thing that I had, that I carried around, opened up and it had bizarre writing on it of which was undecipherable to me. But in terms of what those actual scrolls were, I was never privy to any of that information. Sorry. (laughs) I'm not really an exciting character to interview.

You ended up working closely with Mary McDonnell.

Yeah! That's the bonus. That's the boon of the experience. She's just a fabulous, fabulous actress and a great person.

You said that you enjoyed the woman to woman scenes between Roslin and Elosha. Why did you enjoy those particularly?

Yeah, yeah, no they were great. As I said, she's a wonderful actress to work with and I learned stuff as an actor working with her. We had a good chemistry so it was just a pleasurable - I have to be honest and say my time on the show was extremely pleasurable. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. I just wish there were more moments. (laughs) I especially enjoyed my stuff with her.

I also read that you found out your character was going to die, not from the producers or the script, but from fans in Vancouver. Is that true? I read you were at a convention and some fans told you?

Um, it's interesting. There had been a rumor. There'd been rumors but mostly I found out when I came back, and the next season I found out from Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) in the make up trailer. (laughs)

Everything happens with the hairdressers and the make up I heard. Everybody finds out everything there. (laughs)

Yeah. Yeah. So that's how I found out for certain.

We have to interview the hairdressers one day. (laughs) Everything happens there.

You should interview the hairdressers. They know more about what's going on than we do.

 

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Yeah, but they won't tell. They've been sworn to secrecy. (laughs) Do you still watch the series after your character died?

Did I still watch the series after my character died? No. (laughs) No I did not.

You don't know about the rest of the story lines and when you came back?

You know what? I'm saving it all for a marathon. My family - see, we have a thing - I don't watch things I'm actually in. Although I did go to the X-Files movie. Because I find it destroys the - it destroys my ability to believe, you know. But I did see up until then, and then after that, no.

We see her back in season four in The Hub. How did you get the news that they wanted you back for the episode?

They called my agent a few months before that. Now that is something I do know. And this is something I found out recently as well, because that's probably your next question, that that part was actually written for Billy.

No, I didn't know that.

Oh, well that's what I had heard. It was originally written for Billy and he wasn't available so they gave it to me, which I didn't know at the time. (laughs) I only find out these things out after. As I said, it's like Mikey. Give it to Mikey, he'll eat anything. It's Lorena, she'll do anything.

(laughs) Were you happy to get back on the show?

I was happy.

What was it like to see everybody back again after not seeing these people for such a long time?

It was fabulous. It was fabulous. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed working with Mary and it was great to see them all again and yeah, it was a great gig. And I really liked what I had to do. In fact, I found the character way more interesting as an hallucination than I did as a character. You know?  So it was, that was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun working closely with Mary because I was her hallucination. (laughs)

 

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

You show her her own death from cancer. It was kind of in the mood of a Christmas story like you were the ghost of future past.

Yep, yeah. I've done that play too. I played both the ghost of past and the ghost of future. When I played the ghost of - tell you about my fabulous acting gigs in my career when I played the ghost of Christmases to come, I did it on stilts! Because I'm really short and they wanted me to be taller than Scrooge. (laughs) So I had to be on stilts. (laughs) And I also played Christmas Present in a movie and I was dressed up like a Christmas present. You're going like, "This woman is nuts." I'm not mad darling, just my career.

 (laughs) Well, I love it.

Planets and presents.

What was the most exciting job you did in your career then?

The most exciting job I did in my career?

Yes. You have a pretty long career.

Oh, God.

What was the most exciting. What the most memorable for you?

Usually the last one is the most memorable because I can remember it. One of the most memorable gigs I had... I've had and this is recent, I'm in this movie called Traitor that's coming out in August. And it's with Guy Pierce and Don Cheadle. It's memorable because I get to do my scenes with Guy Pierce, who is fabulous. But I play Don Cheadle's mother in the movie and I'm a huge Don Cheadle fan. It's embarassing but I've never lost it before meeting a star. But I was brought to the set and met Don Cheadle and everything was fine until he shook my hand and then I started giggling.

You got star struck?

I couldn't stop! I lost it. I was like, "Ohhh!" I had to excuse myself. I couldn't talk to him because I was just so, so...

Star struck?

Yes, having met him and it's really embarrassing because these are people meeting you for the first time? Like they had hired me off of a tape. I mean the director and everybody for the first time, I'm sure they're thinking, "Oh my God. What did we hire?" It's like how can she act? She can't even talk to him. How can we expect her to act. So that was memorable. Listen, every gig is memorable, you know? For me it's all like gravy. I watch a lot of movies. I just watch a lot of stuff! You know what I mean? I say its my job but I love film. I love television. I love actors. And I'm a huge fan of a large number of actors. I mean it's like these people - I mean my career isn't that, but certainly they are. I think that a lot of people who are in these star positions, I mean obviously there are some who are there not because of their talents but because maybe they look. But they fall by the wayside. Do you know what I mean? After that whatever particular thing is. There's a lot of really fine, fine actors. It's always a thrill to meet and work with an actor that I admire and respect. To be able to hold my own in a scene with an actor I have tremendous respect for. I wish there was - I think if any gig was - I think Battlestar Galactica really meant a lot to me because I did like the folklore. Do you know what I mean? I did watch the show back in the day, yes. You know when people ask me about it, what I thought, it's really dredging up ideas and memories from so long ago that I can't. It's like being in Halloween. I was in a Halloween movie (Halloween: Resurrection) and I was thrilled to be in it because I remember the first Halloween ever. I wanted to be part of that particular mythology. I never thought in my entire life, when I became an actor I was going - I thought I would only ever work in the theater. I never thought for a minute that I would have a career in television, okay? In film maybe, because for film, hires are broader and (they) will hire more unusual looking people but television can be pretty generic in terms of how it wants - in terms of its look. So, you know, I never ever anticipated that I would have any kind of career in television. So I'm shocked that my career is predominantly television. It's all gravy to me. Because I can go back and work in theater for like $500 a week, or $275 a week, or for nothing, you know? That's what I do, so anything I do in film and television is gravy. The actors I get to meet - I worked with Burt Lancaster in a movie! I mean like, how cool is that?

 

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Yeah, that's pretty cool.

You know?

Is there anybody on your wish list that you would still like to work with?

On my wish list? Oh, my God. There's like a bus load of people on my wish list. I'd like to work with Don Cheadle and actually have some scenes with him. (laughs) I don't know? Everybody! There's like tons of people.

Is there actually an actor or actress that you're a fan of? That you watch every movie of or particularly like?

That I'm a fan of? Who am I fan of right now? There's a lot of actors that I'm a fan of. I really like Morgan Freeman. I loved the Bucket List. I wished I could have been in that. Danny Glover. Oh, and well of course Denzel, you know. I'd love to work with Denzel Washington. Ruby Dee. Will Smith. Tons of them.

So all are mostly black actors? Is that coincidence or not?

Meryl Streep. Well, you know these are actors that I see and I tremendously admire. I might be able to play their mother or their aunt or something. I noticed nobody - I didn't get a casting call for Meryl Streep's best friend in Mamma Mia. (laughs) You know you got to be realistic here in what - but I would love to work with Meryl Streep, oh my God. Al Pacino. All the big ones, of course. And then there's some of the young ones that I just love. I mean like Christian Bale. I'm a huge Christian Bale fan. In fact I'm really liking Jake Gyllenhaal these days. I think he's quite... Ryan Gosling is just fabulous.

Do you think you'd be star struck if you met them?

No. No. The young ones? No, because they're... young people. (laughs) They're under thirty. (laughs) They're big stars and they, you know, they're big stars. But listen, I've only been star struck like that once, okay? I've worked with tons of stars, okay? I've worked with huge stars before. I don't know what happened with Don Cheadle. I don't know but I lost it. (laughs) I just couldn't.

That's why I was surprised, because you did over maybe like a hundred movie roles or television roles. How can you be star struck like that?

He just - listen, Guy Pierce is a big star too, fabulous actor, really good looking, all my scenes with him, I was so honored to be working with him. But I didn't lose it like some crazy school girl. Come on! I mean that's embarassing. So now I try to keep it in check and just go with it, "He's just an actor, Lorena, just an actor." (laughs) But I think he's a particularly fine actor. Oh there's so many. Listen, there's just so many people, so many. Whoopi Goldberg. Oh my God. Forever, I've been hoping - but you know what? As I say, I have my day in court in a lot of things. I will meet her one day and then it's great. You go, "Okay, I can check that off my list." You know?

You also write and direct?

Yeah, I'm a playwright.

You won two awards for Angélique and Je me souviens? Can you tell us about those plays?

Can I tell you about those plays? Okay, well one, Angélique is a play, not my first play, but it's my first dramatic play that was professionally produced. It was produced in the States and here in Canada. It's about a slave in Montreal in 1734 who was accused of burning down the city, or a fair portion of the city, and was hanged. The other one, Je me souviens, was about myself. It was about growing up in Montreal as an Anglo, growing up English in Montreal. I wrote it because I was - people don't know about Canuck politics, it's sort of meaningless you know. I wrote it because I was angry at Jacques Parizeau for some statements that he made about why they lost the second referendum. And I wrote it because I was sort of angry that I realized that - Montreal is and will always remain my home, although Paris is fast becoming my second home. (laughs) But it was a love story. It was my love story to my city, to my province, to the place of my birth. Sometimes I can be incendiary and say the country of my birth but that's not flying right now. (laughs) Separatist politics aren't as popular as they were five years ago even.

 

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

Lorena Gale as Priestess Elosha in Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Talking about politics, you also said that, "Canadian society has become too multiracial that racism, true systemic and institutionalized racism, is constantly being challenged. I have always believed that Canada has the potential to be a Utopian Society. Sadly, we are too influenced by our American cousins."

Yeah, but that might change you know. If  America gets a new president then our prime minister will quit cozying up to George Bush because he can't anymore. I love my country. I'm an anachronism - is that the right word? - here in Canada because you don't have a lot of people who are flag waving, patriotic Canadians, but I am. I love my country. I believe I live in the best country in the world. And I believe that my country has the potential to be so much more than what it settles on being. It doesn't have the confidence to dare to forge it's own path and truly be this liberal Utopia that it professes to be. It sort of tends to be more conservative than - well, I'm just trying to - I don't know. I don't know. It's hard to say. Because even our conservatives aren't as bad as the conservatives are in other parts of the world. But we have a very open society. We have a very liberal society.

What influence do you see from America on Canadian values?

Oh, well as I say through certain conservatisms. Our conservative government, it's involvement in Iraq. That's not really our battle and yet we're the ones in Iraq battling it. I don't quite get it. But we were all upset when (Jean) Chrétien said he didn't want to do Iraq and somehow we got promised into Afghanistan. I don't understand. I don't understand guns. But Canadians I think in terms of a society, we have more guns in Canada than they have in the United States. I remember reading somewhere that we have more in terms of guns per capita that Canadians are actually more gun toting than Americans. We just don't necessarily shoot each other with them. But you can see a lot, but that's changing. There's way more guns. I don't know. I'd be talking through my butt. Anything I say is talking through my butt. I can't be specific. I have to really think about that answer to give you a proper answer, to give you a substantiated answer. I'm so out of the loop. I have to be honest and say I've become one of those middle aged people that really doesn't stay in touch with too much. I'm trying to be less political as I get older because life is short and getting yourself all in a twist over things you can't control and have no control over is really pointless. So I'm trying to focus more on the spiritual as opposed to - and you know that's interesting because when I was doing Elosha, when I was first started out, I was embarking on my own spiritual journey. I would go off to this retreat center with the nuns and do silent meditation for a few days. Do you know what I mean? Looking for some answer to the upheaval that I would feel inside. Do you know what I mean? The unsettled... it's hard to explain. It's easy to get unsettled spiritually and caught up in all kinds of pointless and meaningless crap like who's doing what to whom. What I have versus what I don't have. Do you know what I mean? The superficial trappings of existence and success and being. I was in the process at that time that I was doing Elosha. So it was really quite the synchronicity - is that the word? - that I was doing that at that time. Because I was asking myself spiritual questions like, "How do I find peace within myself? How do I become a better person for myself and in this world regardless of all the forces that conspire to make us less than what we know we are as human beings." I'm still on that journey but I don't have any answers for it.

Well, that's good.

Well, thank God you know. If I found the answer I'd probably croak and die. (laughs) It's like that story. Is it Larry Niven? Is it Larry Niven who wrote the story? I was a big Larry Niven fan and Jerry Pournelle, but particularly Larry Niven. Like the ten thousand names of God or this story about the ten thousand names of God and these monks in Tibet or something. They're job is to find the ten thousand names of God or whatever. And they say that once you reach the ten thousandth name then the world ends. So these guys get a computer... (laughs)  and they discover the ten thousand names of God and, of course, the world ends after, right? So if one actually finds some sort of spiritual enlightenment, once they reach Nirvana, they must be pure spirit, right? So your actual physical life perish.

What are your future plans now? What you are doing nowadays?

What am I doing nowadays? I'm auditioning, you know, as an actor does. I'm going to work on Scooby Doo number three, the prequel. I'm supposed to do a play in the fall, David Hare's Stuff Happens. I get to play Condoleezza Rice. I'm writing two new plays. I've got three new plays on the go. A short one that's going to be produced here in Vancouver in October. Another one which is called The Darwinist which I got my master's degree for. (Master of Arts, Simon Fraser University) I'm still figuring out that and I'll get that one up. Another commission for another small company here, a play about railway porters. So I'm pretty busy. Today, we're going to go get a cat. I'm going to get a kitty cat. I'm expanding my family that way. So yeah, yeah, no it's pretty boring.

 (laughs) No interesting hobbies either?

No interesting hobbies? I go to the gym.

(laughs) That's not an interesting hobby.

It's not? You know what? I'm really, really a dull person. I am dull and I am not cool.

You played a planet once.

I played a planet once. (laughs) I was interesting for a moment there. (laughs)

That was pretty cool.

Yeah, yeah, well I played a planet. Yep, and that's all I can say.

I think that the role you did on Battlestar Galactica is pretty amazing.

Well, thank you. I gave it of my all.

I thought it was a shame you didn't come back more often because I really liked your part in the show.

Oh, you're sweet. Are you just saying that because you're interviewing me?

I say that to all the people I interview. (laughs)

I'm sure you do, "You're the best thing on the show!" (laughs) No, well thank you for saying that.

It's really true.

I loved doing it. My sadness only came from not doing it. Oh and you move on. Listen, I have to be honest and say I haven't been recognized more for anything in my career than this show. Like even when I was in Paris, people recognized me.

Okay, well that's pretty good then.

Not that I liked to be recognized, it makes me very nervous because I don't know what to say. One of the things I always loved about my career is that people go like, "Do I know you?" And I go, "Oh, no, no." I really liked being a character actor, just being under the radar, right? Where you're familiar but you're not known? It's a great thing. All I need to know is that my mortgage is paid, right, and I'm happy as an actor. No, no my counselor said that I should stop thinking so small. All I need to know is that... listen, all I need to know is that you like me and that's good.

(laughs)

That I did good work. That some people liked my work. And it's sad my character got killed off but you know what? I worked on a show called The L Word on an episode where the character was getting killed off. Nobody likes getting killed off. (laughs)

Well, it depends on how you get killed off. It can be pretty refreshing.

Listen, I saw! I watched the episode after, later on, like after I had been killed. My God, I died so violently!

 (laughs) That's true.

I went, "Jesus Murphy, that was violent!"

Well, you didn't die anonymously, so.

(laughs) No, that's true. Yeah, if you're going to die, die big. (laughs)

It wasn't like, "Whatever happened to Elosha? Oh yeah, she died in bed a few weeks ago."

Yeah,she died in her sleep. But you know, I got killed on Smallville. I died off-screen in a car crash. When you die off-screen, you can always come back.

That's true.

If you die on-screen, you're dead, unless you are a hallucination.

You can come back as a ghost.

You can come back, yeah. You're either a ghost, a flashback, or a hallucination.

Or a Cylon.

Or a Cylon. See, I'm not privy to anything. I wonder if at the end of it all, we'll find out that everybody is a Cylon.

(laughs) That would be nice.

That's what I think will happen.

I think it will be a Planet of the Apes kind of ending. They come to Earth finally and find out that everybody there is a Cylon.

Yeah, because you know what? I like the Cylons.

Yeah, they're pretty cool.

Or we find out that the people who are the - not the monotheists - but the people we thought were human, they're actually the Cylons. The Cylons are actually the humans. Or somebody wakes up and it's all a dream.

I would like to thank you for taking the time.

Hey, listen. It's been great fun talking to you.

 
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