|Michael Tayles GALACTICA.TV interview|
|Friday, 30 January 2009|
Some time ago Mike Egnor caught up with Michael Tayles, better known for his part as Lt. S. "Flyboy" Irvine, in the episodes "Scattered" and "Valley of Darkness" in the Battlestar Galactica 2003 series. He relates a candid funny perspective as outsider actor turned insider and talks at length of his before, during and after experiences on the Battlestar Galactica set and with its actors.
I wanted to thank you for agreeing to do this interview.
Oh my pleasure. Are you kidding? This is great. It's a wonderful show. It's a very character driven show. I mean, that's what makes it different from any sci-fi that's out there.
It's not about aliens, it's about the people.
Exactly, and how human beings have to figure each other out and figure themselves out in order to get along. There's nothing better than a condensed space of a big metal ship, floating through space, being chased by a bunch of creations. Technology, it's exactly what we're dealing with today.
Did you watch the original Battlestar Galactica?
Yes, I did. I saw it obviously in re-runs with my older brother who used to prop me up and sit me there and we used to watch them. And, you know, play in our imaginations, shooting Cylons and being Viper pilots.
What did you like about that show? Was it any of the people, or the characters, or the plot?
Well, for me really I just loved the idea of being out in space and the idea that we could travel through space. And the freedom, the freedom of - when the Viper pilots, Starbuck or Apollo were out there flying around in their Vipers - I remember as a kid just absolutely loving that. I just thought it was amazing. There was one story I loved a lot and that's when Starbuck crashes on that planet. He has to rebuild a Cylon for company, and he programs him to play Pyramid and they become friends. And then three Cylons land to recover the crashed Cylon and the Cylon protects Starbuck and shoots the other Cylons. It was a great, great story and that really impacted on me. I remember thinking that, you know that old proverb, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That sort of really stuck with me on that, so that would have been one of my more favorite episodes.
That was the last episode of Galactica 1980, so we never found out what happens to Starbuck.
No, we never do now. (laughs) And I loved Lorne Greene. When my parents took me to Los Angeles, I can kind of remember him but we met Lorne Greene and he was standing there outside of a cafe or something of the studio's. We were on a tour. My older brother remembers it better because we were talking about this. My parents introduced us and said hello and stuff and told him how much they enjoyed him from Bonanza and stuff, because they used to watch him. So they told us about how he's been around forever, obviously I didn't know that, all I knew was that he was commander of the battlestar. (laughs) I remember as kid just being frozen but of course I was so little. He had already done the series so, I don't know, I think I was seven or something. He was pretty old.
Did you have any impressions of him when you met him?
Ummm... regal! I'm using an adult term for it, but he just looked bigger than life. Obviously because there he was alive and not in a tiny little box, he wasn't in the TV screen anymore. (laughs) He was really very friendly, I remember that, really kind.
Good. Let me ask you, what got you started in acting?
What got me started into acting... I've been thinking about that. It was in school. I ran into my old drama teacher from elementary school, actually, and he told me the day that he gave me a script to learn for a play, you might know it, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown. And he wanted me to play Charlie Brown. (laughs) Of course, this is elementary school, he said, "Would you learn the part?" I guess I went home and I came back for the audition on Monday because that was a weekend he said. Not only did I learn the part, I learned everybody's part, so when I walked in the audition room I knew, it was like a thirty page script or something, but I guess I had learned every word of every part. And I guess I was having a little trouble reading as a kid. According to him it had turned all of my reading classes around overnight. So it was a great educational tool that he used to get me to be better in my grades, my reading and comprehension. So it made a really big difference I guess. I was hooked. I was hooked on the audience clapping and cheering. (laughs)
actor Michael Tayles
So right from grade school, you knew that's what you wanted to do?
Well, I knew that it was something I really had a lot of fun with and I really enjoyed. I never really got involved with it until after I had done some backpacking through Europe and I was also in India. When I returned, I knew I wanted to do something I loved. After being in India, I realized that we had it so well here in a developed nation unlike the one I had just left. I just realized that I had to do something that I loved because life was so short.
Did you have any formalized training or education in acting classes?
Yeah, I did. There were several really great teachers, but one in particular that stands out would be Loren Robertson. He's been phenomenal and coincidentally that's how I know Grace Park is from acting class. So I knew Grace before the show.
So how was she back then?
Oh! Beautiful as ever. (laughs) I've seen her again recently. I saw her of course on set. They were shooting some second unit stuff in the hangar, that we use as a hangar in the green screen room, from the previous episode because the episodes overlap right? Those actors are working so intensely, back to back, episode to episode. Extraordinary. But yeah, I saw her again there and we caught up a bit. In my opinion, she's just gotten better and better and better. I mean she was amazing then. Grace was always graceful. She was always incredible. She's rich, really a rich performer.
I've heard from other actors who say she's extremely professional and focused and driven in her work. Would you agree with that?
I would agree with that absolutely, she is, and at the same time warm, warm and caring. That's a really amazing combination.
Okay. You started out doing single series work with shows like Mom P.I., Neon Rider, and Madison. How did those come about?
Those are episodic shows that were opportunities. I had just arrived out here in Vancouver and I just really fell right into that Mount Pelier opportunity. Then Neon Rider, which was the episode I did on Neon Rider was "Night of the Living Ed". Which was directed by George Broomfield and the writer of that was Brad Wright who went on to create Stargate Atlantis, you may know that sci-fi show. I just finished an episode for them that Brad had written and when he came down on the set and said, "Michael Tayles, do you remember me?" And I turned and looked at him and I said, "No, but I do know you're Mr. Wright. I do know you create the show." (laughs) He says, "Yeah, but I wrote that episode 'The Night of the Living Ed'." I hadn't read for them in a long time. I hadn't read for Stargate Atlantis before. So I hadn't seen Brad since Neon Rider. He said, "When I saw that you had auditioned for the show, I was very excited about it because of our work together previously." So it was a really great compliment for him to come down and say Hi to me on set.
Absolutely. You've been cast in shows as a cop or deputy. Do casting people see you in those roles and want you to work in their series? Or is it just coincidence?Yeah, I think casting people see me in those roles. I think they are roles that can be filled out here, up in the north here in Canada, because leads are still generally hired out of Los Angeles. I think they are more like opportunities for if you're local and you have an opportunity to come in and read for it. I do know that some of the casting directors told me it's because I have a steadiness or something. Maybe a bit of a mischievous look in my eyes sometimes? They know I've got a lot of energy. So yeah, that's sort of the thing they go with.
Tahmoh Penikett and Aaron Douglas also appeared on the L-Word. Did you know either of them?
Before Battlestar? I've not met Tahmoh. I met Aaron Douglas though. I met him at the ADR session for Battlestar, which is the audio digital recording. He was terrific. He was just really a good guy. We're all waiting to go into the sound rooms and try to lip synch basically or say things that are off screen you know? To fill out atmosphere or to add something to the character that the writers feel would make the scene a little better. Because you're off camera, you can throw a line and the audience knows you're standing there anyway. So yeah, he was a decent warm guy. I like him as the Chief and I think being in love with Grace Park, I don't blame him, for his character you know. (laughs) It's been a good work there.
Aside from Grace Park and Aaron did you know any of the Galactica cast before the show?
Not before the show no. Coincidentally I think it was just after the episode I did meet Colonel Tigh. I did meet Michael Hogan. We live near each other and I didn't realize it at the time so it was really funny. We ended up running right into each other and I went wait a minute and then we both talked about the series. You know he's just really glad to be on the show. And I told him how incredibly lucky he is that it's such a brilliant show and so well written and so character driven. He's a really neat guy. I mean that's because he's so talented he can make that character the way it is.
Michael Tayles as Lt. S. 'Flyboy' Irvine on Battlestar Galactica 2003
How were you approached for Battlestar Galactica. Did you do a screen test or an audition for the part of Flyboy?
The casting directors for this show, who are two amazing women Coreen Mayrs and Heike Brandstatter, they called me in to read the guest star of that first episode. They went with another actor, who I obviously got to meet and everything while during the filming and who I thought did a brilliant job in the part. I still would have liked it. (laughs) But the writers contacted Heike I guess and Coreen asked me if I'd be interested in playing a Viper pilot, you know Flyboy, and of course I said absolutely are you kidding? So I never read for it, or auditioned for it, or screentested for it. They actually thought of me after my audition and they asked would I like to do that. For me it was just a dream come true to be able to be a Viper pilot. So that's how that came about.
I'm sure it was honor for you to be asked to come back because of your audition.
Oh, you kidding? It was one of the highest compliments an actor can ask for, right? Because when they like your work and they ask you to come back for something that obviously you didn't read for, it's to say that what you did really did stick. Yeah, it's a blessing. It's a really big blessing. Because this is one of the...this is a gift to do this for an occupation. I really believe that. I mean it's a wonderful, wonderful job.
In the series were you given any kind of background information on your character?
No, actually no I wasn't.
Did you create one? How did you decide how to play the character?
Well I did do a quick little bit of a background on him. I decided that he was - I ran into Michael - because I hadn't met Michael Rymer yet until I got to the set, who was the director of that episode, two episodes ("Scattered", "Valley of Darkness"). Michael Rymer is an amazing guy. I got to talking to him and I just said "Listen you know his callsign's Flyboy right?" And I said this is the work that I've done around him, do you have time? He was like yeah, yeah! Because there are times between setups, when the crew are setting up the scene, arranging all the cameras and lights and everything. Rymer is such a - you know he's a writer too right? A very good writer and a wonderful director. He listened to what I had to say and then he added his two bits. It really comes up with this callsign Flyboy, who is really a man boy? A boy in a man, that kind of idea? The idea that - you can probably identify with this - is that as guys we like to still play sports and race around on our motorbikes or whatever, our dirtbikes, but at the same time we can still pay our bills and be responsible right? Sort of that sort of man boy, he can have a lot of fun in the Viper, but he can still do the job when he's asked to do it.
So you created the whole character out of his callsign?
Yeah, out of his callsign actually, out of the callsign. His real name would have been Zane Robertson. I was naming him after - I gave him a real name Zane Robertson. (laughs) Because he's zany but he's...Robertson reminded me of one of my teachers, Warren Robertson, who's a wonderful teacher. [of the Warren Robertson Acting School and Repertory Company, Viggo Mortensen is another alumni of this New York based actor's workshop] He's a wonderful guy and extraordinarily precise. He's a fighter. He's a very, very straight and narrow straight shooting guy is what made me think of him. So I called him Zane Robertson, who Flyboy is. When it came time to shoot and wipe out Cylons, that's what he did.
Michael Tayles as Lt. S. 'Flyboy' Irvine (right) on Battlestar Galactica 2003
You talked about Michael Rymer. How was he to work with as a director?
Extremely great listener. Like when I say that, I mean he has a great discretionary device where whatever is coming out of your mouth, what contributes to the overall picture, the whole story, how he can do that. Like Michael wrote in a scene with - you know that dogfight scene - Michael fleshed that out, helped make that scene where we were all talking in the Vipers on the way out, Michael helped. As far as I know Michael really contributed to the writing aspect of that scene and made it and really fleshed it out. He really helped flesh Flyboy out too. He really gave Flyboy more than he had. What that does is it adds to the overall story, right? It makes it more and more character driven because Michael, in my opinion anyway, cares about characters. He cares about these people. Because of that, he directs that way. He directs with a really strong caring hand. So yeah, he's great.
What was it like to work with Jamie Bamber?
Jamie's English you know. (mimics British accent laughs) Yeah, he's...Jamie was really down to earth, really warm, no airs. You know here he is the son of Adama right. He's a really amazing guy, the main lead of this show, very, very approachable, great, great guy. I got to meet his wife too. She was visiting us at that day, lovely woman. Jamie made me feel at home, made me feel like I was part of the cast.
Was there any other crew that stood out in your mind that you worked with?
I did get introduced to [Edward James] Olmos, the commander. He was visiting, obviously, because you have episodes leading into other episodes so they are around the studio. So I was introduced to him and that was really amazing because he's wow, he's a terrific presence. He's a really smart actor who in my opinion you can have no question in your mind that this guy could lead these people to freedom, to another planet. He's leading the human race you know? Yeah so it's extremely...Did you see the episode where he gets almost killed by Grace's character?
Right, where he gets shot at the end of the season.
Yeah, where he gets shot. I mean that - oh god - I mean he's...and then how he has to trust her? And then he decides to trust her with New Caprica? He's rich and very present, very in the moment, very alive in the moment.
You were talking about that scene in the episode Scattered, Flyboy protects Apollo as he tried to destroy a Cylon troop transport. What was it like working in that suit?
It's hot, that's what it is. It's hot and ugly. That's what it is. It's hot. It's hot and ugly and uncomfortable. I mean when you're in the middle of the scene, you use it right. You use it as what it would really be like. I mean these people are in these little tin cans flying through space being shot at. It's the second world war fighter pilot but now he's in space. And those guys weren't comfortable up there, they were cold. They were the opposite. They were freezing cold. Well, I just used it. I just used it as part of what was happening. I'm sure I lost three or four gallons of water in that suit. (laughs)
Michael Tayles as Lt. S. 'Flyboy' Irvine on Battlestar Galactica 2003
I'm sure it made it more difficult to act.
Well it makes it really challenging that's for sure. That's a fact. Because your...it's an obstacle, and you're working. You can use that obstacle to help fulfill your objective because that obstacle is there to challenge you. That's just the way I've been trained, so that's the way I went after it. Once you're inside the cockpit they also lock your helmet down onto you, into the suit. And then they've got air that comes shooting into the helmet so you can breathe, and also so you don't fog up your screen because you get so hot. And then they close the canopy and then lock that down. So you can - you know if you're a claustrophobic dude that would be - if you're a claustrophobic person that would totally freak you right out. I'm sure of it. Because I remember sitting there for a brief second before we took off, before I launched through the tube, I remember sitting there going, "Okay, I'm fine, I'm okay, yeah I'm fine. That's all right. There's air coming into my helmet. I'm fine." It did take a moment. (laughs) They've got an ear piece so you have radio and obviously you're miked. But you have an ear piece and you can talk to the director. You're in contact, but they are nowhere, you can't see them. I mean they're a ways away. It does really contribute to the overall circumstances and experience.
Let me ask you this, you talked about when you were little and watched the old series and saw them flying around in Vipers. When you got into that Viper, did you feel like your boyhood dream had come true?
Oh yeah, I really did. In fact I called my brother. They were setting up the shot and I was hanging out by a couple of the other Mark II Vipers and Mark V's. And Mark V is his right, Jamie's, he's got the new Viper right? And we've got the Mark II's, the old ones. And the old ones, as I understand it, are from the original series that they set up and everything here. So I was literally - it was like jumping through time and space - you know when the Galactica does those leaps? That's how it felt. I had done this leap. And I was leaning up against the Viper, I had to. I pull out my cell phone and I called my brother and I said, "So you wouldn't believe what I'm leaning up against." And he's like, "What?" "A Mark II Viper bro." He was like, "Noooooo!!!" (laughs) He was so jealous. I was like, "Yeah and I'll be flying one here within the hour." (laughs) He was just...you know for him, because he's older, and the original series was in repeat when I saw it. But the thing is, it doesn't matter. Whether it's in repeat or you're watching it, it's still the first time that you're seeing it. But it so sticks with you. And there you are. I mean it was exactly that. It was one of those small - you know it's a boyhood dream - and that was definitely a part of my childhood that was now physically in my reality. It was a great testament that we can really all make our dreams come true. That sounds corny. Nobody asked me if I was going to Disneyland, no. So what are you going to do now, go to Disneyland? No, I'm going to hang out with my Viper. (laughs) And I did and I loved my Viper. I don't have any problems telling people that. It's like a car, you know, a great car! You ever fall in love with your car? It was like that. There it was, my Viper. They put my callsign on it and everything. I was really stoked.
That's great. In the episode "Valley of Darkness", Flyboy stumbles across some Cylons who have come aboard the Galactica. Is it difficult to react to Cylons that are computer generated later?
Well, what the special effects guys did is they brought in a, like a, I think he's nine feet - I'm not sure of the exact height now - a really extraordinarily tall cardboard cutout of how they appear on the show when they're digitally made. Because they lay that in later. They put him around the corner. So when we do stumble upon him, when we do come around that corner and we're face to face with a real Cylon. I fortunately had this giant cardboard cutout of this enormous Cylon. (laughs) It doesn't matter if its cardboard or not, it's freaky. That's just the plain, simple truth of it. They are - you've seen the show obviously and you know how menacing they are. I guess your imagination just floods in and it just makes these things three dimensional. You don't have to - there's not a lot of acting going on there, you know? It's just bam. It just hits you.
That whole episode is like a horror thriller in that you've got these huge monsters running around a confined space. There's only so much room to go and you've got that tension building throughout the entire episode.
Oh yeah, that's exactly right. You've got it, nailed it, exactly.
During the scene when Flyboy is killed by the Centurions, was there any stunt work that you did or didn't do?
Yeah, you know I really - I did my best. I said please throw me in the harness and make me do a backwards somersault so I can hit the bulkhead. No, I'm just kidding. (laughs) There's no way I wanted to do a backwards somersault and hit the bulkhead. No, no, not in this life thanks. So I said yeah go ahead. The stunt guy came in, he did a terrific job. They flung him around a couple of times, smashed him up against the bulkhead and he was tough as nails. So yeah, I was glad to step out of the way for that one thanks.
Michael Tayles as Lt. S. 'Flyboy' Irvine on Battlestar Galactica 2003
Do you have any other interesting stories about the scenes or about working on that show?
Let's see, any other funny things that might have happened or strange things that happened? Just the crew are a really strong supportive aspect of the show. I mean obviously you never see them. But they are really a tight group and they're very supportive. They're quiet when they need to be quiet. And they are there, you know actors are not having to wait for - well not while I was there anyway - waiting for camera setup or something like that. They do their job and they do it really very well. So they are very professional. I mean they're funny. I remember a few of them joking with Jamie, making him laugh, playing accents and stuff. I don't know...You know the female Cylon that hangs out with Baltar all the time?
Six played by Tricia Helfer?Yeah, Tricia. I met her briefly because remember when the Cylon rips my chest open? Well we made a body special effects cast for that. When they were putting that on me, I had to go into the makeup, the special effects makeup trailer and she was there. Whoa, in real life, my god. I mean I think she's good looking in the movie you know, in the show. But in real life, to see her for real, she is as sexy as can be. So yeah, it was - I mean we had a really nice visit and a really nice - she was like, "So do you have to take your shirt off?" And I was like, "Yeah, do you mind?" "Not at all", she said. Then she just sat back in her chair. (laughs) So I had to take my shirt off and they had to fit me with this body cast thing for my - you know for the Cylons tearing my guts out moment. Yeah, just that kind of stuff. There was never any - I guess let's see if there's any stories on Michael. An old director that I had done a movie with was sharing some of the studio. Did you see the movie Arctic with those wolves? It just came out for Disney. I think it was about the wolves who wait all winter for those people to come back to their Antarctica base. Well the director of that, Frank Marshall, he shot part of that here in the studios. Coincidentally he was there when I was there. I got to see him and visit with him and Michael Rymer. So we all swapped stories for a couple of minutes. He's the executive producer of the Bourne Identity, the second one. He executive produced that. Just stuff like that. It was kind of everyone playing, because he had a great big studio with a big killer whale so we were teasing him about that, his big styrofoam studio.
Were there any scenes that you screwed up or make any mistakes that were memorable? Or maybe you don't want to share them?
(laughs) Yeah, no. We were in the Viper and the guys were - because the Viper is on a great big ball, a couple of big airballs - and the guys rock it in front of the green screen. There were a few. I think I hit my head against the canopy a few times or something because I had pitched the wrong way. It was like, "Are you all right Mike?" Oh yeah, no I'm fine! Stuff like that. (laughs) But no practical jokes or anything, probably because people were so busy and so focused I guess.
Michael Tayles as Lt. S. 'Flyboy' Irvine on Battlestar Galactica 2003
Let me switch tracks. You appeared in the episode Broken World on the show Millenium as a deputy.
Just that it was Lance Hendricksen which as you know - what was that movie, Aliens. Lance played the robot on that, the android or however you want to call him. Artificial intelligence guy who basically screws them all over. Lance was extraordinarily generous because I remember being with him the first time which was really nice. And then Terry O'Quinn as you know he's on Lost. Terry O'Quinn and him and I, we share a scene, several scenes when we trying to track down this serial killer.
That scene - I had two scenes added because Lance pointed out to the writers that if you were going to have this deputy guy around, he should be around and involved. And it would give something for the older Lance and Terry to work off of right? So Lance made sure I was really involved. The both of them made fun of me one time, they were extraordinarily supportive. I know I sound like I'm praising a lot of people but it's because I really believe that. I mean if these people were mean, I just wouldn't say anything. I just wouldn't say anything because it's not probably good etiquette. But no, they were really good to me. Terry and Lance both teased me about how I was going to say my lines. Because when you say a line you just don't say it. The line is the last thing really. It's how you feel and what you as a character think about what's going on in the circumstances and then the line comes out. It comes out of that. It's not like you learn the line - the line is I'm going to tell her to sit down. Okay, sit down. Sit down. You might run it through a few times, sit down, sit down. But if you know the circumstance, which is she - you've got to ask the girl to sit down in the chair because of the circumstances - you're in the police station, you've got to take a statement - then the line just comes out, you see? Yeah, so anyway they were giving me a hard time about that. They were very, very funny. Stuff like that.
That was a role in Millenium. It was a great experience because of those two actors are so competent. I learned a lot from them both. They taught me a lot.
You talked about Terry O'Quinn who plays Locke on Lost. I think he's an amazing actor on that show. Have you seen that series and compared him then with when you worked with him on Millenium?
Yeah and I've also seen Terry outside of the set. I've run into him at a bookstore actually. Terry O'Quinn and I guess a couple of months after Broken World. I think they were just wrapping Millenium out, maybe it was a year or something or half a year or something later. But yeah, we both had a visit about what was next. Because Terry O'Quinn has done a lot of work right? An extraordinarily competent actor. What's wonderful is that he looks like just into his pace now, like a horse when it's racing? It's like he just found his rhythm, his gait. I agree with you. These are the kind of things that you aspire to be, that versatile and that rich, that layered. He is so great in Lost. I think it's one of his best performances.
Does working with great actors raise your level up?
Oh yeah, I would agree with that completely. Yeah, because they challenge you. They challenge you to be the best you can be. And you want that, you want that with every person you work with. And if you can be fortunate enough to work with these actors, that's what happens. You're brought up. They bring your game up.
Donnelly Rhodes plays Doc Cottle in the new Galactica. He was in Millenium. Did you have any scenes with him?
No, I worked with Donnelly Rhodes on another show called Destiny Ridge and that was a while back. I think I wasn't even out of high school, just getting out of school. You know he was in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He's in that first moment of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when they are gambling. They are just introducing Robert Redford and Paul Newman. He goes and draws on them. He was going to draw his gun on them. He says, "I didn't know you were the Sundance Kid when I said you were cheating. If I draw on you, you'll kill me." And then Robert Redford says, "If he invites us to stay, then we'll go. He's got to invite us to stick around." Do you remember that scene? It's at the very, very beginning. Anyway yeah, Donnelly Rhodes he worked with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. He's a wonderful actor.
Donnelly Rhodes as Macon in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
He has such a commanding presence. He can walk in as the doctor on Galactica like he owns the place and will put a cigarette out in the bedpan.
I know! (laughs) You know, obviously that cigarette is his idea because think about it. He's the only person that smokes right? Whatever he does, he's playing the crotchety western old doctor in a way, you know? (laughs) And he's so good at it. He's so dry, he's got a really dry sense of humor and really kind eyes. You know he's got really kind eyes. But he is tough as nails too. There's an incredible talent in Battlestar Galactica. I think it's great that they grabbed him and put him on the show. I would obviously love to be a recurring character on the show but the chips fall the way they do, but man, I think they did a smart move when they made sure they had a good doctor like that. I mean you know Starbuck, for example right, for me to work with her. That's a good example too. She's an incredible actor and has done so much on the show. Callum Keith Rennie too for example, I know Callum and he's a wonderful guy and a great actor too. He played one of the Cylons that kept Starbuck in her apartment there?
Leoben. She killed him five or six times.
(laughs) Six times. Which might remind you of every guy who has dated a girl and has tried everything he can and she keeps shooting him down. Then you try to ask her out again and she says yes and then you have dinner and then she goes, "You know what, this isn't working." It was kind of like that. That sort of perennial, always giving another shot, kind of guy. It was funny.
You did a BBC docudrama called Surviving Disaster that talks about the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. Call you tell us about that and your role as Ken Johnston?
First of all, it was amazing to be hired for the BBC because it's a docudrama and it's something I wanted to do. I was impressed by the writing because that's a difficult thing to do, a docudrama, to write that. They didn't use a casting director, which was really cool. The director wanted to meet everybody. They made calls out to all the agencies and then they wanted to meet. They wanted as many pictures as possible, because you can see everybody's pictures online now. They had a chance to look through hundreds and hundreds of people's faces and look at their resumes. And then they basically broke it down from there and then decided to have people come in to meet the director and then audition on tape for them in the room. One on one with the camera operator, which is really rare. I loved it. I loved the experience and I loved the research on Mount St. Helens 1980 eruption.
My character Ken Johnston is a real person. I did contact the ranger stations in Washington and I did speak to the rangers. I did find out what was going on at the time for them from their perspective. To get a understanding of why and how that works. The same with Flyboy, I mean I spoke to fighter pilots, real fighter pilots, for the Air Force. I think it's important. There's an osmosis thing that happens when you talk to people who do their job. I ended up talking to a guy who may or may not have been Ken Johnston. That sounds spooky but the truth is this woman said, "Do you want to talk to this fellow. He's playing a role for this docudrama they're doing about Mount St. Helens." And the guy said, "Well okay, put him on the phone." You know because they are rangers they are so not affected. They're not like we are in the big city where you put people on hold and stuff like that. They're really salt of the Earth people. They deal with trees and animals. They deal with people also but it's from a very botanist sort of background, like horticulture and that sort of thing. Salt of the Earth is the expression I would use for it.
Anyway so they didn't even put me on hold, they just put the phone down and I heard them talking. (laughing) He's like, "Well I don't know if I want to really talk to him." And she's like, "Well, give him a chance. He's an actor. He just wants to know what happened on Mount St. Helens." Anyway so they put the guy on and yeah we talked about it. I don't know, he never gave me his name but I did ask him about Ken Johnston and he just sort of went around that guy's name and went on about what the experience was like.
How people don't realize that as rangers you're trying to protect the forest and you're trying to protect people and especially if those two come into conflict, especially in the Mount St. Helens eruption situation. It was interesting to hear the conflict, the personal conflict, that was going on for him, for a ranger. What they're trained to do and how they approach people. It was very insightful and it helped me a great deal. Have you seen the show yet?
I have not.
It's aired in England already.
You've completed a movie that's due out in 2007 called The Invisible where you play a young cop in the film. You talked about Callum Keith Rennie and he's also in it. Can you tell us about that movie and your role in it?
David Goyer directed it. That was another gift also. In these questions you've brought up all of the really excellent, real gift moments I've had in my career. Because David Goyer - I auditioned for that on tape. He hired me from DVD's is how. We hadn't even met, so when I came on the set David walked up to me with the DP, which as you probably know is the director of photography, and he said, "Michael Tayles." I said, "Yes, are you David Goyer?" And he goes, "Yes, I'm David Goyer." (laughs) And he shakes my hand and he goes, "We don't know each other because you're the only guy I hired from DVD to be on this show." I mean that is a huge compliment. I said, "Is there any special notes you want to give me now before we do the scene?" He's like, "To be really honest Mike, I would love it if you could just do it the way you did it on DVD. Just bring to it what you brought." I'm sure that will be enough of what he was looking for in this moment, as a cop." Callum was there. Callum was fishing. (laughs) Because you have these big blocks of time between set ups and stuff. We were down by the river. I mean we're not like really fishing but you know we're just hanging out, catching up. Because we worked on a television show - well it's a movie - called Hole in the Sky. That was directed by John Kent Harrison. It's a Hallmark Pictures Hall of Fame with Sam Elliott and Jerry O'Connell. We worked on that together, so that's where we first met. So we were catching up. We had seen each other in the Toronto Film Festival. We were both in that a couple of years back. So we were catching up on that. Callum has a great role in that. He's an investigator, investigating this murder. I'm really looking forward to seeing it when it comes out because I think it's going to be one of those movies that I think will be really good. It's more in the line of science fiction but it's also very character - really person - driven. Well that's how it read! So I wonder how they edited it. You never know how it turns out.
actor Michael Tayles
Do you have any other future work projects lined up?
Well it's as you know the Christmas break. What I'm doing this year for Christmas is I'm working for World Vision helping them with gaining sponsors for children in developing nations. I'm basically just doing that whole Christmas thing, sponsor a small child in a distant country and help them have food, water and clothing and shelter. Because I think that is a very important thing to do, especially in the sense that we in the developed nations have so much. We don't realize how far a dollar can go. That's really my focus and there's some really great stuff happening in this spring. We're talking a lead. They're doing a pilot but I'll probably play the lead and we're still discussing that for a new series that's coming out. That will be shot in Los Angeles. And also a lead in an animated series which I would really be excited doing also. We've just finished seeing the creator of that show just a couple of days ago. We'll have answers on that in January but that's the really fun and exciting stuff ahead.
Do you have any interesting hobbies? Are you a hockey fan?
Well I enjoy hockey but I'm not like a crazy hockey fan, no. I love basketball. I really enjoy watching basketball. I enjoy hockey when I can watch a NHL game in person. I'm not excited about it on TV. I guess maybe because as a Canadian kid you grow up a lot around hockey. You see it a lot. But in person, it's always much more exciting. Hobbies? I don't know. When you do this for a profession, I guess it sort of takes so much of your time up that you don't really - I mean I like to do lots of other things. I like to build things or work for construction guys. When I say that, I mean I'll help build or renovate a house or something. Or I'll go in landscaping. I like to build rock walls or help put in steps for some of these people that I know that have some really nice waterfront properties, they need guys to help them sort of landscape it. Put trees in and stuff. Build their fences. They like their cedar fences because we got a lot of cedar trees out here. Are you familiar with the frow?
It's a device. It's a metal device that you actually use a hammer on to basically cut into a tree, a cedar tree, that's obviously fallen and cleared. Then you go along and you make planks right out of the cedar tree, then you hammer those up. I like to be involved in things like that because it just puts you really in the present, and it puts you in your body.
You work with your hands and you have something to show for it.
Exactly. And the fresh air and the immediate return. Obviously if there was time for a good play I'd love to do that because I did do a lot of plays. That's one of the things that got me started, as you know with the play of the year, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown. (laughs) I did a sequence of plays after that. It's really great of you guys to even take the time to give me a call and ask these terrific questions. I think that's wonderful. I think Battlestar Galactica is wonderful. So anything you guys can do to further this show, that's wonderful.
Well I'll tell you what, people have heard interviews from Katee Sackhoff and Jamie Bamber on and on and on again. There are so many other people that's involved with the show that have great stories that we never hear.
I know! I'm really pleased you guys think that way and broadened out and grabbed a few of us other guys out there that just love the show and love to act. I'm really honored that you guys thought of me. I said to my agent, "Are you sure they got the right guy?" (laughs) He's like, "Yeah, they do. They've got a list of questions here, it sounds like you." Well great, that would be terrific. So I thank you very much Mike.
Do you have time for one more follow up question?
Oh yeah please, go ahead.
This might sound silly, but for those of us who are totally outside of what actually goes on during shooting, could you describe what a typical day as an actor would be from the time that you get up, to throughout the day, makeup, waiting on sets, how many takes you go through? Can you describe that?
Oh yeah sure. Okay, well it actually starts the night before because for an actor you've got a script that you've got to do what we call script analysis on. So you work through the script and get a schedule that tells you what possibly they are going to shoot the next day, if everything goes smoothly. They also have an alternative schedule. So you go through that all night - well not all night - but you go through that in the evening. So you understand what is expected of you the next day. Then you have an idea - well you have better than an idea - you know your lines and you know why you're saying them. You know what the circumstances are. You already understand the character because that's why they've hired you. So that really helps you. Then hopefully you get a good night's sleep right? Then you get an early morning call.
Michael Tayles as Lt. S. 'Flyboy' Irvine on Battlestar Galactica 2003
From the studio?
Sometimes, it depends on where you are. If you are on location or at the hotel, they'll bring a driver for you. Like when I did Hole in the Sky I drove with Sam Elliott and Jerry O'Connell out to the mountains everyday when we filmed that. That was really great because they're super guys. But the thing is, the driver comes early in the morning. You sit basically in a van or a - I guess what do they call those - town cars. They drive you out there where basically you're just waking up. You got your coffee in your hand kind of thing. Then once you get there your AD, or assistant director, will meet you and show you where your trailer is. They call it the circus and that's always moving around. You never know exactly where everything is going to be. So an assistant director will come up and they'll have like a headset and a radio. They'll say good morning and they're always extremely pleasant and funny. They're always very funny. They take you to your trailer where the wardrobe department has already laid out everything, from underwear sometimes and socks and warmers if it's cold out and a big parka.
They also have what we call sides, which are what the scenes of the day are going to be filmed that day. Because they know actors bring their scripts with them, but they also make sure that you have them in case you need to change a line or check a line or make sure there haven't been any changes. Because you can get pages at night sent to you, when there are changes and then you have make those adjustments.
Then there's a knock on your door and someone saying, "Listen, Mike have you had breakfast yet? We've got time if you still want to have breakfast." (laughs) So then you'll go to the catering truck where these people make amazing meals all day long. Then off to go to set where you're surrounded by about thirty or forty people and a bunch of equipment and lights and you're stepping over cables. You got guys talking to other guys on radios asking them to adjust this light or move this lamp. Then you've got other guys moving tables around or trying to set things up.
On top of that you've got the director saying, "Well Mike, I think I see you coming through the hallway and down here. Then Jamie walks up to you and the two of you walk together. What do you think?" Then Jamie says, "Well I don't know. I think if I was - you know with the power being out - wouldn't I really have a light in my hand now? Shouldn't we have-" Then the director Michael will go - Michael Rymer will say, "That's right. Props!" And then props would come over, one of the keys from props, will go, "Yeah. Yeah." And then Michael would say, "Could we - could we um - Do we need flashlights? These guys need torches. You know they need flashlights to go on because the power is out." "Oh yeah, of course!" And he'll go running off and come back with them while we're still talking. And then he'll say, "Yeah but I think Jamie maybe doesn't come to the door right away. I think we'll have Michael come through the door first." We call that blocking. And of course, who's standing around in the shadows, the camera operator and his assistants. And of course the DP, the director of photography, because he wants to make sure it's lit the best way possible.
Special effects will be nearby. Then we'll go on what they call a relax, which is where they'll take us back to our trailer and we'll wait. What you're really doing is preparing for other scenes and stuff or incorporating the new ideas or suggestions that have just come out of the blocking. And then you go back out, they knock on your door and they take you back out there. And then before you know it, you're into the scene because all the crew have done all their marvelous work. And you're filming and then it's cut and it's print and it's like, "Michael could you say that line again because I think you mumbled it. You did a Marlon Brando." (laughs) "Oh right, yeah sorry." And then you'll do it again and be a little more articulate, even though I think Brando was very articulate.
You know the other thing, it's funny, it's just - and that's how the whole day goes. And then you break for lunch, and then at lunch you all hang out and tell stories and eat and then you go back to work. And then this same process is repeated into the afternoon and sometimes into the late evening. It's usually about a ten hour day.
Michael Tayles as Lt. S. 'Flyboy' Irvine on Battlestar Galactica 2003
How many takes does each scene usually take, when you're actually shooting it?
Well, if you are just going to shoot a regular scene - like some of the scenes you see on Battlestar Galactica for example - like the scene where Adama gets shot. Okay? When Grace comes in and shoots him? Okay, well you remember Grace is walking up towards him? And he's standing next to the control room, like next to the big board, the control console. And he turns around and looks at her? Okay, well that's - we're looking at - oh, at least a dozen takes there, twelve or fifteen takes, just to make sure that; when he turns around he's in focus, and then Grace is in focus, if she's got to say her line, or she's got to pull her gun out, and then how she does it, and then she shoots him, how he reacts to the shots. I'm sure when it came to the actual reacting, I wasn't on the set for that moment, but I'm sure that they didn't ask him to do it too many time because it's a lot of energy. You've got to throw yourself up on the table when you get shot. (laughs)
It's remarkable because there's a lot more going on. Then there's your feelings, facing death. I'm sure you have to look at that, think about that. I don't know. But there's usually two to three takes on any actor at any given time. Right? It gives you a chance to try one for yourself, one for the director, and one for safety, minimal. I mean like Clint Eastwood, I think, doesn't do a lot, just maybe one or two or three takes tops I guess. That's what I've read anyway. Yeah but that's a typical day. And then you're home at like eight o'clock or nine o'clock at night. So it's a ten or twelve hour day. And then it repeats right? Then you go over your pages for the next day. And then that continues into a full week. But it's so rewarding. You know it's playing! You're getting a chance. It's extremely fun.
It sounds like it's extremely involved and it sounds like it's a labor of love.
Oh it is. Yeah, for sure. Yeah, we're very lucky. Just that anytime you get a chance to work with great writing and great people, it becomes magic. That movie magic stuff happens and that's like, it's really thrilling stuff.
So do you still watch the series?
Oh, yeah. I was hoping that Michael Rymer might have me come back to be Starbuck's boyfriend. (laughs) Give me a shot at it. Give me a shot from the grave you know? I don't know, maybe be a Cylon or something. Oh yeah, I would love to, love to come back on the show. I think she's gorgeous. I wouldn't mind dancing that dance.
Michael Trucco is a lucky man.
Oh very, very lucky man indeed. And I know he feels that way, well I'm guessing anyway. I haven't spoken to him but I'm sure, I'm sure he does. She's a good catch. Yeah so like I said earlier Michael it's just - you know again, thank you for having me to answer these questions and be involved. It's a great walk down memory lane about these things and it's wonderful.
Well you know what? You have a wonderful view of what it's like as an actor. You gave us a completely different perspective than the main cast. It's stuff the fans will see a whole new side to.
We really appreciate you taking the time for the interview.
Oh yeah, my privilege, thank you very much Michael and good luck with everything okay? All right, well talk to you in the future. (laughs) Okay.
|< Prev||Next >|