|Ryan Robbins GALACTICA.TV interview|
|Written by Marcel Damen|
|Tuesday, 28 August 2007|
On May 4, 2007 Marcel Damen caught up with Ryan Robbins, better known as the Armistice Station Officer in the Mini Series as well as Charlie Connor in Season 3 of the Battlestar Galactica 2003 series. He talked to him for over a full hour about his love for hockey, his career as an ever reinventing character actor and his parts on both the Mini Series as well as the regular series.
In a previous interview with Aaron Douglas, he mentioned that you were also a Vancouver Canucks fan.
Yes, very much. Aaron and I go to the games together.
Ok. You also go together with Dan Payne, right?
That's right, yeah. Sometimes with Dan Bacon as well. Actually I think I'm going to Aaron's house tonight to watch the game after I get off the phone with you.
So Vancouver is down three games to one against the Anaheim Ducks [in the 2007 Western Conference Semifinals]. What do you think they've done wrong?
What do I think they've done wrong?
I think that they've been sitting back when they get a lead. I think that what happened in the last game is that they were ahead, and every time they get ahead, they'd just sit back and kind of play slow defensively and you can't do that in the playoffs. I think you have to come out strong and play to score goals, not play to just hold on to a lead. That's what I think is going on, and I think they need to spend more time looking after their goalie as well.
Do you think it's possible to come back against the Ducks?
Yes! Of course it's possible! Of course they're going to come back. Of course they're going to win the series! (laughing) (Editor's note: Anaheim defeated Vancouver four games to one, and went on to beat the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals and the Ottawa Senators to win the Stanley Cup.)
actor Ryan Robbins
If this is as far as Vancouver goes, will you consider this a successful season?
Yeah, it's been a really successful season, especially considering early on in the season when there were a lot of people that were talking down on the Canucks saying they had a young team, they didn't have what it takes, and it would take time for them to get together as a team. And probably as of December, they came out strong and they really started showing a lot of potential. And of course, with Roberto Luongo in goal, I think that really inspired the team to play that much harder. Some players that I wasn't really all that impressed with in the regular season came out super strong in the playoffs and have really been playing their heart out. As a matter of fact, we have a new guy on the team for the playoffs who I absolutely love. His name is Jannik Hansen, and he's from Denmark. He's the first Danish player to ever play in the playoffs in the NHL.
Ok. So how much is the loss of Jeff Cowan, with the knee surgery, a loss for the team?
I think it's a bit of a loss because we also don't have Matt Cooke. So it's a considerable loss, those two guys hit really hard, and they're really aggressive players. They're playmakers, and they're very fast, and they're tenacious, and we need those guys. However, I heard that we brought up a young kid named Brandon Reed who I really like. He's a smaller guy, but he's very fast, and he's very aggressive. He's like a little pest which we need, him and Burrows, hopefully him and Alex Burrows together will hopefully create some opportunities for the team.
So how do you feel about the Sedin brothers? Henrik and Daniel?
I think they're great, and I think they've been amazing for us all year. The Sedins have been a force all year. I wish that Henrik Sedin wouldn't feel so compelled to pass the puck all the time and would shoot it some more. They definitely seem to be a little bit off their mark in the playoffs but... I guess having said that, Henrik has scored some very important goals in the playoffs, and has been responsible for some very important goals in the playoffs, but there's a couple of times where I wished he would shoot more often. And then Marcus Naslund, he's Markus Naslund. He's doing everything that a Captain should do, and that's step up his game during the playoffs. And he's one of the guys who's had a bit of an off season, but when the playoffs came on, he came out and pushed really hard. He's played his heart out, he plays with a lot of heart and a lot of passion, and that's what you need in your team captain.
Yeah, so it's going to be an exciting game tonight then?
It has to be. They've got to come out so strong and never stop. I think that they have to push the pace this game, start to finish, and play hard hitting, fast paced, aggressive game. They need to put lots of traffic in front of the net. That's one thing we haven't been doing is getting bodies in front of the net. I think we do a lot more of that, and then they'll have a chance. But there's no reason...we shouldn't have lost that last game. There's no reason we can't win these next bunch of games.
So I guess we should talk about you as an actor now.
But we've had so much fun talking about hockey. (laughing)
Yeah, but I still wanted to get some questions about you in there as well.
You were born Ryan John Currier. Where does the name Robbins come from?
My stepfather. When I was young, about six years old, my mother had remarried a couple years previous [to that], and then her and my stepfather filed adoption papers, and they changed my last name. So yeah, it changed when I was about six years old, which was a bit of a strange transition for a first grader to try to explain why your name changed when you don't really understand it yourself. But no, it's not a stage name. It's the name I've grown up with since I was six or seven.
You began your career in the arts performing in the circus? How did you end up there?
Well, I had gone to theatre school, and a very arts oriented high school, and I'd done a lot of martial arts growing up since I was very young. And through a series of events, I ended up traveling to Australia by myself when I was 17. I ran out of money quickly and ended up with this circus working as a laborer, and because I was Canadian and it was an international circus, they needed somebody to make an appearance on behalf of the circus at a school. So I put on a clown costume, and I went to this school and did some acrobatics, some things I knew, and performed for the kids. The circus liked what I did, and they said we should train you up and get you in the ring, and that's what they did. I trained harder than I've trained for a lot of things in my life, and ended up very quickly performing in the ring, doing a whole variety of circus acts.
How long did you stay in the circus?
Well I was in the circus for a few years, and then I had to have surgery, and I lost a contract. I was supposed to go to Spain and Italy, and the surgery caused a delay, and I ended up losing that contract, and I just didn't pursue it after that. I just sort of realized that it was fun, it was amazing, it's the hardest work you can imagine. It's incredibly grueling hard work. [It's] very rewarding, not financially rewarding. (laughing) But I wanted to be acting. I wanted to be doing films and so I decided that I would find a way to pursue that, and I had no idea how to that, and instead I ended up in a band, (laughing) and I did that for a long time.
I've read you talked to Richard Hatch about that as well since he also started out in the circus. What did he do?
Well Richard Hatch, I don't know how many people remember, but several years ago when he was actually on the original Battlestar Galactica, they used to do this series called "Circus of the Stars", and they would get TV stars and movie stars. They would train them as circus performers and they would do these circus acts. Richard had some experience, some gymnastics experience before that I believe, and he ended up being a cast member that came back quite regularly, I think, on "Circus of the Stars". He was really good at it, so he stuck with it. He performed with "Circus of the Stars". I think he did a few things. I think he did trapeze and some other stuff. I can't quite remember, but...There's a bit of camaraderie there when we talked about it, because there's not a lot of people that have had to go through that kind of training, and experienced that lifestyle.
While playing in a band you were discovered as an actor. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yes. There was a local filmmaker who was a fan of my band, and she was making a movie, and she knew that I had also studied acting, and if you've seen my band you'd know there's a high performance aspect...She put myself and a guy in another band as leads in this movie, and I came out well in the movie. My performance caught the attention of some agents and some other people, and from that point on, that's how I finally got to be an actor, which is what I'd been wanting to do all that time, and it took me until I was about 26 years old to figure out how to...Actually I never figured out how to become an actor, it finally just came to me. I didn't know anybody. I didn't know any actors. I didn't know anything about agents, or how to become an actor, and it eventually just presented itself to me, so I ran with it with everything I had.
Did you have any formal training for acting?
Mostly for theatre. I had gone to, like I said, a very arts oriented high school that had a very progressive theatre program, and then I also went and did a little stint in theatre school. And when I was with the band, I was actually taking acting classes, and still to this day sometimes when I get free time, I taking acting classes. It's like going to the gym, getting a workout and staying sharp. I really believe I will always have something to learn as an actor, and I'm always willing to learn those things.
You also did some theatre work. How was that like acting in front of a live audience?
Yeah, I did theatre when I was younger. I did quite a lot of theater; Shakespeare, and quite some other plays as well. Not as much theatre as I would have liked. I really love theatre and I don't get to do much of it anymore, but I still like to go and watch a good play.
Since being discovered, you starred in an incredible amount of different television series over the past 8-9 years and you also change your looks for each part that you play. What parts do you prefer to make you say: "I'd like to read for that one" and "I want to do that part"?
Well, it's more about the parts that will become available, and when I get the audition, I think "How can I make this interesting for me to play and hopefully interesting for people to watch?" I like the idea of trying to bring something to each role that's a little different every time. Something that's identifiable. I went through a string where I played a lot of bad guys, but I think the key for playing a bad guy, for example, is that I don't think that bad people think they're bad. They think that they feel very justified in what they're doing. And they think what they're doing is a good thing, and that way you give them a much more identifiable quality and people can at least relate to them on some level, and understand them on some level, and it makes it more interesting to watch. As far as looks and appearance goes, that's just me anyway. I like change. I get bored easily, and I'm always changing my look. There was one stint where I was very frustrated as an actor, and I had just come back from Los Angeles, and I was all but ready to call it quits. I was so frustrated with the industry and the business, and I was playing parts I wasn't happy with, and then I thought "Screw it! I'm just going back to the old me." I shaved my head into a Mohawk, and spiked it up, and said "Forget it! I'm going to be this guy for awhile." The next thing I know I worked for an entire year with various forms of my Mohawk. (laughing) I worked nonstop after that, with that haircut, so it's kind of funny how that worked out.
actor Ryan Robbins
You've done comedy, drama, sci-fi. Any particular genre you like best?
I don't think I have a favorite. I think it just depends on the project as a whole. You know, the premise of the thing. Comedy's fun. I think there's something about a good drama that you feel like you're telling a story that is making a difference. I mean those really don't come along as often as you'd like, where you can really get behind it, and do the research you need to do, and do the work you need to do. Because you know you're telling a story that may make a difference in somebody's life. That may really impact somebody. I know that it sounds really cliché for an actor to say, but I really truly want to do more of those projects. Where I feel like I'm contributing in some way, and in some way inspire somebody, or change their mind about a certain point of view. I think shows like Battlestar Galactica are great for that. Battlestar Galactica presents a moral dilemma, and then tries to solve it, or discuss it, in an unusual way. It's not cliché at all, and it's very relevant the way that they address politics, and religion, and very intense issues from various perspectives. That to me is great! It's why it's such a fantastic show. It's why it's critically acclaimed. Those shows don't come around nearly as often as they should. I think if more people got behind shows like that, then television and film would be considered a much more important medium. [Don't get me wrong,] entertainment is fantastic, it's great to be entertained. It's absolutely great, and if a good fiction entertains you, great. If a good comedy entertains you, great. But sometimes it's nice to feel connected to the rest of the world in some way, if that makes any sense.
It does. I've also read you did stunt work for I, Robot. Is this true?
Nope. Not true. Don't know why that's up there [on IMDb.com.] I worked on I, Robot as a reader for Will Smith. Basically what happens is that I got hired to come in two weeks prior to shooting while they were doing script revisions, and I would go from location to location, and I would play all the other characters opposite Will Smith. We would just work the scenes together, and then we'd sit around and do table reads of the script, when the other cast started showing up. Everybody would just discuss how to make the scenes tighter, and rewrite this and change that. Which was an amazing experience for me to just hang out with Will Smith and Bridget Moynahan...but I did not do stunts. I did attempt to do stunts early on in my career. From my circus background, it was a natural transition, and I went to stunt school, and tried to do all that. It's not a good way to break into acting. It's very competitive, and my hat is off to all of the stunt performers in our industry because they really go through a lot for a few seconds of screen time that can really make a gigantic significant difference in a film. I do tend to try to do as many of my own stunts as possible, when I'm working. I'm very active that way, and I'm very much into it. I did a movie with The Rock which was a ton of fun, you know, speaking of just pure entertainment, and having that being a really fun genre as well, without all of the intense stuff I was talking about before. I did a movie with The Rock called Walking Tall, and I got to do all my own stunts in that film. One of which was jumping off of a very high balcony onto The Rock, and he pressed me over his head and slams me through a blackjack table. I was in the film for about five seconds, but it was awesome! It was awesome!
What was it like to work with professional wrestler turned actor "The Rock"?
He is an exceptional individual. He's incredibly smart. He's very talented, and his work ethic is awesome. He's a really hard worker. He has an acting coach with him every day because he really wanted to do good work all the time. His time was required constantly. He had to be around doing stuff all the time, and he was always very nice, very accommodating, very friendly. I worked on that film off and on for three and half months. We got to know him quite well. I found out that I was going to be having a baby while I was shooting that movie, and his daughter had just turned two, so we had lots to talk about. He was giving me all this advice about fatherhood and this business. I really have a lot of respect for him. I think he is a wonderful guy and he's great. When we were talking about doing that stunt, he came up to me when he found out I was doing it, and he was like "Man, I'm not much about jumping off heights, but going through tables is SO much fun, you're going to love it" (laughing) I have the opportunity to basically jump off the top of the cage onto The Rock, and get thrown through a table. Why would I not take that? I'd kick myself for the rest of my life if I didn't take that opportunity. And of course, everything was done with the utmost safety and consideration, and he was great. It was an absolute blast, a really, really fun time for me.
Yeah, because you said you were a huge UFC fan, right?
Well, I'm a big fight fan, a gigantic mixed martial arts fan. I also like a little bit of the boxing, but yeah. I've trained in martial arts since I was probably 11 years old, and I still box a little bit and I still train from time to time, just for the exercise. I've been watching UFC since UFC 1. I missed about four years of it at one time, because I went through a different transition in my life, but I love it man. I'm a huge, huge fan.
You've said that your secret obsession is watching men beat the crap out of each other. If there was a celebrity UFC tournament, would you enter?
A UFC tournament for celebrities?
It would depend on who I'd get to fight. (laughing) If it was a celebrity tournament, then yeah, I would. I'd consider that, because that would just be fun and no one would really want to kill each other. I don't know who I'd fight though. I'll tell you one guy I wouldn't fight is Joe Rogan, the guy who commentates UFC, because the word on the street is that guy is a tough kid. He still trains, and you don't get to know that much about that style of fighting without having experienced it a little bit, so that's one guy I wouldn't fight. There's a few guys that I could think about that I wouldn't mind getting in a cage with. (laughing)
We'll publish this, you know that, right? (laughing)
Yeah, that's fine. As long as we're not mentioning names. (laughing)
Going back to The Rock, did he really have a handle on acting, or was he more of a fish out of water?
No, he was great. He had a great handle on acting. You know, he's a performer, so a lot of it comes naturally to him. To tell you the truth, I want to see him do more comedies. He's great at the action thing, but he's a funny, funny guy. He's so witty, and so sharp, and he's really intelligent. I think he's actually, if I'm not mistaken, he's got a comedy coming out pretty soon. (The Game Plan) I think people should see more of him doing comedy. I didn't see Get Shorty, but apparently he was awesome in it, and I think he was funny in that.
Yeah, he was funny in that.
That's the stuff he should be doing, man, because he's talented. And like I said, anybody that works that hard, is only going to get better and better. You know, I loved The Rundown. I thought he was great in that movie. The dynamic that those two had, that's great screen pairing. I know they're going to do another movie together, which I think is a great idea.
Ok, let's switch over to Battlestar Galactica. Did you watch the original Battlestar Galactica series back in 1978?
I did. Yeah, I did. Obviously, they're nothing alike, but I was a definite fan of the original series. I wanted to be Boxey (laughing).
We have something in common here. I also wanted to be Boxey. I even dressed up a dog to be Muffit.
No way. That's awesome!
Yeah, I was dressing it up with boxes and everything so he'd look like a robot dog.
Well I was a little disappointed when it first came out, the new Battlestar Galactica, that there was no dog. There was no Muffit. I was kind of upset about that, but I get it now.
So what were your feelings when you heard they were redoing this series?
To be honest, I was tentative. I had mixed feelings at first. Until I read some of it, and realized that it was a re-imagining of the series, and it was much darker and edgier...I thought a lot of people were a little bit curious to see where it would go. But immediately after reading it, I knew it was going to be something great, and when I shot the pilot; when I was the old man at the very beginning of the pilot, you just knew. You could just tell by the energy. Michael Rymer, who directed the miniseries, he's such a talent, that you got the idea pretty quickly that this had the potential to be something pretty big.
Ryan Robbins as the Armistice Officer in Battlestar Galactica 2003, the Mini Series
As you said, in the beginning of the Mini Series you play a young officer on the Armistice Station, who gradually becomes older in different sequences during the first scene of the show. It looked like he'd been there every year throughout most of his life without response from the Cylons. As we all know, Six visits the station and kills him. Do you know why they cut most of it and only showed the last part with you as an old man?
Yeah, they only used the last part of it. The story was that he was there for forty years, and you'd see him every decade or so over forty years. In the final version, you only actually see him in the end, which worked out great for me because I was able to come back on the show. But the other thing is that's funny is that we were just talking about that guy, that character, the Armistice Officer, is actually Boxey's father.
Yeah, I know.
So I almost got to play Boxey. I got to play his father. (laughing)
That's true. In the original series, Boxey's a well known character, but in the new series he's almost cut in every scene. Do you know why the father and the Boxey character were never developed?
What I believe happened, is they hired Connor Widdows to play Boxey in the Mini Series, which was great, but...Connor's a fantastic actor. He's a really, really, really talented actor, and has been since he was very young. They took so much time, from shooting the Mini Series to then going and shooting Season 1. There was a lot of time in between there to decide whether or not it was going to go to series. Connor was at an age where he grew like crazy. I mean he's like a young man now, and I think that in that time in between the miniseries and starting with Season 1, he grew so much, and his voice changed, that he was no longer that cute kid. Now he's like a teenager, and I don't think that was going to work for the character, for the show. I think they thought it was just better to leave the Boxey storyline...that's what I think happened.
Because they did shoot a lot of scenes, if you look at the DVD set, they're in the deleted scenes.
Yeah, I think because it was a Mini Series, they shot a lot of stuff, and realized for time, to get it to an appropriate length for a miniseries, they had to lose a lot of scenes. I think that that's something Michael Rymer, David Eick, and Ron Moore would know more than I do, but that seems to happen a lot, you know. In a lot of projects I've done, you shoot some scenes, you know they're amazing, but you know they've just gone a little bit long, and unless you want everything to be super long films, or super long miniseries with these epic scenes, then they've got to be cut from time to time, and it's unfortunate, but...
I mean he was actually in the Series, in Season 1. He was in the first few episodes of Season 1, and they cut all the scenes that he was in.
Oh, he was in the first few episodes of Season 1! Oh, wow! Maybe that's why they cut them because he was so much older, because Season 1 was supposed to pick up right after the miniseries left off, and if everybody looks the same, and suddenly this kid looks like he's so much older than he did yesterday. You know what I mean? It's supposed to start tomorrow, essentially, in the whole scheme of things. It's like miniseries ends, and then Season 1 is supposed to pick up, essentially the next day or the next week. So if Boxey suddenly looks like he's growing a moustache, maybe that's going to be a bit awkward, I'm not sure.
Actually, the Armistice Officer was a great part for you , because it must have been rough when Tricia Helfer kisses you and asks you: "Are you alive?". I've also read you had to do an awfully large amount of takes?
Yeah, lots and lots of takes. Michael Rymer is notorious for getting lots of variations. And yeah, we kissed a lot, we had to kiss a lot. The only downside for me was that it was not my face, I was in prosthetic. (laughing) Some of the lips were mine, and that was about it. (laughing) So much so that I got to a point where when I came in for my makeup, really early in the morning, because it was about six hours of makeup, I got them to take a Polaroid of me and give it to Tricia to say "See! See! I'm not so bad looking. I'm not an old man. You're not kissing an old man. You're kissing this guy." Plus not to mention the stuff that got cut out, that they originally shot. It was a little less PG, some of this stuff that we originally shot.
Must have been horrible. (laughing)
Yeah, horrible. Boy oh boy I tell you. It's too bad Tricia Helfer's not hot or anything. (laughing sarcastically) And you know what? She's awesome. She's super sweet. She's really, really nice. She's great, and we were both equally nervous about the make out scene, and by the end of it, we were fine. Everything was great. It worked out just fine. And I have the dubious distinction of being the first human to kiss Number Six. Well at least on film anyway.
Also the first human killed.
That's right. Yeah, we started it all.
Well on the other hand, you were lucky, because you were completely unrecognizable in the Mini Series, because you could return as a different character later. Did they ask you to return or did you yourself just read for a new part again?
A little bit of both. We'd been talking for quite awhile since the Mini Series of trying to find a way to get me back on the show. Michael Rymer has always been a great supporter of mine since we met on the Mini Series, and me of him. I think he's absolutely brilliant. And we've kept in touch, and also because so many of my friends are on the show. You know a lot of us were friends before the show started, and a lot of us became friends once the show started shooting. We'd always just talk about it. We'd be out at barbeques, and whatnot, and people would be "We've got to get you back on the show, we've got to get you back on the show." But every time a new character would surface that I was right for, they were inevitably going to get killed, and obviously no one wanted to do that. No one wanted to get me back on the show just to kill me again. So this character Charlie Connor became available, and Michael Rymer requested me for the role. He said you should come in, you should do the role. Some of the others, for very good reasons [were concerned about me reappearing]. I think David Eick, and some of the others were concerned that I'd be too recognizable as the old man, so I did have to audition for the role, which I think was fair, and it worked out. It worked out really well, and I ended up getting the job. But the thing was, Charlie Connor was a character who was created later, after the original story lines were plotted out for Season 3. So there was really no journey for the character after Episode 4. There really wasn't any plans for him, and he wasn't dead, so we were trying to figure out a way to keep old Charlie around. And then Joe the bar popped up, and next thing you know I'm getting a call that I'm the bartender. (laughing)
Ryan Robbins as Charlie Connor in Battlestar Galactica 2003
Yeah, you're the new bartender.
I'm the Woody Harrelson of Battlestar Galactica all of a sudden. It's funny, because we were joking about it. There's a great scene where I'm actually serving a drink to AJ (Alessandro Juliani) who plays Gaeta, and we were laughing because ten episodes or eight episodes previously, I punched him in the face, knocked him out, and tried to throw him out of an airlock, and now I'm serving him drinks. (both laughing) ...like nothing happened! So those are kind of funny moments as me being the bartender. And it's called "Joe's Bar" but I think we only met Joe a couple of times and now it's Connor's bar.
We also spoke to Leah Cairns who's very happy with you... You know she plays Magaret Edmondson, "Racetrack" in the series. And we hear we have you to blame for calling her Marge for the first time. She hates Marge!
Yeah! (laughing) She's never going to let me live that down, because now everybody calls her Marge. We were shooting a scene in the bar and a lot of dialogue... Well, not a lot. Some dialogue gets adlibbed from time to time, during a take and because there was no... We were going to have Connor play the bartender, and when I went in there we started making stuff up for the things to say. We're playing around during rehearsal. There's one particular scene where they're playing Pyramid and I just yell to Racetrack: "Put it in the hole Marge!" (both laughing) That became one of the most notorious lines of the season and since then, which is really funny, there's been some mild, underground, I think fan idea of Racetrack and Connor hooking up. Somebody asked me in an interview, that if I saw myself in a relationship with anybody that I think it would be [Racetrack] and Leah and I already talked about it like: "That's kind of a funny relationship with Connor and Racetrack." And somebody else brought it up to me before, so I thought: "Hey, that's kind of interesting. That would be funny." She's the pilot, and she's in the military, and then she'd be dating the bartender.
Sure. She's cute!
Yes, she's great and she's a good friend of mine as well. So, it would be fun!
I think she'd then much rather have you call her Maggie or something. (both laughing)
No! Not a chance! (laughing) Anytime I get the chance, she would be Marge. (laughing)
Did you also try out for any other parts, before you tried out for Connor?
No, I didn't. There was really nothing available for me. You know, what had happened was, when they were casting for the Mini Series, the first round of casting, I had been out of town. I was in Los Angeles. So, I came back and I worked as the audition reader for a lot of actors who would come in. I got to know [director] Michael Rymer and that's how I was offered the part of the Armistice Officer, because at that point there wasn't anything left for me in the Mini Series. I was reading with all the other actors to fill in the other roles, and when that role came available they offered it to me. I hadn't auditioned for anything, but I was a big fan of the show. I still am. I love the show. I mean it's one of my favorite shows and I can't really say that about a lot of TV right now. It's really nice to be a part of a show you're a fan of.
At the time as a reader, did you read with any of the actors that are now in the main cast? Or any of the actors that now have a part in the series?
Somebody else asked that [as well] and I'm trying to remember. It's kind of all a blur. I can't really remember to be honest, if I did. I know... I'm not sure if I read with Aaron [Douglas] or not. I don't think I did. I know that Aaron Douglas had read for Apollo at one point, but I don't know. To be honest, I don't know who I read with.
I heard from Michael Trucco that he also initially read for the part of Apollo.
Yeah, he did. He did read for the part of Apollo.
...but not you?
Not me. I didn't read for the part of Apollo. Like I said, I was out of the loop at that time when it was all happening. I think at that point in my career, I think... You know, it was, those were the Mohawk days when that was being cast. I had the Mohawk and nobody saw me as potentially military. (both laughing) I was the edgy guy. I was doing crazy roles, like on Kingdom Hospital and playing punk-rock guys, killers, drug addicts and quirky guys. I don't think anybody thought of me as being sci-fi friendly or as a military role. Having said that, I feel, whenever I refer to Battlestar Galactica as a "sci-fi show", I feel like that limits the...
...it's more like drama as well.
It's really beyond that. It's such a great show. It's like 24, The West Wing in space. It is sci-fi in that respect, but it's so much broader than that. I always make sure I explain that.
Ryan Robbins as Charlie Connor in Battlestar Galactica 2003
Yeah, I know! You could have kept your Mohawk, because Charlie Connor is actually one of Samuel Anders' resistance fighters. It's not really military.
Yeah, Charlie is a resistance fighter...
That's not really military, you could have kept your Mohawk.
No, that's true, but at that point the Mohawk was already long gone by Season 3. I have been over the Mohawk for quite a while. Who knows? I could always find an excuse to bring it back!
So Charlie Connor loses his seven year old son Kevin during the temple raids on New Caprica. Being a father yourself it must have been horrible to imagine losing a son like that? Did you use the thought of losing your own daughter as a technique to help you act in the scenes?
A little bit. You kind of go with what you know in those situations. Yeah, it was a horrible thought to lose a child. It wasn't particularly difficult to access that emotion, thinking about what that would feel like. As a parent you have that concern pretty constantly that you want to protect your child at all times. Just the feeling of what it feels like to fail your children is horrible on any level. I mean, whenever you feel like you've somehow failed your child. It's the worst feeling in the world. Never mind the guilt of losing your child and how much you blame yourself, and consequently blame others. Originally we were going to try to keep it pretty guarded and close. We did a bunch of takes where Charlie Connor wasn't emoting. He played it right, and he tried to kind of keep it in, and keep it together. Then Michael came over to me, Michael Rymer, and whispered that I should let it go and let it all out. We shot that take where I had the weeping grimace face. (both laughing) I think it worked for the scene. The scene where I tried to be so tough and strong in the hangar deck. You see that's he's really hurting and I think that makes Connor a more interesting character when you see a little bit more of his vulnerability.
That's true, because back on the Galactica he joins the tribunal that sentences and executes collaborators. He ends up pulling the trigger so to speak and throws Jammer out the airlock. Do you think your character had any second thoughts during this or remorse afterwards?
I think, he feels... I think the feeling he feels is that it quite justified his actions, but I think he's the kind of guy that will always... That kind of behavior isn't natural for him. I think he's a very passionate guy. He's a man of principles. I wonder if he would do it again. I think he probably would do it again, because he really believes Jammer was guilty and responsible for his son's death. But I think the whole Gaeta scenario maybe rocked him a little bit. At least that's the way I play it. Because it's hard to go from transitioning... You transition from collaborators to the fun loving bar tender. You have to have a reason for that. You have to have a reason why things are now okay. I think he's a guy who struggles with the loss every day. He's basically trying to make the best out of situations, and tries to move on, and maybe closes himself off from everything that had happened in the past.
Which was more intense to play? Was it more intense to play losing a son or throwing Jammer out of an airlock?
The son. I think it was more important to play the son, that relationship and the loss, because I think that there needed to be a disconnect between Connor and Jammer. I think Jammer needed to look to me like evil. He needed someone to blame. I think that Connor's feelings were that if you want to collaborate with the Cylons, if you want to sympathize with the Cylons, then you'll be treated like a Cylon. I refuse to believe that you could actually have feelings, because how could you do that to people? I think that's how he had to look at Jammer and Gaeta.
Ryan Robbins as Charlie Connor in Battlestar Galactica 2003
You've also known Brad Dryborough who plays Lt. Hoshi on the Battlestar Galactica series for quite a long time. Can you tell us a bit about the work you two did together?
Yeah, I've known Brad for a long, long time. Brad's one of my best friends in the world. We started a long time ago when a friend of ours, who's in film school, was making movies. Brad and I were getting our start acting. We started doing student films together, and from that we created a community with a few of us that did short films together. We have a long history of making independent films together. Short films, feature films... Each film got better and better and got more and more critically acclaimed. So we eventually won Best Short contest at the Toronto International Film Festival with this film called Man Feel Pain, and from that we were awarded... I mean, that was a big deal for us, we were awarded a sum of money and the opportunity to make a feature. Which we did, we made a feature together called The Cabin Movie. We still talk all the time. I was talking to him today about another project. I think that's a relationship that will last a long, long time, hopefully until we're long gone. I think we'll constantly work together as much as possible. We have a really great working relationship and a great friendship, so I hope we can continue to do that.
You won a Leo [in 2005] for Man Feel Pain. Can you tell us a bit about that role for the people who don't know?
Sure, that role... First of all that film was written by a writer called Kris Elgstrand, who I'm sure Brad has talked to you about, and who's written a lot of the projects we've done together. I think he's absolutely brilliant. He's one of the greatest writers out there, who will continue to have more and more success. He wrote this great part with Brad, I think a lot of it came from some of Brad's ideas, about I guess the false messiah concept. I play the role of a lovely tenant of an apartment, who finds a guy in his own apartment who had hammered his hand to a wall with a nail, and my assumption is that he's going to be the new messiah and save us all. Dark comedy ensues from there. You try to tell a story like that, which is not offensive, in a short period of time. It was a lot of fun.
actor Ryan Robbins and his proud mother at the Leo Awards 2007
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