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Tahmoh Penikett GALACTICA.TV interview
Wednesday, 01 November 2006

At the London Expo 2006, held May 27-28 2006, Martine Voppen spoke to Tahmoh Penikett, better known as Capt. Karl "Helo" Agathon on Battlestar Galactica 2003. She talked about how his character grew in Season 2 and his relationship to the other cast members.

For starters, how the hell do you pronounce your name? And what does it mean if anything?

I tell you how the hell I pronounce my name. It's Tah - Môh, that's the proper pronunciation, Tah - Môh. And last name of course is just Penikett; that's any easy one. And what was the second question? What does it mean? I was named after my great uncle. He was a great doctor and trapper, but I can't tell you the meaning.

In the Mini-Series you gave up your seat so that Dr. Baltar could join the Fleet. Helo thought that one of the sharpest minds was more important than himself. From Helo's point of view, [now at the end of Season 2] on New Caprica, does he regret the decision that he let Baltar live?

Well obviously, I don't think Helo regrets it while he's on New Caprica. I mean, he might be thinking what an idiot I am to have done that. But I think, you know, when put under pressure, he realized it was for the greater good that he was giving up his seat. He didn't realize it of course at that time, nor does he even in the second season realize that Baltar is quite eccentric sort of shady character. Nobody is privy to the fact that Baltar is pretty much responsible for the extermination of the human race. So I don't think he had the chance.


Tahmoh Penikett as Karl 'Helo' Agathon and Grace Park as Sharon 'Boomer' Valerii on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Tahmoh Penikett as Karl 'Helo' Agathon and Grace Park as Sharon 'Boomer' Valerii on Battlestar Galactica 2003


In the Mini-Series you were supposed to die. Why did Ronald D. Moore keep you?

What do I think? I don't know. I've been told that they liked my work in the Mini-Series. So I take that as a beautiful compliment and I just hope that's the real reason. Obviously there was also an opportunity there with the storyline. It was a neat idea to take them out of the ship and I think that Ron, whether he jacked that from Star Wars. Kind of like an Empire-Strikes-Back-type of thing where you cut it up between the planet and the ships ...or not. I think it's a brilliant idea and he went with it.

Did you get a background story in the form of a book like Grace Park and Tricia Helfer got -- the Cylonbook with background info in it?

Did I get a background info? No, I didn't at all. Most of my choices that were made have been mine and they've gone from just the scripts that I've been given. Every once in a while I had the opportunity to talk to the writers, but they really don't give me too many hints. We're basically not privy to the creative process. We are given a script and we go with it.

As an actor did you enjoy shooting Season 1 or Season 2 more, because of the cast changes?

I can't say I enjoyed either one more, because they're each absolutely unique. Obviously during the Second Season there was a great opportunity to be able to act with the rest of our brilliant ensemble. That was awesome -- to be at the studio and actually getting recognised by people around there. Because I'd go to the studios many times and people were like: "Who is this guy?". First Season I was never there, I was always on location. But then, First Season was awesome man. I had an opportunity for Grace [Park] and I to grow together as artists and to work together. And obviously, I was out of studio and that was neat to shoot the outdoors all the time. I do a lot of action stuff and for me that was a highlight also, so neither was a favourite, but they were both great.

Helo may not have been privy to the fact that Baltar was a shady character but didn't Helo notice when Boomer's spine was glowing red? Or did he just think he was doing a really, really good job?

Ahhh, that's hilarious! I think he just thought he was doing a really, really good job. Yeah, yeah, that's what it was. (laughing). That's hilarious.

A lot of the actual rape of Sharon was cut, but the accidental kill was shown very explicitly, even in slow motion. Because of it the actual scene now makes Helo and Tyrol look like they really go over the line. Do you think the editors or censors cut too much out of it? [Note: the actual rape scene has been included in the Season 2.5 DVD set now]

That's a touchy subject. I think, I saw the finished product, and... Whether we went over the line or not or whether it's interpreted or shown that way with the cut that's really up to the individual. Personally when I still watch it, we never see them go in there with the intention of killing him. I mean they're not just purposely killing this guy. Obviously the Chief has anger issues, but I don't think he purposely kills him. We go in there stopping whatever is about to happen and I definitely don't think we went over the line.


Tahmoh Penikett as Karl 'Helo' Agathon on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Tahmoh Penikett as Karl 'Helo' Agathon on Battlestar Galactica 2003


When Helo is in the brig with Chief on the Pegasus, Helo is wearing a tank top and Chief a sweatshirt. In a recent interview with us, Aaron Douglas said that he wore the sweatshirt because he didn't want to show up your pecs.

(laughing) Oh, that's funny!

So... did you thank him for not making you look bad?

Oh yeah, I thank him every day, because he makes me look bad. (laughs) Oh God... Aaron is just a big bundle of squishy love. (laughs again)

Which direction would you like to see your character heading in [Season 3]?

To be honest with you, I just want to say that they'll keep it challenging and a surprise, which has been the nature of this show already -- that's been the pattern. I never know where they are going with it. So, I can tell you, I'm already in for some big surprises from what I hear when I come back and read the latest episodes. As long as they keep it interesting, you know what I mean? And dangerous too!

So can you tell us anything about the Season 3?

Do you really want to know? Do you want me to give you a small hint? Well, eventually I'm going to find out that my baby is still alive and I'm not going to be happy about it. I'm going to be really upset about it.


Tahmoh Penikett as Karl 'Helo' Agathon and Grace Park as Sharon 'Boomer' Valerii on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Tahmoh Penikett as Karl 'Helo' Agathon and Grace Park as Sharon 'Boomer' Valerii on Battlestar Galactica 2003


We look forward to it and thank you for doing this.

Thank you very much for the opportunity, I appreciate it.


This interview was followed up with interviews with Tahmoh Penikett in 2007 and 2008: Tahmoh Penikett GALACTICA.TV interview 2 and Tahmoh Penikett GALACTICA.TV interview 3.

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