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Ty Olsson GALACTICA.TV interview
Monday, 16 April 2007

On December 11, 2006 Mike Egnor spoke to Ty Olsson, better known as LSO Capt. Aaron Kelly on the Battlestar Galactica 2003 series. He talked about his career as a multi talented actor and voice actor and of course his parts on Battlestar Galactica and Men in Trees.

Can you tell me where you are from, where you grew up?

I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but I was raised in the Ottawa area. I spent all my formidable years there, in and around Ottawa in Ontario.

Okay, you went to the Canterbury High School?

Yeah, it's an arts high school, you know, one that specializes in dramatic arts and dance and vocal. I went there for my entire high school years. I'd like to think it's the only reason why I graduated from high school. (laughing)

Did you choose to go to that high school, because of the drama or were you just in that area?

You know, actually I was in a small town outside Ottawa called Kars and I had a drama teacher who was also the French teacher in elementary school, grade seven and eight. I was a bit of a trouble making kid so she kind of took me under her wing, brought me into school plays, and then got me to audition for the drama program at Canterbury High School. You know, when you're thirteen, fourteen, you're not really thinking too far into the future in regards of what you plan to do with your life, but she saw that I had some ability and this was an area which she could push me in, that it was a little healthier than some of the activities that I was doing at the time.  She got me to audition for the program of Canterbury High School. The interesting part of that story is that I was accepted because of my audition, but my grades were so low because I never really focused on the academic side of school at the time. So she tutored me until my grades were high enough to get accepted.

 

actor Ty Olsson

actor Ty Olsson

 

Wow.

Yeah, she was a wonderful lady and I have had the opportunity to thank her many years later. I'm not sure, even today, if she understands how pivotal a moment that was, because I could have easily just gone into a trades high school, kind of flunked out and done any number of things with my live. But I think her push into the art's program at Canterbury was pretty monumental at that stage in my life.

I think that it's amazing that one person can effect your life in such a profound way.

You know, it's unfortunate that teachers get so little credit these days and are so underpaid. I wish more of them understood that they're not necessarily going to affect every kid they come across, but once in a while... just one thing, one little push or a nudge in the right direction can change a person's life. She is certainly... I've been very fortunate. I've had a lot of different people in my life that have had a big impact on where my life went and she certainly was one of them.

Okay. At what point, was it in high school, was it afterwards, did you decide that you wanted to make acting a career?

Well, you know, I went to the art high school and it wasn't until my final year there that I kind of realized that this is something that I really enjoy, that I'm good at. And it finally occurred to me at my last year in high school when you starting to think about what you're going to do with life. I thought: "You can do this for a living and there are people who do that and make this a career". So it wasn't until my final year in high school that I actually buckled down and took it seriously. I started to look at theatre schools afterwards and go to secondary institutions. So somewhere on the 18-19ish year of age I decided that this is what I'm going to do.

Did you go on to a formal acting school after high school?

Yeah, I attended Studio 58 here in Vancouver, which is one of the top notch theatre schools in Canada. All the faculty [members] that work there and teach there are working members of the theatre community. It's a three year intensive program and it's a bit of "break you down and build you up" kind of program where they deal with voice, mime, mask, dance, classic text, alignment, movement and tap dance. They pretty well cover anything that you might ever have to do in the theatre community as well as doing some film and television workshops, which I gravitated to. After I graduated at Studio 58, I spend a season at the Shaw Festival, doing Bernard Shaw plays and his contemporaries in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I came back to Vancouver and kind of got hit by the film bug. I started to work, fortunately, very consistently in the film and television industry.

Okay. The first role that I have listed [as a television role in your career] is an episode in The X-Files. Is that right?

Yeah, I think that might be the first, yeah.

That's a pretty good start to your career, to work on that show.

No kidding! Yeah, I was pretty happy about that! It's a great little role in the teaser of the episode, playing an orderly in a mental institution, [who is] kind of brain washed by one of the clients there, who's a recurring character who could control people's minds. It's a nice, it's a really great role to start a career on. It was the first 30 seconds or so of the episode and it has great actors, like a gentleman by the name of Robert Wisden, a local actor. And of course a great show, that at the time was kind of at the height of its power.

You've done quite a bit of voice work...

I have. I've been very fortunate with the voice work. I'm doing a series right now called Class of the Titans that probably caters to the 12 to 14 year old. It's about the great, great, great descendents of the mythological Greek Gods. I play Herry, a descendent of Hercules. Yeah, it's a great show and the kids seem to like it. It's doing extremely well in its time slot for the kids. And also, I just heard that another series that I do, a Canadian animation series called Being Ian... I'm an additional voice in it, and they're doing a third season of that. You know, I'm very fortunate, because the voice talent here in Vancouver is just phenomenal. There's a core of perhaps 20 voice actors that have many shows each. I'm just very fortunate that I managed to get in there and land the occasional good job, because those guys are just unbelievable. The people who do it as a full time job are just incredible. Film and television work has always been great, but the voice work is so much fun to do. There's no makeup, there's no wardrobe. You just show up, you drink your coffee, you look at the script, you don't memorize the lines because you read them of the page. You have fun and it's much closer to theatre in a lot of ways., which allows me to have fun and go a little bit bigger at times.

I wanted to ask you how it's different from regular acting, but I guess you just need to focus on your voice.

Yeah, you can.... Where with film often so much is said just with the thoughts of the character. The character having genuine thoughts and being in the moment, and being able to see the thoughts that flicker over that character's face on the camera. With animation they're relying on you, the voice talent, to give emotion and to drive the scene strictly with your voice. So, we don't have that close push up camera telling the whole story. You're doing your best to give the animator something to work with. It tends to be a little bit bigger, a little bit more theatrical if you will, because the audience tends to be younger. Some of the humor is a bit lighter and some of the choices you might make are a bit broader and more fun.

Do they show the animation and you match your voice to the character's mouth?

No, it's a pre lay, so they base the animation on what we give them with the voice recording.

 

Ord in Dragon Tales (voice of Ty Olsson)

Ord in Dragon Tales (voice of Ty Olsson)

 

Have you ever been around kids that watch a show that used your voice and tell them that you're that character?

You know, one of the greatest things that I've been able to do and I'm really proud of... I used to do a series called Dragon Tales and for a number of years while we were recording that, I would get calls from an organization that was called "Phone a Friend Foundation", I believe it was called. Sick kids who were battling with leukaemia or some serious illness would get to make phone calls to their favorite celebrity and often it was my character Ord from Dragon Tales. Probably a dozen times or so I got the opportunity to call one these kids, who were having a hard time in their life, as the character Ord from Dragon Tales and cheer them up while they were in intensive care, or in a cancer treatment facility, or suffering from some other kind of serious illness. I haven't done much recently, because the show is kind of an older show now, but it was a real joy to do that and bring a little happiness to these kids who were suffering through some hard times.

I bet that was really rewarding.

It really was and sometimes heart breaking when the kid on the other end is sedated, or under some strong pain medication, or having a hard time. Sometimes you keep going even though you might be crying on the other end, you're smiling on the phone. You keep your voice happy and trying to cheer this kid up even though you're going: "Oh kid, come on, talk to me".

You played Mitchell Laurio in X-Men 2?

Yes.

Can you tell about you role in that?

Yeah, Mitchell Laurio was one of the guards in the specially designed prison to keep Magneto imprisoned. Magneto's power was to control...

Magnetism, metal...

Magnetism, right and metal. So the whole prison was made out of plastic, including our batons and any kind of protective gear that we wore. And it's funny when I tell people about... when people ask me about my role in X-Men I go: "Oh, I was the guard in the prison." Everybody assumes that it was... they go: "Oh, did you have lines?" It was a great little cameo role and I had a lot of camera time and a lot of great scenes in that as I was working with Sir Ian McKellen, which was an actor's dream to work with an actor like him. As well as a little bit with Patrick Stewart and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. The character was a joy to play. They asked me to put... I was up against a local actor who actually fit the description of the part to a ‘T'. A really solid, a really good actor here in Vancouver. The character was described as 45, slovenly, heavy set, and at the time, I remember when I got the call back, I actually congratulated him and said: "Well, it's just you and me and I think you fit it better than I do, so congratulations". But for some reason [director] Bryan Singer saw something in me that he liked and booked me for the role, but asked me to go on a beer and pizza diet because they wanted me to put weight on for the show. My first show that big and I wanted to impress, so within three weeks I came in 35 pounds heavier. I can remember I went to the first wardrobe fitting and got my first sizes and I said I was trying to put weight on so to leave a little space in the pants. I showed up three or four days later and the pants that they had picked for me were about two inches too small around the waist and they said they'd let it out and when I showed up another week later and they were still too small by two or three inches. (laughing) I showed up for the first day at work and they were still too small by two or three inches. So in three weeks time I put 35 pounds on for this guy. They got slovenly all right, so he was a fun character to play.

 

Ty Olsson as Mitchell Laurio in X-Men 2

Ty Olsson as Mitchell Laurio in X-Men 2

 

Okay. Let's switch over to Battlestar Galactica. Did you watch the original series?

I remember, I was quite young when it was going on. In fact I probably was catching reruns. I do remember it and I remember my brothers having board games from it. I remember being intrigued by their interest in the show and of course I've seen a few of the old episodes of the show, but I was a bit young to watch it religiously when it was originally airing.

Several of the actors from Battlestar Galactica worked on some more shows in Vancouver such as Stargate and The L-Word. Did you know any of them before you did the Mini-Series?

Any of the shows or any of the actors?

Any of the actors.

Well you know, one of the nice things about Vancouver is that it's a relatively small community, despite being a well known city. So most of the actors, a good portion of the actors that are born and bred in Canada I've met before in one fashion or another. Either as fellow actors working on the same show, or in the audition room, or any kind of local event. So yeah, a good portion I knew fairly well before the show started out.

Okay. How were you approached for Battlestar Galactica, for the Mini-Series. Did you do a screen test or an audition?

Oh geez, that was a while ago now. I think I originally read for Col. Tigh. Obviously I was too young, but I had a solid read for it. Then I was brought in for Tyrol, Chief Tyrol and at the time I thought it was down between John Mann and myself. We actually kind of.... I guess it would be a screen test, because we read with Grace Park, who had already been cast as Boomer. So we assumed they were doing a "how would these people look with her" kind of thing. I thought that went really well. We seem to have a good connection. We had gotten together outside the audition and worked on it a little bit. She's such a talented lady and she's so easy to work with. You never know how things happen in the casting room. How they shuffle mains around and headshots around, but somewhere along the line they decided that I'd suit Capt. Kelly better and that's how I ended up with Mr. Kelly.

 

Ty Olsson as LSO Capt. Aaron Kelly on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Ty Olsson as LSO Capt. Aaron Kelly on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

You play Capt. Aaron Kelly who was third in command during the Mini-Series and he was the Landing Signals Officer. Can you tell us what the Landing Signals Officer was responsible for?

Essentially a Landing Signals Officer oversees all the vipers going in and out of the Battlestar. Chief Tyrol kind of rules the deck in regards to all the maintenance people. I rule the deck in regards to vipers coming and going.

In the Mini-Series Kelly started giving orders to help crewmembers that were trapped in the port flight pod where a nuclear weapon had hit the Galactica. Tigh orders the pod vented to stop the fires. Was this the first scene that you shot?

Sorry. Was that the first scene that I shot?

Yes.

Oh, geez...

Or do you remember...

I think it was certainly early on. We're talking four years ago now. I don't remember the sequence of events of what scene was shot first, but it certainly was one of the meatier scenes I shot first, absolutely.

Did they give you, before shooting, any kind of background information, like this is what the Galactica is, this is how many people are on it... Any kind of background information?

You know, I think they gave us as much information as they had at that time. I mean, a show like this, it's a bit of a living, breathing kind of creature. I think as the seasons go by and as the episodes go by everybody's understanding gets a little deeper in regards to the backstory and the world that they're creating. One of the things that was so wonderful and that the creative team has done with Battlestar... They've created such a deep and complex world and it was even in conception. Yeah, they definitely, as best they could, kind of talked us through their ideas, and their concepts, and their plans for Battlestar. But I think one of the wonderful things about the show is that it keeps expanding, and deepening, and finding more levels.

After the Mini-Series the show got picked up and Kelly disappears throughout the entire Season 1...

I know!

He suddenly reappears in Season 2. It was explained in a way that he had his duties in the flight pod as the LSO, but didn't you feel sort of like Richard Cunningham's brother in Happy Days? He walks up to his room in the pilot episode to never been seen again.

Yeah, uhm...  you know there were a lot of questions about that, of course from me and even from the other cast. I remember, I think the first episode of Season 2, I came back and Mr. Olmos goes like: "Hey, didn't you wonder where you were?". I said: "Well, I did wonder where I was and I'm not sure why he hasn't come back, but I'm happy to be here". He said: "Yeah, he loves you and I wondered why he hasn't brought you back and I heard you were on another show..." You never know. I don't concern myself asking about those things. I'm very fortunate to be a very busy actor, and I have been on lots of shows that I know have interfered with scheduling and have made it impossible for me to be on Battlestar quite frequently. At the time of the first season I was doing thirteen episodes of Kingdom Hospital, Steven King's Kingdom Hospital so they kind of used up most of my time during Season 1 and that very well could be part of the reason why I never made it on Season 1. But I don't dig too deep into that. I think as an actor my job is to dig into my character when the opportunity is given to me. I always enjoy Battlestar when I'm on it. It's a challenging show for me and Capt. Kelly is a challenging show, because he is... I get to do things that I don't always get to do. He's a very straight laced, professional, military guy, who is a bit different to what I normally get to play. So I enjoy playing him and I enjoy trying to make him work and trying to make him real. Even if his job that episode is just to monitor the Draedis. So yeah, of course I wondered where he was, but I never sweated it. Fortunately I've been busy enough on lots of different shows throughout the years that I wasn't sitting by the phone waiting for Battlestar to call, but it's always a pleasure when I get to opportunity to go and play with such a wonderful cast on a wonderful show. I'm a huge fan of the show.

I just wanted to tell you that there were a lot of fans that missed your absence during that season, so...

Yeah, and I appreciate that, I really do. And I understand how as a viewer you'd watch and go: "What ever happened to the third in command?" It's never really made sense, but it's such a huge cast and there are so many storylines to pursue that you can't make a meal out of every episode and every character at the same time. So in this season they seem to be giving me a little bit more meat, which I've really enjoyed and who knows, maybe Capt. Kelly has a little bit more to show, but I'm always happy to just play for the day with the folks at Battlestar. And I'm glad the fans missed him.

Kelly has been highly praised as the one officer on the show that acts like one, Adama aside. Tigh is a drunk, Apollo and Starbuck have both refused orders, even Helo went and killed off the captured Cylons so their virus couldn't be downloaded to wipe out their race. But Kelly takes orders, gives orders, and is a good example of the military. But even with this, Starbuck becomes captain, Apollo is a major and even Helo became XO. So we were all disappointed that Kelly is third in command and wasn't even mentioned when all of these promotions were handed out. 

You and me both. (both laughing). There has been nothing given to me in regards to why Capt. Kelly would have been overlooked for a promotion or why he hasn't played a more prominent part in some of the storylines where he should have been. Like I said, it's hard to... As an actor I don't try to guess what the writers are thinking or the creators are thinking. When you let yourself get into... actors are the worst. I'm usually pretty good, but actors are terrible at second guessing and self doubt and beating ourselves up. So if you let that stuff kind of percolate in your brain, like: "Oh, who doesn't like me. What did I do wrong? Did I say something wrong?". It becomes mud in your brain and I try not to worry about that. I'm so happy to be making a living doing something that I love. Any day that I can go and play on a show like Battlestar Galactica is a good day. Yeah, there are some holes in the story for Capt. Kelly and one of the challenges that I face is coming back so infrequently on a show that is so complex, is actually getting up to speed with: "What the Hell is going on in this world? Because I've been kind of out of it for five episodes or ten episodes or a season." That's a real tricky thing to do and a lot of the people that I started the show with, way back in the Mini-Series, have evolved with the show and now know the world of Battlestar Galactica so thoroughly and with such depth and subtlety. It's hard as a guy who comes in only occasionally to kind of keep up to speed, of what's going on and where we are. "What's this machine called again? What do I do when I'm here, because I've only..." I can remember one of the last scenes that I shot just a handful of weeks ago, the guest director said: "You're here all the time, so you know what you should be doing" and I said: "Actually Sir, this is the first time I've ever been on this set!" (laughing) But realistically my character should be there all the time, so... I don't know why he hasn't been promoted! Maybe he should go talk to the admiral or something...

 

Ty Olsson as LSO Capt. Aaron Kelly on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Ty Olsson as LSO Capt. Aaron Kelly on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

I think maybe he needs a serious character flaw like everybody else on the series.

Yeah, and if I had to ask myself what are Capt. Kelly's character flaws, [I think] perhaps he sees things a little too black and white. The things that people give him credit for, the adherence for the military code, I think under certain circumstances that view is a little too right or wrong, or black or white, and making him an officer that isn't flexible and doesn't adjust to the situation. That would be, given what I know about Capt. Kelly, what they've written about him up till now, the decisions that I would make is that this guy... He's so straight and so militant and so by the book that the danger is that he lacks flexibility under certain circumstances. That would be the reasoning I would have to give.

Okay. Let me illustrate an example that... In the episode "Scattered" Adama is shot by Boomer and Kelly becomes second in command. When Gaeta want to network the computers to find the jump coordinates for the rest of the fleet Kelly reminds Gaeta that Adama would never try such a risky manoeuvre. Did Kelly agree with this because he followed and agreed with Adama or did he, with that strict military code line of command cause him to say that?

Well, I think what was established in the Mini-Series, which I really like about Capt. Kelly, was his admiration and respect for Adama. I think, given that moment and trust to command, his desire would be to adhere to what the admiral had said in regards to networking the computers. I mean, the decision that he made on the spot was obviously the one he felt needed to be done, but absolutely he would be struggling with. I think Adama is a bit of a hero to Capt. Kelly. A man that he idolizes, and looks up to, and shows that in his strict adherence to the code of military command. I think that would be a huge struggle for Capt. Kelly, to go against what Adama has always said and believed. So there's an example of him finding some flexibility, but that's an interesting struggle for that character.

In the episode "Valley of Darkness" Kelly assist Gaeta and Tigh in coordinating an effort to stop the Cylon advance when they land on the Galactica. There's a scene of Tigh and Kelly looking over a map of the Galactica and pointing out different areas of the ship. Did somebody have to come out and point and show you the different directions and the names of things that you needed to point out during the scene?

Oh, absolutely yeah. They had a schematic of the ship laid out and definitely we... I'm not sure how much the other people needed it, but I definitely needed to know where things were located on that schematic in regards even to bow and stern, because my experience... You got to remember even for the entire cast each of those areas of the ship are spread out over a couple of studios and I don't know if anyone has got a firm grasp of where... I'm sure somebody does, but I certainly don't have a firm grasp of where these items link together in the grand scheme of the entire ship. Because literally the ship is scattered over a couple of studio spaces, so... Definitely having the schematics of the ship out there and really getting an idea of where things are laid out and where you would need to go, what areas you would need to barricade and where the best places to make a stand would be. They certainly had to point it out to me and I think everyone else took a little look at the same time.

We next see Kelly in the episode "The Final Cut" where Kat crash-lands her viper onto the landing bay. How much of that scene is green screen and how much is actual set where you're standing in the control room?

The control room was all set and all the vipers skidding across the deck was green screen. All the stuff that was at the control room, like looking at the monitor and talking with her over the head set was all on set.

 

Ty Olsson as LSO Capt. Aaron Kelly on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Ty Olsson as LSO Capt. Aaron Kelly on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Okay. Did people stand back and point at different places that you should have been looking and following throughout the scene?

Yes. We were given eye lines as to where the action is, and where we see the ship coming in, losing altitude and hitting the deck, skidding along the deck. Yeah, we were given eye lines and it's often tricky to coordinate three or four people to look at the same spot exactly and react at the same time to something that is going to be digitally entered later.

In Season 3 Kelly appears to take the place of Gaeta as the tactical officer. Is that the controls that you had mentioned before that you hadn't ever seen before?

Uhm, no... I'm somewhat familiar with Gaeta's spot and that area of the ship, but I hadn't done any work at that area and it's a... I'm sure Gaeta by now has worked out a plan of where everything should be and what buttons more or less work certain controls or... you know, if you spend enough time at a station, even if it's imaginary buttons, you start to feel how things should look and feel under your hands and how you should control your keyboard. So definitely it was new for me, and that's always an interesting challenge to sit at a space like that with several keyboards, buttons, and a screen in front of you. You try to make sense of something that you've never worked with before and doesn't actually react when you touch it. It's an interesting thing and that's one of those things that if you've been on the show for three seasons at that location and that's your spot on the deck, you know what you're doing after twenty episodes or forty episodes. It's always a challenge for me showing up and suddenly having a new task to do and wondering: "How am I going to make this look right? What would look right? Is there a function already established with this area?"  It's tricky, because one actor will establish something like you hit this button, this happens, and you want to keep true to the story that's been built. You want to be true to the world that's been created and it's difficult when you're not sure what's already has been established in this area and with the functions of the area.

Does Kelly appear in the finale [before the Christmas break of 2006]?

Uhm... I believe he does. I'm trying to think when we shot that.

There's one week left this Friday.

He does, he does. I snuck in a couple times in the last handful of episodes, and there's some interesting scenes that I'm looking forward to seeing the reaction of the fans. I think it's something a little bit different from Capt. Kelly. We see a little bit of a different side from him, which was very satisfying for me. Coming in playing Kelly throughout these years, it's nice to have a little something deeper, a little bit more meat. I think it's really going to please the fans to see a different side to Capt. Kelly.

You got me all excited to watch the next episode then.  Do you have any interesting stories about working on the show? Anything you goofed up on? Any practical jokes?

(laughing) Oh, I have a great story for you! It's really embarrassing... Way back in the Mini-Series with [director] Michael Rymer. It's an embarrassing story because it kind of... It set up my work ethic for the show. We had a scene in the landing deck where I was... It was the very first time that I ever had done [a scene like this] as Capt. Kelly, calling in the vipers that were landing and taking off. It was about eight or nine lines and they were all very similar lines: "Viper four-nine-one, checkers are red, call the ball" and it was like eight or nine lines that were very similar, so we kind of ran through it. Those are very tricky lines, when you have numbers. It's very tricky to memorize numbers, because they're not really connected to anything. They're not connected to a progressive thought. It's just like memorizing a phone number or something. It was up against this plexiglass wall that would have all these areas that you would write down which vipers are taking off, the number, and which ones were landing. You know, we're all brand new into the show, trying to learn the world and our responsibility as our characters in this world. So we've blocked it and rehearsed it a couple of times. I struggled with a couple of lines, but it wasn't too bad. And then just before we were ready to shoot, I can't remember who did it, but somebody comes over and says: "Oh yeah, the viper numbers are all wrong, so I'm going to give you new viper numbers." and it was like five different, six different vipers that have a numerical identity, and then they switched them all. I was going to be lucky if I got them right in the first place, and suddenly we're about to shoot, and they've given me brand new numbers for all these vipers. Well, it just fell apart. It fell apart like it has never fallen apart for me as an actor in ten years of doing this professionally. I struggled, and I fought, and I wrote cheat sheets, and I blushed, and I nearly tore my own head off trying to get this scene right. I don't know if we ever got the scene in its entirely in the Mini-Series, because I think it was so disastrous that they may have just went: "Wow, let's just leave this piece out." (both laughing) Now I look back at it and I can laugh and go: "Of course I struggled with it, it's numbers". At the time it's numbers and a world that you don't even know, that you're just learning about. The unfortunate thing is that when an actor does that, the problem is that it gets in our head... Suddenly we're like: "Oh, this is really tough. This is really hard. I can't screw this up again." So the whole rest of the Mini-Series I was working four or five times longer on all my scenes than I would normally work, just with the fear that that would happen again. It's very funny, I spoke in length with it to [director] Michael Rymer, and we can laugh about it now, but at the time it was embarrassing and frustrating. I'm glad I can look back at it and laugh, with some fondness about it. That was one of my first experiences doing my character's job, which is calling the shots on the landing deck.

That's a cool story. Were there any practical jokes done during filming?

Practical jokes.... (pondering) You know, the general feel of the show, I can't particularly think of any practical jokes. But I know whenever I show up, that the energy is always good on the show. It's always light and there's always lots of room for humor and jokes. It's a very easy place to work. All the actors bring a good working environment and good energy to the show. Yeah, practical jokes, I haven't witnessed any doosies myself, but it is the kind of set, and the kind of cast and crew where I imagine that there are lots that go on during the many days they spend together.

Are there any actors that you work with that stand out in your mind?

From Battlestar [Galactica]? You know, I think that show is really well cast and there are a lot of really talented, really giving actors on that show. I recently did a scene with Jamie [Bamber], with Apollo and it was... He's an actor that's always present and always there. Whether he's active in the scene, whether he's got dialogue or not, he's a guy who... We had a nice little scene together and it was just a joy to do it with him, because he was there, present, and giving you energy, giving you focus and being in the moment the entire time. When you work with an actor like that, it makes your job easier. I think Battlestar Galactica is fortunate to have a lot of actors like that who don't phone it in too often. Who are always there and present, working to make the scene and the show work.

 

Ty Olsson as LSO Capt. Aaron Kelly on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Ty Olsson as LSO Capt. Aaron Kelly on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

You've done a couple of episodes of Men in Trees, which from what I hear is becoming the next Grey's Anatomy.

From your mouth to God's ears, lets hope.

You play the character of Sam. Can you tell me about your part in the show?

Sam, he's a joy to play, I'll tell you. My meat and potatoes [roles] tend to be straight laced guys, who don't have a lot of humor, are a little bit edgy and are a little bit hard core that tend to make up a lot of what I do, but Sam is a sweetheart of a man. He's a guy who's fallen in love at first sight and a big hearted, gentle giant. He's fallen head over heels for Marin's editor Jane, and has gone so far as to surprise her in New York. Flying in from Alaska to surprise her over the Thanksgiving weekend and who won't be stepped on. He won't be taken advantage of, but is just so in love with her that he's not willing to take "No" for an answer. It's been a great part to play. It's so much fun. He's just a sweetheart of a man and he's... I think I'm doing my fifth or sixth episode with them and the fans seem to be really liking the connection that Sam and Jane are having. Every week it's a joy to play. There's great chemistry between these two characters and a great storyline between the uptight New York editor and the very rural and blue collar Sam who plows roads for a living. It's very fun. Lots of room for humor, lots of room for some touching moments and he's just a joy to play. And the show is a joy to work on for both the cast and crew. It's great and I'm having a lot of fun. The cool thing is that it's one of those shows where you never know. The storyline could go on indefinitely, so... Like I said, the same thing with Battlestar [Galactica], I don't hold my breath, but I just show up and have fun, enjoy my day and do my work. That's when I'm happiest. When I just get to come and play, and do my work, and try to affect my viewers, one way or another. Sam, you know, I get to do it in one way and with Capt. Kelly I get to do it in another way.

It sounds like Sam had fun playing the fish out of water in New York.

Oh absolutely! Yeah, he's the whole pointing up and looking at the skyscrapers. Fish out of the water, but just blissfully ignorant that he is, which is great. He's in love, and he's trucking along through life going after the woman that he loves, and just having a ball doing it. He owns a boat and plows roads for a living.

You have an upcoming film, due out in 2007, called Case 29.

Case 39. Yeah, you know, it's funny, it's on IMDb and I was in the running for a really nice role on that for awhile. If what I was told is true, I guess I lost out, because I'm bit young. Just a wonderful, wonderful role that would have been really a joy to play. It would have been really cool to play. Unfortunately IMDb is incorrect. I lost that role, because I was a little young for the role of a father of a young girl. Once they found the girl, they realized the age difference wasn't enough to make it believable that I was her father. That's what I was led to believe anyways, and I believe that. So unfortunately IMDb is incorrect and I'm not working on Case 39

They got a lot of useful information, but it's not all accurate. There's also a posting under your name that somebody asked if you were in Deck the Halls.

Yeah, I did do Deck the Halls. That was the Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick movie.

It was a great movie.

I got a great little cameo in that with Matthew Broderick, playing a trucker with beer. Sometimes those nameless characters are the most fun to play. I've yet to see the movie, but shooting the scene with Matthew was a blast. It was just hysterical, he's such a funny man. The scene was really well written, and if it was edited to its potential it could be very, very funny. I spend four or five days on the movie. The kind of scene, you know, you put it on your demo because it's funny, and it's well laid out, and well written. I'm hoping it turned out like that.

 

Ty Olsson as LSO Capt. Aaron Kelly on Battlestar Galactica 2003

Ty Olsson as LSO Capt. Aaron Kelly on Battlestar Galactica 2003

 

Do you have any future work planned?

Well my role of Sam on Men in Trees seems to be coming back frequently, which is great. So as long as they keep inviting me back, I'll be playing on that. I'm in the middle of recording Class of the Titans, Season 2, and it just got picked up for an additional ten episodes for half a season of Season 3. So my schedule is looking pretty tight these days, which is a good thing as an actor. I have a couple of days left to finish on the ABC series Fallen, which I'm not sure if they're advertising that as a Mini-Series or a MOW or as a continuation of the pilot, but great series... Kevin... I can't remember his last name, the director's last name, but he's taken a really interesting spin on this show and made it much darker and grittier. I play a gentleman by the name of Hawkins, who's got a real strong reason to be trying to find... Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself. It's about angels, who have fallen to earth, that were cast to earth thousands of years ago for trying to take over heaven from Lucifer. The prophesy has said that a redeemer will come back to send them back to heaven. I play a mortal named Hawkins who's part of an order who's aware that there are angels on earth. They're trying to find them for their own reasons and my character is trying to find them for his own personal reasons as well, because he's suffering from a brain tumor. He knows he's going to Hell and doesn't have time to redeem himself. So by whatever means necessary he's trying to capture the redeemer and force him to send him to heaven. A nasty, evil, twisted, dark man. It's very well written and I've been very fortunate. Throughout the years I've played such a nice variety of characters from twisted, evil, demented people to these big, soft teddy bears like Sam, to straight laced, honorable men like Capt. Kelly. It's been a real blessing for me. I've been very fortunate. Not always do actors get to have such a nice range of roles. That's what I wish for the most. To continue being able to explore my range and possibilities, and to entertain the people that we do it for, which is the viewers.

You are married [to actress Leanna Nash] and have two girls. Do you ever show any of the episodes that you're on to them?

(laughing) You know what, they have seen some of the stuff that I do, but as is the norm for children of actors: they're not terribly impressed that daddy is on TV anymore! (laughing) When I find something that I think that they'll really like, a show that they'll really like, they'll watch it. But... I say: "Oh, this is the cartoon that daddy is on.", they'll say: "Yeah, I know, but I like to watch this [other] show". We show them everything and it's a great opportunity for us, because they have a different perspective. Some shows that normally parents don't let their six year old watch, we'll let them have a peek at, because we have that added advantage to go: "You see, it's just pretend. Daddy is in there and he might be dying in there, but you can see he's sitting right beside you. So the whole...It's just make believe, special effects.  The speech that we've given them is pretty well implanted. So they've seen a good variety, but unfortunately I'm so disorganized in my own life that I miss half my own episodes. I don't think I've seen half the episodes that I've done for Battlestar Galactica unfortunately. Life is so busy with two children, and [my] career, and teaching, and voice work, and life in general that I get very few hours to sit down and watch television shows myself.

Mr. Olsson, I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview.

Oh, my pleasure, my pleasure.

I'll be looking forward to seeing Capt. Kelly and my wife will be looking forward to seeing Sam and I'll be rooting for him too.

(laughing) Right on! Thank you very much, Sir. I appreciate it. Good luck with it.

Thanks!

 

On April 19, 2007 Mike Egnor did a short follow up interview by e-mail with Ty Olsson. He discussed the dramatic change in his character in the last few episodes of Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica and also the latest devolpments in Men in Trees.

 

In the episode "The Son Also Rises", Kelly is behind a series of bombings to try to kill the lawyers for Baltar. He succeeded the first time, but failed by chance in the second. In our previous interview, I was going on about how out of all the officers, Kelly was the one who was straight laced, by the book, etc., and that maybe he needed a character flaw in order to get promoted. Well you certainly got that, right?

Kelly's character flaw is not knowing when to see a counselor!!! Since we never had the opportunity to see Kelly in a non-military environment, I have to assume that his focus on his career, his duties and responsibilities, and the war with the Cylons kept him from developing a relationship with someone with whom he could trust to discuss his deep anger and frustration. An inability to properly vent the pressure of his position finally became too much. Then again, maybe he's just angry he never got a promotion...

Why did Kelly feel the need to kill Baltar's lawyers? He was even willing to sacrifice some of the pilots as well.

Baltar betrayed the entire human race...the idea that some slick lawyer not only would defend him...but possibly the set him free? In his mind, Kelly takes the blame for so many pilots being sent out to die, fighting Cylons. That would be hard for anyone to come to terms with. A few more deaths to avenge so many others??? I suppose when you start going down that kind of dark path, once can make sense of anything. I think Kelly's grief was all consuming in a lot of ways. I'm not sure if the final edit did that concept justice in "The Son Also Rises" but that's what I believe.

What did he personally have against Baltar?

I doubt the two ever said two words to the other. Kelly would have always been civil, but secretly would have found him to be a pompous ass with a goofy accent. I think once Kelly had someone attainable to blame the deaths of his pilots on, it became very personal.

Will he get punished?

I would assume so. I doubt we'll ever see it though. I think this episode finally gives everyone an answer when someone asks "where's Kelly?"..."He's in the Brig doing 25 to life". For whatever reason, the show never seemed to get around to developing Kelly. I've felt for awhile now that they should either give him a storyline worth developing or give him a gnarly demise. I really thought it fitting that Kelly was finally give some of his soul back in "The Son Also Rises." It's always most interesting when a seemingly unflappable character like Kelly starts to show some cracks. I would have liked to have seen the bomber storyline played out some more, but am content that Kelly's last episode at least won't be describing something on Draedis while all the viewers are going "Is that Kelly? Where in the Frak has he been?"

In Men In Trees, we talked about how Sam was a fish out of water in New York. The moment that I think best illustrates that is when he and Jane are at a fancy dinner party, and Sam just doesn't know what to do. Jane finally decides to move.

I think Sam has some awkwardness in such alien surroundings as New York, but really turns out to be the kind of guy that could probably make do anywhere. What I like about Sam is that he doesn't over complicate things. He may not know what fork to use but he does know either one will work. Jane's the one who gets worked up over it.

 

Ty Olsson as Sam in Men in Trees

Ty Olsson as Sam in Men in Trees

 

On one of the following episodes where they are back in Alaska, there is a scene where Sam has to fix a pipe that contains the raw sewage on the boat. He seems so much happier to deal with raw sewage than to be at a New York dinner party. Do you agree with that?

Ultimately for Sam it's a simple problem with a simple solutions. But no, Sam does not have a thing for sewage.

Do you think it was a test as well to see how Jane would react to having to take the wrench? To see if she could handle being in Alaska as well as Sam was trying to handle New York?

No...I don't think it was a test. I'm pretty sure Sam knew Jane wasn't likely going to want to try and repair the sewage pump, but was a convenient way to graciously get out of the "mans work" comment. Sam and Jane always seem to have an interesting time trying to figure out where they stand on gender stereotypes in a relationship. It's what makes their relationship fun.

What happened to Men In Trees? The show was hugely popular, following Grey's Anatomy, and was replaced with October Road without any explanation. Are they doing away with Men In Trees? Or did they just run low on episodes that were shot?

I'm not the best person to ask this question, but my understanding is that Men In Trees ran out of finished episodes to air and got shuffled for some ABC specials or something...so...some confusion in the airing schedule. But I do know that Men In Trees has been picked up for a second season. It's ratings have been strong...it's viewers are faithful, and we're hoping they'll be patient while the network figures out how to best deliver the last 6 episodes of season 1 (rumor has it in the fall...thus the need for patience).

 
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