Interviews: James Callis Talks The BSG Legacy and The Hollow

TMS:  We typically don't do anything political, but you were President of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. What the hell do you think of this U.S. election right now?

JC: Oh dear. I live here in the states and I love living here. You don't need me to tell you that this thing is like a crazy circus, right? Aaron Douglas from Battlestar wrote to me and said it's election as parody. I think it's a real shame if I'm honest. I think everything has been boiled down to the lowest common denominator. It's just a shocking shame for the land of the free and the home of the brave, to be quite honest. I mean, could there be a worse President in history than Gaius Baltar? I hope not. 

TMS: So, you just did The Hollow. What do you want to tell people about the movie?

JC:  I have to say that it's an incredible film. I'll have to start with Miles Doleac. He's not like a triple threat. He's a quadruple threat. This guy, he's actually a professor. He's a writer. And he's a director. And he's an actor. And he's an editor. The guy is a genius. I think it's fair to say. I think this film really reflects that. It's absolutely his vision. It harkens back to films of the '70s to me in some ways. It's got that noir quality to it. It's very very dark. That's one of the things that attracted me to the part. I play a very complicated character with a lot of demons. This guy is really frakked up, I'd say.  In comparison to the other guys in this film, he could end up looking like a boy scout. There's a lot of dark hearts that beat in this piece. 

TMS:  What's The Hollow about then?

JC: There's a place down in Mississippi called The Hollow. It's an abandoned area. Back in the day people would use it as a place to hang out with their girlfriend or a makeout session. Now it looks like possibly drugs are being dealt there. Drugs that people can get through the law enforcement in the area which is equally troubling. Basically, The beginning of the film has three young people shot dead and murdered. One of them is a congressman's daughter. So, the FBI is called in. There's an interesting mix of worlds colliding. Our characters descend from the east coast down to the deep south. We trying to find out what happened. Like any small town that's been kept back, there are a lot of secrets and people are intent on maintaining those secrets.

TMS:  What would you say the genre of the film is?

JC: It's a murder mystery noir thriller. I've shot quite a few independent features. I happen to think this one is pretty fantastic. 

TMS: With this movie, you get to play against three legendary actors that always play villains. You've got William Sadler, Jeff Fahey,  and William Forsythe. Is that a challenge for you playing against these guys?

JC:  Great people like that, they couldn't be more amazing. When somebody is that good, all you can do is up your game as far as I'm concerned. Of course, it's extraordinary. This was just a great opportunity for me. The cast across the board is just incredible, I felt. I thought the performances were really fantastic and were enhanced by a really beautiful cinematography. Mississippi is another star in the movie. The landscapes. The topography. 

TMS:  Since we touched on villains, Baltar is considered one of the modern greats. Do you enjoy playing the bad guy or do you prefer the protagonist vs. the antagonist? What's more enjoyable for you?

JC:  What's enjoyable for me is working on a great script. Baltar is an interesting kind of meta subject. The reason for that is that our show was built on the shoulders of another really incredible show in the '70s. When I hear the name Baltar just by itself, I think of John Colicos. When I hear the name Gaius Baltar, I think of pictures I've seen of myself. They're very different. Baltar in the original was absolutely stepped up to be the villain. I think that our particular Battlestar was much more bold. It had grown up a little bit. It was more subtle and nuanced. In his own way, Gaius Baltar was the hero of his own story. I never necessarily thought of him as a villain. He wasn't your standard villain. 

TMS: To me he wasn't the epitome of evil, he was moreso a manipulator that had his own interests at heart versus other people. The updated BSG was much more textured with its religious connotations and the layering of its characters. 

JC: That's a very interesting thing you said. Traditionally we think about our villains as evil or bad. Gaius's problem was that he was so weak and such a narcissist. He wasn't out to get anyone. He was out to save his own skin. 

TMS: What's it like for you to shift focus from TV to movies? And do you have a preference?

JC:   I can't say which one I prefer because it genuinely depends on the project. There is a fundamentally different entity to the tv show and to film. The TV show is running.  It's something that is being manufactured and is running in the present. After this episode, there will be another episode...hopefully. And after this season, there will be another season. In some ways, it's a work in progress. As an actor then, if you're in it for the whole time, you really get to become that person. Movies are a totally different game. The movie is finished. The movie is hermetically sealed. Everybody knows when you start a movie what the beginning, middle and end is. The movie is a finite mass. They're very different beasts. The thing that connects them all is that they're pretty much the same cameras and the same techniques. Do I have a preference? Not really. I love great stories. 

TMS: What other projects do you have coming up right now?

JC:  I play a very bit part in the new Bridget Jones film. It's just wonderful. It's so funny. I enjoyed that equally. 

TMS: Is it hard switching from something brooding like The Hollow to the goofy comedy of Bridget Jones?

JC:  No, it's not a hard thing to do but you have to have your focus. When you're working with people like William Forsythe and William Sadler, it's like you better be on your 'A' game. You don't want to be the person that didn't hit the mark, etcetera.  I came to The Hollow party slightly later than the others. Jesus Christ, did I have my work cut out for me. It took a real focus. I didn't stay in character but I did training. I did swimming. I did running. I was pushing myself. In that sense, I was trying to find the essence of that guy and while I was there I wouldn't let that leave me. The guy I'm playing is a real mess. 

TMS: Since BSG ended, we've seen a dramatic shift in the way we watch shows. Many are geared toward binge watching. What do you think of the way they're putting tv out now?

JC:  Without being self preferential to the show and how lucky we got to be with one of the most phenomenal shows, I think that Battlestar may have helped have a hand in that. I could be wrong but to get Battlestar made they needed some money from a British broadcaster because over here people were like 'do we really want to watch that show again?'. SKY from the U.K. came on board. One of the deals was that it would be broadcast in the U.K. before it hit the U.S.. It came out in London and millions of people in the States can't see it, so what happened? In the age of technology and the internet, It became illegally downloaded. I think this was a big wake up call for all of the studios. They started to realize they could release ten episodes at a time and they'd have control of it. Now we have these incredible shows that we're watching. House of Cards. Game of Thrones. Narcos. I could go on and on and on. 

TMS:  What would you say that Baltar did for your career and how much control were you given over the character?

JC:  Any actor I know would have been overjoyed to get the role. I didn't want him to come across as overtly mean. I didn't want him to be malicious. I thought he could be petty and childish. But was he really going out of his way to get someone? That wasn't his deal. I think in some ways it's been difficult. When you do something that phenomenal, the public doesn't want you to move on. I AM NOT Gaius Baltar. 

TMS: What do you think about them rebooting the franchise again? 

JC: I think great stories will be told. I don't think anyone's got the copyright on it. You've got to bring something new and reinvigorating to the party. If it's some cynical type of money grab, I think we're all too clever to see through that. I'm absolutely convinced that isn't the case. I think the minds behind this have some great ideas and it's going to be phenomenal. That's what I think. I wish it every success. I for one will definitely be watching it when it airs, yes. 

TMS: Tell us what the difference is between doing a big budget feature and an indie flick like The Hollow. 

JC: With an independent movie if you don't get the scene, then you don't get the scene. It's not like you can come back a week later and do it again. There isn't the money or the time for that. 

TMS:  What do you want people to know about your experiences on The Hollow and working in the south?

JC: I was inspired by being down there and working on this film. The deep south opened up for us. The hospitality that we received, the kindness, the warmth......The food. The nightlife. What a privilege. The deep south is all over this film. You get to see that. So, I don't think people will be disappointed. I think they'll actually be stoked and psyched because it harkens back to a previous era where the exciting thing is content not profit margin. 

TMS: In one of the press releases I read, they compared this to Twin Peaks. Where do you think this comparison comes from?

JC: I'm really not sure. There is not a supernatural element to this show. Maybe they meant in the sense that the FBI is descending on a town because of a murder. This is far more Cassavetes about it. This is far more '70s noir about it. It's pretty gruesome and dark. The thing that carries you through this is the characters, their problems and how they navigate these three deaths. 

So say we all! We thank James for taking the time to talk to us. The Hollow is released October 7th on VOD and in limited cinemas.