We had the pleasure of chatting with Caprica‘s Ronald D. Moore And David Eick at the Syfy Digital Press tour last week. They talked with us about the where “frak” came from, the possibility of Season 2, and more… Check it out below!
What kinds of things can we expect from the second half of this season versus the first?
RONALD D. MOORE: Well, second half of “Caprica”‘s first season, I think you’ll see more momentum, certain streamlining of storylines for the first half of the season. We sort of started to focus in on what were the primary stories as we got into the second half and started to sort of strip away some of the more extraneous details as we went. I think it has more momentum than the first half. I think you’ll also start to see more tie-ins between the “Battlestar Galactica” mythology and sort of the ongoing story in “Caprica.”
DAVID EICK: Yes. Sometimes these first-season shows have to catch up with themselves. I think the second half of Season 1 is where we started to kind of land and shift into a new gear. And that gear is, I guess, more kind of unapologetically connected to its origins of “Battlestar,” where I think in the first half of Season 1 we were very intent on establishing our own framework, on distinguishing the show from “Battlestar” for people who hadn’t seen “Battlestar.” And in the final analysis — or the midstream analysis, we realized that there was a lot of value in our origin, in the show’s roots. And I think both in terms of tone and rhythm and action/adventure and suspense and also in terms of just the overall ideas you’re going to see a lot more “Battlestar” in the second half of the season.
Plus the “Polly Walker kicking ass” stuff apparently
DAVID EICK: Yeah. Well, that’s what I mean by “tone.” There’s a lot of “Hold on a second. I didn’t know that character could do that.” And that was a little bit of the hallmark of “Battlestar,” and I think you’ll see a lot more of that in “Caprica” now.
I guess the biggest question that a lot of fans have — I mean, everybody is talking about the stories and such, and I know this is kind of out of your control, but a lot of people are wondering just if — how much we might be able to get into a second season of the show. There’s a lot of people who are behind it. And if so, have you guys even thought about what kind of storylines might be addressed if it goes that far or what directions you might want to go?
RONALD D. MOORE: Well, we actually do have a whole sort of creative roadmap of what the second season would be. We got together — David and I got together a few months ago. Then we brought it to Syfy channel, said, “Okay, if we get a second season, this essentially where we want to go with it.” And we mapped it out in greater detail than I think we ever did in “Galactica”‘s run, where we sort of said, “Okay, wait a minute. What if we establish these points out on the horizon as the place we’re trying to get to? Now let’s talk the audience on a journey from here to there, kind of like through each of the characters and all the major storylines.” And we were pretty pleased. We said, “Oh, this is actually a pretty good season and a good story.” So Syfy agreed and liked it. And so creatively we’re ready to go. If and when we get the pickup, which I still think we’re going to get and hopefully we get, we’re ready to sort of sit down and start actively breaking episodes.
I wanted to know, in one of the previews, I saw sort of like the Cylon bursting out — I think it’s Zoe — bursting out of the thing, like, with a machine gun or something. That made me think about how quickly you can get to a place where the robots kind of start taking over and rebelling. Is that so far down the line, or are we still origin and emotion right now, and we won’t see as much of the ass-kicking until later in the season or —
DAVID EICK: No, I think you’re going to see plenty of ass-kicking.
Yeah. Cylon ass-kicking?
DAVID EICK: That’s the headline: “More Ass-Kicking.” But I think we’re cognizant of the timeline and of being true to what sort of events socially, emotionally, politically would be required — would have to take place in between the creation of a sentient, artificial-intelligent thing and its takeover of an entire society. And so I think we’re — part of what we’re excited about about a possible second season is how painstakingly genuine and realistic we feel like that process, that evolution is. It is both surprising in terms of stuff that happens sooner than you think it would. And also, it’s always about one step forward and two steps back with great technological breakthroughs and outbursts, of course. And I think that’s what’s so exciting about — but I think you’re going to see the reason we were led to that in the second season is because of where we are in the second half of Season 1. You’re going to see that development begin so that it doesn’t feel like a surprise when you get there.
Is it more of a challenge controlling — keeping the technology from being too advanced with “Caprica” than it was on “Battlestar”? Because we never got the feeling with “Battlestar” that it was too high-tech, but now we’re seeing there has to be certain technology in place to build the Cylons, like you just said. So is it more of a challenge keeping it grounded with “Caprica”?
DAVID EICK: Well, it went retro for a reason.
RONALD D. MOORE: Well, it was kind of baked into “Battlestar”‘s backstory from the get-go, that here was a society that had developed sophisticated space travel, that was a spacefaring people, and they had invented artificial intelligence and cybernetic life forms and blah, blah, blah. But because of the events of the first Cylon war that we set in “Battlestar,” the human civilizations had basically taken a step backward from that point and said networked computers were very, very dangerous. AI in any way, shape, or form was very dangerous. And as a consequence, in “Galactica”‘s era you saw phones with cords, and they had stopped networking computers together, and they had sort of tried to put the handbrake on their technology because they were afraid it might be used against them at some point. And “Caprica” takes place before all that. So here’s a very sophisticated society. It’s going very, very fast, and things are being invented everywhere all over the 12 worlds. And you see that there are layers of technological advance, from the people that have the computer sheets, that they’re pieces of paper that you can fold up and put in your pocket, to people that are still working on laptops. Some people have very slick, cool cell phones. Other people, like in the Adama residence, still have physical, large answering machines. So there’s sort of a spectrum of technology that we deal with in “Caprica,” but with the idea that it’s going faster and faster and that with the invention of the Cylons, the advances in technology are going to really blossom.
Are we going to see any of the Cylons from “Battlestar Galactica” pop up in “Caprica”?
RONALD D. MOORE: We don’t have any plans to, but you never say never. You kind of wait and see what that would be and under what circumstances we might make that happen. But there’s not anything on the table for that right now.
DAVID EICK: Yeah, I mean, so much of that, in truth, becomes an issue of casting. We’re in Vancouver. It’s a smaller pool of talent just in terms of the population. And we got so lucky with “Battlestar.” When you go down the line, I mean Tahmoh Penikett and — I can go on and on with the people we found locally. It’s a temptation to want to cast a lot of those guys again, Cylon and non-Cylon alike, just because they’re damn good actors and, you know, it’s hard to find good actors. So there have been times when we’ve discussed backing into a conceptual conceit that will allow us to justify casting an actor that we’re really casting because they’re just so good, more so than the other way around.
So I was wondering, in the remaining episodes too, any more — are you writing any more episodes? Are we just kind of sticking with the rest of the writing team, or what kind of involvement do you guys have in this last group of episodes that we’re seeing right now?
DAVID EICK: Pretty damn involved.
I mean, like, in terms of writing.
DAVID EICK: Well, the series is done. The last half of Season 1 has long since been wrapped, written, produced, finished editing, finished postproduction. So, we’re sort of waiting for word on the second season. But for sure we’re very enamored of our writing staff. And to the extent we can, we’ll be fishing all of them back in.
Do you ever get caught up in the legacy, the continuity? Does that ever become overwhelming dealing with all the history, the entire storyline that you’ve already set up?
RONALD D. MOORE: It hasn’t been too bad. We had the luxury of developing a lot of “Caprica” while “Battlestar” was still in its last year. And as a result we were able to sort of take pains to make sure that “Battlestar” stayed away from our particular backstory as much as possible. And they’re separated by a good chunk of time. And because of the way that we wanted to end “Battlestar,” we sort of decided that we would wrap up all the plot threads of that story that mattered to us and not leave any weird hanging mysteries for “Caprica.” As a result, “Caprica” pretty much has its own sort of standalone mythology. I really don’t think it’s necessary to have watched “Battlestar” and understand it and drunk in all the different plotlines in order to understand “Caprica.” So for the most part, the continuity of the two has not really been a big burden.
DAVID EICK: In the fourth season didn’t we apply certain restraints or make adjustments because we knew “Caprica” was coming?
RONALD D. MOORE: Yeah. We said specifically — we made an effort not to refer to anything that talked about how the Cylons were originally created on the 12 colonies, to not say who the first Cylon was or what they did or anything like that. We just sort of kept moving around those subjects as we were doing the scripts in the last season. We had established a couple of things over the life of “Battlestar,” but when we sat there and really looked at what we had established in continuity, there really wasn’t very much. We had pretty much said the Cylons were created by man. They evolved. They overthrew their masters, and there was this war. And there wasn’t much beyond that that had been really specified in “Battlestar.” So that left us with a lot of running room in “Caprica.”
DAVID EICK: Yeah. One of my favorite inconsistencies — you have to remind me if this was actually in the mini or if we cut it. But it was when you had Adama say, “My father always said that a warship was like an old lady” — what was the line?
RONALD D. MOORE: Yeah, there was — well, there was a scene that was cut. It was shot, but it was cut. There was a scene in the original miniseries where Adama and Tigh and some of the crew on “Battlestar,” before the Cylon attack, they were getting rid of all the “Galactica”‘s weaponry. They were sending big pallets of rockets and missiles —
DAVID EICK: Ordnance.
RONALD D. MOORE: — and ammunition, ordnance, and blowing it up in a ceremonial gesture that was decommissioning the ship and making it not a warship anymore. And there was a line in there where Adama said, “My father always said that a ship is born the day she’s christened and dies the day her guns are silent” or something like that.
DAVID EICK: And you go, “Your father was a lawyer. Why would he say that?”
RONALD D. MOORE: Because in those days his backstory was that he was the son of another admiral or something. But that scene got cut, and as the series went on —
DAVID EICK: Is it on the miniseries extras?
RONALD D. MOORE: I think it’s in a — it might be in a deleted scene, yeah.
When are we going to find out about a second season?
DAVID EICK: Well, stick around till — what did you say? Like 4 o’clock today we’re going to —
MARK STERN [From SyFy]: Yeah, I think these guys are getting me drunk later today and we’re going to —
RONALD D. MOORE: What do you mean, later?
MARK STERN: I don’t know what I did after that 15th tequila shot. It’s a great question, actually. We owe the cast a decision November 15th. I think our feeling is — and we’ll have done — aired about six or seven episodes by then. I think we’re definitely hopeful to have a decision before that.
Both you guys seem to be pretty busy, even just on “Caprica,” but you seem to have a lot of irons in the fire on other things. Anything else you have plans for that you can tell us about?
RONALD D. MOORE: I’m in development, back at the beginning of the process all over again. I sold a pilot to NBC. Excited about that. And I’ve got — taking a couple other things out and pitches and sort of meeting with writers and so on. But nothing definitive yet. Nothing that will put a billboard up for you.
DAVID EICK: Yeah. I’ve got one at ABC and one at FOX, but it’s all the same, all kind of development hell.
RONALD D. MOORE: It’s a lot of talk.
DAVID EICK: Yeah.
Earlier in the summer there was some talk about a “Battlestar Galactica” Web series. Can you tell us anything about that?
DAVID EICK: I don’t think we’re supposed to.
MARK STERN: We’re going to be talking about that very soon.
When you were writing this “Caprica” as the series, were there any characters that surprised you by the larger role that they took on?
RONALD D. MOORE: I think probably Lacy would be the top of that list and Sam. They were both in the pilot. They were supporting characters that played a role within the context of what the pilot was about. But as we got into series and really after we saw the actors, once we saw the actors in the show, we really zeroed in on those two as two characters that we didn’t think were going to have huge roles to play in the series, but suddenly we said, “Oh, my God, they’re really important, and they’re great. The actors are really interesting. Let’s keep writing to that.”
DAVID EICK: That’s one of the great things about TV. You can discover talent in a way that you can’t in movies. And I was talking about Tahmoh Penikett earlier. I keep damning Sasha Roiz with fain praise by telling him he’s the Tahmoh Penikett of “Caprica” because he’s this great discovery. He’s someone who we thought would make a great assassin in the pilot and, in working with him, discovered this guy’s remarkably talented and tremendously charismatic. And we started developing storylines for him and obviously, creating a real specific character for him. And Lacy is another great example of that. And I keep damning her by referring to her as the Katee Sackhoff of “Caprica.” But as a pure talent, as a thoroughbred of talent, she is just remarkable. I’m not even sure she knows how good she is yet. But she’s tremendous, and she has a lot more to do in the second half of Season 1 for that reason.
I think “Battlestar” set the standard for how to shoot spaceships in space and redefined what that meant. What would you say technologically has been the most interesting thing about “Caprica” and what you guys have done with the worlds you’ve created or in terms of breaking ground visually?
RONALD D. MOORE: Probably — there are times now when I’m watching the show, and I cannot tell whether the Cylon in the room is a prop or is the visual effect. I think that’s a remarkable place now, where suddenly we’re able to put CG objects into the environment and it’s really, really hard to tell, even for us who do it, whether it’s true or not. And I was scanning through some episodes just the other day, and there was a Cylon lying on the table, the chassis. U87 was lying there. And I thought, “Oh, that’s the visual effect.” And then the guy — then one of the actors in the scene put his hand on it and leaned on it. I went, “Oh, no, that’s not the visual effect.” It’s really interesting. The boys and girls in our visual effects department just keep raising the bar on what’s technologically possible on a television budget. It’s amazing. Same goes with, like, virtual sets really.
DAVID EICK: Well, yeah, we’re — this is largely attributable to Mr. Stern and the people at the network who insisted on it, but in the early going, we had this city called Caprica. And we would continually cut to these exterior shots of Vancouver as establishing shots, as transitional shots. And they would have at times some slight enhancement but, for the most part, looked like Vancouver. And Mark would look at these cuts and go, “This isn’t Caprica. This looks like Vancouver.” And what’s rare in TV — what you do a lot in movies but what’s really rare in TV is you don’t spend a lot of money on visual effects that don’t have story points attached to them. Because visual effects budgets are so precious, you tend to reserve them for big hero shots, big story, big plot turns, big action sequences. And the idea that you would have — you would expend a lot of resources on some bit of transitional buffer, an establishing shot before you go inside a building or just some sort of, again, transition from one scene to another as if to say, “Yes, you’re on a different planet. It’s called Caprica. Part of the concept is that you’re in a different world and that even the most offhand, arbitrary, seemingly meaningless moments should continue to reinvest you in that idea” is very hard to do in TV. And it was — and so it became this challenge: Okay, well, how can you spread out your visual effects resources to emphasize that point, in addition to your big action sequences and your big robot effects and all this stuff you need to do to tell the story? And as I look at the episodes now, I’m so grateful and happy about that because it just kind of flies by you, and you don’t notice it, but it creates this texture. It creates this reality that really kind of envelopes you into the story. And I’m really happy that we did that.
MARK STERN: So you’re saying I was right all along.
DAVID EICK: You responded to a good idea.
MARK STERN: That’s as good as I’ll get from you.
DAVID EICK: Yes.
Why “frak”? Where did “frak” come from? Why that word? What were the other words you were considering?
RONALD D. MOORE: I cannot take credit for “frak.” “Frak” goes back to the original “Battlestar” series. And —
DAVID EICK: Along with “felger” —
RONALD D. MOORE: They had another one. “Felgercarb” was the other one, which I knew didn’t work.
But “frak” was just a bit of genius that I could get away with murder over and over again. They didn’t use it like I used it.
MARK STERN: “Clusterfrak.”
RONALD D. MOORE: They didn’t say “clusterfrak,” “frak me,” “you motherfraker,” and “frak it up” — I mean, all this stuff.
But it was genius because, hey, it had been on ABC television in 1978. What were the Syfy censors going to say to me? It was a license to kill, so I used it.
DAVID EICK: You know what? I fought him on it.
RONALD D. MOORE: You did.
DAVID EICK: I didn’t believe in it. I thought it was too silly. To this day, every time I hear it, I’m like, “He was right. He was right.”
MARK STERN: What I particularly love about that is Bonnie Hammer uses it now.
RONALD D. MOORE: Does she?
MARK STERN: Yeah. She’ll be like, “That fraking –” And I’m like, “She said ‘frak.'”
DAVID EICK: Well, to me, the pinnacle was the episode of “30 Rock” where —
RONALD D. MOORE: Oh, Salma Hayek?
DAVID EICK: Salma Hayek walks up with a “Frak off” T-shirt. I was just like, “Dude.”
Syfy Press Tour Coverage By: Emma Loggins