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Jamie Bamber interview

Date of publishing: 30th January 2008

Michael Rymer interview - Director Battlestar Galactica When he made his acting debut as the Wicked Witch of the West in a children's production of The Wizard of Oz directed by his mom, Bamber couldn't have imagined the success he would have playing another iconic role, Captain Lee "Apollo" Adama, in the smash remake of Battlestar Galactica. Sexy, intelligent and multilingual, he studied drama at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art after graduating from Cambridge University. Although he had a recurring role in a series of Horatio Hornblower TV-movies and a small part in the World War II miniseries Band of Brothers, Bamber was a relative unknown when he shot to cult-star status as a conflicted military man serving under his father's command on the Sci Fi Channel's signature series.
This interview has been conducted by Renee Burl during Dragon*Con 2007

Renee Burl: Starting with Battlestar, what do you think has changed about Lee since the beginning of the series?
Jamie Bamber: Everything has changed. The world has changed. The world ceases to exist. He has been thrust back into the bosom of his father and he’s grown up. Actually, it’s a growing up story about him. It’s about putting his family background behind him and looking to the future and looking to what difference he can make to this new, sort of fragmented, decimated society. It’s a coming of age story for Lee, really. It’s about finding out who he is and what his purpose in life is, over and above the expectations of the military and his dad.

Renee Burl: In the last three episodes of season three, we saw Lee become his own man. We saw the subtle changes that had been worked up to, that had been laid out through the rest of the seasons, kind of come to fruitarian. Can you elaborate a little bit on some of the more specific ones that you felt were really going to take Lee to his next stage?
Jamie Bamber: It’s a good question. It’s something that has actually happened constantly, that Lee becomes his own man. I was using that phrase when Lee first sided with the President in the mini-series and he wasn’t toeing the political line. I said it when it turned his gun on Col. Tigh and refused to execute a military coup against the President. I said it when he became a commander in his own right and he accepts the military thing and he is at one with that whole thing and he’s become his dad and their good. And last year with the whole trial thing, you know that’s another example. It’s just the latest example. It’s just a process and it’s a recurring thing with his character that he questions and he asks the difficult questions. He is not a yes-man. He examines things. He’s intelligent. He’s insightful and sometimes he is a bit pigheaded and a bit priggish and maybe a bit boyscoutish and those are the elements that I fight. I try to make him as dangerous and sort of quixotic as I can within the framework of playing the reliable hero. But that’s the challenge of the role. I fight the writers quite a lot when they make him sort of fairly moralistic and boy scoutish. It’s a recurring battle that I have with them. They always want to put him back in that box. I’m always reminding them that actually he is the most free thinking person in the fleet and he isn’t the one relying on a sort of jingoistic mantra of right and wrong. He questions what right and wrong are all the time. He does believe in them, but they are moving truths within there. So you are right to point that out.

Renee Burl: You have done work in both American and British television. What is the biggest difference between BBC and American television?
Jamie Bamber: You know, money is the most obvious thing. Not only what they pay actors, but the market is huge in the USA and because the market has always been huge, there has been a lot of quality out there and a lot of exporting. So we’ve all grown up, where ever you’ve lived in the world, we’ve grown up with American TV, at least the best of it. The same is true of British TV. British TV has been hugely exported for the tiny population that we have, but Americans tend to remake shows in their own image. The Office is a good example, Coupling got remade, and they cast American actors, and they Americanize it and they make it accessible to Americans. We don’t do that in Britain. If an American show is made, we watch the American show, because, well, we like to say we are intelligent enough to see through the cultural specifics to get through to the show and America seems to want to cast everything in its own image. I think that’s a difference. And with the money there’s a difference in the way they perceive success. An American show is designed to run for many, many years and to make 20 episodes a year, at least. A British show is a success if we make six episodes and the next season we have six, like Extras, and everyone else is wondering when they are going to make more. That’s just not the model we work on because we just don’t have that huge market. The talent isn’t willing to stay doing something for a huge amount of time, writers, actors, and they don’t have the luxury of teams of writers. It is normally an individual who writes every single episode in the UK. We just don’t have the scale and that is the difference, fundamentally.

Renee Burl: How many conventions a year do you do?
Jamie Bamber: This year I’m doing a load because I just moved and just bought a house and the show is ending and I’m scared. I’m financially trying to look after my wife and kids. I will probably do five or something this year, which is a lot for me. Conventions, I love them because I love meeting the people. There are elements about it that I don’t like. I don’t like that everyone knows we are here because someone pays us to come and we are not really doing our jobs. This isn’t what I do. I’m not a convention man. I’m not a personality, I’m an actor and I’d much rather be acting right now that doing this, I have to be honest. But, it’s been a revelation to me, just the joy of meeting the people and having conversations about their perceptions about what you are doing and just feeling the feedback. It’s something that TV doesn’t give you. In theater with a live audience you get that. Even with movie theaters you get the idea that people are actually going to see your product. TV, you are in their living rooms and you don’t really know what the relationship is. You don’t know you’re there. So conventions are an amazing thing. I’m amazed that it’s just the genre shows that have conventions, but I’m noticing the genres getting wider, wider, and wider. Like the definition of what comes in the bracket of a convention material is pretty broad now. It’s not just Sci-Fi. It’s more or less everything. So I’ve been really privileged to discover it. I don’t think I would have discovered it otherwise and I do enjoy them. I do have some trepidation about them because I have sort of a moral anxiety about the whole transaction side of it. But I enjoy the people very much. Walking around here and seeing the amazing costumes and the amount of fun people are having and the conversations that are going on, it’s joyful.

Renee Burl: What’s your craziest fan experience?
Jamie Bamber: Well today, as I think you know, I signed a cake with icing. I was under the impression that it was a wedding cake and there is a picture of half-naked me on the wedding cake. I was relieved to find out that it was just for bachelorette party because I pity the bloke who is marrying this lovely girl who has a picture of someone else on their wedding cake. That was definitely the weirdest thing, that I had to sign in icing on a cake. It’s hard work, too. It was a struggle.

Renee Burl: What will you miss most at the end of Battlestar Galactica?
Jamie Bamber: The people. I will miss Eddie and Mary and James and Katie and Grace and Tricia and Tahmoh and Aaron and Michael Rymer and Ron and David. The people. The crew in particular because I won’t necessarily see them again and I know I will see my friends again. A lot of us live in L.A. so we will connect. Undeniably the people. I don’t think I’ll miss the character, really. I will have nostalgia for Vancouver. I’ll have nostalgia for the times that we had, but it’s the people.

Renee Burl: What will you miss the least?
Jamie Bamber: The flight suit. The sweaty, hot, flight suit. I will miss the least, as well, the worry about the character. I do feel that I have had to fight for this character quite a lot and a lot of the times it’s tough. The writers are great. They are really great, great writers and they are really open but there are times when I get depressed by the same notes being played. I’m glad it is ending when it is ending because I have run out of ideas for how to make Lee what he needs to be and I sense that they have, too. I think it’s good that we are ending when we are.

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© 2007 - Interview by Renee Burl for The Scifi World
Transcript by Josh Cameron, checked by Jenifer Redelle Carey
Photos by Gigi Eng


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