Katee Sackhoff Talks How BSG Prepared Her for the Role, Her Peculiar Casting Process, and More on the Set of RIDDICK

     June 18, 2013


During a group interview on the set of Riddick last year in Montreal, Katee Sackhoff explained the differences between her character Dahl, and Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica:

“There’s a lot of big differences between Starbuck and Dahl.  Starbuck is extremely juvenile and she was very immature and she kind of grew up in that show.  Dahl is very mature, very much a woman.  She’s kind of been taking care of herself for a while and she’s extremely confident.  Starbuck was confident to mask her insecurities, there’s not an insecure bone in Dahl.  She’s by far the toughest, most deadly character I’ve ever played.”

During the rest of the interview, Sackhoff talked about filming the action scenes, being the only woman in the cast, interacting with creatures that’ll be added in later using CG, how she got cast, and so much more.  Hit the jump for what she had to say.

Before going any further, if you haven’t yet seen the trailer, I’d watch that first:

katee-sackhoff-riddick-imageQuestion:  How are you?

KATEE SACKHOFF:  Cold.  My pants are soaking wet.  I’m trying to stay warm.

Were you just in the firefight?


We heard the firefight through the door.

SACKHOFF:  That’s just Dave Bautista’s gun.  You didn’t hear the rest of it. 

Can you describe what you were just filming?

SACKHOFF:  Yeah.  My character’s this sniper.  You see me most of the time with this sniper rifle that’s just a head shorter than I am, pretty much, and then my handgun.  In this one I was given an LOD, which is an electrical current gun.  I was like, “Come on it’s kind of girly, why do I have to fire that thing?”  So I was trying to make it cooler and the director goes, “Well there’s a three-second load-up, while you stand there.”  And I was like, “What if I shoot my handgun at the same time, while it’s gearing up?”  So, I’m standing there with this massive thing and firing at the same time and then sweeping with this big LOD.  I found a way to make it as masculine as possible. 

Is it hard to be the only female in an all-male cast and even as the character in all-males?

SACKHOFF:  I’m kind of used to being around guys on set, and I grew up with a brother who treated me like I was a boy.  So, it kind of is easy for me but this is definitely the biggest cast of men I’ve been in.  Literally and figuratively — they’re huge.  This is the first time in my life that I’ve never been worried that my ass is gonna look big, I just stand next to Dave Bautista.  Physically, they’re a lot bigger than me, so I’m constantly trying to make sure that I’m carrying myself in a masculine way. 

Would you say that Dahl is different than Starbuck or is there some Starbuck in there?

SACKHOFF:  I think there’s a little bit of her.  Because there’s a little bit of me in all of the characters I’ve played.  I’ve never really had the opportunity to play something that’s a complete departure from me yet.  I am definitely a lot more girly that the characters that I play, but there’s a lot of big differences between Starbuck and Dahl.  Starbuck is extremely juvenile and she was very immature and she kind of grew up in that show.  Dahl is very mature, very much a woman.  My backstory, DT [David Twohy] and I pretty much made it up but she was thrust into a situation where she grew up really fast.  She’s kind of been taking care of herself for a while and she’s extremely confident.  Starbuck was confident to mask her insecurities, there’s not an insecure bone in Dahl.  She’s by far the toughest, most deadly character I’ve ever played.  There’s not a moment where this woman would shed a tear, and not because she doesn’t feel like it but because there’s nothing that would make her cry. 

riddick-vin-dieselCouldn’t you say that Battlestar couldn’t have been a better show reel for this? Because it basically showed all the job skills you would need for something like this.  If they couldn’t see you kick ass in something like that, would they have thought of you for a film like this?

SACKHOFF:  You know what’s funny? DT and Vin hadn’t even seen Battlestar.  They just knew that I brought the sci-fi fans with me and that was the reason I got the job.  I think they’ve seen it now, but I don’t think it was one of those things where that character got me the role, it was more of the fanbase that came in with myself.  DT said, that in the beginning, I was in this small group of girls that were kind of in the mix for it.  And it ultimately came down to the fact that they wouldn’t have to teach me how to do anything.  So, it’s kind of nice.  I was just clearing jammed guns in the rain, holding a big saw, clearing guns with one hand. 

We got to see some story boards with the creature effects folks.  How was interacting with all of the creatures attacking you?

SACKHOFF:  I don’t know.  I guess it’s very similar in a sense to flying a plane that’s not really there.  It makes me laugh because — I was just going to say I don’t take my job really seriously but that would have sounded really bad.  In my head, I’m off in some random world in my head.  I’m really not that focused in the situations where I’m firing guns.  I’m like, “Oh my God, I’m firing a gun.  This is really great.”  In my mind, I’m seeing Tremors, I’m seeing worms but then it makes me think about when I ate a worm when I was five and I cut it up on my Dixie Cup tea cup set.  Then I questioned whether or not they live if you only cut them in half and then they’re little so they pop up and so I’m like, “Oh, that’s like a gopher.”  Which makes me think of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.  So, that’s basically what’s going through my head as I’m firing these guns. 

Do you think women will come to this film or should they?

SACKHOFF:  Oh, I would see this film for Dave Bautista’s abs.  Purely, purely.  No, I hope so.  You couldn’t get cuter men in a room if that’s why women want to go see a movie.  I find that in the science fiction world, you have almost more women fans than male fans and I think it’s because — not so much now, but in the last ten years — there’s been such a shortage of strong female characters.  In the 80’s there were a handful of really strong ones where you’re like, “Okay, I want to be that person.”  Then, there was kind of a shortage and in the 90’s we got a little but more.  But in the last five or ten years, there really haven’t been that many.  So, when you do have one, women flock because there’s not a ton.  I kind of hope that’s why they’ll see the movie.  And if that fails, some of the boys will just have to take their clothes off. 

Of those iconic female sci-fi characters, which ones do you sort of gravitate to?

riddick-vin-diesel-dave-bautistaSACKHOFF:  I’m sure it’s the same one everyone says and that’s Ripley.  Linda Hamilton I loved growing up, but there’s such a small handful of them.  The first movie my dad ever showed me was Predator — I was five.  And I think the second one was Jaws.  I’ve has this understanding of fiction for a very, very long time but I’ve also had this thing where I’ve idolized the male action heroes because that’s what I watched with my dad.  I was such a huge Bruce Willis fan because of all the Die Hards and Arnold Schwarzenegger was like ‘the guy.’  Kindergarten Cop was filmed in my home state and I was like, “He’s awesome!  Now he gets his hair cut next to me, it’s fantastic.  We might ride motorcycles together some day.”  I grew up idolizing these male action figures and then slowly there were a couple women in there, but there’s still not a lot.  The genre is kind of over-saturated with women that you know couldn’t really physically do it, which I find such a departure.  You’re already using your imagination because you’re watching fiction and then you’re trying to believe that this girl who weighs 100 lbs, soaking wet, could actually beat up a guy.  Which works in a lot of situations but in a lot of situations you look at it and you’re like, “Come on.  Could you please get someone in there who actually has biceps and not just because they don’t eat?”  Sorry, I’m so tired. 

Do you go toe to toe with Vin at some point?  Do you get your own action scene?

SACKHOFF:  I do.  I do.  I can’t say what, but it’s pretty amazing.  If there’s one moment that stuck out in my mind when I read this script, it was this last moment that Dahl has.  It’s pretty kind of fantastic.  I’ve been dreaming about it since October.  I’m really kind of excited about it. 

Have you filmed this scene yet?

SACKHOFF:  No sir, that’s tomorrow. 

I read an interview with you, describing your casting process for this and I thought it was a very interesting story.  Is that actually what happened?

SACKHOFF:  Yeah, isn’t that weird?  It was such a beautiful thing, it’s such a great moment.  I went in for this a really long time ago and I met with DT and the casting director.  I was told pretty soon after that, that I was in the final four.  So, I just started talking about it like I had it already — at comic cons — and DT was like, “The balls on this girl to be telling fans that she’s already got the role.”  I figured it could go one of two ways.  So, it came down to the wire where they were going to have to cast this role really fast.  We got a call from Anne McCarthy who’s the casting director and she basically said, “Vin’s going to be in town for two days.  You’re on this very, very short list and they’re casting all the roles really fast.  You have to have your scenes ready, you’ve got to be ready to jump.”  

katee-sackhoffI went to bed that night and I just happened to check my phone because I was dating this new guy and I was kind of hoping we has texting me.  And my phone was off — and the asshole never texted me by the way – but I digress.  But my agent’s brand new assistant did, or my manager’s assistant, and she’s like, “Anne McCarthy’s calling and you have an audition right now.”  I was like, “It’s 10:30, really?” And she was like, “Yeah. You gotta go.  Are your scenes ready?”  And I was like, “Yeah.  My face mask is on and I’m in my pajamas.  Okay, let me call my manager.”  I called my manager and my agents and nobody’s answering.  I was like, “I need to go.”  But I had to make this decision on my own because I couldn’t get a hold of anyone.”  So, I called my mom at 11 o’clock at night and I’m like, “Mommy, all the producers, Vin and Anne Mccarthy — the casting director — are at Vin’s house and they’re doing this thing.  I need to go but I can’t get a hold of anybody.  Should I go?”  And she’s like, “Get your ass out of bed and call me in an hour.”  And I was like, “Okay.”  So I put on dirty jeans and left my pajama top on and wiped my face mask off while I was driving to Vin’s house.  

I got up to the house and the producers were all sitting around this table having their production meeting.  I walked in and I had a beer with Vin and then DT walked me to my car and he gave me the part.  I drove home and I said to my mom that I got the part because I showed up.  It was just one of those moments that was such a cool moment but at the same time, in the back of your mind, you’re going, “It’s 11 o’clock at night, do these people sleep?  I’ve been in bed since 9:30.”  But it was awesome, it was such a cool moment and I walked in and Vin was awesome.  It was such a cool moment, he was actually practicing his stick fighting.  I was like, “This is amazing.”  And he was like, “Want a beer? Want a beer?  Cool, here’s a beer.”  We just talked about the character and DT asked me all these questions about what I thought.  I never auditioned and then, I left. 

Don’t you think, in a way, that was the test?  Someone to get out of bed and go down there at 11 o’clock, was basically what they wanted to see from somebody.

SACKHOFF: Yeah. And normally I wouldn’t have gone — I also normally wouldn’t have checked my phone at 10:30 at night.  It was really cool, and basically what happened was that they were seeing characters all day long and they were contemplating going one way and then at the last minute they were like, “Can we please get Katee up here?” And they were like, “She’ll come.  We gotta see Katee.”  Because I think the room was torn, and they called me up.

riddick-vin-diesel-throneDo you still get nervous?

SACKHOFF:  It’s so funny because DT asked me that question when I first got here.  I never got nervous.


SACKHOFF:  No.  I got nervous when I swam, when I was a swimmer, because there was so much that was out of my control depending on what everyone else does.  But this is, I don’t know, it’s fun.  It’s make believe.  I go to work and pretend like I’m five.  You can’t be nervous.  Not this, put me in Shakespeare in a corset and I might panic.  But I’ve never really done anything so far out of my wheelhouse that I’ve stressed too much.

Are you prepared for getting merch made out of you?  Like action figures and stuff like that?

SACKHOFF:  I think I have some.  Battlestar had the big ones and then we had little Lego characters as well.  I think I have a Bionic Woman one.

Do you think you’ll get one on this one?

SACKHOFF:  I’m sure.  I think so.  I can’t imagine, maybe.  I don’t know.  It was a very big thing with Battlestar because I wanted her to look feminine and we got to approve them.  And my doll shows up and it was literally Dirk Benedict with tits.  I was like, “This is not what I look like.  Can we give her a waist?  Maybe some rouge?  A little bob?  How about we give her a ponytail?”  And so it comes back and it’s like Number 6 in Starbucks clothing with these massive Jessica Rabbit boobs.  And I was like, “This is not me either.”  So, I was the last one to sign off and it finally got to this cute little ponytail and she kind of looked feminine but kind of looked masculine.  But they don’t make them anymore.  I have a box of them at home.

Did you see the Battlestar episode of Portlandia?

SACKHOFF:  I did. 

vin-diesel-image-riddickWere you invited to that at one point?

SACKHOFF:  Supposedly, I was.  I gave Fred [Armisen] a lot of shit because I’m actually from Portland and I was like, “Really guys? Really?”  And he was like, “I’m so sorry! We tried to get a hold of you!”  I had just finished a job where I dislocated both my shoulders and I think it was during that time where they called.  I don’t think my managers even called to tell me.  It was just like, “She can’t.” 

Last year you filmed Boston’s Finest as a detective, are we going to see that ever?

SACKHOFF:  No, no, no.  It didn’t get picked up.  But I have a new show called Longmire that’s coming to A&E.  

How did you train physically for this role?

SACKHOFF:  This one was really hard because I knew that the guys — I looked at all the heights of the guys because I knew that if they were like 5’8” that I was going to have to get smaller.  But, realizing that they were all big guys, I knew I would have to put on weight for it.  I put on like 10 pounds of muscle.  I ate a lot, which was kind of awesome but it wasn’t fun eating.  I went to the doctor and he did all my blood work and he comes back and he goes, “Honey, I’ve never seen this in my entire life.  Your good cholesterol is literally off the charts. There’s no number for it.  And your bad cholesterol is a little high but your good cholesterol, in 30 years, I’ve never seen a number this high.”  It was because I was eating like two dozen eggs a day.  I was eating so many eggs a day that it was like — because I’m a vegetarian, I was pounding down eggs and anything that had protein in it. 

vin-diesel-riddick-imageHow are you maintaining that?

SACKHOFF:  It’s hard. It’s hard.  Since we’ve been here, it’s switched a little bit and there’s more fat on my body now than I had.  It’s kind of evening out but my upper body is still bigger so it’s managed to work out.  I don’t have the time to train.  Matt Nable and I go to them gym together as much as we can.  We were at this gym and there’s these ex-football players lifting weights and he and I get very aggro when we’re at the gym because I think it’s really funny.  I went over and I was looking for the 25’s and I couldn’t find them.  I was like, “Well, I’ll just use the 30’s.”  And I couldn’t find them either and was like, “Oh, he’s got the 30’s.”  I walked over to the football player and was like, “Can I use those?  Thanks!”  Matt was like, “Oh shit, you’re insane.”  We did wind sprints this morning and he’s just like, “You’re crazy.”

Why did you want to become part of this franchise?  Because some actresses in your situation would be like, “I’ve done the sci-fi thing, I don’t want to go back.”

SACKHOFF:  Well, then they’re stupid because my house is paid for.  Just kidding, it’s really not.  Just kidding.  Every job after the first job I got was icing on the cake.  This is so much fun.  Do I do things that are out of character?  Yeah, I just did a move where I played a complete crazy psychopath with Seth Green and I got to be crazy.  That was something that I’d never done before and it was great.  It was outside my range.  And I’m doing two movies after this where I’m very far-fetched.  But I have the career I have because of science fiction, and that’s what people want to see me do.  I would be stupid to not do it.  I don’t take myself that seriously, I’m taking the piss out of myself.  I can’t really beat up guys, it’s fun!  This genre gave me my job and I’ll do it until they don’t want to see me do it anymore.  Let’s be honest, once I’m 40 they’re gonna be like, “She can’t do this anymore.”  And then I’ll go do the other stuff. 

riddick-posterYou spoke about about being the only female in an all-male cast.  How does your character Dahl fit in?  Is she one of the guys?

SACKHOFF:  Well, the fun little tidbit of Dahl is that she just pretends that she’s a lesbian so they don’t do anything.  I think that Matt Nable and I had a moment where we decided that there was maybe something between them at some point but that he’s decided to just shut it down for the greater good, meaning his task at hand.  And she’s his Number 2 so he wants to keep her safe.  Knowing that you’re going into a world of men, I think it’s kind of something, and she’s kind of tougher than all of them.  She really is.  I think I have three fight scenes with Jordi [Molla]. 

Is the language coarser in this film?

SACKHOFF:  I have never in my life gotten to swear so much on camera.  It’s fantastic.  It’s kind of coming easier though, because I think one of the defense mechanisms I have in a cast of men is just to be one-upping the boys in the things that are inappropriate.  It’s kind of my goal.  They’re like, “Wow.  I can’t believe she just said that.  That’s really bad.”  And Matt just taught me how to hock loogies, so I walked by the entire crew and spit and they were like, “Oh my God.”  And then Matt was like, “That was awesome.” 

You’re part of his crew then?

SACKHOFF:  Yeah, I’m part of Boss John’s crew.  I’m his Number Two, or second in command.  We’ve been together — we’re assuming that we’ve probably been together for about five years or something like that. 

How does the universe of Pitch Black and Riddick compare to Battlestar?  Is one cleaner and kind of shinier than the other one, is one more hopeful than the other one?

SACKHOFF:  Wow.  It depends on which film of Chronicles you’re talking about.  This one, because we’re not actually filming in a city as far as I am concerned, you don’t really get a sense of whether or not there’s hope in other places or if anything’s dire.  It’s the mission at hand.  In Battlestar it was very clear what the world outside was like.  This is very focused and centered on these people and you don’t see my character anywhere outside of this place.  I guess that’s the difference.  Battlestar was a science-fiction show but for the most part it was like The West Wing in space.  It was a political satire that just happened to have a backdrop in outer space.  So, there was a lot more agenda to it than this. 

Riddick gets released September 6th.  For more from our set visit:


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