By Chaz Lipp
In the first part of our interview with South African-born, Vancouver B.C.-based actress Kandyse McClure, we focused on her role as Dr. Clementine Chasseur in the upcoming Eli Roth-produced Netflix Original Series, Hemlock Grove (available April 19, 2013).
But the conversation didn’t stop there, as Kandyse was gracious enough to share some of her experiences involving Battlestar Galactica, the enduringly popular SyFy Network series. From the miniseries in 2003 to the fourth season in 2009, Kandyse struck a chord in the hearts of millions of fans with her best-known role to date, Anastasia “Dee” Dualla.
CINEMA LOWDOWN: How big a part of your life is Battlestar Galactica to this day?
KANDYSE MCCLURE: I mean, somebody recognizes me every other day. Somebody comes up to me and tells me how much they loved the show, how it affected them in some way, or how it helped them through a difficult time. And that’s really special to me. The people that I worked with are still my family. They’re people that I love to see whenever we’re lucky enough to be in the same city with each other. They’ve become my dear friends and part of my family. The show will always be a part of my life.
CL: Is it surprising to be recognized so often as a character you stopped playing four years ago?
KM: It still is. I’m still surprised every day that people in random places—the lady serving me at the magazine shop in JFK’s Terminal 4 asked me to sign a baseball. And I’m like, “Do you know who I am?” Because she didn’t ask me my name, she was just, “Oh my God, it’s you!” I’m like, “I’m not Rihanna, if that’s who you’re thinking of.” [laughs] And it always takes me aback. It’s something I’ll never get used to but I’m so appreciative of it. It means people enjoyed our work and it affected them.
CL: This gets into spoiler territory for anyone who hasn’t see the series, but Dualla’s time on the show ends tragically. How did you handle that?
Having played the character for so long, in the months after Battlesta
r, I actually had to take some time. I didn’t audition for a couple of months, to sort of say goodbye to Dualla. It’s hard to be somebody for all that time, and then say, “Oh okay, this not me anymore. I have to put this away and be open to new characters, new experiences, and a new type of show.” But yeah, you know, I cried like a baby.
CL: What was it like, the day you filmed Dualla’s final scene? [Eds. Note: Skip the answer if you haven’t seen Battlestar Galactica’s final season.]
KM: The last scene that I shot was the scene where I shoot myself. I shot that scene and then walked off the set. That was my last day. I remember just sitting at home thinking, “I’m not going to work tomorrow.” Not that I don’t have jobs, it’s that all those people that I saw everyday—I wasn’t going to see them anymore.
CL: Do you find that people often immediately associate you with Dualla when you go on auditions?
KM: Every room I walk into. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s not. If I’m there for a comedy it’s a little more difficult. It’s like, “Oh such a tragic end on Battlestar! Now be funny.” And I’m like, “Oh God…” [laughs]
CL: Do you remember the point at which you realized Battlestar was going to be something special?
KM: I have to say our very first table read, the very first episode of the first season. Not the miniseries, but the first episode of the first season. We were at the table read, we finished it, and Edward James Olmos stoop up and he was like, “Be prepared for this to go far beyond your expectations. Manage your energy. Keep up your stamina, because we’re in this for the long haul. In the decades that I’ve been doing this, it is such a rarity to feel this level of synergy amongst the cast and the writing staff.”
CL: Almost sounds like he was still in character as Adama. So there was a sense right from the start that it was going be embraced?
KM: I think it was palpable from the beginning, just a group of people that came together, how each person really embodied their character, how excited they were to be on the project, that they were fans not only of the genre but of Ron Moore and his previous work, of the original show. We were fans of each other. And it was a bit of a love fest in the beginning. We could feel it before it happened. We were in Vancouver working. We had our noses to the grindstone.
CL: Was there a specific moment when it actually hit you just what a phenomenon the series was becoming?
KM: The moment was, I was in Los Angeles with Tahmoh Penikett [“Helo” on Battlestar] doing some press, and we were driving down Sunset Boulevard and we saw this massive billboard for Battlestar Galactica. We were like, “Wow, alright!” [laughs] “This is a really big deal, this is going to catch fire really fast.” And then it was a snowball effect after that.
CL: When was that? During the first season?
KM: No, it was sometime after. It would’ve been the end of season one, going into season two. We were like, “Season’s over, don’t know if we’re coming back” You never know if you’re going to have another job. And very shortly after that, we all got the call: “Come back to Canada.”
CL: Going back to Edward James Olmos, that seems very prescient of him to instinctively know how important the series would be for all of you.
KM: Eddie said some remarkable things very early on, very prophetic. Even for him, he said, “This is the best show I’ve been on in my career. I will never be on a show like this. This is a once-in-a-career kind of thing.” And for him, to have it at that point in his career after having done so much and accomplished so much already, for him to say that was remarkable. And it turned out to be true.
CL: Do you go to a lot of sci-fi conventions and things like that? Have you been to Comic-Con?
KM: Yeah, I do. I’ve never been to Comic-Con, there always seems to be a scheduling problem. But I’ve attended a lot of events, DragonCon, FedCon in Germany. I love it. It’s a lot more fun if I have a buddy with me, if Aaron [Douglas; Chief Galen Tyrol on Battlestar] is with me or one of the other cast members. Aaron does quite a few conventions. It’s always fun to see the cast members and interact with the fans. It’s reaching through the television and realizing that there are people on the other side who have welcomed you into their living rooms. They’ve had such an experience watching, they’ll fly somewhere and pay money to stand in a line to shake your hand. It always blows my mind and it’s always so much fun. Sci-fi fans I find are incredibly loyal and incredibly eclectic. You always learn something new about your character in a way, because everybody’s interpreting it through their own lives and experiences. It’s like, “Oh, so that’s what that meant for you.”
CL: Jumping back to one of your earliest shows, Higher Ground from 2000, I want to mention some of the actors who were part of the cast. Hayden Christensen, who of course later starred as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars. Jewel Staite, who went on to Firefly and Stargate Atlantis. Meghan Ory, currently on Once Upon a Time. A.J. Cook, of Tru Calling and Criminal Minds.
KM: That was such an incredible time, I think in all of our lives. Looking back at the cast members that were on that show, and how many of us are still in the industry, still working and doing television, it’s amazing. That was another one of those shows where there was this synergy that happened very early on. That was actually probably my second or third audition ever. Young upstart writer Matt Hastings, who has since produced the show Alphason SyFy, he has such an effervescent, youthful energy about him. That was something that caught all of us. We were just this group of young kids, playing this group of young kids. Thrust together in the city. I was from Vancouver but a lot of them weren’t. And we would hang out together and just figure it out. I think we were all just really being ourselves.
CL: With that cast, I would imagine maybe more people have discovered Higher Groundin the years since its single season than when it originally aired. Fans of yours and the other cast members who have traced your careers back to it.
KM: And I’m so grateful for that experience because I learned so much of what I know in terms of acting and professionalism from working on that show. How lucky I am to have been in that company of talented, generous, hard-working actors even at that young age. And we were so close to each other. Our dressing rooms were like these tiny little hovels, right next to each other. It was like a dorm room. We’d all just hang out in the hallways or each other’s rooms most of the time. And be with each other on weekends. But even then, the talent of these people was obvious. I believe Hayden was actually in the process of auditioning for Star Wars while he was on the show. And I remember how excited we were about the second season and then, “Poof!” It disappeared.
CL: I only recently saw some of it myself, looks like it got into some fairly heavy subject matter.
KM: Content-wise, what I loved about that show was that it spoke about issues young people and teenagers were having that weren’t necessarily on TV, difficult things. I remember we did episodes on drug use, suicide, loss of siblings, sexual abuse in the family—not just a young girl, but a young man. Things that you hadn’t seen on TV, but that are topical for young people and, at the time, maybe didn’t have a forum to discuss. I mean, there was this place where they could see it and have it be okay and have a discussion about it. [pauses] Plus Hayden was very cute, and that helped. [laughs]
We would like to thank Kandyse McClure for spending some time with us. Be sure to see her as Dr. Clementine Chausser in the new horror-thriller series Hemlock Grove, only via Netflix, available April 19, 2013.