Jamie Bamber On His Big Guns, A Bigger Belly And The Biggest “Battlestar” Season Yet

When last we left Lee “Apollo” Adama and the Battlestar Galactica gang, a year had passed since the citizens found what they believed to be a safe, inhabitable planet — right up until the Cylons swooped in and took over. What happened in that year? What will happen next? And where’s the hunky commander we fell in love with? We caught up with star Jamie Bamber for the scoop on the Oct. 6 Season 3 premiere of SCI FI Channel‘s hit series.

Have you always been a fan of science fiction?

Jamie Bamber: I think all boys growing up are quite into sci-fi because it gives a catalyst to their imagination. I grew up on Star Wars, so it was all about being a Jedi, or flying an X-wing, or whatever it was! So I had all that in my childhood memory bank, and I watched the original [Battlestar Galactica] series when I was very young and I loved it. But if anything, that dissuaded me from the idea of doing this. I sort of cringed when someone said they were doing Battlestar Galactica again. I had no desire to be involved in it.

What changed your mind?

I read the script, and every character eluded and sidestepped my preconceived idea of how they would be, and the story was so tangible and the world aboard this battlestar was so real. The script actually opened with a two-page mission statement by [producers] Ron Moore and David Eick, which was setting out to explode the conventional sci-fi [format], and take it more toward NYPD Blue or Hill Street Blues than Star Trek. And when I turned up on set, I found that it all really was true, that we were really trying to do all that. I think that’s why the show works: These situations just smell and feel and sort of taste real.

What do you think makes “Battlestar” stand out from other sci-fi shows?

The social and political element to it, as well as the fact that it’s really just character-driven drama. There’s really no — there’s nothing in any of the plot strands that’s anything about technology or alien life or anything like that. It’s really driven by social forces, and even the Cylons are a kind of a social metaphor for our own misguided mistakes in terms of political policy in the past. I mean, they are a human experiment, I suppose, in artificial intelligence, that’s sort of gone wrong and has come back to bite us. It’s a Frankenstein story in that way, and therefore they’re a plausible part of humanity, rather than something “other” from another civilization. They look like us, and there are many parallels to be had about who that might represent in our world. I think those social and political elements, and the fact that it’s a character-driven epic, set it apart from the sci-fi you see on TV right now.

How do you feel about the fact that fans seem driven to distraction by your arms?

I don’t take that stuff so seriously, because it’s not so serious, basically. It’s pretty superficial, and people are responding to a character. It’s quite fun to be touted around as a sex symbol or whatever, but it doesn’t really enter into your conscious mind in terms of the way that I do the job that I do. When I got this part, I was told to get into serious shape, and I was given a personal trainer, and I did that, so it’s another item of wardrobe for me — it’s just another part of the character I take on. As soon as I stop shooting, I don’t work out quite as much, and I don’t eat quite as well, and I fill out — my wife calls it my Apollo diet!

What happened to that diet at the end of Season 2, when your character was notably less dreamy?

That I loved! It was just brilliant. To let [Apollo] fill out and put on 25 pounds and become a slob basically, I thought was really inventive and bold, and when you’re playing the same character year round it’s great to put them through some changes. I enjoyed it, and it changed my performance, it changed the way the character moved, it changed the way he spoke — it came from a mental place, rather than a physical place. I loved the fact that the producers were bold enough to be able to take this so-called heartthrob and turn him into a slob!

What’s in store for Season 3?

It [left off with] a perverse kind of cliffhanger; it’s a double cliffhanger, in a sense, because you’re wondering what’s going to happen next, but you’re also wondering what happened in the last year. It’s a sort of bi-directional cliffhanger. There’s plot gaps to fill, and there’s the future – the Cylons have turned up on this planet, and you’re wondering how that’s going to pan out. Season 3 begins in pretty amazing fashion, with four or five episodes that are really psychological and political and social, and there’s also some crazy stuff going on, like suicide bombings done by the good guys, and stuff that is quite controversial, I think, and very dark. [Apollo and his ship] had to jump away and leave their human colleagues down on this planet within the Cylon control, and they have to make a decision whether to leave them there or come back and try to rescue them against ridiculous odds. … I think it’s some of the best stuff we’ve ever done.