TV Addict Interview: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA Star Rekha Sharma

Rekha Sharma tory battlestar galactica
By: Amrie Cunningham [My Take on TV]

The mid-season cliffhanger/finale of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, airs Friday night on SciFi and I, for one, cannot wait. Series star Rekha Sharma, the devious now-Cylon Tory, who offed Callie Tyrol and boffed Gaius Balter, shares my excitement and can’t wait for everyone to tune in. I spent some time talking with Rekha about her role on the show, what we can expect for the rest of the series, and what Johnny Depp threw at her that gained him her respect.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is one of my favorite shows. I have to say that your character this season has actually really moved me. So I just wanted to say that you’ve done a great job.
Rekha Sharma:
Aw, thank you. Being moved is not a response I hear too often, so I really appreciate that [laughs].

Why when this all started, did you want to be Tory? How did this role happen for you?
Well, I had auditioned for a couple of smaller roles and I could tell that I liked these people. I wasn’t aware of how fabulous the show was, I just knew that there was something special happening in the room. When I got the breakdown for this character, I got really excited because I really liked the character. She seemed really strong, smart, in this great position with the female president. She has a good sense of humor, just a cool happening chick. Feisty and all that stuff. I worked really hard, and my hard work paid off and they decided to cast me.

What are some of your favorite things about her?
My favorite things, well, she’s way smarter than I am, in some ways. I don’t think I have what it takes to be a politician. She does. She’s very organized and very hard working. From playing her, I’ve come to sort of think about what it must be like to live your life as a politician and the expansiveness and the large vision you must have, you have to make some really tough decisions. While she hasn’t made those decisions, she’s supported Laura in making those big decisions. Yeah, it’s tough, it’s really tough. Fortunately, and unfortunately, I think that’s still part of her character, as she’s come to discover her Cylon nature, and she made a tough decision with Cally. Who’s to say it was the right one? She did what she thought was necessary in that moment.

How did you find out that you were one of the final Cylons?
Actually, Eddie, Edward James Olmos kept needling me on set, going “Oh man, just you wait till the fourth season, holy shit, better go read ahead, go read ahead” so I finally did because he was driving me crazy and I couldn’t’ stand the suspense, so it was literally just being in my room reading a script and just going Oh My God, squealing like a little girl and running down the hall and telling my boyfriend [laughs].

What was your reaction? Did you think “What am I going to do, how am I going to place this completely different person?” You said you squealed like a little girl.
Yeah, it was a squeal with excitement at like “Holy Shit is this really true? Are they going to make me a Cylon?” and mostly. I love the show; I came onto the show and then discovered what a great show it was. I’d love to be as cool as Tricia and Grace because they get to do some really cool stuff. And then as well, I just loved the whole metaphor of it all. What a challenge as an actor to go through that, to wake up and discover that you’re the very thing you’ve been running from and trying to kill. How awful to go through and how wonderful a challenge for an actor.

So where are you guys in shooting?
We’re just coming up to we’re about to start the final final. It’s a long script, but we’re approaching it as a whole.

What can you tease about the finale?
It’s not what you expect it’s going to be. Much like the show has been, there are a lot of surprises. The surprises that are coming, you know as an actor playing them, was like Oh my God what is going on. Reading the script that we’re about to shoot. We just had the final read through on Thursday of last week. It was an amazing read through. Every emotion you could go through, I think went through that room.
?I can’t imagine going through that. For the most part, the cast has been the same from day one, hardly changed, to have to go through the end. What’s the feeling on set now?
It’s bittersweet. Everyone’s really excited about the work we have ahead of us in the final days, because it’s so beautifully written and so beautifully conceived. I think everyone’s really happy that we’re ending the show with such integrity. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end to this story, and we’re all so proud to be a part of this show. It’s emotional. We’re all going to miss each other, and miss these characters and the story. A number of people who have had amazing careers from directors to actors on this show have already started saying some of their goodbyes and have stated that this may very well be one of the best things that they ever worked on in their lives and they don’t know when they’ll see something this good come around the bend again.

Were you a fan of Science Fiction or the genre before becoming a part of this show?
Yeah, I was. I’ve always liked…when I was a little kid, I used to watch the Star Trek reruns [laughs]. They were on Daytime TV, right? I remember my big brother was always like “why are you watching this” and I’m like “it’s cool, it’s campy” [laughs]. But aside from being cool and campy, and watching (adopts a William Shatner affect) Kirk. Do. His. Act. Ing. (/the Shat). I always loved the idea of it. That in the future, there is no racism. People have wider ideas. I think as a kid, I was affected by racism, as most colored people are. You get it quick, little kids are mean, they don’t waste any time. So I really love that. And Lieutenant Ohura was a black woman and she was one of the leads. And the Asian guy. So I really liked that, the idea that in the future, people are way cooler [laughs]. Less petty, less narrow-minded.

What do you see yourself doing once the show finally wraps?
I’ve got a couple of things that I’ve been working on recently, fitting into the schedule. Nothing major. But I do have plans to put on a play in the fall. Which I’m really excited about. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on stage. After doing this show and a number of things before that, sort of being glued to a screen, the confines of a box [laughs], I’m dying to get back on stage. Before I pick something else.

How did acting start for you? Was it just a feeling or something that happened?
It started in grade 5. There was an audition for the school play in elementary school. I was curious. I heard the announcement on the PA, and I wasn’t going to audition, I just wanted to see what it was all about. It was really funny, you know, being a kid, I was just taking it all in. [laughs] I remember I immediately started critiquing everybody else’s performance. “She’s good, no she sucks, no she’s pretty good” just watching other people do their thing. The teacher asked “do you want to audition” and I said no and then towards the end of the session, I said, okay, I’ll audition and I ended up booking one of the lead roles. Thank God for that, because it wouldn’t have been such a good story [laughs]

“And then I was cast as a tree…”
Yeah, I was critiquing everybody else’s performance and then I sucked [laughs]. It was an amazing experience. It was, I just remember feeling so full of energy and so excited. And then the following year, it was a smaller play that I did, just in our actual grade, and both of these plays, I was one of the few kids, maybe one of the only ones, who memorized my lines. I was pretty sure I was one of the only ones who actually was able to project my voice, and so all the parents were really impressed with me, and I got good feedback from everyone. So the first part of it was discovering how much I liked this thing, and the second part of it was getting all the feedback from other people, saying “Wow you’re so good” so I put that in my log, and thought “Ok, I’m good at this apparently”, so I just kept doing it. My first love in Grade 4 was painting, drawing and painting [laughs], so now I was, by grade 5 a confused artist. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be a painter or an actor and that was my existence until the end of high school [laughs].

Who are some of the actors and actresses that you idolize that you’d like to see yourself go along their career path?
Well! I think the first actor that really rocked my world was Meryl Streep. I remember being in high school and reading some article about her in Time Magazine and seeing her work, I think it was like SOPHIE’S CHOICE or something. I can’t remember what it was, I just remember being floored. And thinking “Wow, this is what acting can really be like.” If I worked my butt off and I happened to have that much talent and Oh my god, like, it made it really intimidating and exciting and something to work my butt off toward, really. And then funnily enough, one of the actors whose career I would love to have is Johnny Depp. I say that’s funny because one of my very first experiences in the film industry, actually my very first experience in the film industry was when 21 JUMP STREET came to our high school. [laughs] I was way cool. Too cool for Johnny Depp. I thought he sucked. [laughs] As I remember, he was very lovely with all us kids. All the people from the drama group were in this one room, the cafeteria, and one of the ADs came out and he was looking for a stand-in for one of the actresses. And he was like “Ok, are there any brown girls in this room?” [Rekha laughs as she tells the whole next part]. I grew up in North Vancouver which is very white, and it was between me or a 6 foot black Cuban woman who was a friend of mine, and he was like “are you serious, is this it, this is all I have to choose from?” and he was like “ok, I’ll take you” so he took me. And I was the stand-in for one of the actresses. So I got to be really close, and talk to the director a lot, and interact more with Johnny. I remember him sitting in the nurses’ room and he got into the tampons and the maxi-pads, and he was throwing them at me. It’s so ridiculous, but so high school, that in that moment I had total respect for him because I realized how bored he was on this television show. [the laughs continue]. It was like, ok maybe he is a good actor.

Not many people have that story to tell.
No [we’re both trying to contain our laughter]. It’s ridiculous. I think I have much more humility now as an adult than I did as a kid. Both of my acting stories are so full of humor. But who am I kidding, I’m still a total movie and music snob.

So am I, definitely.
I think most people are. They think whatever they like is the best thing ever and other things just don’t measure up.

I get offended when I play a song for my brother of my favorite band and he doesn’t like it. I’m like, no, they’re awesome.
[laughs] Totally, he’s just lame. So anyway! And then years later, looking at Johnny Depp’s career, going “this is the guy who I had so much judgment about, deciding he was cool because he threw tampons at me. I want this guy’s career.” What an amazing career he’s had. He’s one of the most interesting actors out there. Makes really bizarre choices, you know, really wonderful creative things, and plays so many interesting and different characters. I feel that he is really not penned in by much. That’s inspiring to me to be that free to choose such a wide variety of practices and that’s the dream to be able to choose to work with all of people that I really admire. I have a dream, like most actors do, to work with the Coen brothers, to work with all the amazing filmmakers and actors who I love so much.

I don’t know if you ever get downtime, because it sounds like you don’t, but if you do – is there anything that you watch regularly on TV?
I’m not much of a TV watcher. What I do is I go and I rent the boxed sets, and then if I like them I buy them. So the show that I’ve gotten into most recently, well there’s two. I would say THE FAMILY GUY, I’m a huge fan of. The other one is DEADWOOD.

Yeah, Ian McShane is fantastic. And Paula Malcolmson is a fantastic new actress, and I love her work. The writing, David Milch I think is the creator. There’s somebody I’d like to work with. Very cool people.

Is there anything else that you want fans to know before I let you go today?
People, get ready! You’re in for a ride. It’s going to be brutal. Don’t watch it if you’re faint of heart. It’s gonna be good!

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