As you may know, Tricia Helfer created a major blip on the pop culture radar playing the sexy Cylon Number 6 in Battlestar Galactica.
And although TV and film roles followed in everything from comedies to cop shows, the Canadian ex-model is back in the sci-fi realm with her latest project, the six-hour, three-night Syfy miniseries Ascension, premiering tonight at 9/8c.
The show takes a Noah’s Ark-like premise to space and turns it on its ear with plenty of twists, and Helfer is smack in the middle as the scheming, voracious Viondra. Here’s her inside scoop…
“Viondra’s a bit manipulative. She’s very political. She will do anything to keep her husband in power.”
Ascension is a novel take on the space drama. Can you set the scene?
In 1963, President Kennedy launched a covert mission to send a group of people on a hundred-year journey to inhabit a new planet. We pick up fifty years into it. The audience gets a glimpse into the lives of these people on this ship. It’s almost like putting a time capsule away and being able to open it up fifty years later. They have not had communication with earth. We left during the Cold War. We haven’t gone through the sexual revolution or the Vietnam War. The feeling is very much in the sixties. We’re the generation that was born on the ship, and trying to make sense of what we’re doing and seeing the bigger picture even though we won’t really be part of it.
Who’s your character?
Viondra is the captain’s wife. She strongly believes in the mission. There’s a faction that wants to return to Earth, but she wants to continue on. She’s a bit manipulative. She’s very political. She will do anything to keep her husband in power.
Pretty juicy. Is that what attracted you?
I definitely was drawn to that. I was drawn to the stories, the upper deck, lower deck hierarchy situation in the society and how has it developed in the 50 years compared to what’s happened on Earth. It’s essentially a small town, and what really rocks it to the core in the first episode is the murder of a young woman. They’ve never had a murder before. They don’t really know how to investigate it. What does this mean for the society? Do you start blaming everyone? Nobody even knew there was a gun on the ship. There were a lot of elements that I found really intriguing.
You’ve become known for sci-fi. Do these projects find you or are you drawn to the genre?
I don’t feel like I’ve necessarily done a lot of sci-fi. I did Battlestar and now this. I think because Battlestar is still with us it seems like a lot. That was my first series and I’ve toyed with a couple of sci-fi episodes here and there, like Supernatural and Warehouse 13, but mostly the other stuff I’ve done has been cop shows, lawyers: The Firm, Burn Notice, Dark Blue, Killer Women. But one thing I liked about Battlestar and Ascension is that because you’re in space you have more leeway to delve into issues and are able to study human nature in a parallel world.
I like them all for different reasons. I really enjoyed my last show, Killer Women, because I loved the character. So much fun. The show didn’t find its feet, but that’s the business. There are so many variables. You just never know.
What goals do you set, personally and professionally?
Personally, I’d like to spend more time visiting with my family, my grandparents. But it’s hard when you travel so much for work, and I have a husband and animals here. I don’t set a to-do list or New Year’s resolutions but I have things in the back of my mind that I want to achieve. Basically, I just want to continue to see growth. I want to learn, I want to grow, and feel like I have an upward momentum. I’d like to have Cate Blanchett’s career, of course. Who wouldn’t? I just want to continue to work and do new stories and new characters, stay true to who I am and do good work.
Photo: Diego Uchitel/Syfy