We absolutely loved Battlestar Galactica and were psyched to hear about a prequel coming to the SyFy channel soon. Premiering today at 9/8c, Caprica is a story that takes place about 50 years prior to BG and follows two rival families, the Graystones and the Adamas, as their personal conflicts and professional/political undertakings determine the fate of the 12 colonies and see the birth of the Cylon – human/machine hybrids – a technology that will change the course of humanity forever.
HLife’s Silvie and Maryl Celiz chatted with talented Caprica cutie and First Cylon Alessandra Torresani, who plays Zoe, the brilliant daughter of computer genius Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz), as well as her avatar, among other transformations. The cast also includes Esai Morales as Joseph Adama, whose son William Adama eventually becomes the commanding officer of BG. In an exclusive interview from the set in Vancouver, Torresani talked to us about technology, the futuristic world of Caprica, fashion, and being a vegetarian.
Maryl Celiz: So the world of Caprica where people get downloaded into machines doesn’t seem so far off of from us, since a lot of us live in the Twitterverse, the Facebook universe, and are plugged into our computers 24-7, does it?
Alessandra Torresani: Oh, absolutely, I mean I was telling everyone exactly that, it’s really not that far off. When I think about it, five years ago, did we ever think that Facebook would be the way it is? No. You know, so no, it’s no that far off, technology keeps getting better and better.
Silvie Celiz: When you were fist approached to do the show and read the script, what did you think of the story? Are you the kind of person who is into this sort of sci-fi thing?
AT: I’m not really into the sci-fi thing in general but I’m very much into the fantasy of it all. And that’s what it is more, it’s not really considered technically sci-fi, even though in some things it is. It is more of a political drama and then there happens to be this virtual world that I’m a part of that is high technology and sex and drugs, and all these crazy things going on. So, when I first read it, it was very confusing because they never showed me a full script, they just gave us sides, and all I knew is that I played myself in an avatar and I was like ‘this is weird, but OK’. I didn’t know if I wanted to do it, and then I heard what a legacy Battlestar was, and how critically acclaimed the show was, and then I read the full Caprica script and was like ‘Wow, this is totally not what I expected it to be like’. And now I’m kind of obsessed. We’re very close to that kind of world now.
SC: We are very close and it’s exciting to see that entertainment is following that reality. Your character, Zoe Graystone, is THE technological character in there, because you are the original hybrid, right?
AT: Right. I’m the one that becomes the first Cylon.
MC: So now that you are a part of the Caprica team, what did the writers tell you about your character’s story beyond the page, and what did you include yourself in it to make this half-human/half-machine work?
AT: I become a machine at the end of the pilot, so, that’s what’s going on right now, which is being in this robot body, but at first in the pilot it was more less being this bratty, rich, 15-year-old girl, the richest girl in the entire world because her dad is equivalent to Bill Gates. So, it was playing that character. The avatar was different. I play her like a newborn child because instinctually she knows what everything is, and what she should do, what kind of emotions to have, but realistically she doesn’t know what she is doing. She is just programmed to know things, so it’s like she is a newborn baby, learning everything for the first time, like she knows what’s going on but she is actually touching things for the first time, she is eating for the first time, she’s is standing, she’s walking, she is dancing, she is wearing clothes, so, it’s all brand new. And I treated that experience very wide-eyed child-like. And then being in the robot, the robot is this avatar girl who is stuck in this robot body, so she is uncomfortable in her own skin – she realizes that she is 7 feet tall now, but she is still 5 foot 2, you know, she just doesn’t understand this, so she is very awkward.
SC: One of the scenes in the pilot has Daniel Graystone, your father, watching the robot walk after having downloaded your avatar into it, and he sees it crumble down and he is sad. But then we see the same robot being used as a military weapon by him. Does he know that Zoe’s avatar is still inside?
AT: No, he doesn’t know. For the first, I would say six episodes, he has no idea that I am inside the robot’s body. And then, slowly, he starts to figure it out. For instance, we have a dog, and the dog can kind of sense that I’m in the body, just because, you know, animal instinct, and it doesn’t make sense why the dog won’t leave my side if I’m just a robot. Little things like that take place, and then he starts to figure out, to think ‘Maybe she is still in this body, and she is just hiding it from us?’ And slowly but surely he figures it out but at the end of the first episode he has no idea, he thinks that I died and he ruined everything, that he ruined the chip where he downloaded me.
MC: Esai’s character touches on the fact that you, the avatar, are just a lot of information that, as your character explains, we can get from medical records, emails, all these things. But there is that soul component. What’s your perspective on that – could artificial intelligence really be just like a human?
AT: I totally believe that there as soon gonna be copies of each other but the difference is that – which is funny cause I can’t say it right now ’cause they won’t let me, but it kind of explains it later on around episode 8 – but it’s not that far off from cloning someone. The thing is, if you clone someone, do they have the emotional experience? No, and that’s the problem with this avatar, that she knows how to ride a bike, she knows what it feels like to be in love, she knows all this but she doesn’t understand why she knows it. And she hasn’t really experienced all of it, so it’s not actually truly the same human being that she was before, so, when she continues on in the show being the avatar and then turning into the robot, she has her own real personal experiences that she is dealing with being stuck in this body, having to watch her parents be in fights about her, having her mother calling her a monster and all this stuff, experiencing things for the first time even more then the regular Zoe would have because now she is really listening. She is not saying, ‘Oh, you know what? Forget you guys, you know, we dont want to deal with you’. Now, she is really listening, ’cause she has never actually heard this before and she has never seen her parents act the way they act. I think that kind of explains it, maybe not. (laughs)
SC: It totally does, and its interesting to see the evolution of the character. There is a big difference between knowing something theoretically and having experienced it.
MC: How has being a part of the world of Caprica changed the way you see things, technology, politics and the world?
AT: Well I think that the technology thing is what really affects me the most because we are doing all these things that people thought were odd and say, ‘Oh, it’s so crazy to see a paper turn into a computer screen’. Well, yeah, I guess it’s weird, but I deal with it every single day, so it’s really not that weird to me anymore. And I can see how that is going to happen so close in the near future. We already have flexible TV and computer monitors, I mean, how different from that is a paper monitor? So when I have to deal with this and act as if it is completely normal, over and over, it’s crazy ’cause becomes normal, it seems so natural to me, so organic, not a big deal. It’s gonna happen. So when people are like ‘It’s so crazy, you put a holoband on your face and they have you going into this virtual world’ Well, yeah, what do you think Facebook is like? So close. You can sign online, you can look up someone’s name and find them, send them a message and meet them later that day, so it’s very similar to a V-club [Virtual-club].
SC: How does the whole consciousness thing fit into the machines in Caprica?
AT: The thing is, I don’t know where it’s gonna go for the next couple of years, and that’s what’s weird for me, ’cause I don’t understand how they are going to make me turn on the world. We haven’t even touched on that, but I think that this girl has a conscious avatar because she is child-like, and I feel like children, even though they don’t know exactly what’s wrong or what’s right, they are not conniving, they are not back-stabbing. Everything is new to them, and everyone is sweet and kind and they just want love, and I think that this is what this avatar really wants, I think she just wants love and she is just sitting there in this robot body and her mom doesn’t know that she is in there and is calling this thing a monster, and so disgusting, and saying who would ever want to own this thing. It’s totally heartbreaking, because, as an audience, you see this girl who is devastated. And the real world, Caprica, they don’t understand that a human is in there. I think that robots do have a consciousness if there is an avatar inside, because it’s like a new born child is in there, and I’m not sure how they are going to get to the point where suddenly they all turn, but just being an avatar and being in that show, it doesn’t make sense to me how people do the violent things they do. But as we get older, we make reasons for the things we do, excuses. And that’s the difference – I think there are no excuses for children, and that’s what she is. She is a child.
MC: Thats a huge point because the Cylons that seek to destroy humans in Battlestar are grown up. Have you guys discussed if your character is going to grow up and develop emotionally as a Cylon?
AT: I’d assume so, I mean, right now I’m still a ‘toaster’, as they call it, not a a ‘skin job’, so I don’t know, maybe in the future, maybe second season, who knows. We still have an episode left to shoot, so that can totally change. Not quite sure, but I’d assume she is gonna have to grow up eventually.
MC: How many episodes have you guys filmed so far?
AT: We’ve done 17 and the pilot, so I guess thats 18 and then we have one more to go.
SC: We know you have been a vegetarian all your life, right?
MC: How did you become a vegetarian?
AT: I was allergic to my mom’s breast milk as a child, so when I eventually started to eat normal food, they only gave me pureed fruits and vegetables ’cause my stomach was too sensitive. My family never gave me meat and they figured ‘Oh, when she is older, she’ll eventually want it’, but I never craved it. So, I literally have never had a piece of chicken in my life.
MC: How difficult is it to be a vegetarian when you are on set, or on location/traveling?
AT: It’s easy, especially with us because there are so many vegetarians on our show, so they are really accommodating.
SC: Give us a day in Alessandra’s life food-wise – breakfast, lunch and dinner.
AT: Well, I hate breakfast, but I’ve been forcing myself to eat oatmeal and banana. Then, I have to have edamame every day ’cause I just crave edamame, but I really like and am really into this new spinach, zucchini and pesto sandwich. It’s really good. And then I can’t live without pasta ’cause I’m Italian, so, literally, I have to have pasta every day. I just have to do it.
MC: Do you have an exercise routine? We’ve seen your billboards all over town and you looking amazing!
AT: I gotta say, I have great genes! My mom is skinnier and taller then me and she eats everything, so I have to blamed it on my genes. But I’m also a dancer, so that’s my main form of exercise.
MC: So you dance for fitness at your house?
AT: I dance when I go out and party with your sister! (laughs)
MC: Atta girl!
AT: We definitely dance at clubs! But I also take dance classes.
SC: Yeah, more fun than lifting weights.
AT: Yeah, and I dont like that, that’s too weird for me, I don’t get it. They gave me a personal trainer for the first five months of the show ’cause they wanted me to bulk up, but I just couldn’t do it. It was great, I did work out and had the most amazing trainer and she was so great with my diet and just so wonderful, and she had dealt with so many vegetarians before so she knew the best of the best for my diet, got me organic stuff for salads. She was really reat and that’s when I shot the poster for the show, but unfortunately I havent had time to go back. But if you have someone that you enjoy teaching you to work out, then you like it. Other then that, I can’t just go to the gym by myself. I really need someone to tell me, ‘This is what we are gonna do today’.
SC: Especially as a trained dancer, you want the fun.
AT: Yeah!! And the good music. I need to move around!
SC: You’ve been a vegetarian your whole life – what do you have to say to all those people who question if vegetarians get enough protein?
AT: I would say, look how fabulous I look! (laughs) Literally, the most protein I’ve ever had in my life is edemame, kidney and garbanzo beans, and spinach, but other then that I don’t eat much protein. Everyone is like ‘You need to take protein pills’. I think maybe that’s for people that haven’t been vegetarians for a long time, whose bodies are used to having a lot of protein and so they shut down. But, let me tell you, if I don’t eat carbs, I pass out. If I don’t eat carbs, that’s when my body shuts down. I’ve tried to do the protein thing were I go eating five straight days of protein with a certain amount of healthy carbs and I literally feel sick, I get faint, and I can’t even walk. But if I have carbs (fruits, veggies) I’m energized and glowing and I’m not getting bloated and fat from it. My body is just used to it, I just don’t know any different. Trust me, I get plenty of fruits and vegetables.
MC: Can you give us a sneak peek into the next couple of episodes, a few plot points?
AT: Yeah! So, I end up playing like five people throughout the season, which is kind of exciting, but I’m definitely in the robot for a while. And it’s very slow and serious the first few episodes because all these explosions and deaths and excitement that has taken place, well, you can’t just get even more and more exciting – you gotta go back, slow it down a little bit, make people understand 100% of what’s going on – and THEN it gets more exciting. I’m a black belt in Taekwondo and the crew didn’t know that for a long time, so when I told them they created all these fight sequences for me. So there are a lot of fight sequences, a lot of great action, and I wear Balenciaga and YSL!!
MC: You are gonna be like Trinity in Alexander McQueen, love it! We can’t wait – thank you so much!
AT: Thank you so much girls!! Big kiss!