Normally he's seen as the rugged and commanding Lee "Apollo" Adama on Battlestar Galactica, but Jamie Bamber is taking a brief break from the skies for a guest-starring role on tonight's new Ghost Whisperer (8 pm/ET on CBS). TVGuide.com was even more excited to discover that the intergalactic star, who speaks with a dreamy British accent in real life, would be playing not one but two roles on the Jennifer Love Hewitt series. The sweet Bamber was excited to talk about his special appearance, as well as give a little look at the rest of the season of Battlestar.
TVGuide.com: How did this role on Ghost Whisperer come about?
Bamber: I just moved down to L.A. with my family, after the Season 3 climax of Battlestar. We started making a home here, and they asked me to do an episode of Cold Case. I did that, and then this other opportunity came up. I enjoyed doing Cold Case and working on someone else's show and experiencing it from the other side. I'd never worked on TV shows here before Battlestar, so I thought it would be a good experience from a different crew and working environment.
TVGuide.com: Is it less stress to be only a guest on a show, instead of a star?
Bamber: Actually, no, it was more stress. I've never worked so hard in my life. I was playing two different characters, and it was pretty confusing and there were quite a few challenges. My first day I think I should have won a medal for gross overacting in the presence of a TV star. Jennifer Love Hewitt and David [Conrad] were on set, and I was throwing myself around all over the floor trying to be a ghost whose been snatched and trying to stop the body from escaping. It was just one man acting against the world basically. It was a little embarrassing. But I think it worked out alright.
TVGuide.com: Are you playing two different characters? Or are they the same character but just the dead and alive versions of them?
Bamber: I play a guy who is a high-school football star whose life leads down dead ends; he's on the eve of his 10-year reunion and he can't face going back as a loser. So he walks in front of a car and gets himself killed. At the same time, in the morgue, I'm a dead body — a ghost — and then his body gets taken over by another ghost, who happens to be a kid in his class who was wheelchair-bound and died at 17. So this other ghost has been wandering around the earth for 10 years, I suppose looking for another body to get in. Anyway, he ends up taking over this body that he always envied, because of the opportunities that this jock had at school, and becomes this living-dead zombie wandering around town, and he intends to go to the reunion in this other guy's body. Basically, I'm playing the ghost who did die, and the body that has been taken over by the 17-year-old paraplegic. It was quite fun trying to play all of those things, and there was a bit more humor in it than I've been playing recently on Battlestar, so it was a nice change.
TVGuide.com: Was there a lot of trick photography going on?
Bamber: The director was playing with beveled glass, flying it in front of the screen to make multiple images of me. There is a lot of green screen. It is an amazingly ambitious show. They don't use a second unit — for Battlestar Galactica, we do quite a lot of stuff with a second unit and a lot of CGI stuff. They have the multiple characters, at least they did with me anyway, like we do with Cylons, and yet they shoot very fast. They rarely give more than two or three takes. On Battlestar, we shoot it more like a movie and we take a bit longer, so this was impressive.
TVGuide.com: Was it nice to be in a civilian wardrobe for a change?
Bamber: Yeah, except that my main wardrobe was this roadkill outfit, the ghost having been run over by about three different cars. I had shards of glass sticking out of me and blood all over me for most of it. Then for makeup, I was in various states of putrefaction and death, it wasn't exactly a change. If anything, it was a bit more gruesome than Battlestar. Even the wardrobe that the dead guy wears, he stole from a dry cleaners so it looks horrendous and doesn't match and doesn't fit. I enjoyed doing it.
TVGuide.com: Are you working on anything else, or are you taking a break?
Bamber: No, we just heard that we're going to go back for Season 4 of Battlestar. I'm trying to find something else that would be interesting to do between now and then. At the moment, I'm just buying furniture and trying to settle into the house that we're living in.
TVGuide.com: I'm so excited about the fourth-season pickup, but we're still watching this season. Good stuff coming up?
Bamber: I think so. I think it is really, really great stuff. The last four episodes in particular are really quite extraordinary. There are huge changes within the show, there are several huge surprises. By all accounts, the editors and people who have seen cuts of the finale are really, really excited.
TVGuide.com: Well, at the end of every season I'm usually sitting with my jaw wide open in shock.
Bamber: Yeah, I honestly think that this year your jaw will be even closer to the floor. It is a different finale in the sense that the previous ones have been about fragmenting the characters and spreading them all over different parts of space, and this one, everyone is really on board Galactica. Every major character is on Galactica, and the stuff going on down on Galactica is where the drama is.
TVGuide.com: Do I need my box of tissues?
Bamber: You'll need them along the way [for the final four episodes]. But for the finale, you're going to need to prop up your jaw.
TVGuide.com: I am not a huge sci-fi fan, but I look forward to this show more than anything else on TV right now.
Bamber: That's fantastic to hear, because you are exactly the kind of audience we're aiming for. The very loyal, hard-core sci-fi audiences are there for us and they are amazing, but I think our show deserves to be proliferated more widely than that.
TVGuide.com: Well, I write about the show, and the diehard sci-fi fans are aware that I don't know a huge amount about outer space....
Bamber: Nor do we! That's the cast. You and I are all the same. We have to get stuff explained by the fans. I go to these conventions, and the fans ask these crazy questions about fuel and how our gravitational system works. We don't know about all that.
TVGuide.com: This particular week, I got several sites sent to me discussing whether you could survive in outer space, and for how long. Fascinating stuff.
Bamber: Exactly. I was actually at the premiere of Astronaut Farmer this week — in which this farmer goes into outer space —and I've got a million questions to ask about how that's possible, and who can do what and why and where. I might start building a rocket in my garden now. Maybe the fans can help me out.
TVGuide.com: I'm excited that Lee is skinny again. Are you happy not to have all that makeup now?
Bamber: I am. Having said that, I really enjoyed it. The first few times I did it, it was so exciting to put on that different look and to change the character and go there with it. It got a little stale the 12th time. I spent a lot of my life in that makeup trailer. But I'm glad we did it, and I enjoyed the challenge. There are only so many facial gestures you can get away with when your face is half gelatin. I think it was a bold move on the part of the producers and I think it is why our show works, because we do stuff like that.
TVGuide.com: It did give us a lot of insight into how he deals with stressful situations.
Bamber: A lot of that was boredom as well, because they were just redundant at the time. It wasn't something you would have thought would have necessarily been him, but it makes characters really rounded. [Laughs] Pardon the pun.
TVGuide.com: You don't know all the sci-fi technical aspects, but do you and the cast discuss the political or theological themes of the show?
Bamber: We discuss everything. We even do try to discuss the sci-fi techie stuff, but we're just not very good at it. When the script throws out something like Callie and the Chief in space without any protection, lots [of us discuss] around the set if that was really possible. In the end, we all bow down to the experts who tell us it is. That shuts us up very quick. The political stuff, that's the juice of the show with the cast. That's pretty much what we like to inhabit, those social-political dilemmas and what they mean morally and legally, and how they pertain to the world that we're in now. The interesting thing about this show is that a lot of people come up to me and say, "Is it really liberal, or something?" but everyone across the political spectrum can find a view that they can side with. We don't cast moral judgment on any of them. It is all shades of gray that are out there to be interpreted, and that's the beauty of the writing, I think.
TVGuide.com: I know. I often find myself feeling bad for some of the Cylons, who are supposed to be the enemy.
Bamber: That's it. The Cylons do garner your empathy gradually, as you see more and more from their point of view. That's a bold move. There is a lot about them that should be sympathetic to a Western American audience. They are monotheists, they kind of believe in redemption and rebirth and all these things that a lot of us believe in. The humans are polytheists and are a bit more anachronistic.
TVGuide.com: Any other good Apollo stuff coming up?
Bamber: Amazing stuff! Talk about getting out of the uniform. I get to wear a civilian suit towards the end. I do a bit of playing the lawyer. He has a real sort of [moment] at the end where he gets prodded and pursued by so many different people that he finally comes out and says exactly what is on his mind in a very high-profile situation. I think it is quite dramatic. He's got a new relationship with a new character that is coming in, a male character who is very different from any character we've seen before. He becomes an alternate mentor to Apollo. There's a lot going on.
TVGuide.com: Big battles?
Bamber: Not so much on the big battles. He does get in the viper a couple of times, and significant things happen in vipers, but they are more on the personal level, more character-driven stuff.
TVGuide.com: I have to ask a girly question.
Bamber: [Laughs] Go ahead....
TVGuide.com: Who would you rather see Apollo with: Starbuck or Dee?
Bamber: In terms of his own sanity and health, it would probably be Dee. But when do people ever listen to their minds?
For more Battlestar scoop, pick up the Feb. 26 issue of TV Guide.
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