Some sci-fi fans may go ga-ga for the long-limbed beauties who populate fictional otherworlds, but it is a dark-haired Brit of short stature who manages to elicit the biggest roars from Battlestar Galactica enthusiasts. James Callis, who plays shifty scientist and Colonial Vice President Gaius Baltar, has won over viewers with his witty line-readings and steamy couplings with the sultry Cylon Number Six. (Battlestar colleagues say Callis is the on-set comic, as well.) TVGuide.com chatted with the amiable actor on the Sci Fi Channel series' Vancouver set.
TVGuide.com: Baltar is getting more Cylon and less human every day. How is he is changing this season?
James Callis: A backlog of uncharted guilt starts to plug up the system. It's like a boomerang that has come back; the thing has been thrown out, and it's finally come 'round the planet and hit him on the other side of the head.
TVGuide.com: Ambition and moral weakness proves to be a dangerous combination, doesn't it?
Callis: Anybody who has political ambition has an Achilles heel. It's fair to say Gaius is amoral. He's compassionate, he has a conscience, he suffers from remorse, but that's not really morality. His weakness is not standing up for anything, he's always trying to sidestep.
TVGuide.com: Gaius is sexually in thrall to Six, but does he love her?
Callis: No, but there's obviously a strange kind of camaraderie. It's like a fatal attraction.
TVGuide.com: How does your wife feel about your hot scenes with the gorgeous Tricia Helfer, who plays Six?
Callis: She finds the whole idea of somebody as lovely as Tricia being all over me very amusing. She's like, "Well, James, you're lucky you're on TV, because I'll tell you it wouldn't be happening otherwise."
TVGuide.com: Gaius is such an interesting character. Did you base him on anyone? A particular politician, maybe?
Callis: [He's influenced by] a scientist I knew, actually. He was brilliant and warm but the worst liar I have ever seen.
TVGuide.com: You realize, of course, that Baltar is one of the most popular characters on the show.
Callis: There's no accounting for taste. [Laughs] I wanted him to be one of the villains in the piece, but if you have somebody who doesn't care about the bad things that they've done, then they're rather uninteresting to watch. He's like a time bomb — very, very dangerous. For the moment, he's almost more dangerous to himself — but he's going to get over that.
TVGuide.com: What's with all that hair?
Callis: It's not my hair. It's extensions. I cut it for a role in a movie, One Night with the King, about the biblical story of Esther. I played Haman, a genocidal maniac of epic proportions. I had my hair all dyed black, and I had a very large beard.
TVGuide.com: Are you based out of England, Vancouver or Los Angeles?
Callis: We're doing 20 episodes, so my house is rented in London for this year and next. I don't actually have a place to go back to. My wife is here with me. She's from India and since we got married seven years ago, we've floated between Delhi and London and everywhere else in between.
TVGuide.com: You had roles in the two Bridget Jones movies. Is Battlestar your first TV series?
Callis: I've done a few. My first show, in England, was called Soldier, Soldier. I was only 24, but cast as a major [character]. I got the girl in the end, so that was a lot of fun. Another series was called Sex, Chips & Rock 'n' Roll, in which I played a rich and talentless drummer in the '60's.
TVGuide.com: Some of your fellow actors refuse to call Battlestar a science-fiction show. What is your position?
Callis: It is a character-driven drama set in space, but the science-fiction element of it really buzzes me in a way that I never though it would.