‘Caprica’ countdown: Paula Malcomson’s moving away from ‘Deadwood’s’ Trixie
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After a Golden Globes interruption, we’re back with the countdown to ‘Caprica,’ chatting up one of the emotional centers of the show: actress Paula Malcomson. As Amanda Graystone, she embodies the frustrated mother of a daughter who was taken from her too soon, and without the mom fully knowing the ins and outs of her ‘precocious’ daughter’s life. She’s attempting to understand Zoe, in effect building a relationship after her daughter’s death. And what better way to build it than to visit the 12-colony transport hub of Scorpia! Clunky transition, but here’s today’s planetary description:
Named for the scorpion tail-like half-ring surrounding the planet, Scorpia is a planet whose geography ranges from perfect beaches to arctic poles. The planet’s economy is famous for, and entirely dependent on, inter-planet transport-building. Scorpia’s third largest city is actually a ship-docking station orbiting the world, where enough people live to support a professional pyramid team.
And now to our conversation with Paula Malcomson, who just recently figured out how to ‘phone home.’ You’ll see what I mean.
Who is Amanda Graystone?
She’s a plastic surgeon who’s married to a tycoon, if you will. She has her own hard-working, busy career, and I think she’s well respected in her field. We don’t focus a lot on her inner workings as we start on this journey with these people, then this tragedy happens and she sort of rips herself out of her career and separates herself from her work. While her husband goes into his work more deeply, she fires herself.
Emotionally, she’s in a tough place. She’s dealing with the death of her daughter in the public eye. She’s sort of a celebrity in this world that they live in; her husband’s sort of the Bill Gates of their time. We find her dealing with all of this tragedy and terrorism and maybe implications that her daughter ... well, she’s going down this road to find out what her daughter’s involvement is and it’s pointing towards the fact that her daughter has been complicit in this terrorist attack. She’s sort of discovering how little she’s known about her. Anything that she’s know about herself and her life and her world is all in question now.
How was her relationship with her daughter?
Her daughter’s a very precocious young woman. It had been a challenging time. You see the day before the bombing, that there’s a big fight between them. She’s sort of pushing her to the edge. She’s a very smart kid; she challenges their ethics ... she challenges them at all levels. She’s an incredibly smart kid, and we get to see how incredibly smart she is later. Amanda has no idea what genius her kid has, but we see that the last thing before the bombing is they have this fight, and she slaps her. And that’s how it’s left. She doesn’t get to say goodbye in some sentimental way and has all these feelings of guilt and remorse and is trying to work through some of that stuff. Do you think that viewers will be surprised at how Amanda develops as the season progresses?
Yeah. I certainly was. ... As this character formed, it took a lot of turns that I didn’t expect. You can take a lot of that with a pinch of salt in the beginning because things just sort of organically occur as part of the process. But as they see the character grow, it informs how they write for you.
I think that, if we’re dividing the show into two halves of the season, at first we’re seeing Amanda as more reactive in just dealing with the circumstances that she’s in. Then as we move forward, in around Episodes 8, maybe 10, she becomes a lot more of an active figure in the series, with an agenda. Things heat up a lot in terms of what she’s doing. Don’t want to give it all away, but she becomes a force to be reckoned with.
Since playing Trixie on ‘Deadwood’ and other smaller roles on things like ‘Lost’ and ‘Law & Order,’ what drew you to this role?
The script of the pilot was a great script and it was a great character. The creative team comes with quite a pedigree, and I’d heard all sorts of wonderful things about ‘Battlestar,’ so I just wanted to work with them. After I’d done ‘Deadwood,’ it took me a while to figure out what I would do after playing Trixie because that was an incredible roller coaster. A real role of a lifetime. I wanted to find something I felt was very different from her and would afford me the opportunity that I got with working with Dave Milch in terms of a writing team and in terms of real, grown-up, challenging acting. That was what I was interested in doing. It was a heavy-duty script, and I was interested in playing in a real relationship in a marriage as well. Not an idea of a television version. And certainly working with Eric Stoltz ... we both work very similarly.
Did ‘Battlestar Galactica’ influence you?
No. Not at all. I hadn’t seen a lot of ‘Battlestar.’ It seemed ambitious. But very strong female performances. The writers, I felt, seem to love women and wanted to write for them. Really strong characters. So that was definitely a part of saying yes. But I hadn’t watched the whole series. I’m a bit behind. I just saw ‘E.T.’ the other day!
So, have you been immersed in the whole fan culture?
Well, there was a bit of that with’Deadwood.’ Really strong fan base for that show. I’ve been told about that, but I’m a bit clueless anyway. That’s not really anything that concerns me too much when I’m doing a job. I’ve precious little interest in that, but I know that sci-fi fans tend to be zealous. But we have young people with lots of energy on our show, and they can take care of all of that! So hopefully, they’ll assign those roles to them.
I spoke to Alessandra [Torresani, who plays daughter Zoe Graystone], and she seems to have lots of energy.
She’s perfect for all of that! She’ll love it. She’ll love Comic-Con. It’s incredibly fun for her. A room full of hundreds, let alone thousands, of people is not my most fun thing in the world.
So do you have a sort of a maternal relationship with some of the younger cast members on the show?
Certainly. I think you can’t help it as a more mature actress. I sort of feel like the old lady, but at the same time I admire their verve. I haven’t done a lot of work with the younger actors. Most of my work has been with Eric Stoltz and Polly Walker, which is really wonderful, and I feel very lucky to have them as actors. It is a good cast, and no one hates each other yet! As far as I can tell ... but there’s always time. We still have a few weeks left.
— Jevon Phillips
Photos 1-3: Paula Malcomson as Amanda Graystone. Credit: Syfy. Last - Paula Malcomson as Trixie from ‘Deadwood.’ Credit: HBO