Actor Katee Sackhoff wasn’t prepared for the fallout she received from fans of the original Battlestar Galactica TV series (1978) in which her character, Starbuck, was male and played by Dirk Benedict.
As actors, we need to have a tough skin. Not just to protect us from negative feedback, but also to keep us moving in a forward direction. Ever hear of the word “rejection”?
People can be uncontrollably cruel; they can make you cry, make you want to give up, make you become brutal. You need to shrug it off and do your JOB.
Katee Sackhoff’s reaction to the counteraction was to get into her character’s headspace and give the best performance she possibly could. Katee proved that Starbuck was just as strong and lovable as the original character, yet at the same time, Katee added several emotional layers which made Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace a completely different character.
Battlestar Galactica was the catalyst that put Katee Sackhoff on the acting train and she never got off. She went on to do some of film and TV’s finest productions such as 24 with Kiefer Sutherland, The Big Bang Theory, Longmire, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Robot Chicken and… need I go on?
Let’s learn from Katee Sackhoff!
You’ve been in show business for 20 years. What changes have you seen in the industry?
It might be easier to ask “what hasn’t changed in the industry?” because it seems like everything has. When I first started acting there were no cell phones, no internet, no 100 million dollar movies. None of that. But there were also very few female writers, directors, and producers. Not as many opportunities for actors, and CGI was just becoming more mainstream. All of which have helped to mold the industry we find ourselves in now. There is an overabundance of opportunity in production, some of the highest grossing, most awarded TV shows today are created by women, and we have entire movies that are made using technologies that were just pipe dreams when I started. Its truly amazing to witness. We are in the golden age of television and I couldn’t be more excited about the future of the industry and the new technologies people are dreaming up daily.
You gained a lot of notoriety on Battlestar Galactica as the tough, yet vulnerable character Kara “Starbuck” Thrace. How has that role impacted your life?
Battlestar Galactica was a dream come true. I had been acting for about five years in Los Angeles, had been in three canceled TV shows, and was being typecast as the angsty teenager. It changed the trajectory of my career and the roles I would be associated with and gave me an extended family that means the world to me. Starbuck and roles like her were always my dream, but when you first move to LA, as I did in 1998, you can’t be picky and I took most of the jobs that came my way if I thought they could propel my career in a forward direction and didn’t compromise my moral integrity. So Battlestar was exactly what I needed to turn the tide.
Katee Sackhoff in Bionic Woman, 2007.
You recently started your own YouTube channel. Who came up with the idea? What was involved in starting the channel and what’s involved in keeping it up?
The idea for the YouTube channel and its content was largely the brainchild of myself and my producing partner Robin Gadsby. I knew I wanted to create a channel but wanted to make sure it was informational, fun to watch, and was helping people along the way. That’s where Blood, Sweat, & Coffee came from. So many people have associated me with strong capable characters throughout the years and they wanted to know what motivates me. What kinds of things I’m interested in pursuing that continue to help me grow as an individual. We only get one life and the channel is all about living it to the fullest in a healthy, whole, realistic way.
Robin is my executive producer, and there isn’t much that he doesn’t do on the channel. He helps come up with content ideas, he handles the organizing and scheduling of shoots, and he’s also usually the camera guy, sound guy, editor guy, and occasional on screen talent guy. He pretty much does everything that holds the show together.
Peter Macaluso is also a great editor that we work with who helped shape Season 1 and has stepped in as a videographer for us from time to time. That’s it. We do it all and have really high expectations for the future of the channel but also for Robin and I as a producing team.
What were some of the things you had to overcome in order to be a full-time working actor?
I was very lucky when I moved to Los Angeles to have the help of my parents. The deal was that I had to stay in community college and they would support me while in LA. That was such a lifesaver because I never had to have a day job outside of school. I could really focus on acting and my auditions. Within a year I had booked my own series and had to leave school due to my work schedule. I was in the right place at the right time….and was really prepared when the opportunity came. Never let anyone outwork you. That has been a huge part of my work ethic and has contributed largely to my success.
Being in show business is grueling. Is it difficult to maintain relationships?
While this business can be grueling, it has never cost me a relationship that was worth having. Everyone in my life is aware of how much joy I get from being creative and they have never once asked me to choose because they know my work is so important to me. That being said I fully believe that what we do is not who we are. The joy I get from my work pales in comparison to the relationships I have in my life that I value and hold so incredibly dear. That acknowledgment came later in my life and I have started prioritizing better.
Katee Sackhoff in Longmire.
You’ve had long running characters, guest / one-episode characters and recurring roles. How do you build a believable character in one episode vs. a long running character?
No matter how significant the role to the project the process is exactly the same. I focus on what my character wants. I find that if I can determine who, what, and why, it’s very easy to create a character that people can identify with.
You have your own production company called Fly Free Productions. How’d you come up with the name? When did you start the company? Do you have partners in the company? You also have the organization Fly Free Charity with your mom. Tell us more.
Fly Free Productions is the name I came up with when I first incorporated myself. It just sorta stuck. My mom always told me “I was the wings on her butterfly”. Meaning quite literally that she couldn’t live without me. That’s how Fly Free came up. The Fly Free Charity organization’s work was just a natural progression of that and for the most part it’s Fly Free’s only purpose now. I decided a long time ago that giving back would be an important part of my business. I have been so fortunate in my life and I’m constantly asking myself, “Have I done enough for others?” It’s a huge motivator to me. All the money raised through the sale of my memorabilia and autographs goes to charity. My mom runs the site on her days off so we can keep the cost as close to zero as possible.
You’re optioned for a series called Rain, which you wrote and are Executive Producing. What exactly does “optioned” mean?
Rain is a series I created years ago that is in a holding pattern for the time being. I haven’t put it to bed, but with all of the other opportunities and ideas that I have in the works, it’s just not today’s project.
You have visible tattoos. How does that affect jobs for characters that don’t have tattoos?
I’ve had tattoos for so long that I can’t remember when I didn’t have to go to work and have them covered for a character. That being said I’ve never lost a role for having tattoos, that I know of anyway 😉 They’re covered with clothes if they can, or makeup if they can’t.
Did you ever ask a Casting Director a question that you could have found out on your own?
Oh I’m sure I have. I ask as many questions as I can that are pertinent to my understanding of what they want from me in the room. I truly believe there are no stupid questions. What we do as actors in the room while we audition is completely ridiculous and in only the smallest way as real as it will be on set. I believe it is the casting director’s job to make sure we have the information we need ahead of time and then it is up to you to be prepared. Part of that preparedness is asking them if there is anything specific they want me to know before I read.
Katee Sackhoff Exclusive Picture to NYCastings.
What shortcomings, if any, do you have as an actor? How did these shortcomings help with any of your characters?
I wear my heart on my sleeve. My face cannot hide what I am feeling. Those are characteristics that I have given to my characters over the years and I believe are probably two of the things I’m most known for in my performances. But I’ve worked hard to develop subtlety in my work over the years and really dive into multilayered characters…I’m still not subtle in real life which sometimes gets me in trouble 😉 but hey, you know what you get with me.
How did you deal with the backlash from the diehard Battlestar Galactic fans who couldn’t see Starbuck as a female? Did anyone warn you this might happen?
Nothing can prepare you for the backlash of a fan who feels like you’ve destroyed something they love. That’s how a lot of people felt. I can understand that. What I couldn’t understand, and still don’t, is how people are so incredibly cruel to each other over the internet. Inflicting pain on others by spewing one’s own anger and hatred toward people in a hidden forum is horrible. Nor do I understand how people use the constitution to justify and protect their right to spread hate. The internet has made this far worse. It’s sadly gross to me. I didn’t get a warning, but I don’t think anyone saw it coming. No one expects to get boo’d at Comic-Con. The only thing I could do to deal with it was to focus on the work of creating my character, and that seems to have done the trick.
Soon after filming Battlestar Galactica, you were diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Tell us what went through your mind before you knew the diagnosis and after you found out?
At the end of filming Battlestar Galactica I was very tired. This was largely contributed to the long hours we were working in order to complete the show so I didn’t think much of it. I went to my gynecologist for my regular yearly checkup around this time and while feeling my lymph nodes in my neck she felt the lump in my thyroid. (Not to give too much of a thyroid lesson but the thyroid looks like a butterfly and the body of the thyroid is called the isthmus. That is where my lump was and you can feel that part of your thyroid through your neck right below where a man’s Adam’s apple would be.) I did a ton of research, as did my fiance at the time. He was a huge support for me because I was so scared at times that I would check out and forget things that were mentioned during my doctor’s appointments. I learned we must be our own advocates when it comes to our health. We are really just a number to our healthcare system and one of many patients, so it’s important to ask questions and seek as many opinions as you need when making big decisions in regards to your health. I also learned to stay out of medical chat rooms! Happy people do not go into chat rooms to talk about how great they feel. They are out living their lives. The chat rooms were filled with angry people who were not satisfied with how they felt. They blamed every single ailment they had on the fact that they no longer had a thyroid! Had I listened to those people I would have believed that I’d be a miserable, overweight, sad person, with no sex drive, terrible cosmetic side effects, and couldn’t maintain a job or relationships. I learned we are all individuals and nobody knows what your experience is going to be like but you. You have the power to either go after your health with positivity or negativity. The choice is yours. My physical recovery was easy after my surgery. I went back to work within a week to prove to potential employers that I was healthy enough to be there. In hindsight I wish I had taken more time off because emotionally I was very much in turmoil. My hormones hadn’t adjusted yet to my now current baseline and I was emotionally drained from the entire experience. During that recovery I had shot a pilot for CBS that didn’t get picked up and then I went straight into my season of 24 which was a godsend. I was so blessed to be able to work close to home and to my support system during my recovery.
Katee Sackhoff and Tricia Helfer. Photo by Dennys Ilic .
You participate in a bunch of charities and even co-founded a charity with fellow Battlestar Galactica actress Tricia Helfer called Acting Outlaws. What prompted you to start serving charities?
Tricia Helfer and I started The Acting Outlaws 10 years ago now. It was our way of marrying our love of motorcycles and our desire to give back and be philanthropic. My parents raised me to believe that if we were blessed enough to have a life that is filled with love, health, a roof over our heads, and full bellies then we needed to find the time to give to those less fortunate. I’ve been incredibly blessed in my life and am always looking for ways to give my time and to help raise money for causes. Tricia and I do the Tulip Ride every year if people would like to donate money to help animals at the Seattle Humane Society and of course all proceeds from my website go to various charities that we select at the end of the year.
You recently served customers coffee at Mt. Hood Roasters Coffee Company in Rhododendron, OR while visiting your parents in Portland. Is Mt. Hood Roasters a place you frequent when you’re visiting home? Why did you decide to host your upcoming YouTube video there? Did serving coffee bring you back to the days when you were a waitress before you had your big acting break?
My home away from home when I’m in Oregon is Mt. Hood. I grew up on those mountains and have so many fond memories. One of the ideas we had for this next season of the YouTube channel was to learn how to make the perfect cup of coffee. From start to finish. Coffee is the fuel of my life and I realized it was kind of a shame that I don’t really know much about making it other than the drip kind. Mt. Hood roasters roasts their own coffee and makes one of the best lattes around so it was a no brainer to reach out and see if they would come on board and teach me how to roast beans and also learn to make the drinks at their store. It’s going to be a great episode so make sure to go to my You Tube channel, subscribe, and turn on notifications so you’ll know when the season starts. There’s my plug, haha.
How has yoga helped you with your high school knee injury?
I actually don’t do much yoga anymore, but I should because it lengthens your muscles and helps keep those small stabilizing muscles strong that none of us really target enough.
What advice do you have for actors just starting out?
Trust your instincts, both on camera and when you’re navigating the business. So many times as actors we try to complicate scenes or dialogue in an effort to show our range. It’s a huge mistake and a trap that so many fall into. Most of the time your first reaction to a scene is right. Those are your human instincts telling you how it makes you feel. Trust that. Don’t overcomplicate the human condition. In the end we are all driven by the same things. Just ask Who, What, and Why. Trust yourself and the rest will fall into place.
Katee Sackhoff. Photo by Dennys Ilic.
KATEE SACKHOFF’S BIOGRAPHY:
Kathryn Ann “Katee” Sackhoff (born April 8, 1980) is an American actress known for playing Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the Sci Fi Channel’s television program Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009). She was nominated for four Saturn Awards for her work on Battlestar Galactica and won the award for Best Supporting Actress on Television in 2005.
Sackhoff has also starred in the short-lived TV series The Fearing Mind (2000-2001) and The Education of Max Bickford (2001-2002); had recurring roles in the TV series Bionic Woman (2007), Nip/Tuck (2009), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2010-2011), and Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2012-2013); and had a lead role in the eighth season of 24 as Dana Walsh (2010). She voices several characters including Bitch Pudding on Adult Swim’s stop motion animated series Robot Chicken. Between 2012 and 2017, she starred in the A&E and Netflix series Longmire as Deputy Sheriff Victoria “Vic” Moretti before recurring on The Flash as Amunet.
She had lead roles in the films Halloween: Resurrection (2002); White Noise: The Light (2007); Batman: Year One (2011); The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia, Sexy Evil Genius, Riddick, Oculus (2013) and Don’t Knock Twice (2016).
Sackhoff was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up in St. Helens, Oregon. Her mother, Mary, worked as an English-as-second-language (ESL) program coordinator, and her father, Dennis, is a land developer. Her brother, Erick, is co-owner of a vehicle modification shop near Portland. She graduated from Sunset High School in Beaverton in 1998. She began swimming at an early age and by high school, was planning to pursue a career in the sport until her right knee was injured. This led her to begin practicing yoga-which she continues today-and to pursue an interest in acting.
Her first acting role was in the Lifetime movie Fifteen and Pregnant in which she played a teenager with a baby. The movie starred Kirsten Dunst and motivated her to move to Hollywood and pursue a career in acting after graduating high school. Sackhoff’s first recurring role was Annie in MTV’s Undressed, next gaining a supporting role as Nell Bickford in The Education of Max Bickford. Sackhoff made her motion picture debut in My First Mister, and next appeared in film as Jenna “Jen” Danzig in Halloween: Resurrection.
Katee Sackhoff in The Flash.
In August 2012, Sackhoff became the co-host of the Schmoes Know Movies podcast on the Toad Hop Network. One of her first shows was with guest Sean Astin.
Sackhoff announced in April 2015 a new TV-series project, Rain, which she wrote and is executive-producing through her Fly Free Productions. She also had a role in the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops III, performing voice over and motion capture as Sarah Hall. She portrayed Pink Ranger Kimberly in Power/Rangers, a short depicting a dystopian future in the Power Rangers universe.
In 2017, Sackhoff joined The CW series The Flash in the recurring role of villainess Amunet (Blacksmith), for which she is billed as a special guest star.