The Battlestar Galactica cast hold a special place in the hearts of all sci-fi fans, and perhaps none more so than Katee Sackhoff. Her Starbuck had the sort of impact that actors can only dream of, and whenever she returns to sci-fi it’s a big deal. Her six-season tenure on Longmire is over, and she’s immediately followed it up with sci-fi film 2036 Origin Unknown and a Netflix space series, Another Life, which is currently in pre-production.
2036 Origin Unknown is a mind-bending exploration of AI, in which Sackhoff is often the only actor on screen, acting opposite ARTi, an AI computer system voiced by Steven Cree, as they both investigate a mysterious monolith that has appeared on Mars. When we catch up with her by phone, she tells us that when she received the script, her agent warned her that she would need to take her time with it, and read it twice. “You really had to pay attention, you really had to sort of get into the script and get to about half way through before you went ‘oh my god, I finally understand what’s going on’. And the pay-off to me felt so huge,” she says, before acknowledging that the challenge of carrying a film more or less solo was a something she couldn’t pass up.
While AI is hardly a new subject for sci-fi (“I think every science fiction job I have done in my entire life has some sort of a machine in it,” Sackhoff laughs), 2036 Origin Unknown’s director Hasraf Dulull certainly takes a fresh approach to it, treating AI as an inevitability. But while AI is often the subject of sci-fi, it is rarely the theme, and in this film the theme ties into something Sackhoff herself points out. “I think that one of the biggest fears that we’re heading into right now in science fiction is how miniscule and irrelevant we actually are in the grand scheme of the universe,” Sackhoff says, pointing out that space is simply too big for us to be alone. “I think human beings are so scared of war and superpowers and all of this shit that America seems to be at the forefront of,” she adds. “I think that to be at the top of the food chain and to be scared that you are miniscule in the grand scheme of things is probably pretty terrifying.”
But Sackhoff herself doesn’t seem to be scared of what the universe has to offer – instead, she is a surprisingly optimistic person, laughing throughout our interview even while discussing humanity’s flaws. “I believe in the best in people,” she explains. “Everyone makes mistakes, everybody does things that you don’t agree with, but that’s the hardest thing, understanding why somebody does the things they do. You not only have to understand it, you then have to accept it and just move on. It may not be what you think is best and it may hurt like hell, but mostly people do not intentionally hurt anyone. Everyone’s just doing the best they can. So yes, I am incredibly optimistic about humanity and all that does is that my heart breaks a lot easier sometimes.”
Following the dramatic heavy-lifting of Longmire, Sackhoff has recently been having fun playing recurring villain Amunet Black in The Flash, where she received some flak for her ‘British’ accent in the role. “She’s a supervillain in a fictional world in a kid’s show. I wanted her to be first and foremost fun to watch, and I wanted her to be crazy. Completely bonkers. And so when I told them I wanted to do a British accent they said ‘which one?’ and I said ‘all of them’… Because I think she’s from Clearwater, Florida. I think she’s bonkers. She’s insane.” At this Sackhoff laughs gleefully for a full minute, insisting that “if I were doing Shakespeare in the Park with Judi Dench it would be a very different accent.” She’s clearly been having a whale of a time in the role. She similarly loved voicing Bo-Katan in Star Wars: Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, and tells us that she would take the character into live action in a heartbeat. “Oh my god, she belongs in live action. She’s such a cool character and to see a female Mandalorian warrior, I think that it would be a mistake to not bring this character to live action.”
But first, she has a serious show to concentrate on – Netflix’s Another Life, which she is producing as well as starring in, as an astronaut leading a team as they investigate a mysterious alien artefact. She would clearly love to be able to talk about the show more than she currently can. “We’ve got some new and interesting visual things which we’re excited to attempt, which has never been done in science fiction before. As a producer what is so intriguing and exciting for me is that I’ve been involved with it since the very beginning, since it was just an idea at Netflix, which is really cool for me. So I’m just excited. It’s really hard to be groundbreaking and to bring different science fiction to people. We’re going to try, but at the same time science fiction is always to me just a backdrop, and a good show is about relationships, and I think we’re going to be able to deliver that.”
2036 Origin Unknown is released On Demand and DVD from 13 August.