Transcription provided by Katrina Antonette King. Who’s house? Katrina’s house!
Michael Trucco is best known as Sam Anders on Battlestar Galactica, but has also appeared in shows like Charmed, Touched by an Angel and One Tree Hill. Not limited to acting, Michael is also a motorcycle enthusiast and a terrific guitar player. He recently appeared in the Syfy movie Meteor Storm and I spoke with him just before it aired.
Pop Culture Zoo: Hey Michael, how are you doing today?
MICHAEL TRUCCO: Good, buddy, how’s it going?
PCZ: Oh good, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today!
MT: No problem, happy to do it.
PCZ: So first of all, I have to say, in Meteor Storm that was one cool bike you got to ride!
MT: (laughs) I gotta tell ya man, that was a big part of me taking that movie! I think it was page 5 and the character of Tom’s entrance in the pre-dawn hours, this light crests over. The way it read was, this light crests over the driveway to the planetarium and here comes Tom on the motorcycle like, “Done! I’m in! Sign me up, that sounds good to me.” And then he rides through the rest of the picture. And the director, Tibor Takács and I got together and we tried to figure out what kind of bike should he ride, and then of course it’s all subject to whatever was available through transportation and licensing and marketing and all that other stuff that goes on.
PCZ: Is all that riding you?
MT: Yes, yeah yeah… I think, I haven’t seen the whole cut. There was a couple of nights where we were running two units and they had to do some 2nd unit stuff with my stunt double, running in and out of traffic, while we were shooting some other stuff. And I was kinda bummed, I kept telling Tibor, “Dude I’ll do all the riding, I’m happy to.” And they were happy to have me ride, but there was just some stuff we just couldn’t do both at the same time. We had to shoot other things while they sent the 2nd crew out with my stunt double.
PCZ: Did you already know how to ride or did you have to learn for the show?
MT: Oh no, I’ve been riding since I was about fourteen. I actually have four motorcycles at home.
PCZ: Ah perfect. Now did you guys actually shoot any of that in San Francisco, or did a city to be named stand in for it?
MT: (laughs) Fill-in-the-blank as San Francisco. No, it was all shot up in Vancouver, which actually is a pretty good double for San Francisco. Aside from the obvious, you have no cable cars, no Golden Gate bridge. But there’s some architectural elements and there’s just some of the way the streets are laid out, and there’s some buildings that you can do a pretty good double for San Francisco, but it was all shot on location in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.
PCZ: Now, meteors or asteroids hitting Earth is something that, sad to say, can actually actually happen someday. Does that help with this being less fantastical than giant ‘gators and stuff like that?
MT: You know what you’re signing up for when you’re seeing a picture called Meteor Storm. People go, “What’s it about?” You’re like, “It’s pretty much right there.” But yeah, I gotta be honest, it definitely had an impact on me taking this, because it wasn’t about gargoyles and prehistoric dragons. It was actually a subject matter that has great potential to occur in reality and become real, this possibility of — there’s stuff floating around out there and there’s a lot of chance involved — but there certainly is the possibility that the Earth could cross right through some field of meteors and all hell could break loose. So it’s relevant, sure. I mean you hear stories in the news all the time about they’re tracking medium to large sized asteroids and meteors that could potentially cross the earth’s orbit. So I kind of like that subject matter. I like the idea that there’s the possibility and everybody loves a good disaster movie.
PCZ: Yeah, that was kind of what I felt watching this, it felt like kind of the old fashioned disaster movies. This seemed more in tune with the old Towering Inferno and movies like that.
MT: Yeah, I like that, that’s a good point. You bring up a good point, that it’s sort of an homage to those disaster films of the 70’s. Towering Inferno, Airport ’77 — any Airport ’75, ’76 — I mean they made one every year for five years, didn’t they? There was a more simplistic nature to those films than these gigantic 2012, Independence Day and Armageddon. There’s that whole genre of the 350 million dollar budget films and then there’s ours. And you can still tell the same story, just with the reduction in special effects.
[Editor’s Note] – it was at this point that Joe’s phone lost connection. If you seen ‘Meteor Shower’ then you’ll understand the interesting coincidence with losing a phone signal while talking about the movie!
MT: Are you back Joe?
PCZ: Yeah, I’m here…
MT: Kind of ironic, huh? That was like intergalactic interference going on there.
PCZ: Well you know in Meteor Storm, the cell phones were dying, so I started looking around for things falling from the sky!
MT: That’s what I was thinking, man, all of a sudden we’re having this conversation about stuff floating around in space, our communication goes down, satellites are getting knocked out of their orbit, all hell breaking loose here, it’s crazy man! (laughs)
PCZ: That’s right! So what I was saying before my phone interrupted us, sci-fi movies always seem like, for the audience: popcorn, sit with the family and watch – and for the actors, it always seems kind of like your summer camp. It seems like they’re just fun movies to do.
MT: Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. Because it was, it was shot right in the middle of the summer, it’s kind of icing on the cake. For me, it was sort of a no-brainer, because coming off of Battlestar where the tone of the show was so heavy and intense and dark whereas this is still a disaster movie, but it was a nice change to be in a different atmosphere. To be on Earth, to get to run around and sort of play the hero role. I liked that, I’d like to do more of that. That’s something I’d like to do in my career, is play parts like that, do the action movies, do stuff running around town saving lives, riding motorcycles. It’s just fun. So there is a certain element of fun to it, even though the theme of the film is this impending doom, all’s well that ends well. It was a fun script, the timing couldn’t be better, I was looking for something to do this summer, it was a quick shoot, and we had a real good time making it. So it was an easy decision for me.
PCZ: I thought it was funny, they kept referring to you in the movie as a John McClane type character and of course I immediately thought you’re perfect for those kind of roles. You’re right; you should have more of those.
MT: Yeah, that was already in the script too, and I saw it and thought, “All right, I’ve been called worse.” (laughs)
PCZ: So, speaking of Battlestar Galactica, you also have The Plan airing on SyFy. How is that, y’know you guys finished the show and completed it, and did where everybody ends up, and then you come back and you do The Plan. How was it continuing that after ending the show, essentially?
MT: It was like being in a time capsule. It was actually a little bit of a, in some ways it was like a gift, it was like somebody handing you a chance to go back and relive an amazing three or four past years. We actually went back in the time-line of the show, back to the introduction of particularly my character, of Anders and of Cavil. The Plan dealt with where these characters entered the storyline, where we entered the narrative of Battlestar Galactica, which was around Season Two. So we were replicating sets, we were replicating our wardrobes, our hair and makeup. Everything that we did when we were shooting my stuff way back in Season Two, we were going back and trying to match those scenes and match those sets. So in some ways it was like taking a time capsule and going back and getting to do it again. It was a real treat, and plus I had my hair which was nice. (laughs) I got to run around again – after spending the last six or so, seven weeks on the set of Battlestar towards the end there, being in that tub of goo and the bald cap, it was a real nice change to get back to the Anders that we were first introduced to.
PCZ: How many times did you have to shower to get that goo off ya?
MT: Yeah man, it was more like brillo pads and tire brushes and stuff. It was crazy. It was mostly the bald cap. That was probably the biggest, the longest session I’ve ever sat in a make-up chair cumulatively of any job I’ve ever done. If you added them all up, I’ve never spent that much time sitting in a chair. It was cool for the first couple times, you’re like, “All right man, this is awesome, special effects make-up.” And it looked great! But then after a few weeks you’re like, aw, I should’ve just shaved my head. (laughs)
PCZ: That would’ve been easier huh?
MT: Oh it would’ve saved a lot of time. A lot of time. But anyhow, going back, The Plan was a treat. It really was. It was nice because like you said, we’d finished our series and then suddenly we get this little bonus shoot, and it was like doing two or three episodes in a row. It was a nice long shoot and we had Eddie Olmos behind the camera, directing the whole thing. You can’t ask for more.
PCZ: After acting with Eddie for a number of years, how was it having him being the one calling the shots?
MT: I love it! Personally, I love it. Eddie is an…you hear this term a lot and it always sounds like just kinda actor double talk and babble, but a guy like Eddie almost is an actor’s director. But that just means that as such a good actor, he has such a finite understanding of the craft and scene, so he gives you a lot of room. And he really loves to work the details of the scene. You have t, as a director, concern yourself with everything. You have to make sure things look right through the lens, you have to keep the story moving and you have to get what you need from your actors in the scene. But Eddie really concentrates on the dialogue in the scene and the dynamic between the two or three actors, or whoever’s in that particular scene. And that’s a real luxury, man, it really is. He gave us a lot of play room. Y’know it’s like a big sandbox. And he gave us all the coolest toys in the yard, and said go ahead, man, do your thing! And for me, it was the first time I’d actually really gotten to do some work with Dean Stockwell. We’d been in a lot of episodes together, and we were on the show together, but we didn’t really interact all that much. And finally on The Plan, we had a chance to sit down and for somebody like me, it’s like getting an education. It’s like going to school. You sit down with an actor like Dean Stockwell, you’re like, “Okay, school’s open”, because he’s fantastic!
PCZ: Did they give you any idea when you came in and did those first second season episodes that you would be coming back and just how important your character would wind up being?
MT: No, there was no indication. Not for the long run, not for the long term like that. There was some indication after we finished the first two episodes that I’d be returning, and that maybe we could extrapolate this storyline a little bit more between Anders and Starbuck, there was something to be mined there, clearly. But, at the time there was no.. I had certainly no indication of the import that they would place on Anders through the story and on through the end of the show and the series and having the luxury of getting the ending that I did get. That was beautiful. So I was really hired for two episodes, that was the deal. It’s Season Two, you come on, she’s [Starbuck] gotten to this planet called Caprica, she runs into this guy and his band of freedom fighters, there’s an attraction there, right? You wind up in bed and a few kisses occur, but that would be the end of my character. And there was just a good energy between Katee and I. And between the characters of Anders and Starbuck, and the actors. And we had something that Ron and the writers and people kind of picked up on and went, “Hm, there’s more here. We could do some more with this.”
PCZ: Definitely, I mean in an ongoing series there’s a lot of characters that show up for an episode or two and Anders was one that seemed like he could basically be a one-note character, but I think to your credit you really kind of opened him up. And, really after those two episodes, I know myself and a lot of people were going, “Well, what’s going to happen to that guy, c’mon?!”
MT: Well, that’s good to hear, because there was certainly the potential and the risk of being stuck in a one-note character. And there were still a lot of people in the beginning, believe me, the deck was stacked against me coming into this thing. And the first couple of episodes, even the first, all through the remaining Season Two, it was a struggle. There was definitely some resistance from the fans as to what exactly was the purpose of this Anders character, and what’s he doing? They were so intent on Lee Adama and Starbuck being together, and who’s this guy that’s upsetting the apple cart? It was .. there were times that I was like, “I cannot just go online and read these blogs. It’s just so depressing.” People can be real hard. But I think over time, the character grew into the fold, into the mix, and grew into the storyline and became part of the lexicon of Battlestar Galactica. And fortunately, they started to write for me. And I hope that I did something to bring some dimension to it, but you know when you have a team of writers like Ron and his crew, it’s right there on the page.
PCZ: Well, it was definitely a show that was a perfect mix of great writing and fantastic acting. So you definitely brought that through and did your part very well.
MT: I appreciate that. Trust me, it was an honor to be a part of that mix of writing and acting. I learned a lot, because I was just surrounded by fantastic actors. And Katee was one of them, and Katee is younger than me, substantially younger than me, it’s like here’s this little snot-nosed kid, what’s she gonna do? And she just floors you. She’s such a consummate professional, and such a strong actor that you can’t help but raise your game when you’re in a scene with her. Then you’ve guys like James Callis, and Michael Hogan, Eddie Olmos, Mary MacDonald, and the list goes on .. Grace, Tahmoh, and Aaron Douglas. I mean it’s like, every day I’d do a scene with these people and look around and go, “Is anybody catching this on film? I hope we’re rolling ’cause that was amazing!” I’d be watching in the scene going, “Damn that was good!” It was very inspirational.
PCZ: Do you feel that piloting the fleet into the sun was a fitting end for Anders?
MT: I think it was.. it was more than I’d ever expected. I’m totally and completely happy with that. I feel like I’ve been given Trivial Pursuit status. Like that will be an answer to a crossword puzzle. “A character who drove a fleet into the sun.” It’s one of those things where that was quite an honor to me, I guess. Yeah, I’m pretty happy with that. I like the way it ended. I liked the final scene between Anders and Starbuck and her little goodbye at the tub. That was an amalgamation, that was the consumation, sort of the everything had built towards that moment and was in that scene. Because that was everything, that was toward the end of the shoot and there were so many different emotions flying around and I think it read in that scene quite well. It came across quite well.
PCZ: Is there any talk if The Plan continues to do well on DVD and the airings of it do well, that perhaps there may be some other Battlestar movies down the road?
MT: I think there was talk of that in the beginning, I think that actually, no pun intended, was the plan. It was that they were gonna do three independent movies after the fact. But I think that every month, week, day that passes, we get farther and farther away from it. Unfortunately, the beautiful infrastructure of the sets are gone, the logistics — the logistical sets, the actual locations are gone. And I don’t know if they’d have to rebuild those, if they would do those all in CGI. It’s hard to say. I think it really all depends on Ron Moore, David Ike, and NBC/Universal. Those decisions lie way above my pay grade. If they came calling, I’m sure most of us would jump on board. Who’s to say that, given a few years – sometimes that happens, you give something a few years to breathe – and then there’s a demand to see a reunion. There’s always that potential, but I don’t know of anything concrete that’s in the works beyond what we finished.
PCZ: Now this weekend, I went and grabbed the mp3’s you have up on your site.
MT: All right! I’m updating that, by the way.
PCZ: And I have to say, “Elephant” is in my head, it’s a great song, man!
MT: Oh, you know, it’s so funny, I just have to say as kind of a blanket statement, I’m technologically… how do I put this politically correct? Unsavy. The world .. the cyberworld escapes me, and I’m actually, probably one of the least judicious when it comes to blogs, and websites, and Q&A’s and I feel guilty because I know there’s a certain aspect of the fanbase I’m alienating! I’m just terrible, I don’t keep up with it. But I actually, my .. one of the guys I write with, a creative partner, he’s also in charge of working on my website, so we’re getting together I think this afternoon and we’re going to try to do some moderate upgrades and updates, and that’s including the music. Because I think at one point the idea was to release two more songs at a time. I’m gonna do this at least once a month, and that was like a year ago. I’m just not up on the latest information, if you will. I’m just not that guy. I barely can navigate a Blackberry. So, I wish I could say I was more up to date, but I will be putting up something a little more modern, a little more up to date than what has been up there for a while, and that includes more songs. Because we did those a few years ago, I was in a band and it was.. I miss it. I do. I really enjoyed playing music, and I figured we made and put all this time and effort into writing these songs and going into the studio and recording them, we might as well give them an outlet.
PCZ: Well the two that are up there are pretty fantastic.
MT: I like them.
[Editor’s Note] – Since this conversation, michaeltrucco.com has been updated.
PCZ: Is there any chance of a simpleworld CD in the future?
MT: You know we talked about it, we had one previous to this, an earlier effort that was okay, but I’m much more proud of the work on these tracks. So I think right now, the only format they’re available on is gonna be on those mp3s on the website. And at this stage of the game, I’m happy to release them and make them public. Because, y’know, somebody like you, Joseph, you dig it and that makes me feel great and it’s worth it.
PCZ: No, yeah, I mean there are a lot of actors who are like, “I’m gonna start a band, and do this” and they do, with mixed results, let’s say. But these you could hear these on the radio. They’re really, really good.
MT: That’s good to hear you say, man, thanks. We knew, I knew, and the band knew at some point that you have to commit to one or the other. For me it was the acting and the music. It’s hard to do both at the same time. I think that’s why a lot of successful actors have bands, they’re afforded the luxury or the time to go off and play music, but at the time when we were in this band and I was still trying to get my foot in the door in this industry, you have to give 100% of your time to one or the other. And if we decided to go with the music, then you and I probably wouldn’t be having this conversation today, because I wouldn’t be where I was in the acting career. You have to decide, and I think for me it was… We came to that crossroads, and I think when I realized that we had scheduled gigs that were being affected by the work I was getting on different shows and I had to be in Vancouver or do a movie in South Africa or something, and I was missing gigs, that you could sense that Ok, both these things can’t happen at the same time. One had to give. And I think the music sort of faded away, but we we recorded these eight songs before we hung it up and we wanted to get them in the studio and put them down onto a CD and we’re pretty proud of them. I mean I still, I forget about them and then they’ll be in my iPod and one’ll come up and I was like “Oh, that’s a great song.. oh yeah, that’s our song!” Enough time goes by and now what’s really depressing is I’ll listen to those songs, a buddy of mine who’s a singer, we’ll get together and I’ll play the guitar and we can’t even.. I can’t even remember the parts. That’s what’s really strange, is I wrote the thing and I can’t even play them again.
PCZ: You know it’ll be really weird when they come up on your iPod one day and you’re like, “Oh, who is this?”
MT: Yeah, exactly, I’m getting to that point. When you pick up guitars and the guys in your own band and you’re like how did we…what was that…what was the change there? Is that the chorus, who wrote that – did you write that, I don’t remember that? And the guitar solo is like, I have no idea how I played that. I maybe should pick up the guitar more often. So yeah, they’re little gems that we’re proud of.
PCZ: The only thing else I was going to ask you is, after Meteor Storm, where can everybody look forward to seeing you in the future?
MT: I just finished principle photography on a pilot for the USA network, which is also part of the NBC/Universal family so we’re kind of keeping it all in the family, and that show is called Facing Kate. It’s a one hour dramedy, sort of a legal dramedy, starring Sarah Shahi as Kate, and I play her ex-husband and the assistant district attorney of San Francisco. Again, shot in Vancouver for San Francisco, so there ya go.
PCZ: There ya go! It’s a trend!
MT: Yeah, it’s a pilot for USA. We finished, I guess early January, and now we’re in that wait and see game. And they do what they do, they assemble the footage, they put it together, they test it, and if we get picked up, then you’ll see us in the fall. If not, then we’ll move on to the next one.
PCZ: Excellent. Well thank you very much for talking to me today. I really appreciate it!
MT: No problem, happy to do it. I’ll talk to you later.