Exclusive Interview: Katee Sackhoff on Sexy Evil Genius
Sexy Evil Genius has an unbelievable cast, from a geek perspective. The drama stars Seth Green ("Robot Chicken"), Michelle Trachtenberg ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), Harold Perrineau ("Lost") and, in the title role, Katee Sackhoff. Miss Sackhoff exploded into the popular culture as Starbuck in the revisionist "Battlestar Galactica," and now looks primed to take mainstream Hollywood by storm in the upcoming Riddick and all-female Expendables alongside Gina Carano (Haywire). But she's particularly excited about Sexy Evil Genius, a film she co-produced, that was written by Scott Lew, who completed the twisty-turny script from his bedside while suffering from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It was a passion project for everyone on board, and Sackhoff revealed in our exclusive interview that she took their responsibility to Lew's story and dialogue very, very seriously.
She was also happy to give an update on the still-untitled female Expendables, and clarify how it's different from its counterpart, The Expenda-Belles, which Sackhoff understands to be a jokier film. Sackhoff thinks her own version is going to kick ass. With Katee Sackhoff and Gina Carano involved, we suspect it will too.
Sexy Evil Genius premieres on DVD today.
CraveOnline: Like a lot of people, I was very taken by the impressive cast you’ve put together for Sexy Evil Genius, but then I watched the film and as the credits rolled I realized – full disclosure – I was actually an intern at Sobini Films many years ago.
Katee Sackhoff: Oh, were you really?
Yeah, so I saw Mark Amin and Cami Winikoff and David Higgins’ names up there, and I was like, “No kidding! Let’s see what they’re up to.”
Yeah. They’re really great. I love them. They really helped us out with this project a lot.
So you’re credited as a co-producer on this film.
How did this come into your lap?
I had a meeting with David Higgins about a different project, and that one wasn’t ready to go but he said, “You know, you should really read this project. It’s kind of in your wheelhouse, and it’s a really small movie, but read the script and I’m going to tell you who wrote it.” So I read the script, and this is probably four or five years ago now, and I really fell in love with it, and he told me all about Scott [Lew], and I jumped on board. I said, “Whatever I can do to get this thing made, let’s do this.” So then came the task of finding the director, and Shawn Piller came on board, and then the three of us set down and really started casting this movie, and finding the right pieces to the puzzle. It was a puzzle, and this is a movie with a lot of talking, so you had to find some really interesting people who could hold the audience’s attention, and then also bring something to the film. Because, let’s be honest, films don’t get made without a little bit of weight behind them. So I brought up Seth [Green,], and sent the script to Seth, and he was just as inspired by the script as I was, and then he brought in Michelle [Trachtenberg], and then David really brought in Harold [Perrineau] and Billy [Baldwin], and it just kind of all came together. It was pretty awesome.
From the outside perspective it looks like everyone from a cool TV show from the last ten years is in this movie. Did you guys all know each other at this point? You’ve worked with Seth before, right?
I’ve worked with Seth, and I’ve known Seth for a while. I’ve known Michelle, because Michelle and Seth have been friends for a while, obviously, from “Buffy.” Harold, none of us knew Harold but we all knew of him. And then Michelle knew Billy from “Gossip Girl,” so it was kind of this weird worlds colliding type project but everybody knew of each other when they came on board, for sure.
It’s a very intimate movie. It’s mostly just you guys having a conversation at the dinner table.
What was the production like? Was it fast? Were you able to get down and rehearse…?
No, that’s one of the things that was so challenging about this, was that we had a twelve day shooting schedule, and we knew that we were going to shoot about… I’d say 11-15 pages a day, and we were going to shoot it in order, like a play. We were just going to do the same 15 pages all day long, but what that required was [for] the actors to be incredibly prepared. We blocked everything that we were going to do, physically, before we even started wardrobe, so we knew where the camera should be set up. As a cast, and David producing, we really wanted to make this project… We wanted it to be perfect for Scott Lew, and we really wanted every single word that he wrote to be said. So it was a heavy task, because we came in and every actor had a hundred and twenty pages memorized on day one, and we were ready to go, because knowing Scott Lew, and knowing his story, and knowing his challenges… if he wrote the word “and,” you needed to say it. That wasn’t an easy word for him to write. It mattered. It was really, really important for us, and I think that was the main thing that we were focused on the entire time, and we just kept saying it to each other over and over again. “Make sure you’re memorized. That’s the biggest thing.”
I kept thinking what a fabulous gift you were given in this role. You get this huge build up, where everyone does nothing but talk about you until you arrive…
And now all there’s all this expectation and these questions. Tell me about the character. Tell me about developing Nikki.
I fell in love with Nikki, because the easiest explanation for her is that she’s insane, and my goal was for people to understand her completely by the end of the movie, and to not only understand her but to applaud everything she did, and be proud of her in a sense. This is a massive undertaking. But I wanted people to not see it coming. I wanted them to be as surprised as everyone sitting at the table, and it required a lot of sitting down with Shawn Piller, the director, and David Higgins, because he has such an understanding of the script, and really picking those moments. Every single actor knew exactly when they were going to take their jacket off, and why they took their jacket off, or why they took their hat off, and why they did this and why they did that, and then ultimately Nikki had to know that they were going to do it, and have it all be part of her plan. So there is this watching that she does the entire time, that if you go back and watch it again, you should see that it was all part of the plan. So it was really daunting. It required a lot of reading. I must have read that script a hundred and fifty times.
Was it difficult not to give the game away with those kinds of looks? Because they have to be there, but they can’t be obvious on the first go.
Yeah, for sure, and that was as much my responsibility as it was the director’s, and then everybody else’s. There were moments where I think everyone of us as a cast would say, “That was great,” or “Maybe a bit too far.” We kind of all felt this responsibility to make sure that that was hidden as long as possible, and so everybody had a part in that.
I really enjoyed the costume work on this film. You had a lot of great stylistic choices, a lot of great hairdos, and I think the thing that struck me the most was the decision to put you in… Was that a tutu in the prom flashback?
Isn’t that amazing? That’s all Lulu [Lynze Radzymynski], the costume decorator. She was absolutely amazing. Lulu is like this burst of sunshine that comes in, and she was such a kindred spirit of mine, because I don’t know many other girls my age that have tutus in their closet, and actually wear them on a daily basis. And I do, so when she said, “How about a tutu?” and I went “Oh my god, should I bring mine?” She said, “What colors do you have?” I went, “Well, I have blah-dah-duh-duh-duh,” and she goes, “Do you have blue?” I went, “No, but I have green.” She’s like, “Let’s try both of them.” So it as absolutely hysterical. I have this fondness of tutus because I loved them when I was little too. I don’t know. She and I spoke the same language, and thankfully, thankfully, Shawn and David Higgins really supported that.
Obviously I’ve been a fan of your since “Battlestar Galactica,” and I’m really excited to see that you have so much good stuff coming out this year, with this and Riddick, that’s very exciting.
So it’s a good time to be Katee Sackhoff, I hope.
[Laughs] You know, it’s so funny the way it works out because we thought this was all going to come out last year. So it’s interesting, this business and the timing of things. The Haunting [in Connecticut: Ghosts of Georgia] I did two years ago, and then Riddick almost two years ago once it comes out. It is, it’s a lot of work. It’s not like theater. You don’t get that instant gratification. You kind of sit around and pray that it’s received well. It’s definitely fun to be me right now [laughs], but we’ll wait and see how they all perform and then decide how great it is.
I think you’re going to be fine. The other thing I’m super excited about, they announced that you were cast in that ensemble action film with Gina Carano. I don’t know if that has a title yet…
It doesn’t have a title yet.
The joke online was that it was called “The Expenda-Belles,” which I always thought was kind of cheesy, and then the other film took that title…?
You know what’s so funny about it is that I actually think there is an “Expenda-Belles,” it’s just a different studio. So there really is that movie, but that’s kind of like – from my understanding – that’s more Charlie’s Angels, kind of tongue in cheek, and ours is more like… Gina and I could really kick some ass. So I think that’s the difference right there. I would never want to get in a ring with Gina, but I think that I can fake that I’m just as competent as she. [Laughs] So I’m going to learn a lot from her, because I’m very good at faking being tough, but she’s the real deal.
Is there anyone you’re hoping they can get for that?
Oh my god, yeah, there’s a slew. There’s such a slew. I’m such a few fan of Milla [Jovovich]. I’m a huge fan of Kate Beckinsale. Sigourney Weaver gets me excited. Angelina Jolie… There’s just so many women that do tough really well. Actually, there’s not so many, there’s a handful, but I think that if we can get that handful we’re going to have a great movie.
William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline's Film Channel, co-host of The B-Movies Podcast, co-star of The Trailer Hitch, and the writer of The Test of Time. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.