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SYFY WIRE Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica's Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos reveal Cylon secrets, COVID-era bond at NYCC

By Brian Silliman
Battlestar Galactica Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell

The 2003 reboot of Battlestar Galactica may have ended many years ago, but its brilliance still burns bright. The dying leader shall know the truth of the opera house, and this landmark piece of science fiction storytelling must always be celebrated. 

Such was the case at New York Comic Con 2021, where none other than Mary McDonnell (President Laura Roslin) and Edward James Olmos (Admiral William Adama) reunited on stage. Any chance to hear inside information about this series is a gift, but to have it come from McDonnell and Olmos themselves (who form one of the greatest television romances of all time in the series, fight us) is a special moment. 

SYFY WIRE was on deck to stand by our President and our Admiral. All together now: So say we all! 

Neither McDonnell or Olmos had seen the original Battlestar Galactica TV series, and both say they were a bit dubious about the reboot. But after reading the script, both of them were sold. Series creator Ronald D. Moore told McDonnell that her Roslin would live to see Earth at the end, and then die soon after.

“I got a little nervous when they found that other Earth," McDonnell remarked, adding (after hitting Olmos) that it was because "this relationship had blossomed." She thanked the audience for going all in on a romance between two people in their "older years." Olmos had thought that he'd done everything he needed to do in science fiction after appearing in Blade Runner, but Moore's writing swept him in too. “I was very fortunate to be a part of this one," he said. "This is the best usage of television I’ve ever been a part of in my life.” 

They both remembered the dearly departed Richard Hatch, who starred in the original series and came back to play Tom Zarek in the reboot. He was dubious as well, but became a huge defender of it once it began. According to Olmos, “The best acting he’s ever done is in this program.” 

Battlestar Galactica Retrospective with Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell (Photo by Bennett Raglin_Getty Images for ReedPop)

Both said that they didn't know who the famous "final five" Cylons were until they got the scripts for those episodes, and they said that even some of the actors who ended up playing those Cylons didn't know. “We found out the same time a lot of the actors who were portraying those roles found out, and they were pissed," Olmos said. "A lot of anger, especially from Michael Hogan [Colonel Tigh] who is a wonderful person and human being. He was so angry, and he took that... he walked out of the reading. He stood up and said bulls**t.” 

McDonnell said that they were all "profoundly paranoid" wanting to find out, but that she and Olmos were pretty sure they weren’t Cylons. She also maintained that the paranoia was justified, because the shift amounted to playing a new character all of a sudden. “You can’t help but feel betrayed for a while,” she said, adding that they have to take their characters personally to give them meaning. Olmos said that you can see that anger on Hogan's face while watching the series, and McDonnell admitted that a small part of her wouldn't have minded because she'd "get all these new clothes." 

Her most emblematic moment as Roslin came in Season 4, when Adama (now clearly the love of her life) was being threatened. She utters the chilling line, "I'm coming for all of you," over the comms. The line made her realize that Roslin was a powerhouse of rage and loss, and that it was just "a really profound and insightful moment, to see what we carry as humans.” When Adama  was in jeopardy, “there was nothing she wouldn’t have done," McDonnell said.

For Olmos, his most difficult scene was putting the ring on Roslin's finger after her death. "It was the last thing we shot together as the actors in the show," he said, adding, "It ended up becoming the truth of what life is, the cycle. Every one of you is gonna die, so come to terms with it now.” 

Both of them loved the ending of the series, and after McDonnell remarked that the two of them were "definitely gonna get kicked out of this convention" after their discussion turned political. There was nothing but love and friendship coming from the two of them, though, and the bond of Laura and Bill came to life for the entire length of the panel. 

“She was the best thing that came out of the whole program," Olmos said. "We became friends in the year 2003. This became something more than any of us ever anticipated.” 

“Our families know each other," McDonnell added. "Ed was one of three or four or five people who came to my house during COVID. That’s how much I value this guy. I tried to give him breakfast one morning and I don’t cook. Truly one of the best things to come out of it was this.” 

If you're looking to revisit the saga, Battlestar Galactica is streaming now on Peacock. A mysterious revivial of the show is also in the works at the streamer.

Click here to check out all of SYFY WIRE's coverage of New York Comic Con 2021.