Battlestar Galactica star Mary McDonnell, who played Laura Roslin, told SCI FI Wire that she found her character's fate in the series finale on Friday to be "very eloquent, very hopeful and very necessary." (Big spoilers ahead if you haven't seen the finale!)
Roslin finally succumbed to her disease in the finale, "Daybreak, Part 2," in a quiet and touching scene with Adama (Edward James Olmos). McDonnell said that she was particularly appreciative of the the flashbacks that depicted a healthy [though smoking] Roslin experiencing the events that prompted her to board the Galactica.
SCI FI Wire spoke to McDonnell last week, after an advance screening of the finale in New York. Following are edited excerpts from that exclusive conversation.
How satisfied were you with the way in which the series ended and also the way in which Roslin's storyline was concluded?
McDonnell: I was very pleased with how the series ended, primarily because I thought that it'd be impossible to explore the territory that this show did and find a way to synthesize the ideas towards something hopeful. If you would have told me a year and a half ago that this was where we were headed, and it would end up this way, with hope, I would have thought, "There's just no way." And I remember the fans were saying, "This is getting darker and darker. How do they recover?" So I felt it was very eloquent, very hopeful and very necessary. I think the ideas were right on.
The flashbacks to a healthy, vital Roslin provided a great contrast to the woman who was drugged up just to survive the final battle. For you as an actress, what did it mean to have that point/counterpoint to play?
McDonnell: I think that's one of the nicest things a writer has ever done for an actress. To be perfectly honest with you, I read that and I called [executive producer] Ron [Moore] and said, "That's so loving, that you did that," because otherwise it was just hard to look at her. It's hard to watch someone deteriorate, and showing us how she lived out her destiny made it even more powerful. One phone call, one romp in the bedroom, realizing that life is more than that, she went on board, and that led her to one of the most beautiful moments in her life, ... which was her death. Oh, my God! That was amazing, right?
How hard was it to play that death scene?
McDonnell: It was very hard. We would do a take, and my hand would fall, and Eddie [James Olmos] would pick up my hand. Laura was dead by this point, so as an actress I had to not have anything happening whatsoever. But then Eddie's teardrops would fall onto my wrist and that would make me cry. And so Laura would come back to life, and we'd have to say, "Cut!"
How about sitting in a room with an audience and watching that scene? How difficult was that?
McDonnell: I'd seen a lot of it, so that I was prepared, so that I wasn't seeing all of it for the first time there. But I'd also left some of it a mystery. Actually, I found it wonderful. Laura saw some of the stuff that she had to face up to.
The general perception is that Battlestar Galactica was more than just entertainment. What does that mean to you, personally?
McDonnell: I feel incredibly lucky. I feel very proud of the product, but I feel proud to have been inside an experience that connected us so directly and profoundly with issues that are important to everyone. The kind of people that I've met playing this part and the kind of situations I've been in, like the U.N., I never could have dreamed would come from a role that I was playing on television. It just doesn't compute. So most of what I feel about Battlestar is deep and profound gratitude, because I think the whole experience taught the characters and taught the people working on it mindfulness. And so, when the U.N. visit emerged, I thought, "Well, there you are. These are people trying to be extraordinarily mindful, trying to change the course of human history." These committees—the human rights committee, the committee on terrorism, the committee on children—they're people who are truly trying to change the course of human history. And we get to sit with them and think about this stuff. So we just feel deeply privileged.
How hard will this role be to top?
McDonnell: Really hard! The honest answer is I feel I need to slow down and take my time, because I have great expectations now, because I know there can be a character that's empowered and female and middle-aged and who can experience love at this age. I have great expectations. It's not always going to be in the writing, and that's OK, too. The point is I'm spoiled by Ron and his writing staff and by Eddie, and by everyone, really. Not ... spoiled. I've been ... uplifted, and I don't want to come back down. It may take a little time.