SDCC: Espenson on creating worlds in Caprica and The Plan

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Jane Espenson wrote and executive-produced Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, and now she's the show runner for the upcoming BSG prequel Caprica. She spoke with reporters about her newfound geek celebrity at Comic-Con in San Diego on Saturday.

About her sci-fi celebrity, she laughed. "It looks like that from the outside," she said. "It doesn't feel like that from in here. Because I'm going like, 'Oy, Tim Minear is getting to do Alien Nation. I want to do Alien Nation.' But I realize I can't do everything sci-fi. But I so much want to. But I am loving that after years in sitcoms, I seem to have found a niche that fits me, and it's working."

We asked her about The Plan and whether it was difficult to get into the Cylon mindset. "I love writing immoral characters," she said. "I don't find it hard at all. I don't know what that says about me. But anytime you write a scene, one of the great things about writing dialogue, ... you are forced to be every character in the scene, and switch back and forth, so any scene where you're writing either a villain or a shallow person or a self-deluded person or an immoral person of any kind, you're putting yourself in their place. And I think that's just plain fun. I have no problem with it. I don't want to go out and do what they're doing, but I certainly think it's valuable to put yourself in their head. And I really think ... that's how we should deal with people that we see in day-to-day life or in big geopolitical stuff. ... 'Well, they're crazy.' ... 'Well, are they?' If I just understood their point of view, would I be able to see how they got to the crazy point of view and actually deal with it? And I think that's really a valuable skill."

She talked about her favorite Caprica characters to write. "Sister Clarice [Polly Walker] is going to blow your underpants off," Espenson said. "She is an amazing character. Really, really fun to write. Lacy's [Magda Apanowicz] got a really distinctive voice. Serge [Jim Thomson], the little house robot, is like my favorite character now. He's so much fun to write. ... Very earnest, wants to help, but has a rather fundamental artificial intelligence, so he's sort of limited in what he can do. But you sort of get the sense that he wants to do more. I just love writing for Serge. But they're all fun. ... Sam, the gangster brother. So much fun to write, because I find that I'm making an effort not to write him as a gangster, 'dees and dos' kind of guy. I want to write him as self-educated and thoughtful. I'm trying keep his grammar perfect, or close to, you know. And yet have you believe that he's a gangster. It's so fun to take away the cues that only say gangster and yet keep him in that job. I'm finding Sam both a challenge and the most rewarding to write."

She also gave us a glimpse into creating the different planets. "I'm trying really hard to go against stereotypes," Espenson said. "Bob Harris actually wrote a document for the writers to use as their internal guide that's about the culture of these 12 colonies, and he worked really hard to go, 'This one is like India, except ... ' and then all the different ways in which a planet could have a really large impoverished underclass, and it has other things going on. It's also the home to some of the finest resorts in all of the colonies. So who works at those resorts, and what are their lives like? You just go, there's 12 TV series here, ... and the colonies are big. You don't just go, this is the desert one, this is the jungle one. ... How does that work? And what about a colony like Libran that's just sort of a wildlife preserve, and the international court system. ... It's so much fun. We're not just making a planet. We're making 12 of them."