Green Lantern: Interview With Tricia Helfer
It’s only a couple of weeks until Green Lantern: First Flight arrives, so here’s the latest in a series of interviews provided by Warner Home Video. This time it’s Tricia Helfer, the voice of Boodikka, and geek-favorite actress from Battlestar Galactica.
QUESTION: What did you seek to convey vocally as Boodikka?
TRICIA HELFER: Boodikka’s a fighter, a protector. She is very honorable in that she does what she thinks is right, even if some things go against the grain. She’s certainly not an evil character per se, but she does things that she thinks are good for society. She’s not really sexy in terms of her personality, so she’s not trying to reel Hal in — that relationship is more like comrades. So I wanted to play Boodikka both strong and sweet.
QUESTION: Are there aspects of Boodikka that are familiar to you?
TRICIA HELFER: I think there are some aspects of Boodikka in other characters. I wouldn’t say she’s like Number Six at all, really, but there’s some clones of Six that are similar. I’d kind of say she’s a little bit like Natalie from the fourth season of Battlestar because she’s a bit of a leader in her own way, she’s strong and intelligent, and she does what she thinks is right when she feels very strongly about certain things — as Natalie did taking sides against her Cylon counterparts.
QUESTION: This is only your second voiceover role. Was there anything particularly special that enticed you to accept the role?
TRICIA HELFER: What made me say yes to doing the movie and voicing Boodikka was that I just thought it was a really sweet story. I didn’t really have any preconceptions of the role or the story. I’m not very well read in comics, so I went into this with a completely open mind. I loved the script — there was no flipping through it. It was a good, solid story.
QUESTION: Were you familiar with “Green Lantern” at all?
TRICIA HELFER: I did a little research, but not too much. I grew up without a television on a farm in the middle of nowhere, so I really didn’t see hardly any movies or TV series, and no cartoons. So I kind of have to go into things with a really blank slate, an open mind, and I think sometimes that’s good actually for voices because you don’t go in with anything really preconceived. I never feel like I have to fit a certain (type) because I’ve seen this character played that way before. I can read the script and go in feeling with my own gut instinct. And then (she laughs) you have a nice room full of people that tell you if you’re messing up or to try it different way.
QUESTION: What did you do out in the “middle of nowhere” for entertainment?
TRICIA HELFER: I worked a lot. I was a farm hand, so I grew up driving tractors and fixing farm machinery and picking rocks out of fields and driving. I rod weeded and disked and harrowed and that kind of stuff. I was a tomboy. Between that and school and being big into sports, that was kind of my life. So I can change my oil and fix a flat tire, but I can’t really get into a pop culture discussion.
QUESTION: How do you go from rod weeding to walking the runway to starring on television?
TRICIA HELFER: I was planning on going to university to study to go into psychology. And that’s when, as they say, I was discovered by a model scout. I’d have never thought of being a model. Or acting. But I’d been modeling for eight years, and thought I needed more of a challenge. So I took an acting class to help with commercial auditions. The first class was like hitting me over the head with the passion bat. I just loved it. I said, “Okay, I’m going to try this — I’ll study for two years while I’m still having pictures taken of me.” Then I moved out to LA and, a year later, got Battlestar. It’s just kind of been rolling and I’ve been taking little steps up. Now I’ve started doing voiceover work and it’s so much fun.
QUESTION: What is the internal joy of acting for you?
TRICIA HELFER: I think it stems back to me wanting to go into psychology as a kid. Acting is essentially the study of character. It’s getting inside the character’s head. Who is this person? What makes her tick? What makes her angry? What makes her happy? I think that was the attraction for me immediately. I was terrified in my first acting class, but it was also like I’d had an amazing work out and a therapy session at the same time. I tend to be the kind of person that bottles everything up, so to be able to go out and release all these emotions in the name of a character was tremendous. It’s not me, Tricia, going crazy and being an idiot. It’s Boodikka. So acting, for me, is fun and a great release.
QUESTION: Okay, Dr. Helfer. Analyze Boodikka?
TRICIA HELFER: Well, going very Psych 101: Boodikka is completely messed up (she laughs).
QUESTION: What do you enjoy most about voiceover work?
TRICIA HELFER: It’s going to sound simple, but really, voiceovers are a lot of fun. You get to go in and really play. You can show up in your pajamas if you want to. I wouldn’t, but I could. It’s just freeing in that respect, especially when you’re used to being on set in some of the things I’ve filmed. Number Six was so much about the look — I’ve got a wig and the curls just have to be right and the makeup — all of that can be kind of exhausting in its own right. So to be able to come into a booth and only have to put on the headphones, it’s more like playing than being on set as an actor.
Plus, with voices you don’t have to be boxed in by what you look like. So far the characters that I’ve done in live-action tend to be along the sexy route, and even voicing Black Cat was in that vein. But voiceovers definitely give me the chance to play away from that — and it’s great fun to do something that’s not typical of what people would expect. I’d like to play somebody silly and fun and goofy. Most of the stuff I’ve done has been much more along the lines of serious and sexy or serious and smart. I think it would also be great fun to just be wacky and crazy and funny, too.
QUESTION: You’re a fairly recognizable part of the Battlestar universe, and Sci-Fi fans can be very passionate. Has the fanboy attention been a positive experience for you?
TRICIA HELFER: I think Sci-Fi fans are fantastic. They get a bad rap and I think that’s unfair. It’s a genre that draws intelligence and creativity because you have to have a mind that can go to these outer reaches and digest the information. Some fans can get a little crazy, but they can do that in any fan situation. The conventions are a lot fun — I like getting out and meeting the fans. My favorite part is actually doing the stage Q&A, getting the questions and hearing what they want to know. Half the time I don’t know the answers, but you get a great perspective on the fans’ view of your show.
What’s funny is that without the white hair and the red dress, most people at conventions don’t really recognize me from Battlestar. When I first started doing conventions, I’d literally have to have a name plate on my table. I’m starting to get a little less anonymous. Fans actually are kind of shy around me — I think I scare some of them because of my Number Six character. She’s quite strong and mean sometimes, so people are usually very polite around me and kind of nervous about coming up to me. Maybe that will change once people know that I’m actually nice and I’m not an evil robot.
QUESTION: Are you a fan of Science Fiction?
TRICIA HELFER: I’m a fan of Science Fiction in that I grew up without a television and rarely went to movies, but what we did see were the Star Treks and the Star Wars and Superman films. My dad was a Science Fiction fan, so we’d go to see those big event movies. I can’t really necessarily remember details to the level of most fans, but I do remember seeing them, and I loved them when I was a kid. Although earwigs (in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan) scared the b-Jesus out of me. I was very young and I remember that scene, and it really had a frightening effect on me.
We drove out from Alberta, Canada to British Columbia to the orchards to get peaches, and we were driving back and a peach bug — I think that’s what they’re called, and they look like the earwigs — crawled over the seat from the boxes in the back and bit my sister. I was terrified. I wouldn’t sleep the entire ride home, and it was a 15-hour drive. I sat in the back and literally white-knuckled on the seat because I was terrified that an earwig was going to get me. Maybe I’ve been a little scarred by that incident — maybe that’s why I don’t really see anything any more. I’m scared of the earwigs. Hmmm …
QUESTION: Do you have a reference point when you’re playing Buddika?
TRICIA HELFER: For me, because I didn’t have the animation to look at, playing Boodikka was all about my imagination. So it’s important for me to know the entire script. I’ve heard of some actors that just read their lines and that’s it, but for me to really understand the context of the story, I really want to know what is going on with the entire picture. If you’re playing a cop or something like that, you have much more reference to go on. But when you’re a super hero, you don’t have a lot of reference to go on. I mean, I can’t really fly. I can’t really construct a huge Saran Wrap to wrap a guy up and catch him. It’s all imagination and fun. So you just kind of have to let it go and pretend. At the same time, you can’t be silly with it unless it calls for being silly. You have to put a seriousness to it, to make it believable.
QUESTION: So now you’re going to voice a role in the next version of Halo. Are you much of a gamer?
TRICIA HELFER: I played Frogger on our first family computer. I only made it to the second round. I got past the stream and made it to the highway. Squish. I never got past that, so I quit. There’s definitely coordination and a skill involved in video games that I just don’t possess.
QUESTION: You have cats. You voiced Black Cat [in Spectacular Spider-Man]. You’ve said that you favorite comics character is Catwoman. What is this attraction to cats?
TRICIA HELFER: Aside from the fact that they’re soft and cuddly and kissable, I love their personalities. I love the differences in them. I’m an animal lover across the board, and I love dogs — but I find them a little needy. I find cats a little bit more like my personality, where sometimes I want to be needy and be cuddled and sometimes I’m like “You come near me, you’re gonna get your head bitten off.” I feel like I have a lot of moods and sides of my personality and I kind of feel that cats have that, too. They are who they are and they they’re not afraid to show it.
Green Lantern: First Flight will be available on July 28 as a single-disc DVD, a double-disc set, or Blu-ray.