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Caprica Producer Jane Espenson Redefines Racism in the BSG Universe

Caprica Producer Jane Espenson Redefines Racism in the BSG Universe” width=”560″/>

Battlestar Galactica’s executive producer Jane Espenson discusses her new prequel series Caprica — the pilot for which is out next week on DVD — and promises her upcoming movie, The Plan, will finally let us in on the Cylons’ schemes.

Q: What is the idea behind Caprica?

A: The idea is to tell the story of some very specific people who live on Caprica at the time of the invention of the modern Cylons, and how it involves a whole complex world of culture and conflict and organized crime and family tensions and corporate misdeeds. It’s a world that’s spinning faster and faster and we know it’s about to spin itself apart, but the people living there haven’t quite figured that out yet.

Q: Do you think this show will appeal to women more than Battlestar Galactica did?

A: I think the audience might include more women, yes. But that’s not directing decisions in the writers’ room. I think the best yardstick is to write what you would want to see. If you keep aiming away from your own preference and toward this mythical thing that the supposedly single-minded audience wants, you end up aiming in the dark.

Q: People have said BSG didn’t need to be science fiction to get the story across. If that’s true, would it be even more true for Caprica?

A: Any story worth telling relates to real life in some meaningful way. Scifi allows you to tell meaningful stories without seeming too preachy — it adds a metaphorical layer between the story and the real world. Scifi is dismissed as ungrounded fluff, but it’s actually the opposite. Caprica is even more about the current state of the world than BSG was — the scifi elements are what allow that. Setting a show in a literally different world isn’t the only way to create a lens like that: The Sopranos and Rome achieved the same effect.

Q: There’s a lot of really blatant racism in Caprica — something you got a hint of in BSG but never really saw head-on.

A: Yeah, having a common enemy does a really good job of bringing people together. We always knew that there were tensions between the residents of the various Colonies before the Cylons came along, and now we get to explore that some more. We know from real life that it seems impossible to achieve peace on one planet. Twelve planets… it seems too Utopian to think that they wouldn’t have conflicts. And I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that racism in the BSG universe is entirely cultural — not based on ethnicity — and that it exists in a world with little prejudice based on gender or orientation. Separating cultural conflict from conflict along all those other axes… it makes it starker.

Q: Ron Moore explained when he was writing the BSG finale that he had to remind himself, ‘It’s the characters, stupid!’ — that the storytelling always came back to the character interactions. Is that your motto for this show as well?

A: I always said that BSG was such a joy to write because you could put any two characters in a scene together and their pasts would instantly charge their interaction. On Caprica, you get the same effect, right out of the pilot. You learn more about monotheists and The Soldiers of the One, more about this crime syndicate that Joseph Adama is wrapped up in, more about Graystone Industries and their new Cylon invention. And you’ll learn more about the conflicts between the colonies and the culture of Caprica. But, it always comes back to getting to know these characters.

Q: One of the surprises in BSG was that the Cylon centurions were the ones who believed in a single God — we learn in Caprica why that is.

A: We learn why it is, and we learn that it might not have come from a place of love and peace. I think the exploration of the origins of monotheism is fascinating and it’s one of my favorite themes in the show.

Q: The introduction to Battlestar Galactica always said the Cylons had a plan, but some people felt we never got a clear vision of it. Now you’ve got this movie coming out called The Plan. Is the idea here to finally answer this lingering question?

A: That is very much at the center of the movie, yes. We wanted to explain things that you might not have even realized needed an explanation — tiny little mysteries that we could address. That was my greatest joy in making the movie — trying to find satisfying little connections. I want The Plan to feel like a gift to the really observant fans.

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