On Tuesday the 11th of June Sci Fi Pulse had the wonderful opportunity to chat with Jack Stauffer from Battlestar Galactica. The actor was very enthusiastic to talk to me on many topics ranging from his involvement with theatre as well as his involvement in the BG 2nd Coming Trailer and his interest in Tennis.
Jack has been involved in many theatrical projects of late, but has had a strong presence on Television in the past. So I asked him which of the two mediums he enjoyed most as an actor.
“I love the Theatre because of the completeness of the work presented and also because of the instant reaction it gets from the audience. Sure television pays more, but there is nothing better than performing for a live audience. The two mediums are different. When performing for the camera you have to internalise your emotions more, because the camera picks up the tiniest reaction. On stage your reactions have to be broader. On stage you also start at the beginning and go to the end. On film one of the hardest things to do is work out of sequence. Sometimes early in the shooting schedule, you film a scene that actually appears late in the finished product. This can be tricky because you haven’t worked on the material that leads up to this particular event. I have often wished I could go back and reshoot a scene I had done earlier. If I had to pick between the mediums, I would always choose the stage. What I love about the Theatre is the instant communication that happens between myself as the actor and the audience.”
As many people know Battlestar Galactica was not the first time that Jack Stauffer had worked with his friend and fellow Galactica cast member Richard Hatch. Both actors started their TV careers in the AMC Soap opera ‘All My Children’ which was shot in New York. I asked the actor if both he and Richard had to form a new chemistry with each other for Battlestar Galactica.
“No, in fact ABC wanted to see us act together because of the work we had done on ‘All My Children’. Richard and I always had good chemistry together because we complemented each other as actors. I kind of see Richard and me like one of the famous double acts such as Abbot and Costello or Laurel and Hardy. Richard was the tall dark and handsome guy who got all the Daughters while I was the blonde all American boy who got all the Mothers.”
Jack Stauffer has worn many hats in both Television and Theatre and has even tried his hand at both producing and directing. I thought it would be interesting to ask about the technical differences between acting on a stage and acting in a Television show, I got the impression off of Jacks tone of voice that he really enjoyed discussing this topic with me.
“It is really interesting that you should ask me this question, because Richard and I discussed this at a convention recently. In Stage acting you have separation from the audience so you have to make your gestures and your facial expressions that much bigger to accommodate those sitting at the very back of the theatre. However when you do Television you have to minimize everything because the camera picks up the smallest detail. So a big facial expression, which you would use on the Stage, might be nothing more than an eye movement on film. The best way to describe it is to use an old sports adage ‘You have to change your game plan’.
When we shot the second coming trailer I had just come back from having done three theatrical performances, Often Richard had to pull me aside and tell me that I needed to bring my performance down. I was convinced that I was hardly reacting at all, but when we looked at the footage, I was shocked at how big my gestures were.”
My next question for Jack moved more into the realm of his Battlestar character Bojay so I asked him where he thought he would have taken Bojay if the 2nd coming trailer had sold the networks on the idea of the revival.
“Actually during the time we were making the 2nd coming trailer Richard and I discussed this at some length. The trouble was we could not have too many people on the bridge of the Galactica. We needed a mixture of new and old cast members, and we could only have one commander. So in the end we came to the conclusion that the best way to integrate Bojay into the plot was to have him as the R&D (research and development) Officer. We also wanted to keep Bojay’s feisty attitude. I sort of likened him to the character George Kennedy portrayed in the Airport movies. If you remember he would be the one always saying ‘What the hell have you done to my plane.’ The Galactica was a rag-tag fleet, short on resources. Anything new in the way of weaponry would have to be prototypes. For instance, there couldn’t be a fleet of the new Scarlet Vipers. There would only be one or two and these were Bojay’s babies. So Bojay would be like shouting out and cussing the other pilots saying things like, ‘What the hell you doing to my Vipers?’ Of course Bojay, although he is much older, can still fly circles around all those new wet behind the ears pilots.”
To use an Athletic term to accommodate Jacks fondness for sporting analogies, off we went with a hop skip and a jump back to his passion for theatrical works, particularly musicals. One of the roles that the actor is very proud to talk about is his portrayal of Fagin from the musical ‘Oliver’. I then asked if he based his performance in anyway on the Ron Moody portrayal.
“I never looked at Ron Moody’s performance as something I should copy. Although that would have been very flattering to Ron Moody, it would not have been me being honest to myself. Actually for my portrayal of the role I tried to envision more of what Dickens had in mind. So I went for a slightly darker more sinister Fagin whilst at the same time trying not to make him too frightening to the younger members of the audience. Life in London at the turn of the century was far different from what it is today. People were filthy. Poverty was rampant. People would die of things such as typhoid and scabies and all manner of diseases. Children’s workhouses so lightly portrayed in the film were in fact despicable places to live. So I felt Fagin could be a lot darker than he was in the Musical, because had Fagin been a real person in that time he would have probably done a whole lot more to exploit those children than just have them steal for him. He would have probably been a paedophile as well.”
Jack must have pulled it off because he received rave reviews for his performance. “People would come up to me, and say, ‘I don’t know what it is but there was something really unique about your portrayal of the role.’ As an actor I always try to bring something different to a role and tend not to imitate someone else’s work.” You can view samples of Jacks Performance of Fagin and Alfie from ‘My Fair Lady’ on the media page’s at www.jackstaufferbojay.com and you can also read more about Jacks work in Theatre at ‘The Monterey County Theatre Alliance’ website.
Changing the subject again we shifted over to Richards new project ‘The Great War Of Magellan’ I asked the actor what his involvement was in this new promo movie and Jack was very quick to point out my error here. “Actually I am not involved in the new promo, I did do a little work on it at the start, but with none of the actors being paid for the work Richard and I felt that it would be unfair for me to travel all that way for a couple of days shooting. However I have seen a lot of the footage and it’s great. Richard has promised me that should he eventually sell the promo and get a series out of it, there is a role waiting for me.”
It is no secret that as well as his love of theatre Jack is also quite the Tennis enthusiast and has coached many celebrities in the game. Jack was very excited to talk to about his interest in the game. When I asked him if he had ever met any of the newer players such as Agassi. “I have never met any of the newer ones, but I have met with some of the older Australian players such as Newcomb, Roswall and Emerson when the celebrity tennis circuit started and I even got to go to Palm Springs. This was not because I was a big Star however; it was mostly because there were not many Celebrities back then that could play well. I ended up teaching a lot of TV Celebs who took my place because the public wanted to see the bigger names.”
Jacks coaching abilities do not end with having coached celebrities however. “I also coached Meilin Tu who eventually went onto to beat a young Martina Hingis in the US Open Junior Championships at Flushing Meadows.”
Jack takes such pride in this that he has a photo of the scoreboard from the game.
Jack went onto to share a Tennis story, which could have been the premise for MTV’s Celebrity Death Match.
“The best Tennis story though was about the early days of the Virginia Slims tour. They couldn’t get anyone to go see the women. So they are in LA, at the forum and I get invited along with my good friend and fellow actor Chris Connelly (Peyton Place, Paper Moon) to play a celeb match with Rosie Casals and another lady to be named later.
Rosie Casals wouldn’t play with me unless she knew I was good enough so I had to go to Beverly Hills Club and hit with her flunky. After she saw I could play she informed me that she didn’t give a shit (she has a mouth worse than any sailor) about any fxxxxxg celeb match and she had no intention of losing any match, celeb of otherwise. So we go to the forum and the other lady turns out to be a newcomer to the tour, a 17 year old gangly left hander from Chezkoslovakia — you got it — Martina Navratilova. So we play nice social mixed doubles and Martina hits it so I can get it and I hit it back and Martina hits it to Rosie and Rosie smacks Chris right between the eyes. All night long – Martina and I hit it nice and Rosie creams Chris every time the ball comes to her. Chris had black and blue welts all over his body!”
Jacks journey into the world of acting is not your typical story; in fact he was raised during a time when Television was new. Jacks Father was the CEO of a major advertising agency. And his Mother was a former producer for W.C.Fields. It was not unusual for Jack to see such a luminaries as Desi Arnez, Lucille Ball and Rosalind Russell every day. I asked if seeing these big Stars had anything to do with his decision to go into the acting profession.
“That’s a good question, and I would have to say that in so many ways it did have an effect, but I had always sought the limelight. I don’t know what it was, but something inside of me from very early on in my childhood drove me to seek the limelight. I always wanted to be on the stage although my parents did not really approve. They both wanted me to be a Doctor. I worked many summers as a respiratory therapist in the Stamford Hospital. In the end though, when I graduated from Northwestern, I moved to New York to pursue my dream of becoming an Actor.”
One of Jacks favourite types of Theatre is the musical, something he has excelled in time and time again. Favorite roles include Harold Hill from ‘The Music Man’ which he has done four times, Fagin from the Musical ‘Oliver’ and Professor Higgins and Alfie in ‘My Fair Lady’. The actor has also been known to sing a few songs on the convention scene. I asked Jack if he could see himself producing a CD to be sold on his website.
“No. It would be too expensive with all the royalties that I would have to pay. I also would want to record everything with an orchestra. The cost of that would be astronomical. I do enjoy performing at the Conventions though, and was really surprised initially at how well the fans responded to it. It started out as a light-hearted roasting of Richard, but it has evolved over time into a full blown cabaret act which I have titled ‘Why Didn’t I Get The Girl’”
So is there any dream role Jack would like to portray. There are a few. The lead role in “Damn Yankees” is one. I would like to play ‘Professor Higgins’ again from ‘My Fair Lady’. One role I have never played but would like to play would be ‘Scrooge’ the stage version of the musical which starred Albert Finney. I would also like to play either of the two lead roles in ‘La Cage Aux Folles’, which is the French play from which the movie ‘The Bird Cage’ was adapted.”
In past interviews with a few of the other Battlestar Galactica web sites Jack has shared quite a few funny stories about his time on the AMC soap which his TV Career started in ‘All My Children’ I asked if there were any funny stories from his brief time on Battlestar Galactica.
“Yes there are a few, but not really any that I was directly involved with. You see I was really only brought in as a guest star on the show. Actually, in the original script for ‘Living Legend’ Bojay dies. It was not until Guy Magar, noticed that Richard and I seemed to bounce pretty well off each other. I assume Magar told Glen about me because the next thing I know am called into his office. So I think I’m about to be fired, which is usually the reason an actor is called into the office. Then to my surprise Glen says to me, ‘Look it’s very obvious that you would be a great asset to the show… I’d like you to stay on’. Unfortunately at that time I was under contract for a few other jobs. Glen then said, ‘That’s quite a relief because I do not know what to do with you.’ I would like to write you in a few other episodes and then really develop your character in the second season.- – – We never got there.
There were a few funny moments I witnessed though. While we were filming Living Legend there is a sequence where Dirk (Starbuck) is running down the stairs being pursued by a group of Cylons, anyway one of the guys in the Cylon suit stumbles and falls into all the others behind him and they all go down like a pile of dominos. One great moment I witnessed was when Universal started to charge the cast and crew for the refreshments. By the time I arrived, the show was already hopelessly over budget. To help cut costs some genius decided they should stop providing free coffee and doughnuts. This might have saved them about $200 a day on a show that cost over a million an episode. They put this little sign on the table which said coffee 50 cents or something like that. Lorne Greene and Lloyd Bridges took one look at this and marched in full Battlestar regalia out of the sound stage across the parking lots and up into the black tower. We waited and we waited and then after awhile Lorne and Lloyd came back with this little guy wearing a black suit in tow. He proceeded to remove the sign, and we went back to work.”
With Tennis being such a conversational point between Jack, and myself I asked him who he would tip to win the Wimbledon Championship this year.
“I would say that Safin should win if he doesn’t have a mental breakdown. Otherwise it would be between Hewitt and Agassi, Sampras is history.”
My final question for Jack was one that he has been asked time and again. But the actor was generous enough to fill me in on his viewpoint of the Re Imagining of the Battlestar series by the Sci Fi Channel.
“My biggest complaint about this is that no one would have thought about Re Imagining or reviving anything if it was not for Richard pitching the idea to the fans and rallying all the fan support and producing the BG 2nd Coming Trailer. This is what got the fans involved and led to the massive write in campaign. That is what sparked Universals interest – not some divine inspiration on their part.
If they are going to make BSG – then make BSG. What is so difficult about this? There has never been a better time to revive this show given the current political climate. BSG was not a space show. It was a show about the search for identity, human values, etc. It just happened to be set in space. The show had a wonderful mythology, and was multigenerational to begin with. Lorne Green and Lloyd Bridges were to Richard, Dirk, Herb, Annie, Laurette and myself what we could now be to a younger generation. This is a no brainer.
I think what’s happened here with this re imaging is the fact that the studios felt threatened by Richard having made the 2nd coming trailer and the positive response. Actors should know their place! How dare an actor assume that he can produce or direct! We are supposed to be good little drones and do and say what we are told. As you can see I’m not very polite when it comes to this subject, unlike Richard who is just a really nice guy who worked Pro Bono to get the fans interest. In fact we all did. Universal will probably just go ahead and make their Galactica Re Imaging anyhow, and when it turns out that it does not get the ratings they will probably just turn around and say, ‘We told you there wasn’t a market for this’. I just say why not make the Galactica that the fans want?”
You can read more about Jack many acting credits in both Theatre and Television at www.jackstaufferbojay.com where you will find a neat media area with samples of Jacks work in musical Theatre as well as a complete resume of Jacks many acting roles to date.
To sum this interview up I very much enjoyed my time with Jack and found a lot of what he had to say about his career and his many other interest to be both intuitive and fun. In fact Jack put me at ease right away from the moment I got through to him on the phone. I have a sneaky suspicion that Jack is indeed a psychic, because he knew who I was immediately upon picking up the phone. All in all I enjoyed my time talking to the actor and found that we shared quite a few common interest other than Battlestar Galactica.
By Ian M. Cullen