First and foremost, unlike Jeb Bush during the 2016 election cycle, I would like to plead with audiences at comic cons not to clap at every little thing actors say at big panels for beloved shows. We get it, you love the show; you wouldn’t be in the room if you didn’t. There were only two actors at this panel, Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos, but they’re an entertaining pair. If you’re not familiar with Battlestar Galactica, you should be, but also, they play President Laura Roslin and Commander and later Admiral William Adama. Their two characters developed a strong relationship over the course of the series, although they kind of hated each other in the beginning.
Here are five things we learned at the Battlestar Galactica panel. Why five? Because the Final Five, that’s why.
1. Both of them are very proud of New York City
When McDonnell and Olmos came up as actors, they came up in New York City theatre. McDonnell kicked off the panel by thanking New York for leading the way in the fight against COVID, as well as thanking the crowd for wearing their masks the entire time. Olmos replied “Ditto,” which became a running joke throughout the panel. It’s notable that they came to New York Comic Con at all this year, considering they’re both older actors. But there they were, on the Main Stage, exchanging jokes and telling many stories over the course of the hour, in front of a fairly large crowd.
2. Neither of them had ever seen the original Battlestar Galactica
McDonnell was at Sardi’s when her agent approached her about the role of President Roslin, and she was hesitant at first, because she had never seen Battlestar Galactica, and she really didn’t want to move to Canada with a child in middle school. She noted that in the 70s, she would’ve been too busy with New York theatre to have watched television, which Olmos agreed with. But they both really loved the script, and think it’s one of the best pilots they’ve ever read. They were also extremely complimentary of Ronald D. Moore throughout the panel: I think the word “genius” was bandied around a bit.
3. The cast was really paranoid about the Final Five, and some of them were really angry when they were revealed
One of the most entertaining stories came when the two recounted how everyone in the cast was horribly paranoid about the Final Five Cylon reveal, with Michael Hogan, who played Colonel Saul Tigh leaving the table read after saying “bullshit,” and Tigh’s rage when he discovers he’s a Cylon was genuine. McDonnell joked though that she had kind of wished President Roslin was a Cylon so she could get literally any other outfit. Neither of them knew who the Final Five were before they were revealed.
4. Mary McDonnell struggled with some of the moral and ethical decisions President Roslin had to make on Battlestar Galactica
An all-time great moment of this panel, and probably the entire con so far, was when McDonnell talked about wrestling with President Roslin’s thought process during so many of her decisions, including banning abortion. McDonnell took a stand in this moment, although she hesitated at first, but she said she was so angry about the Texas abortion law, and said she’d love to take the federal judge who blocked the law to dinner. She also wished she had her own personal airlock.
5. They really, really appreciate the fans and conventions
Both actors expressed their love for the ardent fans of Battlestar Galactica, and how much they love interacting with fans at cons, and just talking to them about their lives and interests. Both often ask what the fan in question does for work, and they just carry on a conversation for however long they can. Olmos also joked about his tendency to write long comments on photos when fans ask for autographs. McDonnell said she feels a responsibility to the world because of how much President Roslin means to young girls and women, especially those who ended up going into politics.
All in all, this was a good panel, although I ducked out after a terrible fan question, which Olmos and McDonnell handled as graciously as they could. This panel really demonstrated the need to pre-screen questions, though. And perhaps have applause signs, like at late night shows.
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Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos entertained the crowd at the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA NYCC ’21 panel.
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