Monday, April 14, 2014

One of the epic story lines in the first season of the rebooted BSG was that of Lieutenant (j.g.) Sharon "Boomer" Valerii and Lieutenant Karl "Helo" Agathon. Pilot and co-pilot aboard a Raptor -- an armed, electronic counter-measures/transport craft -- they land on Caprica after the genocide and discover thousands of people still alive.

Helo stays behind so that civilians with skills (like doctors, farmers, engineers, and priests) can get to the Galactica and away from the nuclear holocaust.

Recasting the role of Boomer from African to Asian and from male to female was a major step for the series, which included a far larger number of women in major roles than the 1978 series.

The addition of Helo proved to be a major one. Originally conceived of as a minor role that would go away after mini-series, Helo proved so popular that minor scenes of his adventures on Cylon-occupied Caprica were added to the first season. He eventually turned into a major character, and indeed may well be considered to be "the" major character on the show (along with Boomer).

Interestingly, Helo was played by Tahmoh Penikett -- whose mother is a member of the White River Band of the Kluane people of Yukon Territory, Canada. Tahmoh has been public about the fact that he dislikes showing skin on film. He's one of those extremely handsome guys who thinks that physical looks is the least important thing in the world, and much prefers a winning personality and good acting to flexing his abs.

He downplays the fact that he's probably one of the best-known Native North American actors in the world (although he's not lived on the res, which is probably why).

Ooooh, marry me Tahmoh!

He's quite unlike your typical milky-skinned Hollywood actor. His skin tone has an almost freckled quality to it, and is not translucent the way most Calvin Klein and Andrew Christian models are. He comes across as a more real actor, simply by the way he looks. You don't get the idea that he just spent 3 hours in the spa/lon the way the boys on Supernatural do.

1 comment:

  1. I disagree that he is downplaying his heritage. On the contrary, if you search youtube or google him, you will find him taking every opportunity to draw attention not only to his Upper Tanana side but to emphasize that he self-identifies as belonging to that culture, and is close to that side of the family. I've heard him talk about his mother's ordeal at a residential school, about his grandmother who was a great matriarch of the Upper Tanana, how he learned everything from her stories and how his native side (her in particular) shaped his spiritual beliefs. He even talked about growing up "running around little northern settlements with [his] native cousins" and literally hating his white skin. He very much self-identifies as being part of that culture just as much as his father's.

    I think he's in a kind of double-bind: at first glance, he often reads as "white" (although if you look at him again knowing his background it's kind of obvious he isn't, even if it's not so obvious in exactly what way). So if he were cast as as a Native character, part of the audience at least would think a white guy had been cast, which would be a step backward. Or would look like it, anyway.