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Televisionary Exclusive: Showrunner Jane Espenson Talks About "Caprica" Series

While Battlestar Galactica may have ended about a month ago, fans of the award-winning Sci Fi series have been eagerly awaiting Caprica, the next (or is it previous?) chapter in the BSG saga, set roughly fifty years before the start of BSG's mini-series. (You can read my advance review here.)

With Caprica's two-hour pilot now available on DVD and as a digital download, I had a feeling many of you would be curious about what to expect when the Battlestar Galactica prequel series Caprica returns in 2010 as a full-fledged series of its own on Syfy.

To that end, I caught up with Caprica's showrunner/executive producer Jane Espenson a few weeks ago to find out what is in store for the residents of the doomed planet, how the series will be different from the two-hour pilot, how the notion of the One True God plays into things, and what fans of BSG should anticipate from this sleek series.

Televisionary: How would you pitch Caprica as a series to viewers of BSG who are suffering from some serious withdrawal pains? Are there inherent similarities or differences between the two series?

Jane Espenson: There are both. If you loved the core of BSG, the dense story-telling and the complicated characters, this is for you. On the other hand, our settings are very different. We are not a show with space dogfights. We've got other sources of excitement: domestic terrorism, organized crime and dangerous robots come to mind. If you're in it for the Viper-on-Raider action, this is a different show.

Q: The pilot seemed to draw a parallel between Caprica and Rome before the Fall. Is there the sense that there's a ticking clock here, given what we know about the future of Caprica?

Espenson: YES -- viewers know what the future holds for this world, so there will be a sense of the view from the top of the waterfall. But that doesn't mean that there will be a pessimistic or dour tone to the show. This is, in a way, the party at the top of that waterfall. And the parallel with Rome -- the place and the show -- is a good one. The exploration of the cultures of the Colonies before they unified is a big part of the joy of the show. The look of the world, the clothes, the temples, the customs that might appear bizarre to us... it's all there.

Q: How important is the notion of the monotheistic One True God to Caprica's story and the sense that man's eventual downfall is linked to both hubris and loss?

Espenson: The notion of the rise of monotheism is deeply ingrained in our stories. A number of our characters believe they have the answer that will halt the slide of Caprica -- some see the answers in monotheism, others in science, others in the state, others in polytheism. It's a wonderful question that we can keep returning to-- which of these are parts of the problem and which are parts of the solution?

Q: In Battlestar Galactica, the Twelve Colonies seemed to be a more or less unified front, represented by the Quorum of Twelve. Is that the case in Caprica? And if not, how would you categorize the interaction between the planets? Will we travel off-world at any point or is the action grounded on the planet of Caprica?

Espenson: The Colonies are not yet unified under a central government. And we WILL travel off-world to other colonies.

Q: There are quite a few familiar names from BSG on the writing staff of Caprica. Which writers are shifting over to work on Caprica? And who are the newbies on staff? (I heard Pushing Daisies' fantastic Kath Lingenfelter is on staff!)

Espenson: From BSG we have myself, Michael Taylor and Ryan Mottesheard. From Friday Night Lights we have the team of Patrick Massett and John Zinman. We do, indeed, have Kath Lingenfelter, and another young writer named Matt Roberts. It's a fantastic staff. And, of course, Ron Moore is around as well, guiding and shaping and inspiring.

Q: Now that you're overseeing the writers room (which you did on The Inside as well, I believe) as showrunner, how are you running the room? Do you break stories together as a team or assign scripts to individual writers?

Espenson: We do both, as most shows do. We designed the arc for much of season one with Ron [Moore] running the room. Then the staff and I "broke" the episodes and pitched them to Ron -- this is like presenting him with a general outline for the stories. Then every script was assigned to a writer. Right now, we are all engaged in writing scripts simultaneously, which will result in a glorious clash when they're all turned in at the same time.

(SPOILER ALERT!) Q: Regarding the pilot's ending, in which Daniel seemingly downloads Zoe's personality into the Centurion prototype, can we expect to see the development of a race of Centurions that do have individuality/free will? How does this moment tie into the BSG mythos as a whole? Is there a sense that this is the beginning of the end as much as it is the end of the beginning?

Espenson: There is no secret that this series is, in part, about the development of the Cylons in the Colonies, so I think you know how this ties into the overall BSG mythos. But it's how we get there that's going to have the surprises.

Q: Which of Caprica's diverse cast of characters have you found the most compelling to write for so far?

Espenson: It's impossible to pick a favorite at this point. They and I are still getting acquainted on the page, and I'm sure that's true for all the writers. But I will say that we made a tremendous effort to look at this first batch of episodes from the perspective of all the major characters to make sure that they all had great stories to embody.

Q: Lastly, what do you think viewers will be most surprised about when they see Caprica?

Espenson: The humor and fun. The pilot centered on a very dark moment, this terrorist attack. When we rejoin the show, everyone will still be reeling from that event, but they'll be beginning, almost subconsciously, to slip back into the patterns of life in which you might catch yourself laughing, making a dark joke at your own behalf, or noticing the absurdities of life again. Caprica is set in an interesting world with technological wonders that are going to be amazing to watch, too. So expect some fun, some funny, and some dazzle.

Caprica's two-hour pilot episode is available for purchase on DVD and digital download, while Caprica the series will launch on Syfy in 2010.


Karen said…
Caprica looks a little soap opera-ish to me but I'll give it a try since BSG was so utterly amazing!
Annie said…
Awesome interview, Jace! Love that you have access to people like Jane Espenson and can get them to open up about stuff like this! Well done. Watching the DVD tonight and I am sure I will love it!
Heatherette said…
Thanks for the great interview! Jane Espenson is one of my favorite writers and I can't wait to see what she, Ronald Moore, and the rest of the writing team do with Caprica!
Wes said…
Was on the fence about CAPRICA until I read this. I know that you loved the pilot but I wasn't sure how I would feel about the series until I read how JE envisioned the series which sounds really exciting! I'll be DLing the pilot (legally of course) and will let you know what I think. But the themes and ideas Espenson mentions are the ones that excited me the most about BSG in the first place.
Mazza said…
Awesome interview. I've been a fan of Jane since BtVS and she hasn't disappointed. I'm glad that she gave you this interview since you also loved the pilot, Jace. What she is talking about sounds amazing. I loved the pilot and can't wait for more Caprica and I like how she and the writers are making a link bet. Caprica and Ancient Rome and dealing with matters of society today like terrorism, artificial intelligence, racial identity, etc. It's a really cool setting for a show and I think the series is going to be great under Jane's watchful eye.
Randy said…
I watched the pilot episode of Caprica and have to say despite the "Cylon"?? storyline which is incompatible with what happens with BSG 50 years later, it was entertaining. I am hoping Moore and the others watched their own show and can offer storylines that will not tank the show for BSG fans.
Caprica Series said…
Great interview! Caprica is already shaping up to be an interesting story and the characters are quickly fleshing out. This is one of the best shows on tv right now!
Anonymous said…
Caprica was such a mature and well developed scifi series. I'd love to see it come back for another round. There are many themes yet unexplored.

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