Katee Sackhoff has played her share of tough characters over the years, most notably hotshot pilot Starbuck on the critically acclaimed Syfy series “Battlestar Galactica,” which aired for four-and-a-half years. She currently plays tough-as-nails Deputy Vic Moretti on A&E’s original drama series “Longmire.” The blond badass now appears on the big screen as Dahl, the lead female in the nearly all-male cast of “Riddick.” She’s a no-nonsense arms expert who can hold her own against Vin Diesel and the others.
The fit, green-eyed actress plays the second-in-command to Boss Johns (Matt Nable), who has arrived on a distant planet in hopes of tracking down and exacting revenge against dangerous escapee Riddick (Diesel, reprising the antihero role he previously played in “Pitch Black” and “The Chronicles of Riddick.”) She and her crew vie with a ruthless bounty hunter (Jordi Molla) and his guys to find the outlaw first, but they face obstacles on the hostile planet, including man-eating giant scorpion-like creatures and a nasty storm that could wipe them all out. Their biggest obstacle is the wily Riddick himself, who has an uncanny ability to stay one step ahead of his pursuers. Riddick is both attracted to and cautious around this deadly gun-wielding beauty.
In person, Sackhoff is rather girly and more petite (5-foot-5-inches tall) than she appears to be onscreen. Engaged to film producer Scott Niemeyer, Sackhoff is wearing a huge diamond ring on her left hand that likely has saddened legions of her male fans. No wedding date has been set, though, because both Sackhoff and her fiancé have a lot of work ahead before they can walk down the aisle. The Portland, Ore.-born actress not only has the TV series to consider, she is hoping to reprise her sexually ambiguous Dahl character in future “Riddick” installments.
Q: How was it working with Vin?
Sackhoff: He’s amazing. From the minute I met him, he has the ability to make you feel like he’s known you for his entire life and you’ve known him forever. There is this responsibility that you sense he feels he has to this series of movies. I told Vin I wanted to put weight on. I know this is the opposite of women in this business say but I wanted to put on 10-15 pounds of muscle and some fat because otherwise I’m going to look so small next to these guys. And Vin was like, “Do whatever you want to do. You own this character. By the time you (get to set in) Montreal, you’ll know her better than anybody.” I remember getting to the hotel and he looked at my arms and said, “Geez, you did it!” My arms were huge. So he gave me trust and responsibility and freedom, but he was our boss as well. He allowed me to create this character how I thought it should be. I made a lot of this stuff up. In the script, she wasn’t Boss Johns’ Number 2. Vin has been married to this project for so long and I’m sure it’s owned a piece of property in his brain. You can sit and listen to him talk about it forever, because he’s just so passionate about it. And he brings that to set every day.
Q: Did your character have to shut down her sexual side in order to survive there on that isolated planet as the only female?
Sackhoff: There’s a vulnerability that any woman has when you’re in a situation where you’re surrounded by men in an enclosed space. Over time, you learn defense mechanisms. It can be for emotional or physical reasons. One of the things that Dahl has learned, whether it’s true or not, she may be (a lesbian). It was never a subject we talked about. It was her response to the entire thing that David (Twohy) and I talked about that she just didn’t want the grief (of a relationship). I’m not closed to the idea that she may be telling the truth. It wasn’t something we gave too much thought to. I kind of like the idea that she is open to anything sexually. It was an aspect that made her a bit more fierce in my mind. What opens it up with Riddick, is that at one point he talks about her nipples and she realizes that Riddick could have killed her and didn’t do it. So there’s more to this guy than she knows and maybe they do need to kill him, but not yet. It’s this kinship that she feels toward him. She’s open to the idea of him, there’s this animalistic sexuality that comes out in her towards the end and she’s curious about him.
Q: Did you have special training on the guns?
Sackhoff: Yes. It took a week for me to learn how to take the gun apart and put it back together, get the ammunition and load all the while keeping my eyes down the scope. That’s something I’d never had to do before. In the process, I learned I was left-eye dominant. I realized I actually should shoot with my left hand, which we didn’t do. For the movie, it would have been too much. The hardest thing for me with that sniper rifle was carrying it in the case, which weighed about 50 pounds. (Twohy) was like, “You wanted it. You’re carrying it.” So I had to carry it for an entire day. Sometimes you have to be uncomfortable.
Q: Dahl says she doesn’t do guys. Is she a lesbian?
Sackhoff: People have brought up a lot about Dahl’s sexuality, and I love the idea that she’s sexually ambiguous. She’s a passionate person and he makes her feel something and she goes with it. It doesn’t say anything about her sexuality. It says something about the animal nature of human begins. We go, sometimes, where the passion is felt.
Q: Are you inspired by other female action heroes?
Sackhoff: I grew up watching science fiction with my dad. It was kind of our little secret. It was our bonding time as father and daughter. He showed me movies that I should not have been watching. I think I saw “Predator” when I was six. I knew from a young age that it wasn’t real but I just loved it. We watched so much “Star Trek” that it was coming out of my ears by the time I was 10. So I grew up idolizing these men—Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis—these guys that embodied everything that action was. I told my dad I wanted to be like one of these guys, and he was like, “I think we should watch ‘Alien,’ but don’t tell your mother.” So I was probably like eight. When I saw it, I realized, “Wow, I don’t have to be a dude. I can be Sigourney Weaver.’” And then Linda Hamilton came along and then (Lucy Lawless as) Xena, on a weekly basis, Sarah Michelle Gellar (in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” They just kept coming. They were few and far between, but these strong women kept coming, and they’ve just increased as the years have gone on. But, yeah, I’ve always been inspired by Sigourney. I admire how she’s been able to have such diversity in her career. That’s a wonderful thing.
Q: Did you just finish another movie?
Sackhoff: Yeah. “Oculus.” I’m going to the Toronto Film Festival with that. And then I’m going to start a potential movie or two starting in November.
Q: What do you think most fans remember you for? And what’s the weirdest thing that has happened to you?
Sackhoff: So many weird things have happened. Just recently, when I was in Louisiana visiting my fiancé, I was out with one of my best friends and I went to see “Fast Six.” We were sitting there and these five college-age boys were sitting nearby. It was one of those dinner and theater movie houses. We walked past them to get to the seats we’d purchased and one of them says, “Are you the girl from ‘24,’” and I said, ‘yes.’” And then one his friends says, “I was hoping you’d say ‘no,’ so we could rag on him for the rest of the day.” So then we’re watching the screen, and a preview of “Longmire” pops up, and the row of guys turned and looked at me. And then a preview of “Riddick” shows up and the guy turns to me and says, “Are you kidding me?” It was such a surreal moment. Had you told me 20 years ago this would be my life, I’d have gone “What?” and then stuck out my tongue to all the girls that were mean to me.
Q: Do you dream of doing a Jane Austen period piece sometimes?
Sackhoff: Yeah, I wander around in corsets in my house all the time. I’m a lot girlier than the roles I play, but I don’t believe there’s anything wrong in this business for being typecast. I’m trying to create longevity. I also believe that when doors don’t open, make new doors. So I’ve started producing things as well. Maybe I’ll wear a corset at some point and do an English accent.