It's surprising that it's taken this long for Tricia Helfer to land the central role on a TV series. She's everything you'd want in a show's lead: a talented actress, capable of doing her own stunts, stunningly beautiful and with her own fan base courtesy of her years on Battlestar Galactica. Now as Texas Ranger Molly Parker on ABC's Killer Women, she's proving that she can carry a program on her shoulders. BFTV recently had the opportunity to talk with Tricia about her new starring role, and what it's meant for her.
"I loved Molly from the get-go," Tricia told us. "When I read the script, I was interested in what was happening. I wanted to figure out what happened. And I couldn't get over the thought of how much fun she would be to play. I thought she was well-rounded. She has quirky sides, she's smart, she's humble, she's tough, but she's also very feminine."
Although we're just an eighth of the way through Killer Women's first season, we've already seen multiple sides of her character, from the Ranger who's not afraid to cross local law enforcement, to the vulnerable woman who's admitted to a murder suspect that she was in an abusive marriage. The role requires more than just the typical 'strong woman' archetype; it needs an actress who can play multiple notes, and Tricia is that actress.
Over the next seven weeks, we'll get to see even more of what makes Molly tick, and what Tricia can do. Previewing the remainder of the season, Tricia explained, "Without giving too much away, every episode is a case where if you're a casual viewer you can enjoy the episode, but I think every actor also is really drawn to the more relationship parts of the character - the backstory and why the characters are doing what they're doing.
"For Molly, one of the things I was attracted to was her own personal struggle. Here's a very strong woman who is dealing with trying to get out of a very dark divorce. Her struggle grows throughout the season," she continued. "She's hiding a lot and hiding it from everybody. We have an episode where she really comes to terms [with the fact] that she has to stand up for herself and tell the truth and be strong in that way as well. And it's a turning point for her."
The role also allowed Tricia - who's already done considerable stunt work - the chance to try some new things. "The stunt driving in the pilot was 99 percent me. I did get to do almost all the driving," she revealed, adding that you'll see more of that during next week's third episode. "I haven't done that much driving stuff, before but I love doing it. Also, we had some horseback riding stuff, [and] I've never really ridden horses that much."
Aside from being a great new character to inhabit, Killer Women was an enjoyable experience behind the scenes for Tricia, who explained that it wasn't a huge change for her to be tops on the call sheet. "I couldn't have asked for a more loving, fun, professional group of people. A great group of people," she enthused. "I've always been an actor in the mindset of it's a team effort across the board. So it's really no different being number one, except for you're extremely busy. But you strive for those type of characters."
And while executive producer Hannah Shakespeare told us that ABC's shortened episode order shaped the way the season was written, only having eight installments didn't change Tricia's performance. "Once you're working on the show you're still in it, you're still doing it. It's such a common thing now, is shorter episode orders," she said. "It felt fine doing it.
"I definitely felt pretty beat up after eight episodes," she added. "With any shows, dramas specifically, it's extremely long hours and hard work when you're working outside. The last Friday that we worked, it was an all-nighter, and most of it was outside exterior work. It's really exhausting pulling those kind of hours and [with] extreme temperature conditions."
Add it all up and playing Molly Parker is not a job for the faint of heart. It's not easy to play a character with many aspects, while taking on stunt work that's partially new territory, putting in long work hours in sometimes difficult conditions, and being seen as the public face of your show. Yet that's what Tricia has done, and she's taken all the challenges in stride.
Maybe that's because she's been a practical mainstay on television since the success of Galactica: you've seen her in guest spots on Burn Notice, Chuck, Human Target, Lie To Me and in recurring roles on Dark Blue and The Firm, just to name a few. Unlike other actors and actresses who've been part of huge TV franchises, she doesn't have to worry about typecasting.
"I've played a lot of different types of roles. I don't walk around looking like my Battlestar Galactica character, so I've never really had that kind of 'That's all she is,'" she told us. "I seem to have some sort of a quality that I don't understand. If I put highlights in, friends will walk by me on the street. If I change my makeup, it's like 'Oh, who's that?' I just have one of those faces, I guess. I think it's a blessing.
"I've played serial killers on Criminal Minds, to crying ex-girlfriends on Two and a Half Men, to an FBI agent on Dark Blue, to a spy on Burn Notice. That's one of the things I enjoy about my career is [that] you get to play all different types of roles," she continued. "Community, that was a character that I hadn't played at all yet, this over the top, prissy ex-wife. Human Target, that was funny for me. Normally I play the strong female character, and in Human Target I was a strong female character, but I was the one being protected. Somebody else doing all the stunts, it kind of took me a minute!"
"I think fans will embrace me in this role; that's up to the show and up to them. I'm just really excited for the show," Tricia said. "I think it's a show that both women amd men will be able to enjoy. There's a lot of interesting roles, it's a good group of people, and I had so much fun."
Now that her work is done, we're getting to have our fun watching Killer Women, and enjoying Tricia being front and center, right where she deserves to be.