Comic-Con '07: Bionic Woman breaks out

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Saturday was Comic-Con's busiest day by far, and the place to be was inside Ballroom 20. There, the panels for Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, Futurama, and a Joss Whedon tribute took place. But first, the room hosted the gathering for Bionic Woman, NBC's remake of the 1970s classic.

The Bionic Woman panel began shortly following a screening of a version of the pilot episode that will never air on television. Writer Jason Smilovic explained that the crew has since recast and rewritten the part of Jaime Sommers' younger sister.

Previously played by Mae Whitman (Anne from Arrested Development) as a sullen, cantankerous, cute-in-a-goth-way deaf girl, the part will now be played by Lucy Hale (The O.C.) as a hotter, more supportive, generally happier non-deaf girl, who also happens to be a computer hacker. This way, Smilovic reasoned, at least one aspect of the Bionic Woman’s life won’t totally suck.

The producers and Smilovic explained the show was built around a young woman growing into her identity both as a person and as a professional. Her struggles to reconcile her bionic and human components, as well as maintain her humanity, will drive her journey of self-discovery.

David Eick (who also produces Battlestar Galactica) likened Jaime Sommers to Peter Parker--someone thrust into a scenario he or she isn't prepared for and dealing with overwhelming circumstances. Smilovic explained that they decided to make her an ingénue, as opposed to someone in the know, such as Jennifer Garner's character on Alias, so that viewers could more readily identify with her character.

Michelle Ryan, who plays the Bionic Woman, gushed over the opportunity to play a "young, strong, feisty, and vulnerable woman." Costar Katee Sackhoff mirrored her sentiments by expressing her delight in playing the villain, Sarah Corvis--the evil and insane first Bionic Woman. Comparing this character to her role as Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica, Sackhoff noted that, "Starbuck second guesses, Corvis doesn't." She also joked that between these two characters, she has no need to go to therapy. Corvis certainly shows her evil chops in the pilot, and Eick warns that the show, much like Battlestar Galactica, won't shy away from going to dark places to achieve the pathos they need to tell a deep story. And that's a good thing.

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