The creative collaboration of Ron Moore and Michael Taylor has had a King Midas effect in the world of science fiction: Everything they've touched has turned to gold. Or tungsten. Or whatever metal is used to make spacecraft. Point being, they've been the brains behind Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and, most recently, Battlestar Galactica. Their latest project, a TV movie airing on Friday entitled Virtuality, reinvents their familiar outer space setting yet again by factoring in a reality show premise to the fictional storyline. In the movie, a crew of astronauts receive funding to explore a potentially life-supporting planet on one condition: that their voyage be filmed every step of the way,. And according to Sienna Guillory and Clea DuVall, two actresses involved in the project, it makes for some intriguing television. Virtuality airs Friday, June 26 at 8 p.m. on FOX.
Guillory, a British actress, plays Rika Goddard, the ship's psychologist's wife.
"I decided that she hated having her privacy invaded, but at the same time she's desperate for adventure. She's kind of complex and introverted and oversexed," she said.
The set's many green screens were also pivotal to character and plot development.
"The fact that there's nothing there to limit your imagination or to limit where you see yourself or how you see the scene unfolding can be a helpful thing," Guillory said.
DuVall, who is from Los Angeles, plays the ship's pilot, Sue Parsons.
"My character ... is kind of a hard ass, a jerk, and difficult to deal with. I really tried hard to understand her, why she was so guarded and why she was so protective of herself," she said.
She was able to channel emotions from Sue's dark, troubled past by recalling her own faults.
"I used my own personal shortcomings to fuel this character," she said.
Reality, Fantasty, or Both?
Unique to the show is every character's involvement in his or her own virtual reality, played out in little movies and accessible by what the show terms "modules." There, the characters explore personal desires, escape the stress of the voyage and reveal a bit more of their human side to the audience. Clea's character, Sue, is into outdoor sports like biking and surfing, whereas Sienna's fantasizes about sex and intimacy because she's trapped in a passionless marriage. Guillory explained the connection between the virtual realities and the characters:
"Anything that happens to us in our own personal movies happens to all of us because we're stuck together," she said. "When you do experience something emotionally, it does affect who you are, and I think that's the backbone of what we're doing."
The Barons of Battlestar
The two actresses were quick to compliment Moore and Taylor.
Guillory noted, "They were so brave. They didn't assume that the audience is stupid; they assume that the audience is intelligent and demanding."
DuVall gushed, "Them trusting us so much and them being people we respect and trusted gave us the confidence to trust ourselves and go with ... our instincts."
DuVall also addressed the broader implications of the project and how she thought the audience would react to potentially controversial elements of the story, including an environmentally disastrous climate.
"The environment has been such a big issue and I think people are taking more responsibility now," she said. "Hopefully the people that aren't can see this and realize that, yes, this is a fictionalized show, but [it's] dealing with a very real ... probability."
With regards to the gay relationship depicted in the story, she was optimistic to its reception.
"The fact that a gay couple is going to be on a network movie ... and for kids to see it just like it's totally normal, that's the first step in making it totally normal. Unfortunately there are a lot of biases in the world," she said. "It's all about presentation ... and the way people see things."