Caprica 1.01 - Eric Stoltz
Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) © Syfy, Photo: Jeff Weddell

Eric Stoltz shot to stardom as Rocky Dennis in Peter Bogdanovich’s film Mask playing Cher’s disfigured son. He went on to perform in such popular movies as Pulp Fiction, Rob Roy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Jerry Maguire.

He is currently starring in TV’s Caprica, a prequel to Battlestar Galactica, as Daniel Graystone, a computer engineering genius, who owns a large corporation that is spearheading the development of artificial intelligence. Tragedy strikes when his daughter Zoe (Alessandra Torresani) dies in a terrorist bombing. But Zoe was also a computer expert, and before she was killed she created an avatar of herself (which unfortunately leads to the creation of the Cylons, the cybernetic race that will attempt to destroy humanity on Battlestar Galactica). When Daniel discovers Zoe’s avatar, he wants to bring her back to life by turning her into a robot.

Were you looking to do a TV series?

Caprica - Eric Stoltz and Paula Malcomson
Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) and Amanda Graystone (Paula Malcomson) © Syfy, Photo: Joe Pugliese

To be honest, I was not looking to do a series at all. I started directing more in the last two years and I quite frankly prefer it. Then this script came along and it was very rich and complex and just better than 90 percent of the other scripts that I’ve read. So I thought I’d meet with them, and the creators seemed to have a great deal of integrity and believed in it, despite the fact that we’re a little show that’s not necessarily getting paid a lot of money, we’re all deeply invested in the stories and the characters, and it’s kind of wonderful.

How aware of Battlestar Galatica were you?

Not that much to be honest, I don’t watch a lot of television or go to the movies a great deal because I work in the industry, and so when you’re working 16 and 17 hours a day you’re not going to go home and watch 50 hours of programming.

Can you tell a little about your character?

Caprica - Eric Stoltz
Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) © Syfy, Photo: Jamel Toppin

He’s really a morally ambiguous, difficult man. He puts his entire soul into his work, and his personal relationships suffer, like so many men, probably like myself to a certain extent. Maybe I think I can redeem myself by playing a person who’s worse than I am!

What do you like about the genre of science fiction?

Not much, when I read something I don’t really think of genre so much, I just look at the relationships, and what grabbed me about this one is that it was a very complicated, embattled, but I think healthy and loving marriage at the center of it between Amanda (Paula Malcomson) and Daniel. We’ve been together 17, 18 years, have a kid, Zoe, we’re still calling each other on our crap, but in a loving way. It’s a relationship that goes through a lot of changes and I’d be hard pressed to find that in a lot of scripts.

What about Daniel’s relationship with his daughter Zoe?

Caprica 1.01 - Paula Malcomson and Eric Stoltz
Day 11 Amanda Graystone (Paula Malcomson) and Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) © Syfy, Photo: Jeff Weddell

I have a difficult love for my daughter, it’s not as simple as my daughter’s so great, she’s a pain in the ass, but we love her, but why doesn’t she get her act together, but oh my God I have so many regrets about how I treated her, but it was the best I could do – it’s a complicated family and I come from a complicated family, my family was never easy, they were loving, but I’m drawn to things like this to work out my own family issues I guess.

Ever since Frankenstein there’s been stories about technology going too far and us not realizing what we’ve created. Is this a good time for this kind of story?

Caprica - Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales
Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) and Joseph Adama (Esai Morales) © Syfy, Photo: Joe Pugliese

It strikes me in this day and age we would love to think that our leaders, our captains of industries, politicians and scientists, are motivated purely by altruism rather than greed or personal demons. And I think what’s interesting about this show in relation to that is that it shows how men and women are not always motivated by the best intentions.

There are things happening in our world that are staggering. I think the atom collider in Geneva and little things even like the H1N1 vaccine, no long-term testing, billions of dollars, we buy it; we hope it’s good for us. Who knows what’s going to happen in ten years? We put so much faith in scientists, leaders and politicians that I think it has achieved a ridiculous level. And hopefully, that will be an element in our show.

You directed one of the episodes?

Yes, I just turned in my cut a few weeks ago. It’s the tenth episode which opens up the second half of our season. Apparently they’ve divided us into two mini-seasons.

How did that come about? Did they ask you or did you go to them?

I’ve been directing more than anything lately, for the past four or five years, and I think they saw that I knew the actors very well and were hoping that I could direct them in a good way. I had a Nip/Tuck that just aired and before that I did two episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and I’m directing Private Practice next month.

Did you direct Alessandra as the robot in this?

No, I directed her in the virtual world, she’s avatar Zoe in my episode, and she had a kick-ass fight scene, she’s a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Do you find the other actors talk to you differently or they act differently because now you’re directing them?

I think they expect more of me. I’ve had that on other shows as well. They’re like, ‘Ah, so you think you can tell me what to do? You’re one of us.’

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.