Last week, fans of ABC’s “FlashForward” got their first look at the new character played by “Battlestar Galactica” star James Callis, and Thursday (April 29), in an episode called “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” they learned his name and a few other details.
For most of his run as Dr. Gaius Baltar on “Battlestar,” the British Callis was fashionable, whether politician chic or cult-leader boho, but on “FlashForward,” he’s sporting a scruffier look — and an American accent.
“I was looking very rough,” he tells Zap2it. “They wanted me to be English, originally.”
That, though, didn’t make sense to Callis: “This guy in ‘FlashForward,’ he’s been abducted from an early age and put in some weird scientific flash-forward think tank — was he on holiday from Skegness?”
(FYI, Skegness is a seaside town in Lincolnshire, England.)
“I just … didn’t buy the idea of Gabriel McDow being a young 15-year-old, being on holiday in America and being abducted from his parents,” he says. “You know what, it’s an American story. It’s set in Los Angeles.”
Perhaps as a result of his experiences, McDow is mentally and emotionally disturbed, albeit still brilliant. His fashion sense has definitely suffered as well.
“I was a very different kind of character,” Callis says. “I was very protected by the glasses and the baseball cap and whatever it was. Initially they said, ‘It’s just you, wearing a mac, and we love the way you talk.’ I’m like, ‘That’s going to seem so odd.’
“I’ve seen videos of Kim Peek, the guy who ‘Rain Man’ was based on. He’s the original savant. These people, they’re truly brilliant, but they’re slightly askance.”
Callis also didn’t have much time to prepare for his multi-episode arc.
“I was in London fixing one of my kids’ bikes,” he says “and it’s like, ‘You need to be in Los Angeles in two days’ time. Can you be in “FlashForward”? Can you do the part?'”
Callis has also joined the cast of Syfy’s “Eureka,” which begins a new season on Friday, July 9. There he plays a former resident of Eureka who may be a romantic rival to Sheriff Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson).
“Pretty much,” Callis says, “‘Eureka’ was the same thing. ‘Do you think I could have some time?’ ‘Nope, that’s it, Monday morning.’ There’s a lot of crazy push and pull. It’s exciting.
“I would have done more [‘FlashForward’] episodes if ‘Eureka’ hadn’t come along. They wanted me to be in a season arc and maybe longer.”
Asked — without giving away too much — if Gabriel McDow could ever return if the show gets a second season, Callis says, “I could. I actually thought that I got a lot of information on that character. It’s dangerous for a show like that.
“Sooner or later, Gabriel, if he appeared in the second season … I used to say that about Gaius Baltar, that sooner or later, somebody’s going to put a bullet through this man’s head. If you’re going to be treading on too many people’s toes, they’re going to be nervous about you — I’m not talking about the executive producers, but the other characters — and you’re going to get shot through the head.
“I was kind of expecting that to happen.”
Although the job wasn’t as long as it could have been, Callis was particularly happy to be a part of “FlashForward.”
“It was very exciting for me to be in the FBI headquarters that I watched on television for six months beforehand,” he says. “There I am, with Mark and Olivia and Demetri — I’ve made it to the FBI! That was a lot of fun. Literally, a day later, I shaved, haircut, different show, different energy.”
Photo credit: ABC