Back down to earth

December 07, 2008|Choire Sicha | Sicha is a freelance writer.

Jamie Bamber, known as Lee "Apollo" Adama on "Battlestar Galactica," is shooting the newest version of the "Law & Order" franchise -- set in London, where he was born. Still, he's a bit homesick for L.A.: "In my head, I'm based in California and I happen to work in the UK."

It's Friday. What are you doing today?

I am going to a Christmas fair at my kids' school, and then I'm going to the theater in the West End. I'm going to see Ken Branagh on the stage in his latest triumph.

London was the last place that young Americans could get produced -- and now we hear that there's less and less room.

Well, there's certainly an appetite for movie stars to come be in stuff. Josh Hartnett's filling in right now [in "Rain Man"]. Traditionally there was always more legit straight theater in London than Broadway itself -- but it's becoming more and more like Broadway.

You're filming your new TV show, so you're safe from the theater.

Yeah, I'm busy right now doing "Law & Order: London" or "Law & Order: UK," whatever it's called. I'm bringing the great Dick Wolf goliath to London.

We'd heard you guys were actually using U.S. scripts, which sounds bizarre.

Ah, no. We're using stories that were scripts in the original U.S. series, adapting them pretty heavily, transposing them to London backgrounds and to the British police and legal system, which is different. And characters change as well. But bones of plots have been cherry-picked from the episodes. I think it'll air in the U.S., maybe on NBC or Bravo or USA, so it'll come back to your end, full circle.

We've been stealing from English TV long enough.

That's right. It's time we adapted one of your sure-fire hits. It's the first time as far as I know that's happened.

Do you miss the U.S. system?

I do, actually! Very much. Actors are treated, or pampered, a lot more in the U.S. than they are in the UK. I miss my trailer and my craft services and my amazing caterers. That doesn't seem to be at the same level in the UK. I've been spoilt. There's lots I do miss about the U.S. I call America home -- I still have a house in California. I felt homesick over the election certainly. And Thanksgiving. I recorded plenty of NFL games so I can play them for my American ex-pat brethren. I'm going to play them back in real time three days late. I'm looking at the Internet with two fingers over my eyes.

What was it like on, say, the last day of shooting "Battlestar Galactica?" Did you all think, 'What now?' Or -- 'Oh, thank God, my life is back'?

The last day of shooting was a crazy day. We'd gone a week over already. Two units shooting, everyone on call the whole time. There was not time to reflect. It was just getting across the finish line. There was a lot of whiskey drunk in the camera truck at 4 a.m. but I was still going in the second unit scene, or on my own with a bunch of extras firing guns.

That's hectic.

It was. We had quieter moments leading up to that point -- the final read-through, the wrap party two weeks before we wrapped. And evenings and dinners. But it was more satisfaction, and excitement about the future, and the freedom to do other things. We lived and breathed "Battlestar" for five years. The fans are a very intense lot. It's a fine English tradition too -- as in how psychotic we all are over "Doctor Who" now. I didn't know you were as Americans!

When you finish this set of shooting, what then -- vacation?

I'm planning to come back to L.A., to make sure my house is still standing, and my friends have not destroyed it. I would love to spend some time in L.A. And then I'm back to do "Law & Order" next autumn.

The show keeps you maybe from doing pilot season over here.

It does. But I think it's a good thing. It's nice to come home and do something that slots me back into things in the UK, which I've neglected for five years. It's nice to reconnect with the London theater scene. Part of the reason was to jump out of pilot season. I'd like to pick and choose the odd film project.

Are you going to tell me how "Battlestar" ends?

No, I'm not going to tell you that. But I'll tell you it does end and it ends well. I think it's fantastic. It's at its best. And they had us all crying at the read-through. I haven't seen it, how it turns up on screen. I think it's powerful stuff and completely character-driven. And contemplative. And very right. You can anticipate all you like!


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