Caprica's Sasha Roiz: Cylons, Mobsters and Fedoras

By Karen Moul

SyFy’s hit series Caprica returns with new episodes this week! An unexpected highlight of season 1 has been Sasha Roiz’s portrayal of Sam Adama, strongman for the Ha’la’tha crime syndicate and uncle to future Battlestar Galactica Admiral William Adama. The first nine episodes left fans wanting more of the happily-married hit man, and we’re told that season 1.5 will reveal more of Sam’s backstory and the events that have made him the most complex gangster in all the Twelve Colonies.

Recently, Sasha Roiz made time to speak with us about the new season.

Question: Are we going to see Sam interact with the Cylons?

Sash Roiz: I think you'll see a lot of people interacting with Cylons. What we’re driving towards is the introduction of the Cylons into this world. And so it’s going to definitely cross paths with just about everybody’s storylines.

I’ve just seen the first two episodes, there’s definitely some stuff coming out because Sam and Joseph negotiate a deal with the Graystones. And so eventually that technology comes into the hands of the Ha'la'tha and there's certainly a crossover of interest for their purpose and it’s going to be a very interesting sort of tug of war.

So you’re definitely going to see some sort of interaction, yes.

Question: How does Sam deal with the Cylon issue, as opposed to how Joseph and later William deal with it?

Sash Roiz: Well, I think all we’re seeing right now is just the outset of this whole Cylon creation and the effect that it’s going to have in our world. So right now, Joseph and Sam have no idea what it’s capable of. I mean we’re really quite naïve. Only Daniel Graystone really knows the capabilities, and even he will be left surprised by some of the things that happen.

Sam specifically is completely old school. You can see it in the car he drives and the way he lives, he’s very technologically inept. So a Cylon to him is far more than he can understand. But he certainly can understand how to use these things to benefit him or benefit the things he believes in. And so that’s where the tug of war comes in – how can I use this to benefit what I believe in? And that’s where his relationship to the Cylon begins and ends.

Question: We’re also going to see some more of Sam’s backstory. What are we going to learn?

Sash Roiz: I don't know if it’s necessarily going to tackle anything as far as [his] sexuality because as you've seen, the world that we live in doesn't really - there’s no reason to particularly delve into that because it’s a non-issue.

And so you’re going to see more of what’s turned him, the tragedy that befell these kids and what led them to come to Caprica and under what circumstances and what duress and what ultimately led them to be the men they are today.

But you will see more of Sam and Larry. You will see a little bit more of that partnership and the kind of life that they have and the kinds of strings that they have due to Sam’s involvement in the mob. So you will see more examples of that.

Question: Do you know how many episodes we'll see Larry pop up in?

Sash Roiz: I think there might be another what, three? Another three episodes approximately because Sam’s going to be going through quite a bit of stuff and you’re going to see Larry there as a support for some of the major blows that are about to come.

Question: In the first two [new] episodes we see Joseph lean more towards that mafia mentality than maybe he had in the first ten episodes. Will we see any adjustment in what Sam does?

Sash Roiz: Well, you've always seen Sam as a very loyal soldier of the Ha'la'tha and the main dilemma that he’s going to be facing is a certain loyalty based on some decisions that are made. So you’re going to see his struggle within himself and within the organization, and with his brother, as well about the future that he’s going to take and the path that he’s going to go on ultimately.

Question: The first half of the season was criticized for slow pacing and for subplots that didn't come together. So are we going to see something a little different? Is this a show that’s going to continue to ask us for patience or are we going to see some changes?

Sash Roiz: No. I think we best do it. We've asked you for enough of your patience and at this point you can sit back and make some popcorn and just enjoy it because it’s going to accelerate very quickly. We’re going to get into some very complex storylines that are going to spin out of control and every character’s going to go scrambling trying to survive what’s about to happen.

But everybody’s in peril and everybody’s got a remarkable storyline. There’s going to be a lot more action and I think you’re going to be on the edge of your seats trying to figure out who’s going to survive and who’s going to fall. Because the one great thing they do in the show is they leave you guessing as to the ultimate survival of the characters. We know there’s going to be a catastrophe so you never know who’s going to be safe and I think that’s a wonderful element. But like I said, the pace is definitely, definitely going to pick up so you can just sit back and enjoy it.

Question: How much input do you have into Sam? Is this a show where you just show up and stick to the script or are the producers open to suggestions?

Sash Roiz: No, not at all. They've been wonderful about that because it’s the first year of the show and they left it up to us in many ways to bring in the final details. And if there were things that didn't work for the actors, they were very accommodating to fix them.

And I think ultimately their trust was laid on us as the actors to make the final choice as to how our characters would react in any given situation.

So the final breath was ours. And they were very great about that. They were very helpful in allowing us to find it ourselves. And I think it shows. It is, I think, a beautifully acted show and I think it’s an incredibly talented cast. So I think they just trusted in us to finalize the characters.

Question: How much of you do we see in Sam? What do you guys have in common?

Sash Roiz: I think that’s true of any character we play. Definitely for most actors, you bring a lot of yourself to it, sometimes even before you realize it. Sometimes other people realize it before you do.

I certainly think that when they cast me, they probably saw what they were imagining for Sam before I even knew it because there were surprises that I wasn't aware of until after the pilot. For instance, Sam’s sexuality and certain storylines that I was completely unaware of because he comes across so brutal in the pilot and then you see this other side of him, this whole family side and this relationship that he has.

And so I think the fact that they've made him so dynamic allows me to really kind of fit in to this character a lot easier than it if was a more one-dimensional sort of character that sometimes you get on television.

So yes, there’s many aspects of me in there. I don't want to say which ones, but definitely, there’s so many shapes to the character and the more there are, the easier it is for me to bring in elements of my personality.

We all have that. We all have everything from black to white and everything in between. And so I'm able to bring different elements of myself to the character at all times. My family was an immigrant family so I understand some of that. It’s not to the same degree obviously, but I understand some of those issues. And I understand the family unit. I have a very strong, tight-knit family.

And then there are certainly other sides because we all have a darker side to ourselves and so you bring some of that in as well.

Question: Does the fact that Sam Adama is a Tauron, and therefore an immigrant on Caprica, play a conscious role in your portrayal?

Sash Roiz: Yes, the immigrant status of Sam plays a very, very large role. It’s very significant to the portrayal because it’s really sort of what his outlook is on Caprica, it’s how he sort of perceives himself in relationship to the Capricans.

And there’s that constant reminder that he’s a second class citizen because he’s not a purebred Caprican. And so that bitterness and that enmity is always present in his everyday, in my portrayal of it and certainly in Sam’s activities.

And I think it’s very true of many immigrants in our world as well. They’re part of a society that simply will not absorb them and we see that in many examples throughout the world. Then they are in their own secondary societies and sort of play by their own rules and their own laws, much like we did in America back at the turn of the century.

Question: It seems like the Taurons are very, very family-oriented people. How might that tight-knit family background give Bill his strength later?

Sash Roiz: Oh yes, yes. Absolutely, I think without a doubt the one thing that you see certainly for Bill is no matter how odd this family might seem or how fractured at times or even the tragedy that they went through in the first half [of the season] with the loss of the wife and daughter, it’s a very strong family unit. I mean family comes first.

And that’s certainly not the case with the other young characters we've seen, where their families are completely fractured. And so there is that one element in his life that in spite of everything that might be going on, I think he has a sense of family. His family will be there no matter what. And I think that’s certainly a place of strength for him.

Question: The portrayal of the Taurons seems to have a very heavy ethnic and Mafia-like slant. Why do you think the writers chose this for the background of the Adama family?

Sash Roiz: I can't speak for the writers. I think just based on my own intuition, I think it’s probably lends itself really well to you have such a noble character like William Adama and then coming from such a background, I think it’s a very interesting journey for that family and this particular character and his storyline.

How did he go from such a dark and criminal past to becoming who he did? And so I think that’s probably very interesting to watch, as opposed to somebody who was born into that.

Question: How does your character influence the boy who will grow up to be Admiral Adama?

Sash Roiz: You know what? I don't really generally know how to answer that - how does he influence it. I think it’s more interesting for audiences to tie the knots and see the connections because I can only imagine so many different people and so many different experiences will influence him.

And, there'll be so much more life for him to live until we discover him later on, and so many things and catastrophes that will befall this world and all the things that he will undergo. So I don't know how personally but generally I leave it to the fans to kind of connect those dots.

Question: What did you do to prepare yourself for the role?

Sash Roiz: I read a few books on a lot of the different ethnic mobs back in the early part of the 20th century from the Jewish mob to the Irish mob and the Italian mob and it was very interesting. And, it was very enlightening because you just see these people who didn't come over to enact violence, but they were left no choice because they were just simply not being accepted in the society and they were [at a] distance.

And so, with no hope and no options, they just created their own laws. And so I look to that as my inspiration for the background of this family. And that was very helpful. That was very helpful.

Question: Sam is such a morally complex character, so how do you connect with some of the darker tasks he has to carry out and the things he has to do?

Sash Roiz: The darker stuff is not that difficult when you truly believe Sam’s perspective on life. He’s a very black and white character and he doesn't have a lot of room for doubt. And he’s very much a soldier, so when he’s given an order, it’s very much like a soldier has to go out and perform the order.

There will be a little bit more - there'll be doubts placed upon him for the first time, and that'll be really interesting to see, the sort of torment he has as someone who’s always taking orders unquestioningly, and then all of a sudden is arrested and has to start to question his life and his loyalties, which he’s never had to do before. And that becomes very interesting to portray.

Question: How do you view the level of irony in Caprica? Sam was involved in stealing the chip and eventually it’s going to come back around and Sam’s nephew will have to fight them.

Sash Roiz: That’s the wonderful thing for fans of Battlestar [Galactica], they get to see it on two different levels and I think it’s what makes it really interesting and compelling, to be able to watch an entirely different saga but at the same time connecting to something that they've already loved and they could see certain elements playing themselves out and foreshadowing.

And so I love whenever we have a little nod like that. I think it always lends itself beautifully and the internet’s always lit up right after those shows with people trying to connect the dots, having a good time with it.

It’s a lot of fun for sure. But like, David Eick always says, you know how World War II ends. You’re still kind of interested in seeing this play out, so there’s always room for these great stories even though you may know what the outcome will be. How we get there is a whole other thing.

Question: Sam has been really embraced by the gay community in a pretty big way. What does that mean to you and what have you heard from fans about Sam being gay?

Sash Roiz: I absolutely love that facet of the character and I love that we've tackled it in a way that’s been completely unique to television. And it’s been nothing but a wonderful experience. People have been completely receptive. People have been incredibly supportive. The gay community has been remarkable.

I've done everything from the “no hate” campaign pictures to a few different projects on the side in my spare time, projects to raise awareness. And they’re incredibly strong and very cohesive and supportive community and it’s great to tap into that and I'm really, really pleased that they’re enjoying it, enjoying the portrayal.

Question There’s such great chemistry between you and your cast mates. Was it instant or did it take a bit of time to develop?

Sash Roiz: The first person I really worked with was Esai [Morales, who plays Joseph Adama]. And that chemistry was very quick. He’s such a friendly and outgoing individual and he’s such a talented actor. And we instantly found a chemistry even back in the pilot. And so that was very simple and that was the most important. [And] certainly with Willy there’s a chemistry.

And then, as we got to know each other, sitting together for seven months, we definitely developed a great sense of friendship amongst all of us. And it was great because when you’re sequestered in another city for seven months, if you don't have that, it can be a real nightmare. But for us it was just a joy to get to know each other and spend time together. Even though a lot of our story lines didn't cross, we certainly had a lot of time together and the friendships developed.

Question: Eric Stoltz directed an episode. Were What was it like to work with him as a director?

Sash Roiz: Eric directs I think the very first episode airing this Tuesday. It was great. Eric’s a remarkably talented director. And it was very interesting to watch him wear two hats, and to watch him switch from director to actor because his storyline was quite heavy at that episode and so it wasn't easy for him.

So he was always very aware, even while he was performing, of what was happening behind the scenes. And it was remarkable to see him being able to switch so quickly because I think for him it was the first time he was directing himself as well.

So, that was really fun to watch. But as a director he was incredibly respectful. It’s obviously a strange transition when all of a sudden one of your co-stars is directing you. So he was very respectful and very gracious about it. And he did a great job. He was remarkably easy to work with because he understands the show as intimately as he does.

Question: Sam has a pretty cool wardrobe. Do you have your eye on anything?

Sash Roiz: I miss fedoras, I'll tell you that much. It’s kind of fun. I like the classic look that they built for us for sure. They did a (decent) job fitting the old with the new, this beautiful sort of retro feel yet in this incredibly advanced society.

I just love the fact that Sam would at least wear a tie. He almost looked like the most formal individual on the show considering his job title. And, you know, I just loved walking around in that leather jacket and that fedora. I mean it instantly evoked the character. Once the tattoos are on and that hat goes on it’s like you instantly fall into the character.

Question: We know that Sam is a really traditional kind of guy, not too into the technology. If you, Sasha Roiz, had access to a holoband, would you use it and what would you use it to do?

Sash Roiz: I'd be a goner. If I had a holoband I'd feel like sequestering myself in my house from this day on. I'd probably just turn into a mess. They'd find me sitting rotting away in my underwear somewhere.

It’s too tempting. It’s like the ultimate drug, right? You can just escape to wherever you want to escape. So, I think it’s a very, very dangerous tool. So I could understand why it’s become such an issue in that world because who doesn't want to escape?

When you look at society, that’s all people do, from drugs to television to everything we do is really just a form of escape. So this ultimate form of escape would just destroy society.

Question: If you had Sam standing in front of you right now, you could tell him one thing, what would you tell him?

Sash Roiz: I would be like “Dude, enough with the tattoos already, take it easy! Enough, we get it.”

I don't know if I'd want to have Sam standing in front of me, truthfully. Sam’s the kind of guy you want flanking you, making sure that everything’s okay. I don't think he’s the guy you want to sit facing across because I think then you’re pretty much in trouble.

Question: So you wouldn't hang out with him for a beer or something?

Sash Roiz: For a beer? It’d be interesting but I wouldn't know what to say. [He’s an] imposing character. I'd just sit there quietly sipping my beer trying not to get hurt.

Question: What was your favorite episode to shoot?

Sash Roiz: I think I really enjoyed the one with Paula back in the first half – 1x04? I can't ever remember the titles. I'm sorry. But I think it was called “Gravedancing.”

And then I enjoyed this next half (season 1.5), I really enjoyed where we took things. And so every day was really exciting, because as opposed to the first half, where we sort of let it breathe and kind of uncorked the bottle and let the thing breathe and just kind of bring you into it, in the second half it really starts to spin and everybody’s storyline starts to accelerate in pace and action.

And there was so much to do and so much to take care of. So it’s really hard for me to say because you'll see so many great things that will transpire [until the] finale, which is mind blowing!

And so there’s definitely a few coming up I think that have our back story which is really exciting. There’s the finale which I loved what they did with that and a few episodes leading from - I guess I just really love the second half.

But it starts kind of like in the third - I think there’s one called “Dirteaters.” It’s a background for Joseph and Sam. It was a very interesting episode and then it kind of spins from there. It really takes off for us especially, so I'm looking forward to it.

Question What do you find challenging about your role?

Sash Roiz: Every role I find challenging in its own way. This one, I guess I don't really find it especially more challenging than any other role I've played. In fact, it kind of brings about certain elements that I've always kind of enjoyed playing.

I just find it really fascinating how he’s such a dynamic character. And in fact, that makes it almost easier in some ways to play because there’s so many facets to the character, from the harshness that he portrays in the world to the softness that he has with his family and towards Willy.

And there’s so many various elements to him, the way he’s loyal within his organization and yet he’s such a criminal outside of that organization. So it makes the character in some ways even more fun and a little easier at times to play because there is such a balance to him. He really isn't one dimensional and it makes it a lot of fun to play.

So far it’s just been really like pleasurable to portray it. It’s a challenging bit whenever I have to start speaking in Tauron. But otherwise it’s been a total joy to play.

Question: Why is Twitter such an important place for you to connect with fans of the show?

Sash Roiz: I think Twitter’s just a fantastic vehicle for fans especially because, for us who are on the other end of it, it’s instant communication with people who otherwise don't really have access to you.

And so even if it’s short form communication, it’s so immediate and I think it’s such a fulfilling way to communicate with friends or people you admire whose work you like. I think it’s a very instant sense of gratification.

And also for me it’s a wonderful way to keep people abreast of the work I'm doing and Caprica and the events that are taking place. And it’s an amazing instant tool for PR and for communication between fans and celebrities and friends and so on. So I think it’s a wonderful tool.

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