Riddick star Katee Sackhoff almost had no choice but to evolve into the bad ass sci-fi actress she has become. At an early age -- she tells Movie Fanatic -- her father introduced her to some of the genre’s most kick-ass stars, including a certain Alien heroine who redefined what women do on film.
“I grew up watching science fiction with my dad. It was kind of our little secret. It was our bonding time as father and daughter. He showed me movies that I should not have been watching,” Sackhoff said and laughed.
“I think I saw Predator when I was six. I knew from a young age that it wasn’t real but I just loved it. We watched so much Star Trek that it was coming out of my ears by the time I was ten. I grew up idolizing these men -- Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis -- these guys that embodied everything that action was.”
One day she informed her father what she wanted from her future, and it was then he decided it was time to watch Sigourney Weaver as Ripley.
“I told my dad I wanted to be like one of these guys. He was like, ‘I think we should watch Alien, but don’t tell your mother.’ When I saw it, I realized, ‘Wow, I don’t have to be a dude. I can be Sigourney Weaver.’ Then Linda Hamilton came along and then Lucy Lawless as Xena -- on a weekly basis -- Sarah Michelle Gellar [in Buffy the Vampire Slayer]. They were few and far between, but these strong women kept coming, and they’ve just increased as the years have gone on,” Sackhoff said.
Not that the actress wants to be pigeon-holed as a sci-fi only actress. Turns out she wants to be like Weaver in more than one way. “I’ve always been inspired by Sigourney. I admire how she’s been able to have such diversity in her career. That’s a wonderful thing.”
Audiences first became aware of Sackhoff in TV’s reboot of the sci-fi movie classic Battlestar Galactica. And as seen in the Riddick trailer, they’re about to get another dose of her sci-fi kick-assery.
When it came to making Riddick, she was too excited because it allowed her to work alongside star Vin Diesel. Not only does Diesel star in the film, but he is also a producer and that found Sackhoff finding a new appreciation for the action hero.
“He’s amazing. From the minute I met him, he has the ability to make you feel like he’s known you for his entire life and you’ve known him forever. There is this responsibility that you sense he feels he has to this series of movies,” Sackhoff said.
The actress wanted her character, the lone woman in Riddick, not to be a wallflower. So much so, that she wanted to add weight. “I know this is the opposite of women in this business but I wanted to put on ten to fifteen pounds of muscle and some fat because otherwise I’m going to look so small next to these guys. And Vin was like, ‘Do whatever you want to do. You own this character. By the time you get to the set in Montreal, you’ll know her better than anybody,’” Sackhoff said.
“I remember getting to the hotel and he looked at my arms and said, ‘Geez, you did it, kid!’ My arms were huge. So he gave me trust and responsibility and freedom, but he was our boss as well. He allowed me to create this character how I thought it should be.”
Her character of Dahl wasn’t initially the second in command of the group of mercenaries who land on the desolate planet to capture the fugitive Riddick. That was all Sackhoff. “I made a lot of this stuff up. In the script, she wasn’t Boss Johns’ Number 2,” she admitted. “Vin has been married to this project for so long and I’m sure it’s owned a piece of property in his brain. You can sit and listen to him talk about it forever, because he’s just so passionate about it. And he brings that to set every day.”
Although Sackhoff has worked with her share of weapons during her career, in another bold move of claiming her character, she was forced to learn something new. One of the mercenaries was supposed to be a sharp-shooter… and Sackhoff felt it should be her. Little did she know it would require so much more of her!
“It took a week for me to learn how to take the gun apart and put it back together, get the ammunition and load all the while keeping my eyes down the scope. That’s something I’d never had to do before. The hardest thing for me with that sniper rifle was carrying it in the case, which weighed about 50 pounds,” she said and laughed. “David (Twohy, director) was like, ‘You wanted it. You’re carrying it.’ So I had to carry it for an entire day. Sometimes you have to be uncomfortable!”
Sure, she’s known for being a sci-fi actress who can simultaneously kick butt and be vulnerable at the same time. But, does Sackhoff dream of doing something else? Why, the answer might surprise.
“I’m a lot girlier than the roles I play, but I don’t believe there’s anything wrong in this business for being typecast. I’m trying to create longevity. I also believe that when doors don’t open, make new doors. So I’ve started producing things as well,” Sackhoff said.
Perhaps we’ll see her in a period piece someday? “Sure, maybe I’ll wear a corset at some point and do an English accent.”