Interview with Tahmoh Penikett

Tahmoh Penikett is known for kicking some major ass in whatever role he plays.  He is known best for playing Captain Karl ‘Helo’ Agathon in “Battlestar Galactica” TV series as well as Paul Ballard in “Dollhouse”.  Tahmoh also recently played the role of Stryker in the web series “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Tahmoh about his various roles and what he has planned next.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you become involved with working on “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”?
Tahmoh Penikett: That was straight up because of my friendship with Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon.  They are a beautiful couple.  Jed is Joss Whedon’s younger brother.  He is married to Maurissa who is the older brother of Kevin Tancharoen, who is the director of “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”.  He is the man who came up with this brilliant idea.  Maurissa and Jed were also some of the key writers on “Dollhouse”.  She called me up one day and said they were looking for someone to play the character of Stryker.  They said they really wanted me to do it but weren’t sure if my managers or agents are going to want to because they had no money.  I checked out the material and I told them I would be thrilled to be on board.

MG: Tell us about your experience working on the web series?
TP: A lot of it to be honest was kind of on the fly.  Kevin came to me one day during shooting and said they were trying to shoot too much and Michael (Jai White) couldn’t do the scene with Jeri (Ryan), so he told me on the spot he was going to write me into it.  It was perfect for me.  This happened on a Friday night and we were going to be shooting on Monday morning. They told me last minute just to use Michael’s dialogue which was like half a page of dialogue.  I come in on Monday and I have like three pages of all me talking.  They gave it to me when I got there and we were suppose to be shooting in twenty minutes.  I was wondering how I was going to memorize three pages in twenty minutes.  Well, We managed to get through it and when I saw the final project I was happy with it.  There was a lot of funny moments like that.  When you look at the texture, the editing, the style of it, there is no way you can tell anything about the budget and that is what is so incredible with what Kevin has done with it. I was blown away.  I think it is going to really open some doors.

MG: Tell us about the upcoming film “Jabberwocky”, which your starring directed by Steven R. Monroe?
TP: I do not know how much I can talk about it.  It is like the film “Dragonslayer”, set it Medieval Times.  I play one of the brothers of the two main characters.  My character never left home and stood around to take care of the two main brothers like a father.  I play a blacksmith.  My older brother has gone off and became a decorated warrior, traveled and done all of these amazing things.  It really starts with him returning back to the village and going from there.  I am not sure how much I can say after that.  As I said there might be a dragon involved, but I guess that hint comes with the title “Jabberwocky” [laughs].

MG: You have worked quite a bit in the sci-fi genre, do you have a favorite genre to work in?
TP: The sci-fi genre has been amazing to me.  Some of the more significant work I have done in the last 10 years have come out of there.  Five years in “Battlestar Galactica” alone, it was such an incredible show.  I do not have a particular favorite though.  I am willing to do anything as long as it is good material and the people are good that I am working with.

MG: What did you was your favorite part about playing Captain Karl ‘Helo’ Agathon in “Battlestar Galactica”
TP: There were so many man.  You are talking like over 70 episodes.  There were a lot.  I got to work with Edward James Olmos and later in the series I got to work a lot with Mary McDonnell.  Everything I did with Grace Park was incredible.  We really brought some incredible work out of each other. There was one episode “The Woman King”.  I had a lot of fun with that.  That was a great episode.  It was just really good for me.

MG: Going from “Battlestar” to “Dollhouse”, tell us about that experience?
TP: “Dollhouse” had a lot of potential.  It was very unique premise and idea.  Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to see it through.  I just feel blessed that I got to work with these people.  Working with Maurissa Tanchareon, Joss and his family and everyone else involved.  Just having that experience even just for two seasons was great.  Even after the first it wasn’t looking too good for us.  It was looking like it was going to be canceled.  We came back for a second and half way through we found out that we were pulled, but at least they let us finish the thirteen episodes.  Which was good news, even though it was unfortunate but at least the plug wasn’t pulled in the middle of the show.  But overall it was a very positive experience and I am very thankful again.

MG: What would you say is your most challenging role to date?
TP: All of them at times depending on the project.  Paul Ballard was not an easy character on “Dollhouse”.  Joss Whedon called me and told me about the role.  I was so excited since he was a more darker lone wolf character than Helo was in “Battlestar Galactica”.  It was exactly what I was looking for my next character.  I was really excited to get into him but he was very confusing at times.  It took me along time to find his music…more time than I thought it would.  That is the journey we take as actors.

MG: Since you have training muay thai, do you perform all your own stunts?
TP: I do most of my stunts, yah.  I do everything that is safely allowed.  The only time I don’t do something is when I am actually looking at it and going “Ok this is nuts, I can actually get hurt here”.  In “Dollhouse” we had some great fight scenes.  We had an amazing fight and stunt coordinator, Mike Massa.  He let me choreograph a lot of the fight scenes with him.  I came up with a lot of my stuff.  Most of the dangerous stuff we had really great martial arts on the set to do those.  They made everyone look good.  Every time I have the opportunity to do physical work, I want to do it.  I am a physical guy, that is what I like to do.

MG: What do you have planned upcoming?
TP: I just worked on a new series on AMC but I am not allowed to say a peep about it.  I just did that a little while ago.  I am just looking at other projects and I am really excited about a couple of things so we will see what happens.

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