A queer geek icon thanks to her role as cocky fighter pilot Starbuck on the cult Syfy series Battlestar Galactica, Katee Sackhoff is still kicking ass, now as Vic, a Wyoming deputy, on the A&E western Longmire, which returns May 27 for a second season. Back to deep space this fall in the action flick Riddick, the 33-year-old motorcyclist opens up about her dream to do rom-coms and dress like a hooker.
The Advocate: You’re shooting Longmire on location in New Mexico. How’s the gay scene down there?
Katee Sackhoff: I haven’t been, but there must be an amazing gay bar somewhere. There are definitely a lot of lesbians here.
If you ever feel blue and need attention, you should just find a lesbian bar.
I know! That’s my joke about science-fiction conventions too.
When did you first become aware of your queer following?
It was my 25th birthday, Battlestar had been on for two years, and one my guy friends said, “We’re going to Hamburger Mary’s!” I was like, “Awesome.” So we went, and they comped the entire meal because they were big fans of the show. I was like, “When did this happen? This is amazing!” After that, my gay following just kept getting bigger and louder. The more I went to conventions and talked to fans, the more I realized that, you know, it was all about me and Lucy Lawless.
What does that support mean to you?
I’ve thought about this a lot, because my answer to that question has changed as I’ve gotten older. There’s a calmness to your career when you have such vocal support from a community, but it also gives you a purpose beyond your career to be an advocate for that community. You’re affecting and touching peoples’ lives, and it does something to the pit of your belly that just makes you feel proud. When I was younger, it was like, “Yay, lesbians love me!” I didn’t know there was a responsibility that came with it.
You’ve played tough, butch gals in Battlestar, Bionic Woman, 24, Longmire, and the upcoming Riddick. Is America not ready to see you all dolled up in a rom-com?
I joke all the time that I needed to secure an audience first before going in a completely different direction. Playing tough characters just comes easy for me. It’s not who I am in real life, so I love going to work and pretending to be something I’m not. I love all the action and confidence. But when I finally go do a rom-com, I hope my fans will support me.
Do you get jealous when you watch Katherine Heigl movies?
I do! It’s crazy. My fiancé actually did a movie with Katherine, and every night he came home from work I’d be like, “I’m dying to do a romantic comedy!” I read YA novels constantly, so I really want to be in a young adult rom-com, but I worry that I’m aging into the parent role, which is a little scary.
You worked with Ryan Murphy on Nip/Tuck. You should call and ask him to cast you as a singing parent or teacher on Glee.
What’s funny, though, is that if I called Ryan Murphy I’d ask to be in American Horror Story. While I would love to belt out some showtunes, I’m more drawn to darker, crazier projects.
Your character in Riddick looks like she might be your toughest one yet.
Her name is Dahl, and she’s a mercenary. She’s the only woman on this ship with guys for months, years at a time. She’s straight, but she lets people believe that she’s gay because it protects her in this environment, emotionally and physically. I understand where she’s coming from. She’s definitely the hardest character I’ve ever played. I love to play emotion and give characters the emotional layers that confuse people in real life, but I didn’t need to do that with Dahl. She’s just tough. I actually wanted to make her tougher and shave my head, but the director wouldn’t let me.
Did you buff up for the role?
I was the tightest and strongest I’ve ever been. I was in Montreal with 10 guys for two months while we were shooting, so we were working out constantly. Whenever we had 15 minutes, we’d be lifting weights. I’d go to the gym with my costar Matt Nable, and I was doing massive sprints, curling 35s, and my arms were humongous. At one point, Jesse Palmer, who was an NFL player and one of the bachelors on The Bachelor, came up and asked Matt, “Is she a professional athlete?” Matt was like, "No, she’s just an actress.”
Because of your tomboyish characters, are you ever mistaken for a lesbian?
Constantly. So much at one point that there was a moment in my life when I was like, “Do they know something I don’t? They obviously have better gaydar than I do.” Because you never know. I could kiss a girl and like it.
You starred as a bisexual psycho in the dark comedy Sexy Evil Genius, which is now on DVD, and got to kiss Michelle Trachtenberg, who played your ex-girlfriend.
That was first time I had kissed a girl, and it was terrifying. Michelle kept grabbing my boobs, teasing, “We get to make out!” I thought I might feel something — that maybe it would shock me and I’d finally understand it completely. But as I kissed her, I realized that kissing a girl onscreen is no different than kissing a guy. It was fun, and she’s a fantastic kisser, but you’d have the same emotion kissing a bouncy ball.
I’m sure a lot of lesbian fans would also love to see you and Tricia Helfer, your best friend and business partner, ride your motorcycles into the sunset together.
Well, we actually did a calendar together for our Acting Outlaws company, and there’s one photo of us that didn’t make the calendar. It’s a shot we did at the end of the night, and the photographer said, “I really want you guys entwined. Naked.” We were like, “Oh, my God, really? OK, let’s do this!” So we’re sitting on railroad tracks, hugging each other, completely nude, laughing hysterically because her breast was almost in my mouth. We were both trying not to look down because we were almost bumping vajooshels. It’s a stunning photo that we chose to sell on its own, and we’ve had many lesbian fans tell us they’d bought it and hung it in their house.
Your motorcycle-riding duo has been involved in various charity events, but proceeds from that 2013 Acting Outlaws calendar benefited amFAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. How did you get involved with them?
We met Chris Salgardo, the president of Kiehl’s, a few years ago on one of their LifeRide for amFAR motorcycle rides to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. Tricia and I just love the entire Kiehl’s family, so we started doing more things with them. Then we had the weighty responsibility but beautiful opportunity to stand up at the International AIDS Conference last year in Washington, D.C., and read some of the names of people who have passed on from the disease. We were both so overcome with emotion that we became huge advocates of amFAR. We wanted to continue to do whatever we could, with Kiehl’s and on our own, to help the fight against AIDS.
Growing up in Oregon, what was your first exposure to gay people?
One of my best friends in high school was gay. We did musical theater together. Mark and I hung out constantly. Growing up with him in a small town — an intense pressure cooker of a place for any child, but especially for someone who’s LGBT — I had an early awareness of his challenges. He was such a beautiful person. The fact that anyone could not like him because of who he is was so beyond anything that I could comprehend, because I loved him so much. It formed my opinion from a very young age about the importance of accepting people for everything that they are.
Have you kept in touch with him?
In all honesty, because I moved to Los Angeles when I was 17, I don’t speak to anyone from high school anymore. There are so many people who affected my life and my understanding of things back then, but I have no idea where these people are.
That’s what Facebook is for.
I don’t know how to use Facebook. I have a Facebook account, but my administrator does it. I don’t even know how to log in. But all my tweets go to my Facebook, so that’s as much as I know how to use Facebook.
Are there any LGBT storylines on the new season of Longmire?
If the show took place in a big city, where being gay was more common and accepted, that would naturally work its way into the storylines. Because of our show’s geography and the way these people live, it changes the accessibility to certain stories. Last season we did have a married father who was gay, but he was closeted because he’s a cowboy. I actually just had a conversation with the producers and writers and said, “We’re dancing around the gay and lesbian storylines. I’d really love if we had a gay character who isn’t in hiding. I want them portrayed in a way that isn’t a joke and isn’t shameful.” So it is going to happen when the timing’s right.
Have they found ways to get you out of your deputy’s uniform? It leaves everything to the imagination.
I know, right? Why does every character I play have to have a uniform that hides every inch of my body? There’s an episode where I go out in casual clothing, but it’s still not tits up, ass out — which I’m a big fan of. We have another episode where I’m undercover, and I was so hoping they’d say, “Katee, you’re going undercover as a hooker!” Instead, I’m sitting in a car, eating a burger.