Katee Sackhoff talks two kinds of ‘Oculus,’ virtual reality and social media
Katee Sackhoff has starred in two of the most beloved science-fiction franchises in history. She played Starbuck in Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica reboot and brought Bo-Katan to life in Cartoon Networks’ Star Wars The Clone Wars. The actress can currently be seen on the small screen in A&E’s Western series, Longmire, as well as in the horror flick, Oculus, which was just released on home video. Gamers will soon be hearing Sackhoff as Rán, the leader of the Valkyrie fighter pilots in CCP Games’ EVE Valkyrie space combat shooter game, which is coming out for PlayStation 4 (through the Morpheus headset) and PC (through Oculus Rift). Sackhoff talked to Fortune about her two unrelated Oculus projects and explains how social media can be used for good causes like the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Fortune: What was it like stepping into the horror of Oculus?
Sackhoff: Horror movies are an interesting thing because most people think that the atmosphere on set is usually pretty tense, and it’s almost the opposite. There’s tons of joking around and laughter because the subject matter sometimes is so heavy that you almost find yourself trying to really laugh and to make other people laugh and to keep the mood on set up.
What movies scare you?
I watched The Ring by myself at a house in the middle of Alberta. Probably not the smartest thing. That actually scared the shit out of me. I remember Blair Witch being so terrifying. I remember seeing it and people still thinking it was real when I saw it in the theater. Other than that, possession movies scare me because there’s a side to me that because there’s no proof it doesn’t exist, you have to believe it does.
Right, especially when they say “based on a true story.”
Yeah, absolutely. And really how based on a true story? Like are we loosely based, or is this exactly what happened? I don’t know if I would be on board to watch a movie that said completely and totally based on a true story, sort of like a documentary, but played by actors. The world is scary enough.
What are your thoughts about this whole virtual reality craze that’s going on right now, as someone who’s starring in an Oculus Rift video game?
The technology has been around for such a long time, and they’ve just really gotten to a point where it’s very realistic. When I was first approached about this game, I was a little apprehensive because I’d seen models before and they just weren’t great. So I took a meeting and sat down and as soon as I put the mask on I literally started laughing like a child and I couldn’t take it off. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. Having fake played a Viper pilot for seven years of my life, it’s the closest as an actor that I’ve actually felt to being part of a world. It’s absolutely amazing.
Potentially, it could change so many things. As an actor, how great would it be if you could see what the world is going to look like before you were going to do a project. Not to mention that for fans of video games, this is a dream come true…to be able to actually be in that world and to not only visually feel it, but feel it emotionally and physically. You physically feel the effects of playing the video game and using the technology, which is pretty phenomenal from someone who has played their share of video games. Not a ton these days, but I come from a family of gamers, so my brother and my nephews were excited about this game.
One of the big trends at San Diego Comic Con was Hollywood creating Oculus Rift virtual reality experiences for everything from Pacific Rim to X-Men to Sleepy Hollow. What would the Longmire virtual reality experience be like?
For Longmire it could be two-fold. You could be a murderer, which would be kind of cool, and you’re trying to get away with murdering someone, which would be really sick and twisted. But you could go after the bad guys and it could be a shoot’em up game, where you could like pick your weapons and shoot bad guys. Because Longmire is like a mix between Dirty Harry and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego in Wyoming. Or you could just pick to be the lazy person because it’s virtual reality and you could just like lay down and stare up into the big open sky in the sun. You could also ride a horse, which would be awesome, and do all that crazy stuff that people do on farms and in the Wild West.
Almost like Red Dead Redemption but with the Longmire characters.
Yes. And depending on which character you chose that’s how you get to pick your own personal weapon. Jake is from the city, so she may have some high caliber weapon.
How do the fan bases differ between Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars The Clone Wars?
There’s nothing like Battlestar Galactica, as far as the fans are concerned. There’s a ton of crossover fans, but as far as being fans of this show and us as actors for being part of it, there’s nothing like that. That being said, because of Clone Wars I think I’m a part of 50 different First Legion clubs, which is awesome because I’m in the process of hanging fuzzy Star Wars wallpaper in our guest bathroom. And there’s a character in the wall paper that if you squint, could be my character, Bo-Katan from Clone Wars.
Having stepped into universes like Riddick, Halo and Star Wars, was sci-fi something you were into when you were younger?
Absolutely. I grew up watching movies with my dad. It’s something that he and I bonded over at a very young age. Unbeknownst to my mother, he was showing me Predator when I was 7. Without realizing it – and granted I’m a fan of those movies — I think that I started picking projects that my dad would want to watch. And then it just spiraled from there. But I really think that was my criteria, would my dad think this is cool?
What are your thoughts on the power of social media and technology for good causes, having recently taken the Ice Bucket Challenge and also through your Acting Outlaws charity with Tricia Helfer?
There has been a bad side to social media, but we’re talking about the charitable component to it. And we have the ability, not only as actors but as people in this world, to reach so many people in a millisecond. To not use that for good is insane. There’s enough negativity in the world, and the world is scary enough. For Trish and I, Acting Outlaws was a way to marry our love of riding motorcycles with doing good. We have found over the years that if people are having fun while doing good, they’ll continue to do it. I come from a family where my mom was one of those people that if you have $2 in your wallet, you give the $2 away, so I’m just ingrained to do that. The Ice Bucket Challenge is interesting because it’s close to my heart. I worked with Scott Lew on Sexy Evil Genius, and ALS robbed him of his freedom of movement. He is still funny, and he is still the same man he always was, but there is a part of him that will be trapped because of this horrible disease. And my best friend’s mom was just diagnosed with it. ALS is something where a perfectly healthy human being on Day 1 can be diagnosed and 33 months later they could not be with us anymore. The scary thing about ALS is that it’s fast, but it’s slow moving.