Most celebrities are literally underwhelming. Hollywood is the land where short actors can pass for giants thanks to clever cinematography and the occasional well-placed apple box. What struck me first about Tricia Helfer (the star of “Killer Women,” which premieres tonight at 10:00 p.m. ET on ABC) when I met her on the show’s Albuquerque set is just how tall she is.
At 5’11, the former model and “Battlestar Galactica” star is striking for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is natural beauty, and yet she brings remarkable grit to her character in “Killer Women.” As a trumpet-playing Texas Ranger who cares more about getting the bad guy (or, in this case, bad girl) than fixing her lipstick, Helfer is smart, sassy and not afraid of standing up for whatever cause she believes to be right. She’s not a wallflower, and for that matter, neither is Helfer. I spoke to her briefly between scenes, and discovered that she’s not a natural trumpet player (kinda guessed), she’s really into serial killers and she sees the resemblance between herself and Michael Trucco, too.
How did you feel when they told you Molly would be playing the trumpet? You didn’t look thrilled in that scene.
I was happy! We had the Mavericks on set that day, it was amazing. As true musicians, they just wanted to jam. They were so sweet. [pause] I was happy it was a short clip. I had a trumpet coach teach me which fingers to use. Unlike with other instruments where somebody else can be playing and you can be pretending, it’s here.
In the shot.
Right in front of your face. You can fake it okay, but I’m a little bit of a perfectionist so I tried to have the right fingers where they were supposed to be. So he wrote down, okay, your first finger is here, your second finger there. I tried to get it good. But it won’t be every episode. It’s just too time consuming when you only have eight days to film an episode and a bar scene that takes half a day to film. On a pilot, you do have the time, because you have fourteen days to shoot a pilot.
Molly’s too busy to be playing trumpet, anyway, right?
Yes, she’s busy! We were actually going to do it with the episode we’re doing now, because Becca (Molly’s sister-in-law, played by Marta Mlans) is singing at her daughter’s quinceniera, and I was going to be on the trumpet in the background, but then they changed it from a band to a DJ, so it doesn’t make sense for Molly to be up there with a trumpet and a DJ. It will be an every once in a while thing.
So, there are changes from the original pilot. What other changes?
There are a couple scenes changing. We get a better feel for Molly and her family now. Because before there was a scene in a hair salon where we’re talking about people we haven’t seen yet, so we’re thinking, what’s going on? And there was a great scene between [Molly’s brother, played by Michael Trucco] Billy and I, but we couldn’t use it because then [viewers] realize, we haven’t met Billy before so who’s she talking to? So we reshot it. Instead of assuming this is a girl with straw in her hair, we see it. You establish the ranch, the brother, the sister and the kids right off the bat. Then I get taken away to a murder. I think it’s a much stronger opening with the family. I haven’t seen it all cut together yet, but I was happy with those changes.
So, “Killer Women” will always feature a female killer. Won’t we always figure out who it is?
Sometimes there’s multiple women so you don’t quite know. To me, it’s not so much who it is, but why they did it. That was what interested me when they approached me about the project, the differences between why men and women kill. Some are killing out of passion or because they’re pushed into a corner or because they’re protecting their child, and some, we just had a serial killer episode.
With a woman? A female serial killer?
With a woman. And as you know, the percentage of serial killers who are women is very low. I’ve read up quite a bit about them, so it was fun to have on the show. Even if you figure out who it is, it’s fun to find out why she became the way she did. That’s what is going to keep the interest in those particular stories.
Sofia Vergara is the executive producer. How important has it been to have her on board?
I think hugely important in the initial process of dealing with getting the show green lit to a pilot stage. I have never met Sofia, so I can’t speak with authority. She’s very busy with “Modern Family.”
In the casting process, did you ever suggest to the producers, hey, I know this guy from “Battlestar Galactica” who could play my brother (Michael Trucco)…
There were a few people I knew who were auditioning for the role, and when he said he got it, it was awesome. He’s a really good friend, but when you’re friends you never say, oh, we look alike. But then we saw a picture of us as Billy and Molly, and I said, crap, we could totally play brother and sister. We have a similar look and, we’re friends, so we already have that comfort with each other as actors and friends. I already call him my bro. Physically, we’re both tall or whatever, so I think we’ll play brothers and sisters very well.