Katee Sackhoff on being ‘incredibly odd’ and playing make believe with Vin Diesel for ‘Riddick’

SAN DIEGO – I’ve liked Katee Sackhoff since watching the first season of “Battlestar Galactica,” but over the span of two days at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I’ve come to think much more highly of her.

First, she’s a great spokesman for “Riddick,” the latest chapter in the space opera serial that David Twohy and Vin Diesel have made, and she seems excited to be joining the series. On the panel in Hall H and then again when we spoke later in the day, she seems thrilled to be in the film and to have been given the character to play. Dahl is a bounty hunter who shows up as part of a team that has been tracking Riddick because of something that happened in “Pitch Black,” and she manages to find all sorts of grace notes in what could easily have been a very thin stereotype. David Twohy writes genuine no-apologies pulp movies, and I think actors have to be willing to dig in and find something real to play in a situation like this.

We talked about how she handles the particular demands of green-screen shooting, and we talked about how she clicked right away with Twohy and with Vin. I love that this is not a movie where the main woman character is expected to fall into bed with Riddick. Vin doesn’t get enough public credit for being a fairly progressive influence on the films he anchors, but when you talk to people who have worked with him, it sounds like he genuinely strives towards a world view that is multi-cultural and where gender’s not a division. He seems to inspire a good deal of loyalty in people, and based on the way Sackhoff talked about him during the “Women Who Kick Ass” panel on Saturday, she’s a newly minted member of the fan club.

It’s one thing to get to know someone via characters they play, but Sackhoff in person seems like a charming collection of contradictions, strong but wide-open and vulnerable, confident but self-deprecating. She’s striking in person, with intense eyes, but she’s also nowhere near as big as she seems on film. It can’t be easy finding things you are proud of doing when you’re an actress, and particularly once you’re identified as someone who does genre. We work in an industry that loves reducing people to one small thing, making it easier to fit them in boxes, but Sackhoff seems to me like someone who’s going to keep pushing against those boxes as long as she’s working, and I look forward to more filmmakers figuring out exactly how big a presence she really is.

“Riddick” opens September 6, 2013.