Katee Sackhoff Talks Returning to Space for Netflix's 'Another Life'

Meredith Jacobs
Q&A

Katee Sackhoff is returning to space in Netflix's new sci-fi drama, Another Life — just don't expect her character, astronaut Niko Breckinridge, to be anything like Battlestar Galactica's Starbuck.

What you can expect is a "rapid-fire" pace, Sackhoff told TV Insider. "Even when we were filming it, it's got this pace that is just never-ending and it just keeps speeding up as you go along as well. Hold on to your seat because it speeds up."

Sackhoff previews her latest survival story.

Let's start with an overview of the series and who Niko is.

Katee Sackhoff: Another Life is basically a survival story and a mother's journey and how far she's willing to go to protect her family. Niko [is] an astronaut who's also in the military, and she was chosen to lead a mission into space to find out the origin of a signal. The signal is attached to an artifact on Earth that may or may not be evil. So she leaves her family to go out into space and lead a very young crew.

Katee Sackhoff Leads the 'Most Important Mission in History' in 'Another Life'

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The EP of the Netflix series previews some of the challenges Sackhoff's astronaut Niko Breckinridge will be facing.

What has her career has been like up to this point and why is she the right person to lead this mission?

I think that's a double-edged sword. Part of the reason why Niko was chosen is that she's incredibly level-headed and she's able to compartmentalize as an astronaut and do what she needs to do. She may or may not have been chosen based on the military side of her that has the ability to also be ruthless and stay on mission. Sometimes there are sacrifices to be made.

Niko has a very unique ability to have both the astronaut side to her but also the military side that's willing to do whatever it takes.

(Colin Bentley/Netflix)

Can you talk about what her relationship with Ian (Tyler Hoechlin) was like before this mission and how it's changed since he lost the post to her?

This is a very strange situation. When Niko wakes up, she may or may not have had much time to digest that she is leading the mission and not Yerxa. This was a very quick decision by the powers that be that Niko was replacing [him]. The reason for that is that Niko just has more experience than him, and at the end of the day, if the fate of humanity is on the line, you want someone with the most experience leading the mission, but you also want someone who is level-headed and I think that's something that Niko has over Yerxa.

That also being said, he was her student, so it's gotta be really hard for him when the ship that he's been leading and the crew that he's been leading for however many years was taken away and given to his superior when he thinks that he's perfectly capable.

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Can you break down her relationships with the rest of the team?

Niko doesn't know the rest of the team, not very well. Ian Yerxa has a much tighter relationship with this crew. Niko knows a few of them because she was probably their teacher at some point, but for the most part, she really only has a relationship with August, played by Blu [Hunt]. She knew August's brother Billy, [who] was one of her crew members on the ship that she was second-in-command on, called the Pilgrim.

Who is she closest to and who makes it the hardest for her on the ship?

It's probably one and the same. She feels completely responsible for Cas (Elizabeth Ludlow). She has this relationship with her where she's like a daughter to her and so, on one hand, Cas is her second. Cas is the person that she leans on the most. She's the person that she trusts the most. She's the person that she's known the longest.

(Colin Bentley/Netflix)

But on the other hand, she's a liability because there is now somebody on this ship that she will protect at any cost because family is very important to Niko and she considers Cas to be family. So, she's in a very unique situation where her strongest ally and her biggest weakness are on the ship with her.

And who is Niko away from work? What's her relationship like with her husband?

Her relationship with Erik is very sweet. Niko's very, very capable, and when she's at home, she lets Erik control everything. She's the type of person that she's one thing at work and she's a completely different thing at home.

There's a softness to Niko when she's at home. Having a daughter and a husband has completely changed Niko. Her relationship with her husband, Erik, is one that's built on trust. It's built on honesty. He knows everything about her, and he also knows that she's the best person for this mission.

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What would surprise those she works with the most about her at home? That she lets Erik have that control?

Probably. [Around] everybody on this ship, Niko is very controlled. She's very strong. There is a strength in weakness — vulnerability is a better word — and Niko being vulnerable at home is a strength for her, but the crew would view that as a weakness.

Do you think the biggest challenge for Niko is going to be what happens after this mission versus what happens on it?

Oh, 100 percent. This is a test of her psychological will right now and how she needs to trust herself because of the decision she made on the Pilgrim, and so I think that she's at war within herself to do the right thing. She's put a lot of pressure on herself. I do think that [it] is going to be very interesting to find out what happens when the chips have fallen and then what do you do then?

(James Dittiger/Netflix)

Let's talk about the alien artifact and the intelligence she and her team are looking for. Do you think it's scarier to think they're not evil?

I don't know. To Niko, anything that she doesn't understand is a threat and so she desperately is trying to figure this out. She's a very good soldier. She was sent on this mission for a purpose, which will become very clear as you get further along in the series, and it may not be what everyone thinks it is.

From Niko's perspective, what you don't know is a threat, and to her, the aliens are a threat, and so that is a very big problem for her.

Because as a soldier, she's used to having to fight, and so if she finds out she doesn't have to, that would change things.

Absolutely. One of the things that Niko has struggled with over the last 10 years is that she doesn't have a purpose. Her purpose is being a mother. It's something that a lot of military can identify with. I have friends that served multiple tours and came home and felt it was very hard to reintegrate themselves into society and it continues to be a struggle for them.

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From Niko's perspective, having been out and been with the Pilgrim and lost crew and then to go back to Earth where things are safe with her child and be a mom, she's not comfortable there. She's comfortable out in space. She's comfortable fighting. That's who she is and so that is a big struggle for her, to reintegrate. There is a part of Niko that gets her energy and is more of who she really is at her core when she's out in space.

And how does Niko handle missions in general compared to Starbuck? Do you think those two characters would be able to switch places and do what's needed with ease?

No. In the very beginning of this, when we were creating this show, the idea that Niko was Starbuck grown up bothered me. I was like, "I don't want that. That's not who I think Starbuck is or would or even could be." Starbuck wasn't very educated. Starbuck was military from the moment she was born. Well, further education is a better way to put it.

(Carole Segal/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Niko is highly qualified. She's very studied. She's very smart. And she's calm in the face of danger, and she's analytical, and that is not what Starbuck is. Starbuck is 100 percent emotion and that rules her. Niko is so much more calculated and calm, and she makes the decisions that need to be made and sacrifices at times what she holds most dear to her, which Starbuck wouldn't do.

Another Life, Series Premiere, Thursday, July 25, Netflix