When actress Katee Sackhoff shared during our interview with her that she really wanted to make sure her character Dahl in Riddick didn’t look like a meek wallflower while on the screen with Vin Diesel and her other action hero co-stars, it was difficult to imagine how Sackhoff could give off anything other than a strong presence, if that’s what she wanted.  I mean, we are talking about the woman who played Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, right? The same actress who now slings it wild west style in A&E’s Longmire as Vic Moretti, deputy sherrif by way of the Philadelphia PD’s homicide department…that Katee Sackhoff, right?

“I really wanted Dahl to look tough and have a physical presence standing next to these big guys,” she says. Leather trimmed costume or not, not even Vin Diesel hulking frame can take away from the brawn of Sackhoff natural aura.

An actress known for her ability to get her hands dirty in an on screen brawl or two, Sackhoff slips into her role as the lone woman — mercenary Dahl — in Riddick with the ease audiences (particularly sci-fi fans) have come to expect from the actress. The latest in the saga that started with Pitch Black (2000), followed by The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), Riddick is in theatres now.

Curious to know more about the softer side of Sackhoff i.e. what she likes to wear when not in character, we caught up the actress to chat red carpet fashion, personal style and autumn trends.

To start, can you tell us a bit about your character Dahl; what’s her story in a nutshell?

Dahl is a Nordic bounty hunter, who is one of the Mercs hunting Riddick. She is an amazing soldier and extremely tough. By far the toughest character I’ve played to date.

What’s Vin Diesel like as a co-star? Is his presence as large in person as it is on screen?

Vin is fantastic! He’s as fun and engaging as you could possibly imagine and a dream co-star…even though it seems weird to say that. He is truly the star and heart of the Riddick series and we are all just happy to be a part of it.

I imagine action films like Riddick are extremely physically demanding, did you have to hit the gym for your role? How did you prepare?

I did have to get ready for this role. I didn’t want to lose weight or have any part of me look dainty or little next to some pretty massive men in this movie! I put on about 10 lbs of muscle and just added bulk. I sat with my trainer Bud Fallon, and ultimately decided I didn’t want to lose size, just add strength and mass. So I ate a lot of food and lifted very heavy…the only cardio I did was 15-20 minutes of intense sprints every day, then lifted as heavy weights as I could for about an hour every other day. Not fun!

You must have been intimidating at the gym!

(Laughing) A guy came up to Matt Nable in the gym in Montreal and asked if I was a professional athlete because I was so intense and lifting so heavy. This guy was using 30 lb dum bells for fly’s and I asked to rotate in with him and used them to do curls! (Laughing) How emasculating! Sorry guy.

Did you have fun acting out the action sequences?

I love throwing punches! It’s like my favorite thing to do. I have a few fight scenes with Jordi Molla and 2 of the punches I had to throw were straight on, and that meant if you pause the film, you should see no space between my fist and his face! So the danger gets raised exponentially.

As a Battlestar Galactica alum, you’re anything but new to the world of science fiction. Having been immersed in the genre, what would you say stands out as its central audience draw?

Personally for me, it’s the fantastical component. I love for myself as an audience member that there is so much you can get away with just dismissing it as “well it’s science fiction so it doesn’t matter.” On Battlestar we did so many things that other shows would never have been able to do, but we got away with it because truthfully nobody took it seriously enough to realize babies were being killed, we had suicide bombers, political issues, and a large religious component (just to bring up a few) things that other shows skirted around, but we got to go head on because we weren’t “reality”

Allegories, one of my favourite things about the genre. Did your Riddick wardrobe put you in the mood for some high impact action? You look tough!

(Laughing) Thanks! Well, we were fitted for our wardrobe, which when you see it, you’ll be blown away, but my first wardrobe change is very masculine and I went to DT [director David Twohy] and said, “I think I need to show more skin!” For a large portion of this movie I am the only female presence….even though she’s crazy tough, a little T&A never hurt anyone! He agreed saying, “You don’t have to ask me twice, show me what ya got in mind.”

And then out came the fitted leather?

The ladies came up with this brilliant costume that was still tactical. I wanted it to be sexy but still functional and have every piece serve a purpose. The corset helps Dahl balance the heavy sniper rifle, the tight pants keep her profile as small as possible, the chaps protect her skin while taking defensive positions with the rifle, and the whole thing is black so she can disappear and blend to be unseen.

Utilitarian and pretty fashionable! In your own life are you more a function over style type of person or are you drawn to pretty things?

Pretty pretty pretty! But just because something is comfortable, doesn’t mean you can’t look beautiful and feel sexy.

What about on the red carpet, for example the upcoming Riddick premiere, what’s your go-to style for those types of events?

DVF for sure….

Do you work with a stylist when preparing for red carpet events, or do you prefer to take care of your own wardrobe?

I do my own thing, but it’s a bit difficult because you can really only wear these dresses the one time once you are photographed in them, so it can get a bit spendy.

I bet. What about hair and makeup? Do you usually handle that yourself or do you call in the pros to lend a hand when preparing for award shows and premieres?

I do my own for a bunch of events, but truthfully for the bigger stuff I rely on my team…and it does take a team! Trust me!

What’s your take on how to balance a look? In other words if your outfit makes a loud statement, should your hair and makeup make a similar statement, or should it be more muted to balance the overall look?

I think it really depends on what sorta mood you are in that day. I’ve made mistakes and done loud and loud and regretted it, but then other times it can work. It all depends on what you’re trying to convey for that event. Sometimes it’s fun to look a little trashy.

Who are some of your favourite designers and what do you like about their designs?

DVF because it fits “women’s” bodies very well. I’m a size 4 and sadly in our country that means I have to find designers who dress for curves. DVF does a brilliant job. The red leather dress [I wore] at Comic Con is DVF.

Any others?

Ted Baker…I love the colors and cuts of his line. One of the dresses I wore to Comic Con will always be my favorite…pink and orange colors with a flowing skirt and a tighter top to the dress. It was so flattering! The men’s line is also brilliant! [And] Ralph Lauren…for the classic cuts and styles of the entire line. His look will always be in fashion and never make you second guess your choice.

Any plans on attending New York Fashion Week?

I have been, but am not going this year. I would much rather be wearing fashion then looking at it.

What item in your closet would you never want to part with?

My Burberry trench coat. It’s a distressed one I got years ago that I’ve never seen anyone have. It takes a classic look and makes it slightly unique and edgy, while still maintaining the classic look. And, my dad’s old flannel shirt I stole in high school and still wear. I swear it still, [it] smells like him.

What item in your closet might have already overstayed its welcome?

Some vintage pieces that seem to work in the store, and then you get them home and it just doesn’t have a place yet. I hold on to these things because I can’t bare to part with an ’80s Dior dress, even if I can’t find the right place for it…yet!

Who is your style icon and what do you love about their signature fashion look?

I kinda have a bohemian grunge vibe to a lot I my clothing decisions, so I love Nicole Ritchie’s style and Kate Hudson’s.

What look are you going for this fall season? Any particular trends your excited about?

I’m just happy to be able to put my boots back on! I love tight leggings with boots and T-shirts with sweater or fitted blazer or a flannel. It’s comfortable and in my opinion always trendy.

Published September 6, 2013