It's difficult to describe the television show "Battlestar Galactica" without sounding, well, a little geeky. But here it goes.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: It's about humans and a race of robots called Cylons. The Cylons nuked the humans' planet, but some humans survived, so they went flying across the universe in search of a new home. Did I mention that the Cylons look like humans? Oh, and that some of the Cylons are kind of good? You get the idea. But the show is about much more than sci-fi swashbuckling. It's about human rights and terrorism, about the nature of conflict and what it means to be human.

In fact, the show's themes are so relevant to what's happening in the world today that a screening and discussion panel was organized this past week at the United Nations. The series ended last night on the Sci-Fi Channel.

We're joined now by actress Mary McDonnell, who played Laura Roslin, the president of the Twelve Colonies on "Battlestar Galactica."

Thanks for being with us.

Ms. MARY MCDONNELL (Actress): Oh, you're very welcome. I'm quite happy to be here. Thank you.

HANSEN: What is it about the show that attracted such a rabid fan base, do you think?

Ms. MCDONNELL: Well, I do think that the show allows people to see the situation we're in presently, completely honestly, and in a very sort of raw and honest, open - politically, environmentally, emotionally, spiritually, we're seeing where we are, and that's a very difficult thing to face. The science fiction aspect of it opens it up so that we're able to see it through that lens, which gives us a little bit of distance on the mire that we're stuck in, and one has a little bit more courage to be able to interact with the ideas, because we can view it through a bigger idea, which gives us hope.

So I think it's just allowing people to get down with the issues that we face daily, but do it with a little more confidence that we're going to come out of it.

HANSEN: In the efforts of full disclosure, I'm going to admit that I'm more of a fair-weather fan than a rabid fan. So…


HANSEN: …if you don't mind, I'd actually like to use a lifeline. I'd like to bring someone into our conversation.

Casey(ph), are you there?

Ms. CASEY CONAN: I'm here.

HANSEN: Mary McDonnell, this is my daughter, Casey Conan.

Ms. MCDONNELL: Hi, Casey.

Ms. CONAN: Hi.

HANSEN: I'll just preface this by saying she hasn't seen the ending, even though the show has ended. She is basically saving the last episodes up to view all together. But I thought she might have some more cogent questions for you. So would you mind talking to Casey?

Ms. MCDONNELL: I wouldn't mind at all. And Casey, I promise you, I will not spoil anything for you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CONAN: Well, thank you.

Ms. MCDONNELL: You're welcome.

Ms. CONAN: I wanted to ask about (unintelligible) like the darker areas of the show, like it's no stretch to say that this is a dark show.

Ms. MCDONNELL: Absolutely.

Ms. CONAN: Jane (unintelligible) is famous for saying the humor is so dark you can't see it against a black wall.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CONAN: This is not a show that's obviously afraid to kill people off, sometimes very, very randomly. And I'm just wondering what it is like as an actor to be like, well, you know, Ron Moore, he kind of likes killing us off, he might kill me off this episode.

Ms. MCDONNELL: Well, it's a great question, and I think that most of the other actors would have a different answer. I knew from the very beginning that Laura Roslin's life was in danger. So I kind of got used to it before I agreed to play the part because in the miniseries, her very first scene is, she is told that she has terminal cancer. And it was kind of interesting for me because even though Ron and I met at lunch around that time and he did, at that time, say that she'd probably go in and out of remission, I felt like, well, but one never knows, does one; therefore, I'd better be very good at this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MCDONNELL: But I think that I was already accepting of my mortality as a character, which kind of gave me that feeling of life is short the entire time I was playing it, which I think would have been different for me had I played a character whose death had never been an issue.

Ms. CONAN: Yeah, it is sort of interesting that the one character that has been, you know, threatening to die for the entire series…

HANSEN: Is still living.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CONAN: …is still around.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MCDONNELL: I know. The ironies of life.

HANSEN: Well, Casey, I'm going to let you go because I want to ask Mary about the ending. Thanks a lot for doing my job for me. I'll send you a lapel pin, okay?

Ms. CONAN: Thanks.

HANSEN: All right.


HANSEN: Now, were you happy with the way the series ended - for the show and for your character?

Ms. MCDONNELL: I was very happy for both. I think the show does a remarkable job of reaching into the future and creating, in my opinion, a great deal of hope. When I saw the ending, I was quite impressed with the scope of responsibility taken. A big theme of "Battlestar" is patience. Once you're finished, you look back and realize that a key to survival and evolution is forgiveness. And I'm really, really, really proud.

HANSEN: Mary McDonnell, the star of the just-concluded TV series "Battlestar Galactica," on the Sci Fi Channel. Thanks very much.

Ms. MCDONNELL: Oh, thank you.

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