Tricia Helfer

The “Battlestar Galactica” Cylon (and star of ABC’s “Killer Women”) on bikini roles, stray cats, and cocktails in Coldwater Canyon

I’m good at being alone. I grew up on a farm in rural Alberta, Canada, and moved to New York at 18. I thought I’d give modeling a shot for a year—otherwise I’d go to university and study psychology. Ten years later I’m leaving a good career to start acting, to start at the bottom again. It was nerve-racking. I moved to L.A. not knowing a soul. I knew Bridget Moynahan—sort of—from my modeling days. I got my doctors and my dentist and all that pertinent information from her. I came out here with an agency. I didn’t need a waitressing job, so I could go on auditions and give it a shot—no regrets. ¶ There was one role I went up for. I think it was an independent film, but it was that “walk by in a bikini” type of role. The casting director said, “I don’t want you for that, but would you come back and read for this?” It was the lead character, more studious. I was floored because I wasn’t interested in the bimbo roles, even though I had to play them every once in a while. It was a wake-up call for my agent at the time. That’s one of the hardest things, that model-turned-actress stigma.

I quickly fell in love with L.A. I bought a house in the Hollywood Hills and loved that there was greenery around me. I was at the age where I wasn’t trying to be “seen” or part of a crowd. It was more about having a comfortable existence. I loved having a car, a backyard, a pool, and animals. I’m a huge animal advocate. One day I was in a pet store buying pet food, and Kitten Rescue was holding an adoption event. I donated a check for a thousand dollars, and after I dropped it off and continued my shopping, a woman came up behind me and was crying, thanking me for the donation. I now work with Kitten Rescue, the Humane Society, and Best Friends Animal Society. I love being home with my kitties and my husband. I even have a “catiary” built on the outside of my house, so the cats can be inside or go outside when they want.

We shot Battlestar Galactica in Vancouver, but I lived in Los Angeles, so by the time the show was finished, I had been here for six years. The city gets a bad rap because it seems like everybody has a script or is in the business, but there are great people here and such diversity. I wish more stuff was filmed in L.A., because you live here to book jobs—then move away to shoot them. I travel most of the time, so when I’m home I like to stay home. I live in Coldwater Canyon now, so I’m very central. I couldn’t ever see myself moving farther west or farther east. I love that I can take a two-hour hike without seeing anybody. One of my favorites is the Bridge to Nowhere, north of Azusa. It’s a good eight or ten miles, with river crossings and creek crossings. We also take our motorbikes up to Ojai. It’s beautiful riding.

I still feel lucky to be a working actor here. I often think about that when I’m sitting on my balcony, having a martini with my husband and loving where I live.