'Caprica' to star Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales

Sci Fi Channel has greenlit “Caprica,” the much-anticipated prequel to hit series “Battlestar Galactica.”

“Caprica” will star Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales, Paula Malcomson and Polly Walker, and will be set 50 years prior to “Galactica’s” seminal attack on human civilization by those dreaded ‘droids the Cylons. Family-drama-themed series will focus on the Earthlike planet of Caprica as two rival families deal with, among other topical issues, the broader implications of their society’s emerging artificial intelligence technology sector.

Produced by Universal Cable Prods., “Caprica” will be exec produced by “Galactica” masterminds Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, along with Remi Aubuchon (“24″). The pilot was co-written by Aubuchon and Moore and directed by Jeffrey Reiner (“Friday Night Lights.”)

Having already produced a two-hour backdoor pilot, Sci Fi is aiming for an early 2010 bow for the series, with production starting around the middle of next year, probably in Vancouver, where both “Galactica” and the spinoff’s pilot were shot.

” ‘Battlestar Galactica’ was absolutely our flagship show. It put us on the map and helped transform the perception of the network,” said Sci Fi prexy Dave Howe, noting that the cabler hopes to draw a broader audience to a series it sees as more compelling family drama than “space opera.”

“We want people to come to this who have never heard of ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ ” he added. “I think, because (‘Galactica’s’) backdrop was space and spaceships, there was a barrier to entry for some viewers. ‘Caprica’ has none of that. It’s an intense family drama set on an Earthlike planet, in the near future, speaking to a lot of the ethical dilemmas that we as a human race are going to have to face very shortly.”

“Galactica” has had its fourth and final season in the can for several months, with the final 10 episodes culminating their run March 20. A two-hour movie adaptation, “Battlestar Galactica: The Plan,” is slated for early summer.

Mark Stern, original programming topper for Sci Fi and Universal Cable Prods., says waiting until 2010 to bow the prequel will give the producers time to regroup the core of “Galactica’s” writing staff, which has largely scattered to other shows.

“One of the other things we have going for is, this is one of the first shows we’ve done in conjunction with our new cable studio,” Stern added. “There will be a lot of coordination between the studio and the network, not just on production, but how the series is launched, as well.”

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