Since exploding onto the TV world with her work as Number Six in the relaunch of "Battlestar Galactica" in 2004, Canadian actress Tricia Helfer has played lawyers, spies, cops and even the omnipotent voice in a video game world.
You might detect a trend. Helfer often is cast to play strong, tough and, occasionally, scary characters.
She continues that trend with her new series "Killer Women," where she plays Texas Ranger Molly Parker. It's an unusual role. In the real world, few woman have been allowed to join the Rangers.
"Roles of authority aren't something that I'm necessarily attracted to, but I do like playing that kind of role," says Helfer, whose voice is a little raspy, a symptom of the cold she caught on the last day of filming the first season's episodes. "I think my size and personality have something to do with being cast in so many strong roles.
"I'm very athletic, I grew up on a farm and I am a tomboy in my own life. I think it helps that I look like I can handle myself, but I also sound very feminine."
Even without her cowboy boots, Helfer is 5-feet, 11 inches tall.
As Parker, Helfer is playing an authority figure who has to be as badass as the men around her. What makes the role so interesting is that while Parker may be a whiz in tracking criminals she can't seem to get her own life in order. As she tries to get a divorce from her smarmy husband Jake (Jeffrey Nordling), Parker begins an affair with DEA agent Dan Winston (Marc Blucas).
"In general, she's someone who's very open and honest. There's a vulnerability to her and I like that," Helfer says. "It's nice to play a tough character who isn't just one note."
One of the good things about having played strong characters in the past is that Helfer didn't have to go through any additional training to learn how to use a gun.
On the rare occasion she needs some advice, she turns to the show's main adviser — who actually was one of the first female Texas Rangers.
Helfer did the majority of the stunt work herself, from fight scenes to car chases. Although Helfer rides motorcycles, she wasn't allowed to get on a bike for the show.
Before saddling up for the new ABC series, Helfer has appeared on "Burn Notice," "Chuck," "Dark Blue," "Franklin & Bash" and "The Firm." She was also the voice of The Grid in the animated series "Tron: Uprising."
No drama work has been more memorable that her work on "Battlestar Galactica."
Her character — with the stark white hair and brilliant red dress — became the breakout character on the show. She says the series was a huge break for her and opened up opportunities.
She says being cast in "Killer Women" shows that the Number Six role didn't restrict the kind of characters she has been offered.
"I really don't look like Six. I never wear a white wig to an audition," Helfer says with a laugh. In the case of "Killer Women," it's a white hat she is wearing.
"Killer Women": premieres tonight (Tuesday, Jan. 7) at 10 on ABC (Channel 30.1).
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.