They've just finished recording commentaries for the season four dvds. [The implication is that this was for the Region 1 release, but if it was specifically stated, I missed it.]

Jonathan: We've heard the same rumors as everyone else, but we don't know anything. Personally, I haven't been told [production on the original series] has ended yet. I keep hanging around the studios every day...

[Lani related a long story about going to lunch with Michael Hurst, spending too long at lunch, and getting rather sozzled before an evening performance of AMADEUS. He pulled off his role successfully, but has never repeated that experience. Jonathan remarked that he was making notes, as he was the director of that theater company, and Lani had never confessed that before. "For those of you who will be here on Tuesday, there'll be an execution at 6 o'clock."]

Jonathan: I just was at ComicCon. I went to see an exhibition on torture in San Diego which gave me great insight into the American culture. Then we went to see a production of JULIUS CAESAR that was only marginally more painful. Anyway, I'm sure you would like to ask something about Lani's hair. His hair must've run away, because hairs don't live in burrows, rabbits do.

Audience: How much of the dialog do you get to create?

Lani: Not much. It's like a musical score. You can't change the score, but you can interpret. You get to put your stamp on it.

Jonathan: It was slightly different for me, because I had no idea what the writer was on about. [During the casting process, he was called to a hotel in Sydney, where] This American came rushing up to me, saying "My Rygel!"...which meant absolutely nothing to me, I thought this was just some crazed American. He immediately began to talk to me about what Rygel was to him. I began to realize he was talking about me playing the part of Rygel, and he asked me how I thought I should play him. I said I should play him as Hamlet, and he said "Amazing!" It turned out that the original puppeteer [John Eccleston?] had not had a suitable voice, being from Manchester, England, and having a rather high pitch.

There are odd things about about puppeteers that you learn after a while. Rygel had five people attached. Having to characterize with someone's arm in that position is rather strange.

But really, a great deal of what did work was due to [Farscape sound editor] Angus Robertson. I couldn't do a Rygel voice unless I had Rygel in front of me. What Rygel turned out to be in any episode is that which we reacted to at that time. Playing a role is a reaction, with visual triggers. We are creatures who create organically instead of mechanically; while we can adjust mechanically, we can only act in terms of a reaction that what's happening.

Audience: Was it difficult to match the logistics when voicing Rygel and Pilot?

Lani: Lip-synching was always a challenge, that was the first hurdle for us. The second hurdle was--

Jonathan: --the puppeteers.

Lani: Yeah. The first episode, I was onstage, so the puppeteers were matching to my delivery. After that, logistically it wasn't possible, since I was next door playing Crais. So Jonathan and I had to alter our rhythyms to match the reactions of the puppeteers.

Jonathan: Love them as we do, the puppeteers are not actors (and if any of them are here, I do not apologize, though they will try to kill me because they think they are), and often made what I considered amateur choices about pauses and motion.

At one stage, one of the puppeteers who was doing Rygel paused after the first word of every line. So when voicing Rygel, I had to match the lip movements, plus deliver the lines as Rygel would say them, plus bridge unnatural gaps in the flow.

All that had to be done in the context of listening very carefully to our fellow actors, so that these characters appeared to be speaking in the same tone and pitch as was appropriate with the other actors. Characterization and relationships were far more difficult. Then we'd get these loathsome creatures called writers who would say 'We want to change that line, and we want it to look as if you're still matching the old line.' There were a lot of tricky things involved.

I can't think of Rygel as a puppet, because he's real...real, I tell you!

Audience: How do you keep up the characterization when you have to reshoot the same sequence? How do you repeat the emotional moments over and over again? How do you get into that, keep it up, and not get bored?

Jonathan: Have you ever heard of Viagra Falls?

Lani: [after making a few comments about having multiple takes with different camera angles, multiple cameras, etc.] We had a continuity person on set who helped us keep track of where we were positioned, etc. But that's part of the technique of screen acting. Acting is like an expensive dress - it looks simple, it should immediately catch your eye, 'bang'. But the creation of the dress is complex. Good acting, you shouldn't see the seams.

Jonathan: If you're asking if we have to put ourselves into some emotional experience, there are two schools of thought on that. We're not there to be emotional all the time, we're there to service the character.

It's the art that disguises the art. It's like watching ice dancing, and you have those people who tell you the detail of what's just been done, and you're simply trying to appreciate the aesthetics of it. Our job is not to show you our emotions as much as elicit your emotions. We're not there to be freaks that are so emotional all the time, and that's one of the great debates in acting.

Audience: Do you think of a dead puppy or something, to bring up emotional responses for a scene?

Jonathan: We're New Zealanders, so there are a lot of sheep jokes.

[Jonathan related several jokes on a "New Zealanders who love sheep" theme: - instead of an Axis of Evil, an Axis of 'those who would like sheep to wear lipstick' - How do New Zealanders find sheep in tall grass? Absolutely delightful.]

Audience: How do you put a strange term or a character's family backstory reference into context, so that it becomes meaningful?

Jonathan: I have struck this quite a bit, doing [plays by] Shakespeare. But if you play on the character, you move beyond the words, and it doesn't matter if you use an unfamiliar term. People don't listen that carefully; for example, I like to play with waitresses by calling them "Bruce". They don't always notice. [Thereafter, he greeted each audience member to come to the microphone, "Yes, Bruce?"]

Lani: We allow ourselves to create the reality, to believe in it for that moment. If I believe in it as the actor, hopefully the audience will believe it.

Jonathan: If you play a lot of Shakespeare, you run into that all the time. Your audience is not deeply immersed in Elizabethan language. But if you understand it, hopefully, you can get it across to the audience.

Audience: Do you change your performance when you change genres?

Lani: I think you're asking if you change your performance based on the kind of show. I think you kind of do. If you're working on a comedy, you adjust accordingly for that. If you're working on Miami Vice, you adjust accordingly for that. If you're working on Farscape, it's a whole different beast.

Jonathan: I was doing a play called OUTSIDERS. They found it incredibly funny, and I can't account for that. I can only bring the line, straight up. What the audience brings to it, who knows? You can only say, this is the situation. There is a difference in performance like the difference between keys in music, major vs minor - we have to know what key to use for our performance.

Audience: What would be good romantic pairings for Rygel and Pilot?

Lani: Um, D'Argo? I don't know...

Jonathan: I think in Pilot's case, he would need a sort of eight-armed creature, maybe an octopus. Rygel had a love interest, but they took the mirror away. Rygel was feeling frustrated, having taken on Orrhn (who was sort of a Hynerian Phyllis Diller) [FRACTURES], but when you've been at sea for six months, it's any port in a storm.

Audience: What have you experiences been in getting cast in leading roles? Was there resistance or prejudice against you, as a Kiwi actor?

Lani: It's something I try not to dwell on too much, but yeah. I come from a country with very open casting, but if you want a Maori character, you cast a Maori actor. If I hadn't have stopped off in Australia, I wouldn't be sitting here. It has its plusses and its minuses. I've always believed in open casting which means that a name for the role is written in the script, and anyone can audition for that role regardless of race or persuasion.

Jonathan: The concept of using makeup to change the actor's appearance for a race-specific role, is just foreign to New Zealand actors. [He did a play called EINSCHTEIN (sp?), which was a three-person production, and not one of them was a middle-aged Jew.] Going around and seeing people in terms of their skin color would put us all in trouble, particularly first thing in the morning.

Lani: Australia is working on this sort of thing, and I'm doing my part, but they've still got a way to go. Sydney is a very different matter. But I'm doing what I can.

Jonathan: If they look for the difference, they can always find it. Culture is something about charting your inner landscape - it's not an applique. The only way to be national is to be local, the only way to be international is to be national. The only way to be in the world is to be immersed in yourself, in situ.

Audience: You compared Rygel to Hamlet - are there other Shakespearean parallels?

Jonathan: In Lani's case, he's playing Queen Anne from RICHARD III.

Lani: There was something Shakespearean about Farscape in general. I thought it was Shakespearean in its huge story-telling element, huge characters.

Jonathan: In Litigara [DREAM A LITTLE DREAM], they were all ruled by lawyers, and in real life it would be really boring. Kemper said, 'You're right, can you do something about that.' So we spent some time turning [Rygel] into Clarence Darrow or Rumpole of the Bailey. Most television is approached as soap - Farscape didn't soapify.

What you have to do as an actor is open up your throat and speak from your gut, like an opera singer. One of the problems with [that production of] JULIUS CAESAR in San Diego was that they were mic'ed. When you don't have a mic, you have to open your throat - do you know what I mean by that? When an actor opens their throat, there is an actual mechanical effect on their voice. [demonstrated by singing a few operatic phrases, and the effect was quite striking]

Lani: We were talking about it ... they were all capable actors. But if you take the microphone away from a really good actor, and they are working, that's when they are in their full power. If you have an actor striding onstage without a microphone, bang, that's immediately more powerful, it's a whole different dynamic.

Jonathan: The microphone distances the actor from the audience; without a mic you can really connect with them.

Audience: was a little curious about the ADR process - could you demonstrate doing your characters' voices?

Lani: Basically we'll see the rushes on the screen in front of us, and we hear three pips, and take a breath right before the last pip. [picks up a script] There's a little scene here--

Jonathan: --No, I don't do little scenes.

[general laughter from the audience]

Jonathan: We were thinking about a musical called CRAISY FOR YOU.

[general groans from the audience]

[Lani demonstrated doing Pilot's voice, and Jonathan Rygel's, by reading a few short lines from the script.]

Lani: It's basically a matter of watching the light cues to synch the dialog.

Audience: How long does it take to do the ADR?

Lani: Anywhere from an hour to four hours--

Jonathan: --to three days.

Audience: Both of you have played both heros and villians -- which do you prefer?

Jonathan: With respect, there aren't two sides. Everyone is self-justified in what they do. Crais is not a villain to himself. We can't comment on the byproduct of that. Iago in OTHELLO is more concerned with manipulation than virtue, but all these people are self-justifying.

Rygel is not a villian, I don't think Rygel is in any way bad. He is bad in your tenets. But he has two stomachs, eats a lot, and is perfectly fine as a Hynerian; there is no way to apply a human or other non-Hynerian ethic to him.

Crais is exactly the same -- he is a Peacekeeper who has suffered a great loss, and is seeking in Taoist terms an overweening revenge, but he isn't evil. If you start playing qualities of evil, then you're a very bad actor.

Audience: There were scenes with Crais and Pilot together -- was that hard?

Lani: The only difficulty was that on set, the continuity person was reading Pilot's lines. I had to restrain myself, as I do all the time. Other than that, it was just a matter of getting into the studio to record both Crais and Pilot.

Audience: We didn't expect to see deep emotions in Rygel, such as those he displayed in JEREMIAH CRICHTON. Were there other instances where you would have liked to see that side of him? Were there other areas of your characters you would have liked to see expanded?

Jonathan: We are old-fashioned actors who believe we are behind the script, and it's just the surface that we work through to reach the audience. I always think of us as the trolley bus, running on rails with the arm going up to the power line. Something flows through you [as an actor] and you are animated by that, enabling the consumer, or audience, to get a ride.

Therefore, where I would like Rygel to go is not my prerogative to demand. Where Rygel does go is very exciting to me, and getting him to that area is what I enjoy. I enjoyed it when Rygel was really heroic. The only thing I really regret is that since I had to do the voice work after John made those comments about Rygel, I never got to make those comments about him.

Audience: Will Crais come back?

Lani: I would love to answer that question. It would be nice to think that if we had been given season five, he would have appeared, but I just don't know.

 


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