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
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
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
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,
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
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
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,
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
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.