Like the interplay of the
black-and-white makeup that Gigi Edgley wears as Farscape's sexy young thief Chiana, there's something equally yin and yang about
her , bringing. Her mother, a former Miss Australia, for example, would be right at home with
the New Age ideology of Southern California, as opposed to her more realistic father.
Edgley's mother, in fact, runs a 250-acre health retreat affectionately known as The
Hideaway, where the young actress grew up. Located on the Gold Coast of Australia, its endless
beaches, bush and hidden waterfalls became Edgley's playground as a child. "There's
beautiful energy around the farm," says Edgley.
"You go in through the gates and breathe a huge sigh of relief. The amount of magic there
is unbelievable." Though she saw little TV growing up, there were plenty of cerebral and
imaginative forces surrounding her. When Edgley and her siblings and friends weren't off on
day-long faerie hunts, there was the presence of students and teachers of Eastern philosophy,
alternative healing and Indian rituals. It's not surprising that Edgley's imagination is now
so easily tuned into Otherworldly things. Her father, on the other hand, was the
"entrepreneur" of the family. A businessman and entertainment promoter, he was the
grounding force of Edgley's fantastical childhood. "Dad's very straight laced," she
says. "Mum would say, 'Pursue your passion and follow your dreams, live in the moment.'
And Dad would say, 'Get your feet on the ground, and work your ass off. It's never going to
happen unless you work 'til you drop and work some more.' "
distinct personalities laid the groundwork for Edgley's transition from university student to
primetime TV star. "I think Mum's open-mindedness helps me a lot through life when really
tricky stuff happens," says Edgley. "Even in simple things like auditions, where I
get really nervous. Just to know if you're meant to get the part, it'll happen and if not,
well then there's something else waiting for you. Dad's side has reminded me to keep my feet
on the ground and be totally focused about it and not get too emotional. There's a nice
Edgley was one
year out of university and living with five students in a three-bedroom house when she
received her first Farscape script. It's a series filled with alien creatures, bizarre
concepts and the occasional mystical adventure. She recalls, "I got faxed this character
description, and I thought, 'Oh my God, this is great. This would be unbelievable.' "
While she was
immediately drawn to the script, it was one of the most challenging pieces she had ever
auditioned with. "It had her flirting with John Crichton [Ben Browder]," the actress
explains, "then denying stuff, then she was meant to be in tears the next moment. They
tried to fit as many material characteristics in there as possible to see if I could cope with
Nevertheless, it was a role that Edgley was
determined to win. So for the first audition she went "a bit nuts" with her
attire-crop top, fluffed-out hair and piercings galore; anything to make the character as wild
and alien as she could. When she arrived at the studio, however, she was knocked for a loop.
"I walked in there," says Edgley, "and there was this row of gorgeous,
goddess-like creatures. They were all very well and comfortably dressed. There was no
[outlandish] thing, and I thought, 'Oh, God, what have I done?' "
the audition, Edgley couldn't help noticing director Andrew Prowse's look of reservation.
Undeterred, she got right down to business. "Hi, my name is Gigi," she beamed.
"I know that she's an alien, but what sort of alien characteristics do you want me to
play here?" Prowse, according to Edgley, very simply answered, "I just want to see
if you can act."
later, Edgley returned for makeup tests and optometry consultations for the contact lenses,
yet there was still no definitive word on whether she had gotten the role. "I was a
nervous wreck for about a month," she notes. "Then finally, I went in for the last
make-up test, and they said, 'So, are you all ready to come in?'" Edgley assumed it was
for yet another test, but they told her it was for shooting. Edgley gasped, "You mean
I've got the part?"
winning the role, Edgley had her bouts of insecurity. The first day on set, she arrived at 4
a.m. and spent a full four hours in makeup. Then she sat around nervously waiting all morning
for her scenes to come up. Lunch came and went, and there was still no indication they were
going to use her. Then an assistant director approached and told her thanks, but she was no
longer needed. Edgley had a blind moment of panic, thinking she had been fired. The A.D.
reassured her she was not fired, explaining that the set she was meant to work on had
accidentally been blown up. Edgley laughingly recalls thinking, "OK, so now I'm working
in the Uncharted Territories."
the free time that day to stay in costume and experiment with movement for her character.
"The makeup is so effective," she remarks. "You can do one sideways glance and
you get so much for free, it looks astronomical."
previously cast as mostly virginal, "good girl" types, Edgley relished playing the
sultry little alien. "I love that Chiana's willing to get right in the others' faces. I'm
not like that. I love that she seeks the attention, seeks the spirit and has a bit of a wild
spirit herself." But the actress admits it isn't always easy to maintain that edginess.
"If we're just doing a line run-through," she explains, "I'm more Gigi than
Chiana. I don't make the most adventurous moves. You're running on about four hours of sleep a
day, and the makeup sometimes gets a little overwhelming because it constricts you from doing
certain things in the scene."
are days, Edgley admits, where they have spent more time doing makeup retouches than acting.
That's when the added stimulus of 2 sets, puppets and bizarre alien creatures can help her get
into character. Sometimes all it takes is assuming the Chiana "stance," and being on
set. Other times, it's her fellow cast members who help.
relates, during a time when she was having difficulty reconciling Chiana's flirtatious nature,
Browder told her, "But that's her alien trait. That's what she has been taught on Nebari
Prime [Chiana's homeworld]. They're a very sensual race. They don't see anything wrong with
sleeping with one alien, then flirting with another to get the mission done. That's what she
"Because the schedule is so intense, you really do bond [with your co-stars ] in every
way possible. The moments I've shared with Claud [Claudia Black] and Ginny [Virginia Hey] have
just been beautiful. Everyone's really out to help each other, because it's such an intense
lifestyle. I'm very well looked after by the gang because I'm still all very new at it."
That kind of
younger sibling relationship extends to the characters, particularly Crichton and Chiana,
though you can never be quite sure who will bond with who. "You'll just be understanding
the character," Edgley notes, "and then suddenly the writers write in some really
strong turn of personality."
episode, characters reveal new secrets, and loyalties can easily change. In "Taking the Stone," the death of Chiana's
brother leaves her borderline suicidal and spurs a her on a quest, abandoning her shipmates.
Oddly, the one character who normally chaffs at Chiana, Aeryn Sun (Black), is the one who
stands up for her. "The chemistry within the bunch is constantly dividing in one way or
another," says Edgley. "Just when you think it's all there, same weird turn or
surreal twist [occurs], and you’ll go, 'Uh-oh, hold onto your seats, here we go
writing that keeps the actors constantly on their toes, the physical nature of shooting
Farscape makes for a different kind of challenge. "It's a fantastic learning
ground," says Edgley, "Much of the time you get to do your own stunts and work with
the puppets. Sometimes, if you're in small confined spaces, you actually have to work the
really pushes you. They really challenge you—not just the pass, but the A+."
cast and crew's hard work is coming home at last. After two seasons, the space adventure
series finally began airing in Australia in May. "Farscape fever's catching around
here," says Edgley. "It's really rewarding. Everyone in the production, the entire
crew and cast, are workaholics and when it actually comes to your hometown and your family and
friends can see what you have contributed to this production, then that's sort of pay-off time
whose parents gave her the best of the magical and real worlds, Farscape seems a perfect
blending of fantasy and science fiction, romance and harsh reality. "Farscape is a
beautiful balance between that," the actress observes. "It's very dark and very noir
sometimes. The characters are really juicy; they've got good backgrounds. They don't just
bring off this sterile, stereotypical image that many SF character do. They have a bit of
heart in there."
puppets and aliens from the Jim Henson Creature Shop are imbued with personality.
"They're so lifelike," Edgley notes, almost in awe. "The simple stuff from the
wrinkles, how they move, the eyes, some of them are really quite scary. You forget that
there's a person working them from inside."
breaks in shooting, Edgley explains, she is often reminded that her co-star Rygel is a puppet.
"It's really odd. You're doing a scene with so much life and so much character in there
and then Rygel will be having rest time on the side of the set. It's quite weird to look at
because he's just so lifeless. It's like, 'Oh, there's a bit of rubber!' Then you get a hand
up his bum and there he goes!"
balance between overt weirdness and believability is something the Farscape producers,
writers, cast and FX personnel deal with everyday. "When you're working with huge
prosthetic beasts," explains Edgley, "you're trying to find something attractive
about them to clue you in, make you [as an actor] go there. But they have two heads, three
nostrils and the costume's three times their size, while at the same time you're trying to
find an alien way to do the scene."
when Edgley's character was flirting with an alien, she told director Rowan Woods that she
didn't want it to be a typical sort of actor-on-actor romantic sex scene. "I wanted to
play with the alien," she explains, "so I was doing all this bizarre stuff and Rowan
was loving it." Then as they went to shoot, Woods suddenly got cold feet. He turned to
Edgley and wondered if the audience would understand what she was doing. Edgley reassured him,
though until the final edit, she won't know for certain if her alien love moves remained.
some technical difficulty will dictate whether or not a scripted scene will work. A moment in
"Taking the Stone" has a black-and-white made-up Chiana kissing a guest character
who is covered in golds and browns. "It was just a mess," says Edgley. "Chiana
was suppose to slap him, and he had green blood. She was meant to come in and lick and kiss
the blood off. I'm telling you, it looked like we had been doing I don't know what. There was
green up on her cheek and there was gold down her chest. It all got a bit extravagant, so I
think they ended up cutting around it and just made it a real simple scene after five hours of
touching up and going at it again."
Farscape. with its fantastic creatures, exotic sets and existential flights of fancy, might
make it easy for Edgley to forget the real world—the world her father taught her to live in.
But at the end of the day, she always remembers where she came from. "We did a scene that
was 10 pages long," she explains. "Ithad computer graphics, puppets, a new guest
cast. It also had explosions and fights. It took us about three days to shoot and the whole
time Chiana was getting tortured through it and getting zapped. So by the end of those three
days, I can tell you, it was so intense. Your whole body goes into spasms when you're not
meant to go into spasms. You put your heart and soul into it. So you 're exhausted and you go
home like this, and then you think, 'Oh God, I've got be to pay that bill. I'm going to get
evicted if I n't pay my rent.' Simple stuff like feeding the dog."
Farscape has been extremely rewarding for the former faerie hunter. "Family Ties" is
one of her favorite episodes. "It was a time when I realized within myself that I'm going
forward with life and the universe is rewarding me for intense times that had gone before.
That," says Gigi Edgley, "was coming out through Chiana and through scene
work." It's the perfect blending of the magic of storytelling and the business of acting.