Ben Browder: Being John Crichton
Talking about Farscape's Ben Browder says, "I think the most difficult line I've ever had to deliver in my life was in that episode. Can you guess which one?"
That's definitely a tough question. Browder, who is best known to American audiences for his recurring role in Party of Five, has done everything from TV guest spots to feature films and Broadway theater. He portrayed two John Crichtons during the middle part of Farscape's third season, after his character was twinned in "Eat Me." He has played love scenes and even the death scene of one of the Crichtons. He hallucinated in countless episodes, and acted opposite every kind of critter imaginable. He did scenes with his real-life wife, Francesca Buller, who has played three separate characters on Farscape.
Then there's the scene in "Revenging Angel" in which Crichton is once again dead, and the clone of Scorpius in his head is trying to help him fight his way back to life. Talking to Scorpie, Crichton makes a reference to another famous TV sci-fi hero: "Kirk was a fiction. I'm real," he says.
That, Browder says, is the hardest line he's ever had to deliver.
"That's one of those lines that you look at and you go, 'Oh, no. I cannot say that on TV,'" laughs Browder. "There's no way I can say, 'Kirk was a fiction. I'm real.' You are absolutely calling attention to the fact that you are an actor on a TV show talking to [a] guy in Scorpie makeup, wearing an undertaker outfit, standing over your own fake grave. I had to deliver this line. I'm thinking, 'How am I going to do this?'"
Although Browder can joke about all this now, in fact he was working incredibly hard all season. Not only was he in every episode, he even wrote a show himself "Green Eyed Monster." The experience must have been a positive one; he will be writing another episode for the fourth season.
"We are having a great time," he says. "I think it's a rare event where you actually find yourself being moved by the scripts as they come in, and the story that you are telling. You go through phases with the show, and I absolutely have a love affair with the show right now."
Claudia Black: Basking in Aeryn Sun
"People recognize Farscape's Peacekeeper Aeryn Sun. "It's just been very strange, just to have that validation each time we come over to America, that there is success attached to our efforts."
Black is talking about the reaction she noticed when visiting the United States for the second official Farscape convention. "Each year it gets slightly bigger," she says. "It's growing, and it has a life of its own now. It's quite surreal for me. There is no real evidence of the fruits of our labor in Australia."
Most of Farscape has never aired in Australia, even though that is where the series is filmed. So the cast doesn't get the feedback at home that it does when it travels. While Black has worked extensively on Australian television (as well as in feature films such as Pitch Black and Queen of the Damned), it is in the U.S. that people recognize her most readily as Aeryn Sun.
And sorry, but Black won't say anything about what happens in the final four episodes of season three other than to hint that the audience can expect more tearful moments in the season finale.
"[Director/co-producer] Andrew Prowse and I both got teary watching it," she says. "Andrew is a tough Aussie bloke with a rough exterior. He's got a very cultured and mellow heart, but he doesn't show it often. He very openly said to me, 'It gets me every time. It gets me in the throat and the eyes every time I watch it.'"
Virginia Hey: Beautiful, Blue and Bald
Even the Farscape viewer noticed Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan, the gorgeous bald priestess played by Virginia Hey. Off-screen, she was Farscape's poster child. On-screen, she was often the voice of reason, a spiritual comfort and healer. At the beginning of the third season, she heroically gave her life energy to bring Aeryn back from the dead in the episode entitled "Wait For the Wheel."
Hey loved her character. She volunteered to shave her head and eyebrows and be covered in blue makeup, spending long days at work and in the makeup chair. From all accounts, it got to be too much for her, although her public statements demonstrate ambivalence about her decision. Why did Hey leave?
"Virginia left because she decided to leave," says director Andrew Prowse, who is also a co-producer and supervises post-production on Farscape. "I know there is a lot of feeling out there about Virginia, and I'm not sure that Virginia has been terribly clear. The simple truth is that Virginia wanted to leave the show. She had had enough of the makeup. It's hard being bald. She was worried about feeling like a woman, looking in the mirror and feeling like Yul Brynner. She had solutions to it, which we tried bald caps and all that sort of stuff. If you look at the episodes where she is wearing a bald cap, you'll see, every time she moves her face it wrinkles. The truth is, she decided to leave. That's it."
Prowse adds, "You should ask Kemper that question."
Executive producer David Kemper answers by saying: "Over the break, Virginia had decided she was going to leave, and let us know. What happened in episode one wasn't supposed to happen, regarding Zhaan. Once Virginia wanted to leave the series, we had to go back and redo the first six episodes. We had another way of bringing Aeryn back, but we decided to use this. So someone did die at the end of season two. It was Zhaan. The audience just didn't know it for four episodes."
Kemper says it was difficult to write Zhaan's death in "Wait for the Wheel."
"I didn't want a quick death," he recalls. "You couldn't surprise the death. So I really built up to it. I laid it in for four episodes. People started to get it, but they were always going, 'She won't die. They'll find a way to save her,' and then we don't. She goes and she has this really beautiful and I think elegant death. Virginia was so phenomenal. Virginia was so good. And she was gone."
As difficult as that is for her fans to accept, Zhaan did die. They should not expect to see her return.