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FARSCAPE'S Scorpius: Wayne Pygram
By Anna L. Kaplan
September 18, 2000
Wayne Pygram plays Scorpius, the FARSCAPE villain introduced late in Season One during the episode 'Nerve.' His character was initially described as an evil Mr. Spock, a half-breed without good intentions. From this description and with the very effective prosthetic makeup, Pygram developed a being that the writer-producers and fans of FARSCAPE love to hate.
Pygram recalls, 'I sort of had him before I ever saw any photos, any images of him. All I had was a very brief character breakdown, to the effect of an evil Spock, and that can be anything. I had a three-page scene, and that was it. I basically went back and took all the punctuation outhat was the first thing I didand started playing with rhythms. I had a very sort of strident rhythm to begin with. That' softened, but it comes out at the appropriate times. I had the voice. I had a wonderful experience when I did my camera test. I wasn't on the call sheet that day. It was very rushed. The building of my prosthetic, like most things, was three days behind schedule, and so my name wasn't on the schedule. No one knew I was coming to do my camera test. I walked onto the floor, and they were shooting. I knew a number of the crew. I slid up to a friend of mine, and just started talking about her children. She didn't know it was me. She didn't know who I was. She just walked away. I could see the look in her eyes. She was very uncomfortable. Then the whole floor stopped. It was in between takes. Everyone came over and wanted to have a look at this thing in black. When I spoke to my friend, it was very empowering, very liberating. I grew six inches. She was quite spooked by it all, so I knew, 'I don't have to do much.' I had it from that day.'
Dave Elsey, head of The Creature Shop in Australia, designed Pygram's makeup. Explains Pygram, 'Originally they wanted me to wear contact lenses. When I did my camera test, we had one contact in and one eye natural. Dave Elsey said, 'Wayne, we'll just take out that contact. Wayne's eyes are much colder.' Whether my eyes are much colder or not, it's made me much more available. The contacts are another shield between you and the audience. I've got so much on; I don't need the contact lenses. It is spookier. They are human eyes looking at you. The problem is the solution, the problem being that I actually am not really good with the contact lenses. You have to hold me down to put them in. But that was not the reason why he was not going to use them; the reason was that he could see that actually it looked better without them. The more available you are, the closer any of the creature characters are to Earth, to real peopleit doesn't matter how wonky they look, but if it's a real set of eyes looking at you, they are real. You don't see the rubber head. That's the key. Our guests, some of them, are not as successful inside the makeup as others. It requires a certain skill and a certain knowingness, a certain awareness to make it real. It's not trick stuff. If it's tricks, that's what you see. It's got to be how you would play Macbeth. It is Macbeth. He's just not very pretty, sexy.' Pygram laughs and adds, 'I ought to be sexyall that black leather.' He chose to wear black leather pants to the first official FARSCAPE convention, along with a Betty Ford Clinic tee-shirt. The crowd loved it.
While Scorpius was initially planned as part of a four-episode arc finishing season one, his character was so effective that he stayed on. He is looking for wormhole technology, which he believes John Crichton (Ben Browder) carries somewhere in his memory, although Scorpius could not extract it from him in the Aurora Chair. So he pursues Crichton in two ways. Physically, he tries to capture him. But he also has placed a chip, a clone of himself in Crichton's subconscious mind. This fact was revealed to the audience in 'Won't Get Fooled Again,' and accounts for Crichton's hallucinations of 'Scorpie.'
Pygram laughs as he explains the situation and how it will develop in the rest of the second season. 'There is a lot more of the Scorpie clonethat's what I call him, the Scorpie clonein Crichton's head. I am starting to control his thoughtsa fabulous idea. It's slowly evolving. But it does all makes sense. I have a little diary, to keep notes about my own journey, the bible of terms, and the reality of this world. Because you have to constantly go back and remind yourself. 'What have we told the audience?' You don't want to undermine what they already know, or their expectations of what a character can or can't do. You have to maintain consistency, and that's a real challenge. As the months or years go by, you can easily stitch yourself up by not keeping a record of things you have done in the past, particularly when it comes to things like entering someone's subconscious. What can you and what can't you do, or what am I today? Am I a figment of his imagination today, or am I the real Scorpius? I am actually playing two characters, in a sense.'
Actually, in 'Won't Get Fooled Again,' Pygram was playing an hallucination of Scorpius and the Scorpie clone, but not the real Scorpius. That makes at least three incarnations of the character. As was revealed in that episode, and the third part of 'Look At The Princess,' the rod in Scorpius' head that was shown at the beginning of Season Two actually serves a purpose. Scorpius is a half-breed, half-Sebacean and half-Scarran, the only one of his kind. Scarrans get very hot, and Sebaceans cannot tolerate high temperatures, as was established in the first season episode 'Exodus From Genesis.' Says Pygram, 'As a Scarran, he heats up. He has a thermostat, and he must replace the coolant rods when he overheats. So it's a particular trait of Scarrans. So far as we have shown the audience, it's the only little chink in his armor.'
Pygram showed his real face at the FARSCAPE convention. He laughs about the secrecy surrounding his appearance, saying, 'There's been no deliberate attempt to keep me in hiding, but I was thinking, 'What if we keep it secret from the public what I actually look like?' They took some photos yesterday. I hope you are not disappointed. My bone structure is very similar. I have very strong bones, and a pointy nose. My father picked me straight away, but he's the only one that I have shown photos or an episode to, 'That's youI can tell by your nose.' In a lot of ways, you can see it's me, if you know me.'
The actor, who is just learning about sci-fi genre television, still has opinions about FARSCAPE and its appeal. He says, 'I think we are breaking ground. I don't know a lot about sci-fi. I have been watching a bit since I started the show. This show is darker and edgier than anything else I have seen. It just has an element of reality that a lot of the other shows don't have. We have the puppets. We have outrageous stuff. But at the end of the day, it's about the characters, and I'd like to think it's actually based in a solid sense of reality. We don't comment too much on the show. Benny has his wonderful cultural references, which are great, contemporary cultural references. That's brilliant, because the only people who get those jokes are the audience, which is a brilliant thing to have. It operates on a number of levels, our show: it can be a kid's show; it's certainly an adults' show. I know myself, when I watch it, I find it quite physical. I get uncomfortable watching it, because of all the torture with John. I think that's good. It gives it a real edge and a darkness.'
Like all of the Australian actors and crew, Pygram is disappointed that only a handful of episodes of the beginning of FARSCAPE have actually made it on air in Australia. It is possible it will return there in a late night spot, but at the moment, Australians have only been shown the first five or six episodes. They have not seen Pygram as Scorpius. He is a well-known television actor there, appearing in popular shows like WATER RATS. American audiences might have seen him in an episode of TIME TRAX or most recently under makeup in LOST WORLD. He appeared in the feature films RETURN TO THE BLUE LAGOON (1991) and FAREWELL TO THE KING (1989).
How long will Scorpius be with us? Says Pygram, 'Initially, it was only a four episode block. Obviously, they liked what I did and decided to keep me. It's going a bit longer. I think all up I've done at least 20 [episodes]. I am here to stay, I think. I am here for a while yet. The scriptwriters and everyone look after me. I get great stuff to do. He's a delight to play.'