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Mania Exclusive: The Farscape Interview
Plus a little Dark Crystal 2 News
By Robert T. Trate
November 16, 2009
“My name is John Crichton. An astronaut. A radiation wave hit and I got shot through a wormhole. Now I'm lost in some distant part of the Universe, on a ship, a living ship, full of strange alien life forms. Help me. Listen please. Is there anybody out there who can hear me? I'm being hunted by an insane military commander. Doing everything I can… I'm just looking for a way home”. If you have never come across these words before then you have never walked through that magical door that producers Rockne S. O'Bannon and Brian Henson once created. Farscape was one of the first original series to air on the Sci-Fi Channel (now known as SyFy) in 1999. The adventures of John Crichton lasted four seasons and tantalized the imagination. Combining the finer aspects of Star Trek, Star Wars and Buck Rogers, Farscape brought a new universe to life as a very real astronaut finds himself so very far away from home.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the show and the re-release of the complete series on DVD, A&E allowed Mania to sit down and talk with the show’s producers and stars.
Mania: It has been 10 years since the show started and 5 years since it has ended. After all this time is the fourth wall now gone? Can you sit back and just see it as a TV show?
Claudia Black: My life has changed so much. I feel as if I have walked into a time machine and come out the other side. I got two kids now. All I had was my acting when I was doing Farscape. For me I cannot wait to look back at all of the DVDs. If I had the time I would be delighted to welcome the memories but I think there would be a level of detachment and enjoyment and appreciation for what was and what we accomplished.
Ben Browder: I suppose I would really have to sit down and watch to see, but now I see stuff and still have the memories of on that day we, blah blah blah. Brian [Henson] said no. It would have been (laughs) so much better if we would have done what Claudia said. So, no. I look it at it and have a greater appreciation of the beauty of it. It is so beautiful on screen and it is sort of stunning to see it.
Brian Henson: I have always been a sucker for illusion. So when I look it I am totally in space. I believe it even though we made it and that has always been true of me. If I like something I am totally engrossed in it. The only time that I disconnect is when I am not liking something. With me, for Farscape, I miss and love the world and the stories. I have always been able to click right into it. Actually more so than anything else I would find that with the very first cuts that we would get. With the very first edits I could get completely engrossed with the story.
Rockne S. O'Bannon: It’s about 50/ 50 I’d say. For me I am still pretty aware of the behind the scenes and the writing discussions. The discussions and what could have been. I am not quite there where I have that distance yet.
Mania: Claudia and Ben, was there ever a time on the series where you thought that the actor opposite of you made you step up your game as a performer?
BB: Everyday (Ben points to Claudia Black).
Mania: That’s the answer I thought you would say.
BB: Well look at the film. It happened all the time and I could single her out but everyday you would see something that would make you go oh, I better step or I am going to be dusted here in a major way.
CB: Working as an Australian, being a lead, a series regular and having all these people [actors] come on from my home town, who I respected for so many years, and be a guest put me in awe of them. I had to talk to myself and say they are my peer today and I have to be on my game.
Mania: If you were to shoot Farscape today, would you go for more of a digital route for the characters?
RB: There is tactual thing to the puppets that I’d really hate to lose. That was very important to the overall process. In the mini series we did use some CGI with underwater Rygel stuff.
BH: It was hard and at that point it doesn’t have as much personality. The good thing about the puppets and animatronics is that if done right they’ve got personality and they’ve got personality on set. The director can interact with the personality of the creature and so can the actors. If you just do it in CGI and it’s just in post [production] you don’t get the interactive creative energy to help the character. If I were to do it again today I would make the same choices wherever possible, because that is the best way to create a personality within an ensemble of characters. When you do create a CGI character in post it tends to be just a character unto itself it isn’t being fueled by its interactions with the other characters because it never was interacting with them.
Mania: Well let me ask you this then, will any of characters for the sequel to the Dark Crystal be CGI or will they all be puppets?
BH: I’m not sure how much we’re talking about The Power of the Dark Crystal now. The ideas we are using are puppets and animatronics. We are going to exhaustively use matting and puppeteer removal techniques. That will make the puppets much better to start with. We will use CGI enhancement only when it is something the puppet couldn’t do. For the deeper character moments we’ll use puppeteers.
BB: Puppeteers are performers. There is no Yoda without Frank Oz.
BH: If you do a CGI animated character there is an animator in post who is also an actor, a performer. People always ask, what is the trick to good CGI animation? What’s the trick to good puppetry? It is the same trick. You need to be a great actor.
BB: The puppeteers also interact with the actors in the scene. They are there, immediate and you react with another performer.
BH: And you both are building.
BB: Yes, building on that performance.
Mania: Perhaps in closing you could tell me your nerd confession? The best of example of which is “I’ve never seen the Muppet Show” and you all worked with Brian Henson. So what is your nerd confession?
BB: These guys (indicating Henson and O’Bannon) are pretty nerdy…
RO: I’m not as steeped in traditional sci-fi as so many of my friends are. I am much more of a Richard Matheson fan as opposed to [Robert A.] Heinlein or hard core SF [science fiction]. I think that is what helps the stuff that I have done; because it grounds me and makes everything more real.
BB: You don’t like sci-fi.
RO: Yeah, I don’t like sci-fi.
CB: Now that is a nerd confession!
BB: (laughs) I don’t have one…
BH: I got one! I realized mine is as bad as Rock’s [O’Bannon] but only worse. I don’t know if I should say it, but I don’t like puppets.
At this point the entire room breaks into laughter which is then followed by a strange silence as everyone waits for Henson’s explanation.
BH: That’s my nerd confession. Therefore I only like puppets if they are really good. If they are pretty good or below, I hate them. Somebody says I want to show you this puppet show I have been working on and it’s not very good, I hate that. If they are really good then I love them.
Mania: I guess we’ll end it with that then.
Brian Henson and Rockne O'Bannon have spoken on numerous occasions that a web series for Farscape is always being worked on. Currently the best way to bridge the gap between what happened after the Peacekeeper Wars and when the web episodes debut is to follow the comic by Boom! Studios. There will not be a spin off series and Farscape will continue as it last we left it, John and Aeryn raising their son on Moya.
Brian Henson currently is executive producing the sequel to his father’s classic film The Dark Crystal titled: The Power of the Dark Crystal (2011). He has announced that a Fraggle Rock movie is in the works (2011) as well as an Untitled Muppet Project.
Claudia Black’s next project is a thriller with a graphic novel element to it called INC. It was inspired by the Farscape the Peacekeeper Wars impact and how the fans brought about the finale. Black believes that there is an X-Files feel to it where there is a Scully and Mulder paradigm where everything cannot be explained. The draw will be for the audience to get involved. To learn more about INC the series follow their Twitter.
Ben Browder has a new mini series in the works called Going Homer. It features a kid called Homer Jones who sees the Greek myths in his life. Homer’s parents are breaking up and he shapes the Odyssey and the Iliad to his own life. In short, the audience will witness Homer’s written work through the eyes of a 12 year old boy.
Farscape the Complete Series will finally be re-released in a single box set on November 17th, 2009 by A&E.