Okay, folks! Here’s the one you’ve been waiting for… The Creation Entertainment Farscape Farewell 2009 Ben and Claudia panel! This panel was packed full of people. If you’ve ever seen Ben and Claudia on stage together, then you know why it was. They are hilarious! Well, let’s get down to business. I’m sure you don’t want to read through me rambling on about how amazing they are. Read for yourself!
Note: Due to a camera failure, images are courtesy of Ms. Amanda Rae Smith. Click any of her images to visit Amanda Rae’s web site! WormholeRiders thanks you Amanda Rae!
Ben was running a little late for this panel and Claudia said she was always waiting on a man. I think this may have something to do with the fact that she is surrounded by men in her house… The lights were down, so the audience yelled for the people in charge to turn them on. Claudia agreed.
Claudia Black: Let’s get some lighting because, quite frankly a girl takes what she can get at this age! (There was a lot of “Awwww”ing from the crowd) No! Listen! We’ve all gotten older. If you started with us at the beginning, time did not stop for us. I have two kids! (She had the biggest smile on her face when she said this. She was every inch the proud Mama.) I’m working up to explaining to them what it is I do for a living. I heard a phrase come out of my older son’s mouth that I never hoped to hear come out of a young child’s mouth. (In imitation of her son) “Mama! Your limo’s waiting for you!” It sounded SO awful! How do you know what a limo is? That’s what you get for bringing kids up in LA. We were just reminiscing back stage about when Ben arrived on the show. He had his whole family with him already. So many things have changed for a lot of us. Pygram, Raelee, and Becca, we now, on the other side of it – most of us met our partners while we were shooting Farscape, or just afterwards – so now we’ve come through the (chuckles) wormhole to the other side with very different lives. I’ve been going through the whole juggling being a working Mum in this business and trying to, you know… I was talking to someone because my kids have got some food allergy stuff going on and we were talking to a counselor about it because we don’t want them to have food issues as they grow up. He said, “Look, in general, you can be a great wife, a great mother, a great career woman. You choose two out of those three.” So, I think I’m going to be a crappy actor. Well, hang on a minute! I’ve been doing that for over a decade! Hopefully, I’ll continue to be a great mother and a great wife. And my poor husband came to set and he came the final day Ben and I were doing the scene of the final episode of season four and he’s proposing to me on the boat and we kiss! My husband said to me (laughs) “This completely sucks! Thanks for bringing me to set… That was really awful.” And it’s funny because so much of what became my personal life while I was filming the show – (a baby made a loud noise from the audience and Claudia smiled) A little baby! (Long pause) I can’t… I can’t. I’ll start lactating again… (Laughs, then someone walked on stage carrying a tray) Oh, look! My lunch is here! I’m going to eat. (Everyone in the audience started laughing and Claudia stopped and looked at all of us) I am not kidding.
Ben Browder: (He was backstage with a microphone) Need someone to hold that for you?
Claudia Black: (She didn’t realize it was Ben who had asked that…) Oh, no thank you, I’m just fine. Thanks for the offer. Hands up mothers in the audience! (Scans the crowd) We can do five things at once, can’t we? Sorry you have to watch it. It’s really quite embarrassing watching me eat. It’s just, I’m not a lady. (She saw what she was about to eat) Oh, how delightful!
Ben Browder: Are you sure you don’t want someone to hold that for you?
Claudia Black: (At this point, she realized it was Ben and squinted up her face and looked back and forth) It depends… Are you from Carolina?
Ben Browder: …I have been there.
Claudia Black: Do you like In’N’Out burgers?
Ben Browder: Almost as much as you do.
Claudia Black: (Laughs) That’s quite a lot. Did you spend a large portion of your illustrious career wearing black leather and getting spanked by Australian women?
Ben Browder: A fair portion, yes.
Someone in the audience yelled out, “Can I get a hell yeah?” before Ben was able to. Needless to say, they only got a halfhearted reply from the audience. Ben looked a little miffed and just stood there and shook his head.
Ben Browder: CAN I GET A HELL YEAH?!
The audience was far more enthusiastic with their reply of “HELL YEAH!” to Ben.
Ben Browder: Wow! You guys have been practicing! What did I miss?
An audience member yelled out “Lunch!”
Claudia Black: Yeah, your breakfast is getting cold, you skipped that too.
Ben Browder: There’s cold oatmeal back there if anyone wants it…
Claudia Black: Want a bite?
Claudia fed him a bite off of her fork and the cameras went wild! I don’t know how they could even see after all of those flashes… A guy yelled out, “Careful! His wife’s in the building!”
Claudia Black: It is alright. I have been put through the Francesca test. I’ve been given the seal of approval.
Ben Browder: Yeah, you were telling the Jamie story. First time her husband came to set.
Claudia Black: Oh, poor guy! I mean, really!
Ben Browder: (In a sarcastic tone) I love your work, Hun! (Laughs) Any of you guys got Uncharted 2? (Points at Claudia) Chloe? Ok, it’s one of the greatest video games ever. My son has already beaten it on “hard”. He’s working on “crushing”. It takes awhile to beat these games, so I’ve spent the last two weeks listening to Claudia Black.
Claudia Black: So, a haunting, really.
Ben Browder: In a nice way.
Claudia Black: It’s amazing. I was just talking about when you arrived with your family, they were very young. Your son was in diapers, literally. He was on your hip and you came with both of them into the room when I was having my costume fitting. And now, they text me asking for Beta codes to the game I’ve just made! It’s really weird! And I love text messaging, so they know how to get to my heart… They’re texting, what’s your number? And then, how’s it going? Whatcha up to? – You know, on a Saturday night – Can I have the Beta codes for the game you’ve just done? And I’m like, “Uh, okay, and I’m gonna have to say something that feels quite weird, but I’m going to have to check with your father first.” (Laughs)
Ben Browder: And so you try to explain to him, “Yeah, I know you want the Beta codes, but don’t you think Claud’s going to catch on to the fact that that’s why you’re texting her?” (In imitation of his son) “No dad! I just want to say hi!” Hi, how ya doin’? …Do you have the Beta codes?
Claudia Black: We have to finesse that negotiating skill when they’re little. Cloak it. A little more social banter first. (Offers Ben another bite) Want some more?
Ben Browder: No, I’m good. This is typical of our lunches on Farscape. I would have one bite and she’d eat a whole plate. And part of my plate!
Claudia Black: It’s a metabolism thing. I remember the crew used to set their watches by me because when I started walking around set saying, “When’s lunch?” it was between ten and eleven am everyday. So they knew it was morning tea time because I was already hungry. (To Ben) Did you see the “Nine to Five” video? (They show the winning fan made videos from the contest they hold each year before every panel) No, you were working. Very good. It was ironic. We found it very amusing.
Ben Browder: (Looks at Claudia funny) Who is “we”?
Claudia Black: Me and my peeps. (Laughs) We were hangin’ out, waiting for our man. You’re not just my man are you? I have to share you with Francesca and all these guys. Oh well, worth sharing… (Ben turned red and didn’t say anything) What are you doing for Christmas? What do you want for Christmas? I’ll tell Fran.
Someone in the crowd yelled “Webisodes!”
Claudia Black: No, that’s what you want for Christmas. And we do too.
Ben Browder: All I want for Christmas is a good job.
Claudia Black: Okay, I will see what I can do. (Smiles)
Ben Browder: I’m trying to decide what’s sexier… The guitar? Or the lunch?
Claudia Black: Oh, none of it! (Giggles) Me, this morning, before the hair and makeup. Whoa, that was interesting. My poor husband! (Laughs) I was in quite a peculiar outfit because, you know, by Friday, you have no clean laundry left and you start finding bizarre old things that you used to wear while painting the house, or whatever you use for pajamas, and my youngest son – He turns two tomorrow! (Lot’s of “Awwwws!”) (Smiles) Don’t start me! And when I came out this morning, I’d been wearing an eye mask that had imprinted itself onto my skin, my hair was a very dirty from a week of shooting and I come out all groggy into the kitchen and he looked me up and down and went, “…Jammies??” Even he had a problem with what I wore to bed! Eeeeeeeveryone’s a critic. (Laughs)
Ben Browder: So what are you having for dessert?
Claudia Black: You, baby! (Ben blushed again and couldn’t speak) Just kidding! (About her food) I’m almost done, I promise! So, you guys want to throw to Q&A? I’m always interested to hear what you guys have to say. What do you think?
Ben Browder: Yeah, does anyone have any questions?
They pointed out the microphones to everyone. Here’s a clip that Creation was kind enough to release of this bit of the panel.
Ben Browder: I think that other than the consideration of what things actually cost because it was fifty cents on the dollar, the human component to get things on the screen, the Australian crews and actors were not afraid to take risks. They were willing to try anything. If the writing staff wrote something that was impossible to do, there was no question that they were going to try to do it. Whereas American television, someone would have said, “No, no, no! You can’t do that!” The Australian crew did not know the word impossible, so they would write impossible sequences all the time. Tony Tilse, Andrew Prowse, Rowan Woods and all of the directors in Australia would say, “Yeah! Let’s do it!” So I think the human component is more important to what Brian is saying about getting more quality on film than you get in the States in Australia. When the show was cancelled and everyone was notified, probably about 90% of the crew began to cry. And that’s something I’ve never seen, where a crew cared that much about the show. Remember, they weren’t showing in Australia. They only knew what they were doing on a day to day basis and the occasional crew viewing of the show. They didn’t do it because they got to hang out with famous people or because the fans wanted to talk to them like, “Oh, what’s so-and-so on CSI like?” They did it because the loved working on the show. And that’s true for the crew, the cast, the writers, everyone who worked on that show.
Claudia Black: I was talking to my manager the other day because he has a couple of Australian clients and he was saying that there is something about the spirit of Australians that is different. And I said, look, touch wood, there’s never been a war fought on Australian soil. There’s a sort of freedom and spirit within us that is based on this. It is the lucky country – or we’ve always referred to it that way, at least in my life time – and we’re very irreverent and free because we’ve never felt, thank goodness, the constraints. We didn’t experience the second world war or Vietnam, we did via satellite, and of course we sent troops over and all our families have been affected by those wars, but we just have a certain innocence and freedom about us that fused into the tone of the show. We’re not tied to a big brother that’s always telling us what to do and how to be. And I think that shows in our work as well. I love the fact that when things didn’t work, we were allowed to call it. You know, when the creatures turned up to set and they didn’t look the way they’d been described or couldn’t function the way they needed to in the story, we were allowed to find ways to think outside the box and that was such an incredible environment in which to work. We didn’t go home after working a day on Farscape thinking as an artist, “I sort of sold my soul to them. I completely sold out.” Everyone went home thinking, “God, we really took a risk today. We did something really crazy! (Laughs) I hope it pays off!” But I was really proud going home everyday thinking, “We dared to be different today.” It was amazing.
The next question was directed at Ben. The fan asked if the writers had made Cam read and remember all of the mission reports because when Ben got the job he sat down and watched all the previous eight seasons of the show.
Ben Browder: Yeah, the reason Cam had read all the files is because they couldn’t believe I had watched every episode of Stargate until I started quoting them… “Oh, yeah, in season one, Cold Lazarus; I loved when the blue stuff was in the yellow stuff. It was great!” (The audience was laughing) See, that’s weird, because there was blue stuff in the yellow stuff, wasn’t there?
The next question got a lot of “Ohs” and “Ahs” and cheering from the audience. She remarked that Ben and Claudia come every year and answer all of our questions, so if they could ask us one question, what would it be? I think she said it could be an essay assignment or something to that effect.
Ben Browder: See, I get stuck with the homework thing… You guys just saw Francesca and she brings her homework to bed. Have any of you spent you evening with your wife doing linear equations? It’s a little weird! “Honey, if X = 3, then what does Y equal?” “…. I don’t know!” (To Claudia) Do you have a homework assignment for them? They’re your peeps.
Claudia Black: Yeah! Get us some fun jobs, yo! Get the webisodes up. Go on!
Someone asked who to contact because Brian said it wasn’t him.
Ben Browder: Did you ask Brian? Did anyone ask him for a homework assignment?
Claudia Black: Financiers in Hong Kong. I hear that’s where there’s still money.
Ben Browder: That is an interesting question in regards to financing the webisodes and the question with financing is that at one point – and I’ve seen a couple projects like this – people wanted to go directly to the fans to raise money and finance laws in the US make that impossible. Literally, if you get 1,000 people together and decide that you want to finance something, it’s illegal. You got one big guy that works for a bank, they’ll give him the billion dollars! I say call up your representatives in Washington; those are the guys that have access to the money! I don’t know. That’s a really good question and until money starts to free up and get out of the hands of the bankers and back into the hands of business… Farscape and Stargate movies and actors are not (Laughs) as much as we’d like to think we’re the only people involved, we’re not the only people being affected by what’s going on with all of us. If I had a solution, I’d be running for political office. Back to the assignment, I already gave an assignment yesterday. Everybody has to read a good sci-fi book.
The next question was on advice for new actors.
Ben Browder: First advice is always, “DON’T DO IT!”
Claudia Black: No, do it young. Start young.
Ben Browder: Finish young.
Claudia Black: Yeah, make your money while you’re young. I’ve been getting into a lot of improvisation and I think it’s an incredible tool as a lot of people say – not just the “yes and” that’s a tool in improv in a scene. When you “yes and” you accept the offer that the other person has made, so you’ve said something to me and I have to accept it as fact in the scene, I agree with it and give something back, my “and” to keep the scene going – A lot of people say that’s not only key to improv, but its also a great metaphor for life. I think improv is an incredible skill. Even if you have no interest in doing something like SNL or stand up, or comedy in general, improv just really teaches you to work as a team and trust the people you’re working with, to really use your brain, and to deal with the grey area. What happens when you go to open your mouth and nothing comes out? There’s an incredible skill set that comes with that. And just being prepared because I’m a terrible chronic perfectionist. I had to let go of that becoming a Mum because that’s just an impossible dream. So, it’s been good for me, but it’s hard because sometimes I can’t be on time because my kid is really sick and the nanny hasn’t shown up and there’s so many messy elements when you have kids that really starts to impact your ability to function at what you think is the height of your intelligence and abilities as a performer. Improv teaches you to let it go and just give what you’ve got and just be there in the moment. That’s my advice.
Ben Browder: Do you want serious advice? (Claudia shot him a look like, “My advice wasn’t serious?!”) My first advice is don’t do it. It has to be the first advice. No! Don’t do it. If there’s anything else that you think you want to do, do that.
Claudia Black: Don’t you think she’d be doing it by now?
Ben Browder: I don’t know. I don’t know her that well. I’m not really sure if I know you that well… I think there are lots of things you could be doing. No, you’re too talented; you’ve got to keep acting… So, if you absolutely can’t take that advice, then you have to start thinking outside the box. You have to start networking and thinking about what makes you special. Consider all the forms of training. Improv is a good one and drama schools. You’ve got to figure out a way into the business. There’s no magical way in. A question that gets asked, oddly enough, is “Why not?” for some reason. No one has the answer, so you’ve got to find a way. Make a three year plan and when you get half way through, reassess your plan. At the end of three years, reassess again. You’ve got to constantly try to do something different. It’s no different than any other field. You’ve got work your ass off at it and, I’m serious, don’t go into it if you can think of anything else.
Claudia Black: I attended a PGA (Producers Guild of America) conference that the Guild put on because I wanted to start hearing about the way producers are thinking in this industry. They’re going through – It was a PR exercise, you know, develop a bit of a rap for themselves after the whole threaten of a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) strike and the writers strike. It was interesting because they reminded me of the fact that this industry was built on “Yes” people. It’s about seeing the way in and going for it, but the secret to networking is about how you can help other people without expecting anything back in return. That’s what good producers do. The see “You’re talented, you’re talented, you guys will get on really well, let’s put you two together and I want you to make this movie because I think the two of you would really, you know, speak the same language. You just don’t know who you are gonna meet in a room, any given day, anywhere. I think that people who really have a good attitude – I find that interns and assistants are people who are completely overqualified for the job that they’re in now, but they say, “You’re not auditioning for this job, you’re auditioning for the next job.” So you always have to be aware of the fact that people are watching you and they are looking at your attitude and they want to know that you can be a team player and that you’re okay with being where you are right now in the hope you’ll get somewhere else, but you’re happy being in the present where you are with whatever role you been given. With Vala, she wasn’t really scripted. I mean, that was kinda, in a way, the essence of her was like unscripted television. Obviously having being scripted by the time I went to perform her, but for the first time, when I did that episode with Michael Shanks, it was sort of fun on the page definitely, but we sort of brought something to it and Rob Cooper said to me, “Just keep doing what you’re doing and if its too much, we’ll cut it out, but just put it out there and we’ll work out who Vala is from what you guys do.” So there’re always opportunities. You have to stay playful. That’s what my kids reminded me as well; the ultimate for of creativity really, literally is having children. You have to be creative with kids. It’s reminded me that you always have to look for creative solutions to where you’re at. You have to develop your on material. If you’re so special that you’re not getting any work because you don’t fit into any boxes, then don’t be a victim about it, start creating your own vehicle because that could be your way. It’s an open market now with the internet. Everyone has a digital camera, you could just create something with enough hits and you’ve done it. You’ve created that vehicle for yourself. If you have an idea, be around the right people who’ll help you make it and just do it.
Ben Browder: Yeah, because if you can survive everyone saying “No!”, that’s the first step, then you’ll be fine, no matter what you do.
Ben Browder: Something else was scripted… I think what was in the script was “Squirt”. And I looked at her and I didn’t think she looked like a “Squirt”. So I called her “Pip” instead. I thought it suited her. It was like many things on Farscape… I didn’t think very far in advance. Many things I do in life I don’t think far in advance! I decided to be an actor when I was 22. I didn’t think 20-something years later. It was really a case of I liked the name, it seemed to suit who Chiana was from Crichton’s perspective. That’s where it came from. With every cultural reference I made, I wanted it to have not only contemporary, but also possible classical references, so I had a Charles Dickens thing going on.
The next fan talked about the scene in Unending where Daniel really comes down hard on Vala and she’s just sitting there crying, then asked how it is to film something like that with no words, just using your face to display the emotion. (Or something to that effect…)
Claudia Black: I think an actor’s job is to prove that, yes, they can work with the writer’s words, but they can deliver something between them as well. The character never stops breathing. A lot of people say acting is reacting as well. To me, when two characters have known each other well enough, there’s more pain in fewer words. So Michael and I asked for that. There was a scene written where it was easier… It was kind of like, “Oh Vala, you’re irritating, but okay, let’s get it on.” We both read it –
Ben Browder: (Laughing) I could have played that scene! I never understood the objection Daniel had anyway.
Claudia Black: Oh, Vala was very different to Aeryn. Her whole MO (Modus Operandi or Method of Operation) was about being irritating.
Ben Browder: SO?! I mean look at her!
Claudia Black: Aeryn maybe, but by the time I got to play Vala, I was already mutton dressed as lamb.
Ben Browder: No, no, no! That little red underwear thing? And he comes in and goes “No”?! I went to the writers and said, “He said no, (Raises his hand) I’m up!” (Laughs) And they said no! You get a lot of no’s in this business.
Claudia Black: Yeah! So, Michael and I actually talked about it and we went in to talk to Robert Cooper and we said – he’s very open to suggestions – and we were aware that the show was ending early kind of like with Farscape, so how do we pull certain stories forward for the fans so there’s a sense of closure, but so that they don’t feel cheated that we kind of rushed them at this point? So that scene needed to deliver everything that would have come and to honor everything that had come up until that point with Daniel and Vala because she was irritating and I didn’t really believe that he had a sexual chemistry with her. I think he was intrigued by her, but I really didn’t believe that there was much going on between them sexually. (Ben was making faces when Claudia said this. It was hilarious!) So we thought Daniel really needs to let her have it. He really needs to call her on all of her stuff, on all of her behaviors. (Ben was still making faces and Claudia finally caught him!) Do you – I think someone needs a time out! (Ben stood up, walked over and stood in the corner) It’s not gonna be a short time out. It’s a minute for every year of your life! (Laughs)
Ben Browder: I’ll be here till Tuesday!
Claudia Black: So, basically, we talked the scene through with Robert and that’s why it was so aggressive and so full of pent up anger finally for that latent frustration and anger o come out so that Daniel could finally force Vala to stop being a child and become almost a woman in that scene. It’s kind of like a wild horse. You know, you have to break them down to train them, to teach them how to function. So, for me, that’s what that scene was really about. Breaking the (Laughs) the spirit of the wild horse, (Laughs) so that they can ride off into the sunset together and be happy and make lots of babies… Oh, crap! Ummmm… (Laughs) You know what I mean! So, to me, it was about being able to see – I thought it would be very powerful dramatically for the audience to see that he had broken her and that she was listening and that it was having a massive impact on her. I felt that a lot of the time Vala didn’t seem like a real person. This was my way to show him and the audience that she was real and therefore, that they did have a future together.
The next question was for Ben. This fan wanted confirmation from him that Grayza’s baby was NOT John’s child. She had asked Rebecca, but she didn’t like her answer… (See Rebecca Riggs’ panel transcription for her answer to this same question.)
Ben Browder: Given the canon of the show and the science as we know it – a Sebacean woman who is in the Peacekeepers can be impregnated and hold the baby in stasis for long periods of time until it’s released – the canon of the show says it’s possible.
Claudia Black: Computer says it’s possible! (Claudia was quoting Galaxy Quest)
Ben Browder: Computer?
Claudia Black: Do you have a spare Beryllium Sphere on board?
Ben Browder: It’s possible.
Then the fan complained that there is no way that it could be Crichton’s baby.
Claudia Black: If she’s not happy with the answer, she’s gonna keep going!
Ben Browder: There is NO way… (Laughs)
This seemed to satisfy the woman. She said she was happy now.
Claudia Black: Don’t you know Ben? You give women what they want. You don’t tell them the truth! It works! That’s that in action.
Ben Browder: What if you don’t know what they want? That’s my problem.
Claudia Black: You have been having the old “I am not a mind reader” conversation, have you? We have it in our house too. Gosh, with all the talking I do, I would’ve thought he’d got it by now! (Laughs)
The next question was about biscuits and if Ben had found somewhere to get good ones or if he had found Crisco.
Ben Browder: Okay, I could not get Crisco in Australia and it really messed up my biscuit making. No, I haven’t found a good place in LA. I know people say they are here, but I haven’t found them. If I want good ones, I have to make them myself. They’re not good for you, but if you want good biscuits, they have got to be made by your mom, your grandma, or gosh help you, your dad.
Claudia Black: Brad and I have been in different cities. I’ve actually started to shop around a really cool comic series and I’m filming – doing something at the moment, so once that’s done, we’ll get back to Inc. I’ve started to work with people who can help us develop it, but it’s just not there yet. I’ve sort of put it out there and the concept doesn’t quite work, so it’s back to the drawing board. Thank you for asking and as soon as we have a stronger concept – it’s a good idea – but we need to develop it further so we have something to sell.
Then Kenn asked if any of her future works would include an appearance by the “fine gentleman” sitting next to her.
Claudia Black: He is a gentleman! Oh baby, he’ll be front and center if I have anything to say about it! (Laughs) You know, (she started talking in a funny voice) when I’m a producer – an executive producer – he might need to come in and sit on my “casting” couch. Baby, that’s the way I’m gonna roll.
Someone yelled out, “His wife is still in the building!” Claudia said she was just kidding and then another person yelled out, “She (Francesca) might wanna “roll” too!
Claudia Black: (Again in the funny voice – I wish you all could have heard her say this!) When I’m an executive producer of my own show, I may need to call Francesca into my office to sit on my “casting” couch. I can roll that way too!
Claudia Black: See, I told you he was a gentleman. He refuses to comment now!
The next guy up to ask a question didn’t know what to say about that, so he started out with a pause and then, “Wow.” Then he asked about the song Claudia did with Paul.
Claudia Black: Paul created this beautiful album and asked me if I would do a song on it. It was awhile ago actually, while we were doing Farscape. (She saw Paul near the back of the room and pointed him out) There he is ladies and gentlemen. Please buy his album because we’d like him to make more. (Giggles) I just have a creative spirit. It doesn’t matter if you’re redecorating the house or acting or whatever in between jobs. I’m always attempting things. I was talking to Paul about maybe getting back into some singing. I kind of got my voice back. I’ll drag him into a duet with me.
The next girl told Claudia that she was friends with a friend of hers. Her name was Genevieve (or something like that) and she had told her that Claudia had never really wanted to go into acting, that it had just sort of fallen into her lap and she wanted to know how that happened.
Claudia Black: It’s so weird that you can get the most off information from someone who actually sort of knows you… “I hear you were married to three people at once!” Well, I actually came from a musical theatre background, so people expected that I would become a singer, not an actor. There was less pressure with acting and I used to get too stressed out singing. I’m a perfectionist and because of other stuff going on personally, I used to get really stressed out and I would pretty much every time without fail before I performed, I would get some kind of psychosomatic cold. I would always be getting sick before opening night. I just thought that it was unmanageable. Why put that pressure on myself? I’m just going to follow the other art I’m interested in (acting), but it’s under the radar, and see what happens.
Next up asked if the underwater scenes were scary to film.
Claudia Black: David Kemper came up to me in the middle of filming and whispered in my ear, “This is a reward for all of your hard work this season. Okay, go!” And they dumped me into this tank of murky water on a seat where the flotation parts came off and the water got so murky from the wet paint from the fake ice on the top, that the guy with the tank that was holding the air for me, we couldn’t se each other. I had an incredible season and so, for me, that was just an incredible way – I could see what they were doing and I knew where they were going. I didn’t think they were writing me out of the show. They probably would’ve liked me to think that for a minute so I would have behaved better. (Laughs) I was really cheeky and I talked back a lot. I don’t know if I would these days… Probably. (Laughs) But it was an amazing thing for my character. The whole season was an incredible gift to me as an actor and that was great attention to give my character and I was really grateful for it because I really got a chance to own and claim her. She belonged to the writers for a long time before I found my feet and got my confidence with her.
The next question was about how good the two of them are with comedic timing and what their influences are.
Ben Browder: Three Stooges, Little Rascals, Abbot and Costello. That’s like that show “Actor’s Studio”… (It’s actually “Inside the Actor’s Studio”, but we’ll forgive him.) “Who are your influences?” “The Curly guy. A little of Moe… Never took to Shep.” Probably my dad more than anyone else. My dad and my brothers.
Claudia Black: My dad put me on to – he sent me in a very specific direction with my comedy. A lot of British comedy. TV was an event for us, so we’d sit with another family who lived across the road and we’d watch together. It’s like watching live comedy theatre. It was great to share it with other people. So, Kenny Everett, Faulty Towers, Young ones, Monty Python. My favorite film has not changed in years; it’s always “Life of Brian”. That’s the perfect film really. And a lot of Mel Brooks. Very early Woody Allen. It was mostly British influence, you know, Black Adder and all those sorts of things. And if you haven’t been watching Catherine Tate, you need to be. Little Britain the original series. British do incredible comedy. How many are into “The Office”? (There was a lot of cheering) Those are my influences.
Next question was about the funniest scene to shoot.
Claudia Black: What are you thinking? You’re not going to answer are you? (Indignant) None of those scenes were supposed to be funny! What was funny about those?!
Claudia Black: (Laughs) We did so many crazy things every single day. There was always something funny and irreverent and crazy. We amused ourselves constantly with science fiction references we could bring in. I liked filming that scene where I’m wearing the Calvin Klein undies of Crichton’s. And in the on where we all body swap, and the director allowed us – they would say, “What do you want to do? What do you think Crichton would do?” I’m like, “Come on! You get these for a day, what are you gonna do?” (Laughs) It was very obvious to me! So that stuff was really funny.
Ben Browder: There were so many fun days on set, so many funny scenes that we shot. The scene in the hospital where I was strapped to the gurney and you were in the little nurse’s outfit.
Claudia Black: That was funny?!
Ben Browder: You didn’t have the view I had with Rygel coming up between your legs! Or Lani with that little farting dog!
Claudia Black: What about the little tandoori chicken? Because we actually laughed on screen and you can probably see it in the final edit. I don’t know if they had enough coverage to have a shot without having the side of my face, I think Aeryn turns around and you can see me cracking up, trying very hard not to lose it on the screen. We had a lot of laughs shooting that!
Ben Browder: It’s “Beware of Dog”. You know the little creature that we called the tandoori chicken? The one with the chicken wings… How is this thing going to be scary?
Claudia Black: The way it articulated, it just wasn’t scary!
Ben Browder: He couldn’t articulate, he was in six inches of foam! When they were putting that episode together, I think the writers told the creature shop, “We’ll put a little guy in a suit!” They said, “No, you don’t want to do that. Seriously, we’ve done this; you don’t want to do it.” You don’t want to put a… Vertically challenged person in a suit. (Claudia corrected him with “short stature” instead of “vertically challenged”) You don’t want to put a person of short stature in a suit. Its one thing for them to be acting, but don’t put them in a suit. The writers say that’s how we are going to do it because it was cheaper so they did. And (they both start laughing) he had to fall over…
Claudia Black: He had to take hits from multiple rifles, so the rubber sort of articulated the wings (they started the awkward flapping again at this point) and then when he fell over, there was really no difference between him standing and falling over! And he was stuck!
Ben Browder: So at this point, he falls over, his feet kick up, his chicken wings are going (more flapping) and you couldn’t NOT laugh! So we turn away from the camera and we’re laughing and he’s down in the suit going, “What?! What?!”
Claudia Black: And he’s flapping as he’s saying it! (They both started flapping again and Ben was yelling “WHAT?!”)
Ben Browder: Now that was one pissed off tandoori chicken!
Claudia Black: That was one of those things where it had been written in the episode that he was supposed to be the scary form of the Vork and the other one was so damn cute and this one was really not scary! So we had to tweak the story a bit. Really, the emphasis on the page was what we brought out when that creature died – the cute version – Aeryn was genuinely upset. We were able to put more focus on him than on the “scary” one, but in true Farscape style, we just called it. If it looks like a tandoori chicken and it moves like a tandoori chicken, then we’re going to call it a tandoori chicken! It saved us a lot, being able to call things that didn’t work.
The next woman had the cutest little baby who was named Aeryn and she was dressed up as Aeryn! She had little black pants, a green long-sleeved tee, and a tiny black vest. She was seriously adorable and no doubt going to look back on pictures of herself and roll her eyes at her parents… 😉 Anyway, Aeryn’s mom asked if they thought Aeryn (not the baby… Haha!) would ever find out that Grayza raped John and what they think she’d do if she ever did find out.
Claudia Black: (Acted shocked) Wh-what did she say?! (Laughs) If the show had gone on for another five years, she would have found out. Of course! Wide ramifications from that little incident…
Ben Browder: Not that it’s possible for that… (Laughs)
Claudia Black: Oh my gosh! What would she have done? I imagine since we lived in such a sick and twisted world on that show, that the two boys would have grown up and either been side by side as friends and they would have found out in a really twisted way. She would have found out in a really awkward way and would have had to channel her anger into a different place and not react the way she would’ve hoped, out of pure anger and vengeance. Aeryn’s journey was always about learning new ways to behave. She was always learning to humanize. She would have had lots of time outs I’m sure! (Laughs) I think probably, in my own imagination, it would go to someplace where she is forced to contain her anger and make peace with it in a way that is very difficult for her.
Next question was if Claudia was already cast on Stargate or if Ben had gotten her the job. Sorry! My note taking skills dropped off a little bit here… Sorry! This is what I remember. Claudia said that they’d always had Ben in mind, but there wasn’t an opportunity to have him on. She got a guest role on “Prometheus Unbound” first and then Ben got cast full time during the ninth season. The next question was asked by a psychologist. He asked how they dealt with the emotional days on set. How they reigned in those emotions and just went back to being themselves again for their families. Claudia said that by the time you are done and get home, you don’t see your kids. Ben said he hardly ever got home for bath time. Claudia said she was living on her own and was so drained from the physical side of the show that she mostly spent her time trying to get over that. She said Ben could just keep going like a runner and he never seemed to wear out. He used to tell himself he had ten more miles to go when he really only had one so he could still have good energy at the end. He also said that he could see in his face how tired he became throughout the years. He was working 70 hour weeks and then on the weekends trying to be a good dad, so he was always worn out by the end of every season. He also said that sometimes there is a little bleed through of the emotions, but that he could separate it as work. If his character had a bad day, it doesn’t mean he is having a bad day. Even the day he died, he just looked at Claudia’s performance and was amazed at what she had done and that’s what he took with him. Ok, notes are back up! Sorry about that!
Claudia Black: But you have to start making decisions. It’s not healthy to take that home, it’s not real life! Unless you are using acting as therapy, which you should save for a therapy room, don’t bring it to set because you are there to work and you’re supposed to function and be professional. For me, it was an opportunity to – Ben and I are hopeless romantics so even on the worst scenes that hurt the most, it was an opportunity to express complete love in all its forms. For a romantic who comes from a theatre background, to be able to express love at that level, its delicious to experience love at that level of vulnerability, that humanity and then you can walk away. Being on a set, you’ll do a scene like that and then go to the lunch room and Anthony Simcoe Is walking around in half his costume with boxer shorts and flip flops and his D’Argo makeup on and it resets your sense of reality. Ben’s family would come to visit and it was great to have the outside world coming in. I’ve also made a decision that I’m really trying to move my world more towards comedy because it actually does have a really powerful impact on me and I think that unless you’re making something – how are we ever going to match Farscape? I don’t know if I’m ever going to step on another show I’m so proud of in every way – so if I can’t do that, then I want to be doing comedy. I think laughter has a physiological, emotional, psychological affect on people. It feels better for me doing it and it’s not such a burden physically and it gives more to people. Unless you are doing something like Farscape where you really can express love and human emotions in such a huge, epic way.
Then next guy said he remembered them talking about how much they loved “Galaxy Quest” and asked them if they realized that conventions like that were going to be such a huge part of their lives.
Ben Browder: We all saw it on the same weekend and came in on Monday –
Claudia Black: In shock!
Ben Browder: And Claudia goes, “Computer? Is there a spare Beryllium sphere on board?”
Ben Browder: “Never give up! Never surrender!”
Claudia Black: And then we go out on location and Ben does a dive roll and he was doing it in earnest and I’m like, “Does that make you feel better?” (Laughs)
Ben yelled out another line from the movie that I didn’t quite catch.
Claudia Black: “Let’s get out of here before one of them kills Guy!”
Ben Browder: Sorry, what movie was that you were talking about?
Claudia Black: It was SO well observed that film. It was such a great film.
Ben Browder: What struck us at the time because when we saw it, we had never been to a convention… What we saw was the giant fan. We were wondering why there’s always a giant fan! It was so keenly observed as to what happens on a science fiction set. Yes, this is what they do! Why did they write the monster there? You know as soon as you see the little monster, the bigger monster was – the little monster could be dangerous!
Claudia Black: It is true that if you don’t have a last name you die! For us, we hadn’t been on the convention circuit, but I remember sitting with Anthony Simcoe watching it with one of our friends and laughing at least every minute of a 120 minute film because we got every single joke about working in the genre itself and how intelligently it was observed. Everyone else in the audience was sort of the odd twitter (of laughter). We were out of our minds thinking it was the most brilliant film and I said to him, “No on in this room has a clue!” We are on a sci-fi show, it was the biggest budgeted sci-fi show that has ever been filmed in our country, and we are working on this show, no one has a clue who we are, we’re going through this experience and no one can feel our pain. Conventions, we’re the lucky ones! We get to come and be around people who appreciate what we do. We get to meet you guys.
Ben Browder: Side note to that, the conventions you saw in “Galaxy Quest” do not resemble what we see sitting here. This is my observation now! When I saw the movie, I hadn’t been to one, I am thinking to myself, “Oh NO!” I mean, look, I’m immediately picturing myself going to the bathroom and hearing somebody talking about what a joke I am. There is a tendency when you are on a TV show or when you’re in television and film to somehow think you are kind of important. Not me personally! But other people that I know… When they are on shows, they think they are important and that transfers over to when they meet the fans. You may have met some where, when you meet them, you know they think they are more important than you are…
Claudia Black: Out of respect for a convention, I bought a photo to ask this actor to sign it. There is this unspoken thing at cons that if you are attending as an actor to sign, you just barter. You trade your autograph for theirs and there is no money exchanged. I respectfully, thinking this man has no clue who I am, went to go as you guys do, along the line and wait, buy a photo and say hello. They said, “I’m sure he’ll personalize it for you!” I told them that it was for my husband because he’s a big fan and we had this ongoing joke about this guy and I wanted to say thank you to him. Oh God! It could not have gone more badly if I had tried! He thought I was a nutcase because the first thing I said to him was, “I’ve broken all the rules, I’ve come over from the other side.” He started nervously looking around for security… I said, “I just wanted to say” – and I know you want to get out what you’ve wanted to say for whatever, so I know what its like and I said, “Listen, I just wanted to pass on that thanks to you, I can understand what my husband says because you annunciate so beautifully.” And his response was, (very sarcastically) “Well then, my whole life has been worth living.” So I went back to the really cute young American fellow who was signing next tom me and I said, “Can you sit on your hand for a second and then write a message to my husband and sign it from that guy over there? Once you sit on your hand for a bit, it’ll be numb and it’ll look like someone else’s writing anyway.” So yeah, I’ve experienced that…
Ben Browder: The extension of that which should be said is the only reason we’re sitting here is because of you. That’s the only reason. It’s not because we were on a show. Lots of actors have been on shows. There are lots of show and tons of actors. There are lots of talented actors. The privilege for us is to be here on our 10th anniversary is a credit to the audience, you, to the participants of the process, the fact that you have a community that you guys created that exists outside of our influence or presence… We’re superfluous to the process at this point and it’s a privilege to be invited into your circle. I hope that we can never come to a pass where you think there is some gap or distance between you and me.
Claudia’s son (who was dressed as Batman) ran up on stage and into her arms. She asked him if he wanted to say his name, but he was understandably shy. There were so many people!
Claudia Black: Ladies and gentlemen, this is my good friend Batman. (She mouthed to the audience, “My son!”) When I did fess up to him this week and told him what I do for a living and I was going to work and if he wanted to come with me, he said yes and asked what I’d be doing. I told him I’d be up on stage talking to people and he asked if he could come up and I told him he could. And you did! You came! I’m so proud of you!
At this point, he wanted to take his mask off and Claudia asked if we wouldn’t take photos if he did. I’m not joking, instantly; every camera in the place went down. Not one person that I could see took a picture. It was really truly amazing to see the respect that all the ‘Scapers had for Claudia.
Claudia Black: Things have changed in ten years! I wanted to say I think Farscape is really about the community that you guys have formed and we’re grateful to be invited. It is not the other way around, as Ben has been saying. We’re here because of you and on these weekends, we know it’s a really important opportunity for you guys in this amazing online community to actually see each other face to face and socialize. People come from all over the world, it is just incredible! And we’re a part of your world, you’ve brought us into your world it’s not the reverse so we’re very grateful.
Then they said their goodbyes, signed the banners that were to be auctioned off later in the day, and took their leave. I really hope that they make another appearance at next year’s con because they are seriously so much fun to see together. I hope all of you get the chance to go next year! I will see you there.