The second panel attended by MeaganSue and I at the Creation Entertainment 2009 Farscape Convention was that of the lovely Ms. Virginia Hey. Virginia’s panel took place Friday November 6, 2009 in the afternoon at the Marriott Hotel near the Los Angeles International Airport also known as LAX.
As is standard WHR practice my Virginia Hey report is quoted as much as possible in paraphrase format. However due to crowd noise and the virtually impossible but achievable task of capturing and transcribing all the notes from the panel appearance of Virginia.
WHR suffered a camera failure (mine) during the David Franklin panel as previously reported. The loss of a digital camera impacted the WHR team the entire weekend. MeaganSue, WR_Systems and I compensated by literally running between convention events as fast as we could!
Below is my detailed report of Virginia Hey’s panel appearance. I hope you all enjoy reading about Virginia’s appearance at the 2009 Los Angeles Farscape Convention as much as I did attending and writing this report! One note. Virginia provides long detailed answers which are wonderful! We have broken up the paragraphs a bit for easier reading.
Virginia walked out on stage just at the end of the video which had won the competition (videos were always played right before the actors came on stage). It was still dark when she entered.
Hello my darlings! How are you? Wasn’t that beautiful?
The audience replies, “Yes”!
Oh god, it brought back so many memories. I can’t even tell you. And I wanted to say thank you very much to Marty. Is she here by any chance? Marty? (Audience member replies that she’s at the con but she doesn’t know where she is. Another says, “She’s right there. She’s right there.”) Is she here?
Come up here darling. I want to give you a hug. Thank you so much. You did a beautiful job. Come up. I want to introduce you. So this is Marty [last name unknown] and she edited the video, put this together. Congratulations. Thank you so much.
I love you all. Thank you so much for coming to see me and for stopping by my table, all your well wishes and hugs and kisses and just everything. I always look forward to seeing you. And thank you Creation Entertainment for always welcoming me. But I want to launch into questions. Who are newbies? Who is new to Farscape?
Virginia gasped when a large portion of the hands in the room go up, including mine and MeaganSue’s. Oh my god! Virgins! Oh, you’ll be in for some trouble over the weekend!
Now, I can’t see a thing, so…Where are the microphones? Corners? Yes? (Everyone yells for lights, as she’s still standing in the dark after the winning video was played, then cheers once they come back on.) You know me, I prefer to see everybody. It’s really weird when you’re just looking into a black space. Alright then, here are the questions and answers!
Q: You’ve probably answered this question before, but I’ve never heard it. What was the first thing that went through your mind when you were told when you got the part of Zhaan, deservedly, that you were going to have to shave your head and eyebrows, they were going to paint you blue with gold dots… What went through your mind when you were told that?
A: Well, I actually wasn’t told that. The casting people weren’t silly, they didn’t tell me. It’s really weird because when you’re an actor – are there any actors in the room? One! Aah! What happens is, when you go to castings, you usually see the same actors auditioning for the same role that you are. You see the same people over and over and over because if they’re looking for someone in your age group or your height, roughly, or type, you know, slightly exotic tall blonde thing, then you’ll see a room of slightly exotic tall blonde things in your age group. So you get to know each other and you hope that you get the role, but you’re happy if one of your mates gets the role, because you learn to love each other.
So this particular time when I went in for Farscape, I noticed that all of the other girls in the room were people that I’d never met at all and a lot younger with very, very short hair, and I thought that was so bizarre because there I was with long hair, my age group, and none of the other girls that I normally auditioned with. I thought that was odd. And then the next time I went back, I noticed the same girls. I think the third time I went back, I was on the short list and I was working with Lani and Anthony, and they told me that there was a good, strong possibility that I had the role. Which was amazing.
I remember I was late, I was about fifteen minutes late for the audition – which you must never, ever do, ever! But anyways, about fifteen minutes late, for the audition and run-through process and Rockne O’Bannon was there and I missed his preliminary discussion. He was showing the photos to the cast members. There was a picture that I saw, he sort of pushed it over in front of me and it was a black and white photo of a colored face, but it didn’t occur to me… I just thought it was a bad drawing or a bad photocopy.
Rockne said to me halfway through the process, “How do you feel about being blue?” I said, “Well, uh, good. Hahaha.” I didn’t know what he was talking about! “How do you feel about being blue?” But, ‘being blue’, I thought maybe he meant the costume was blue. Honestly, I had no idea. It wasn’t until I got the job and I literally turned up for make-up and hair that I realized what I was in for, and it was pretty shocking to then be told “You’re gonna have your hair cut off…Not cut off – shaved off! – and your eyebrows shaved off.
It was difficult for me to recognize me without hair and make-up, but, at first, I must be honest with you, at first I kind of kicked and struggled with the idea. It was very difficult for me to remove my femininity away completely because that’s, you know, hair, eyebrows, make-up, make you feel very feminine, very womanly, and I was thinking about, at the end of the day, the make-up comes off and you have no eyebrows and no hair, so you can’t just slip back into being yourself. You have to constantly look like the character.
All of that crossed my mind, and I said, “Listen, I just don’t know if I can do it.” So the chief make-up artist said to me, “Well, in that case, we’re going to have more make-up tests, which will take a couple of weeks, and we’re going to have to try a series of headpieces on you – prosthetic headpieces.” And she warned me, she said, “In order to have this headpiece applied to you, we’re going to have to cut your hair pretty short. We are going to have to shave the periphery of your head.” So I would’ve had to have all the hairline shaved all the way around – the front, the sides, the back – with just a little tuft of hair in the middle. And so I said, “You’ve gotta be kidding, right? C’mon, you’re pulling my leg!” No, they’re deadly serious. She said because in order to put on or take off a headpiece every day with the glue and so forth, it would end up tearing, ripping away at the little fine hairs. So she said it was better just from experience to shave it off.
So I went through the process of trying on these various headpieces and I made the decision myself over the weekend. We were due to start filming Tuesday and this was Friday and I turned up on the Monday with a shaved head. I did it myself. It was something that I had to do. So, I came to terms with it and it was a very interesting experience to learn humility, to step out of myself, to learn to walk away from my femininity.
It helped me in a real way to delve even further into the character because I started to think about Buddhist monks and how they sacrifice themselves to remove their earthly egos and go through some level of discomfort in order to praise God. And so I thought, “Okay, well, one way I could see it is that I’m on a spiritual journey,” which, I am. But I saw it as a specific spiritual journey in order to be able to embrace the character and embrace being bald and embrace having my eyebrows shaved off. So I turned it into a sort of spiritual exercise. I tried to learn how to release the ego, you know, the “I don’t look very pretty anymore.” So it was very interesting for me, and it really helped me find the character a lot more. It really, really helped me, because, let’s face it, I was looking like the character pretty much 24-hours a day. Good question, good question.
Q: How much of Zhaan’s spirituality were you allowed to ad-lib? Was it all scripted or were you allowed some flexibility for that?
A: Good question. Thank you for that. Actually, very little of it was scripted. In the first three episodes, it just said, “Zhaan prays”, “Zhaan chants”, “Zhaan heals”. But I wanted to know what Zhaan was in the first place. What world? She wasn’t human. She was an 800 year-old alien. So obviously she’s not going to be – was that the phone? SLAB! Do you know what that means? When you’re on set, and someone leaves their phone on or makes a noise, it’s a tradition; if your phone goes off, you have to buy everybody a slab of beer. A slab of beer, I think, is like forty cans of beer and it comes in these big slabs covered in plastic. When anyone’s phone goes off, we all shout out, “Slab!” Of course, in Australia, it’s a beer. I don’t know what it would be here. Bloody Aussies! I’ll meet you after. I’ll have a beer. I’ll meet you in the bar later.
So I was thinking, “What do you do?” I don’t know what religion Zhaan would be. Obviously nothing human. So it had to be something that was universal, literally, and I’d done an awful lot of work with Reiki and I’ve been studying meditation since I was about twelve or thirteen and my brother went to India when I was twelve and – he’s much older than I am – he came back with all these spiritual books on astral traveling and one called The Third Eye of Lobsang Rampa. And of course, my twelve year-old mind thought this was fascinating! I’d been taught by nuns at a convent every day of my life, practically.
And I have a very inquiring mind and I’d always ask the nuns, “Why, though? Why?” Constantly breaking down the Bible and fighting with them. Well, not fighting; debating. And they would always end up saying, “Because we say so!” So, of course, I had an opportunity to throw myself into something that I was able to stretch my mind, my spiritual mind, with – Eastern philosophy. Anyway, so I delved into Eastern philosophy for many years, and I realized that there’s a certain energy in spirituality that is common with all religions. So I thought, “You know, this energy is something that’s universal, that comes from God.” God is not human, he doesn’t live on Earth, so I wanted to tap into that feeling. So I used a lot of what I’d already been learning through the years. I have a meditation class tomorrow, by the way, at ten o’clock.
So, anyway, I would ask the director, “What religion is she? Where are we going with this?” “Oh, well, I’ll let you know. I’ll let you know.” So two weeks later, I’d be in the writer’s room again, “Um, can you let me know just what…I really need to talk to you about what religion Zhaan is and who she’s going to be.” “Oh gosh, well, we’re so busy in here. We’ll get to that later.”
We got literally to just the moment before shooting and we still hadn’t really locked it in. But the night before, I made sure I had some improvisations of my own to bring to the table, just in case the director said, “Um, not quite sure what we’re doing with her.” So, the thing is that I had to build her, and all I had was an empty framework. I had, “Zhaan heals”, “Zhaan prays”, “Zhaan protects”.
So I had to write the chants, I had to figure out how she would pray, and I decided to use crystals and I decided to use Reiki energy and a lot of light work – a lot of things that really existed on Earth but that aren’t attached to formal religions. Good question. None of it was really scripted. Not really. Just a very bare skeletal framework that I popped in with.
Q: Thank you.
A: You’re welcome. Actually, I wanted to tell you, it’s kind of funny how to find a character, how to build a character. You know, as an actor, you try…what you have to do is to make the audience believe that you’re whatever it is that you’re playing – axe murderer, priest, lawyer – whatever it might be. Our job is to make you believe that we are that person. So when I first tackled the idea of how to fill this creature with spirituality so that you could see that she was reasonable. What does a priest look like? It’s easy to identify a priest if a priest is walking around with a dog collar or has saffron robes on or whatever robe or whatever garb it is that identifies that particular religion.
If you had a hundred people in a room and one of them was a priest, and they were all dressed identically, how would you know which one was a priest? I wanted to know, what is it about a priest? How can you identify a priest? So that when I walk onto the set, you immediately know, “Oh, that’s a holy person.” And without the stereotypical…which aggravates the hell out of me. You go to a mediation class and the mediation teacher practically, you know, slides along the floor like so, it’s all very outer-worldly.
I tend to curse and do all sorts of terrible things. Being Australian, it just sort of slips out. But I’m very relaxed and very normal as a mediation teacher. But I thought, “Well, without affecting, physically without doing something that was so obviously priest-like, how on Earth would I make you believe she’s a priest?” And I thought, “Interesting, you know, the Dalai Lama, Catholic priests, rabbis, Mother Theresa, anyone who is deeply spiritual, you can tell. There’s something in their eyes. There really is, it’s this beauty and peace and love.”
You will notice that the next time you speak to a deeply religious person. So I tried to fill myself with as much of the spiritual energy from all my studies from being a tiny little girl all the way up to just before Farscape and I sort of pulled it down and pushed it through my eyes. It’s a technique, but one we use with light work, if you want to…send healing long-distance. Reiki…
Does anyone do Reiki here? There are quite a few of you, so you know what I’m talking about. You pull down the Reiki energy and you push it out. I can talk to you about it another time in detail. But that’s what I was doing with Zhaan. And it sort of worked because people would come up to me and say, “Oh, we can see what you’re doing! We can see the energy! There’s some magical energy in you that that we could really see!” And I was wondering how people could see the process that I went through to build the character. I thought it was private what I was doing, but they could actually see it and feel it. So it was really awesome, I think.
A: Yep, yep, yep! And I was scared to death! I was really, really terrified because I actually am not a great singer. I can sort of sing if I know no one else is listening and I’m in the shower or puttering around, but I’m very self-conscious about singing, and painfully, really, seriously, so painfully so that my vocal chords almost locked. Do you know what I mean? When you’re so scared of hitting a high note that you can’t… And so it was really tough. But it’s amazing when you have to do something, when you’re asked as an actor to do it, you have to get over your fear and just go for it.
Q: What was your funniest story of something that happened on the set that you can remember?
A: Oh, god, there were so many. But Anthony Simcoe provided a lot of joy. He’s very naughty. He’s one of the funniest people you could ever be around and you just want to die laughing just by looking at him. He’s not funny looking or anything, he’s just got this charismatic energy. And he’s a wild man on-stage, isn’t he? He paces up and down and tells crazy stories. He’s like that when you work with him, too. It’s his method. He’s a teacher, he’s actually a professor and he works at NIDA – the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Australia. He’s very highly respected in the dramatic world; he’s a very highly respected acting professor.
You would think someone like that would be almost pious, but no! He’s irreverent and crazy and cracks jokes. He has a…I don’t know what his method is…I didn’t study that method but he likes to be very effervescent and energetic for a scene. I’m guessing that it distracts his mind from thinking of lines or thinking about feel. So he was always playing up being naughty, making us laugh. He used to walk around – his suit was very, very hot and he, unfortunately, in summer would faint. He’s wearing forty-thousand prosthetics. That’s not his body. He’s skinny! Tall and skinny, skinny, skinny! And all of that thickness is prosthetics and he’s wearing this huge suit.
The head was attached and stuck on, but he could step out of the body, so he would walk around with this skinny little white body with no muscle and he’d always wear these ridiculous boxer shorts with Donald Duck on them – you know, these crazy, stupid, oversized shorts with things on – and socks or thongs, you know, flip flops, and he’d just crack jokes, one after the other. And the funniest moment, it was absolutely filthy… So is anyone under thirty here? That’s how bad it is! Really, forty… Anyone who’s under forty, leave the room now. It’s me and like two other people who can talk about it. It’s really, really filthy.
Okay, how do I tell you this? Hmm, right, okay, much editing! So, one day, there was a whole line of us – and I wish I could remember which episode it was, I really do. All of you OCD ones will be going through every single episode, trying to find this one shot! And I bet you do! It’ll probably take you the next two years to do! Anyway, there was one particular moment where all of us lined up. There was Lani and Gigi and myself and Claudia and Ben, the whole cast of us and a couple of guest actors.
We are all at Command Center and we’re watching the screen, the window to outside. And we’re presumably this craft that’s coming to attack us. Well, we don’t really know, is it coming to attack us, or is it going to be peaceful? The camera is behind us. We’re all in a line looking this way and the camera is recording our backs and looking over our shoulders at the screen. Later on, they put in the special effects and you see what the camera is looking at.
Anyway, so we’re all standing there while they’re getting their camera moves right and they’re actually shooting, but there’s no sound because none of us are speaking – none of our characters are speaking. It’s just a moment where they’re recording… So Anthony [Sincoe] launches into this stupid voice, like a Donald Duck voice or something and starts to talk about…how can I put this? Starts to talk about what he would do to the young ladies on the ship that was coming to possibly attack us or befriend us; but, in great detail. And it also involved some butter. This is why I said people under forty should leave the room immediately. So, we’re in shock. And he did it on purpose because the camera’s on; we’re being recorded, so we can’t just go, “Oh shut up Anthony! It looks ridiculous!” and laugh.
We were trapped there and he knows we’re all trapped there. So he keeps going on and on and on and on. Describing the woman’s body and what he was going to do to the various bits of it – all of the bits, not just some of the bits – with the butter. And we’re screaming with laughter. Screaming! But we know that the camera’s behind us, so we can’t move our heads. Our whole bodies are trembling but not bending. So there must be one scene somewhere where our shoulders are bobbing. All of us! And we couldn’t bend over, you know, like when you have a great big belly laugh… “Bugger, you did it on purpose!” Really, that must be what he was doing. He’s very naughty. That would be the funniest. If only you could hear what he was saying. It was filthy, but hilarious! I wish I could tell you what he said, but I probably should not. There would be a puff of smoke and I would disappear because the devil would get me; or God would smite me! I’ve never been able to eat butter since. Never!
Q: Earlier on, Zhaan was given some really great powers, do you know why she didn’t use them more often?
A: Aah! Good question! Yes, thank you! Funny about that because Zhaan was given the ability to levitate, she could be invisible, and she could actually read people’s minds and affect the outcome. She could change your mind. Yes! And super-speed! So she had super-speed, she could be invisible, and she could levitate. So what’s to stop her from levitating, going over to the bad guys spaceship, messing around, because they can’t see her, pulling a few plugs out of the wall, tripping them up, and basically taking away any conflict or possibility of aggression. She could havve easily done that. I guess the writers realized, “Oh, whoops! We’ve given her all these superpowers. We better not have her use them because if Zhaan did use all of her superpowers, there would never be any conflict.” And the whole show is about conflict. So, almost after the first episode, they sort of bury the superpowers. You might have seen a little bit of it. It could have been used in combat but she didn’t ever use them. You know, I was wondering about that, but they said, “We’ve given you superpowers, but we’re taking them away.”
A: I don’t know. There are a few that I wish would have ended up on the editing room floor. You watch yourself and go, “Oh my god, I wish I didn’t do that.” There was actually one, I think overall, no to that question, but you just reminded me of a part in the story that gosh I wish hadn’t happened! In retrospect, I know why they introduced it, and guess what that is? When she chopped off Pilot’s arm. Honestly, I was so shocked because I didn’t know. I read that script and went, “Oh my god!” Because we’d already, up to that point, established Zhaan as being motherly and warm and never putting herself first; always in service, always healing and loving.
Suddenly she gets greedy and twists and just decides, “That’s it. I want to go home.” Excuse me for cursing, but, “Screw you all. I’m gonna go home and I don’t care about you and I’m gonna chop off my best friend’s, my soulmate’s arm.” I just thought because Zhaan and Pilot were almost one, they had such an empathy for each other, such a beautiful energy…And that really horrified me. I was tormented by it. And I wasn’t the kind of person that would go up to the writer and say, “Look I can’t say this line,” or “Why are you doing this?” I’d just follow and do what I was told, really. I was really tormented, and they didn’t seem to have an answer for me. The answer was basically, “Just do it.” So, oh gosh. Well, I did it, and when you saw Zhaan crying, that was me too, crying. I just was horrified. “What is going on with my character? Where is this leading to? But I should have known that the writers had some big twist in mind. It was eventually to show that she had multiple personalities, that she was able to, on the turn of a coin – what’s that expression? Turn on a dime? Flip of the switch? Flip of the dime?
Well, anyway, in an instant she was able to flip from mother, healer, beautiful to crazed. And then it was revealed after that her back story, which was really interesting that she was the only Delvian that was capable of aggression and no other Delvian could or their eyes would go red and they’d go insane. So through some freak of nature, she was able to commit aggression and stay alive, so she was used as a political pawn and she was told to run off and murder the evil dictator for the well-being of her country, but the evil dictator’s side chucked her in jail for doing so, that’s why in the beginning, she was in jail. But it was interesting to see that she had that dark side.
They brought it out later a few times, where she wanted to kill John Crichton and eat him because she was hungry. I would’ve liked to have bitten his bottom. Ben was always in those fantastic leather pants and every opportunity, we girls would just position ourselves… Because he has the best bum! And his bum is like two freshly baked loaves of bread. They really are! Not soft but not rock… Really, oh, he’s got the best bottom ever. I’ve never seen it, unfortunately, you know, in the flesh. I wish, but Fran would probably be very upset with me. One of the girls has got – oh you brought it with you! – a little pair of leather pants with two freshly baked… She brought it on purpose to show Ben because Ben is so shy, he’ll be horrified! That I’ve got to see! He goes every shade of red and purple. (An audience member yells out that she should be there on Sunday – which was the day of Ben and Claudia’s panel.) Sunday? Oh, brilliant! (Another audience member yells, “Makes you want some butter, huh?”) How’d you know? Oh! Crichton buns and D’Argo butter! I don’t think D’Argo is thinking of Crichton’s bum! But you never know with D’Argo! (Another audience member replies that in Crichton’s mind, D’Argo did think about him that way – from the episode Won’t Get Fooled Again.) Oh! Oh god, Crichton was so twisted up! And he never took drugs. Anyway. Oh! I’ve only got one minute!
Q: I’ll make it quick… Is there something about Zhaan that you wished we’d known about her?
A: I don’t know. I don’t think so. Except that…there’s something about the process. A lot of people imagined that, and I can kind of understand why, it’s very flattering, but a lot of people imagined that I literally was painted blue all over every day. And I tried to explain a few times that actually, if that was the case, there would be this mush of blue with all the sweat and stuff. But no, wherever the costume ended was where the make-up ended. So that was something I wanted you to know.
And no, it wasn’t my body naked. It actually wasn’t. If you have a look – and you’ll all be rewinding now – it was another girl, sorry. They actually had a body-double who was very little with feet-wide shoulders and tiny little hips, and I said, “Oh my god, no one’s ever gonna believe that’s my body double ever in a million years.” So you’d see me to about as much as I could show and the rest of it was this other girl called Het. But it’s amazing the power of suggestion because she was painted blue, you just naturally assumed that it was me. But when you go back and have a look, you’ll be able to see. Completely different body shape!
Anyway, I guess I’ve got to go! I love you all! Thank you very much!
Q: Do you have any plans to go back into acting?
A: Yes I do!
And thus, the panel was concluded. Funny enough, MeaganSue and I met some of our friends for dinner right after this… When they brought the bread to our table, we nearly died laughing. I haven’t been able to look at bread or butter the same way since. Even at Christmas dinner I was cracking D’Argo butter jokes. Alas, no one understood, but I was still amused.
Please visit Virginia’s web site for cool aroma therapy candles and other fine merchandise! Thank you.