Farscape's Claudia Black

Selected from Cult Times Special #17

Claudia Black as Aeryn Sun, plus Farscape's PilotTotal Eclipse

It was something of a shock when former Peacekeeper Aeryn Sun was apparently drowned in a freezing lake at the end of Farscape’s Season Two. We ask Claudia Black to shed some light on the events of the last two years…

Interview by David Bassom

Has the Sun really set on Farscape?

That is the question which consumed viewers of The Sci-Fi Channel’s hit series ever since Aeryn Sun’s apparent death during Farscape’s cliffhanging second season finale, Die Me Dichotomy. And it’s one topic that the series’ leading lady, Claudia Black, simply isn’t going to be drawn on right now.

“I can’t answer that question,” Black tells Cult Times. “I can’t. You know I can’t. All I can say is that I’m still working out at Homebush, at the Farscape facility,” she adds cryptically. “I’m still involved with the show in a certain capacity. And I know that’s caused some confusion for people who’ve been on-set and have seen me out there...”

Black, it must be said, isn’t deliberately trying to be awkward or unhelpful. But, under the terems of her contract, any speculative questions about the possibility of her character’s resurrection/cloning/whatever are met with an apologetic but firm “No comment” from Black.

Fortunately, however, Black is able and more than willing to discuss the events of Farscape’s opening two seasons. And while the true extent of her character’s death is clearly a taboo subject, Black relishes the opportunity to recall the birth of Aeryn Sun, and the process by which she originally brought the no-nonsense, emotionally-repressed Peacekeeper to life.

“It was difficult to place Aeryn in the beginning,” she reveals. “I was told a lot of different things by a lot of different people. And although I always knew that the character had enormous potential, there really wasn’t much in the script to go on, because the Peacekeepers have always been written as really quite generic soldiers. So to put heart into a character when you’re not allowed to show heart is an interesting conundrum.

“There were two specific things I drew on. There is actually a woman I know, someone who I grew up with who is my age, who was a good influence for [Aeryn]. I often used to joke with her when we were teenagers and when boys were trying to court her, because she was such an ice queen; she was so aloof emotionally about whether she liked them or not or whether she could be bothered. She was considered to be very cool. And she is, she’s a fascinating woman. So she was a good inspiration for Aeryn, because I didn’t really believe people could be like that.

“I also loved performances from people like Dana Delany in China Beach. That was, I think, a consistently stunning performance from that woman, and very difficult to play because she always had to be very careful where she expressed emotion. She was a woman trapped in a really violent environment and desperately trying to cope, and occasionally the audience would get a glimpse of her vulnerability and see how alone she felt...”

From day one, Black was given an unusually free reign to portray the character of Aeryn Sun as she saw fit. After all, the role was originally designed to be played by a 20-year-old English artiste, until Black’s screen test famously convinced Farscape’s producers to abandon their initial vision of the character and hire the classically-trained Aussie actress instead.

On landing the part, Black proceeded to take Aeryn Sun on a two-season-long journey towards becoming a free-thinking and compassionate being. To Black’s infinite credit, that gradual transformation has undoubtedly been one of Farscape’s most successful and compelling elements to date.

“Aeryn becomes a much more positive character as the series progresses,” notes Black. “I think what people like about her is her potential to improve and for her morals and ethics to change. It’s exciting that she’s flawed and it’s more exciting to see her struggle with trying to improve and be better..."

Interview continued in this issue; along with Aeryn Sun and her female colleagues' placings in our updated 50 Feisty Fantasy Females...
Order Cult Times Special #17 from VI Direct.

Aeryn Sun vs. Crais (Lani Tapu)

All Guns Blazing

It was Farscape’s biggest, boldest and most explosive adventure to date. Liars, Guns and Money, III: Plan B propelled Aeryn Sun and her crewmates into their most dangerous confrontation with the Peacekeepers yet, and allowed director Tony Tilse to unleash the series’ most exciting hour ever.

“Working on that episode was great fun,” states Black.

“I think Tony was excited about the fact that it was the closest we’ve got to the John Woo-style choreography and dance and rhythm and the largest amount of pyrotechnics we’ve ever had. Anthony [Simcoe, D’Argo] was also very excited because he had a very large weapon to play with which was practical; it was rigged up for effects in certain shots.

“There was quite a high element of danger in the three-parter, especially that last episode,” she adds. “We had a few dramas doing that.”

The biggest off-screen ‘drama’ occurred during the making of the magnificent scene in which Aeryn, D’Argo and Bekhesh (John Adams) tackle an entire Peacekeeper unit in the repository. The scene was shot in almost total darkness, and saw Black accidentally taking an actual knock to her face.

“John couldn’t see anything through the helmet which covers his eyes,” she elaborates, “and I had one of those night-vision devices on – which didn’t actually work – and that meant that I only had one eye at my disposal. I think my eye which was visible was on the opposite side to John, so I couldn’t see what he was doing… We were doing the last scene of the day and at the very end, John span around not knowing how much movement he had around him – because he’s completely blinded – and the gauntlet got sort of smashed across my face!

“The following day I had to do all the gimble and water tank work for the final shots of Die Me Dichotomy. So I was a bit battered and bruised by the end of that episode. So when they said ‘Aeryn’s dead’, I was like, ‘Fantastic!,’” she laughs.

Images © The Henson Company
Feature © Visual Imagination 2001.
Not for reproduction

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