Interview - Farscape

Priestess Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan alias Virginia Hey has developed into one of the best loved characters in Sci-Fi sensation Farscape

Zhaan and Rygel XVI in Thank God It's Friday Again

True Blue

James E Brooks talked to the Australian actress

  Selected from the new-look,
bigger Starburst Special #43

One of the most vivid and interesting characters seen in Science Fiction today is Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan, a leading character on Farscape.

This exotic alien - a blue-skinned Delvian Priestess - is brought to life by Australian actress Virginia Hey. Although she’s appeared in many internationally seen productions, one of her favorite roles was the Warrior Woman in George Miller’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. For that part, she appeared much as she did in everyday life before signing on for Farscape; a tall, attractive blonde-haired woman.

After getting the part of Zhaan, however, the look of the character demanded a change in Hey’s off-screen appearance as well. But she says she learned quickly that these external differences stood in direct contrast to many close internal similarities between her and Zhaan.

“Originally, I got a breakdown of the character which contained hardly any information. I only knew that she was statuesque and highly spiritual. Over the six months of auditioning, I saw that I didn’t have to do any research for the character. During the process, the more I learned about her, the more I felt comfortable. I just fell into who she was.

"It was quite extraordinary. I felt an empathy with her and a bond, an instant bond. Obviously, if I were auditioning for something else that I knew nothing about – for instance, an Air Force general or fighter pilot – then I’d have to spend some time reading and observing at an Air Force base. But because I already had a natural feel for who Zhaan is, I think I became her and she became me in the audition process.”

The actress, whose voice out of character is the same lightly accented and gentle tone used by the Delvian, provides some background for the runaway priestess. She begins by revealing that the character’s name was originally different. “She was going to be called Zenn and then they decided that that was a tad too obvious since she is a priest. So they changed it to Zhaan.

“She’s a very interesting character. Before she became a priest she was a political activist and she overthrew the evil Delvian dictator. She assassinated him and as a result got thrown in jail by the Peace Keepers. While she was in jail, I guess she found God and became a priest..."

Images © Jim Henson company
Feature © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction


The Farscape cast: blue priestess on left

John Crichton (Ben Browder)
Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black)
Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan (Virginia Hey)
General Ka D’Argo (Anthony Simcoe)
Rygel XVI (Jonathan Hardy)
Pilot (Sean Masterson) with
Captain Crais (Lani John Tupu)

First transmitted:
19th March 1999 (Sci-Fi, US)

Season One

A1 • Pilot
A2 • I, ET
A3 • Exodus from Genesis
A4 • Throne for a Loss
A5 • Back and Back and Back to the Future
A6 • Thank God It’s Friday Again
A7 • PK Tech Girl
A8 • That Old Black Magic
A9 • DNA Mad Scientist
A10 • They’ve Got a Secret
A11 • Till the Blood Runs Clear A12 • Rhapsody in Blue
A13 • The Flax
A14 • Jeremiah Crichton
A15 • Durka Returns
A16 • A Human Reaction
A17 • Through the Looking Glass
A18 • A Bug’s Life
A19 • Nerve
A20 • Hidden Memory
A21 • Bone to be Wild
A22 • Family Ties

Season Two

B1 • Re: Union
B2 • Mind the Baby
B3 • Vitas Mortis

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"I’ve learned an awful lot from being Zhaan" explains Virginia Hey in the full version of this cover feature. Get it when you buy Starburst Special #43